Monday, August 31, 2015

Mark 7:24-37

Year B - Pentecost +15 or Energy to Witness 15
September 6, 2015

So what did the Syrophoenician woman say in her response to Jesus’ challenge? What is the message in talking about “dogs eating the children’s crumbs” that Jesus found compelling? Was it the standing up for one’s passion, as he does? Is mirroring sufficient? Did he appreciate the recognition that some are more chosen than others and that crumbs are sufficient for the non-chosen—a healing then reminds them how they get a bone now and then, but mostly cuffs for curs? Is this as a gift of thanks for providing a learning opportunity for Jesus that his work is more universal than it is often described by the Jesus advocates who wrote what we now claim to be scripture?

Is this practical outgrowth of “telling of wonders/power” from back at Pentecost? Language play and returning language are easy connections to make with folks exploding forth from a room that was exploding with fire energy.

If nothing from the outside has the power to contaminate (last week’s lection, Mark 7:18) everything and everyone is eligible for healing, being returned to a larger community. In this light we are seeing folks outside a usual definition of “chosen”, chosen to be included.

These are less miracle stories, than missionary stories. In saying “Go” and “Ephphatha” we find it is an opening toward outsiders but also a word to insiders that their task to date has been too small if used for the defense of privilege boundaries.

Where might you practice the gift of openness today and this week (attend to the news all week long for local examples)? To whom will you announce, “Go!” and “Ephphatha!”? Put another way, from whom will you withhold entry to your privilege?

= = = = = = =

Thursday, August 27, 2015

James 1:17-27

Year B - Pentecost +14 or Energy to Witness 14
August 30, 2015

Again we run into the infamous dualism that never resolves into a manageable paradox/polarity or movable continuum. Forever-and-a-day, it seems, we are caught with “evil intentions” arising from inside our human heart and every “generous act” emanating from a static point above. 

Our will is but to fight or to embrace these contestants. We sift and winnow these competing values knowing a bit of both are always present for we cannot live without our heart or only as a puppet.

Stand and choose your percentage of evil or generosity (have you paired these before?) in your next volitional relationship. This is your liberty.

In this model everything is “stained by the world”. Yes, even care for orphans and widows. Stained or not, such care can yet go on for even a mere tithe (10%) of whole care—a portion is better than none? [Note: our “evil heart” would see value here for it would allow another handout tomorrow by which to feel better about ourself.] Stained or not, such care can be completed. [Note: our “evil heart” could see value here as any warmth of heart could begin to bend the remaining coldness elseways.]

Bottom line: What is the best opportunity available to me to care from 1-to-all orphans and widows in either their metaphoric or all too real every-day life. [Note: this generosity is not as much material as a reordering of community life.]

- - - - - - -

Blessings on your work.

Thought this article might trigger a remembrance (moving from background to foreground) of the formative realities the beginning of the industrial revolution had on the Wesleyan movement. Are we currently overbalanced toward piety in a latest revolution looking for mercy?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9

Year B - Pentecost +14 or Energy to Witness 14
August 30, 2015

Indeed, our heart overflows with a theme of goodly intention. We desire to connect both truth and beauty with G*D and our current leader for that will keep them both busy and not disrupting our lives. Go King/Pharaoh/Führer/President! Go G*D!

Even as we don’t trust power for we have much evidence that it goes its on way regardless of who is in the cat-bird seat, we still desire power to be well used for our purposes.

That this revision of the Psalm rings false is fairly clear in its attempt to bolster the passivity of women by grouping them as political pawns to be decorated in booty—to have their very booty to be booty2.

If this pericope had gone on one more stanza we would have heard, “forget your people”. Is not the power to make a captive an excellent example of Jesus’ affirmation regarding “evil intentions” arising within our boundaries—always finding that individual or group we will misrepresent as less than “us” and do all manner of institutional evil against them (thus excusing our own silence and participation in the privilege of unacknowledged power).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Song of Songs 2:8-13

Year B - Pentecost +14 or Energy to Witness 14
August 30, 2015
Must I wait, must I follow?
Won't you say "Come with me?"

O we want to be invited
   to what we know all too well

A glance, a word, a gesture
   we might respond to

And in that response
   know we are The Initiator

It is our pile of dust
   that attracted a creator

From our wallflower position
   we see strings pulled

Our empty silence the strongest pull
   our excuse for failure stronger still

We wait, we reposition, we make available
    yet no champion bursts our bounds

Come, my love, sit awhile
   reveal my beauty

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mark 7:1-8, 14-18, 21-23

Year B - Pentecost +14 or Energy to Witness 14
August 30, 2015

October 15, 2015 — Global Handwashing Day

A study by Michigan State University found 70.6% washed their hands with soap in the morning as contrasted with 66.4% in the afternoon and 67.0% in the evening. Gender difference in proper handwashing was noted (77.9% of women, to 50.3% of men).

Those who have hard and fast rules for the way people ought to behave are going to be disappointed when they run into real people. Imagine Jesus doing a study of what the perfectly upright person should be and limiting his followers to those so no disparagement would fall upon him through them. Go ahead, imagine. Would you have made the cut. According to the current Ashley Madison hack, how many Pharisees then would be fellow-travelers with Josh Duggars and others today?

All in all the issue of hypocrisy was and is alive and well. Just don’t call me on mine and I’ll let you have yours.

And then the kicker. Rules about appearance can never measure the content of a character, and we’re all characters.

Having eaten of some proverbial apple, we know the difference between that which builds up and that which tears down. We know them so well we can play games with them and shade actions through comparison with the worst or having such wonderful intentions.

Attend to your Neighb*r simply on the basis of your relationship with “good” and “evil” and “common good” without a rationale and see what happens. 

[A side note regarding the elided verse 19: If this was the teaching, was Peter missing class that day? How else explain how long it took him to attend to this as found in Acts 10?]

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ephesians 6:10-20

Year B - Pentecost +13 or Energy to Witness 13
August 26, 2015

This passages gives some hints at a common phenomenon in religious work—accuse and whine.

Up to this point Ephesians might be said to rely on a realized eschatology that “victory” is already won, wholeness and health is assured.

Now we get what some have called a general’s call to battle based on other similar historic calls. We are to strike out, crusade style, to make prisoners of conscience. Armor is a place of safety from which we raid weaker unarmed people, seen as less than civilized or human for they are not us. We go forth to accuse them of being incompatible with G*D. Just the putting on of these garments of war is expected to have power to destroy something called evil (weeds in a field, Jesus would have us leave alone until some harvest time?). “Victory” must be ever won—we have entered a never-ending war.

First we move from a trust that G*D prevails to that not being so sure and we we need to put a final nail in some proverbial Schrödinger's coffin that may or may not have “Evil” dead within it.

Then we find our general is already in chains, a pre-martyr, a willing martyr. And we have shifted into a state of being warred against. It is easy to shift an affirmation into a whine when the affirmation we want to see win the day is in the least way questioned. Supposedly armored Christians in our day are quick to shift from bold declaration able to take death in stride to complaining that there is a war against Christians in the most Christian-affirming country.

To need prayers continuing immediately after a call to arms keeps the whole realized eschatology of the first five-plus chapter anxious. Is it true? Can we proceed without constraining armor never ready for a next development in offensive weaponry? Is faith reliant upon debate rhetoric that can dismantle others and incontrovertibly make my point? Does love need to prevail to be love?

How does this passage sound if put in the voice of resigning disciples, rocky Peter, or realistic Jesus?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Psalm 84

Year B - Pentecost +13 or Energy to Witness 13
August 26, 2015

Trusting in G*D is much more than one claim or another that our interpretation of G*D is the best for another person or element of creation. Partnership with G*D entails being partnered with all G*D is partnered with and that includes partnerships with others that are based on different criteria than the those that connect us with G*D.

Yes, while everything is going swimmingly, we easily come forth with praise and affirmations that even a sparrow or foreigner/immigrant finds a home here.

And then comes trouble when the very folks we have welcomed as citizens begin to “presume”. It doesn’t take long for us to become sensitized to any slight of our always being due a slight preference in the dividing up of a common good.

This is the song of disciples of Jesus before they learn what it costs to live upright in a developed system that is aslant to many. This is Peter’s affirmation after some took affront at Jesus’ teaching and left the ranks of disciples. This is our own prosperity gospeleer affirmation trying to talk G*D into privileging us.

Do celebrate the Psalm when it is true in its widest setting. Question this Psalm when its context is reduced and it really is not true about a lowly sparrow finding a home but, at best, a handout.