Sunday, September 04, 2005

September 11, 2005 - Year A - Pentecost +17

Exodus 14:19-31 or Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 or Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

This day will have much echoing "terror". Just to remind us -- 9/11/2005 is but one of many events and focus on any one unbalances us. On this day we might also remember these other September 11 events:

146 - Septimius Severus born, Gibbon blamed him for start of Rome's decay and fall
813 - Charles the Great crowns Louis I emperor
1226 - The Catholic practice of Perpetual adoration begins
1297 - Scots beats English at Stirling Bridge
1541 - Santiago, Chile destroyed by indigenous tribes
1609 - Henry Hudson lands on Manhattan island
1649 - Massacre of Drogheda-Cromwell kills 3,000 royalists
1773 - Benjamin Franklin writes, "There never was a good war or bad peace"
1777 - British army defeats American forces at the Battle of the Brandywine
1786 - Annapolis Convention convened, lead to the Constitutional Convention
1789 - Alexander Hamilton was appointed the first Secretary of the Treasury
1793 - Philippe Pinel becomes director of the BicĂȘtre asylum - instituted the first modern humane care of mental patients at the BicĂȘtre
1821 - Subramanya Bharathy dies, Tamil Indian poet
1847 - "Oh, Susannah" was first sung in a saloon
1883 - James Cutler patents postal mail chute
1885 - D. H. Lawrence born
1914 - T Handy publishes "St Louis Blues"
1917 - Ferdinand Marcos born
1918 - Boston Red Sox beat Chicago Cubs to win 15th World Series
1919 - US marines invade Honduras
1922 - British mandate declared in Palestine
1936 - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) in Nevada
1950 - "Beetle Bailey" comic strip debuts
1954 - The Miss America pageant made its network TV debut on ABC
1956 - The Special Group on Information Theory of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers met at MIT - cited as the beginning of the cognitive revolution in psychology
1959 - Congress passes a bill authorizing food stamps for poor Americans
1962 - The Beatles recorded their first single, "Love Me Do"
1971 - Former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev died at age 77
1973 - Dr. Salvador Allende killed in coup
1985 - Pete Rose collects his 4,192 career hit to pass Ty Cobb
1987 - declared emergency 9-1-1 day
1989 - Drexel formally pleads guilty to security fraud
1997 - In Scotland, voters approved the establishment of a parliament to run their domestic affairs, after 290 years of union with England
2000 - Activists protest World Economic Forum Melbourne
2002 - Johnny Unitas dies, quarterback

When we narrow our perspective down to one event or one interpretation of an event we narrow ourselves and our option. This narrowing also opens us to manipulation by this party or that. Being aware of this will help us deal with better evaluating responses to hurricanes and courts and other stormy places.


  1. Matthew 18:21-35

    I was struck by this graphic that shows the 7x.... conversation standing as background to all our interactions, whether individual or corporate. Sometimes we think this issue of forgiveness is one that only works on a personal level. The International Monetary Fund is only one of the places where a background of forgiveness needs to be seen. In fact its very work seems to set up the need for later forgiveness of debts.

    The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina provides evidence of the underbelly of capitalism that constantly stands in need of forgiveness for what it does to the poorest and loneliest of people and to the environment in which they live.

    Where else would it be helpful in your context to carry a mental image of Jesus' conversation with Peter about forgiveness? To keep this as the background against which our foregrounds are measured would both relieve us of burdens we accumulated as we moved through the past and direct our decisions toward a better future for all.

  2. Romans 14:1-12

    This is my beloved's birthday. She has a large enough perspective on life that where most folks would claim it is their "X" birthday, she claims "X+1" and says she has completed "X" years, but prefers living in "X+1". It is this kind of larger perspective that aids us when it comes time to be tempted to judge.

    Can we join my beloved in one of her favorite pronouncements, "They're doing the best they can with what they have"? This openness to that which is beyond our current seeing aids us in hanging in there, nonetheless. Just as she remembers Jung remembering Erasmus, "Called or not, GOD is present", just so we can see the presence of more than the surface. This brings a larger sense of time and a greater opportunity for growing with and forgiving.

    I am thankful to have her as a compassionate presence (she has even promised to nominate me for sainthood right after she strangles me). I pray you have your own compassionate presence to ground your temptations to judge too quickly and strongly. I pray you will be that compassionate presence, grounding the temptation of others to judge too quickly and strongly. It is appropriate for us to all help one another stand and to intercede on behalf of another when they fall that we might all be accountable in the present -- letting future accountabilities care for themselves.

    As you might guess, such openness comes from knowing the dark side of life without being overcome by it, but I'll wait to see what scripture comes around this time next year to get into that. ("Presuming, of course, I or we or you make it that far," as she would say, "in the meantime let evil rest and choose compassion" - see what I mean about a larger perspective being a source of grace so we can make more of the present than folks who are narrowly focused and day-trading their way along through time?)

  3. Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 or Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13

    I, GOD, have shown mercy, but you have not passed it on. (How can this possibly be countered by anything other than annihilation?)

    GOD remembers we are dust, a wide, wide, steadfast love comes from this memory. Knowing the frailty and weakness of another can bring forth compassion. (Apparently there is no a reason to give up on anyone, no matter what the pain they have caused.)

    GOD transforms. A river is dammed. A sea is split. A mountain quakes. (Hurricanes happen.)

    GOD transforms. Rocks and flint become pools and springs. (Cities become swamps.)

    GOD transforms. Egypt was blessed by Joseph to make it through lean years. (Surprising sources of help are already present.)

    GOD transforms. Slaves were made of of Joseph's line. (Are transformation only for our immediate benefit?)

    GOD transforms. Slave-masters drown. Former slaves walk dry-shod. (The high are brought low, the lowly raised.)

    When does GOD cease transforming?

    Where do we place the limits of what is transformation by GOD and what is not?

    Right! Still at it I see.

    Now, as GOD's partners, what will we transform?

  4. Exodus 14:19-31 or Genesis 50:15-21

    "Even though you intended it for harm, GOD intended it for good," so says Joseph.

    How does that work for the the next generations?
    How does that work for the first born - first dead?
    How does that work for Pharaoh's charioteers?
    How does that work for citizens of New Orleans?

    It seems that we need to own up to harm being harm before we can claim whatever good happens along. The current American administration seems incapable of owning up to its harm and so whatever good might be available is covered up by coverups.

    How does the harm/good combination work for you? Wise ones can find blessings under any number of rocks but that doesn't mean the rock isn't there or that the rock was required for the blessing.

    This is sort of like the expected result of the President led review of its own administration of a disaster -- "The results were harmful, but the effort and intentions were good."

    This whole approach is very close to trying to comfort a bereft parent by saying GOD wanted another little angel in heaven.

    This pronouncement of an attempt to always keep GOD in a good light is perhaps alright as a personal statement about a person's experience of the past in light of a now better present, but it is fraught with theological danger when moved into the communal arena. Here we are on a bit more solid ground when prophets announce that present behaviors are harmful and there will be a consequence for them that will do away with them to later allow good to flourish.

    It is not too late to announce: the administration claims they intended it for good, but GOD has revealed it as harmful evil.

  5. Romans 14:1-12

    You gotta love the way in which the one in charge of the imagery can pick and choose what to show and what not to show. That is currently going on with attempts to block the worst of the pictures from New Orleans, just as it was attempted with the caskets of dead soldiers being deplaned or any other less than adulatory portrayal of the one in power.

    Here you might look up Isaiah 49:18 and 45:23 to see how the line, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow...." has been pasted together.

    If we were to do the same with this passage we might be able to quote Paul, "For to this end Christ died and lived again, that God might welcome those seen as 'other'." (14:9, 3)

    As always it is important to judge what we read in the newspaper and in the Bible against what we understand to be a larger story. To read only what is on the page does a disservice to all concerned. How are you putting things together this week?

  6. Matthew 18:21-35

    By what criterion will you decide that it is time to shift gears from forgiveness to punishment for particular behaviors? How close to you does it have to be before this shift from the ideal to the actual becomes evident?

    In Matthew things shift all too quickly from steadfast love to gnashing of teeth. Is this a model we find to be helpful, practical, real? Are some behaviors worth 491 forgivenesses in a nanosecond and then out comes the retribution?

    It is this shift away from forgiveness to that which pushes folks back into an exile intended to separate forever that is worth meditating on. Is the king here King Herod or King Jesus? How has the church used this over the years to shun individuals and crusade against infidels?

    A modern midrash on this passage may be found in the dismissal of FEMA over the New Orleans relief effort. At first loyalty issues (you can read it merciful issues, if you want) take priority but when the king's policies are revealed (an intention to get as much material/power as possible) at a secondary level it doesn't take long for the king to persecute the one modeling the intention/behavior at the top. This shift insulates the king and scapegoats the underling.

    This reading shifts the behavior from forgiving from the heart to finding leverage over another to have them do your bidding. I find this all too easy a reading. We live as though GOD were petulant and ready to stomp us, and this story may help reveal our ambivalence about GOD. Read with care.


Thank you for blessing us with your response.