Sunday, September 25, 2005

October 2, 2005 - Year A - Pentecost +20

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 or Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 19 or Psalm 80:7-15
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

Possession may be nine-tenths of the law, but it is not everything. As we remember the last being first, etc., we may even begin thinking that possession isn't even one-tenth of life. This week we may want to make distinctions between possession as having possession and possession as being possessed. And, even with that distinction, we will be hard pressed to find a meaningful difference between them.


  1. Matthew 21:33-46

    Listen to another story. There was a Leader who had custody of a Land with a constitutional provision for common de-fence and infrastructure for the general welfare. Then the Leader leased the Land to Cronies and went on Vacation. These Cronies led the Land into great debt, reducing environmental protections and workplace safety, increasing the numbers in poverty and those without health care, leading the Land into preemptive war and faith-based science.

    When those Cronies came to get their votes the Land tried to vomit them out. They spun and spun webs of lies and passed out promises of perks. But enough evidence of the destruction of the constitutional inheritance could not be hidden and the Cronies were tossed out on their ear. When back from Vacation the Leader is told, "The Land will be taken away from you and give to a people that produces common defense and general welfare," on what part will the Land toss the Leader?

    This story has been told innumerable times from the perspective of every Party affiliation. Prophets who have ears to hear, keep the evidence of expected consequences for partisan purposes before us. Say it loud, clear, and often -- the Leader is naked!

    Little wonder such Leaders attempt to silence such Prophets.

  2. Philippians 3:4b-14

    I've got good gifts. Oops, to merely say that leaves me open to pride and downfall. Better to be covetous for the gifts of another. Given the quality of my gifts I really need to find the perfect one to try imitating because anything less would have me outshine them. It is hard to be humble.

    So to do a little reverse psychology on the fates I'll strive for suffering in death. That way those silly old fates, who are too stupid to catch on and can only reverse things, will reverse my suffering into heaven.

    See, if you just spend a little time figuring these things out you can make out like a bandit. Well, maybe that's not the best thing to be compared to, but what are you going to do with these old sayings that get lodged so deeply in our brainpans.

    All this fancy footwork to get at the nub of the matter. Here is a worthy process of life: "forgetting what lies behind, straining forward to what lies ahead". If we were to strip away all that other put down of gifts and the opportunities they bring as being third-rate (not even second class) we might better see the connection between living expansively/expandingly in a loving direction and the present moment.

    To do so reduces the restrictive limitations of past experience and enhances the creative possibilities still before us.

    = = = = =

    So we affirm the note in The Interpreter's Study Bible: "What is unclear, and debated, is whether Paul's insistence on these points is intended to correct some opponent's message or to recall and anticipate problems he had encountered elsewhere, especially in Corinth."

    It turns out all the suffering and diminishment language, the dismissal of good gifts, is off message and distracting.

  3. Psalm 19 or Psalm 80:7-15

    Their voice is not heard, yet their voice goes out through all the earth!

    In the Psalm, "they" are the creation sequence - the evolution of creation - the elements basic to life.

    In Scripture, "they" are also the poor, the widows, the children, the alien.

    None of "them" has a voice and yet they cry out as the mine-canaries deep below every political, economic, and educational system.

    Have you heard “them”?

    Do you add to the cry for GOD to attend to the vine, the creation, the poor?

    Whether it seems your voice is heard or not, even whether you want it to be heard or not, it is important to know where you identify, what you listen to, what you pass on to GOD

    Listen well, speak clearly, act humbly.

  4. Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 or Isaiah 5:1-7

    Walls and hedges of protection are valuable gifts. Within these we are able find a source of steadfastness for ourselves and a place of refuge for regrouping when life happens. These protective gifts can be personal as well as communal.

    The downside is that we begin to rely on these levee-type boundaries as the end-all and be-all of living and they begin to constrain us or to over-comfort us.

    Like a nautilus that doesn't grow a new chamber, our very protections from external dangers turn to become a restraint on internal growth and maturity. If we don't make room for more than what we learned in Sunday School as a youth, we will remain spiritually stuck at that point.

    As consoling as a hedge can be when we need escape it can turn us into spiritual couch potatoes, never willing to risk the fear and trembling of salvation. We take our comfort and look for more and more of it. Without knowing the limit of enough comfort. It becomes ever so much easier to avoid using our little gray cells.

    Thank goodness for communal boundaries of such as 10 out of 100s of "commands." Thank goodness for the comfort of steadfast love that hedges us round.

    Woe for thinking any number of commands will suffice for adequately participating in the messiness of life. Woe for choosing more and more and comfort over enough and reality.

    If you were to name your place of safety that allows your prophetic side to take the risks it needs, what would you name?

    If you were to name your place of imposed boundary that keeps you from maturing, what would you name?

  5. Philippians 3:4b-14

    "Surpassing value" is a strange concept to any economic system. Each system has its value pluses and minuses, but not any values beyond itself.

    Surpassing value turns our usual economic, political, religious, processes into so much dog-dung (as The Message so graphically puts it.

    Surpassing value puts the other usual values of life into a new frame.

    So, state your surpassing value in 10 words or less.

    Paul puts it, "knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

    Kairos CoMotion puts it in more than 10 words:
    Re-form the way we live together so as to more fully embody the radically expansive love of God
    Network for solidarity, advocacy and action
    Act-Up on behalf of those who are silenced, excluded or dispossessed

    The United Methodist Church says it is "making disciples of Jesus Christ."

    How do you play with "knowing" "reform" "network" "act-up" "making" and your own way to phrase "surpassing value"?

  6. Matthew 21:33-46

    It is very easy to read Jesus' response about the rejected stone and that which is broken on it to follow the judgment of the chief priests and pharisees and see GOD's judgment overshadowing GOD's mercy. If we simply keep reading in a linear way we can have Jesus echoing this judgment of wrath.

    The key words we miss are "Have you never read in the scriptures?" This is a signal that that which was just before is wrong and what immediately precedes this is wrathful judgment. This is the same issue before us today with those who would take every negative in the scripture and literally hold it close to their heart and before their eyes (how's that for a posture?). We who have appreciation for the steadfast expansion of love and mercy continue to cry out, "Have you never read in the scriptures . . . .?"

    Here what is being broken on the stone is not those ne'er-do-wells of the story but the wrath interpreters of the story. It is those whose first choice is wrath that will find themselves broken on the mercy of one they reject. What delicious irony. Too bad it comes at such a cost.

    And still we are caught in costly ironies that have yet to be resolved in such a way that they can be recognized.

    Until these ironies come clear, remember to keep responding, "Have you never read of GOD's steadfast love in the scriptures!?!"


Thank you for blessing us with your response.