Thursday, September 25, 2008

Website growing pains

Our store and our website are in a kind of growing pains situation that is good while also inconvenient. We have been developing our new, much improved website this summer. It is almost ready to launch to the World Wide Web. All of the products from the “old” current site have been transferred to the new site to help us with formatting and fine-tuning.

At the same time there are many new book titles that we have received in our store. Do we add them to our old site, put them on the new site, or both? The amount of work involved indicates that adding them to both sites is too much. As a result I have been adding them to the new site. And that has been very instructive itself! But woe to the poor website visitor. You are missing out on viewing the new titles immediately.

Like all growth and changes, this transition time will soon be over. When the new site goes “live” you will be able to view many new books, as well as all of the other attributes of the new site.

The Words of Jesus

I’ve enjoyed Phyllis Tickle’s books. One of her recent books is The Words of Jesus, published in February of this year.

In The Words of Jesus Tickle describes a third way of knowing Scripture. "That in addition to the approaches of the literal and the metaphorical camps there is a third way of knowing Scriptures. There is--for want of a better word--actualness." (Emphasis is the authors), page 38. It is taking Tickle pages to describe the meaning and fullness of her term “actualness.” I don't have a full grasp of it yet. It seems to be a "yes-and," yes to literalism, yes to metaphorical understandings, and yes to this third actualness.

I have more reading to do in the book, then a lot of chewing on it, letting it rattle around inside me while my introverted self tries to assimilate it.

This book is divided into two parts. The first fifty pages or so consists of the author’s reflection on how the recorded words that Jesus said fit within the descriptions of his actions in the Gospels. The remainder of the book consists of the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels without the Story that contains them. Tickle combines Jesus’ words in groupings that compliment each other. Her reflections at the beginning make a good, thoughtful book by on its own. And the Words of Jesus can stand on their own as well.

Once again Phyllis Tickle puts together good, as well as important, information.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pilgrim's Progress and the prodigal son

As a biology major in college I missed out on reading many of the classics. I’ve been behind since then. This week I finally read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress in a revised edition in contemporary English (not yet available in our store) retold by Gary Schmidt (Wm Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008). I see why it is a classic and it describes part of my life today.

The main character in Pilgrim’s Progress is “Christian.” He ventures forth from his home in City of Destruction toward Celestial City. Along the way Christian encounters many temptations and takes numerous diversions. I feel like Christian in my travels to Home Church this summer.

My faith home for several years is too far from home. It takes two gallons of gas to attend church. I am not able to attend evening weekday activities due to the time and distance. “There must be a congregation nearer home that I can attend” I told myself and my friends at church. For the months of summer I have tried other congregations to no avail.

Author Phyllis Tickle visited our store a few weeks ago. In conversation she described three kinds of liturgies in Episcopal congregations. There are those that are reverting back to a better time. They use an older liturgy where God is “He” and we speak in old English thee and thou. There are other congregations whose liturgy continues the tradition and remains the same as it has been for decades. They include the reciting of the Nicene Creed that our church fathers developed in the fourth century and the older form of the Lord’s Prayer, for example. And, there are those congregations that keep pushing at the liturgy to make it more meaningful to today’s world, today’s view of Reality that includes quantum mechanics, an expanding universe, string theory, and contemporary interpersonal relationship modes. Phyllis Tickle named this last category as the emerging church or emergent church model some of which name themselves emergent and others are just working at making their liturgies meaningful today.

Yesterday I felt like the Prodigal son as I returned to my home congregation of many years. Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress I tried other paths, other congregations and for me they all came up lacking the worship that feeds my soul at this time. It is in the emerging church expression but does not refer to itself by that term. Thankfully my home congregation welcomed me home (yes, with open arms, but not by killing that fatted calf). For me there was more meaningful worship of God in yesterday’s liturgy of music, words, and actions than I had encountered this summer. It was Wonderful to be home! And like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress and Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz I don’t intend to stray again, but being human I suppose at some point I will.