Church

An Orthodox Hymn for Good Friday

There is a section of the Good Friday liturgy in the Orthodox Christian tradition called “15th Antiphon from Great and Holy Friday Matins.” The section juxtaposes the higher and lower parts of the life of Christ. It also is sung/chanted in a way that when speaking about the higher aspects, the voice of the priest is higher. Conversely, when speaking of the lower aspects, the voice drops. This is not a hymn in my tradition, but it is a hymn that my tradition can affirm. I hope this hymn/poem might speak to you this Good Friday. If you would like to hear the late Archbishop Job sing/chant this hymn, the video is below or you can follow this link.

“Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree,
The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.”

The late Archbishop Job sings the 15th Antiphon at Matins for Great and Holy Friday 2009. This video almost didn't happen. We had wanted to record Vladika singing this antiphon for years, but he often refused to sing it out of humility.
Source: https://ryanphunter.wordpress.com/tag/15th...

The Antifragile Body of Christ

Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile speaks of the fragile, the flexible and the antifragile. These three concepts are names used to describe how something or someone might respond to a shock.

Photo by  Vittore Buzzi  on  Unsplash

Photo by Vittore Buzzi on Unsplash

The fragile breaks with a shock.

The flexible absorbs a shock.

The antifragile requires shock to develop.

When I was younger I would say my faith was fragile. I would pray for something and if that something did not happen, then I would fall to pieces. If there were one too many “bad things” happening I would begin to abandon notions of God and love.

Of course, most of us grow up and we discover that our fragile faith or fragile selves will not make it in the world because shocks come. We discover how to be flexible. We are encouraged to roll with the punches and remain nimble in our lives. We know that shocks come and we should do what we can in order to absorb the shocks the best we can.

The fragile and the flexible still remain suspicious of different shocks in our lives and we would rather be flexible than fragile. However, even the most flexible regresses to a more fragile state. Flexible gymnasts at sixteen become fragile at ninety. Plastic containers become brittle overtime. Fragility is the endgame of the flexible.

Taleb introduced me to the idea of “antifragile.” This is the way of being in the world that does not shy away from shocks but need shocks in order to develop and mature. The classic example would be the immune system. Unless the immune system is shocked with virus and sickness the immune system does not develop. It needs the shock of being sick to become healthy.

The shocks in the UMC these past several weeks are real. Some in our churches are broken in light of these shocks. Others are trying to absorb the shock and make statements that “push back” to the decisions of a General Conference. Everyone processes and moves through these shocks differently, however the people and churches that I am drawn to are the antifragile. Those that take the posture that the shocks are needed if the Body of Christ is going to be strong and healthy.

The Body of Christ may be sick, but it is not dead.

The Lack Of Unity Is A Feature Not A Bug

Photo by  Jachan DeVol  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jachan DeVol on Unsplash

What if the lack of unity is a feature not a bug?

The more I immerse myself in scripture, the more I come to see that the Church of Jesus Christ has always had a lack of unity. Read Corinthians or Romans. Perhaps the Jerusalem Council in Acts or the obvious lack of unity between Jesus and Judas or Jesus and Peter. The Church has always had a lack of unity.  

But why would a lack of unity be a feature and not a bug? Perhaps it is because the lack of unity in the Church means that the Church is bound together by something deeper than beliefs, doctrine, interpretation or anything else.

Imagine we were to create a Church that does have a lack of unity. Imagine a Church that has all the answers, that has all the questions properly ordered and the interpretations unquestionably clear. This Church would be unified on all matters and all thoughts. This Church would not need a savior.

Paradoxically, what holds the Church together is our collective lack.

The Church of Jesus Christ has a lack of unity because it has a unity in lack.

The thing that binds the Church together is the reality that we all have a lack. We all have fallen short, we have missed the mark. We lack the ability to save ourselves. We lack the knowledge of how to get out of the messes we make. We lack the foresight and the insight to see how far reaching our sin and mistakes are. The Church has gathered for two thousand years to declare, “We lack salvation, we repent, forgive us and heal us, O God!”

The lack of unity in the UMC is not a problem, it reminds me that we are always and all in need of the savior we call Christ. The Good News is tied up in the reality that the Church is a unity of lack.

The Church and The Moon

Photo by  Jordan Steranka  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash

While reading a book for class,  I was reminded that the Christian calendar is based on the moon, and not the sun.

Who cares?

The moon is not a light source, but the object that reflects the light. It goes in phases, and is sometimes bright and other times seemingly absent. It is easily masked by clouds and yet does not hurt your eyes to look directly at it. It shines in the darkness even if only a sliver.

The Church is not the Light, but only attempts to reflect it. At her best, it shines in the darkness and at her worst it is absent from view. The Church is not what gives life but can help sustain life in the dark times. The Church pulls people together with intimacy and peace not unlike the moonlight summer nights of our lives.

This may contribute to our discomfort with Church. It is inconsistent and does not do all that we would want it to do. It does not fit neatly into our evenly measured lives and is more mysterious than we are comfortable with. It requires work to see and is easily over shadowed, but the Church and the Moon are tied together in a way that both are dependent on the Light.