Morning by Morning

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward." Isaiah 50:4-5

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Old Triangle Dance

In every relationship people dance patterns of steps they have learned, sometimes long before.  They are often surprised when their current dance partner won’t fall in line with their old patterns of dance.  The first year of a marriage is often a struggle with harmonizing the different dance patterns.  Later in the relationship, for better or worse, a new pattern is established. 

Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  One partner gets furious, the voice raises in volume and pitch.  The other partner shuts down and retreats, and the pattern is danced over and over and over again; that is until one of the parties makes a change in the dance step.

Churches are no different.  Many of us come from active involvement in other churches where we learned patterns of behaviour that we expect to find in our new church home.  Trinity is essentially a new Mission congregation and we haven’t had enough time together to establish our pattern of dance steps.  However we do need to be aware of a common dance step in our past experience.  That pattern is The Old Triangle Dance.  You can read about it in Chapter Eleven of Canon Neal Michell’s book “Beyond Business as Usual.”

In The Old Triangle Dance, one member, who has a complaint about another, goes to a third party to gain leverage (power) to get things resolved the their way.  This has the tendency of making the third party into a lightning rod if others in the congregation catch on that they are open to receiving complaints.  Traditional lightning rods are Senior Wardens, Junior Wardens, Vestry members, Office Staff, and any priest or deacon who can be induced to accept lightning strikes.

Just for the record, our parish leadership is being trained about responding to The Old Triangle Dance, and our Vestry is studying Canon Michell’s book.  None of us want to wrap ourselves in aluminum foil and stand in the back yard waiting for a storm.

Well, what do you do if you have an issue?  First, and most constructive, avoid the third person approach, and go directly to the person you are concerned with.  Second, if you go to one of our leadership team they will be very happy to offer you the opportunity to speak directly to person you should be talking to.   Third, try to sort out what’s really important.  Bear in mind that some things are not worth getting worked up about.  Didn’t like a hymn?  You might be surprized.  If I picked the hymn, and it didn’t work; I may have ended up not liking it either.

There is one very essential key to communication within churches, and that is love.  When power and control come in the door of the church, love goes out the window.  Remember that you are loved by the One who gave himself for you.  Remember that he said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What’s In A Name?

One wonders why parents pick certain names for their children.  What on earth was the minds of the parents who named their babies, Dweezil and Moon Unit, or how about the little girl named Aquanetta, after the hair spray, or the little Gates boy who was named Pearly by his parents?  I actually met Pearly Gates who was always invited to banquets just so that he could be introduced.  I strongly suspect that I was named after Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh, although I’m not entirely sure.  Certainly Winnie the Pooh loomed large in family lore, and my uncle Ian was always referred to as Uncle Eeyore.

Why was Trinity picked as a name by the founders of this parish?  I would hazard a guess that it wasn’t a reference to the Trinity River.  The simple explanation may in part be that Trinity is a very traditional Church name.  On a deeper level it has a meaning that transcends the past history of this parish.
Trinity Episcopal Church is named after the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  For the ancient Hebrews the name evoked the whole person.  When the psalmist says, “May the Name of the God of Jacob protect you, he means, may God, and all that He is protect, shield, and guard you.  When we say that this is Trinity Episcopal Church, we are declaring that the One God, Father Son and Holy Spirit dwells in this place; and that we acknowledge the power, majesty, and sovereignty of the Trinity, three Persons in One God.  We understand that the Trinity is a profound mystery that far excels the power of human telling.
In our Offertory Hymn for today we declare, “I bind unto my self today the strong name of the Trinity . . . his hand to guide, his shield to ward” In saying this we are declare that we put our whole trust in His grace and love.  We do not understand this na├»vely.  Sometimes difficult things happen to individuals and to parish families, but we also understand that part of the sovereign work of the Trinity is to make sense out of the past as well as the present.  This Lord God of hosts, in return, declares to us, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 28:11-13).
Our parish name, Trinity Episcopal Church, invites us into a relationship with this God of Love and restoration.  This is not an abstract thing, but an intensely personal thing.  It is God the Father who loves us.  God the Son is our Friend and Redeemer. It is God the Holy Spirit who offers us the power to rebuild our lives and our parish on a firm foundation as we worship and celebrate His love together.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Tyranny of Perfection

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Have you ever noticed that the most beautiful people don’t have perfectly regular faces?  That kind of regularity of perfection is an aberration because it flies in the face of the infinite variety of God’s creation.  One reason why we will recognize each other in the heavenly kingdom is that even when we are ‘perfected’ we will be as different as snowflakes.

That doesn’t stop us from applying an arbitrary standard of perfection on the rest our experience.  We, who are ourselves imperfect, impose the expectation of perfection on family and friends, on our jobs, our homes, our automobiles, and on our Church.  Nothing you know will be perfect in that abstract and bloodless sense of perfection.  You, yourself, are not perfect, and it doesn’t take much living to discover that others are not perfect either.  All of our jobs have a drawback somewhere or other.  Our homes are not perfect, the weather and wear will see to that.  The new car smell always wears off.  The Church is not perfect either.

Rather than expect an abstract standard of sinless and spotless perfection, consider the biblical words most often translated as ‘perfect’.  Both in the Old and New Testaments those words emphasize the qualities of maturity, completeness, and balance.  The Church is charged with building up the saints so that they may reach mature manhood, the measure and of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).  It is not charged with producing righteous robots who never make a mistake.  When you think of that, it is actually a tremendous break.  It means that there is space for all of us as we grow together in love and maturity.

If seeking perfection in creation is fruitless, on what should we place our expectation?  There is One who is perfect.  St. James tells us that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  It is God Himself who changes not, and those who put their trust in Him will not be disappointed.

As for other things, extending God’s mercy and grace to all of our human experience, we should set our attention on “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent (Phil. 4:8).  Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, is the source of all wisdom, truth, and beauty, and those who follow Him strive to work out those qualities in their own lives and experience.  While an abstract standard of perfection is not within our grasp, love for others is, joy in God’s creation is; and when we let go of unrealistic expectations, peace of mind and heart is also within our grasp.