Tag Archives: challenges

Thoughts for Thursday

Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time I feel like you know me pretty well. I love all things high church, Episcopalian, rubrics, liturgy, smells and bells, organs, the whole spiel. I’m staunchly traditionalist, let’s-bring-back-Rite-I, and it will be a cold day in hell when there’s a screen in my church.

I never went to another church, but I did go to some Christian schools growing up so I had a weird time in my youth where I didn’t know what was going on. I had two very different experiences of “church” and Christianity and they were so opposite. On the one hand I had my church, full of mystery and wonder and an old white haired priest and robes and organs. On the other hand I had contemporary worship music in mid-week chapel, pressure to “accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior”, and a bunch of other theology I didn’t really understand. Jesus during the week was different from Jesus on Sunday, so eventually I chose Sunday Jesus.

In doing so I completely did a 180 on this other type of worship. I mocked it, openly, and reveled in how MY church was better, was different, was more holy. (I was a teenager, okay?) This attitude persisted as I got older, maybe a little more toned down, but when I saw so many young people flocking to more traditional churches after having such bad experiences with other Protestant denominations I felt justified. I felt smug. These aren’t particularly good Christian things to feel but I’m only human. And I’m Episcopalian for a reason, and I have chosen to stay Episcopalian for a reason. (many reasons, really, but that’s another post.)

So God does what God does best and sent me someone to challenge these elitist, smug feelings and it has been such a humbling experience. A friend from high school moved to my town (a friend who, incidentally, in my youth I would go to her very Baptist youth group with occasionally) and introduced me to this wonderful man who is SO involved in their church he rivals me in churchly enthusiasm.

And this has been one of the most surprising and beautiful things: when I visit their church, when I sit in worship with them, I am challenged. The judgmental feelings that come up have to be dealt with, because the more I sit there and listen to the worship team and read lyrics off a screen and hear the word of God preached so passionately from the pulpit, the more I realize that there is no “right” or “best” way to worship God. There are preferences, sure, but however people connect with God and with one another is a beautiful thing. And there is always something I can find to connect with.

The song I posted above was sung on a Sunday that I wasn’t at their church but kind of wish I had been. I really, really like it. And that’s unusual and weird and challenging for me, in all kinds of good and healthy ways. I’ve started dealing with a lot of that weird baggage I’ve been carrying around for a decade, and laying them down.

True Kingship of Jesus

by Charlie McClain
I have been doing a lot of driving lately.  I’ve seen some beautiful sights along the backroads of Middle Tennessee.  I was struck recently by the blankets of purple clover that have covered the cotton fields of Franklin County in a couple of short weeks.  My thoughts turned to one of my favorite hymns.  O how deep how broad how high… as we sing we tell the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.
For us to wicked hands betrayed, 
scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed…
They put Jesus in a purple robe to make fun of him, to pronounce the end of an illegitimate kingship that threatened the Jewish establishment, and worried the Roman governor.  As I drive I am confronted with the ways I want to limit the kingship of Jesus, to deny the pull and demand it makes on my life.
he bore the shameful cross and death; 
for us gave up his dying breath. 
Then I am pulled out of myself, and I see the clover again.  The fields of Tennessee cannot hold their peace.  They are erupting with the true kingship of Jesus.  For a minute I consider pulling over, and laying down in the field myself.  I think better of it, and decide for the moment to wait… at least until Easter.

Surely we can’t be blind?

by Ed Watson

‘Surely I can’t be blind, can I?’ It’s amazing how often I implicitly say this to myself, whether I’m making a theological argument or judging the quality of a film. ‘Surely I can’t be blind!’ I’ll say. ‘I’ve thought about this issue long and hard. There are thousands who agree with me who are equally certain. It has been shown that the other side are not simply wrong, but actively harming the world. It has been shown that they are blind: and if that’s so, then surely it can’t be that I am too!’

It’s easy for me to become complacent in my views, whatever they may be. It’s simple to surround myself with people who agree with me, whether on the internet or in the real world; people who reinforce those views, who speak so well that they must be right (so well that I, of course, must be right as well!). It’s easy to forget that in doing this I don’t become the blind man gaining sight: I become the Pharisee, so set in my ways I become incredulous at the very idea that I might be wrong.

Jesus is the light of the world: nothing is seen truly except through him. This is what I must constantly remind myself. Whenever my eyes or mind land on anything with certainty, even (especially!) when I think it is shown by Christ, I must remain prepared to move again when he calls me onward. I must be ready to bow down and say ‘Lord, I believe’, again and again and in new ways. I must be ready to do so in front of those who currently agree with me, but who may judge me for humbling myself; for changing my mind.

It is, of course, all too easy for this readiness to collapse in on itself; for faith to become Pharisaism. I can claim to have gained such knowledge of God’s Word that I become the authority: that it is not the Word of God which speaks to me, but I who speak the Word. I might believe that what appeared true to me is the only way that things could ever be, failing to remember the earth’s contingency, even when inspired by God’s constant love. Believing myself to have seen the only truth, I might forget that a part of loving those I think to be my enemies is to listen to them, to remember that apart from the person of Jesus Christ I am just as blind as I might accuse them of being. I might now become so sure of my faith that it becomes faith in myself as opposed to God. I must remember that God always finds me in new ways, reaching me where I am and as I am not so I can rest in the safety of my assumptions, but so that by unsettling my own authority I can find rest in him.

At some point I must make a decision, of course. I must act one way or the other, praying that through God’s grace I might make the right choice. If I am not to become blind in my complacency, however, I must ever listen anew, ever pray anew, ever bow anew. I must never stop asking to be made well, asking to see Christ’s glory. I must remind myself this Lent to challenge myself by truly listening to those who disagree with me, rather than assuming from the outset that I know what they have to say and why they’re wrong. I must read all things with charity, lest Christ be trying to reach me from some expected place in some unexpected way (as per usual), but I become deaf to him by my pride. Otherwise I will find myself in the position of the Pharisees, incredulous at the idea that I might be blind because I have forgotten the one from whom I received my sight: the One Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. This then is my prayer today: that I might constantly remind myself that without Christ I am blind, so that I might never close my heart to seeking and seeing Him anew.

Ed is a Brit living in America as part of The Red House, an intentional religious community in New Haven, CT.  He divides his work between helping Forward Movement with its social media, working in Graduate Support at St Martin de Porres Academy, a middle school for under-privileged students, and otherwise living community life. He manages to fill his spare time reading, supporting Liverpool FC and Scottish Rugby, attempting to understand American sports, and enjoying the company of his wonderful housemates.  

Thoughts for Thursday

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (Samuel 16:7)

Growing up I had the best priest ever. He looked like a


Father James F. Marquis, and three guesses who the little blonde in red is sitting on his feet…. (hint: it’s me)

priest should. He
talked like a priest should. He conducted worship like a priest should. He was the epitome of Priest: snow white hair, jolly round belly, red cheeks (yes yes he kind of looked like santa clause), booming, rich voice. The entire time was growing up I had no other concept of what a priest was aside from my beloved Father Marquis.

He retired in 1997 and we got a new guy. And he was really different. The adjustment was tough for most of the congregation, but he still kind of fit the idea of what a priest was: older white male. Then, a couple of years later, a younger white male came on as an associate rector, and I got a new idea of what a priest could be: young with a young family, but as an associate he was only there for a few years. He was fun though, relatable, and I felt I could really talk to him about matters of faith.

I had never really given much thought to my idea of priests. It wasn’t until I was in college that I met a female priest, or even priests of color. I was aware of their existence but I don’t think the reality had really sunk in until I sat down and talked to them and realized that you don’t have to fit a certain stereotype in order to serve God in the church.


Y’all are lucky I love you and am willing to share awkward acolyte photos from when I was 13…

and I certainly loved serving in the church.

It hadn’t really occurred to me that I could be a priest someday, or even that I would want to or feel a calling. In my mind I didn’t fit the stereotype, the ideal of what a priest should look like and be like. It wasn’t until I became friends with a woman who was going through the discernment process that I realized, there is no one type!

It seems like a lot of people are feeling like Samuel when he went to anoint the new King of the Israelites. He was expecting the tallest, the strongest, the most capable looking son of Jesse to be the chosen one. But God reminds him that it’s not the outside that counts–it’s the heart.

That’s still an important lesson for us, today.

Over and over again in the Bible, in the stories of faith passed down to us, God chooses the unlikely. He chooses women. He chooses men. He chooses kings and fishermen and prostitutes and women who can’t have kids and women who can and children and carpenters and beggars. He chooses tax collectors and pharisees and Roman soldiers. He chooses people whose hearts he knows, he chooses them to help create the story of love and redemption he has been weaving since the beginning. He chooses you and even me.

One of my favorite tumblr’s to click through is http://thisiswhatapastorlookslike.tumblr.com . TONS of pictures of people called to be ministers in God’s church here on earth. And–spoiler!–they aren’t all older white men.

So if you think maybe, sometimes, you can’t possibly be chosen by God –think again. Listen to your heart, and listen to what God is calling for you to do. Lent is a time of reflection and preparation. Spend some time today thinking about what God might be asking of you, whether you fit the mold or not. Pray for clarity. Pray for a discerning heart. And please, pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ who are also struggling in discernment.


Lenten 40 Day Photo Challenge

Join the Rethink Church Lenten photo challenge.

“As we journey through this season of Lent, some will choose to give up something. Some will go about their lives as if it was ordinary time. Some will choose to be more reflective. Whatever your practices this season, will you join this photo-a-day challenge and share with the community how you perceive each word or phrase for the day? No explanation needed, unless you want to. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Tag us on your instagram photos with @rethinkchurch or on twitter [@umrethinkchurch] with #rethinkchurch and #40days. We’d also love for you to share your photos on our Pinterest board!” – from article