East and West Alike: Risen from the Dead!

After posting part of the lyrics to the Paschal Troparion this morning, I discovered that these “ancient Christian” lyrics from the East have been put to a new setting by a “contemporary Christian” from the West(Disclaimer: I generally detest “contemporary Christian” music, not least because the term “contemporary” implies that “ancient”/”traditional”/non-21st century music has lost its voice.)

I still much prefer the Orthodox version (especially the tradition of singing the refrain in as many languages as the congregation can muster — what a vision of the kingdom of God!), especially to the Byzantine Tone 5, which is what I heard in my first Orthodox Easter Vigil:

Paschal Troparion, Byzantine Tone 5, Antiochian Orthodox Church
(the link takes you to a beautiful mp3 setting that you can download)

The lyrics are these:

Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered;
let those who hate Him flee from before His face.
As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish;
as wax melteth before the fire.
So shall sinners perish before the face of God;
but let the righteous be glad.
This is the day which the Lord hath made,
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

I even like the violent imagery: trampling, scattering, fleeing, vanishing!  That is VERY unusual for me.  But I like knowing that the portions in each of us that are opposed to God will be blown away like smoke — that the death that faces each of us is vanquished.  (Cue stomping on the ground as we do when hearing the word “death” in St. John Chrysostom’s paschal homily).

But for those of you who prefer bells/piano/guitars/drums, here’s a Western Protestant version by Matt Maher:

Both the East and the West are celebrating Easter today, so sing in harmony with all of our brothers and sisters from around the world!

And now I am off to sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” at a good ol’ United Methodist Church…

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Bestowing life: Christ is risen!

The Risen Christ: Exiting the Cathedral, Going into the World (photo taken in Sevilla, Spain, Easter 2006)

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death—
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, indeed!
ALLELUIA!  Amen.

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Jesus was at table with friends…

Academic “hell week” occurs the last week of the semester.  Christian “Holy Week” occurs the week before Easter.

This year they coincided.

My last day of seminary, my last class, my last worship service, my last free lunch, my last time writing course evaluations…

My last opportunity to sit around the table with my Bible study with some of my seminary girlfriends, drinking wine, breaking (garlic) bread, sharing in lasagna, salad, and cookies.  My last night of sharing prayer requests and this time—miraculously—not tearing up, although we certainly have done our share of that over the past three years.

I was thinking about Jesus, and the “last supper” and the good-byes that must have been taking place.  Everyone knew that something big would happen, something transformative, after three years of eating and walking and talking and sleeping and feasting and crying and worrying and learning and laughing.  But how do you respond when you are faced with a future that you don’t know?  Do you get tired and want to retreat into the only safe space: sleep?   Do you spin your wheels frantically trying to do more, to take advantage of every opportunity to do, do, do, do, do?  Do you get testy and judgmental, taking out your moods on others while at the same time denying that?  Do you decide to lavishly spend everything you have on a gift, a trip, a way to mark the occasion?  Do you count the coins and weigh the costs—which are more important, money or relationships, and never know the answer?

It is terribly presumptuous to compare my life, my “lasts,” with Jesus’.  I don’t think that our future graduation and separation and vocations will be equivalent to a journey to Gethsemane… although as disciples we, too, must be prepared to take up our cross and follow.  But I have found myself—and my friends—acting in ways that mirror Jesus’ disciples: falling asleep, getting confused, protesting the change, denying its reality, desiring to feast, anointing lavishly, judging those who do such conspicuous consumption, and worrying about money & how we’ll make our small budget stretch through the next few months…

The good news is that my Orthodox friends this semester have taught me that “the last supper” is a Protestant misnomer.  This was not the last time that the disciples ate with Jesus.  He ate with them on the beach and on the road.  He has provided a table for us throughout history.  And He has set a feast for us in a heavenly banquet.  Jesus wants to be at table with his friends.

We, too, are not at “the last.”  There is more that awaits us.  And until then we savor the time that we have:  we wash each other’s sandals and anoint our heads with water, and somewhere in the pain there is a place that starts to heal.*

*lyrics by Dorie Ellzey Blesoff, “We’re Traveling on a Road We’ve Never Seen Before”

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Civil Rights in Georgia under attack: HB87

A few hours ago the Georgia state legislature passed a bill rivaling Arizona’s immigration bill in severity.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution article here.

If you are a person of faith reading this blog, you should be particularly interested in the ONE Christian or religious voice from the article: she stands *against* justice.

This “politically active Christian” (the name of her network) blames the victims, accusing undocumented workers of being the ones who are “ethically… and… morally wrong.”

Where are the other people of faith?
How can we testify that our God is a God of justice and peace, concerned with each human created in the image of God?

And for people who read this blog who don’t identify with a faith tradition… where are the voices calling for basic human rights?
How can we declare “certain unalienable rights” when “aliens” in our country are denied those rights??*

The only voices in the article who are against the bill are doing so for economic reasons, none for civil rights.

Praying en el nombre del Dios de Justicia…

*thanks to a classmate, the future-Reverend Paige Ann Miller, in my Prophetic Proclamation class for pointing out this alien/unalienable connection.

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A letter from the past

The following is an e-mail from the past, composed on December 28, 2010, and sent into the future (now the present) through FutureMe.org.

My dearest Self,

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name” (Isaiah 45.3). I don’t know what secret places, or darknesses, or hidden moments are in your life right now, but I pray that you (I) will treasure them, allowing them to be birthed slowly, in good time.

Love you — take care of yourself —

D.

 

—-

I needed this e-mail today.  I haven’t blogged much this semester because I am not certain how to integrate blogging with major life transitions (graduation, commissioning, moving)… how honest can I be about the emotional roller-coaster that I’ve been on?  But I pray that the secret places, the darknesses, the hidden moments in your life will reveal treasures.  I am holding onto that promise.

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Things My Mother Taught Me

In honor of her birthday, here’s a list of things my mother taught me:

  • Double-space after a period or colon.
  • It’s okay to go several days without showering… but only if you’re camping.
  • Talking about sex is a good way to humiliate a sixth grader (“I know!  Let’s organize a Sex Ed worship and invite all of our daughter’s classmates!”)
  • Break-ups don’t end your life.
  • Orange Juice is expensive (“I’m not going to buy it if you’re just going to drink it!”).
  • Sometimes you have to write for the teacher (this after I came home crying about my sixth-grade Social Studies exam).
  • Always go talk to the teacher if you don’t know why you got the grade you did or if you have a question about your work.  And don’t expect your parents to do it for you.
  • Grades don’t matter.
  • It is not nice to hit your sister.
  • Kids these days have it really easy.
  • Fairies come back to life if you clap your hands.
  • Don’t crack an egg on your forehead if it’s not hard-boiled (that I learned through Ramona).
  • Cramps get better after you have your first child (I’m waiting to verify this)
  • Genes!  It’s in the genes!
  • Those hats with the strap under the chin will make you look really cute in Easter pictures later… no matter how much they make you want to cut them up with scissors in the meantime.
  • I fail at futuristic photo-shop...

    There’s nothing a good ‘family meeting’ can’t solve.

  • It’s important to reward yourself when you finish something big: e.g., with a good couple of days camping post-Journal.
  • You don’t need a man to build a fire—all you need is dryer lint and matches.
  • Sleeping in after the prom is a huge luxury (“When I was your age I was grateful to sleep in until 8 AM!”)
  • The church would be better with only three people in it, nevermind the fact that it’s impossible to narrow it down to which three.
  • Seriously, your grades don’t matter.
  • Never introduce yourself as “My name is ___.”  You are who you are.  Say, “I am __.”
  • It is okay to stand up to applaud at a Broadway performance.  Don’t clap in church.  And by all means, only give a standing ovation if the community theatre actually deserves it.
  • Elaine Paige can sing away most of life’s problems.  As can Billy Joel.  And Jim Croce.
  • The Palestinians deserve a listen.
  • You don’t have to wear pants and cut your hair short to be a woman in ministry.
  • If you think you’re sick, go to school and see if you feel that way in three hours.
  • No matter how hard you work on something, there will still be mistakes.  And that’s okay.
  • If you’re literate and you type a bulletin, it should not have typos.
  • “Me and her was runnin’ good” is not proper English.  Don’t learn your English from ESPN.

And the number one thing my mother taught me:

You are a beloved child of God, known and loved by your human family and by your heavenly one.

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A saint of our own: Frances Willard, Methodist/Feminist

“So why are you interested in Orthodoxy?” asked my seminary classmate.

“I love it!  The liturgy, the history, the music, the communion of saints, the icons, the reverence for Scripture & tradition, the experiential nature of worship, the understanding of salvation, the spiritual formation, the room for mysticism…  seriously, if they would ordain women, I’d be there!”

Today, I detour from my Orthodox church visits to celebrate a Methodist woman who makes my own journey possible:

Frances Willard.

Best known as the president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Frances (dare I call her “Saint Frances”?) pushed the Methodist Episcopal Church to include laywomen in leadership, a vital part of the movement toward full equality for women in United Methodist churches today.

In 1880, she asked the General Conference that

all male nouns and pronouns pertaining to stewards, trustees, Sunday school superintendents, class leaders, exhorters, and both local and traveling preachers be removed from the Discipline and that the word ‘male’ be expunged altogether.”

Eight years later, she did not need to WRITE to General Conference because she was ELECTED to it.
Only sixteen years after laymen were allowed to vote at annual and general conferences, five laywomen were elected to that position.  As Donald Haynes describes it:

“[Chairman of the Credentials Committee, James] Buckley insisted that if anyone had thought the word “laymen” would be interpreted to include women, no laymen would have ever been admitted! The Credentials Committee voted that the duly elected women could not serve as delegates.

For the ceremonial opening of the General Conference, the women were seated with their delegation. But acrimonious debate led by Buckley prompted his motion to pass, denying the women their rights and instructing “that the women’s train tickets be paid so they can return to their homes where they belong.”

The five women were ejected from their seats and replaced with male reserves.

Willard later wrote, ‘I confidently predict that we five women whose election was disavowed will have more enviable places in history than any who opposed us on those memorable days.’”

An enviable place, indeed.

I am grateful to Willard for her courageous, forward-thinking witness that opened the door for me and other straight women to be active participants in United Methodist polity, both as laywomen and clergywomen.  I continue to pray that the other group of women that Willard represents will soon reap the full benefits of her 19th century witness.

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Stained Glass Window Shopping, Part II

By our third year in seminary, my friends had mostly settled in at specific churches, but my wanderlust was still strong.

Unfortunately, I struggled to motivate myself to visit churches by myself, finding it weird and awkward to have to sit places by myself

The first time I went to church by myself was during my first year at Candler.  I had horrible, mind-blowingly-awful cramps, couldn’t concentrate on a word the preacher was saying, and no one in the entire 1000-member congregation had so much as spoken a word to me.  So when the passing of the peace came, I left.  Walking out of church was VERY liberating.  I knew no one would miss me.  And I knew that I didn’t need to stay in or attend church out of a sense of duty. And that was the last time that year I attempted to go stained-glass-window-shopping alone.

But as the fall progressed, I began doing a lot of self-work in the following areas:
1) acting independently–and enjoying it
2) picking up the desire to visit churches—a desire to experience God’s presence

My first individual foray was to a Quaker meeting.  I landed there and didn’t leave for a while.  Advent is given new meaning when you wait in silence during it: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous love is given… cast out our sin and enter in…” And for a silent church, they were the friendliest congregation I have ever been a part of!

I took a class on the borders between Christianity and Judaism, so I headed to The Reform Temple for Shabbat services (okay, so this doesn’t count as a “church” — but it was beautiful!) and to a messianic synagogue (and this DOES count as a “church,” even if it is on a Saturday morning!).  I joined my valentine at St. Mark UMC (vibrant downtown church at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion in the Southeast Jurisdiction… my church leadership professor describes the church as “handing out water to civil rights marchers in the 1960s and handing out snacks to gay pride marchers in the 1990s… their character/identity is the same—only the manifestation of their character has changed”).

And this semester, before classes started for the spring, I decided to visit an Orthodox church, knowing that they last longer than most Protestant services (and the Quaker church, which was starting to feel like home), so I wanted to “get it out of the way” before the semester and I didn’t have time for such lengthy things

But that one visit has turned into a month-long excursion to visiting Orthodox churches around Atlanta.  I’ve learned more & more about the Divine Liturgy each week, and I am now a month into a catechumen class at the Greek Orthodox Church.  (In case my Board of Ordained Ministry is reading this, I have no plans of converting, but…)

So this week on my blog, I am committed to sharing about my visits to Orthodox churches (plus a Coptic church!) in Atlanta.  Curious?  Stay tuned!

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Stained Glass Window Shopping

I love visiting churches.  I loved my multi-cultural church during my second year of seminary, but the only thing I disliked was that working there meant I had to stop my Sunday morning church-visiting regimen…. my “stained glass window shopping,” if you will.  No intention to buy/convert, but lots of fun thinking about what the ideal church would be!

My first year, I had a good group of people that I went around with, usually filling up a car-load of people to each church, and I visited churches almost haphazardly… wherever other people were going, that’s where I went.

So with a group of adventurous church-goers my first year in Atlanta, I visited:

  • Ebenezer Baptist (MLK’s home church… I went to this church the Sunday after Obama’s election.  I began crying during the opening hymn and continued for a while… this after walking past the iconic blue sign that I had only ever seen in high school history textbooks)
  • St. John’s Lutheran Church (This is the church that defines LITURGY as THE WORK OF THE PEOPLE.  Their Easter vigil carries you from darkness to light, culminating in a dance around the communion table & the extension of that table with all wine, chocolate, and all of the other goodies you might’ve given up for Lent.  The pastor is an incredible man who—by following God’s call—helped to open the denomination to out & partnered LGBT pastors.  I’m really excited to have him teach my Weddings & Funerals practicum this semester)
  • Oakhurst Baptist (progressive, inclusive Baptist church… the kind I could join if they were a little more “connectional” ;-)… Of course, I love that they stood for Baptist autonomy after being kicked out of the Georgia Baptist Convention!  The Sunday I was there they ordained new deacons — everyone in the church (including me) took turns laying hands on the ordinands… it was powerful!)
  • Cascade UMC (large African-American United Methodist congregation, formerly led by Walter Kimbrough, the guest speaker at my annual conference the summer I came to seminary)
  • Unitarian Universalist (this was the day that I realized I that prayer changes things—it is more than just “sending warm thoughts,”  which was the way the worship leader had phrased it during the sharing of joys & concerns!  Similarly, I have really appreciated the UU students in my classes at Candler, since they constantly challenge me to consider WHY my Christian theology is shaped the way it is)
  • Ray-Thomas Memorial / Bethany Presbyterian (Anglo/Brazilian/Korean [both EM (English Ministries – for 1.5+ generations & KM (Korean Ministries – for first-generation immigrants)] congregations that share a building & a denomination)
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church (the first African-American Catholic church in Atlanta; my college chaplain worshiped here when she went to Candler and since she was influential in my seminary decision, I knew I had to check it out!)
  • Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter (church made up primarily of people with mental/emotional/developmental disabilities… trust me, the Spirit of Christ is here—and She is making noise!)

I’m missing quite a few, but those are the ones that stand out—the ones that I would tell others to visit 🙂

I like to hear other seminary friends preach, so I’ve spent a good number of Sundays at the churches where they work, generally United Methodist with Episcopal and Disciples of Christ churches thrown in for good measure (actually the Disciples church was awesome… the first time I went I heard my first female senior minister preach and I watched, awestruck, thinking, “I want to BE her!” That was my first weekend in seminary.  My second visit to that church was the next semester, when I heard the legendary Fred Craddock… I was star-struck for the second time!).

How has church shopping been for you?  Did you visit similar places (a good percentage of my blog readership went with me ;-))? Have you ever church shopped for a time or season in your life?  Why (or why not) — and what did you take away from the experience?

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One Word Resolution: Relax!

For all of you who have been holding your breath wondering what my One-Word Resolution for 2011 was, the delay was due to practicing the word too much in regards to worrying about posting to the blog.

here’s the word:

RELAX.

Yep, my goal is to RELAX. That seems to mean not-beating-myself-up about not posting on more than a monthly basis.  But it has strong connections to the rest of my life, too.

Specifically, I want to relax regarding:

  • schoolwork (this is getting easier this semester because I’m taking my two most-difficult classes pass/fail, and I have decided to read what I want to read and not read what I don’t want to read; also, I’m pretty sure that my Board will never see my grades for this semester, so that takes some of the pressure off that I felt my first two years of seminary!  What I’m doing now is learning what I need to know for the parish and for myself)
  • ordination/commissioning/my future (this is completely out of my control… and the beauty of this system is that I don’t have to worry about where I will go… I just go where sent!  No use worrying about it in the meantime… at least this is what I keep telling myself)
  • getting a job/itineracy/finding out where I will live (see above!)
  • relationships (I’m surprising myself how calm I’ve been regarding future-life decisions… feeling at peace about waiting for things to unfold, however they will, and enjoying life in the meantime!)
  • money (I have enough in savings to get me through June… and in July I [should] get a paycheck!  I am REALLY looking forward to having an income… budgeting should get a little bit easier when the income column is something other than $0)
  • being perfect… because I’m not.

There are many day-to-day situations when I find myself just saying, “Relax.  You’ll get through this.”  I want this to be my word throughout the year, defining my emotional/mental state no matter what happens.

The picture is of me at one of my most relaxed… jumping off a waterfall in Trinidad, where I was visiting a dear friend and college apartmentmate.  I want to relax—and just jump!—this year.

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