The Christian Noob (n00b)

born & raised Catholic, now going to a Presbyterian church & still learning

Sunday series: 05/16/2010 (#86B)

Tolstoy by Repin 1901Where: Christ Church United Methodist at 11am

Bible readings:

“1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:1-11 KJV)

“16 But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?” (Psalm 50:16 KJV)

“15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:15-23 KJV)

“44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. 50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.” (Luke 24:44-53 KJV)

Comments then:

  1. Acts 1:1-11 — same as FAPC
    • promise of baptism with the Holy Spirit — not water
    • ascent ion of Christ to Heaven
  2. Luke 24:44-53 — third lesson specifically for the Gospels
  3. Sermon
    • references to Tolstoy
    • mythical?
    • faith making us better;
    • language of faith.
    • three-tier — heaven, material, underworld (ancient cosmology)
  4. The Lord’s Prayeryour, not thine

Comments now:

  1. I wanted to give this church a second chance.
  2. I visited the church again, but this time I did an article for Ship of Fools: The Mystery Worshipper.
  3. The article can be found at and the exact text’s below.

    Mystery Worshipper: Franko.
    The church: Christ Church, New York City.
    Denomination: United Methodist Church.
    The building: The cornerstone was laid on November 15, 1931, for this stunning Byzantine-Romanesque church, the work of Ralph Adams Cram, the prolific architect of ecclesiastical and collegiate structures. It replaces an earlier church at a different location. The well-proportioned exterior leads one to believe that the building might be a synagogue. The interior glitters with tiles, mosaics and marble. There are icons aplenty, some from the personal collection of Czar Nicholas II. One scarcely knows where to look. But the eye is inevitably drawn to the apse, featuring a mosaic of Christ enthroned, attended by the four evangelists.
    The church: Christ Church was the home of the nationally syndicated radio program National Radio Pulpit, hosted by the church’s pastor, Dr Ralph Washington Sockman, which aired every Sunday morning from 1928 to 1962. The plain-speaking Dr Sockman received thousands of fan letters every week from his faithful listeners. The church’s present senior minister, the Revd Stephen Bauman, carries on the tradition with a daily inspirational message broadcast early each morning by a local radio station. Christ Church is also known for its many outreaches to the community and its social and spiritual activities for all age groups. The church manages Christ Church Day School, a non-sectarian nursery school, one of the first such institutions in New York. There are two worship services each Sunday, plus a youth service, as well as children’s and adult religious education.
    The neighborhood: Christ Church sits on Park Avenue at East 60th Street in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Manhattan, where chic, prestigious apartment buildings and hotels share space with upscale shops, fancy restaurants and modern office towers.
    The cast: The Revd Jenny Phillips, minister for younger adults, and the Revd Cathy Gilliard, minister for Christian nurture, led the service. Preaching was the Revd William Payne.
    The date & time: Ascension Sunday, May 16, 2010, 11.00am.

    What was the name of the service?

    How full was the building?
    Mostly full. Not very many young people, though. The range of ages seemed to be from the late 30s through middle age and up.

    Did anyone welcome you personally?
    An usher with a smile held the door open for me and handed me a bulletin.

    Was your pew comfortable?
    Yes. Wooden pews with cushions.

    How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
    Quiet, uneventful.

    What were the exact opening words of the service?
    “Good morning. Please rise.”

    What books did the congregation use during the service?
    United Methodist Hymnal; The Faith We Sing, Pew Edition; The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version. There was also an attendance registration booklet.

    What musical instruments were played?
    Organ, piano and choir, enhanced by the church’s great acoustics.

    Did anything distract you?
    I found the decor, splendid as it was, to be a distraction. I also noted the contrast between the style of worship and what I was used to back home.

    Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
    Serious, dry, as if the congregation was not connected. I sensed a lack of fellowship and active participation in the service by the congregation. Dr Sockman, back in his day, was known to have raised many a Methodist eyebrow with his flair for liturgy. The service was not heavy on ceremony, but I found it ritualistic nevertheless. No candles, but the altar party entered and exited behind a processional cross. The clergy and choir were robed. Prayers were recited with bowed heads. No communion at today’s service.

    Exactly how long was the sermon?
    35 minutes.

    On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
    8 — I wasn’t sure the sermon had actually begun, as Mr Payne segued directly into it from the announcements. I also thought it was a bit heavy on references to mysticism.

    In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
    He took as his text the words to a hymn he had written in collaboration with Steve Pilkington, the church’s director of music: “Christ triumphant high above, throned in glory and in love.” The ancients spoke of the three tiers: heaven, the material world and the underworld. But we know that heaven is not “up there” — it is not a geographic entity. The mysteries of our faith cannot be explained, try as we might. The stories passed down to us, if read literally, strain our belief, but the truths they convey lie beyond our understanding. Faith is a willingness to believe what we cannot comprehend. Christ lived, he died, and he was experienced by many beyond the grave. And then he was gone! But he didn’t abandon us – he empowered us! His ascension marked a transition from the disciples’ following Jesus around to obeying Jesus’ commission to go and teach all nations. It transformed a ragtag, cowardly band into persons of remarkable strength and conviction, whose faith has changed the world.

    Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
    The great acoustics of the sanctuary and how good the choir sounded.

    And which part was like being in… er… the other place?
    But I thought the music was dark and depressing, sort of the kind that you would expect in a horror film.

    What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
    I stood for about 10 minutes and then walked around some, but no one engaged me in any form of conversation.

    How would you describe the after-service coffee?
    Coffee had been announced, but directions were not given. I didn’t know my way around the building, and no one bothered to tell me where to go for coffee.

    How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
    4 — Perhaps if there were no other churches in New York, I might consider going there. But it really isn’t my cup of tea.

    Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
    Not at all. It was too depressing.

    What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days’ time?
    The sermon being so different from what I have heard before, as if stuck between magic and faith.

  4. I take full responsibility for any disagreements you might have. Just be civilized when commenting.

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