Sunday, May 27, 2012

An Orthodox and Heterodox Service...all in one day!

The Rain won't keep Jim away from Church!
Thursday was a busy day! Since I was on Vacation, I could actually go to the Ascension Liturgy which was at 9:30am. It was a rainy morning but that didn't stop my friend, Jim Martin from arriving on his motor cycle. I must say that it is impressive that sometimes rain keeps people from Church who have cars, it doesn't stop Jim who only has his motorcycle.

I arrived just at 9:30 and Reader John was just finishing up with the Hours. 

The Liturgy was beautiful as always and, even though, with my short attention span, I am constantly fighting distraction, I am always brought back in.  It is a good thing to Worship, knowing the communion of Saints and the angels make it more than just our small group on a Thursday morning.  After Liturgy, they had coffee hour which I could not stay for because I had to go up to New York to visit my brother. (Jim told me later that he actually spent an hour and a half at coffee hour. Good for him!)

My brother Joe had been going through some personal difficulties and the upshot of it, as does sometimes happen in a time of crisis, he returned to Christ. I, of course, had to support him in that and I wanted to visit with him and attend his church with him. (Most protestant churches who have midweek services have it on a Wednesday but my brother's Church has it on a Thursday which is good for him because of his work schedule.)

My brother's Church
I am glad I went. I am also glad that is not my church. The pastor is a good man who seems to care for those in his congregation but it is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB)  Church. Now, I like that during all the songs, they stood. (How Orthodox!). I also like that they dressed up very nicely, even the kids had ties and this was only a mid week service.  But the preaching seemed an odd mix of Republican, conservative political values with an obsession with figuring out the book of Revelation. (I wouldn't be surprised if the rapture was mentioned in every sermon.) I also had to stop myself from laughing out loud when the pastor lamented that there were actually some Bible colleges out there who were abandoning the King James Version for the "Original Alexandrian texts." 

After the service we hung out a bit and, in conversation, the pastor continued his lament. I didn't want to start an argument about the King James Version verses the original Greek, partly because I was tired, partly I thought it would be rude and partly because I didn't want to discourage my brother in his return to church. (My brother has been IFB since the 1980's so I guess it's natural for him to return to what he knew). I can say that if my present protestant congregation was anything like what  went to with my brother, I'd be out of there in a heartbeat!

Our Church Saturday night before I walked in for Vespers!

I am writing this on Sunday Morning and I might as well mention that last night I went to Vespers. I really love Vespers. I love that worship is mostly straight out of the Bible. As much as many protestant churches complain that the Orthodox are "too catholic", I can say I hear more Bible in one service than I hear in half a year of protestant services.  We use the hymn book of the early church, the Psalms and that is just right!

I know that many of you may be thinking, when are you going to "take the plunge" and join the Church....Keep me in your prayers is all I can say.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Son at Vespers with me!

My son, Justin~a lover of produce, apparently...

I came into Vespers a full ten minutes late but that's because I waited a bit at home because my son Justin decided to go with me to Vespers at the last minute. That's a good reason to be late, I think. We walked in and sat on the left side right behind Jim Martin who turned around and gave Justin one of those "fist bumps" in greeting. He hasn't seen Justin in years! As we stood there I noticed some of the faithful with a service book. I thought that would be helpful for Justin so I went to get him and myself one.

I had thought that I would be uncomfortable crossing myself or bowing, since I don't do any of these practices at home (yet) but I wasn't at all really. I did focus a bit less on worship, only to help my son follow along in the Vespers book but I think to do otherwise would be rude.

At the end of Vespers, Fr Gary announced he had not planned on doing a general confession but changed his mind, mentioning how, even during this festive time of year, we can remember our relationship with God and our sins. So he went back in the Sanctuary and came out with a "hand held" cross and began the service. It used to bother me that, in that service, there is a point where we say "Lord, have mercy" forty times in a row. But I realize, now that is a great time to recall my own sins and ask for forgiveness.

I love the General Confession. It is different from the Roman Catholic idea that only certain sins can be forgiven by a priest. That sits well with my protestant view on Grace. (i.e., available to all and at all times) but I do look forward to an individual confession in the future...sort of. I mean, I certainly don't want to lie to Fr. Gary nor hold anything back -In fact, there is a part of the Confession service that says, if you hold back and try to conceal anything, that is a greater sin - but, even though I know I would benefit from the Sacrament, it is a bit scary.

I asked my son later what he thought of the service and he said, "It's sort of like, Please, God, don't smite me." While Justin got the humility and submission part right, I think it would be more accurate to say, God, Don't let my own sins get the best of me! Sort of like, Pink's song. "Don't let me get me"

For some reason, I wore a bright, orange pull over shirt to Vespers. I was going up to venerate the cross that Fr. Gary was holding. He, of course, said, "Christ is Risen" as he raised the cross for me. I said, "Truly, He is risen" and bent to kiss the cross and his hands. As I did, Fr. Gary said, "That's a very Orange shirt, Jim." I smiled and went back to my seat, venerating a few icons on the way. Justin, who stayed put and Jim, who was back already from veneration, were in their seats. I immediately relayed my story and Jim said, "He said that?" Yep, I replied. I think Fr Gary went up a few notches in Jim's eyes after that.

Sunday, today, Jim is going to his first Divine Liturgy. He asked me about "the Hours" which are prayed right before and we chatted about that a few minutes. May God give him a great experience.

Well, I better get ready for my heterodox Service now....:)