Faith in Community 3

27 04 2008

Now that we have examined a life or corporate worship and prayer as provided by the Daily Office and integrating it into our daily lives, Bonhoeffer then turns to what it means to have time alone with God.

The Day Alone

People seek to be alone because they are discouraged by other people or even Christians may be discouraged by other Christians.  Others might find themselves to be so lonely that they hope to find solace in the company of other people or other Christians.  In both cases, disappointment on some level will set in.

Real Christian community is not a place of like-minded folks.  If you are using community as a means of escape, you are misusing that community for the sake of diversion.  In fact, you may not be seeking community at all, but a distraction from the day.

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Faith in Community 2b

27 04 2008

Continuing where we left off in Bonhoeffer’s Life Together we finish the second chapter called “The Day with Others”

The Days Work

Work is of necessity part of our life. Consequently, neither work nor prayer should hinder each other. Dietrich goes on to suggest that where each have their proper place in life, they are not mutually exclusive, but rather inseparable.

Work is about the the physical world of things, of “its.” Our challenge as Christians is to break through the “it” of things and into the “Thou” of God in our work. Prayer and work eventually become more and more integrated into our day, and it is only then we can really know what it means to “pray without ceasing” as it says in the New Testament. When we can find or see God in our work, so then prayer becomes a part of work. “Every word, every work, every labor of a Christian becomes a prayer, no in the unreal sense of a constant turning away from the task, but in a real breaking through the hard ‘it’ to the gracious ‘Thou.'” (p71)

Work will always be called work (there’s a punchline to a joke which says “it’s called work for a reason!”) but our patience and energy will increase the more we have integrated prayer into our daily lives.

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Faith in Community Part 2a

21 04 2008

Continuing along with our lectio divina of sorts with Bonhoeffer’s work “Life in Community,” dear old Dietrich leads us through parts of the Daily Office in his second Chapter, “The Day with Others.”

Chapter 2: The Day with Others

The Day’s Beginning

In the Old Testament, the day began at evening, a time of expectation.  In the New Testament, the shift of the beginning of the day to dawn, seen as a time of fulfilment where we remember the Resurrection.  Sin and Death are defeated and new life and salvation is given.  Today, we have no fear of night.  We would actually be hard pressed to find a time when we truly experience darkness.  What if we were to recapture the sense of wonder when day broke after a long night?

Our common life using the office begins with common worship at the beginning of the day.  We should not begin immediately thinking of our work and what we have to do or how we are going to get through the daily grind.  If we get up early out of a sense of worry and there being way too much to do, that is in Dietrich’s word, “unprofitable” (p44).  Rising early for the love of God is the practice of our spiritual forebears such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and Jesus.  Morning devotions today vary according to the needs of the community.

The Secret of the Psalter

The use of psalms have had special significance since ancient times.  It is not only God’s word, but our own prayers.  There are psalms we can identify with and those we can’t.  Our challenge is to live into the entire psalter.  It is a book of prayer, if not our owns then someone else’s, but all are lifted up to God.  It is an example of a truly inclusive book.  Jesus, in whom dwells the fullness of humanity as well as divinity, is able to pray the psalter in all of its beauty and ugliness.  Prayer means “praying according to the word, the basis of promises.” (p47)

Do we dare pray what are known as the imprecatory psalms, the psalms of vengence?  We dare not by ourselves, but we can pray them in and through Christ who suffered wrath so his enemies could go free.  We dare not call ourselves innocent or righteous on our own except when we pray them out of the heart of Jesus, who is the only one of us who was truly innocent.

What about psalms of suffering?  We do not know the depth of suffering portrayed in its verses.  But the same principle applies here for Christ also suffered for everyone, so we can pray the psalms of suffering through him and in him … and with each other.

The psalms teach us to prayer as a fellowship, for our own individual prayers are but a “minute fragment of the whole prayer of the Church.” (p49) Take Psalm 5, for instance.  There are clearly two voices present, which serve to remind us that no one ever prays alone.  Dietrich suggests that the entire psalter could be summed up in the Lords Prayer.  Even there, there is no “I” or “me” only “us.”

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Faith in Community Part I

6 04 2008

My Spiritual Director has requested I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work, Life Together, which is about Dietrich’s thoughts on what it really means to be in Christian Fellowship and Community. Instead of sermons for the next month or so (which may still pop up occasionally if the readings for the week move me), I will share my thoughts and notes on what Dietrich has to say. Citations are from HarperSanFrancisco’s publication, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Chapter I: Community

We cannot take for granted that Christians live among other Christians. “Jesus came to bring peace to the enemies of God” (p17) so, too, the Christian does not work among fellow believers but around those hostile to the Christian faith, or if not hostile, then indifferent as an option among many. The Body of Christ is not a unified earthly entity but is scattered to the four winds to be the seed for the Kingdom of God. Our identity and our community is based in him.

In the West, we take for granted a place to worship and fellowship, but in places where we are a minority (eg Asia and the Mid-East) visible fellowship is seen more for what it is: a blessing. It is natural to yearn for the physical presence of other Christians. Even in the “spiritual but not religious” crowd, you will find a yearning to be part of a fellowship. Our faith is very much physical as it is spiritual. In other way, think about someone who is someone who is sick or lonely and meets another fellow Christian, and how wonderful it is for them to fellowship. How much greater then, should our joy be if we have the privilege of gathering regularly week after week, “It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” (p20) Community means belonging to each other in Christ, whether it is a one-time encounter or a sustained fellowship.

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Life update

19 01 2008

Back in the fall, I spoke about a particularly bad day.  I found out I was getting a bad performance review at my job, and the same day I received a letter from the diocese asking me to withdraw from the discernment process for a time. Some important updates have happened since then…

On the job front, right before Christmas when my compensation for the year had been settled (and more importantly, the check cleared!), I told my boss that I wanted to transfer to another department.   He agreed, and when I got back from vacation two weeks ago, I started interviewing for other positions in the firm.  I spoke to HR and said that regardless of what position I took, I wanted to “try it out” for a couple of weeks and if it didn’t work for whatever reason, I would go into the floating pool (which is kind of like temping but you are fully employed by the firm) until I found something that would be suitable, and they were agreeable.  After all, I have been with my firm for over 5 years and worked for my former boss for 4 of those years, and so they were willing to do what it took to keep me.

I am going to be taking a position in the Marketing/Investor Relations area of the firm where I’ll be supporting two people who help raise money for our Private Equity and Real Estate funds.  Though there will be a personal assistant-type component to the job, I’ll be responsible for doing other “real work” stuff as well that requires you to use your brain.  After a couple of weeks, if I like it (and just as important, they are happy with the quality of my work) I will stay with this group.   In the future, I will probably be attending group meetings to put in my two cents to help streamline the work flow and general how-we-get-things-done type of things.   Most importantly, it seems like a good environment, and I know some of the people in the group already, and I think it will be a very positive change.

On the discernment front, the diocese said they wanted me to get some leadership experience and they want me to see a therapist.  I have never been in therapy (except for the bar called therapy near my apartment), and the diocese likes all of their aspirants to have spent some time with a therapist on a regular basis.  On the leadership side, I’m running the new Integrity chapter in NYC, which is going well, and I have found a therapist whom I feel comfortable with and my health insurance will cover a good chunk of the cost.  I’m pulled back from some of my duties at my parish, Immaculate Contraption so I can focus more on iNYC.  I’m also in the market for a spiritual director I can see once a month or so and I believe I am close to finding one.  I’ll also be meeting with Immaculate Contraption’s discernment committee every month for a brief touch base.

The challenge, like all things in NYC, is maintaining a sense of balance between work, outside activities, and social life, as well as scheduling!

So, it’s all good things 🙂  2008 is off to a great start.  Lots of transition, but life is all about change isn’t it?

Discerning the way forward

25 10 2007

So, I had my meeting to discuss a way forward in the discernment process … one of my priests went with me. We had a very candid discussion about my application and the findings that came out of my meetings to date. I thought that it was a very positive and productive meeting because we were able to come up with actionable ideas of projects and other things I can work on in my parish and the wider diocese. The tone of the meeting was very candid and cooperative. There was a great deal of clarity on all points of view, and most importantly, we came up with constructive ideas.

The bottom line, of course, is that I will withdraw my application for a time and hope to reactivate it in a year or so and come back to the diocese with the things I have worked on. I was told from the beginning this was a “great gift” and I got the impression from various folks that this is rare, if not unheard of.

I apparently have made some very positive impressions on quite a few people, or I would have been told “no” at this point or allowed to continue and then told “no” at a later date, neither of which would have been pleasant. But, I am taking this bit of news and our discussions today as a sign to pause and then resume our work at a later date.

While I remain disappointed that things have not gone as I would have liked or expected, I am grateful for the opportunity and the challenge to get “in the trenches.” I don’t know exactly how that will take shape as of yet, but we kicked around a few ideas that I had brought up. They were warmly received and I was encouraged to run with it.

Finally, I am ever mindful of St. Paul’s words, “All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God’s hand, I am sure is in all of this, but I admit I don’t entirely see how.  However, a great deal of fun and adventure is waiting to be had to discover what that hand is doing and where it is pointing. Or even, if that hand is a singing naked sock puppet!

Turning a corner

21 10 2007

Thanks again to everyone who expressed their support over the bad news received earlier this week. My “live” family and friends, particularly my Personal Atheist, Sista Girl, Beefeater, and most importantly, SIR, were invaluable in their encouragement.

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, the turnover for assistants in my boss’ office is very high. I have been working at that desk for 4 and a half years now, and prior to my arrival, the life expectancy for anyone working for him a six months to a year. While I have bucked the trend on that, my co-worker’s seat still experiences the same turnover. My current co-worker arrived in May being transferred/promoted from another area, and she told me on Friday that this week she is going to let my boss know that the current arrangement is not going to work out in the long-term, so she has put in for another transfer. And so the horrible trend of the revolving door in that office continues.

Ironically enough, that bit of news along with more encouragement from friends and SIR helped to pull me onto a bit of an upswing in my mood. As SIR said, “my stock just went up regardless of whether or not your boss likes it,” so I’m not quite as concerned about my year-end bonus as I was earlier this week, though I still expect it to be less. I have stayed in a horrible and toxic office environment for as long as I have because I did not want it to be a bad reflection with the Church. After all, I am a recent “convert,” having been confirmed in 2005 and raised as a Baptist. The ministry would also be my third career (Retail being the first, and the current one being the second), so the last thing I wanted was to give the Church any reason to think they’re a flavour of the month, so to speak. In light of a conversation I had with a good friend of mine, who is somewhat familiar with diocesan processes, he said that at this point, it should not be a factor, especially in light of the fact that I intend to stay the course with regards to the discernment process.

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