Friday, November 27, 2015

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Year C - Advent 1 or Needed Change 1
November 29, 2015

What joy! I get to restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

That seems like a strange construct but it is the context for the blessing with which this section ends.

May it be that any and every heart be strengthened in living meaningfully, even if that is done without my direct engagement with that meaning.

On this first Sunday of the modern 4-Sunday Advent we are alert (Luke) to fulfilled justice (Jeremiah) through humble and steadfast love (Psalm) that we might abound in love for one another (1 Thessalonians).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Psalm 25:1-10

Year C - Advent 1 or Needed Change 1
November 29, 2015

“Steadfast love” is paralleled with both ”mercy” and “faithfulness”. This parallelism brings mercy and faithfulness together as a reflective pair.

A basic question about the quality of steadfast love is clarified when we are heard to ask, “Do I trust mercy to be my basic response to the actions of others?” Like it is clarified by the question, “Do I trust I will be treated mercifully when I have gone astray?”

If both or either response is, “No”, there is more work to be done on loving G*D and loving Neighb*r as Y*urself.

If both responses are, “Yes”, there is more work to be done on loving G*D and loving Neighb*r as Y*urself.

These are paths never traveled once. Like establishing habits, we trace them again and again as we enter new territory. It might be said that we must trace them again and again if we are to enter new territory.

A part of the reason we need to retrace them is that we are walking in partnership with G*D and one another. This is different than establishing a new personal habit in 21 days. It means that each of us walking together on a path are walking together, not marching, and we need to find out again what steadfast love means in each new context.

No amount of warning or promise will see us through all the adjustments needed to walk together over the long haul. Behind both warning and promise is something deeper than surface behavior and morality. That something deeper is sometimes called “steadfast love” or “mercy” or “faithfulness”. These go way beyond accumulating stars for our golden crown or being scared straight. They exemplify a creative partnership working to be better together.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Year C - Advent 1 or Needed Change 1
November 29, 2015

All the evidence is that we are in the midst of a surly day.

We look for evidence that a day is surely coming when the promise of justice and righteousness will spread across the land.

Anyone holding their breath for a transition from surly to surely may be well advised to temper that action. Not knowing a kairotic time when we see it easily leads us to our base-line optimism or pessimism but not to an acceptance of our responsibility and accountability to partner with all would be about doing justice through the mechanism of mercy or moderating righteousness by way of universal assurance of belovedness, not a particular morality.

So far we have heard warning and promise. This is similar to what we all need to progress to a next plateau in our life’s journey—support and correction. It is easy to get trapped by either end of these paradoxical polarities.

Given this first Sunday of a new attempt to be more merciful, what needs to be put in place in the next 12 months that we will feel we have moved one step closer to our goal and so can build on that the first Sunday of Advent next year?

Luke 21:25-36

Year C - Advent 1 or Needed Change 1
November 29, 2015

The "powers of the heavens" is old speak for Trouble-In-Our-Time-and-Space. If you attend at all to today’s media you will see “news” as a form of advertising trying to push you toward a knee-jerk response. It doesn’t matter if the fear is underarm odor, Syrian immigrants (simply the latest in a long line), or passivity toward war—that which is passed off as common knowledge has an agenda.

The Scriptures can be read through the same advertising eye. Look, a fig tree means the end is nigh. Look, new immigrants means the end is nigh. Look, a new enemy (always a terrorist) means the end is nigh. Anywhere you look you can find a reason to absolutely know the end is nigh.

OK. So what is new. Those who recognize that every generation has its travail are better positioned to not have their hearts weighed down with the worries of the day and to be able to avoid the traps trying to trick us into giving up on the goodness of creation or subtly pushing us toward a next war and war after that.

As we come to the edge of a new year our desire is to stand, simply stand, in the most meaningful place we can. For followers of Jesus this will most likely be at the juncture of the 3 Abrahamic traditions—Mercy.

What would it mean to stand with those of the Jewish and Muslim traditions to proclaim 5 or 6 times a day (or constantly) that G*D is merciful and to honor G*D with our whole being is to honor our Neighb*rs with that same mercy?

Blessings on starting our next year with this question of standing (a judicial category) that we might be able to measure our movement toward Mercy by this time next year.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Revelation 1:4b-8

Year B - Reign of Christ or Evaluation Sunday
November 22, 2015

One redeeming phrase here is: “a kingdom of priests”. This is like Meister Eckhart stating that the lowest person is included in those acknowledged to be rulers. When everyone is a ruler or a priest all the old categories fly out the door.

Of course we will find some distinguishing mark whereby we can discriminate against someone else so we are not the lowest. Nonetheless, this kind of including everyone in can help us identify both our personal prejudice and our corporate discrimination.

Remember even those who did Jesus in by word or deed are able to see a new way coming and join in. Conversion is an ever-present possibility. Obversely, everyone will have something to lose when a new way of being with one another enters the scene. The joy of conversion and the wail of loss will be equally evident, someday.

Until then claim your priesthood and forgive freely. Until then weep that you have turned your back on your priestly comrades and withheld your forgiveness. May we be at a better place as we evaluate how far we have come by this time next year.

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Year B - Thanksgiving
November 22, 2015

We do like our orderliness. The Love Prevails group has even found that standing off to the side and holding a sign is seen by some as disorderly. Well, OK, the signs have disordered a mind or two as they call for change. But even the mildest of suggestions that things might be different will eventually upset the status quo.

This appeal to orderliness is particularly evident when a plea is made to pray for everyone and have that immediately followed by only one example: for kings that we might lead a quiet, peaceable life exemplified by surface godliness and dignity and their attendant passivity of no anger or argument.

This feels considerably different than an earlier appeal to strive for the presence of G*D (mercy). The status quo and mercy are much like oil and water, difficult to keep together without separating.

It is unfortunate that this is the beginning appeal (“First of all”). It really has nowhere to go from there. In particular, the only thanksgiving coming from this is for those already in power. A larger picture is needed for larger thanksgiving.

Psalm 132:1-12

Year B - Reign of Christ or Evaluation Sunday
November 22, 2015

On this last Sunday of the Church Year our goal is revealed as Kingship. Jesus becomes the latest king in the line of David. This David claimed to have labored unceasingly, no slumbering, to get a throne for G*D and (well, maybe a little) for himself. Kings, after all, can use any G*D available to solidify their grasp on the reins of power.

Against this background what are we to do with the continuing drop in the polls regarding the church and church leaders. Once upon a time it and they were near the top—now not so much (see:

At the least, if power/kingship is going to continue to be the goal for the church, Advent better start us on a whole new track as the old one isn’t making it

Psalm 126

Year B - Thanksgiving
November 22, 2015

Do we get more thanks out of a restored past or a breaking future?

Somehow we seem to be more thankful after a loss than with something unexpected and new. There is a longer lasting thankfulness to have a pain removed than with the latest toy soon outlasting its novelty.

Here, too, we have a model of weeping first; joy second. This sounds very much like sinner first; heaven last.

Do consider a concept of “enough” being our measuring spot for thanksgiving. In this way it is not just prayer that is to be constant, but thanksgiving. In fact it is helpful to move prayer out of petition and into thanks so you can’t say “prayer” without saying “thanks”.

Since we have been weeping as we sow seeds for the next generations, do begin shifting that into what you are thankful for—an opportunity to sow and weep. Waiting for actual sheaves and not already anticipating them (virtual sheaves) is a game not worth the playing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Joel 2:21-27

Year B - Thanksgiving
November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving casts out shame.

Basic dirt knows this much. Why do we keep forgetting?

Those claiming to be created from such dusty old dust might better remember this than we do. It seems we have to keep learning these things from brother and sister animal and sister and brother plant.

So, Lift up your head, O Gates; Thanksgiving enters. Lift up your head, O Gates; Shame leaves.

And, amazingly, when they meet in the Gate both are transformed. Thanksgiving is humbled; Shame is assured.

Be glad and rejoice when the proud do not stomp the vulnerable into the ground. Be glad and rejoice when the glutton does not explode over everyone else.

Give thanks that we have learned moderation even in moderation. Now we are getting somewhere.

2 Samuel 23:1-7

Year B - Reign of Christ or Evaluation Sunday
November 22, 2015

Justice is justice, whether seen as engaging a god or a G*D. When justice happens light breaks through and reflects off the water. Wear your sunglasses and put on your suntan lotion for double light will wear you out without them.

When we are worn out, light may appear just but just blinds us to basic common good for the next generation, much less seven down the way. Cultural discrimination masquerading as justice raises its poisonous head to bite our heel as we limp around attractive altars.

The strong light of justice is a harsh task-mistress as she asks questions of our actions and not just those of others. The Ash Rule applies here, You shall be consumed as you have consumed.

A last Sunday in Pentecost is a last chance to share wonders, not to enshrine them.

John 18:33-37

Year B - Reign of Christ or Evaluation Sunday
November 22, 2015

The Examiner strides into Headquarters and calls for Jesus Kafka. Gregor the Prisoner is asked his status and asks in return, “Where’d you get that question, I was just looking at another day in the Office of Healing.”

“What have you done?” leaves Jesus befuddled. “Am I to defend myself? Accuse myself? Come up with one more trick response? This must be a dream. I’m not from this crazy place.”

“Ah, so you do have Status! You have done!”

“If you say so. Testifying time! In the end, you don’t exist, Doorkeeper, but the Door does. Think I’ll walk through. See you on the other side if you have courage to follow.”

This is a day of evaluation. We’ve had a year since last Advent. Are we still at the same impasse? How would you apply your best learning from the year to this scene?

Matthew 6:24-34

Year B - Thanksgiving
November 22, 2015

There are ever so many worries, real and imagined, that crop up on a moment-to-moment basis. Horror movies are a perennial best seller. We love to scare ourselves and those around us.

It is difficult to keep a focus on the goodness of creation in the midst of so many pieces of the sky falling all about us. Well, at least they feel like sky. We have met Henny Penny and she be us.

On this last Sunday of the church year we could go the “Christ the King” route. The difficulty here is left over from last Advent. What have we learned through the course of the year? Is it our king trumps your king? Is is allegiance to some a priori truth? Is it division into those who hear the voice in my head and those who don’t?

My hope is that we have set our sights a bit higher, the Presence or the Freedom of G*D. In this all the rest finds its way. We can do with enough. We know our connection with the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.

How to wrap up the year? One less worry than last year at this time. Perhaps it is not much, but it is priceless.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hebrews 10:1-14, (15-18), 19-25

Year B - Pentecost +25 or Energy to Witness 25
November 15, 2015

“I sacrificed myself for the sins of others and am waiting for my enemies to be abased by my feet, abused by my followers.” Does this sound like Jesus?

If G*D is planning to forgive us, as images of G*D we are to forgive others and invite (provoke) them to love and good deeds. This critical middle section dare not be left out. Without it we move from the postulate that Jesus is qualitatively different than anyone else (not exactly human) to a self-centered group of the “sanctified” separate from the world (our sisters and brothers).

If we are going to be followers of one who removes sin from the table and guilt from our conversation we need to understand our renunciation of reveling in victory is not a technique of humbly being saved but deep, deep habits of encouraging current friend and foe alike and receiving their encouragement of us.

Here at the end of Pentecost we are tempted to find ourselves in another locked room. This time not out of fear that we will be done in but in rejoicing that others will become our footstool. This turn of events might be called an anti-Pentecost that comes back off the streets, having shared wonders, and waiting for all those out there to be blown to the babel-ing winds.

This seems a strange and bitter end to the hope, mercy, joy, and surprise of a first Pentecost.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Year B - Pentecost +25 or Energy to Witness 25
November 15, 2015

The lead-up to this passage is Hannah speaking out of her anxiety and vexation, her implied yelling at G*D that goes beyond the recorded plea and bargaining in Chapter 1. This is important as it gets carried through to a seeming resolution of her angst.

Being victorious seems to be all the sweeter if it can be pushed in an adversary’s face. Somehow we don’t count victories in anything other than war and triumphalist terms. So what might we learn from Hannah about what not to do when thankful for one mercy or another? Would Hannah be a leader in a Truth and Reconciliation process?

This song runs through Miriam, Psalms, and Mary as well as every apocalyptic vision. Hooray, I got mine! Too bad about you and you and you!

Next week is the final Sunday of this cycle of the lectionary. Remember again what you had in mind last Advent and through each of the seasons since. Is this what we have come to over a year of supposed growth toward deeper outward signs and inward grace? If so, no wonder some “Christ the King” Sunday rings hollow and no wonder another Advent is required on the great Theosis Wheel.