"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 Suffering, humility and servanthood
The finest preacher I know (and I've heard a LOT of sermons) is Becca Stevens. She's also one of the finest priests and just finest people I know. She preaches and lives the Gospel with such light.
Every fall break, ECM goes down to be with the women of Magdalene House -- the amazing community of women breaking the cycle of abuse that comes with the life of street prostitution in Nashville, TN.
I checked out the sermon from the Oct. 22 -- the Sunday the ECM students were there last month -- and it is one of her very best. It's called "suffering, humility and servanthood" and it is as good a sermon as I have ever heard about the Christian life.
You can hear it yourself by going here - it's the audio of the whole service, so if you're in a hurry, you'll have to fast forward to the sermon. But if you've got time, listen from the beginning because the spirit of the congregation shows through in the liturgy and music.
She closes her sermon with these words -- so if you don't have time to listen, you can just sit with these:
"God forgive us when we're ever not humbled that people ever let us serve them. And God forgive us when our theology becomes a position to defend and not a story of serving others in our lives. May our theology be our story unfolding in service. And may God continue to get us to come round right to be compassionate to others in their suffering, to be humble in our own lives and to desire to serve our God."
| Mike at 11/28/2006 11:30:00 AM
When Schroedter was born, my brother bought the domain www.schroedter.com for him (having a unique name like Schroedter comes in handy when you're doing things like getting a website). Unfortunately because his dad only has cursory knowledge of things like building a website, and trying to guide a 6-7 year old through designing something with DreamWeaver should be against the Geneva Convention, we never put much up on the site.
Then my mom had the brilliant idea last night of setting up a blog for him. It's much easier to set up, still a lot of room for flexibility of design and anytime he wants to put something new on it won't be a a new adventure in torture-by-html.
So, the coolest thing you could do right now is go to it and leave a comment on his first post so he'll get even more excited about it. One can only hope he's more faithful updating it than his dad!
| Mike at 11/24/2006 12:25:00 PM
Wedding Photos! I've been long delinquent in posting photos from the two 2006 ECM weddings I officiated -- Michelle & Adam's (June in Detroit)and Ryan & Amanda's (October in Natchez, MS).
Instead of putting them all on the blog, I've posted them to my Flickr account so you can look at them all there.
But here's one from each just to get you started. The first is Michelle Davis and her maid of honor, Stephanie Rhodes (also an ECM alum and two-year roommate of Michelle). This was taken just a few minutes before the ceremony. The wedding was at a beautiful country club on an island near Detroit. It was an outdoor wedding that combined elements of Adam's Jewish tradition and Michelle's Episcopal tradition (the second time I've done a Jewish-Christian wedding ... though the first I was on firmer footing as I had a rabbi with me!).
Ryan and Amanda were also at the wedding. And speaking of Ryan and Amanda, here they are! Their wedding was at Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez, MS. It was a gorgeous day -- about 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Couldn't have been more perfect! The wedding was late afternoon, but they took pictures before -- including ones like this one taken just a block or so away from the church. Oh, and Michelle and Adam came out from San Francisco for this one, too.
| Mike at 11/24/2006 12:07:00 PM
A friend of mine on my Gen X clergy listserv sent us this website -- the Boomer DeathCounter -- which is great in its own way. But mostly, I'm writing about it because it made me think of another one -- The Death Clock -- which, after entering some very basic information, gives you your own personal day of death (mine is Thursday, Oct. 27, 2067) and then has a ticking counter of how many seconds you have to live.
I preached on this once -- perhaps it was the passage about "all the hairs on your head being numbered" or something like that. But I think it's a powerful spiritual reminder in this culture that is so much into denying death that even though the DeathClock probably isn't getting it exactly right, every one of us has a personal day of death, and every one of us has that ticking clock.
My mentor, the Rev. Jim Fallis, who died a couple summers back, talked with me once about "living as if you believe." I think about that all the time. There are all sorts of things I believe with varying degrees of doubt and certitude ... but the key question is "Do I live AS IF I believe them?" Do I live as if I believe my life is a precious gift and is at once the scarce resource of the ticking clock and the eternal abundance of eternal life in Christ? Do I live as if I am aware of that clock and yet not afraid of it? Do I live as if I trust God to take care of all who and that really matters to me and not feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and that everything would fall apart if I were not there? What if I get hit by a bus on the way to the Thai Cafe in 20 minutes? What if my death clock is ticking down to zero right now? (By the way, if that happens, someone please direct to this site whomever preaches my funeral homily -- it will at least be kind of cool and exceptionally spooky to be that prescient!) Do I live as if I believe God will take care of everything just fine without me?
I remember the morning after Jim died. I was driving around and started thinking that, for all appearances, it was a day like any other day. Only it wasn't. For the first time in 75-odd years -- and for the first day in my life, Jim Fallis wasn't drawing breath on this earth. The world seemed a little poorer. Mostly, it just seemed weird. Even more, I just felt small. Like there was a whole universe out there that I didn't have a clue about. That the comings and goings of life were a small part of that and I was only a small part of that small part. But that somehow, God was there and it didn't really matter if I had a clue about it -- only that I lived as if I believed God was there.
I think that's why I love All Souls day. Even more than Ash Wednesday every year, All Souls reminds me that in the end we're all worm food -- that the Death Clock ticks for us all. That's weird -- and it's a weird that I just need to sit with. As much as I love my life. And even more, as much as I love the lives of my wife, my kids, my family, the ECM students I've had the past 10 years, my friends -- they're all this weird combination of incredibly precious and incredibly fragile ... embodiments all at once of the scarcity of life and the abundance of eternity.
Jim Fallis and Julia McNeely. Grace Bush and my maternal grandmother. Scott Barker's brother and the four-month old child Dahn Gandell buried last month. The nameless (to us) legions killed in Iraq and Darfur this day. The child who died of malaria while I type this sentence. All Souls. All precious. All somehow connected in ways I can't even begin to fathom.
And someday I will join them. And when I do, I believe I'll find they were never really that far away -- and that my journey to meet them is a journey from scarcity into a greater abundance than this feeble mind can imagine.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006 A Muslim Voice: The Disgrace of Darfur
Aijaz Zaka Syed of the Khaleej Times writes this about Darfur from a perspective we usually don't hear in this country:
THIS is an issue that has been staring us in the face for the past three years now. Over 300,000 people dead; three million driven from their homes and a country at war with itself. Darfur remains a huge challenge for the conscience of the Arab and Muslim world and an ever growing black spot on its visage.
Why are the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, otherwise swift to protest any slight or perceived injustice in any part of the globe, then silent on the shame of this great humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Sudan’s Darfur?
For one, most Arabs and Muslims, an overwhelming majority of them, do not really know what is going on in Darfur. For two, they suspect that the hue and cry of the West over Darfur and its indignant condemnation of Sudan are politically motivated, as always. Most Arabs and Muslims believe that the West has an axe to grind in seeking action against Sudan on the question of Darfur. Given the current tendency in the West to target everything Islamic, this suspicion is not really without basis.
Indeed, the Islamic world has every reason to be distrustful of Western motives in seeking action against Africa’s largest, Muslim-majority and Arabic speaking country. After all, the Middle East and Africa share a long history of manipulation and exploitation by the colonial West over the past couple of centuries.
The West may indeed have an agenda in pushing for an international peacekeeping force in Darfur. Many in Sudan suspect, and not without reason, that the Western concern for the people of Darfur is motivated by a greed for the country’s rich natural resources. Sudan is home to huge and largely untapped energy resources.
But even if the West’s interest in Darfur is driven by its political and economic interests, should the Muslim world ignore the larger issue at stake? That is, the endless and systematic ethnic cleansing of the people of Darfur?
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."