Saturday night

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One of the curiosities of this Christian life is that we all engage it liturgically whether we want to or not. There is more to the rhythms and movements of the Gospel story than can be found in a church service or reciting words or showing up nattily dressed at a sunrise gathering. We live it.

This isn’t the curiosity. The curiosity is that we all live it in different ways at different times. Tomorrow is Easter, at least in the West. Next Sunday is Easter in the Eastern Church. That means that while there can be feasting on this coming friday for the Christ who lives, a good portion of the church will be fasting over the Christ who died. The rhythms are thrown off, and no end of discussion has taken place over who should have the power to get everyone sharing the same day of feasting.

Yet, our lives reflect just that. Tomorrow in a church service there will be people who have lived Easter lives, who while enduring ups and downs have primarily celebrated a feast of existence, and who have spent only a few hours in the tomb. They tend to be the most vocal as the Christian life is about the victory, and they experience the victory in their whole being. The are liturgically Easter, revealing the life of God.

Others are not so well off. Even as there are days of feasting, and people of feasting, so too are there days of fasting and people whose lives seem to be permanently residing in the darkened, stone covered, tomb. They have been crucified, through circumstances or emotions or loss or emptiness. Morning never has come. It is Saturday night now in the time of things, and for these people, it is always Saturday night. The darkness sits heavy. The angel is always hours away. There is stillness, but it is a stillness of death and decay, heavy on the heart and a chain to the soul.

Think of what the disciples felt on that Saturday night. It had been over twenty four hours, and Christ was still dead. The shock of his killing was gone, leaving only the empty and gnawing numbness of everything they had lived for being utterly wrong. They knew Jesus spoke words of hope, but in this moment that hope was indeed fully dead, in a tomb. The women thought only to make sure this death was properly treated. There was no sense of anything else. They saw death, they knew death, they felt death, if not in their own bones, in their own souls, for all they had lived for, all they would have died for, was dead. The passion had robbed their passion, and tapped their being for all purposes besides empty existence.

That’s the struggle of the Church today. Not simply to speak the seasons and honor the days. But to see how people truly are and truly live. There are those who will be in the pews who understand the fullness of a resurrection, for they have felt it in their own lives. We should celebrate with them. But for those others, who can’t even begin to say what resurrection is, knowing it only as an empty mist of assumed rhetoric, who are going to be celebrating life when they in their deepest selves know only the death of the tomb, we need to bring them hope. We need to realize how God works, and that the seasons of God’s work sometimes linger for overlong moments in particular points, with the horror of this lingering being on the Saturday night a daily reality for all too many. It is these especially who need the Body of Christ, but it is these especially for whom this is foreign, and death dealing, and darkness.

John Wesley was converted when he was 35 at Aldersgate. They say converted but before that he was an active minister, a missionary to a foreign land, a radical devoted to the fullness of the spiritual disciplines. But, it wasn’t until he was 35 he finally passed through the night and came upon Sunday morning. So many of those in the church are the same way, inching through time, feeling only the weight and loss. And so many are lost, kicked out, given up on, as they linger waiting in the darkness. So many give up hope because they are left utterly alone that they walk away from the tomb, and never see the beauty of the Sunday morning that, for them, may be years away. Those who can wait, those who have people waiting with them and for them, they like Wesley experience the fullness of the resurrection in a way those who always have lived in it cannot even begin to describe. But unfortunately those who see it regularly have little regard for those who wait. And the Church in its yearly calendar has little patience for those who walk through the days at a significantly slower pace.

That is something to consider. Just as Saturday night is something to consider. We see the troubles and we see the answer, yet we always skip so breezily over that soul crushing time in between. But that is where we live, some of us more potently than others. And we need voices of hope and actions of comfort to convince us that even after years of Saturday lingering, Sunday will in fact come.

Sunday does in fact come. May those be more than just words for people trapped in the darkness of God’s curious work.

by the by

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This post and this post are actually connected, and part of a continuing series.

In case you were wondering.

Excellent News

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A bald eagle has been born on Santa Cruz island.

Now me and about three or four other people I know might be the only ones to find this not only interesting but excellent news.

One, because seeing a bald eagle while camping out on the islands would be a great thing. Two, because bald eagles eat fish. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is. Golden eagles, you see, eat small woodland creatures and other birds. The California channel islands are filled with animals that exist no where else on earth, their isolation making them into unique species, though that’s not something a golden eagle is concerned about. So, they eat foxes and other such animals which are quite possibly going to be extinct soon. Bald eagles eat mostly fish, but are bigger than golden eagles. So, they chase off the golden eagles as being a bother, and the golden eagles go back to the mainland where there’s plenty of non-endangered woodland creatures to be found.

Everyone is happy. Especially the bald eagle who gets a nice island and plenty of tasty fishes, and the channel island fox, who doesn’t get eaten. Plus eagles recovering out there mean there’s a growing population, hopefully, all throughout the state.

Patriotic fervor rises.

Stations of the Cross

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If you are away from a liturgical church and feel the need to wander the story of Christ’s crucifixion, here’s a version of the Stations of the Cross which you might find worthwhile.

a curiosity

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I was hanging out in a coastal town on Tuesday with a friend who I haven’t seen or talked with for a bit of time. She moved away from the area, with high hopes that her new place of residence would bring satisfaction and joy for all parts of her life. It was a leap, and it was a leap into what appeared to be open arms of diverse delights. Unfortunately, the expected pond she was leaping into turned out to be a mirage so she fell into a pool of dust and mud. There are a lot of aspects to this, but one of the saddest aspects is the fact she moved out that way, in part, to participate in a church.

The problems she encountered after pouring herself into this community for a long time, doing all the things she should do, giving and planning and waiting, turned around to slap her in her face as there were aspects that arose which were decidely not of a Christian nature, and indeed left her feeling very used, very empty, and quite down on herself.

That’s not unusual, and the details aren’t really worth describing since you’ll find them in just about any discussion of churches in our era. What is sad is her realization after this.

She started taking tennis lessons, you see. And she loves it. She goes to the club and there are people excited about seeing her, there are always people who want to play, and who call her to set up times to play. There are men and women of various skills, all who are there because they enjoy the game, enjoy the company of others who enjoy the game, and in their excitement about it all really draw people in.

She owns a horse. One curious day she happened to be talking to a person who is involved in a polo club. Polo even more than tennis is considered a froofy, ritzy sort of sport, the kind of place you’d expect to find upper crust, snooty people unwilling to lower themselves to associate with we riff raff. However, in talking and in following up she found much the same sort of culture as she found with her tennis experiences. They wanted to include her, and would give her lessons and let her use a horse which was more suited to the game of polo. They followed up, they got her excited, they made her feel a part even before she was ever committed.

However, at church she would send out invitations and get no replies. She would plan parties and no one would come. She would try to organize things and get only blank stares, and found some in charge in charge having at first little regard for her, and then an inappropriate regard. Church has been a desert. Tennis has been an oasis.

Tennis players are palpable people. Church people are shadows and mists, there in appearance but not in reality.

I have found much the same thing. Were I to be very intent and able to come off my mountain and meet people for social interactions I almost certainly would not try a church or anything Christian related. I would take a sailing class, join and involve myself in the Sierra Club, or do something which is enlivening to my soul that sadly isn’t that which is the most enlivening for souls. I’ve spent twelve years in primarily Christian environments and know full well there is a great deal of emptiness and frustration at every corner. Especially if you are following Paul’s advice, whether out of choice or circumstances, and have not gotten married.

That’s a curiosity to me. It’s a curiosity to me how what she said doesn’t surprise me, and it’s a curiosity to me how absolutely little trust I have that a Christian community would have any sort of social balm for those who need a faithful friend or deeper interaction. This isn’t said in depression or frustration or anger. Which is sort of sad. Momentary loss of expectation is part of living this life. A more removed analysis of what I see is something deeper, and more confusing in a way.

How and why would a tennis club offer more full interaction than a church? How and why are people who get excited about polo or sailing more welcoming and involving than those who get excited about the fullness of salvation?

I imagine I can come up with a list of things. But, as a now outsider who has a seminary degree, and has done most everything a person can do in and for a church, I see this as something more than a problem that is needing a list of answers.

In another part of the conversation I mentioned I really need to get connected with an artists or writers colony. There’s that part of me, this big part, needing to find people who yearn for deeper discoveries and understand the sacrifices needed to pursue such things, and are welcoming and supportive of those who make such sacrifices. I don’t, however, attend church very much, because while God is talked about there, I find myself being all too judged not on my quests for the higher realms, but rather on how I’m doing a rather miserable job pursuing the more acceptable values of social and monetary advancement. I am an outsider in church because I disdain a corporate life for myself, and want to be a pilgrim seeking the fullness of God. Such the same qualities, sad to say, would make me quite connected with a particular portion of society, many of whom would disdain the particulars of my quite ingrained faith.

This puts me, and others like me, into a bit of a bind. Neither here nor there, and that is the worst sort of place one can be. I realize this is a situation that needs prayer. But who wants to pray when such a community is so tremendously isolating.

I think I would much rather go sailing. Or play a game of tennis with people who might actually regard me as a worthwhile partner, even if I can’t quite always get that ball over the net yet.

Whither the Holy Spirit?

a poem

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To be a poet and not know the trade,
To be a lover and repel all women;
Twin ironies by which great saints are made,
The agonising pincer-jaws of Heaven.

–Patrick Kavanagh

blog personality

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For whatever reason I became outwardly introspective. Or inwardly outrospective. Or whatever way one might describe the awareness of one’s own extroverted awareness. No? How about this? I just, for whatever reason, began to really think about how someone who doesn’t know me might know me if only by looking at this blog, or this site in general.

I’m wondering if in fact I am that person I’m presenting, or if I’m not that person I’m presenting. There’s a conflict, you see, because in looking at the posts recently (like for the last year, though I didn’t look at any others besides the last four or five) I’m thinking someone might not really know me even though my blog is telling people a lot about myself. Or maybe the problem is I don’t really know me, and my blog is the spot on representation, and I’m really that person someone who doesn’t know me thinks I am, and not the person I think I am but not representing well here on Present Matters.

Is a blog supposed to tell the world of one’s soul? Does it? Can it? Or is it an expression of what one like’s to write about, even if and assuming this doesn’t incorporate the totality of one’s own reality.

I’m thinking by analyzing my extroverted introversion here I’m saying a lot about myself by analyzing what I’m saying about myself. Which is a silly loop really.

All this to say, I think I’m funnier in person. And less apt to talk about birds.

But maybe I’m wrong about that.

I do know that Monday morning internet existential crises bode poorly for the rest of the week.

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

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And so today begins what is commonly called Holy Week.

In commemoration of the days I offer this little presentation, something I did for a Good Friday event about four years ago for NewSong Church in San Dimas. It was part of the Stations of the Cross, Station 8 if you care to know.

Have a listen to Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem:

the week

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About fourteen miles off the coast of California you can find Anacapa Island. It’s a beautiful sort of place, the kind of place you can spend time pondering something or nothing in particular. It’s a grand place to go with good friends for special events, such as a birthday, or just because.

It’s a National Park, it’s in the middle of the ocean, and as such it’s a rather natural place to be. Every corner there is a view, every direction you walk you will find the beauty of God’s creation in astounding fashion.

There are also birds.

No, get that image out of your head. It’s not like that. I’m sure you’ve been to a coast or a shore and seen birds flying over nice waves, calling out every so often and dropping into the water for a nice tasty fish. Yeah. That’s not what I’m talking about. Anacapa Island is different. There are birds.

During certain months of the year Anacapa Island is the nesting ground for the Western Gull. There are very, very few places on the Pacific coast where these birds nest. And there are a lot of Western Gulls on the Pacific Coast. A lot.

So, if you happen to go and camp on Anacapa Island during these months you will see them. You will be surrounded by them, on ground, on sea, and in the air. They are everywhere, the mothers and their darling fluffy chicks.

Western Gulls, however, are not sweet, compassionate, friendly birds. Theirs is a very serious species. And it is their island.

“Their Island?”
“Anacapa Island. It’s theirs.”

There are trails on the island, and a ranger who keeps the trails. The gulls also know the trails, and they do not nest on them. If you step off the trail, however, or even think about it the squadrons are scrambled. Sea gull mothers open their wings and rise up into the sky. Rising up pretty high. Then they begin to fly. And they do not fly out to sea. They are not fleeing.

They swoop around and attack your head. And do it again. And again. And they make you duck, as they aren’t trying to just irritate you. They are attacking. And gulls are very good about swooping down and pulling off an ear, or plucking out an eye, or taking with them grand tufts of once well combed hair. At least that is what I suspect. I never saw that myself, but I heard their mumblings, and did look in their eyes. They would have no qualms about relieving a person of body parts, as long as that person stayed away from their nests.

With a small island, and this small island almost entirely covered in nests, such attacks become somewhat common. The whole time you have to watch out not to bother a gull, and have to watch out for gulls already bothered. They swoop, and they attack, and the sky becomes a cloud of mad, frenzied gulls.

Oddly enough, I’ve felt like I’ve been on Anacapa Island all week. Almost focused, except for these dang swooping birds I can’t get away from that keep pecking at my head.

It’s a curious sort of feeling.

in space news

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The newly discovered outer ring of Uranus is bright blue.

Just thought you should know that.

“I think there is no chance that the blue ring is caused by geyser activity,” added
Imke de Pater, a professor of astronomy at the University of California Berkeley, who helped lead the study. “We don’t know what the composition of the particles is.”