Friday, June 27, 2008

On Wine

I have not written about wine in any of my blogs for good reasons. A number of my friends wrestle with alcoholism and a number of other friends are committed teetotalers. Therefore, I have thought it best to omit all references to drinking and wine from my blog.
But yesterday we had a wine experience that needs telling. In 1995 a young French boy stayed in our home in Minnesota for the month of July. It was a cultural challenge to keep a 15 year old boy engaged with our lives. At that point I was sine-ignorant. So the fact that his father owned a vineyard in Chateau Neuf du Pape was meaningless to me. He brought us two bottles of wine that we drank and I thought were pretty good.
Then we started going to France in 2000 every other year and I began to appreciate wine. We spent time in the Bordeaux region of France, the Languedoc region and the Cotes du Rhones region. We visited Julien at his father’s vineyard each time we came to France. And each time we learned more and more.
Chateau Neuf du Pape means the “new chateau of the Pope” for the time in the early 1300s when the Papacy moved from Italy to France under Pope Clement Vth and descended into all sorts of conspiracies and intrigue. The papacy stayed in France until 1376 when the papacy permanently moved back to Rome.
But what the papal court did during that time was to annex vineyards for the pope’s use. This vintage of wine called “Chateau Neuf du Pape” has become one of the finest wines in all of France. What makes it so outstanding is it’s style of viticulture: stony soil, harsh summer heat, no irrigation, no fertilizers or pesticides; all natural. The vine I am standing by has a root system that goes down up to 50 feet.
The wine’s chief characteristic is its terroir; its taste of the territory or soil. We visited Julien again yesterday. He gave us coffee and invited us back next week for dinner at his home and to meet his fiancé. He is now importing his wines to the USA under the name Domaine La Barroche and you can see more about this most interesting wine at www.domainelabarroche.com. By the way, Robert Parker gave his wine 100 points!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Faith& Culture

“Freedom of Religion” or “Freedom from Religion”? What was your understanding of the American Revolution? The story I was taught and believed was that the American Revolution, among other things, set its citizens free from a State Church and urged the free and private practice of faith within its borders. That thought has been so ingrained in me that while I am unapologetically a Christian, I support the freedom of others to practice religions that I profoundly disagree with. I have been taught to defend the rights of minority groups to express their faith freely. That’s American.
France has a different history and story. The French Revolution of 1789 was to be free from religion, especially the bondage of Crown and Church. The linkage of power between Crown and Church was so dominant, that when one was overthrown, so was the other, with vigor and violence. That legacy exists in popular culture down to this day.
In a conversation with a French school teacher, she told me of the razor-blade she walks every day, to keep her faith quiet and hidden from her students and fellow teachers. When interviewing for a position, she was asked to speak about her life, with the implicit understanding that nothing about “faith” could be included, though she was born and raised in the church as a pastor’s daughter. Any reference must be couched as an “organization” or “club” she belonged to.
A student asked her to clarify what “B.C” and “A.D.” meant. She explained that “B.C” was “before Christ” and “A.D.” was Latin for “Anno Domini” or “the year of the Lord”. A parent was very upset and scheduled an appointment with her, concerned that she was “propagating” her faith.
She said that there are three accepted postures for teachers about religion: cynical, ironic or mythic. Those are safe approaches to faith in a secular culture. When I watch “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report” all I see is cynicism, irony and myth. Maybe we are not too far behind

Speak French?

“Do you speak French?” people ask me when they find out we spend up to six weeks in a village with few English speakers. “I do not speak it very well at all” I answer, “But eat it and drink it quite proficiently.” While that is not all true. I am getting some nouns and verbs lined up in approximately the right order and can purchase baguettes, croissants and coffee very well. And Martha has an expanding vocabulary and facility with conversation. The truth still is that I am not fluent.
And there is something to be said for the value of not being fluent in the language of a country. Not being fluent means I do not understand the radio or TV (unless it is a sporting event, and then the commentary does not bother me). Not being fluent means I do no read all the advertisements and read all the papers. Not being fluent means I can walk through a crowd or sit through a meal and not know all the nuances of conversations both trivial and profound. Not being fluent means I have about me a “cone of silence” (was that from “Austin Powers?”) that allows me to think thoughts through. Not being fluent means I really listen to Martha and am not distracted by errant words or voices. They all act as wallpaper to my thoughts or conversation with Martha and the few others who speak English. Not being fluent means that I can write this on the front porch while the noon-time news blares from a radio and I’m not distracted.
While I would love to become fluent in French so I can get to know more of our neighbors and friends in the church and navigate my way better through the country, I am enjoying this sabbatical of silence. It’s pretty nice!


A lot of contemporary music focuses on the Cross. Accompanying graphics picture all sorts of crosses; some eloquent and others sentimental. In a conversation with a contemporary musician I asked where are the empty tomb and resurrection songs? After a while of thought he confessed that there were less he knew of resurrection than of death and sacrifice.
Shift to France. I had a conversation with our host, a retired Swiss missionary who is biblically astute. For some reason the conversation came up about contemporary Christian culture being more Cross-focussed than empty tomb focused. “Oh” she said, “It’s all about the cross and the price Jesus paid for our sins.” I replied that yes, the cross is vital, but only a part of the story of suffering, death, then resurrection, appearance, ascension, Pentecost and coming again in glory.
In working on my book “Old Stones” I spent time in a book by Anscar J. Chupungco “Handbook for Liturgical Studies: Liturgical Time and Space.” There I read a fascinating account of the early church struggle about what Easter really was all about. One voice in the church said that Easter was about the “pascha” the suffering and sacrifice of Christ the Lamb of God replacing the Passover Lamb (from Exodus 12). Easter was the Cross. Another voice said that Easter was about the “passage” from slavery into freedom through the waters of sin and death (Exodus 13-14) and it really is about a new beginning.
Over the centuries the voices emphasizing resurrection and victory overshadowed the voices stressing just the death and the blood. The church wisely put the emphasis on Easter of “Christ Is Risen…He Is Risen Indeed!” instead of “celebrate his death until he comes again.” I was taught as a yong Christian that the difference between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism was best seen in the crosses we use: with Jesus hung there and dying on the one and absent and resurrected on the other. I’m sure that is a bit of a simplification, but telling.
So what does the corpus of worship music tell us about what we stress and value today? Death or Ressurection? Listen to the music.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On Death

There are many things to reflect upon while on an extended vacation like our: food, architecture, church life, glorious landscapes, and the discoveries in reading. But this week the church I serve experienced a wrenching loss, one that I felt personally. A friend died too young and tragically.
The circumstances surrounding his death create nothing but pain and speculation. He left behind a wife, three sons and two daughters-in-law and numerous friends. His was a story of ascent to wealth and community prominence. He was a leader in the church and the community; both secular and spiritual. He was present at countless fund-raisers for the Rescue Mission, Young Life, Transition House and other great causes. He was generous to a fault. He provided me with enormous encouragement and sage advice. He co-chaired the building committee for the beautiful church building we now enjoy. He was a champion problem-solver.
Early this morning, as is my custom, I arose about 6:00 am, padded quietly into the living room and put on the coffee. I found my Bible and note pad and opened to where I left off yesterday, Ester 9. I finished Esther quickly and then dove into Job. I have never read Job in one sitting. This morning I had the time and motivation. It was the story of a man’s profound suffering and his friends’ words of advice and encouragement. Reading Job in the shadow of my friend’s untimely death was beyond deeply moving and disturbing. Some of Job’s words were my friend’s words. Some of Job’s pain was his pain. And, I pray, Job’s hope is now his hope.
Now our church is left with a deep ache for a family in pain and I am left with a deep ache for a really good guy who is gone. It all overshadows this pristine vacation environment in France.
All around us are people living very fragile lives that look fine and healthy on the surface, yet deep down are profoundly struggling. A young man living above our apartment here fights his own demons through the night, breaking furniture and talking loudly to himself, but accepting no help, living in his own weird solitude. I know single mothers facing huge challenges of raising children alone and senior friends with spouses falling into dementia. There are friends in midlife whose careers are at a dead end, and there seems to be no good next step. Others are watching their children making choices they would not make and ache for their wellbeing. None of us is immune. We all face suffering; whether our own of that of our close friends and family. The choice is whether we go it alone or fall into the arms of others and the body of Christ.
I feel uncomfortable mentioning my friend’s name, but ask those of you who read this blog to pray for his family and the Montecito Church as they grieve his loss on Sunday afternoon and then put pieces of their lives back together in the months and years to come.
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.” Job 19:25,26

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Following God

Every time I read through the Bible I get stuck with a question: What’s the deal with sin? Why do we do it? Where is the payoff? I mean it’s pretty clear that when you do things God’s way life is certainly better and when we rebel from God’s ways, it costs us dearly. So why do it? Why rebel and go off on our own?
I operate with the assumption of “payoff”; every action is pursued because of an expected “payoff” or dividend. I do something because it will “benefit” me in some way. I do not stand out in the cold rain and shiver..there is no payoff. I do not place my hand in a fire…there is no payoff. I do not engage in behavior that will bring me pain or harm. That’s dumb (or deeply disturbed).
So, when God tells us to do (or not do) something, why do we rebel? The last couple of days I have been highlighting verbs, verbs that distinguish obedience and disobedience. The verbs of obedience are ones like: seek God, order our ways before God, make covenant, worship, keep festivals, return to the Lord, serve the Lord, pray, know that the Lord is God, follow the Lord, confess to the Lord, set our heart on the Lord, keep the Lord’s commandments, decrees and statutes. (There are many, many more)
The verbs of disobedience are also telling: abandon the Lord, forsake God, turn our faces and backs away from the house of the Lord, stiff-necked, rebellious, pride, strength, not listen to the Lord, mock Lord’s messengers, steal from the Lord’s house, rob God, despise his words, scoff at prophets, worship other gods, give no offerings, make no sacrifices. (And again, there are many, many more)
The payoff is, I believe, belief in a lie: that my life is better of on my own than with God. It’s belief in the lie that following God is a waste of time, foolish and useless, that God is no God, but just a cultural myth. It’s a belief that real strength and power comes from human sources (other kings and rules). It’s the belief that the tangible is more real than the spiritual.
The trouble with all this is that I am more disobedient in my life than obedient. I have all the benefits and reasons for full-fledged, whole-hearted obedience (a full-time, paid pastor) and yet I get drawn to these same Old Testament verbs of disobedience.
In the stillness of this morning, I think it comes down to my need for daily reminding of who God is, of what is real and true and a recommitment of my life to God’s ways. Beyond the personal act, I desperately need corporate worship and other believers around me to encourage, support, rekindle and guide me.

On Music

Every morning I go swimming in the text of the Bible for several hours. Why I don’t do this at home I can’t quite figure out. Maybe this time I will take home some better patterns. When I get up here (usually 6:00 am, I immediately dress and walk into the village bread store for a baguette and two croissants). It’s a 20 minute round trip, and by the time I’m back, I’m fully awake and ready to read. Martha stays up late reading, so she sleeps in. Coffee gets turned on and I dive into the text (finished Ezra this morning). I read with a notepad to mark trends, themes and curious words and phrases. Here is what I’m “rediscovering” while reading through the Bible.
It really is all about worship. God’s encountering humanity is always a call for a worshiping relationship with him. Start with Adam and Eve and work ahead. God desires an intimate relationship with us on his terms. That is worship. The Exodus story is entirely about worship; God desiring to get his people alone to himself. It can’t happen in Egypt, with all the distractions and diversions. The first four commandments are about worship. Just about everything that happens in Exodus, for good and ill, relates to proper and improper worship.
Music and singing play a huge role in the story. Moses sings, Miriam sings. The tribe of Levi sings. When they go to battle they sing. Moses teaches Israel by singing a song. Losers sing and winners sing. Clearly David sings. And the first priestly song to be sung in worship is:
“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever towards Israel.” II Chronicles 5:13, 7:3 Ezra 3:11 (and maybe other places as well as this phrase is also used in a number of Psalms)
Music and the sacred role of the musicians is more critical than I previously realized. When Israel offers sacrifices, song and music are to accompany them. What is it about song that is so critical and vital? Is it that song brings unity to diverse people, compelling one truth from many mouths? Is there something about instruments that heighten the power of words to new levels? Can genuine praise ever be accomplished without the accompaniment of music?
It seems that biblical song teaches and leads, convicts and rebukes. It is not there to satisfy a generational demand. It’s not there to be seeker sensitive. Song is in obedience to God, for God, about God, to God. Music and song are not separate from the word and worship, but integral and vital to full worship. In terms of the Old Testament perspective, singers and musicians are more important than preachers/teachers (ooops, that’s my job

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thoughts for the New President

With time on my hands to reflect here in France, some thoughts began to bubble around in my brain about the potential new directions the Covenant might go under the leadership of Gary Walters. It's a dangerous thing when my thoughts get cascading. I never know where they will go or how they will be received. The following thoughts came over several days and are meant to be positive-provoking thoughts and not critical of any person or persons. Change time needs to come and my prayer is that Gary will lead it for us well!
1. Welcome to the leadership position of the Covenant for its next chapter.
2. Know that the pastors and church leaders initially invest you with their full confidence.
3. Where you look defines where we look.
4. Pay attention to competence more than loyalty.
5. Pay attention to best practices more than biggest numbers.
6. Honor faithfulness over success.
7. Encourage a culture of self-critique: is there a better way to do things than we have done in the past?
8. Go out on listening tours: ask pastors and church leaders what is important.
9. Re-think Chicago-centrism: seriously re-evaluate the requirement for leaders to relocate to Chicago (when in practice some of our great leaders live outside of the city now).
10. Consider decentralizing power to the Conferences; regionalize the denomination.
11. Find new ways to collaborate with others believers in other denominations and organizations.
12. Keep your prayer and devotional life strong and sacrosanct. Model for us your deep passion to follow God and worship.
13. Care for your family, traveling with them or sending others in your place.
14. Re-evaluate the value and purpose of the yearly and poorly attended Annual Meeting. (see #7 above).

Gorge du Tarn

Monday Martha and I entered the magical world of the Gorge du Tarn, the river gorge of the Tarn river. We drove to one of our favorite little villages, Florac in driving rain. We splashed through the town till we found a coffee shop and had a pine-nut tart and cafe au laits. We then headed into the mountains of hair-pin turns and unguarded roadsides with straight-down drops. The rain stopped and the views opened up. Around noon we found a village that had a 5 generation restaurant that specialized in trout. Oh my goodness! We ate until 2:00 pm and then headed back into the mountains, views and magic. It was like a French grand-canyon, only gentler and greener.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thoughts on Leadership

As part of my vacation discipline, I've been reading chunks of the Bible every morning for a couple of hours. This morning I finished II Samuel...whew! Reading straight from Exodus through II Samuel gave me some new glimpses on the nature of Biblical (at least OT) leadership:
1. It always begins with God's sovereign (and sometimes weird) call.
2. The human response to God's call to leadership is almost always resistance and avoidance. It makes me wonder if someone wants to be a spiritual leader...does that disqualify him/her?
3. There is always some form of human validation for God's call to lead.
4. Leadership comes with stringent and exacting condidtions.
5. Old leaders almost always resist new leaders who come to replace them.
6. Spiritual leadership has enormous pitfalls: entitled privilege, autonomy, unlimited scope, personally being an exception to the rules of others..
7. All leaders are replaced and have term limits.

Do these apply today as well?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


“Shrine” is not a frequently used term in evangelical conversation. “Shrine” belongs to misty Roman Catholic terminology for weird places filled with statues. Then I encountered the thinking and logic of John Inge, author of “A Christian Theology of Place” and he provoked me to a new way of viewing church buildings.
“Shrine is a permanent and much needed reminder that this is not a human-centered universe; it revolves round God and for God. It is, in other words, a place which witnesses to the fact that God has acted in history in Christ….that God is acting in the world in and through the lives of the who dedicate themselves to his will…and that God will act in history to consummate all places in Christ.” (P 103) Inge calls shrines “the permanent antennae of the Good News.” (p.104)
What makes a shrine distinctive is that in a shrine (unlike a museum) worship happens and the Eucharist is celebrated, which also looks to the past action of Christ, the present presence of Christ with his church and the future hope of all things being gathered together in Christ. Church as shrine, then takes all the global space and “refracts it” through the local body. When Christians gather to worship, time and space shift from being defined by secular and profane categories to God’s redeeming conditions and terms.
Inge throws down the gauntlet before Protestants, evangelicals and especially emergent evangelicals with the charge that for us, we have become “impatient with church buildings” seeing them as necessary only for the gathering for worship and teaching, but no more.
How many of my friends in churches that choose not to invest in building and architecture carry those sentiments? Inge traces those sentiments back to Protestant Reformers who reject all Roman Catholic imagery and statuary as idolatry, and strip spaces as bare as possible, turning them into functional meeting halls, totally reliant on the proclaimed (audibly) Word of God.
“When it comes to the environment of worship, we should never underestimate the influence of our building upon the way we think about God.” (p. 117) The way we choose to use (or abuse) our places for worship tells bigger stories than many of us want to admit

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Crosses in the sky

An interesting feature on many of the churches in southern France are metal steeples or cupolas, erected on the top of church towers. Some of these are made out of wrought iron by skilled tradesmen, much like the Mexican iron crosses erected on roofs in Chiapas (recently displayed in Santa Barbara).
Each steeple is unique and airy, almost lacy against the outline of the sky. Often they will have the distinct French Rooster on the top of the cross. I’m not sure if it is in patriotic allegiance or in spiritual identification with Peter (Pierre) whose discipleship was marked by the crowing of the rooster.

Journee d'Eglise (Day of the Church)

Today people gathered from all over the area, regular attenders, friends, family and those with marginal connections to the Reformed Church in our community. We had regular worship at 10:30 am with 6 hymns, Scripture readings and prayer and a sermon from james 1: 12-18. Then I gave a greeting to the worshipers from the church in Montecito, showing them the photos of the church sending their greetings. When I went to take their picture waving back to California, my camera went on the fritz! So these photos are after I got the camera working, showing the grilling of Marguez sausage and the conversion of the worship space into a grand eating hall. We ate a salad course, a main course of sausage, pizza, and something else, a cheese course, a desert course, and then, of course...a coffee course. We met old friends and new ones. Little girls tried out their English on me and Martha and others came up with simple French or their own attempt at English, welcoming us in to the community.
Churches do well when they eat together!!!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pilgrimage or Vacation?

I’m reading a book by a friend of Telford Work, John Inge’s "A Christian Theology of Place" as part of my summer reading. Inge spends great energy and time differentiating the concept of “space” from the more tangible “place.” Space is abstract, vacuous and huge (ala, the universe) while place is concrete, specific and bounded. I know all about different “places” in my life, but less so about “space.” This book has one chapter devoted to “pilgrimage.” A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place. How one defines sacred place is a bit trickier. Basically it’s where God has interacted with persons and that location has been marked and memorialized.
The question buzzing in my head this morning is this; what is the difference between a pilgrimage and a vacation? Anthropologists Victor and Edith Turner describe the attributes of a pilgrimage as these:
1. A release from mundane structure
2. Homogenization of status
3. Simplicity of dress and behavior
4. Communitas
5. Reflection
6. Movement from a mundane center to a sacred periphery
These are certainly things I experience while away in France. I am not tied down to daily routines like paying bills and taking care of the house. Our routine here is very simple and elemental. All those we meet are on a similar status as we are; travelers. I’m not working here, therefore everyone is the same to me. For six weeks I am living out of one duffle bag: 3 pairs of pants, 2 shorts, 4 shirts, and no tie. Clothing is not a big deal while we are away. Because of this change, when I get up in the morning early, I brew coffee and read and reflect for several hours. I am not working on tasks and projects, but letting spiritual whimsy take over (like today reflecting in Leviticus on the placement of the 12 tribes around the Tabernacle from East, South, West and North).
This vacation is a pilgrimage and, I would propose, everyone’s vacation can be a pilgrimage as well, even when we stay at home and just hang out. Disengaging from demanding routines takes intentional effort. In the weeks prior to leaving, I wondered about the wisdom of this trip to France. Why was I going through all work, expense and stress (on me and the church staff I leave behind) to get so far away for so long?
I think the same question gets asked by everyone facing their vacation time: can I really afford to use all the time I have? Can the company survive without me for so long? Can my career risk being absent for that time? What will I do? Will I get bored after the first 3 days? I like work, why should I stop doing it? Work needs me too much for me to go away. Maybe I’ll try to take more time later when…(children grow up, I have more time and money, the business is in better shape, etc.)
Are not these the very same reasons we use to justify why we do not take Sabbath rest? Why we insist on sneaking into the office or getting on line to do some emailing? Isn’t this why we shop, work, run errands and hold meetings on Sundays? Because there is so much to do and so little time? What would happen to you if you decided that this coming Sunday you would turn off your cell phone and not go on line at all? You would do your shopping on Saturday and spend Sunday in worship, reading, reflection, sleep, conversation with family and friends, and long meals with laughter? Pilgrimage? Vacation? Rest? Sabbath?


Arles, France is one of my favorite places in all of France. It is the home of Vincent van Gogh and the Roman Colosseum. It is known for its bull fighting and many books shops. But what draws me to Arles, time and time again is the church of St. Trophime and its attached cloister.
St. Trophime is the location of the 4th century Council of Arles where the date for Easter was set and discussion about the validity of baptism at the hands of apostates was debated. But its also been the place where I began ruminating on the nature of sacred place. In each of our five visits to France we have made a day-long pilgrimage to St. Trophime to allow me the time to wander around with my camera and notebook, mulling on the nature of sacred place; what makes one place more sacred than another? What are the elements that come together to form the sacred?
This was the original discipline for my sabbatical leave in 2000 and turned into a report that morphed into a paper that is now on the verge of becoming a book (I hope). Each night while here, I sit at a table on our balcony facing the hills as the light fades and I write and re-write.
But today’s visit was somewhat sad. The cloister was in deep disarray and disrepair. Age corroded statues were covered with protective paper tape and the center garden of the cloister had been dug up and left like an overused schoolyard. The cloister we visited in Le Puy, though cold and rainy, was far more cared for and beautiful.
But the day was not wasted. We had a marvelous outdoor lunch on some square in the city and then went through a modern art show of Christian Lacroix designer fashions set in a palace formerly used by the Knights of Malta. These weird (I’m not a Designer Runway fan) dresses were set in rooms along with modern and ancient art work. Martha had a blast. I was confused.
Our trip home was to a glorious display of clouds over the Cevennol mountains to the strains of my i-pod set on shuffle. After a pasta dinner we took a walk through the village and I got back to writing till about 10:00 pm.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Le Puy-en-Velay

Le Puy-en-Velay is about 400 km from where we stay, north by north east into the mountains. The church has ancient origins, from the 4th century is was a site of devotion to the Virgin. In the 7th century it was designated as the seat of the bishop. And beginning in the 11th century it became a beginning location for pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostella in Spain.
What distinguishes this church is its Black Virign statue; a 3-4 foot high statue of the Virgin Mary totally black; either due to fire or its dark wood (I could not find out). The city of Le Puy is built in a volcanic basin on three basalt rocks on which are built a church, and a chapel to the Virgin.
The interesting distinctive about Le Puy is the construction material; white sandstone, dark volcanic rock and a red rock, that looks almost painted. The cloister next to the church is a prime example of this multi-colored construction.
The cloister is a great example of the prayerful purpose of a cloister. We came during a heavy rain, that further enhanced its protective shelter. The wings were covered and provided many sitting areas for reading, reflection or prayer. The center was cruciform in shape (reminding those of Christ’s cross) and at the center is a well/fountain. Water is the center-piece of almost every cloister: reminding us of the water of life, the Garden of Eden, Exodus, Jordan, baptism, the Samaritan woman at the well, the River of Life in Revelation. This is one of the reasons why I am so interested in seeing a fountain/baptistry included in a prayer garden at MCC.
The last notable thing about Le Puy is Sister Kathleen-Patrice from Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Montecito (and one of the very active voices for M-4). Sister Kathleen-Patrice’s order of nuns has its headquarters in Le Puy (though we could not find it). Its beginnings were as an order of compassion for women who were abused and forced to sell themselves into prostitution. This order of nuns took the women off the street, gave them safe housing and taught them a new trade as a substitute for their old trade: fine needlework. So all over Le Puy are stores that sell very fine Le Puy lace and embroidery, originally made by former prostitutes now serving the Lord.

On Cheeses

There is cheese and then, there is cheese. This week we had cheese. We went to the Saturday open-air market and bought three kinds of cheese: A Roquefort cheese called “Papillon”, a tombe chevre (hard goat cheese), a morbier (with a layer of ash between the two cheeses) and six rounds of creamy, fresh chevre goat-cheese from a farming family in the church named Chabrol.
The meal Martha made was good, but the cheese took the prize. Martha and I sat and ate slice after slice of baguette loaded with these different kinds of cheeses till we became giddy (drunk with cheese?).
Why the difference? We buy these same types in the USA, both in Minnesota and California. The difference is in the freshness. The flavors jump out and actually smack you in the head (nose and tongue) as you take a bite. The smells hang around your mouth and fill your brains with colors and memories. No kidding, these cheeses do something!
When I asked Martha why, her take is that the French are free to make cheese with raw milk, unpasteurized, that allows the bacteria and other good stuff to make the really good tastes and smells.
I don’t know. I’m not that smart about chemistry and the like. I just know that I will be eating all the cheese I can get while I’m here.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Worship at La Favede

We worshiped this morning with the congregation we have come to know and love so well, a little Reformed congregation that worships out of two sites (like the 2 and 3 point parishes in frontier days). The building is sparse beyond words. There is nothing architecturally stimulating for worship. The extreme reformed tradition rejects all accoutrements that reflect anything Roman Catholic, so the walls and windows are bare white and clear. It is Word of God alone, preached and sung (vigorously). There were 21 of us in worship and we sang at least 6 hymns! The pastor, from Madagascar preached along and complex sermon that Martha followed and, she says, I slept. I told her I was in deep and nodding prayer, but she did not believe me. We were greeted warmly and invited to Journee de Eglise (a homecoming feast) at the other church next week. So I hope to bring greetings and maybe even a photo from Montecito Covenant Church to them next week.

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