Monday, August 22, 2005

August 28, 2005 - Year A - Pentecost +15

Exodus 3:1-15 or Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c or Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Are you ready for GOD to repay you for leaving your life behind? Are you ready for GOD to repay the one who has had their life left behind because of you? Would it surprise you to learn that GOD's vengeance is the same as the vengeance we are called to -- heaping coals of undeserved kindness on folks who have injured another?


  1. Matthew 16:21-28

    What a difference a slightly different sentence structure makes!

    "... and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

    "... and those who lose their life, for my sake, will find it."

    It is all to easy to read the first as a narrowing of the beneficiaries of Jesus' incarnate living.

    It is easier to read the second as a widening of GOD's expansive love and some expression of universal love and salvation that includes our slips and foibles as well as our moments of coming through.

    Which reading gives you the greatest pleasure as you look at your own life or the life of someone who bombs occupying troops or authorizes unconscionable debt of another individual/nation or individually tortures, BTK-style, or avoids every external sign of sin?

    We find it easier to see Jesus' intention, for his sake, that everyone find their way to paradise here and onward, than to see Jesus' intention to separate folks forever on the basis of a latest piece of information rather than a possible next piece.

    Stand by for payment and repayment that comes from Jesus' intention, not our deserving. This follows up on not blocking Jesus' intention (16:23) and anticipates a generosity past our usual way of doing business (20:15).

    (Our bias is to end this pericope with verse 27 and to attach verse 28 to the transfiguration story. More about this next Transfiguration Sunday.)

  2. Romans 12:9-21

    Wouldn't it be something if we really can't separate GOD's vengeance from our own? There is a sense in this passage that we can be the "good cop" while GOD will be the "bad cop." We can be nice, but GOD will put the screws to those who foul up.

    If, however, what is good for the goose is good for the gander, what is good for creation is good for creator, then we begin to find the hard part of the passage.

    We can no longer sit back and wait for folks to get their comeuppance because it isn't going to come. GOD's goodness to others will be a heaping of coals upon our own heads, as well as theirs. In fact it may be harder for us who are rooting so diligently that someone is worse than we are so we can be graded by GOD on some cosmic curve that will let us slide by any negative vengeance.

    We may just have to start retranslating the Bible in light of what we now understand about GOD rather than what we used to understand.

  3. Vengeance is very close to violence.

    Just a reminder of a wonderful event coming this November - - Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki will be present in Eau Claire Wisconsin, November 11-12, 2005 to look at "Forgiveness as Power: Transcending Violence."

    More information can be found at our Kairos CoMotion website:

  4. Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c or Psalm 26:1-8

    Among the generalized wonders of creation are specifics: Abrahamic icons of Israel/Jacob and Moses/Aaron who have learned integrity and trust by altar dancing and thanks singing. Mind you, there have been wrong altars frolicked about and more thanks carping than was seemly. Nonetheless, lessons have been learned and decisions remade from installing crafty foes to revealing steadfast presence.

    Give thanks for moving past times of trickery and falseness, past time of tests and failures. Give thanks for new ways to keep intact old relationships. Give thanks for soft words turning us from the elitism of vindication to the commonness of compassion for life in all its ups and downs.

  5. Exodus 3:1-15 or Jeremiah 15:15-21

    Moses has strange things to tell folks from his outsider position of being both the princess's boy and a self-exiled murderer. Jeremiah has strange things to tell folks from his insider position that is being spun against by loyalist prophets.

    Which strange message would you prefer to be offering in today's world?

    Our understanding of the situation we are in will determine whether we play or avoid playing Moses or Jeremiah. Are you called to work from the inside or the outside? It is important to identify this so you can come to terms with your disappointments and options when your message isn't heard. In such cases it is not enough to simply switch sides and think you can do any more from the other position. If called to work inside, work inside; if called from the outside, work outside.

    Most likely, which ever way you come to the issues of the day, you won't be heard (Jonah seems to be an exception and remember how disappointed he was to be heard -- as much as Moses and Jeremiah and you for not being heard). So come to grips with that and do what you do do well. It would be helpful to work in concert with other insiders or outsiders. They can help with your spiritual health issues in a world that acts as though physical health trumps everything else.

    Travel the I-AM-way and persistently sell an expansive love in the face of every argument to the contrary.

  6. Romans 12:9-21

    Friends, Romans, Countryfolk, and Lurkers, lend me an ear.

    Thanks. Now let me give it back to you with interest. No, not with poison tragically poured into it, but with a comedic filter that lets you hearken to the sorrow of the day, the bitterness of the years, the fear of the generations in such a way that you might yet hear a way in which others might yet allow a renewed love into their experiences.

    When listening to the poison of the day, assassination folderol and the like, may its screams not drown out the Elijah whisper of hope.

    What we listen to, we respond to. Yes, acknowledge the pain loudly around and about. Even more yes, rejoice in love, mutual affection, honor, patience, perseverance, hospitality, blessing, harmony, nobility, peaceable living, overcoming evil with good, and on and on.

    Bless your ears -- whether they hang low and wobble to and fro or perk up and fun pun new insights beyond stodgy dogmatic repetition.

    What are you hearing these days?

  7. Matthew 16:21-28

    "This must never happen!" is the cry of the past as it confronts possibilities yet available that will transform it. A part of the hubris of all of us is that our experience becomes normative. A part of growth is being aware of the experience of others.

    Instead of denial about the mystery of GOD and Neighbor (as though we have them covered with creeds and dogmas and stereotypes) it is helpful to say, "What is that about for you?" and "What options are open for a response in such a case?"

    It is instructive to consider what we are willing to do to avoid having any real information that might lead us to grow beyond where we have come. The very struggle to get this far slows us from going further.

    Political issues of the dead have come back to haunt a president who has studiously avoided that reality. Intellectual sloppiness of allowing a comparison of content (science) with no content ("intelligent" design) keep confusing school boards and church members. We could go on regarding sexuality, faith, mental health, and topic after topic that we subvert by crying out that we have enough information and that which we have conspires with itself to put forward the lie that anything other than what we have is impossible.

    Know that change is the nature of life. As such we ought to at least grin each time we hear someone claiming there is no choice but to stay where we are. A grin is much healthier than an anger that leads to simply saying the opposite. A grin helps us find balance in the midst of living. We do so get caught up with the words of scripture alone, so it would have been nice to have seen Jesus grinning, instead of scowling, as he deals with Peter's stuckness.


Thank you for blessing us with your response.