A weekend of firsts

As the title indicates, this last weekend was full of firsts. On Saturday morning, Amy and I played our very first game of football. Granted, we're playing flag football, and granted it was a pre-season scrimmage -- even so, neither of us would have ever predicted that within a month of starting our lives in Princeton, I would be a wide receiver and Amy would be a linebacker! As one of my very good friends put it, "Hell indeed has frozen over!" The game was rather pathetic on our side, mainly because our defensive team has yet to show up for a practice. Suffice it to say, we lost ... badly. But Amy and I had a lot of fun. This Saturday is our first regular season game. Hopefully I will have better news afterwards.

This weekend was also our first as the official youth ministry/English ministry/childrens ministry pastors at Podowon Korean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. That sounds like a lot, and that's because it is. Thankfully, however, the size of these groups is rather small, and therefore quite manageable. On the other hand, we are also English tutors for about 10-12 nursing students who need to improve their English skills for hospital work. Altogether, it means Amy and I spend a good deal of time preparing the music (for which we are also solely responsible), sermons, lesson plans, etc.

Which leads me to the other important first: on Sunday I gave my first sermon. Amy says I did well, and my sermon text looks pretty good. So I guess it went all right. I spoke on the call of Abram in Genesis 12 and the corresponding text in Hebrews 11. I even snuck in a passage from Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics (on the doctrine of reconciliation), particularly on Barth's description of Jesus as the One who travels to the "Far Country" on our behalf. Tying all this together is the theme of moving great distances, which I connected personally to my experiences in traveling across country, including most recently to Princeton. Anyway, I know that no one wants to hear me repeat my sermon, but it was a rather momentous occasion for me.

As a side note, let me express my excitement that for once, Amy and I are serving on a completely egalitarian level in church ministry. I have to say that this excites me more than anything else. I suspect that this week Amy will give the sermon, and she'll probably end up giving most of them for now. After past church experiences, this is truly a breath of fresh air. On the down side, however, we do not have the ability to administer the sacraments, and this means I will probably end up looking for a Saturday night service at a nearby Episcopal church. I simply must have the sacraments on a weekly basis. That aside, this church opportunity is incredible; it's really a gift from God.

Comments

Shane said…
congrats!

shane
SunflowerShew said…
You don't have the ability to administer the sacraments?? I guess this is where our religious backgrounds come into play ... I didn't know there was an "ability" required to do so. So are there not as you call them sacraments at your Korean Presbyterian church at all?
Douglas_Coombs said…
"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible"

(Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans 7:3, A.D. 110).

Your desire for the sacraments is wonderful. May you be so blessed.

Doug
Mark Congdon said…
Hi!

Where did you go to receive the sacraments while you were living here in Portland? I'd like to know what's around, especially if it is anything akin to Church of the Res. Thanks!

Mark
D.W. Congdon said…
Erin, I am actually intrigued about this denominational difference. I was not aware that the Church of Christ allowed any person to administer the sacraments. I thought only independent evangelical churches had such a policy. Most denominations, including the Presbyterian, Episcopal, etc., require an ordained minister to administer the sacraments. But this church is not a sacramentally-focused church to begin with; I am not sure the Korean congregation celebrates Holy Communion even once a month.

Mark, your question is an excellent one. But as my mom can attest, I was literally starving this past year due to the lack of any real sacramental environment. When Amy and I had communion together, we intentionally amplified the experience by praying together (joyfully, that is, not with the usual evangelical gloom) and sometimes even serving each other. I, in addition, always made the sign of the cross, which carries great signficance for me: in that signing, I identify myself as a person shaped and created in light of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. I identify myself as one who lives out of that event, not out of anything I myself do.

That said, Amy and I did visit a Greek Orthodox church, which was quite an experience. If I had fluent knowledge of Greek (and perhaps even if I did not), I could see myself worshipping there on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the PDX area is not conducive to my concerns. I am beginning to see that the Wheaton area was especially fruitful. Alas.
Mark Congdon said…
David,

So you administered the sacraments to yourself last year? After your comments to Erin, I'm quite confused...

As for the lack of a Church of the Res type of environment in the Portland area... I feared that would be your answer. Thanks anyway!

Mark
D.W. Congdon said…
Mark, I recognize the contradiction, and I do have two responses: (1) Technically, at Clear Creek, communion was already administered; it would be like having the bread placed in our hands, and then for Amy and me to turn and give it to each other. Our way of taking communion was an effort to emphasize the communal aspect of the sacraments in opposition to evangelical individualism. (2) However, you do raise a good question about clerical vs. congregational duties. I do wrestle on a regular basis with the question of the sacraments: If each person is justified by God as a new creation, and if the church community is truly egalitarian in its foundation (based upon a trinitarian understanding of God), then why the necessity for a hierarchical structure in sacramental worship?

I am sympathetic to both sides, and I recognize both arguments as valid. I've already mentioned the argument for equality. The most convincing argument for clerical authority, in my mind, is that it emphasizes our position as receivers of God's grace, as those who are passive in relation to God's activity. Since the sacraments embody this passive-active relation between God and humanity, I see the importance for this as well.

Suffice it to say, I will worship according to the tradition of the church in which I am a member. But that does not mean this conversation is over, in my mind. I think it is one the whole church needs to address on a regular basis, and if there is a way to emphasize both sides equally, then I would advocate such a position.
Mark Congdon said…
David,

Thanks for the clarification... that makes a lot of sense.

Mark
Douglas_Coombs said…
David,

I'm somewhat surprised that you would attend the Greek Orthodox church in PDX, since they don't have intercommunion with Episcopalians or Protestants/Catholics in general.

Doug
D.W. Congdon said…
Doug, I actually attended one of the prayer services -- Vespers to be exact. I had actually intended to go to Eucharistic service, but it never actually panned out, so I wasn't breaking their communion limits. The liturgy, however, was still very edifying.