Biblical docetism

It's been quite a week, and I have next to nothing to show for it... so let's pick up where I left off.

Sometime around the discussion of Gnostic Christianity, I stumbled across Defeating the Dragons (courtesy of Slacktivist), who posted this:
There is a term for what happened in those two examples, and it has actually been referred to as “the evangelical heresy” (and no, I’m not talking about individualism). It’s called biblical docetism, and it is an extension of gnosticism, dualism, and Arianism...
And I wound up having to respond to it..


Best 101ing ever

The annotated version of this story runs as follows:
(She) I just realized my faith was kinda Gnostic. Wow. This changes things.
(He) Why do Christians worry so much about being heretical?
(Me) Because heresy leads to horrible consequences.
(He) I get that, but why are horrible consequences bad? Even liberal Christians seem to reject them for no good reason.
There's always a relevant xkcd.
There's always a relevant xkcd.
 And by the time I finished responding, it was nearly sunrise the next day.


In the world, but not of it, but for it

During the rampage of theological gushing I went on this week, I passed through Slacktivist's "NRA: Not of this world," a kvetch about the author's interpretation of "worldliness."

It wasn't the best post in the series. I've followed Fred Clark's vivisection of L&J since its Typepad days, in fact since the first book. Where it shines brightest, to me, is where it's not just a takedown but a witness: where Fred, pointing to the darkness of the World's Worst Books, makes a statement about what it is to be Christian well. (There have been several, in the past. The last one I remember clearly was an aside in which he observed that Rapture theology leaves the church with no purpose, nothing to do.) And there wasn't really any observation like that today.

So when I found that I was gonna be a first-page commenter, I decided to add one in:
I'm not gonna knock the language of  "worldliness." Call me a Johannine fanboy, but I love that rhetoric of "the world," enough that I want to live it. I grok that we aren't to be of the world, even as we're in it over our heads. And I get why, too. It's right there in the unread followup to John 3:16. God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 
That's the beauty of the Johannine NT. We're called from the world so we can live in-and-out the story of its salvation. In the world, but not of it, but for it, in Christ's name and for Christ's sake.
And that's the horror of the World's Worst Books. That every Friday we witness anew L&J forsaking that. Believing, and assuming, and proclaiming that to be Christian is to be in the world, but not of it - but against it. Not to save, but to condemn.
That first-page comment I blockquoted up there? Got 20 likes and a response from a total stranger. I was stunned. The only post I've ever written that got that much response was a one-liner about Lex Luthor stealing 40 cakes in the same thread. That got 24 likes.

Fourth Sunday in Lent

The weather was fine today. Too fine; too warm. A month ago this Wednesday, I decided to give up driving to church on Sunday. I will finally succeed at this starting next week: the final NOOMA video ("Rich") was shown, and I no longer have to be there before 10:15. For the last two Sundays of the season, I'll be able to walk it with no problems. I was, in fact, tempted to walk it today; and I have mixed feelings about my decision not to.

The NOOMA film was predictable; the discussions about "God Bless America" and money, which led to... predictable results. (One of the eternally awkward parts of reading as much critical theory as I have: you can sit in a room full of committed progressives and still kvetch about how far to the left you are of the parish in general. It's not really a fair thing to complain about, but it's still a thing.) I was able to raise my voice this time, to remark on a thought about how Rob Bell juxtaposed "grace" and "deserving" at one point (and the greater three-part relationship between grace, dessert and mitzvot, although "grace" only came up once); asked to elaborate on that, I said I'd need a week or so.

(These last few days have had a lot of thoughts about grace. Not totally sure why.)

And so, an hour and a bit later, the 10:30 service started. It was amazing.


On confession

Originally posted here:
Each prayer of the Daily Office has a prayer of confession at the start; in theory you could say five a single day (plus litanies.) None of these are sacramental in the sense that James was talking about; and while we *do* have a rubric for Reconciliation, the refrain about it is that "Any can, some should, none must."

When their time comes, I'm sure that I'm not a murderer or a heresiarch. I'm sure that my sins are small stuff. I say the prayer of confession anyways. To confess is to humble ourselves, to own that we can be wrong. To confess is to word our weakness, to learn words to confront it as we must.

To confess is to create a time and space when we can learn to sorrow, to regret, to come before a God of mercy needing mercy. And that's ultimately why we do it: confession is the hard work of learning to appreciate grace. Pardon the cliché, but as long as I can confess my sins I can celebrate that Jesus died for them; that He is mine, and I am His.


When you write something that breaks you

It's the third week of my first Lent, and I'm feeling it. Oh, am I feeling it. This is a raw season, and I am going to come out of it a very different person than when I went in. It's a scary feeling, at once sobering and intoxicating, feeling myself dissolve in the chrysalis of time and waiting to see what will emerge when the stone is rolled away in three Sundays.

I've lost a bit of weight. More than that, I've been having moments. One after the next. Several of them back-to-back. And they're starting to get scary.

Take the one that happened last night, when I wrote this:
Neil's a softie. I'm a Christian here, and I *do* have problems with what you do in church. Because by the time somebody has to tell you to "keep it in church," your theology's gone very, VERY bad.
There were two likes, and one comment which I replied to, and that was that. Except that it wasn't.


Second week of Lent

In my last post, one of my Lenten fasts was from driving to church. Today marks ten days since Ash Wednesday (eight not counting the Sundays, as is proper) - I'm 20% of the way through the season. And I have not honored that fast once.

I tried, today. I even got off to a decent start, waking up at the right time to get out the door... and then promptly rolling over to go back to sleep. Dragged myself out, got into the shower, and was out the door... about fifteen minutes too late, so I hopped in the car to go...

...but as I was leaving, I was asked, very abruptly, if I could run across the street and pick up ten (10) rolls of paper towels and cranberry juice. Why didn't they get them last night, when they were at the grocery store? Bugger if I know, but it's never the day to argue this stuff.

So I ran the hell across the street, picked up the ten (10) rolls of paper towels, and eight-pack and two loose ones, and the bottle of cranberry juice, and made haste to church, letting them know that the change was in the bag.

By the time I arrived, I was fifteen minutes late. Just late enough to completely miss out on the video that was being discussed, and to sit in silence as my fellow parishioners discussed grace, the past catching up with us... prison. And I dwelled on the gracelessness of that night in Miami, when I came on vacation and left on probation.

For all that I contributed, I could've - should've - just walked it like I was planning to.


Lent 2013

Thanks to the Anarchist Reverend for providing a prompt. My writing here is an expansion of my comment there.

I grew up honoring Lent in the breach. It was the time to set aside bad habits, or try to, or pretend to, or want to really hard. It was a selfish thing, or I was selfish and made it so, or I was clueless and didn't pick up that it wasn't supposed to be. It was so long ago I don't really remember now. 2002 was the last time I became anything more than an obligatory Christmas-and-Easter churchgoer, and with that Lent fell by the wayside too, unnoticed and unmissed.

Last year, the year of constellations, was the year that saw me back to church - but I still managed to miss Lent. (I actually came back on Pentecost, and started seriously attending on Trinity Sunday.) This is easily the 23rd Lent of my life, certainly of the life I can remember; but this Lent is different from the ones that came before. This is the first Lenten fast of my adult life. This is the first Lent since I grew into my baptism; my first as an Episcopalian; my first where I understood why I was fasting.

This Lent is going to be special.


Breakfast for dinner

I have celebrated Mardi Gras a few times before. Until last night I'd never celebrated Shrove Tuesday.

I've had more than my share of pancakes in church, granted. It was part of the understanding by which my Boy Scout troop could use the church facilities; we'd do brunches after church a few times a year. Last night was also the first night I've had pancakes and sausages in a church building.

An entire room, half-empty, a number of people I don't know, introversion, what to do? Gamer wisdom kicked in: Sit with my back to a wall. And so I did, as best I could. (Gamer wisdom is actually sit with your back to a corner. There weren't nearly enough.)

I chose an empty table. Simply by showing up I'd left H. stranded at the health office; not having anybody directly sit next to me would give me an excuse should I suddenly need to excuse myself. So of course it filled up incredibly quickly.

Shrove Tuesday dinner was quite enjoyable. The only hitch came in turning off the fire alarm at the end; I'm not sure if the church was able to before the fire department arrived.


Standing vigil for the dying

Standing vigil for the dying
Comes a time past rhyming when
There are no words to say

So weary and worn away
Are litany and commendation
Standing vigil for the dying

And no toil and no trying
Can yield them a worthy creation
There are no words to say

Then lexicons betray
They dawdle in the time of desperation
Standing vigil for the dying

When comes the time of crying
Unprepared are words of consolation
There are no words to say

All the time to pray
But waiting for the last amen
Standing vigil for the dying
There are no words to say.


Darkonian funeral prayer

Powers dark that no-one knows,
Hear our petition that you might
Now grant our dead their blessed repose.

Unending stillness now impose,
And rest unending, as is right,
O Powers dark that no-one knows.

In summer sun and winter snows,
In longest day, in Darkest Night
Now grant our dead their blessed repose

For peace beyond their dying throes,
For those that live, grant this respite,
O powers dark that no-one knows.

And as their sightless eyes we close
Accept, we ask, this offered rite
And grant our dead their blessed repose.

May liturgy and prayers and prose
Be satisfying in your sight,
Powers dark that no one knows:
Now grant our dead their blessed repose.


It was seven days delayed

I don't recall the last time I signed in
Before this afternoon. I should have known
That there would be a message in the bin,
Unanswered long enough to be a sin.
So, breathing tight and zeroed at the bone,
I clicked as though the message was a stray
And armed explosive shell. You were alone
And on the train, and missed me; on your phone
You said as much, and sent it on its way
A week ago.

I started to reply,
And wrote you all that I could think to say
Before remembering that half a day
Of time lag separated you and I,
Deleted my response and wrote a poem
To pass the time and let my sleeper lie.