I slept for 1.5 hours on Saturday night. I was truly dragging when I got up in the morning. How I managed to have energy, I do not know; but I only nodded off a couple of times very briefly. Unlike last semester's trip, the experience was extremely moving for me. Having my dad along was a blessing in more ways than one. I know that he didn't necessarily enjoy the experience--he said it was far too much stimulation for one day. I can understand why. But it was emotionally meaningful for me to share the experience with someone who understands my needs without my asking, even if sometimes he forgets to do something. I could have reminded him without needing to explain my reason for asking, and that took a load of stress off me.
But beyond this, Dad's prolonged dialogue with me about the services and related issues was very meaningful. I often feel like I just get started talking and the rest of the crowd is ready to move on. Sometimes people just turn away and focus on someone else, and I have no idea... Part of the problem is that I need to learn that, "How are you?" often is a cue that someone wants a quick answer instead of a cue for me to spill whatever I'm thinking about.
But I don't really want to take full responsibility for the problem. It is rude to take your focus away from a blind person without saying, "Excuse me..." or otherwise indicating that you don't want to or can't continue the conversation. One of my disappointments with seminary has been that I am not finding many kindred spirits who can handle extended discussions, and my head is just filling up with more and more awful and awesome things to think about! I've never been a person who ignores either end of the spectrum: both the awful and the awesome deserve my attention; and I give it. I don't necessarily want everyone to react the way that I do; but it's a wonderful thing when someone who doesn't share the depth of my emotional reactions makes the effort to observe them and understand the reason for them--and appreciate them as a part of God's good creation. There are ways that "non-feelers" can react to the awesome; but I wonder if often they don't react much because the only way they know is what they see from the "feelers." My roommate does not express emotion often. I sometimes say to her, "Stop and think about this... What does it mean to you...?"
I am trying to overcome my tendency to squelch the emotional aspect of who I am because of a past history of lack of emotional control. There is a difference between lacking emotional control and having emotional depth. Emotional control is being able to express the right degree of the right emotion at the right time. It would not be a good thing to laugh at death (manufacturing an opposite emotion to a painful situation) or to wail over getting a C on a paper.. (reacting too violently to something). But neither is it good to pretend that I am not affected by something when I am or to blunt my emotions over something profound in order to "fit in" with other people. In this sense, I am not the one experiencing "emotional disorder." Society experiences a great deal of "emotional disorder," and it is called normal. We sacrifice quality for quantity, live life at break-neck speed in the hope of getting as much "experience" as we can. Sometime inside me is screaming: "It isn't supposed to be this way." Having so many thoughts that one must keep to oneself causes the loneliness to intensify greatly...
Now about the field trip...
Several of the churches used the Revised Common Lectionary. It was interesting to hear three sermons preached on the same passage in one day... I had no idea it was possible to be exposed to the same passage so many times and be fed over and over!
The Gospel passage from the Lectionary yesterday was Luke 6:17-26 (the "sermon on the Plain"). The first service we attended was the 8:00 mass at Holy Spirit Parish at Geist. I was very interested to attend this service since I attended their evening youth mass with the theology class last semester. I had, of course, just read a bunch of material from the Webber book about worship content and style; and I consequently detected a lot more ritual in the service without being able to use the bulletin than I otherwise would have. The morning service was much more solemn, but solemn doesn't necessarily mean disengaged or somber. I'd like to get hold of one of their hymnbooks. Some of their music is absolutely gorgeous! The music in the morning was just the piano and a handful of singers. The exception was a men's choir at the end of the service, who sang, "Amazing Grace" in unison to the tune of "The Rising Sun" and accompanied by a guitar.
The key point that stood out for me was the need for healing of the whole community. This goes right along with some of the reading and reflecting I have been doing for my theology class. I love it when my courses overlap like this! "Blessings and woes" was emphasized, all toward the aim of healing the community.
The Greek Orthodox church was an experience I really don't think I personally will repeat. They use incense heavily, and this was not a pleasant thing for me--particularly when the host came past me and swung the container in the process. But more importantly, the sing-song tone was hard on my brain; and from a songwriter's point of view (albeit American), I found that the phrases resolved at the end of questions and hung at the end of sentences. It was very distracting.
I found it extremely difficult to encounter God while the singers were singing and the pray-er was praying in a complete monotone under the song. About half the service was in Greek, and I felt very much that I was an outsider watching someone else worship. I wondered how many of the people in the congregation actually knew Greek and how meaningful this really was. At least the sermon was in English--and I did take away three summary points from prior weeks: that desire (a la Zacchaeus), humility (a la the tax collector who acknowledged his sin), and repentance (a la the prodigal son) are important elements of meeting God. I was too self-conscious to take notes, so I missed the rest of the sermon.
I found myself quite at home at North United Methodist. The sermon title was "Faith in a Flat World." They have podcasts, but yesterday's is not up yet. I may start following their services occasionallly. Again, I didn't take notes. I wish that I had... One of the things they have done that I really like is set up a program called fellowship friends to help newcomers get "plugged in." The "fellowship friend" becomes acquainted with the new member, exchanges phone number and email address, may have coffee with the person, etc. It's a nice thing, and I think it's something that we could benefit from doing at my church. I remember "blessings and woes" being mentioned here--I did make a mental note of this...
I took a lot of notes at Light of the World Christian Church. The preaching was too dynamic and gripping fo rme to justify trying to remember everything that was coming to me. I don't know the name of the lady who preached; but wow! Can she ever preach! She talked about "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." In other words, guard what you look at, listen to, and speak. I was impressed with the idea that seeing and hearing are action verbs, but often we treat them as passive verbs. "I heard this yesterday," means someone said something and I just could not help but listen to it. If someone "ignores" me, I say they have "selective hearing." Perhaps selective sight and hearing is sometimes a good thing. No wonder God said, "He who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." We can cause tremendous injury by listening to the wrong things and failing to intentionally listen to the right things! The same is true with looking and especially with speaking. James said that the tongue has never been tamed... But should that keep us from subjecting our tongues to Christ?
The sermon text was the passage from Luke 1 about Zechariah receiving the message about Elizabeth's conception and being made mute as a result of questioning God. Why would he be made mute? For one thing, it kept him from speaking doubt and hindering the work of God by injuring other people's faith. He was a priest: he had a lot of power over other people's faith. For another thing, being quiet placed him in a position of focus on God. He had to listen. And when he spoke, he spoke praise for God's work of salvation that was being accomplished and not for his own healing. It is worsh noting that he was not able to speak again until he had righted the issue of doubt that he had brought into his life--and he had to right it by giving John the correct name.
At the Episcopal service, Dad read me the bulletin, which contained instructions. This was extremely helpful since no instructions were given verbally. Several meditation songs were sung. Most were in English, but a few were in Latin. As many times as they were repeated, I would think that I could remember them. I don't. I was too busy meditating on the words and praying to think about learning the songs! I spent a lot of time praying for fellow classmates and friends and just meditating on things I have been learning lately. I didn't even notice the ten minutes of silence very much--and I expected this to become a "problem" for me. I was very surprised at the positive experience here.
We were late to Second Presbyterian, and we missed the initial music. I was disappointed about this. The sermon was about none other than the intersection of the Lord's prayer and the ask-seek-knock passage that follows which I wrote about the other day. The pastor drew these together very nicely. "If you lack words, here are some (the Lord's prayer)." He noted that prayer is a command that requires obedience. It also requires boldness (the ask-seek-knock passage demonstrates this), and the two must be balanced. Too much boldness leads to irrelevant, self-centered prayers; too little leads to ritualistic, meaningless prayers. My note is that this is taking the form of godliness but denying the power thereof. He noted that prayers can be selfish but that prayer corrects self-absorption. Prayers are not always answered in the ways or times we want them to be answered. I observed at this point that "the Lord's prayer" is really a teaching about attitude more than about words to use when praying.
I was kind of amused by the pastoral prayer at the end. It went on and on and apparently included every request in the books. It had the effect, though, of making this large congregation into a small community atmosphere. The pastor even thanked God for "new kitties and snow and snowballs." Rather than feeling that it was irreverent, I felt that he was drawing even the little children into the prayer. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that it was his way of making it possible for the whole church--even the three-year-olds--to say "Amen!" It was very heart-warming; and at first I was very unnerved by it.
I can't remember now which church it was where the preacher compared the passages from Matthew and Luke. I found this a very helpful thing. It added a great deal of substance to the message and got my mind working a bit.
Amazingly, I did not feel the need to go to sleep until a couple of hours after arriving home. I slept all night--and did not wake up to cough or blow my nose. I think I just might be "on the mend." I hope that I will soon be singing with a full voice and not just singing a little bit.