Sunday, January 29, 2006

February 5, 2006 - Year B - Epiphany 5

Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Mark 1:29-39

Particularity is something we continually have difficulty with. It runs contrary to our desire for universal meaning. The particulars are always changing and challenging to any system. Exceptions are required and that throws us off our throne of omnipotence and all-knowingness.

When we finally find out we can't escape the particulars we dive into them so deeply that we lose track of our commonality, our inescapable links with one another past all the limits of kith and kin.

This week we do what we can to be open to the warp and woof of life, the common and the particular, the universal and the unique. When we begin to see them woven together we are a step beyond fear being a beginning place of wisdom.


  1. Mark 1:29-39

    If you had to narrow the teachings of scripture and tradition down to one and apply it as a salve to the woes of the world, what would it be?

    I still hear many bemoaning the lack of blue laws, keeping Sunday clear of clutter and commerce. A variation on this is the way in which the school system has not kept up with keeping Wednesday nights free from activities and homework so there is one less excuse for youth to not participate in some form of Christian education.

    Holy time is sensed as having expired.

    To return to the days when the schools and businesses took care of the church would also return us to literalisms regarding slavery, women, race, and sexuality. This is not a good compromise if Christ's compassion is going to be operating in our life.

    We don't get time handed to us on a plate. We do get to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves at both opportune and inopportune times. We do get to carve out renewal in dark and deserted times.

    To rely on some other system to care for us, to ease our control of worship and spiritual growth opportunities, is not healthy. It makes us fat and lazy and expectant of being served, rather than serving. May we follow Jesus and Peter's unnamed mother-in-law in "Diakoneo" without separating its use so when used of women it is translated "serve" and when used of men is translated "deacon". Heal and teach and be renewed wherever you are and whenever you are.

  2. 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

    An interesting place for resistance - "...if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission."

    Twenty years ago a preacher friend talked about hearing a call, literally hearing a call, while at walking between college classes. "I want you in ministry with me," were the words he heard. Only after 25 years of being a pastor did he recognize his culture led him to interpret this as "ordained" ministry, because what else could "ministry" mean. Then he had to wrestle with what "ministry" meant for him. But what kind of wrestling could he do with issues of pension and insurance and family and retooling hanging over his head.

    I would wish for fewer folks who were sure that their will and G*D's will were in sync, that there would be more wrestling with, and even running away from, a call to preach. In Paul's language they would be preaching death and resurrection, which means preaching counter to our culture that fends off death and doesn't trust resurrection. Then we might get gospel proclamation that challenges more than it comforts, that puts us to work rather than to wealth.

    What resistance do you need to reactivate to strengthen the prophetic nature of your preaching, your witnessing in your life's opportunities? Even after 25 years it is worth revisiting how much of our journey has been a path of least resistance and how much more we need to argue with G*D and our particular community of faith.

  3. Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

    Would there were a direct correlation between my goodness and my health. A serious cold that I don't usually get has my head full and my heart empty. It has been too many days already. When is the lifting of the downtrodden, coughing, sniffling, can't sleep at night going to be a reality? A memory rather than a present experience?

    And for some a depression goes on for decades. And for some dialysis goes on for years. And for some grief goes on for months. Surely hope can live. But when it comes to this one instead of some someone, a week seems plenty long enough to wait for a controllable God that will get me back on top of my game instead of up typing at this wee hour.

    How do we sing in this strange land of illness, of betrayal, of limits? By humming somewhere between a bass and a baritone, outside my usual range?

    Does the Lord take pleasure in those who aren't up to much hoping, much less fearing? Hope so.

  4. Isaiah 40:21-31

    Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Punxsutawney Phil has made it clear.
    The weather must be perfect, all the year!

    Can Phil compare to G*D?

    Even when underground, before sticking a weather eye out for shadowlands, Phil is not hidden from G*D. G*D hibernates not nor rests since one seventh day for seven suns.

    Still, Phil, humble prognosticator (several light days below prophet) can reveal the ground of being who we are.

    Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall doze in the dark with marmots,
    they shall stick their nose out and investigate,
    they shall see their shadow and not faint.

    So, bless a candle, light it and hold it high. Christmas ends, Easter begins. It is the turning of the year beyond that of a calendar. This is the time for that resolution you've been dreading - the one you will stick to.

    Make the most of this day, dig out your CD of Groundhog Day and read the review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Might this be the ordinary day that is the best day of your life? See yourself through resurrection eyes, making the changes that you need to make because the rest of your games are ultimately frivolous (floating in the sky instead of building on the ground).

  5. 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

    Martin Buber echoes verse 19 in his book, Good and Evil.

    "I am free" follows one in a whirlpool, letting go and catching on to event after event or seeming security after seeming security. Without an anchoring spot the winds of doctrine sweep one away. One form of evil - freedom.

    "I made myself a slave" follows another in that same whirlpool, hanging on for dear life to the first support one finds and never letting loose. Without a graceful hand that knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, doctrine turns into a club. One form of evil - slavery.

    An older version of a charge to parents at an infant baptism puts before them the challenge that their life "become" the gospel. That wonderful word, "become", works in both maturing and beautifying ways.

    To play with these pairs, when we are both free to leave and bound by loyalty we find comeliness (the beauty of a glorious weakness). And, a thing of beauty is a joy - forever.


Thank you for blessing us with your response.