Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Indiana Conference of the UMC

I think I have seen it all now!

I got this in the mail yesterday.  I saw it in my box and to be honest, I looked at it quickly and tossed it aside --- I mean, it is from the Annual Conference so I knew it couldn't be too important.

Then I looked at it again, and this time I broke out into laughter.

Thursday, the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church will meet for our Annual Conference in Indianapolis.  This is our first venture into a big city.  Back in the day when we were just the North Indiana Conference (the north half of the state) we always meet on the campus of Purdue University.  Then a few years ago we united (merged is a forbidden word) with the South Indiana Conference and became The Indiana Conference.  (Did you get all that . . .)  For the past three years we have meet at Ball State University, but Thursday we hit the big time when we meet at the new Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

There must be some real concern about the mental capacity of the delegates to send out this postcard.  If I am not capable of remembering where I parked, how am I capable of being in leadership in my church?  And how in the world will I remember where I put this stinking card?

Thanks, conference planning committee.  You gave me a good laugh today!

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Presence of God

Saturday, Nancy and I attended a wedding for a friend at a Serbian Orthodox Church.  The Church (St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church) was absolutely stunning.  It was just what you would expect to find, but it was kind of out in the middle of nowhere!  Then this morning, a friend posted a picture of her wedding (in the 90's) in a Greek Orthodox Church.  The two connections made me think.

What struck me about the orthodox service was how beautiful it was.  The Icons were amazing, the chanting,the incense creates such an otherworldly experience.  And that is the point.

Within the Orthodox Church, God is presented as a mystery that one must be drawn into.  Through the liturgy, and the setting, God is separate and distant from us, but can be experienced in the mass.  That is so different from the main-line protestant experience.

While I enjoyed the service (although it was a bit long), I was never able to experience the divine.  God always seemed to be off, behind the iconostasis (the Icon screen).  I know that is not the way it is supposed to be.  Theologically the iconostasis is supposed to bring the divine together with the worshippers, but in practice, I am not sure if that is what people experience.

We need to experience the divine.  And I have come to realize that we all do that in many different ways.  For some it is in the liturgy of the church, for others it is in service, and still others in nature.  Regardless of how we experience the divine, the key component is: WHAT DO WE DO WITH IT?

If it is just for our own benefit, then I would suggest that it is a waste of time.  God is concerned about how we live in community, and that community is not defined by a local church, or a denomination, or (heaven forbid) a religion.  Unfortunately, we have become so uncultured that the only way we tend to experience God is through he matrix of our local church/denomination or religion.