Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Its Holy Week

and that means that I barely have a breath to spare.

I love Holy Week. It is arguably my favorite week of the year. As I was racing around on Saturday evening setting up for the Sunday school children to celebrate the Last Supper together, and helping Matt with altar details I realized again how thoroughly I enjoy church and everything related to church. I find it thus remarkable again that we are living in the shadow of the church and that I can run over at any moment of the day to fuss and arrange and do whatever.

This week on Wednesday is Tennebrae (one of my top favorites), Thursday is feet washing, Holy Eucharist and the stripping of the altar, Friday is the liturgy of the hours and the Stations of the Cross in the evening, and of course, Saturday is the Great Vigil of Easter. I grow lyrical about the Great Vigil of Easter but I have a sermon to write and lemon curd to make (for Easter dinner dessert), various shoppings to do, acolytes to sort out, a wok to find for the Vigil fire, and a couple other dozen odd jobs to attend to. I hope you all have a blessed Holy Week walking in the way of Jesus.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sermon: Philippians 2:5-11

This is basically what I preached this morning. I veered more off my text than ever before, rearranging whole paragraphs as I talked. I don't know if it went well but we all got through it.

Our text this morning will be Philippians 2:5-11. One thing that always strikes me when I read any of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' last hours is how spare they are. Unlike so much of my own writing, or the way we communicate in general, there is not one word extra. It is written as matter-of-factly, as undramatically as possible. The lines are so spare so bare, so restrained, like if you started to add more a dam would break and you would never be able to contain it all on one piece of paper.

Because this is the case, it is possible that we might quickly pass over this account of Jesus' death. We're so used to big signals, like sad or majestic or sinister music and fancy camera angles that we might miss that something so bare, so spare could be important.

That is why I would like you, if you, can, to turn to Philippians 2. Paul is going to help us understand what Jesus was doing, who he was and how, when you give yourself to him and and trust in him, you will become like him, you will walk in the way he walked and do the kind of things he did and ultimately, have a 'mind' like him--that is think, talk and act like him.

Paul writes, 'have this mind among yourselves'.
If you are holding an NIV it will say
'your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ'.
Attitude is a fine enough word, but basically,
probably out of worry that you won't get it,
they've plastered over the incredibly lovely structure of this text.
The ESV says 'have this mind among yourselves'--
the "this" referring back up to the instructions Paul has just laid out--
thinking of others as better than yourself
you can look up and see that we,
all of us who belong to Jesus,
ought to have a mind in common,
ought to be of one accord,
ought to have the same love for each other
and to think each other better than ourselves--
'Have this mind' is the bridge between the two sections
and more fully links our common mind together--
but then here is the kicker...
these are not only things and attitudes that we must make an effort to do...
these are things we can do and can have
because we have already been given the mind of Christ.
The full verse reads:
Have this mind among yourselves,
This mind is already yours,
now by grace live up to it...
then he goes on to describe who Christ is and what he did
AND since you and I have this mind,
who we really are and what it looks like when we live accordingly
So really the first verse provides a measure--
we, who are believers,
can lay ourselves down beside this and ask--
do I look like Jesus?

Verse 6. 'Who', that's Jesus, 'though he was in the form of God'.
Form is a difficult English word.
It sounds like he was the form of God but he wasn't really God.
The Greek word would better render
'who was in his essential nature God'
'did not count equality with God something to be grasped'
or held on to tightly.
Jesus, in his essential being and nature God,
did not grasp or cling to this nature.

verse 7, but made himself nothing.
The but doesn't mean that he did something that was outside of his nature.
Rather, making himself nothing
perfectly shows the nature of God as completely and totally self giving.
That who God is is a being who pours himself out
and makes himself nothing out of love.

Taking on the form of a servant.
Again, form here means the being and essence of a servant,
really a bond servant which is not many steps away from a slave.
The Greek word is doulous--
he bound himself to the created world, to us,
as a doulous, a slave, a bond servant.
Being born in the likeness of men.
In other words, we are born, created in the likeness and image of God,
Jesus is like us,
he is in the image and likeness of us,
we can recognize him as one of us,
he is one of us.

Paul has, again,
so elegantly and beautifully,
with the repetition of the word 'form'
revealed the two full natures of Jesus--
he is Both God and Man
and yet his manhood was taken up in such a way that it reveals perfectly the agape,
the self-giving love,
that God has for sinners.

He humbled himself by becoming obedient to God the Father to the point of death, even death on a cross.

We have a beautiful cross hanging here behind me.
Just about every room in the church has a cross hanging in it.
The Philippian church,
hearing this letter read for the first time
would have had no such symbols around them.
The very idea of taking a cross and making it the symbol under which to all rally,
well, no one would have had such an idea.
It wasn't just the most perfectly constructed instrument of torture ever conceived of,
it wasn't just the most brutal horrific painful way to die,
it was humiliating.
I don't know about you
but I spend most of my time trying not to be humiliated.
That's one reason I hate conflict so much,
I might come out looking bad or feeling bad or feeling diminished in some way.
And because the line between humiliation and humility is not very very thick,
I, and perhaps many of you might sort of not consider humility,
or thinking of others as better than me
because it is so desperately uncomfortable.

But Jesus, who in his being essence and nature was God,
and because God in his being is someone who does not grasp,
does not hold on to himself but rather pours out himself completely,
Jesus humbled himself to the humiliation and horror of death on a cross.

Why? Paul doesn't answer the question right here but the NT is full of answers.
One you all should know by heart,
John 3:16,
for God so loved, he loved so much that he sent his only begotten son Jesus, that who so ever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
God is love.
I've really, in Philippians,
been trying to wrap my limited mind around the immensity of the fact that God,
at the cross,
didn't do something different from who he was.
That Jesus, bleeding, dying, suffering in silence
was showing us perfectly the perfect nature and character of God.
But there's a principle in the Bible that stuff is in their for a reason.
Paul is showing us the true nature of Jesus and of God for a reason.
It should not be hard to guess.
We are not characterized by love.
We are characterized by rebellion and destruction,
and sometimes,
even though we have been given the mind of Christ,
we do not live that way.
In fact, we take who we are,
our lust for equality with God,
our pursuit of rights,
our dislike of pain and suffering of any kind,
and spiritualize or rationalize it.
All week long as I studied this text I kept running up against a verse in Psalm 50,
that always feels like a smack in the mouth to me, when I read it.
You don't have to turn to Psalm 50, the Psalmist writes in verse 21.
These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.

It is the very most ancient kind of sin,
that we make ourselves the standard by which we judge God and each other.
We might look at the cross and say, yeah, I mean of course,
Jesus loves me and so of course he died for me.
And he should give me this this and this because that's who he is.
He is love.
But we understand it to be our kind of love,
our kind of holiness,
as if we are holy.
And because, perhaps,
we aren't pursuing God as he is in himself in the scriptures,
or seeking the mind of Christ,
or laying the dark corners of our minds and hearts bare before him,
we don't hear him much when he does speak to us,
and then into that perceived silence we pour ourselves.

This hymn in praise of Christ puts a lie to that,
line by line.
the Son,
did not think equality with God,
something to be grasped.
We do.
We are constantly trying to make ourselves equal to God.
He took on the position of a slave,
he completely dropped any rights, any claim to glory.
I don't know about you, but most of the time,
I'm trying to gain what's 'rightfully' mine, I'm measuring out--
I'll do this act of service,
but then someone else either better notice and match it.
A slave?
That's so unequal.
That's so unfair.
He humbled himself to death, a death of humiliation.
I got mad because someone referred to me
in vaguely condescending terms as a 'lady' this week.
Don't get me wrong,
you're welcome to hold open the door
and defer to me graciously
but don't pat me on the head...
I'm equal with you, bla bla bla.
That's not humility.
That's not the mind that Jesus has.

I don't want us, in this holiest week of the year,
to do that.
I don't want us to walk through these days,
walking in the steps of Jesus,
thinking that Jesus died to vindicate our way of thinking,
our set of priorities,
our way of loving.

This is the mind that we are to have,
the mind of Christ himself.
He did not think that being God was something to be grabbed hold of.
He grabbed hold of you instead.
He did not set about to glorify himself,
he set out to rescue you.

Therefore God has highly exalted him,
exalted him more than anyone has ever been exalted before,
and given him the name that is the very name of God,
the name so holy that it is not even said.
When you see it written, you say The LORD, for it is so holy.
And it is this name by which you must be saved.
There is no other name.
There is no other way.
God has not been silent.
He has put an end to sin and death and human rebellion.
Let the same mind be among you.
Do not hang on to yourself.
Do you think you will be diminished if you let go of yourself?
Not if you give yourself to Jesus.
As Jesus poured out himself for us, we pour out ourselves for each other, for him.
No measuring.
No holding on to your rights,
your equality,
what's fair.
No counting out,
love for love,
job for job,
penny for penny.
Do you think, if God highly exalted Jesus he will not also bring you into his own glory? That somehow your suffering will so diminish you as to destroy you?
No, when you pour yourself out, Jesus fills you up.
When you humble yourself, he will raise you up.
When you suffer, he is glorified.
Take on the mind of Christ.

Friday, March 26, 2010

7 Quick Takes

The board has agreed on a name for the school we're starting this fall. And it is (don't say it if you already know)....Soli Deo Gloria Classical School. I love it. I'm so excited. It sums up our vision and purpose besides rolling really beautifully off the tongue. This was a fairly arduous process, worse, as I said before, than naming a child. We would have had Academy instead of Classical School but it turns out, in NY, that you can only have Academy for High School grades and we won't be doing that for another few years.
The baby's eating schedule is upside down and its driving me crazy. She sleeps nice long chunks of the day and then eats all night. She's getting heavy and round and I'm getting a shorter and shorter fuse as I loose more and more sleep. I really hate to let her cry it out this young but I don't know what else to do. You all were so helpful on the shoe question, any advice?
Church of the Good Shepherd has a new website. Its so cool. Like our now gorgeous music, our professional and slick website brings us more and more into the realm of real grown up church.
Our psychotic and wayward cat who for so long sinned against us by using the entire house as his loo, moved from there to chewing large chunks of his own hair off. We took him to the vet a while ago and were told he ought to have monthly cortisone shots. Appalled at that idea I began a campaign of prayer over him, imploring God for a cheaper miracle, essentially. God has answered my prayer. I have no idea why, but his hair is growing back and he sleeps on my back instead of up in the ceiling of the basement. I have no idea why I might be loosing so much sleep.
I had the pleasure of listening to Beethoven's Wig for the first time yesterday. What an excellent piece of music, the lyrics! everything. I commend it to you all.
For orchestra this term I've had my fours and fives stand up and shout 'Hallelujah' when I say Handel. And when I say Bach, they stand up and shout 'So Many Children!' and when I say Mozart they stand up and shout 'Too Many Notes!'
We're in the throws of organizing Iron Shepherd 2010. You doubtless remember that at the last Iron Shepherd I creamed Matt by a grand one point. This time we're considering competing together as a team against someone else. The important question is, at whom shall we fling the gauntlet? And what weekend would be best?
Everybody is screaming so apparently these quick takes are over. Have a great weekend!

go check out Jen!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An Ancient Gem

Matt was sorting through boxes of old paper and photos yesterday and ran across a little something I can't pass up. Its from 1953, Cowles Magazines or LOOK and its called What is an Episcopalian? It appears to be written by Norman Pittenger, of whom I have never heard, who was Professor of Christian Apologetics at General Theological Seminary. I don't have a lot to time this morning, so I thought I'd offer first just this little horrifying bit about the Trinity.
The Trinity is the Christian teaching about God. In light of man's experience of God's working in the world, Christians have been driven to assert that God is as he reveals himself. He is Creative Reality (God the Father); he is Expressive Act (God the Son); he is Responsive Power (God the Holy Spirit). Yet he is one God. This is "theology." What matters most, in the Book of Common Prayer, about the Trinity is that we worship God and experience him in a "trinitarian" fashion.

In seminary we used to have great fun, sitting long hours after meals in the refectory making fun of this kind of idiocy. 'I believe in "God the Father"' someone would say making the big scare quotes in the air, 'and in "God the Son" bla bla bla'. Why are the scare quotes? Because you can hear in people's voices the level of their unbelief, the dripping sarcasm that envelopes a word like 'resurrection'.

More on this later, and don't worry, I have more on shoes in the works.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The shoe saga continues

I have my tiny special shoe shelf in place. I intend to take a picture once I locate my camera. Just about everybody needs their picture taken in the next few days because they've all gone puffy and round and I can tell they're about to grow.

I've instructed Elphine and Alouiscious about the shelf--ordinary always worn shoes on the shelf, boots in the back room, everything else in your rooms. For the last 24 hours its worked beautifully. I'm astonished at how satisfying this shelf is. On the whole, despite the objections of my husband, I really like the hall/entrance way, and the fact that you can see the copper pots hanging over the sink directly as you walk in the door.

I know I'm supposed to be writing a sermon and thinking about Jesus, but I'm completely distracted by the fatness of this baby, the pleasantness of the shelf, and the skyping of my husband.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shoes: an update

Matt now tells me that he 'can't believe I wrote a whole post about shoes', 'how utterly foolish' he says. To which I retort, if for one moment I stopped struggling with the shoe situation he would notice there was a grave problem and would no longer utter the words 'utterly foolish'.

So delighted am I with the suggestions of a shoe shelf that I am going to spend a portion of today appropriating a misused shelf for that purpose. We already have children's coats hung very low in the hallway and a shelf will fit nicely and neatly next to them. Now, if I could just get Matt to wildly start moving beds around....

I so enjoy these little reorganization projects.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Instead of weeping and moaning about the health care vote last night (but believe me, I am weeping and moaning) I thought I would ask for some advice.

We've managed to get our laundry under control (I can't find the link--we moved all the kids dressers into the laundry room thereby simplifying everything) and our chore system means that the house is basically always reasonably picked up. However, I have no good, rational and decent way to deal with shoes.

I've tried keeping them lined up neatly in rows in various parts of the house, I've tried keeping them all in a huge basket, and now I'm making the kids constantly carry them up to their rooms every time I see a pair lying around. There always seems to be one critical shoe missing, and often I can't find my own shoes because Gladys has worn them to some remote part of the house.

So, surely some of you have something to suggest.
My only stipulation is that I can't spend any money. I can't go out and buy a fancy shoe rack or shoe bin or shoe storage unit or new room of my house for shoes (like the unbelievably blessed woman who has a whole barn for all her children's shoes). Whatever solution, it is will have to be completely free, although I'm willing to put in work to make it happen.

Please, I beg you, someone offer me some hope.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

forgot to mention...

We're off to another interest meeting in an hour for the school if you are in town and have a burning desire to know more

Arrowhead Parable Bookstore
1 Harry L. Drive

Obviously it would have been a lot nicer of me to give a few days warning. The next one is
Tuesday March 23, 6:30pm, same location.

I've been setting here for an hour trying to decide whether to blog or whether to link the long list of blogs I've been meaning to link for some time but keep forgetting, but have come to the ultimate conclusion that I don't have time to do either. See you later!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

an undercurrent of hostility UPDATE

The beautiful unintended consequence of laying bare my insecurity for all to see was all the excellent and brilliant comments left on the post under this one. Thank you all so much.

I'm moving my mother's comment up here, for you all to see because she really explained it better than I did, and is inspiring me to write the painful autobiographical examples of hostility from my youth. Here's what she said.
It's obviously time I straightened out the writer of this blog. The first time I ever heard anyone talk about an "undercurrent of hostility" was when this blog writer's very own father (not yet married to ME but about to be) showed up in Portland Oregon the week before the wedding and met my large (8 kids 2 parents) family and felt that while we were all very polite there was a certain measure of quiet insanity in the household and an undercurrent of hostility. Which of course became our new family joke. Always an undercurrent of hostility and it HAS to be an undercurrent when you are for the moment living in an Tzeltal village in Mexico for instance, and being constantly watched, or are having to share a kitchen in France with someone you barely know and can barely stand, or when you have to learn strange tongues in small villages in West Africa where the gossip mill runs deep and clear. It's been a family joke for all these many years.
But today, the hostility isn't in evidence at all. It is luxuriously warm and hazy (60 degrees), and we're going to sit down for some school in a few minutes, and I've hung my copper pots over the sink in an excessively pleasing way, and there are no board meetings or vestry meetings or anything, and I can't think of anything to complain about so I won't go on writing. See you tomorrow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

103 Reasons Why I hate Daylight Savings or Why this blog is called 'an undercurrent of hostility'

I was reminded again this weekend that I've never given an explanation for the title of this blog. When one sets out to name a blog, unlike the process of naming a child, or a school, one casts about in one's mind, thinks of several cutesy things, finally says, 'whatever, I'm naming it this', logs onto blogger, finds the name surprisingly not claimed and signs up. Then one posts pretty little posts of how to make bread and all the cute things one's children are saying.

Astute readers will see where said blogger went wrong.
She didn't think about an audience. She has too many subjects she's covering. Like...
Anglican Mess,
general sarcastic irritation with life,
spiritual things...So she will never be linked by bloggers with a good focus (all three of you who have linked me are to be commended for your brilliance in seeing past the veneer of incompetence to the brilliance of the writing found on this blog). She will never be linked by sarcastic mean bloggers because she's too spiritual. She will never be linked by lovely Christian bloggers because the title of her blog has the word 'hostile' in it. She will never be linked by intellectual bloggers because she talks too much about her children. She will never be linked by mommy bloggers because she hates to be called 'mommy' except and only by her actual children.

Such a blogger spends time quietly comforting herself that it doesn't matter if anyone links her; she writes because she likes to and because its a better hobby than trying to sew because she doesn't know how to sew. And she quietly criticizes other bloggers for not blogging often enough. But basically she knows that had she thought more about the name of a blog, she would have had no residual anxiety about her blog.

So why does a blogger even consider the name 'an undercurrent of hostility'? Well, to begin with, if its part of the vocabulary life of one's early life. As in 'did you feel the undercurrent of hostility in that room?' or 'boy, there's a strong undercurrent of hostility, I hope it doesn't come to the surface and cause us all to be embarrassed.' Those kinds of things.

When I started this blog I was seriously hostile towards an array subjects. But when I say 'seriously hostile' I really mean 'vaguely annoyed' or sometimes 'seriously annoyed' or maybe once in a good long while 'frankly ticked off'. The Anglican Mess, for example, enjoined itself too all three levels. The disobedience of my children makes it every day to Level Two. On the other hand, the cultural shift of people in the church deciding not to have babies 'frankly ticks me off'. And obviously, Daylight Savings Time makes it to Level Three every time.

How could it not be so. I was finally waking up early in the morning in time to pray, read the Bible AND work out. The baby was on a regular eating and sleeping schedule. We had settled into a restful post Christmas pre Easter rhythm, only to have it shattered by the insanity of the idea that we can 'save daylight'.

So of course I've been considering changing the name of this blog. But not very seriously. I think, ultimately, I'd rather just keep writing here whether anyone reads it or not, or links me or not, because writing is a great pleasure and that's why I do it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Repost: A grief

I posted this clip a long while ago but I think its due again, not only because it is lent but, just because. You probably all know what I'm talking about.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Classical School for the Southern Tier

I'm so behind on blog reading and people are saying so many interesting things out there that I can barely be spared to write anything here.

HOWEVER, I need to come out of my not totally unusual silence and invite all of you in the Binghamton area who are trying to figure out how to educate your children to come to the first of many Informational Meetings for a school (March 13, 10:30am).

All my joking over the years about starting a school, like all good joking, had a big fat kernel of truth to it. I'm so excited about this new venture. You can read what the paper said here.

So, blogging has been light, and may continue so until we catch our breath. As part of the excitement, we've been meeting two days a week with some other interested home schoolers to just show ourselves that it will be possible to get up, get dressed and get out the door every morning, lunch and books in hand.

If you don't live in Binghamton and aren't old enough to enroll (because surely otherwise you would want to) I hope you'll pray. I've never been big on the whole 'seasons of life thing'. Its too much of a cliche, like 'bloom where you are planted'. I mean, of course, of course one should bloom where one is planted. Where else is one going to bloom? But this definitely sends us into a new 'season' where old routines have to fade away or take on a new character, and new things replace them. And if I'm not blogging much, its because I'm trying to do lots of other things. And on that note, if I don't move along, we will be late or forget something.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

When a baby cries

I've been noticing lately an interesting difference between my little boys and my little girls. Its a difference that any sensible person might observe and there have even been studies done on it.

My little girls cannot bear to hear the baby cry. Whey she cries, Elphine goes immediately to pick her up. Gladys goes automatically to jam a plug (pacifier, we call them plugs because that's what they are, really, let's not beat euphemistically about the bush) in her squalling mouth. They both firmly say things like 'stop crying'.

The boys on the other hand take quite a long time to notice that she is crying, and when they finally do, they will come and say aggrievedly, 'the baby is crying. Can't you make her stop?'

I only remarked this difference a few weeks ago and thought I was jumping to preconceived conclusions. I mean, really, how could you not notice something as relentless and angry as a tiny hungry baby? So I began to purposefully watch. The difference is so remarkable as to be funny.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Its not like I'm busy or anything

Well, really, I am, upsetting and horribly busy.
I intended to blog every day last week but many mornings I didn't even open my computer.

So, because a list is really all I have minutes for, here are those things that I ought to have done, have done, or probably ought not to have done...it is lent after all:

--Thank You Notes. I HAVE to write thank you notes. I'm So bad at them. I have a stack of them sitting there glaring at me.
--catching up on my list writing. I've been forgetting to make lists reminding me to do what's on my lists.
--Reading to the kids. I'm trying to read to the kids every day, but you'd be surprised how difficult it is to read even one whole picture book without interruption, just one, or even only half.
--School. After being sick for nearly two weeks, its been hard to get back on track.
--Pilates. I'm doing a wretched video in those spare moments that don't exist. I can't Stand the perky happy fit people saying 'Good Job!' to me when I'm lying in pain on the floor, clearly not doing a good job.
--Watching Mitchell and Webb's Peep Show. In good conscience I can't recommend this because its fairly profane and in many ways completely offensive. However, its so funny. Its like modern day PG Wodehouse, capturing the deep abiding embarrassment of the English person. If you don't like British humor you won't like this.
--Not reading actual books. I have a stack of 20 books sitting right here next to me that I'm not reading.
--Finishing Matt's blanket of death. Its not an actual blanket of death. Its a really thick knitted throw blanket thing that I started before we got married, intending to give it to him and be so impressive. 1o years later, I've finally finished it but the weather is already too hot for him to even touch it (wretched man). In the intervening years he began referring to it as his 'blanket of death', that lovely hand made thing that I would finish only in time to place gently over his cold body in a coffin. Here it is, 24 hours later and he's still up and breathing. I showed him. But I'm never knitting a whole blanket again.
--Comforting and coddling Elphine who fell backwards off an evil stool and was promptly taken to the ER by her father for 4 stitches, a Popsicle, a stack of stickers, a pair of plastic gloves and later a large bowl of ice cream.
--Finishing up Numbers. I really love Numbers.
--Holding the baby. All the time. Just because.

Monday, March 01, 2010

links for a monday

I've been trying to think of something to write about for the last three hours and I give up. I think its largely due to the fact that I haven't read anything for several days nor watched anything but stuff like this

But really, you should go check this out. Lauren was in my class at school and remembers for us all what dating was like at ICA. One freak out warning, though, the staff at our now defunct school used the word 'coupling' to designate couples who were dating or whatever. I have since learned that the term 'coupling' has another meaning than the one intended by the dorm fathers of ICA. I won't go into it here, but still. Really.