Sunday, August 14, 2005

August 21, 2005 - Year A - Pentecost +14

Exodus 1:8 - 2:10 or Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 124 or Psalm 138
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

To bind or not to bind, that is a question.

Do we do so proportionally? Do we entrust to dark waters a dream to see if it sink or swim? Do we participate in victory or turn it all over to some greater power?

The question of binding goes on past every choice that is made and challenges us before every next choice.


  1. Matthew 16:13-20

    Caesarea Philippi was a place of diverse political and religious authority. When asked how Jesus was seen, we hear reports of diverse ways of putting Jesus into other schemes. When asked how Jesus was seen by the disciples, they report from their point of view -- Messiah.

    Nothing new here -- he is who he is and we see whom we see.

    What is new is a locus of authority that is shared. The community has authority (where two or three pray, etc.) to bind and loose. These are the same qualities Jesus claimed on his own -- "not a jot or tittle will be lost," "... but I say to you ...," "Spirit will lead you into more than was knowable earlier." The past, the present, and the future are connected to lead us beyond them, to GOD.

    With the keys we have the Jesus equivalent of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in our midst. Now how are we going to use them? Our heritage seems to be -- Mostly to bind with a little loosening when absolutely forced by generations of a larger truth. With Eve and Adam we have tasted choice and decided to hide behind the leaves of doctrine. As we needed to get beyond Eden, so we need to get beyond Church, State, and the Economics of the day.

    No wonder Jesus didn't want the disciples to say anything about this. What follows is a recognition that to appropriately use the keys is to put one so at odds with the cultures of the day that the mystery of death and resurrection need to be directly faced. Much easier to use the keys to teach us to hate those our relatives hate.

    The disciples weren't ready to be built into the anarchy of Jesus' way to GOD. But the hope is present that we will really bind evil and really release love. May this way of living continue breaking the bounds of Hades and other ignorances.

  2. Romans 12:1-8

    Ahh, a sweet renewal of our minds! What else is both so fearful and so freshening?

    We are asked to do this in light of that which offers a larger meaning than we have so far known. This is talked about in shorthand as the desire of GOD. The longer version contains many stories and fits and starts toward a next plateau.

    May we appeal to each other to not be conformed to this present time. It is this opening that is so crucial to moving into renewal. First, discontent, cognitive dissonance, then renewal -- a vision beyond and energy and community to transform it from vision to practice.

    This growth pattern is a part of the grace of humility, personal and communal. Thanks be for being knocked down a peg or two regarding our surety of the present. Thanks be for friends of sober judgment who encounter us in our low moments and clear our eyes to look higher than ever before.

  3. Psalm 124 or Psalm 138

    Good old Lord. The one that was bound to our side. Or was it us bound to Lord's side? Either way -- what a team! What a symbiosis!

    Lord provides protection and we provide praise. Hard to imagine a better scenario. We get to avoid responsibility, except for coming up with sufficient tribute, and get green pastures and an "arrogant soul" (alt. trans. 138:3) on top of this.

    What is your speculation regarding what would happen should this relationship loosen up? That is sort of where we are today in the realm of religious understanding as we wrestle with one another about whether we return to bondage of past relationships or are loosed to recommit to one another and all in a new manner.

    What would it mean to not escape, but to simply be in the presence of steadfast presence, both Lord's and ours?

  4. Exodus 1:8 - 2:10 or Isaiah 51:1-6

    Look to bricks (our lived reality). Look to a rock (a sign of release).

    Look to a flimsy papyrus basket and chaotic waters (our lived reality). Look to the heavens and earth (signs of release).

    As we play with that which binds (our lived reality) and that which looses (signs of release) we recognize that these play back and forth in mysterious ways that cannot be well anticipated. A release becomes a binding because of our lived realities (those now in power insist on control through destruction -- Tom Ehrich's comment today includes: "Pharaoh's strategy to secure his rule by destroying other lives wasn't original to him. Killing baby boys was Herod's answer, too. Killing entire families was Hitler's. If you look inside any of the cruelties that plague our world, from genocide to office politics, you will see exactly this: one rules by destroying another, a few rule by destroying many, or many rule by destroying a few."). A captive people leave a country and cause others to have an exodus from their country as they come to claim it. A constitution that frees landholding white males continues seeing blacks as fractional people and women as no one. A wall is built to divide a city and political blocs. A system of intentional racial divide makes law after law to make others powerless. An overthrow of economic colonialism sets up fights and divisions based on religious sensibilities. The list goes on.

    That which seems so set in stone falls apart at a moments notice, releasing new life for more folks. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are set up, pardons are given, amendments are made, walls do fall, etc., etc.

    Each of these bindings and loosings and bindings . . . are still being worked out. There is nothing new under this sun.

    Listen for the swing of the pendulum that we might do our part to shorten binding times and lengthen loosing time.

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  6. Romans 12:1-8

    Individually we are members of one another. Ouch.

    This means my well-being is tied up with yours and vice versa. It means your captivity limits my own living. None are saved, whole, well, until all are.

    And, yet, we are called to live forward from the future rather than from this present. We are called to live well in them midst of captivity. We are called to use our experiences and promises of wellness to model freedom for the captive parts of our common living.

    It is possible to live this call, to live ahead of our times, to help the rest of ourself to take advantage of the ever present opportunity to change for the better. This is not pop positive-thinking, this is very practical living toward salvation.

  7. Matthew 16:13-20

    Blessed are those who can see beyond the common sense of their day and past their own experiences. This is a gift of grace. This goes further than the gift to see ourselves as others see us or even to come as close as we can to seeing ourselves.

    While the church is built on this sort of visioning that goes past what is politically feasible (see the minutes of every church council) it still seems to build crookedly on that foundation by overemphasizing systems and methodologies that rely on majority votes (whether those are accumulated by persuasion of memes or muscle). This is part of the reason renewal movements of prophets so often fall on deaf ears. There is no willingness to have revelation again shift the ground from the lowest common denominator or our own proclivities.

    Even if we built well on a revelational foundation we find ourselves behind the eight-ball when a next revelation comes to teach us what was too difficult for us in the past. It reminds us that even, and even especially, foundations do shift.

    Renewal is always in order as the foundations shift again. As difficult as they are, such shifts bring new breathing room. So take a deep breath and shift into the next, yet unclear, foundation.


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