Sunday, November 27, 2005

December 4, 2005 - Year B - Advent 2

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Just under the surface of our business as usual are issues of injustice. A continuing call is to shift gears from that which allows injustice and to grow into that which brings completeness, fulfilling the wholeness implied with caring for the well-being of all.

Listen in for that which indicts and that which transforms. This wakeful listening prepares us to remove our self-placed ear plugs of power and control and to awaken our various internal characters to live in unity with themselves and the rest of creation.


  1. Mark 1:1-8

    The presenting issue for which the good news of Jesus Christ is appropriate is that of injustice.

    Although attributed to Isaiah the first writing reinterpreted by Mark is from Malachi. Hear Theodore W. Jennings reflect on this reality in his book, The Insurrection of the Crucified:

    "....Justice has been perverted, turned upside down. Indeed two ways of perverting justice are indicated here. One is the provision of a religious sanction for injustice; the other is the cynical dismissal of the relevance of calls for justice. In other words, the one known as Malachi accuses his audience of legitimating injustice in both religious and secular terms. The prophet is concerned, on the one hand, with those who use the name of God to legitimate their oppression of the needy, and, on the other, with those who calculate that no God of justice will be able to interfere with their exploitation of the needy. The collusion of these forces is as common today as it was in the time of Malachi or Mark...."

    As we listen in to this issue that will crop up in each season, a question must be asked about the ways in which we have been co-opted by these colluding forces. Do we stand with John in speaking truth to power (not to the needy or Gentiles, but to the religious and political powers of every time)?

    Richard W. Swanson, in Provoking the Gospel of Mark, writes: "The promises that the storyteller calls into the story are thus tense promises, promises that remind the audience that there are promises that God has not been so good at keeping. To call such a situation to mind at the beginning of the gospel of a messiah creates a strange tension in the room. Is this going to be a story that settles old scores and finally makes good on old promises? Or is this going to be a story about how things come up just a little short yet again? Do not assume that you know the answer just because you are a Christian or because you believe that Jesus is the right answer to every question, whether in Sunday school or out."

    Swanson goes on to ask, "How would the story be told if it were a story of deferred promises that will be deferred yet again? Explore this narrative arc carefully. The standard telling of this scene bubbles with joy and demand. The standard telling is worth exploring, too, but it is easy. There are more surprises in exploring the deferred promises?"

    So what promises are you expecting that should have been completed by now? Does this say more about the promises or your expectations? Because of the deferment are you ready to settle some scores? Just how difficult is this getting ready and waiting going to be?

  2. 2 Peter 3:8-15a

    There is trouble in the world around, there is trouble in the church right here, there is trouble within ourselves. If there weren't this trouble we wouldn't be talking about the patience of GOD and endings of earth and heaven.

    So, given that there are troubles everywhere we look and that not looking doesn't do away with the troubles, what is the preeminent work we are to be about. Well, while waiting for GOD to do whatever it is GOD's going to do, there is always the work of "peace".

    From The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus by Neil Douglas-Klotz we hear of peace "which remind[s] us of what persists and what dies in our human existence. While the Western definition of the word 'peace' sees it simply as the absence of war or conflict, the Semitic languages see it as something more profound. Both the Hebrew shalom and the Aramaic shalama derive from a verb that means to be fulfilled or complete, to surrender or be delivered, or to die....

    "When one greets another with shalom, shalma, or salaam (the Arabic form), it can be an instant of Sabbath. Both people have the opportunity to remember thier origins as beings whose beginning is ultimately a mystery. This remembrance can help clear away a history of offenses given, received, and perceived. It can produce peace on a very deep level, not by invoking certainty or idealism, but by bringing awareness of uncertainty and the ultimate mortality of all forms...."

    These words are followed by a body meditation that you may want to institute as an Advent discipline to assist you to be "found at peace".

    "Return to a quiet place of breathing awareness, feeling the word shalom or shalama riding on the inhalation and exhalation. With this feeling and word, feel the presence of Hokhmah, Holy Wisdom, and greet each aspect of your inner self that you meet. As much as possible, allow each one to participate in feeling the mysterious origins of the universe. Invite each aspect of your self to a table of bread and wine that can fulfill the ultimate desire of each to bring its purpose into being. As you end the meditation, look into the days immediately ahead of you. In what ways can this greeting and invitation enter your interactions with everyone and everything you meet?"

  3. Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

    Speaking of peace, it is quite one of the most active of endeavors.

    Peace aids the meeting of love and faithfulness. Without it these two would continue along their separate but equal arcs - each finding a way to avoid the other. Love without faithfulness can wander off in any old direction and faithfulness without love is all too easily stuck.

    Peace even works on itself and its doppelganger, righteousness. They kiss (to complete themselves, not to betray the other). Peace blesses and is blessed by the easiest way away from peace, self-righteousness that covers up communal-righteousness. Peace kisses past the shell to the place of unity.

    Peace plays creator between the waters above (righteousness) and the waters below (faithfulness) that neither take over and life can happen between. Peace calls each to its place in the wholeness of well-being.

    To Peace is to lead an active life, a pro-active life, leading to more life, life in abundance. Advent is a time to practice the presence of peace between our various selves (internal and external). This is a most wonderful time of the year - setting the expectation of Peace that we will work on all the rest of the year.

    I should have mentioned it earlier, but its not too late to look up an Advent Devotional that is oriented to moving beyond the struggles of life to learn from them a peace that passes our understanding - but not our participation.

  4. Isaiah 40:1-11

    There is a strain within us that wants to read this passage as a warm comfort. A road is built for us to get to God. We'll be like little chicks under powerful wings, taken care of all our days. All we have to do is hold on during our period of supererogatory suffering - no whimpering during our whipping or we'll get wiped out.

    It appears the road in the wilderness is more closely allied with the interstate system sold as a quick way to mobilize our troops for internal defense when the commies invaded. The road is a way for the Lord to get the penalty to us more quickly so the extravagance of punishment might be escalated and thus end more quickly (or something like that, hard to tell in cases of "this is for your own good"). Somewhere in there is our current Iraq situation. Somewhere in there is the cutting of social services even more drastically than cutting taxes on wealth. Somewhere in there is individualized insurance in corporately run illness care (preventive care is health care, what we have is illness care).

    Look, people to God are as grass. So what's the big deal. Redemptive violence is the model here and we claim we are made in that image. The comfort here is to roll over and do what we're told. No partnership, no participation, only puppetry. Here is stasis, here is infinite nursing of an eternal newborn.

    On the surface this is Comfort, with a capital "C". Below the surface we find cold comfort in hot water.

    Creation is not a smooth marble, but highly variegated. Thanks be for valleys and mountains. May God and all holographic images of same soon appreciate the importance of difference and hurry more toward compassion than a punishingly strict standard that accepts no variation from some idealized, recursive norm.

  5. 2 Peter 3:8-15a

    How do you measure waiting? What connection does it have to time? The dictionary says "waiting" comes from older words of "watching" and "awake". Might waiting be a directional focus rather than a moment by moment experience which, after awhile, wears us out to the point we falter in our waiting.

    Waiting, old-school, awakens us to that which is being watched for. It is not a question of how long until it is here, full-blown, but whether we are paying attention to catch a glimpse of it. In this regard waiting is very similar to hoping for things yet unseen.

    It takes a great deal of hope to wait creatively, to wait peacefully.

    So, what are you hoping for, waiting for? A new heaven and new earth? For righteousness to be lived, to be at home, rather than wandering as a potential? Either of these will have an effect of closing off, dissolving, our current situation. And either of these will shift our perspective affect, assisting us to see a new heaven in the old earth and a present righteousness yet able to be drawn from current injustice.

    If you are interested in a cartoon about time check out ReverendFun.

  6. Mark 1:1-8

    As we look ahead to Jesus' baptism we might understand that Jesus was baptized with a Holy Spirit and there is a hint there about our baptism in a Holy Spirit.

    Hint number one, Holy Spirit baptism has to do with assurance, not repentance. I, you, anyone is directly related to GOD, to all that is, to the unity of life. This relationship is where we find our wellness. Now, whether one needs repentance before assurance or assurance to leap into repentance is an eternal question that seems only knowable in particular instances where for some it is one way, for others another, and for yet others is either simultaneous or extraneous.

    Hint number two, Holy Spirit baptism has to do with a willingness to be led into the deep parts of life where temptations are real and where one needs to rely upon a humility gained by repentance and an openness to a larger picture grown from assurance of place and self. Now, whether temptations to narrow life down to one's own comfort and power can be faced down by humility or openness is basically a question of preferred spelling.

    Hint number three, Holy Spirit baptism has to do with building new relationships, neighbor to neighbor, not just with GOD. Friends, sometimes called disciples, become part of our ongoing life. This is not a baptism for self alone.

    Hint number four, Holy Spirit baptism has to do with the healing power of repentance and assurance for others. These qualities of deep living are not for self alone, but build community as we mutually heal, now needing healing, now offering healing, now claiming the power of healing, now releasing the power of healing.

    Hints will go on but this promise of baptism with/in a Holy Spirit is grounded in experiences that expand the meaning of baptism and Holy Spirit and GOD and repentance and assurance and in expansion bring us to imagining a new creation and living its possibility today.

  7. The personal development industry has never been bigger! It consists of a myriad of authors basically telling us how to improve our lives. We are constantly being told self help and self improvement has never been easier. New techniques, gadgets and potions adorn the shelves of new age shops and the 1 billion dollar industry, that is personal development, offers many different approaches to help better our lives. They offer ways to increase our bounty and ultimately alter our own reality. A great example of this is how to develop a Prosperity Consciousness. But does this state really exist and if it does will it bring the effortless unlimited wealth promised?
    A lot has been written about prosperity and how to attain it. We have been told by many religious traditions and every personal development guru that the Universersal Source (God, Spirit, Cosmic Mind or whatever label you chose to give it) is boundless wealth. We are also told that abundance, wealth and prosperity are our birthright! Why then are so many people ill, broke, frustrated and unfulfilled? Can a person really develop a prosperity consciousness and effortlessly attract wealth? Well as with everything in life there is only one way to find out. Test it for yourself!

    Before we can attain and then test the effectiveness of having a prosperity consciousness we need to understand some basic truths. Let's start by explaining three fundamentals of personal development namely; 1. The Universal Source is all wealth, abundance and prosperity; 2. Prosperity is our birthright; 3. You get more of what you focus on.

    1. Why are we told that the Universal Source is unlimited wealth? - Because the Universal Source is the consciousness of the Universe - a universe that is still expanding. It is the driving force behind physical reality. It created everything you see, hear, touch and smell as well as all that we are unaware of (microwaves, radiation, air etc.). It has been stated in religious and metaphysical traditions that this intelligence is not only the Source of everything but that it is also the substance of it! It creates the Universe from itself! It is omnipresent (everywhere present). That means that the entire seen and unseen aspects of the universe are a part of this Universal Source. Science reaffirms this theory as it states that nothing is solid and everything is just one mass of pure energy that vibrates at different frequencies and gives the illusion of separateness.
    So we can now claim that the Universal Source is unlimited wealth, abundance and prosperity with some belief. For if this Source is the very substance of everything then it is all the wealth, abundance and prosperity that exists at this very moment!
    Ok so far? Now lets look at the second point - prosperity is our birthright.

    2. If this Universal Intelligence is the source and substance of all things then there can be only one intelligence in the Universe. Jesus said to his disciples "know ye not that you are the temple of the living God?" Buddha attained enlightenment and "oneness". The list of these religious teachings are too numerous to mention but their message remains the same - God (Universal Substance) resides within and around us. It's very substance makes up our physical body and the world around us - "For in him we live, move and have our being" Acts17:28. Therefore, if this Universal Source is at the very core of our being and is the substance from which we take physical form then it stands to reason that we are connected to everyone else and in fact everything else around us - we are a part of all the wealth, abundance and prosperity of the universe. Just as your hand or foot is a part of your body, so every grain of sand, blade of grass, wisp of wind, bar of gold and brick that is laid in a mansion is part of you. The unlimited wealth of the universe is yours for the claiming. It is already yours, always has been and always will be. It is a part of you.
    Ok let's go the third point - you get more of what you focus on.

    3. "It never rains but it pours", is a saying I have used myself in the past. Have you ever wondered why such a statement appears to be true? Well metaphysics and religion tell us that "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" or as Job cried out to God "For that which I greatly feared has come upon me". What we focus our conscious attention on increases! Don't believe me? Test it for yourself! If you can muster up the strength to do it then think in negative terms for a week. Judge everything that happens to you in negative terms and think only of a negative outcome and watch what happens in your world!!! This is a relatively easy experiment as we are conditioned to think negatively by the world. A word of warning though - once you prove that your focus determines your reality stop thinking negative thoughts as best you can.
    I will not go into the 'hows' of why our focus has such a profound influence on our lives (that would be the subject of a book or perhaps a future article) just prove to yourself that it does. A clue can be found in the teachings of Jesus when he said "The Kingdom of heaven is within".
    So now we have the three principles of the prosperity consciousness explained let's put it to work. The attainment of a prosperity consciousness is relatively simple - just think on the first two principles until you fully understand them and integrate them into your consciousness. As you focus on them you will discover that your feelings of lack disappear and you begin to feel a connection with everything around you. It is really just an attitude shift - nothing metaphysical or mystical about it at all. You begin to consciously realize that everything is a part of you. Your focus changes from poverty to wealth.
    If it helps make a list of affirmations that correspond to the two principles outlined e.g. "God is the Source and substance of everything", "I am at one with everyone and everything around me", "I am a part of all the wealth, abundance and prosperity of the Universe" etc. Don't just rhyme them off in a parrot like manner, think on them and realize the scientific or spiritual truths behind them.

    Will it work? Well I can say now that if you follow the above instructions a real change will happen in you. You will start to see the beauty of the world and the unlimited resources that are available within and around you. Will you attain wealth, abundance and prosperity? Test it for yourself!


Thank you for blessing us with your response.