Posts Tagged ‘church’

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The Way and a brief on my personal spiritual journey, Part I

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2014 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , ,

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The signed movie poster Karina and I got when we saw The Way on opening weekend.

Events from late 2010 and early 2011 set me on a journey that would destroy and recreate every aspect of my life in a way that is more firm a foundation then I could have ever imagined.  After being in Spain last week my memory took me back to the night Karin and I went to see The Way, a film by Emilio Estevez that shares a spiritual pilgrimage of a father (his father in real life) traveling the El camino de Santiago.  This file was one a few light post in the past three years that sustained me and I would like to share in addition to some of the basics of what has changed for me.  This will be a primer and since I plan on attending worship and celebrating Sabbath with my family today there is no way I could afford the time to explain in detail all that has gone on, nor would I want to. Rather even my thoughts on this post have made me aware of why my writing has suffered during this period and given me great joyous expectation that while the journey is not complete I am on a new path where my thoughts will be appropriate to share with the world.  There are some who know me that may read this post with concern or possible feel threatened that I am making a case against beliefs they hold close, if that is the case for you do not feel obligated to continue reading.  Your friendship from afar is appreciated, yet I am not interested in arguing or persuading anyone of making this same journey if they are not open to it.  So in short if you found this via Facebook instead of leaving nasty comments feel free just to unfriend me now, no hard feelings and I wish you many blessings.  Recent discussions with old friends and a fabulous dinner last night with folks we love that have know us for over fifteen years has made me aware that significant change has taken place and for those interested it would be good to share.  The light posts were provided by God and a clear demonstration of the Creators promise, “My grace is sufficient.”

ImageThose familiar with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia remember that the first place Lucy comes to in the new world of discovery is a light post, it serves as a marker between the new and the old.  As the new is completely unfamiliar, threatening, and disorienting the light post serves as a marker even when they return home. Interestingly enough as the books progress the light post fades and the characters are almost fully engulfed in the new culture, they are changed with the need for the physical light post.   There are three that I want to mention: 

It was the first time in my married life that I had been looking for a new church where I was not ordained in a Christian Denomination as a minister, and the search began at places similar to most of my spiritual history to that point but on this particular Sunday me and my family found ourselves at St. Paul’s on lower Queen Anne.  After dropping our kids off downstairs and walking up the narrow stairwell to prepare for mass that was just about to start.  The Rector of the church in robe and all stopped on the middle of the stairs and we made introduction.  After sharing what church we had attended before visiting St. Paul’s her face softened and she said, “You are one of the refugees, welcome feel free to come here and rest.”  In a theological manner I was aware the I was a refugee, 1 Peter 2:11, “As strangers in a strange world.” or as old timey Christianity puts it “I was not made for this world, I’m merely traveling through.” or as popular Christianity puts it “Not home yet” or “Long way home” and yet for me to be call a refugee was an experience that offered invitation.  To maintain a psychological position of strength I was a fighter for righteousness or a unjustly persecuted, as a refugee none of that mattered.  All that was need (and offered) was rest.  As weeks turned into months and months now into years, we have found that.  In my recovery I was inspired to rest from recreating myself theologically too (I’ll write more on some of what has changed later), I took a sabbath from recreating a framework for God that met my new circumstances.  Rather I rested and struggled to rest all while experiencing the God of the Scriptures and to my surprise that experience shaped something in me that was not merely based on a logic framework, but was logical and in line with how I was experiencing the attempt at living a Biblical life.  To push the analogy further a refugee is a foreigner in land that is not her own, yet she may or may not be homeless.  She can have a tent, a flexible reliable living structure though not as concrete as a house with a foundation or a cathedral.  This tent serves both as a home but also a reminder that there is a home she is moving to.

Sabbath as a concept was one that integrating into my life as a goal oriented task driven extravert was difficult, though gratefully God overcomes personalities and circumstances and forces his loving goodness upon us.  By November of 2010, I had lost my ordination within the Presbyterian Church of America and I officially went on sabbatical as a Ruling Elder of Grace Church Seattle.  These were very difficult decisions as I had dreamed of being a minister since I felt called at fourteen years old and that was no longer a part of my life though I had worked so hard for it.  Grace Church Seattle was the church experience that convinced me that a church could care for the same needs as the city it was in, I met my wife there, two of my children were baptized there, many friends from there are as close as family and there was a sense that the sabbatical would eventually lead me to step down and ultimately leave the church that I had at one time so loved.  Roughly one year after leaving and living as refugee at St. Paul’s, Karin and I went on the weekend of October 21st, 2011 to see the movie The Way.  After watching the article on CBS Sunday Morning, I was inspired hearing Martin Sheen describe his Catholic spirituality and the journey of exploring that with his son Emilio Estevez.  As timing would have it, this was also during the time that Charlie Sheen was at the peak of his meltdown, therefore the entire family was in the cultural spotlight for reasons beyond the movie release.  The movie chronicles a pilgrimage of Charlie Sheen’s character on the El camino de Santiago after the death of his son. Most of the movie is grand shots of the landscape as the pilgrims journey the path together, the beauty of Spain is truly an additional character and sets a romantic vision of nature and spirituality.  Even the first time I watched the movie I noticed a significant change in the style of filming once the pilgrims arrived at Santiago de Compostela, the grand cathedral that traditionally marks the end of the pilgrimage.  On the cathedral steps the camera only focus on the faces of the pilgrims as they speak and the smallest details on the cathedral, the grand visions that were provided to us of nature are now denied and for me there was almost a claustrophobic sense to this film.  Quickly, I judged that this is the directors way of criticizing the spiritual when compared to the natural and I anticipated a disappointing end to a movie I had enjoyed up until that point.  To my surprise as the pilgrims sat within the mass, the almost inappropriate close ups of their faces began to retreat.  The mass moved into the moment of lighting the incense and now the viewer is soaring from the ceiling of the cathedral as half a dozen men swing the incense hundreds of yards through the entire cathedral. A beautiful and powerful moment in the movie showing the spectacular nature of divine worship in line with all the drama provided for us in nature.  The beauty of sacramental worship, all I had known that was truth had been taken from me and I was alone but the church offered a gateway into a dimension that rationally I could not explain.  The invitation was that to meet the Creator that not only imagined dinosaurs, but created and destroyed them leaving moderns with a mysterious trail of breadcrumbs to follow as we attempt to explain the reason for their existence..and our existence.  This invitation centered around meeting God, flesh and blood, at the meal prepared for me at the Eucharist.  This second light post sustained me in my dark travels as a refugee.  

 

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Quick thought on violence

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , ,

My time is not spent in the news outside of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell me on NPR and The Daily Show.  Thomas Jefferson’s said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”  This is interesting because I read that he did not read the newspaper but preferred to get his news from people who did, this is a practice I have adopted in my life.

The primary reason I refrain from reading the news religiously is because of the coverage of violence.  In no way to I advocate that everyone should do this simply because who would I talk with to find out the news;)  This morning while reading through the Old Testament I realized that violence in the culture must have been a major issue of God’s people too.  There are many passages about “The Cities of Refuge”, more than I would expect.  Either murder was so prevalent over a such a long period of time in Israel’s culture that it must have looked more like Oakland, Washington D.C., or New Orleans rather than Seattle, or the violence and murder in the culture was of great concern to God’s people.  So great that there are many passages laying out how violent offenders are to be dealt with in the “Cities of Refuge”.

A quick and dirty search on the ESV website provides the passages related to the City of Refuge:

  • Numbers 35:25  (Numbers 35)

    And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.

  • Numbers 35:26  (Numbers 35)

    But if the manslayer shall at any time go beyond the boundaries of his city of refuge to which he fled,

  • Numbers 35:27  (Numbers 35)

    and the avenger of blood finds him outside the boundaries of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood.

  • Numbers 35:28  (Numbers 35)

    For he must remain in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest, but after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.

  • Numbers 35:32  (Numbers 35)

    And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest.

  • Joshua 21:13  (Joshua 21)

    And to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands, Libnah with its pasturelands,

  • Joshua 21:21  (Joshua 21)

    To them were given Shechem, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands in the hill country of Ephraim, Gezer with its pasturelands,

  • Joshua 21:27  (Joshua 21)

    And to the Gershonites, one of the clans of the Levites, were given out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Golan in Bashan with its pasturelands, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Beeshterah with its pasturelands—two cities;

  • Joshua 21:32  (Joshua 21)

    and out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with its pasturelands, the city of refuge for the manslayer, Hammoth-dor with its pasturelands, and Kartan with its pasturelands—three cities.

  • Joshua 21:38  (Joshua 21)

    and out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with its pasturelands, the city of refuge for the manslayer, Mahanaim with its pasturelands,

 

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Realizations about church

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2011 by mstevensrev Tagged: , ,

The life of my family has been deeply impacted by church planting. Karin and I met at a church plant, a church plant is what led me into ministry full time, and we are passionate about the impact that church planting has for God’s kingdom.

After yesterday and our family worshiping with a great group of folks that are starting a church plant we came to the realization that it is not for us. We have only know the front line of church planting outside of our years in seminary. In many ways it fits our passions, and we have sacrificed a great deal for the sake of this movement. So while everyone who may know us well might have come to this conclusion, it is a new one for us.

In some strange way it is a humbling realization for me. There have been so many things God has called us to walk away from in this time, so many areas in which he has left only questions. God uses that space in our lives, I believe to make himself more present, bigger, and holy. My God is small, certainly not the God of the Bible. Though even as I’m walking into what feels like a vast expanse I am struck with the question, Is God really that big?

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Searching through communities of faith

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2011 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , ,

This has been a process much harder than I ever could have imagined. About two months ago I left Grace Seattle (the church Karin and I met in, were married in, supported us through seminary, and 2 of 3 girls were baptized there) and also have left the Presbyterian Church of America. Perhaps there will be posts down the road about why our journey has lead us this direction for now it is too raw and I don’t do well sharing emotional things.

So we have visited about a half dozen churches in the Seattle area. Established churches, church plants, churches that started around the same time as Grace. All of which have parts of what we are looking for but all have still left us wandering, we truly feel like refugees. The good news is there is not a lack of loving folks in these places, this is very cool and has been encouraging for Karin and I but we are still in lack.

So our journey goes on.