Friday, February 27, 2004

Holy Noise

(This was originally published in the March issue of ChurchActs, the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of WNY)

I going to try and cause some trouble this month.

A 6-year-old inspired me.

The 6-year-old in question is Margaret , oldest daughter of my rectors. A couple of months ago Margaret decorated her father’s office door with notes that read: Church is Fun, Church is Great, We Love God, I Love Church, Church Rules.

(In the spirit of journalistic integrity I suppose I should mention that one reads “Church is about my Dad”. I expect her mom will straighten out that theological question for her)

What grabbed me was that here was a young person who was EXCITED about being in church. Even though she really doesn’t have a choice, she HAS to go. It got me thinking about how we manage to lose that by the time most of us hit our teen years. What happens? Where does all that excitement go and is there anyway to get it back?
Books have been written on this subject by folks who are supposedly a lot smarter than I am so I don’t think I’m going to set the world on fire in 800 words or less. But let me bounce an idea off you. It sounds pretty honor society at first but stay with me (at least till we get to the part where I ask you to start causing trouble at church). We begin to lose the excitement when we realize that the words we say have come disconnected from their meanings. A word without meaning is just mouth noise – BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, and BLAH. Sound familiar? We use words that have no apparent connection to what we’re doing. Example? Check out page 354 in your BCP. It’s the page right before Holy Eucharist Rite Two begins. It gives instructions on how this service is to be done. The title reads “Concerning the Celebration”. Quick somebody grab a dictionary! My dictionary defines celebration as to show happiness that something good or special has happened. How often does what you see in church look like a celebration? Even if you like church do you walk out feeling like you celebrated? My bet is that most of us don’t, even when we liked the sermon or the music or whatever. If there’s a downside to our beloved Book of Common Prayer it may be that the words become very comfortable, very routine. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even need the Prayer book open in front of me. It’s great I can say all the words of the service while my mind is thinking about important things…

Uhhhhhh, wait a minute.

Here’s where I want to cause some trouble. There are several words or phrases that I think we’ve let get away from their meanings. I want to bring them back into connection. All it means is making a little holy noise during church. Ready?

Alleluia – My Bible dictionary says it means Praise God! Whattya think? We should definitely mumble that one right? Wrong answer! This is a word that we can put a little oomph into. This is an invitation to praise God. When someone praises you is it more believable when they put some emotion into or if they just kind of mumble it?
The modern equivalent would be a “Yeah, All right, Booyah!” kind of a feeling.

Amen – Not every amen needs to thunder up into the rafters but the word means let it be so, Yes! Now some of these can be quieter but why can’t we really ram a prayer home with a good loud AMEN!

Then there’s my favorite:

Thanks Be to God – This one we should definitely sound like we’re about to doze off on. And it comes up several times. “The Word of the Lord” ZZZZZZZZZZZ My favorite is right at the end of the service “Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit” ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Come on people! Let’s pump up the volume. “Let us bless the Lord” THANKS BE TO GOD!

Take some time and look to see what other words have come disconnected from their meaning or intent. Figure out how to reconnect them and do it. Let me warn you some of the adults are going to get grumpy about it. You’re going to catch some looks and maybe some people will get in your face about it. Just tell them that you’re excited about being in church and that excitement just came busting out. If that doesn’t work blame me.

I intend to blame the six-year-old.


Friday, February 20, 2004

Thinking about bibles

Well I've fallen behind again on my updates. I keep trying for two a week but only get one. Sigh. Another discipline left lacking.

I was thinking about bibles the other day (it kept me from actually doing the work I had waiting). There have always been a bible around me if only the one given to me by my god parents at my baptism. It's a beautiful leather bound KJV with gilt edged onion skin pages. The Christmas passages in Luke are wrinkled from snow flakes that fell on them as I read the story around a campfire years ago. I don't remember why I was there or even where there was but I carry that reminder in my bible. To be honest that's about the only sign of use you'll find in that book. It has a very nice box with a maroon cover. The bible has resided most of its life inside that box safe and secure. Upon reflection I understand that in my mind I've always felt that it was far too valuable to just have lying around. I mean, it's THE BIBLE!

That's where my problem with bibles really begins. When I started my first serious bible study group my wife and I bought a brand new study bible. The first time someone suggested that I write questions or comments in the margins I was appalled! Whatta you nuts?!? It's THE BIBLE! Somehow that construct of paper, cloth, glue and ink had an aura around it that made it holy and untouchable and beyond mere mortals. I felt almost guilty just reading it. I am a man of unclean thoughts, hands, lips, eyes you name it. Jeez do they let just anybody start messing around with this thing?

As I've traveled a little farther on the journey I've discovered the answer to that question is "Why yes we do". And that really sets off other members of this family of faith. Which is a whole nother topic. This is an amazing book filled with incredible stories, many of which I'd never heard before or only heard parts of them (like drunk, naked Noah) It challenges me and confuses the hell out of me. I'm never quite sure what to do with all of it. The part that grabs me is the New Testament. The Hebrew bible portion is wonderful too, I keep a quote from it framed in my office (Isaiah 6:8). But it is the story of the Nazarene that captures me. I pore over the stories, comparing them wondering at their accuracy. Miracles, mistakes and masses of people. Who was this man and what does he want from me? And which version of the story is "right"? Hell, which one comes closest? I struggle with it and every time I read it I find something that hadn't dawned on me before.

I treat the physical bible with a lot less reverence these days. My study bible shows some serious wear and tear, and lots of notes! I read several different versions to get many different views of the thoughts contained in the words. And I've learned that I don't much care what the bible says but I'm very concerned with what the bible means. It's a hard book and a scary book. I'll keep on thinking about it and what it means. Maybe some day it'll all become clear to me.


Friday, February 13, 2004

On aging gracefully

I'm limping a bit today. You see I play indoor soccer each week at one of the local Y's. I am not now nor have I ever been an athlete. I was the geeky kid who knew all the answers in school. Always picked either last or next to last (what a great triumph that is when you move to next to last or even next-to-next-to-last! It means there's at least one person lower on the food chain than you. Take your victories where you can).

Anyway about 10 years ago I got talked into joining this recreational indoor soccer league. One night a week, mostly guys in their 30's and 40's with a smattering of folks at either extreme. And I fell in love with it (about the same time I started playing golf too. Apparently my mid life crisis started at age 35 and involved sports. Cheaper than a mistress and/or a divorce). I've never been better than a mid-level player in this league but that was pretty good for someone with as little on my sporting resume as I have. It was fun, great exercise, a way to make new friends. It also became a running bit on my radio program for years. I dubbed us "Team Old Fat Guys" and we entered into local legend. Today there's only a couple of us still playing. It's still fun, it's still great exercise, I just have to work at it harder.

But last night was great. The game was wide open. I had pretty good wind and I was handling the ball well (a skill that comes and goes for me). In the end we won and I scored twice! Not my biggest night ever (I have a dozen or so hat tricks all told and one glorious night when I scored four times) but the best in a while. The problem came later as my right knee got tighter and tighter. This morning I was fine as long as I didn't flex the knee. Not good. Visions of torn ligaments and knee surgery dance through my head (the scars would be kinda cool though "Yeah got those when they repaired my ACL. Blew it out scoring two goals in soccer" Ah the dreams of the weekend warrior. Then I remember I hate all things related to medical procedures).

Am I too old for this? People have been telling me that for years now. I keep telling them I'll play as long as the knees let me (Hmmmmmm). In reality I'll play as long as my body doesn't give out and I'm not the worst player in the league. There's still a couple guys that are definitely below me on the totem pole.

I don't ever want to go back to being the last one picked.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Some post Super Bowl thoughts

I've spent most Super Bowl Sundays over the last decade just the way I spent it last night, with my youth group from church. It's great fun, lots of food and talk and shouting and good natured ribbing. I really enjoy it.
Plus this year we had a least a half of good football to watch and most of the commercials were pretty cool too. So a pretty good year on the whole.

Well there was the half time show...

IMHO, what a complete and utter waste of time and energy. Not just this one but all the mega-production ones of the last good many years. This year's was just a classic example of what NOT to do. First there's the whole lip synch-ing thing. Yes I'm aware of the problems of trying to sing in an environment that loud with those kinds of echoes. It's incredibly difficult. How do they do it normally when these artists perform in arenas? Easy they have a day or more sometimes to set up the stage and work out the details. This stage gets set up and torn down with a performance in the middle in about 35 minutes. So you lip synch. I understand. It's just boring to watch. Then you crowd the stage with multiple "big name" stars who all get about 120 seconds to "perform" so they go for the over the top bombastic silliness that doesn't show them at their best. But then this isn't really about "performing" as much as it is about being seen. This is ALL glitter with no substance. It's pop culture at it's worst. Heck I kinda like kid rock and Miss Janet but what a waste of time.
And speaking of Miss Janet and Justin I-got-no-talent-lake (yes, that was a completely egregious shot at him. But let's get serious who thinks ANYONE will still care about Justin and his music 2 years from now? 5 years from now? I worked in pop radio for 20 years. He has pop flash written all over him) Watching Justin and Miss Janet do their little bump and grind routine knowing that she's old enough to be his Momma was just a little disturbing. (What was more disturbing was hearing one of the girls in the room with me agree that an older woman with a younger man was just WRONG but that the other way around was OK) Then there was the whole "Ooops, did I do THAT?!?" stupidity. Hey Justin keep your hands off a lady's boob while in public and this won't happen to you!

What we saw at halftime was just wrong. It was a waste of whatever talents the singers and dancers involved brought to the stage. It was a waste of time to watch. It was the perfect highlight of everything that is Wrong With Our Culture. It was shallow, stupid (meaning it had an thought quotient near zero) it raised up booty shakin and casual sex as legitimate ideals of conduct.

Hey I'll give them this much they hit the trifecta - Artistically, Intellectually and Morally bankrupt.

Thank God the second half had some decent football in it.