Sunday, July 10, 2005

July 17, 2005 - Year A - Pentecost +9

Genesis 28:10-19a or Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 or Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 or Psalm 86:11-17
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

"Words! Words! Words! I'm so sick of words! ... Don't talk of love lasting through time. Make me no undying vow. Show me now!" So sings Eliza Doolittle.

So, how would you show "how awesome your place is," "the righteous must be kind," "do not fear," "in Sheol, GOD is there," "an undivided heart," "we hope, we wait for it with patience," and "let both grow together"?


  1. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

    The New Interpreter's Study Bible puts a significant issue succinctly: "Again the Gospel regrettably uses imperial goals (destroying all adversaries) and patriarchal images (13:43) to picture God's empire."

    In some sense there is no option. If empire, even GOD’s, is going to be portrayed it must be done in terms that identify who is with empire and who is against it. This sense of in and out takes precedence over the sense of bothness so wisely counseled for the growing time.

    For a sense of the difficulty, note the elided passages about mustard seed and yeast. Here the smallest (the adversary, the least/lost/lone, etc) grows to be the largest (the last becomes first) and the yeast helps raise all the ingredients.

    If you were building an empire of parables, which parables would make it in and which would be left out with the teeth gnashers? Would it be the parable about weeds, seeds, or yeast? Since you are not in this business, might we see one in light of the other and, if so, which will be the organizing parable?

  2. Romans 8:12-25

    Assurance is an active state of soul. The spirit "bears witness". Where once there was doubt, it is now clear GOD's "children" can be raised up from the very rocks -- they can include such as ourselves.

    Life is transformed when assurance kicks in. It is not just a matter of words or doctrine. It is an experience like unto the transformation of futility into hope.

    Folks who are assured, children of GOD, apply hope to their situation and transform it. So, what situation are you facing? Busywork? Overtime? What difference does it make? One more day?

    Our waiting is also active. Our hope is not a sitting back and passively resting while transformation goes on. Our patient waiting means we go ahead, moving toward our vocational call no matter what the obstacle. The patient part means the same as persistent. [Note: the etymology of "patient" - Middle English pacient, from Middle French, from Latin patient-, patiens, from present participle of pati to suffer; perhaps akin to Greek pEma suffering (Mirriam-Webster Online). The American Heritage Dictionary Online says "endure" instead of "suffer".] So, hope; so, transform your situation.

    The assurance of the love of GOD "always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV).

  3. Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 or Psalm 86:11-17

    It is always astounding how we take the universality of GOD and narrow it down to my present situation. If GOD is going to be wherever I am, even Sheol, then I am set free to take that off my hyper-alert list.

    However, a temptation is to keep GOD me-sized (even mini-me-sized). GOD may be with me in Sheol, but GOD wouldn't be with you at any time for GOD be on my side! So go the fundamentalist of any age or faith. Even prophets get into this kind of state. This temptation seems to be as universal as GOD.

    So it seems to nearly always be appropriate to examine our hearts for the ways in which we have narrowed the wideness of GOD's mercy.

    We pray, show me a sign of your favor, O GOD, so we who have narrowed your love into our hate might see it and be shamed and transformed by your comfort of our constricted lives and the lives of those we constrain.

  4. Genesis 28:10-19a or Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 or Isaiah 44:6-8

    How much sooner than Bethel might Jacob have recognized the presence of GOD with him was a freedom from compulsion to follow family stories? Having heard the story of his birth, how much programming was it going to take to move beyond one interpretation of a painful womb? How many times would Jacob need to experience again the wonder of Assurance Lost, Assurance Regained? How many cycles does it take to come to an understanding of Assurance as a Given?

    What teaching would be helpful to move us beyond the limitation of family stories or curses around birth expectation so we might better receive and respond to continuing opportunities to decide for larger living. Unless we are going to posit unwitting actions under a grand plan, it is important to wonder how Jacob's recognition of Solomon's Wisdom of mercy for others instead of practical jokes or strength through mildness and forbearance might lead beyond a fixed future. This leads us to wonder about what would be different if we had learned that righteousness shows itself through kindness earlier than we did. [This is not to lay guilt trips, but to ask how our experience might be brought to bear to help others in their journey and to encourage us in our next steps.]

    Hopefully we will hear in statements of our God being a top God, not so much an unchanging and immovable arrogance, but a willingness to walk the way of exile to a future different than currently expected. The choice of learning, "I'll show you, for chasing me out -- I'll take over the land," or to share the bounty, is always with us, even if unrecognized from time to time.

    A result of the "gift" of repentance is a willingness to share life and resources. May we so repent that hope is set loose in our life and the lives of those around us.

  5. Romans 8:12-25

    Living and dying are not easy categories. In the midst of life we are dying and in the midst of death we might live. There is no hard and fast here. Even death isn't death with resurrection and reincarnation lurking about. Even life isn't life with temptations and numbness lurking about.

    Suffering and glorification are two other words that mess us up. We tend to absolutize and eternalize and finalize these when their fluidity is what marks them. There are those who glorify their suffering and others who suffer glory.

    Waiting and hoping continue the pattern of never quite being sure we have said what we want to say.

    Wherein lies the border between adoption and redemption?

    Enjoy the tentativeness of your experience. It sets us free.

  6. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

    Enemies happen. We might also say entropy happens. As noted on the website the Second Law of Thermodynamics is the source of Murphy's Law (of weeds in the seeds).

    We tend to get very bent out of shape around things going awry from our intention and our first line of defense is blame. It has to be some enemy. When we mature a bit we can see the bigger both picture.

    A Question and Answer from the above mentioned site goes as follows:

    Q: You're whipsawing me. A while back you said the second law was the mother of all Murphy's Laws. Now you show me that the second law is a good buddy because we can use it for energy to do what we want. That's double-talk isn't it? What's the story?

    A: Come off it. You're not naive. Life is full of stuff that can be either good or bad. But get ready for a shock now: [Remember what I said about the words "second law" -- that they are often code words for what the second law describes , i.e. that energy spreads out, if it can, from being localized or concentrated to becoming dispersed.]

    The second law is the Greatest Good and the Biggest Bad to us.

    The GOOD: Because of the second law about the direction of energy flow, life is possible.

    —> We can take in concentrated energy in the form of oxygen plus food and use some of that energy unconsciously to synthesize "uphill" complex biochemicals and to run our bodies, consciously for mental and physical labor, excreting diffused energy as body heat and less concentrated energy substances.

    —> We can use concentrated energy fuels (e.g., gasoline/coal, plus oxygen) to gather all kinds of materials from all parts of the world and, regardless of how much energy it takes, arrange them in ways that please us. Similarly, we can effect millions of non-spontaneous reactions -- getting pure metals from ores, synthesizing curative drugs from simple compounds, altering DNA.

    —> We can make machines that make other machines, machines that mow lawns, move mountains, and go to the moon. We can make the most complex and intricate and beautiful objects imaginable to help or delight or entertain us.

    The BAD: Because of the second law -- the direction of energy flow -- life is always threatened.

    —> Every organic chemical of the 30,000 or more different kinds in our bodies that are synthesized by nonspontaneous reactions within us is metastable. All are only kept from instant oxidation in air by activation energies. (The loss or even the radical decrease of just a few essential chemicals could mean death for us.)

    —> Living creatures are essentially energy processing systems that cannot function unless a multitude of "molecular machines", biochemical cycles, operate synchronically in using energy to oppose second law predictions. All of the thousands of biochemical systems that run our bodies are maintained and regulated by feedback subsystems, many composed of complex substances.

    Most of the compounds in the feedback systems are also synthesized internally by thermodynamically nonspontaneous reactions, effected by utilizing energy ultimately transferred from the metabolism (slow oxidation) of food.

    When these feedback subsystems fail -- due to inadequate energy inflow, malfunction from critical errors in synthesis, the presence of toxins or competing agents such as bacteria or viruses -- dysfunction, illness, or death results: energy can no longer be processed to carry out the many reactions we need for life that are contrary to the direction predicted by the second law.

    How's that for starters? You can't get any better for good -- that living is possible due to the second law. And you can't get much worse for bad -- that death is always possible too, due to the second law.


Thank you for blessing us with your response.