Thursday, August 19, 2010

Learning to live in England, Part 27

Tuesday, August 11

I'm continuing well, although there is some adjustment to my new heart medicine, or more specifically, there are actual withdrawal symptioms from being off the old!  Apparently, my body really was habituated to it, which is why it was no longer effective.  One nice adjustment is that I feel much more alive, alert.  The previous medication was a sedative, which fact I had not properly appreciated until now.  I wake up earlier in the mornings now, too, being less sedated.  Another thing is that the new medicine allows my heart to speed up normally with exertion, whereas the other did not.  This takes some getting used to.  It means I can do more, but at a greater 'price'.  I tire more easily.

We attended, as usual, the Tuesday night discussion group in our neighborhood, of Anglicans discussing the previous Sunday's sermon.

Having, like most parishes, discarded the Lectionary as being too fragmented (and perhaps the Anglican one really is, but I doubt that, if one knew the scheme behind it) this parish is doing a whole series on Parables.  last week it was the Prodigal Son and this week, the Good Samaritan.  The vicar had suggested, in his sermon, that the man beaten and left to die could be taken to represent us.  So that was the first question that came up:  is this a valid interpretation?  There was a long silence.  Finally, I said, 'Certainly; that's the classical, ancient interpretation.  The victim is us, and we cannot be rescued by religion (the priest who passed by) nor by education (the Levite), but christ comes to save us and brings us to the inn, the Church, and pays the cost.'

They all looked very uncomfortable, and were quite unsure.  For one thing, they wanted to avoid giving the Church a role in all this and keep it between me and God.  I'm not sure why, but will try to find out another time.  For another, they preferred to make it less a spiritual than a social issue:  how can we love our neighbor better, and come to his rescue when he is down and out, and not be like those who passed by the victim? 

Stuart, the leader, newly made a deacon, eventually cited 'The Miracle on the Hudson,' and commented that the captain of that plane had spent long years studying how to be a good pilot, and what to do in an emergency, and perfecting his skills.  So when the emergency came, the captain almost instinctively knew how to react, which was a good thing because he had no time to mull it all over.  So I agreed that's how it is in the Christian life, as well, and pointed out that this example quite nicely resolves any polarity or conflict between the inner life and the social responsibility.  We have to cultivate our hearts and minds, not only for our own sakes, but for everyone's. 

It was a good discussion, and I think we all feel more bonded that we did in the beginning.  After the formal part of the meeting, some of them began talking about next week's Parable, the House Built on a Rock.  Stuart was going to represent the house built on the sand.  We left them discussing how they were going to clean up the mess after everybody had soaked Stuart with their water guns, 'to draw the people in to the Parable'.  Some of the kids had bought Super-soakers for the occasion.

I think I've understood now the thinking of many Anglicans (and of course, others here and in America and elsewhere) about their new church services.  It seems to be:  As I must go to church, or most certainly should, at least it ought to be made into an enjoyable experience for me.

Can you spot the flaw(s) in that line of reasoning?


James the Thickheaded said...

Glad you're "better"? Sounds it anyway. Sorry about the tree. Been a lot of those around here, too (Maryland).

Fascinating discussion. The world left behind: the church of anything but the Church. Hmmmm. As to jetisoning the 3-year lectionary, I mean if you have a social gospel... who needs the rest? But what then distinguishes the glory grabbed by man for himself and for popular acclaim, from that which is given in thanks for the glory of those created in his image and for the acclaim and glory of God? And if ascetic humility is lost... isn't the image tarnished?

And yes, there's a lot of fun in supersoakers. Been there, done that. But at the end of the day... I didn't find much growth, much emphasis on what the spiritual life is, its challenges, or its joys. Why not either stay home and read the FT, NYTimes, or go to Disneyland?

And it in fact these practices do conform to the church as society... isn't it fair to ask what makes this a specifically christian society? and if not, why not? Unlike some, I'm not sure one re-infuses the ethos simply by removing entertainment. And at least the entertainment bit is a relief from the distortions of the social gospel that views some victims and some social workers as more "better" than others because they let some of the church's preferred few friends preen themselves to popular accolades (very cynical, yes, forgive me... but I've read "Crossing the Rubicon" on ancient Rome and the vision of "virtue" as a civic good...). Yes, some good indeed comes of it, but it's still A church (emphasis on "a") of men appeasing God - if there is one... rather than THE Church confident the task is much broader, deeper, and real. Once upon a time I'd have ventured on a theology of "play"... but it'd be very narrow.

And let's face it, as Telly Savalas might have said, "This ain't some Looney Tunes nostalgia "let's pretend" trip, baby. Who loves ya?"