Monday, 24 September 2007

Allegiance to whom?

This post sounds scattered. I’ve just been processing through some thoughts from yesterday’s worship, on recent Blog debates over at Preacher Mike’s, and future plans our Churches Together group is praying about for our village community. They all just seemed to converge.

Churches Together met yesterday afternoon at the Methodist Chapel. We began praying for and planning a spiritual initiative for our village community to implement in the coming year, which begins in just three months on New Year’s Eve. The year-long outreach is entitled Hope 2008.

And yesterday morning was my turn on the church rota to read the scriptures. On this particular Sunday, Proper 20, Year C, our Epistle reading was from 1 Timothy 2.1-7, and our Gospel reading was from Luke 16.1-13.

1 Timothy 2.1-7 – Instructions on Worship: or how to genuinely include all the corrupt world leaders and politicians in authority into our prayers – ‘requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving’. These are to be made for all, ‘…so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.’

Not a lot to be thankful for with our current lot of world leaders. Especially when the decisions they continue to make lead to the deaths of so many innocents, and all they are worried about is how to wiggle out of legal loopholes and preserve their legacy (much like the shrewd manager in Jesus' parable).

Luke 16.1-13 – The Parable of the Shrewd Manager: or how to watch out for one’s own interests when one gets caught embezzling other people’s assets.

This was difficult for me to read, in light of how the business of all the sub-prime lenders in America has been affecting people’s lives here in the UK. But most Americans don’t read our newspapers or hear about what goes on over here – unlike the news we get, typical American TV and Radio broadcasts give more regional and national coverage, and very little world news. Still, they should take more responsibility: how one nation’s debt-ridden citizens can ruin the financial lives of those in the UK, for example, whose good earnings are used to cover Americans’ bad debts is just pure evil.

But as I prepared for my readings, God reminded me that Jesus has lessons for us that are not all wine and roses. Some, like those found in these two scriptures, are just plain hard to swallow at times.

After the reading of the Gospel our congregation stands to face the altar and, with our focus on the symbol of the Cross, in unison we all say the Creed of the Apostles. I love to face the Cross and say the Creed together with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Every Sunday, it seems the Holy Spirit illuminates one of its truths to me in a special message.

I have only learned the Creed as an adult. The religious denomination I grew up in preached that the Apostle’s Creed was in itself a sin. The church leaders who taught this could never tell me exactly what the Creed was. When I would ask them why they couldn’t tell me, they communicated the idea that it would be a spiritual stumbling block for them to even recite the words. Even though none of them had ever said it, they were certain that those who did intoned the words mindlessly and without conviction, thereby committing blasphemy. So the only words of the Creed I grew up hearing were two: ‘The Creed’. We did not have the Internet back then, or I would have been a most disobedient child and secretly Googled ‘The Creed’ in a search field.

As the church leaders were godly men, I believed and trusted them, and eventually stopped asking what The Creed was. Besides, they were much more pleased with me when I put my hand over my heart and recited The Pledge of Allegiance and sang the National Anthem in a school programme. Hey, I knew both by memory from the age of 5, reciting and singing both with gusto every weekday morning in front of the Stars and Stripes.

When my family returned to America after having lived in Afghanistan, for some reason I just could not find the spirit to get my hand over my heart, say the Pledge, or sing the National Anthem. Bombs bursting in air no longer appealed to me. And the Pledge of Allegiance sounded so empty when I realised there was no truth in America’s Constitutional Promises for all people to be treated equally, and learned that some of the Founding Fathers were not believers of God and Christ.

It’s been a good while since I have lived in a country where one sees a classroom or school hall full of small children stand in unison, hands over hearts, to face a great flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance from memory. Recently my husband and I watched, with friends, a TV show from the United States and in it, a classroom of children repeated the age-old tradition that had been drilled into me when I was their age. Our friends, needless to say, were transfixed.

‘What was that?’
‘Well, in the States all school-aged children begin each school day saying the Pledge, and singing ‘O Say Can You See?’.
‘You are joking!’
‘No, seriously. It’s our patriotic duty.’
‘Well, that looks and sounds like brain-washing to us! Certainly looks it. What happens when the child doesn’t want to do either of those things? That song is pretty militaristic and hard to sing.’
‘They can be disciplined by the teacher and taunted or bullied by their classmates before recess or at lunch in the cafeteria. BUT if they bring along a note from home saying that the practice is against their religious beliefs, they get excused. They remain seated at their desks while the other kids stand around them. They’re not in trouble then, but they still get made fun of by some kids.’
‘How absolutely awful! We thought America was a lot different. We love our country, too, and our guys are dying in Afghanistan, but the only time we wave our flag is when England is in the World Cup!’

I must say, I see their point. For a country that is all about separation of Church and State, as America is, it seems that the Church cannot separate the politics of the State from its religious beliefs and teachings. Where does one begin and the other end? One’s unalienable rights trump loving one’s neighbour.

The passage from Luke which I read from yesterday ends with Jesus telling us that no servant can serve two masters. It's either a choice between God and the treasures of his kingdom, or the world and its earthly riches. In our world, where more sceptics are calling believers in Christ to stand up for their faith, I wonder which captures the truth and hopes of my passions better:

The Pledge of Allegiance I learned as a child OR The Apostles' Creed?

The Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
One Nation under God, indivisible,
with Liberty and Justice for all.


The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
He ascended into heaven,
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
And he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic Church,
The communion of the saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting.

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Friday, 21 September 2007

They came...they sang...they conquered our hearts!

They came...
They sang their little hearts out...
without a karaoke machine! :)

They wowed...
And when all were sung and wrung, THIRTY-THREE children became the very first new members of our Village Children’s Choir.

What a privilege for me to take part in their new adventure with music!

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Sunday, 16 September 2007

Autumn blowin' in!

Well, things have been really busy, and that was just the summer!! I honestly cannot comprehend how people with full lives have the time to constantly update things like Facebook or Blogs.

In honour of my Darlin’ Pup, who is aged 10 today, here is my feeble attempt at updating.
  • Our Village Children’s Choir will commence this week, with Buddy Auditions on Wednesday. For kids in Years 4, 5, & 6, our first rehearsal will be next week. We are in partnership with our terrific village primary school, and have fantastic support from the PCC. So lots of work to get the word out, organise, and prepare the music. Christmas will be upon us before you can say Harvest Supper!

  • Dear One and I put up quite a production for our village's 10th annual Scarecrow Festival last weekend. He constructed the Scarecrow, and I and one of our wonderful neighbours baked goodies and served peach iced tea, hot tea, and home brewed coffee for our Texas Tea Tables extravaganza. I was reminded that Brits cannot comprehend the need for cold drinks that contain any or more than four ice cubes when skies are overcast and cloudy. But quite a few folks tried the peach iced tea out and politely commented on the nice taste. Hmmm... We were just one of several individual stalls located throughout the village, but managed to take in over £168 for our charity (our parish church) over the two days! Dear One set up the sound for great C&W music coming straight from the Texas Broadcasting Network to waft over the Upper High Street (ain’t Broadband great?). Our friends, H & R, wowed folks with their violin and guitar playing with a couple of inspiring sets, and Consensus Vocalis busked for charity as well. Daughter A and Friend G were indispensible in their help and were terrific servers for those who came for a cuppa something, a baked treat, and to sit a spell.
  • Click here for more photos of the Scarecrow Festival.

  • I joined the Village Quilter's class last week, and am now deep into a Quillow project for Dear One. The group is a gathering of some awesome ladies, all ages. My brain is sore from all the super quilting tricks they were eager to share. Bets are on I can finish the Quillow in time to put under the tree for Christmas, or before Dear One's feet freeze off, whichever comes first!
    Click here to the link for the best little quilt shop in the Shires!

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