Sunday, December 31, 2006

Jesus' Baptism - A

Years A
Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

Peace is preached through people's lives. Peace was seen in Jesus' life and invites us to preach peace to others as a way of testifying to his preaching and to our call. In peace, Jesus' preaching and our preaching come out the same. There is no partiality when it comes to peace preaching, each is blessed - period.

So we rejoice when we see another blessed with the affirmation that they are beloved. Even though we know it will lead them to the desert, we rejoice that the blessing given will be sufficient for wilderness times and dark nights of souls.

We are able, thus, to also rejoice when we finally catch on to our own blessedness. We receive with gladness and look around to see what test we will be able to meet with it.

Love Peace with all your heart and mind and soul and strength and whatever other little categories might be brought to bear. Love your neighbors blessedness as you love your own.

= = = = = = =

we advise
better to be baptized by you
we consent
let it be so

we advise
we consent
better lies there
but we are here

we let it be so
we give up better
we give up advice
we consent

Friday, December 29, 2006

First Sunday after Christmas - C4

Year C

Luke 2:41-52

In the midst of the usual there are opportunities to find something more than we ever expected. To begin to appreciate the presence of the unusual there are some games to be played - games of listening and games of asking and games of responding from a new home in the midst of an old house.

Starting with Jesus' parents (Mary/Spirit or Mary/Joseph - it may be interesting to play it both ways in regard to a lost-in-plain-sight Jesus) we begin with that which we don't know - we sense something has gone on outside our ability to see it, something has been covered over by an assumption and is on the edge of being noticed.

When something begins to niggle at us we begin to check our usual haunts to see if everything is really in order and it just felt like there might be a crack somewhere in our cosmic egg that could possibly bring a bit more light into our lives. We check with our usual perception guides - family, friends, church/congregation. If that doesn't get us back to stasis we up the ante a bit and look to Jerusalem - to our culture, denomination, wider religious tradition to find some explanation.

Finally we find ourselves again face-to-face with the ancient model of listening and asking to find a new understanding. Some of this is going on these days in terms of creation myths and sexuality (the general-relativity and quantum poles of our current lives wherein current theories of consciousness recognize the need to adjust to a new way of thinking and feeling based on new realities).

Anxiety is not a fruitful mode in which to listen and ask. When anxiously asked about his whereabouts (the result of his listening and asking), Jesus talks about being at home or having come home to himself, to his particular experience.

But anxiety gets in the way and his parents (still dealing with both options) did not understand a home different than the one they had carried on and developed.

Since they couldn't join him in a new place he went on with them. Mary treasured and pondered this over time. Eventually Mary could get past asking Jesus to come away from the consequences of his listening and asking and be able to stand by him at the last.

What is niggling at you these days that would benefit from some time to listen to, to ask about?

= = = = = = =

a revolutionary concept
pushing us out of one home
pulling us into another home

leads those not increasing
to a sense of diminishment
only resolved by lynching

leads to compassion
for those still stuck
in an old home

listening and asking
resistance to new vision

is a dangerous

Thursday, December 28, 2006

First Sunday after Christmas - C3

Year C

Colossians 3:12-17

Clothes are technologies of comfort and fashion/status. In this sense the experience of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience are techniques of love, are the clothing covering and revealing love.

Suppose we dream about the Emperor's New Clothes and find ourselves without the trappings of love, what then?

Here we might listen in to a direction that moves from forgiveness (13) to love (14) to harmony (14) to peace (15) to thanks (15). In the sequence of hope, faith, and love the greatest is claimed to be love. In the sequence here, is the greatest of these "thanks"?

Is this confirmed in everything we do being done with thanks?

= = = = = = =

ouroboros traced again
a path told from long ago
arrive, arrive it says

finally arrive at forgiveness
work your way up to it
dissolve the past

finally arrive at love
work your way into it
today never over

finally arrive at harmony
work your way through it
each touching every

finally arrive at peace
work your way under it
pass every understanding

finally arrive at thanks
work your way over it
raising each act

ouroboros traced again
each work claiming eternity
and simply rolled on

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

First Sunday after Christmas - C2

Year C

Psalm 148

. . . praise the name of the Lord . . . for . . . created . . . bound[arie]s . . . . (vss 5-6)

Just how far can this be condensed?

If "created" is but another way of saying, "current", as all boundaries ebb and flow according to new occasions and new duties they face, we might delete "created" and simply be thankful for boundaries.

If there is some legitimacy to this picking of a pattern, how thankful are we for boundaries? What do they show us about the past (we can look back in sorrow at how long some boundaries have continued - racial, economic, gender, national, sexual orientation, science, and so much more) and how they have shifted? What do they suggest about a fatalism regarding today's boundaries of war, health coverage, and various demographics? Do they help us refocus images of a future for all people?

As we run into boundary questions we not only have implications of what lies on either side of a given boundary, but those soul-searching questions from living within or upon a boundary. Holding contradictions within ourselves can drive us crazy or finally sane to recognize the boundary we thought so strong was but another passing moment.

What boundary are you exploring these days and how does your accumulated faith help you stay there long enough to learn rather than simply react?

= = = = = = =

learning about our sexuality
from the birds and bees
which are not sexual together
reveals an unhelpful boundary
of technique and function
rather than conjoined conversation
leading to deepening and widening
community of com-passion

in today's lexicon we find ourselves
straddling boundaries
as we explore and define
trans-sexual, intrasexual, intersexual
and so much more

for some this is terror producing
for some freedom
so it is with lived boundaries

other boundaries of behavior
reveal other limitations
of what it is to be a
human creation
bounded differently
than mountains and goats

rejoice in boundaries
that make naming possible
and overcoming of them a joy

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

First Sunday after Christmas - C1

Year C

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

It is so easy to miss important people - parents miss children, kings miss wisdom, priests miss women.

How would you like to be repaid for someone else's gift? Those who have the power to get away with this, love it. You work - I'll take the profit!

And if you were on the other end of the game? I'll work - you take the profit. How about then?

After announcements of good-will to all we find we are back in a patriarchal setting where one benefits from another's passion and insight. Elkanah is repaid by what Hannah bore - gifts and children. And Hannah's payment is the pleasure of the bearing?

In this scheme we can justify Rachel's weeping as Herod's right. We need to ask what needs to change that we can look to a day announced, but not yet here, when elaborate justification gives way to simple justice and protection for growth.

= = = = = = =

linen ephod
swaddling clothes
a little robe

wrap round
little samuel
little jesus
little me

larval stages
priest to prophet
prophet to
the usual suspects
of me and you
and you and I
as we continue
to grow in
wisdom and stature
a favorable journey

Monday, December 25, 2006

First Sunday after Christmas - B

Year B

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 148
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:22-40

"For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations." [Isaiah 61:11] An echo of this can be found with Malvina Reynolds' God bless the grass (sung) (lyrics).

Another echo is in Luke's recording of Simeon's experience, "It has been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's grass growing in the present garden (otherwise translated as the Lord's Messiah).

Messiah often gets narrowed down to one example. A particular one is claimed as true because of the results, as many are named along the way and were found to disappoint. Sometimes, though it is helpful to think of a messianic imperative, that will simply bring to fruition all the potential that has lain fallow.

Taking both these later echoes into account, we might read the vindication/righteousness/justice of Jerusalem to be her finally living up to her name without being distracted by who is occupying her now or promises of sitting at the head of the table of nations.

In the fullness of time we rather see all peoples and all rulers, men and women, old and young - together!

When the fullness of time came G*D seeded the world with grass - a babe and a woman to break through the cement of law to adopt all into a new togetherness.

= = = = = = =

god bless
cow fodder
fish food
dropping nutrients
for more

blessing that echoes
through generations
through spacious time
through one life
through all life
through to new blessing

god bless
grass messiahs
wriggly messiahs
dopey messiahs
silent messiahs
lamed-waw messiahs
sacred-cow messiahs
denied messiahs

god bless
one messiah
all messiahs

Sunday, December 24, 2006

First Sunday after Christmas - A

Year A

Isaiah 63:7-9
Psalm 148
Hebrews 2:10-18
Matthew 2:13-23

There is an image still being held - we will not deal falsely. In the meantime we cause distress and need healing.

Are you holding an image of the one who sanctifies being so yoked with the one who is sanctified that they have all things in common, that they are able to take turns sanctifiying until who knows where sanctification first began or will ever end?

Dealing falsely is shown in what we search for and how we respond to false dealing. Herod searched for destruction; Rachel for restitution. Neither found consolation, healing, safety, salvation, sanctifying. Herod's destruction finds him dead. Rachel's weeping finds her isolated.

Joseph's avoidance of death for Jesus as a babe doesn't avoid death on a cross by Herod's successors. False dealing lives on and on, generation and reign to generation and reign. Eventually the serpent's wisdom turns into an innocent dove and at that point vulnerability to false dealing cannot be avoided or further delayed. Ramah still weeps over how our spirits continue to be killed by one another.

And yet, to see one another as those who "will not deal falsely" is background to every sanctifying event, to every experience beyond fear of death. Those who find themselves with this vision refuse to out-Herod Herod or to out-weep Rachel. As a brother or sisters with sisters and brothers we work to transform the false within ourselves and allow the result to echo, "Peace on Earth . . . ."

= = = = = = =

Rachel wept as thought there was no tomorrow
wept and wept throughout Ramah
wept and wept beyond Ramah
wept and wept for all children
wept and wept for legal and illegal violence
wept and wept through all generations
wept and wept without consolation

finally there is no consolation
no healing, no saving
only weeping

only weeping come sweeping o'er the plain

and then the seeds that were sown in weeping
watered by the tears that ne'er cease to flow
begin to sprout

still no consolation for past distress
still weeping and weeping

no consolation
only clear-eyed, weeping-eyed vision
children will not deal falsely
wept water will part to free
slavery by fear of death

come unconsoled Rachel
come unconsoled weepers of Ramah
come unconsoled friends today
be unconsoled and come

do not deal falsely with hope
weep and hope
do not deal falsely with faith
weep and believe
do not deal falsely with love
weep and love
do not deal falsely with false dealing
weep unconsoled and live

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Eve/Day (Proper 3)

Years A, B, C

Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)
John 1:1-14

Sing! Rejoice!

G*D has done marvelous things
G*D is expressing steadfast love and faithfulness
G*D will act with righteousness and equity

These three can be present simultaneously and yet be experienced sequentially. These can mark stages of faith in G*D, as well as in ourselves. It is not contradictory or heresy to either conflate or sequence these qualities.

For this day we conflate. We see peace running over the mountains, already accomplished. We see the feet of peace in the footprints of prophets - imprints of G*D's very being. This word of peace (grace and truth) yet stands against every attempt at diminishment.

We see the persistence of light, of memory of good creation, of anticipation of transformation of packets of light into waves of light and from that energy to the matter of our lives. We see the dynamism of the present between "in the beginning" and "they all wear out" as selection and being selected work on each other.

We see the long-ago speaking of G*D shine above and in darkened streets of potential. Creation is seen in re-creation.

A child is born! Every child born, bears G*D's imprint. How various is G*D! How versatile is G*D! Of course a manger holds G*D. Of course both shepherd and magi can see G*D in a manger. Of course you are an imprint of G*D. Of course we can see G*D in each other.

= = = = = = =

in the beginning was a word
today word becomes flesh
tomorrow flesh becomes a new beginning

every word, flesh, beginning
is a celebration and a mourning
as each opens new worlds
and closes others

our call from long ago
and unto eons
through birthing and birthing
is to ascend
to enflesh word
to begin with flesh
to speak a new beginning
is to move on
past past words
past current flesh passing away
past even a new beginning
is to be between
a lens for ancestors and descendants
to better see one another
and be at peace

Fourth Sunday of Advent - C4

Year C
Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

"Blessed are you among people, and blessed is the fruit of your life." This is indeed an extended translation of "Namaste". Greetings between people at this level bring forth lives leaping from within - Mexican jumping beings, if you will. This greeting that sees G*D within the other is a creative word that brings forth more and more. One word leads to another, story upon story, until we marvel at how far we have come because we weren't paying attention to the results of our interaction, simply the interaction itself.

In some way we become the fulfillment of the greetings we have received and given. This is a sacred foundation that can set things right.

On this last moment of Advent we are prepared to greet another and the birthing that comes from such a meeting. An important part of our Advent journey has been to say goodbye to injustice and unrighteousness that we might move ahead with a blessing not held back by them.

= = = = = = =

magnified my soul is . . .

remembering Isaac escaped from sacrifice
cowering behind the altar
reflecting on abraham's fearful faith
finally stammering
magnified my soul is . . .

remembering mary at the cross
immobilized in hope and fear
reflecting on birth and death of love
finally stating
magnified my soul is . . .

remembering every trial come through
still caught in some unfinished
reflecting on my little jokes and G*D's big one
finally praying
magnified my soul is . . .

= = = = = = =

Prayer inspired by material from Provoking the Gospel of Luke: A Storyteller's Commentary, Year C by Richard W. Swanson (this series is evocative and recommended).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Eve/Day (Proper 2)

Years A, B, C

Isaiah 62:6-12
Psalm 97
Titus 3:4-7
Luke 2:(1-7) 8-20

You! Remind G*D!
You! Give G*D no rest!
You! Prepare for a place of peace to be established!
You! Build up! Build up!
You! Build righteousness!
You! Build justice!
You! You know . . . go ahead!

G*D, reminded of G*D's own intention, awakens to a response of goodness and loving kindness in the face of every stimuli clamoring for judgment and punishment. G*D's salvation is not based on our behavior, but G*D's mercy.

So shepherds in the fields abiding, far from respectability, honor, wealth, or power have this mercy offered - a light, a song, a sign, a witness. Wise shepherds that they be, they look and listen and come and go.

This is a valuable pattern, yet. This is a model of being a Christ-bearer - a Christopher Christmas, if you will. It is so valuable that Jesus models himself after shepherds. More than the Magi, the shepherds call Jesus to his calling.

= = = = = = =

what we treasure most
we shine with pondering
turning it this way
and that

through this pondering
a treasure outgrows our grasp
loosing it here
and there

humble words stir up
remembrances of holy experience come
root words ground
expectations of holy boldness to come

fearless news
joyful people

let's go, shepherds, peace is promised
let's ponder, with Mary, peace
let's return, shepherds, with a song of peace on earth
let's treasure, with Mary, the favoring of peace for all

Fourth Sunday of Advent - C3

Year C
Hebrews 10:5-10

"Sacrifices and offerings G*D does not desire, but a body has been given to me". "Sacrifice" and "body" are further contrasted with "law" and "will/desire" and a forgone conclusion that the former, in each instance must back off for the latter to come to fruition.

To have a body is to hold a promise of tomorrow, regardless of what the past has been.

At verse 10 things get turned around and it turns out G*D's will/desire is for the legal sacrifice of Jesus' body. Somehow to not have a body that was given cleans up a past which, each moment, is being added to by junk in the present.

If one follows the journey of Sisyphus, happiness with his eternally repetitive task can be achieved, but it begins to move some theorized once-for-all-ness of one sacrifice for being good for every subsequent need into question - G*D doesn't desire sacrifice and yet finally comes to sacrifice of "self".

In the schizophrenia of Advent we rejoice over bodies of babies given for facing toward tomorrow. We also recognize a body perpetually rolling away a rock, facing back at us, to judge what has been.

Generally we end up on one side or the other of the unspoken divide between the end of verse 9 and the beginning of verse 10. Often it is the space between our utterances that is the real crux of the matter. What happened in that mysterious moment between verses?

Advent may be the honoring of this space by waiting for it to turn round again.

= = = = = = =

good earth-birthed adam
male and female adam
named good
called blessed
called to name
coming one

good angel-sung jesus
shepherd and magi jesus
named freedom
called sheep and goat
called twelve and more
coming two

good sickle-bearing lamb
judge and jury lamb
named bright morning star
called bride and groom
called new jerusalem
coming three

good body-entrusted friend
saint and sinner friend
named tomorrow
called from past
called from present
coming four

and more

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Eve/Day (Proper 1)

Years A, B, C

Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

Peace is established with justice (beyond law) and righteousness (beyond hospitality). Zeal beyond our usual limits of engagement leads to good deeds beyond economic gain (no, not just that of monetary gain, but any transaction beyond an expected benefit).

When we have seen the truly unforgivable forgiven we burst forth with more and more forgiveness for smaller and smaller infractions, for our own infractions as well as those of others, until premeditated mercy becomes our standard.

When we have seen humble swaddling clothes enrobing small holiness, we are glorified and begin to see wholeness in larger universals as well as particulars. Our living praise echoes, "All will be well, all manner of things will be well - and we will begin that wellness where we are."

Peace with justice and righteousness is worth treasuring.

= = = = = =

what inner child
yet burns bloody clothes
what standing tree
yet sings for joy
what shining star
yet calms fears

what newborn
is not born in blood
what awen
is not threatened by clear cutting
what polaris
is not left behind as our axis torques

let a decree go out -
peace is birthed
in justice for all
and righteousness bright

Fourth Sunday of Advent - C2

Year C
Luke 1:46b-55
Psalm 80:1-7

Merciful restoration in the face of all that has gone wrong is a dream worth chasing. Ahaz is not the only one who won't ask for either mercy of restoration. The proud of thought, the enthroned powerful, the simply rich, and more rely on their wealth, strength, and entitlement. And, in one way or another, that includes me. And you?

Even our prayers, ever so humble they may be and well-crafted to our need, are embued with unacknowledged and denied anger. Crocodile tears of false sorrow cleanse not even shallow scrapes, much less deep wounds. Our fears lead us to scorning the least source of hope, words and actions from good samaritans or regular, run-of-the-mill aliens.

Merciful restoration is measured the same way every good is, by strength beyond our strength to continue, a lifting of darkness by small lights of kindness, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, releasing the imprisoned, taking in the exiled, etc.

Merciful restoration is not yet present. We wait. We yearn, We walk toward.

= = = = = = =

magnificent soul
rejoicing spirit

ancestral promises
echo within

beauty buds
generosity blossoms

and then
anger surfaces

petty prayers
tears aplenty

slightest mars
entirely disfigure

where soul
when spirit

neighbors scorn
enemies triumph

promises emptied
faces collapse
where mercy
when restoration

lowly favors
enthroned shepherds

enough magnificence
restore mercy

merciful restoration
obsession enough

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fourth Sunday of Advent - C1

Year C
Micah 5:2-5a

Without asking for it or even dreaming about it, a currently insignificant spot is incorporated into an integral part of a new story. A king's birthplace will become an anti-king's birthplace.

Where a king brings order and pacification, an anti-king brings peace and energy. Both bring forth "security" after their own kind. Security has again raised its head as an eternal quest object only to be obtained by leaving it behind.

As we finish off another time of waiting for a reincarnation of the past or a harbinger of the future we still look for security in the dead and gone or the not yet conceived and horizonless. We re-fight a last war and prepare against a previous attack, obsessing our remembrances and compulsively narrowing down future options. We yearn for sentimental warmth of mangers past and for cold judgment coming on a storm cloud.

If a little town of Bethlehem can birth kings and anti-kings, there is no security as usual. We've been looking for security in all the wrong places. Micah asks us to imagine government and religion not being about order and indestructibility, but about justice coming forth based on having experienced injustice in exile and under our own leaders. The peace of Bethlehem is a renewal of justice.

= = = = = = =

o little house of bread
how easily distracted
by fancier fare
"... an undigested bit of beef,
a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese,
a fragment of underdone potato"

dream of ghostly transformation
through past mistrust
current misery
future emptiness
prayerfully concluded
"God bless us, everyone!"

dream deep
house of bread
of but a little wine and
a creation beginning song
"Peace on earth, goodwill to all"

dream of a feast of love
with thou and thou and thou
each feeding each
in pastures of plenty
'til exiled justice
is welcomed home

Monday, December 18, 2006

Fourth Sunday of Advent - B

Year B
2 Sam. 7:1-11, 16
Luke 1:47-55
Ps. 89:1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

Perplexity can be left alone or challenged. Our confusion points come from inside and out. David and a Temple raises questions from a prophet. Mary and a pregnant question rise to challenge an angel.

David's going ahead meets reversal and he holds back. Mary's holding back meets reversal and she goes ahead. Both are promised good fruit - descendants for ever and for good.

In the midst of a king's word being his bond and a young girl's fear raising deep questions we find prophets and angels - catalysts for reversal and renewal. In the midst of a world not knowing how to back off from misused power and individual fears arrayed against creative peace, we are still in need of prophets and angels.

Priests would urge us to build a bigger box in which to praise and communal mores would belittle the slightest change in acceptable perspective or behavior. Prophets and angels are where the breaks in our power and fear can welcome an outsider (Gentile Alien) without first shunning or reconstructing them.

What will it take for us to listen to the questions, inside and out? Can we hear the Nathan's currently speaking? Can we listen to a Child within?

What will it take for us to speak truth to power and hope to fear?

= = = = = = =

my spirit rejoices
I have been blessed enough
to back down from my word
to forge a new word

blessed enough
mercied enough
steadfastly loved enough

a mysterious revelation
a questing proclamation
release blessing enough
to rejoice my spirit

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fourth Sunday of Advent - A

Year A
Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

Ready of not, here I come! So ensues another game of hide-and-seek.

Ahaz is an excellent hider. He will be diligent in finding the very best hiding place and is willing to stay there for a very long time. No matter how close a Seeker comes to finding him he will not breathe or move. (Note: This is a different category of Seeker than recent church growth folks market to.)

Trying to bargain with Ahaz is a lost cause. He doesn't respond. Even "Olly-Olly-Oxen-Free" doesn't catch his ear. If it did he would have to acknowledge something larger than his own expertise. Most folks, by the time of their teen stage know how to refuse evil and choose the good, how to not hide but be in community. But not the tribe of Ahaz - real HE-men (Hiders Extraordinaire).

So something larger is needed to restore us to our selves, something larger than ritual, incantation, creed. Something larger is needed for "resurrection" and "grace" and "revelation" (key words in the last three pericopes).

What can't be chosen by Hiders is especially offered by Seekers - "withness". After calling our freedom and not having it responded to, Seekers continue seeking for the destruction or loss of any is not a part of the game for them. They are willing to be made fools of, to be ineffective Seekers, to lose the game if that will bring a return of community.

Though this quality of intentional seeking can have a dysfunctional aspect to it, intentional, strings-free, and creation-beginning Immanuel-offering is yet preferable to leaving folks in the dark of their hidey-hole.

= = = = = = =

desperately seeking a reset button

tears as bread, tears as drink
restoration yearned for
reset needed

unknown saints, unknown beloved
resurrection ungracefully limited
reset needed

deeds of power without response
revelation missed again
reset needed

willingly seeking
intentionally seeking
persistenly seeking
seeking with good cheer
seeking with hopeful heart
seeking with open hand
seeking with a gift
"with" - reset found

Friday, December 15, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent - C4

Year C
Luke 3:7-18

A brood of vipers has a nasty ring to it. However, what is at stake here are issues of growth, not strength of venom.

Religious traditions are consistently attempting to mold people into their shape and size ("their" here is the mold the tradition has become, not the "mold" of what the people might yet become). Religious reformers are usually quite clear about the changes people need to make to measure up to their standards. Therefore they are constantly calling for skin changes and, it turns out, no state of being is quite good enough.

Having seen that there are consequences for actions, an easy response is to change religions, skins, to molt.

John doesn't spend a moment on skin changes - that we are to wait for the right appearance, more room for accumulation of resources, or other criteria before paying attention to justice issues. Who warned the crowd to come out to John and get changed? John ultimately doesn't care, he dives right into what is available in the stage of life currently available - "bear fruits".

Well, asks the crowd, if we are not here to get an acceptable molt or maintenance oil change, "What then should we do?"

Simple kindness and everyday justice, is John's response. He uses economic justice examples, but it boils down to human values we were created with, that are available to be expressed in our current life. Economic justice is a worthy fruit.

= = = = = = =

we came with high expectation
we just need to bow before Procrustes
we will become the acceptable size
we will find standards
we will solve today by focusing on tomorrow

John dashes the expectation

we are changing to a new high expectation
we just need to bow before John
we will have needed power
we fill find ease
we will solve today by focusing on John

John dashes the expectation

we are left waiting without expectation
we just need to be kind and just
we will be open to a change of heart
we will find assurance
we will solve today by focusing on today

John affirms this message of good news for the poor

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent - C3

Year C
Philippians 4:4-7

Gentleness is a quality I've worked toward for a long time. Many years ago I had an email signature before there was email. It goes like this.

take care
dream strong
smile gentle
and so go well

Now it is framed and hangs by the door in a graphic art form - a gift from a friend. I do sometimes wonder whether it ought to be said again and again. At other times it is clear that it isn't to be spoken again until it has been realized.

From various translations we hear interpretations of gentleness that may parallel this signature:

moderation (KJV)
be on their side (Message)
forbearance (YLT)
reasonableness (ESV)

Gentleness is here seen as an antidote to fear or worry. It is paralleled with prayer as a process of transformation and renewal. Where worry and fear tend to freeze us into repetition of behavior or erratic response flailing around for some escape, gentleness offers an active and intentional way toward a mystery of peace through a gift of being able to fruitfully wait and to see ourselves and the world around us in a larger context allowing us time and space to moderate our fear by being on the side of that which scares us at least enough to forbear our knee-jerk violent responses and find a reasonable path forward.

No Fear is not just a macho response to every situation, exempting one from the worries of life so central to our lives or a requiring all the world to circle one small center of the universe. It is a proactive decision to not have innocent doves and wise serpents be equal, but 60/40 in favor of doves. It is gentleness revealed by being on another's side before they are.

Gentleness is not passivity but spiritual judo to be balanced and willing to be rebalanced as contexts change, to be interior to the fear of another for the purpose of transformation of their sense of balance. If we can get away from a preoccupation limiting prayer to words, this dance with our worries or fears may offer a larger prayer experience and peaceful/joyful responses.

= = = = = = =

be gentle with your neighbor
as you are gentle with yourself
in this Law is found beyond law
prophets beyond profits

let this gentleness be made known
as we urge one another to namaste
a Holy One within them
that is kin to our own

intentional naiveté blesses violence
not by outlawing it
but revealing
an unacknowledged option

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent - C2

Year C
Isaiah 12:2-6

I'm not a Hebrew scholar so anything you see me do with it ought to first be discounted and then questioned and questioned again. With that disclaimer I note the word "salvation" and an indication that its root can be read as either causative (to save) or passive (be saved). I am stimulated by the friction between two forms, energized by seeing more elemental particles escaping from a collision of words as well as atoms.

Presumably both forms point the action of salvation from G*D (causative) to us (passive). Kazantzakis' Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises and Bernstein's Kaddish: Symphony No. 3 turn that around.

Does a reversal of salvation verbiage bother or "energate"? Can Christmas or a "Second Coming" (as if this were not an every moment experience/possibility) be seen anew as "G*D with US and that withness passing the gift of salvation back and forth?

If I were to write a second time on this passage I might take the translators of the New Revised Standard Version to task for leaving the word "song" out of verse 2. Most other folks envision G*D as "strength and song" while the NRSV has it "strength and might". This is a case where parallelism is helped by contrast rather than repetition.

If I were to write a third time I would wonder about verse 1 and its absence here. It is the compassion, the comfort, that has gone before that sets up the rest of the joy. A case could be made for compassion-less joy being no joy at all. Without compassion, joy is only a lovely word covering forced jollity.

= = = = = = =

compassion or comfort
is a prior word

so often left out

of an appreciation or analysis
of our current situation

compassion or comfort
leads the way

away from

a one-way dogmatization
of many-faced salvation

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent - C1

Year C
Zephaniah 3:14-20

Once and future kings are intriguing mythical creatures.

15b - The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

16 - On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear. O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.

What day is "that day" if it is not "that day" already?

You shall fear disaster no more! or it shall be "said", do not fear. These suggest two different experiences of renewal or resurrection from fear unless we are back to a new creation being "said" into existence. Either way there is an external pull or push which leads us to a different response than our usual one of knee-jerk fear, of fight or flight. That would make us different creatures.

This passage is very G*D active. Can you imagine being exulted over with loud singing? I must admit that brings images of being conquered or a coercive courting. If G*D the cost of having disaster removed from us would be our free-will, how many would take it? (Look at that in terms of the popularity and power of "security" measures.)

Learning a "no fear" response to disaster is one thing and to have disasters removed from our response-ability is quite another.

If it is all the same, I'll focus on G*D being in our midst rather than our being in G*D's midst. This sense of journeying together through high times and low is more attractive than being protected beyond my participation.

= = = = = = =

sing, sing sing
sing imprisoned ones
prisons become museums

sing o release me
sing my darling warrior
destroy another world

sing we are a pair
sing sender of clowns
already you're here

sing over rainbows
sing dreamers of home
lift your hands

Monday, December 11, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent - B

Year B
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
Luke 1:47-55
I Thess. 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Gaudete Sunday is a moment of joy while waiting. It plays the same role in Advent as Sunday's do in Lent - a reminder of resurrection. In these lections that joy is connected with justice, renewal, and a voice from the wilderness, calling forth renewal through justice.

Given the devastation of many generations it takes a call from an unexpected source to get through to us regarding the source and location of renewal. These forgotten, avoided, and fearful waste places of life lie across and away from our usual religious Jordan boundaries.

A way in which this shows up is found in Psalm 126.

We can look back:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.

In our present:
The joy of justice revealed comes to the fore, the straight-jacket of the past with all its apparent fatalism has changed streams in ways we could not predict. We rejoice at having come thus far.

In our present:
The recognition that justice has not yet been completed raises its reality. We yet stand in need of not getting trapped in the fatalism that today will be extended into the future, ad infinitum. We rejoice in anticipation of going further.

We can look ahead:
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home
with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.

Or, as Paul puts it:
Rejoice always,
pray (be renewed) without ceasing,
give (renewed) thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus
for you.

= = = = = = =

where is there not trouble . . .
Darfur, Iraq, Figi . . .
poverty increasing, hunger growing . . .
abusive homes in our community . . .
divided hearts within ourselves . . .
trouble enough for any day,
particularly one after Human Rights Day?

where is there energy to renew
broken dreams, dashed hopes
if not in laughing justice
shouting for joy

revived with a flood of justice
we pass this gift forward
shedding light abroad
testing a wasteland voice

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent - A

Year A
Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 146:5-10
Luke 1:47-55
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

Be patient, therefore, "bewombed".... This is variously translated as brothers, beloved, friends, etc., but the awkward neologism is more accurate and evocative.

Patience is possible when we look at our common connections that puts the present in larger perspective. Patience is difficult in the face of a temptation to grumble, not a lot, just a little mumble that will, inexorably, eventually grow to judgment and division. To see a common source life, rather than simply my individual life, brings a gift of humility needed for patience.

When having waited for seemingly too long, it is difficult not to question a soft little question, "Are you the one...?" It is likewise difficult not to spin a response, even one based on experience of sight and sound. For the moment, though, suppose you were called on to respond to a question (presume it is lovingly asked) "Is the church the one...?" Where would you point to ground your response? If you can point at all, would it be toward a common start of creation, particular instances of resurrection, or a tentative sign of hoped for things to come?

Put another way, what are we willing to go to any length or locale to find? Might it be connected with the meaning found in a prophetic tradition of suffering (repentance and renewal) and patience (forgiveness and hope)?

With the prophets we find the terror of G*D - salvation. This terror has to do with the consequences of life lived out of blindness coming home to roost as well as a necessity to admit to the need to change direction. Who in their right mind would look forward to honest consequences or one more change?

In craving a joyful moment in a time of waiting, we can be satisfied by recognizing an antidote to the terror of suffering is a gift of patience.

= = = = = = =

your patience while I am harried
adds to my suffering

I see desert all about
you find cool, clear water
thirsty for any relief in a wilderness
I bemoan your pilgrim's way
are you simply you or mirage?

a messenger go-between would be nice
to test everlasting joy
joy within and beyond
suffering patience

Friday, December 08, 2006

Second Sunday of Advent - C4

Year C
Luke 3:1-6

Last week the parentheses of life were justice and righteousness. This week they have morphed into repentance and forgiveness.

Whichever way your language preference goes, the communal or the personal, we are reminded to ground them both in the very specific realities of this moment in time.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea and Herod was ruler of Galilee and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas . . .

In the sixth year of the reign of President W. ... the high priesthood of James Dobson and Joel Osteen ..., etc. (you fill in the rest) there is still a need for the proclaiming of repentance/justice and forgiveness/righteousness.

There are plenty of crooked paths than still need straightening (repentance). Too many poor valleys still need filling (forgiveness) and accumulated mountains needing lowering (repentance). Crooks with guns and fountain pens still need to go straight (forgiveness) while rough violence calls for soothing smoothing (repentance). All life is intended to find wholeness (forgiveness).

Even closer to home - In the sixty fourth year of this center of the universe, etc. wrestling with matters of repentance and forgiveness are still in order. I'm still working toward these lines from Yeats' A Dialogue of Self and Soul:

"I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest."

And you?

= = = = = = =

a region around the Jordan needs a proclamation
pro-repentance means more than being a pro at it
pro-forgiveness means more than leaning in that direction
would we would learn preemptive repentance
breaking the cycle
would we would practice preemptive forgiveness
healing the cycle
what blessing there yet awaits
laugh, sing
we can yet learn
we can yet practice

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Second Sunday of Advent - C3

Year C
Philippians 1:3-11

Here is a look at verses 6 and 9-11:

6- I am confident of this,
9- And this is my prayer

6- that the one who began a good work in you
9- that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight

6- will bring it to completion
10a- to help you determine what is best,
11a- having produced the harvest of righteousness

6 by the day of Jesus Christ.
10b- so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,
11b- that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Now we can proceed to play with the interrelationship between confidence and prayer. Prayer here is not supplication, but an envisioning or imagining of realized behavior.

What is to be realized is the connection between a generalized good work and the particulars of an insightful love (different than a feeling love). This application of knowledge keeps us from idealism and dogmatism.

When we connect love and insight we are able to do more than have a resolution to do gooder, we are able to not only determine, but complete or harvest the fruit of said resolution.

Those who connect Jesus Christ with a revelation of G*D will affirm this pattern will be done "by" tomorrow, is being done "in" what we know to be today, and has already been done or "come through" to now.

So, confident ones, pray that love be connected with knowledge and insight. This is an energy needful in our lives and the lives of many.

= = = = = = =

It is a joyful and right thing
always and everywhere
to hold love mutually
I pray for you knowing you pray for me
I am confident for you knowing you are confident for me
in self's imprisonment, in G*D's freedom
in G*D's employment, in self's abandon
together, here and there,
love is harvested

Second Sunday of Advent - C2

Year C
Luke 1:68-79

Mercy is one of Creation's intentions.

As such it has been reflected from the beginning in promise after promise. This mercy shows up in covenant after covenant. A part of the need of this repetition comes from our forgetting to remember a promise for very long. As we look back we see covenants of mercy continually cropping up in our presence. We may not have recognized them at the time, but now they become clear.

Likewise tender mercy is on its way from farther away than eye can see, heart hope. It is not just for us as an individual, for mercy is as social or communal as any basic of life. Tender mercy is not simply a comfort but an equipment of light to find faint ways of peace beyond our experience of death in the midst of life or expectation that anything will really change.

You, child of G*D, are called to be a prophet who preemptively shines forgiveness into the graves of lives. This forgiving light shines beyond our accepted limits to reconnect us to past and future, to friend and foe, to G*D and Neighbor, to self and non-self. Rejoice in your high calling by boldly receiving mercy and extravagantly and expansively giving it away.

= = = = = = =

a bigger bang than a big bang
precedes expansive energy
no where there is created stuff
or even non-stuff
has mercy not been there already

mercy lays a groundwork
for foregrounds and backgrounds
for groundhogs and ground chuck
we are grounded in mercy
Allah the Merciful rings true

may G*D's mercy continue
greater than judgment
that the leading edge of creation
bloom and grow

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Second Sunday of Advent - C1

Year C
Malachi 3:1-4
or Baruch 5:1-9

The Malachi passage brings to mind the old story of Pinocchio who has gotten trapped in his own lies and desires and pranks.

A Blue Fairy or Fairy with the Azure hair (see original story) brings to mind a messenger (when did you last image Baptizer John as a fairy?) who helps the story along.

Jiminy Cricket is a conscience before whom we eventually cannot stand, but must give way. Who can endure the day of his coming?

Can a refiner's fire be matched with a water image? If so Monstro the Whale or the Terrible Shark (see original) might be the place where we stop lying to ourselves and others.

Judah, Jerusalem and Gepetto become blessed, as the story records, "When bad boys become good and kind, they have the power of making their homes gay and new with happiness."

Baruch may be more Cinderella-ish as garments of sorrow and affliction are removed and splendorous robes are put on.

What fairy tale do we need to remember today to help us make sense of the world around us and within - that we might hope? As G.K. Chesterton said, "Fairy tales are more than true - not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." The good news of transformation from sorrow through a refiner's fire to joy, is good news to be spread abroad.

= = = = = = =

Righteous Peace begins our name
even with despair, betrayal, exile
in the midst of civil war, genocide, Gaia rape
we hear our name called and remember
Righteous Peace is who we are to grow to be

Godly Glory completes our name
in the midst of lies, pranks, hammer throwing
even with entitlements, covetousness, sorrow
we remember to listen for our name
Godly Glory is our chief end

no Righteous Peace, no Godly Glory
only Righteous Peace, no Godly Glory
no Godly Glory, no Righteous Peace
only Godly Glory, no Righteous Peace
both and both
Om shanti, shanti, shanti

Monday, December 04, 2006

Second Sunday of Advent - B

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

Cry out!
What shall I cry?
Here is G*D
. . . a shepherd.

What a let down.

Still want to hear what this shepherd G*D has to say? It won't be doctrinal, but will place us smack-dab in the middle of the realities of life.

Enjoy being between:
salvation and fear
faithfulness and righteousness
waiting for and hastening
waiting for new heavens and earth and striving for peace
time not being slow but patient

Of such matters do shepherds have the time and space to contemplate what it means to both have a penalty paid and to yet be preparing a new creation in a wilderness all too present.

Non-shepherds keep trying to resolve these matters and lose the spark of life they set off when they come in contact with one another.

This is not as high flown as Year A, not as packed. Slow enough to appreciate waiting for the pieces to come together.

= = = = = = =

Lift up your voice - with strength
We will be fed, gathered, carried, gentled.

Aaaaaaa! Baaaaaa! Baaaaaa! Aaaaaaa!
What a rhyme scheme - Abba

Pieces -
- Peace is

Second Sunday of Advent - A

Year A
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

While waiting between times, atween coming 1 and coming 2 (or coming sometime ago and coming some time to come) or any two moments in time, we are constantly faced with issues of righteous wolves and faithful lambs and what they mean to one another. Again and again the righteous question of prosperous justice arises from the lamb. Or is it just(ice) a question of prosperous righteousness, wolfwise? Each constantly calling the other to account and into question.

While the prayers of David may be ended, ours are not. We still appeal to a G*D of hope we hope is able to fill us with all joy and peace. Unfortunately the text adds "in believing" and all of a sudden we find joy and peace turned on their ears into teaching to the test of right answers defining what we shall see and hear; what we might divine, what we must filter.

While doing cost benefit ratios on every part of life we eventually must face water or fire, the biblical equivalent of a rock and a hard place. Water for the worthy fruit of repentance, fire for the fruit of worthy forgiveness.

We wait and waver between water and fire. We are always to blame they are always forgiven. We teach the extremes of life that both end up making everyone less than they are and might yet be.

Are we ready by dint of harmony set loose by steadfastness and encouragement to experience in any moment the steam power of water meeting fire needed for hope? If not, a shoot from the stump has not yet come. If so, a shoot is already a tree. Come play under a spreading chestnut tree where at a flaming forge our "toiling - rejoicing - sorrowing" is shaped into joy and peace.

= = = = = = =

we are so easily caught casting an eye about
for wolf that will devour
for lamb to swallow in a gulp
for water to engulf
for fire to consume
seeing only one horizon at a time

we listen repeatedly to echoing cares
hungry wolves and lost lambs - bleating
enfolded lambs and shunned wolves - howling
water fired - hiss
fire watered - whimper
hearing every sleepless nuance

come, root of jesse,
welcome us welcoming others
raise a standard of mercy -
on straying eye and roving ear
on cycles of poor and oppressor
- a once and future mercy

Friday, December 01, 2006

First Sunday of Advent - C4

Year C
Luke 21:25-36

Justice and Righteousness show up in all manner of guises. Here we are faced with an image of Jesus on a cloud with Power and Glory [a reference to Moses and Elijah from Mt. Transfiguration?]. Another way to speak of this would be one who appeared with energy to do something about which one has a perspective. Even though the Greek has these both to be feminine nouns, we might yet translate them as Justice and Righteousness.

One approach to this cloud scene is that of a remote judge and executioner come to impose a final solution upon sinners and the afflicted. Another is to envision a new-born, a re-born, that empowers and clarifies creativity and choices. We can stop moping around, feeling helpless, and stand and look about us with a clear eye and energy to pick a direction that has hope to make earth as though heaven had arrived. Imagine again - a community gathered around a birth rather than an individual enrobed.

It is with the possibilities of energetic renewal that offers again strength to out-wait the dissipation and despair trap of being too fearful to stand and look and choose. The image we attend to makes all the difference.

This is imaged with foreground and background interaction with a lowly fig leaf and the mysterious majesty of a turning season. To link the parable in we see Creative Power of Justice and Righteousness coming on a fig leaf. When this is glimpsed, the summer of our lives leads us to come away from the ice of winter and the flood of spring to a summer where we raise our heads to grow anew.

The cloud image shifts from harvest judgment to profligate abundance twice to a hundred times more than we began with. It turns out the rider(s) of the cloud arrives with fertilizer, not a scythe. A question now is how much justice (acts of mercy) and righteousness (acts of piety) our roots will gather for our health, how high we will raise our head, how tasty and nutritious we will become.

What are the words of life if not Justice and Righteousness, Steadfast Love and Faithfulness, Blamelessness and Holiness, Power and Glory, Peace and Security, Fig Leaf and Summer.

= = = = = = =

In a fig leaf is summer seen
A scene of life reveals its context
divine fertilizer abundant
roots deep and wide
clear eyes and choices wise
In growth eternity glimpsed

and so we yearn or pray -
deep clarity of justice
wide wisdom of righteousness
awaited, revealed, enacted