(In The Life Of The Church)
One time I fasted for forty days.
I don’t think I did it the right way, spiritually or otherwise. I was a second-semester seminary student and I had just learned that my dad had cancer. I did pray for my dad, but not necessarily any more than I otherwise would have, but I felt like I was letting God know that I was serious. Another interesting detail about my life at this point was that I was struggling to find work. So that semester I worked as a substitute teacher.
Without a lunch to eat, often in alienating environments where I didn’t know anyone, I had to find something to do with my lunches and prep periods. There was the option to do seminary homework, but I’m not good at doing quality work in short periods of time. It takes me 45 minutes of Facebook, ESPN articles, and emails to get the ball rolling. So I made a habit of bringing books with me. That semester I remember reading Chaz Dickens’ David Copperfield. I got it as a Christmas gift--never something I would have picked for myself--and so felt the compulsion/obligation to read it. It was as labor intensive as one might imagine Dickens to be. The marathon of the book reading seemed to mimic the nature of my spiritual commitment. My own hunger seemed to share in David’s pain at times (I get the limitations of my analogy as a person in the richest country of the world who at any time could have chosen to feed himself). This is what I remember most about both endeavors: the gift was at the end. I love David Copperfield not because of the story, but because of the scope. When Ham dies, there’s a real sense of loss because you feel like you knew Ham. In the end I found myself grateful for my lonely lunches in teacher lounges all over the Waco ISD.
I’ve had another Dickensian novel dropped in my lap recently. A friend gave me Donna Tartt’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch. I was daunted not just by the size and the weight, but also, when I finally opened the book after my friend left, by discovering it is one of those books with razor-thin pages. I had guessed I was looking at four to five hundred Harry Potter-kind of pages. You know the ones. They’re almost like cardstock. Tartt’s book turned out to have 771 pages of flash paper. Still, my obligation mechanism committed me. So I’ve made my Tartt reading a kind of spiritual discipline. I read 10 pages a day. If that lands me without a natural break or in the middle of something interesting, I can cheat and read more.
The Goldfinch is not worth describing. Not because the book isn’t good, but because its goodness can’t be described in a church newsletter. It’s not worth either of our efforts, but let me briefly make this narratival point. Tartt admits her Dickens influence in an article I read, and so it should not surprise us that not long after the story begins, the main character (Theo) becomes an orphan . . . twice. His orphan status takes him from New York, his home, to a slimy life in Vegas with his absent father who dies, orphaning him for that second time. During the Vegas scenes I was bored--worn out by Theo’s meaninglesness and drinking habits. But something happened to me as a reader. I’ve been taken with Theo’s story. More than that, I’ve been taken with Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning writing. Her attention to details and to worlds I don’t know and behaviors that are unfamiliar to me is astounding.
The discipline of reading Tartt’s book reminds me something about Christian faith. To enjoy the very best of it, to understand what you aren’t currently enduring, you have to hang around until the end. Discipleship requires patience. The monotony of habit often opens doors into the soul that we wouldn't otherwise have the patience to find.
We have officially entered the time of Pentecost on the church calendar. It's a period of time that lasts from now until Christ the King Sunday which will come our way in the middle of November. Pentecost or the season after Pentecost is more commonly referred to as ordinary time. This time, ordinary time, is the time we spend practicing the story of the Jesus that began during Advent and reached a kind of conclusion with Jesus sending us His Spirit.
We are now to be in the practice of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc. We do the hard mundane work of tending to our own spirituality and the spirituality of our community. Ordinary is the longest chunk of time on the church calendar. It can feel like reading a large book working on a large project. It takes time, commitment and a commitment to repetition. But it's in these committed repetitions that our faithfulness is forged.
If you recently purchased a UBC shirt, we have them in the office. Make sure to check with a staff member before you grab yours, so we can check it off the list. If you have any questions, talk Toph.
Waco Dives - Thursday at noon
Hey friends it's that time of the year when we start up our weekly lunch at local dive. This week we will be eating at Guess Family BBQ. We hope you can make it. Guess BBQ is located @ 324 S 6th St, Waco, TX 76701.
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Parishioner of the Week
Toph for using a shovel to move a dead animal off of our property before worship this past Sunday.
Work is Worship
Coffee Makers: Fountains
Money Counter: Hannah Kuhl
Welcome Station: Carlsons
- Sermon Text:
- 6/10-25 Thailand Mission Team in Thailand
- 6-3 Summer Grill After Church/Picnic Party
- 7-14 Trampoline Park Fun Day
- 8-5 Cameron Park Picnic
- SWCC Movie Days @ UBC: 6-18, 7-9, 7-23
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