Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – C2

Years C
Psalm 138

There is here a formula for increasing our strength of soul. It could be a best seller because the times are right for a wonderful self-help resource. Who doesn't want their soul strengthened? There is a huge market available.

Unfortunately it turns out that the cost of imaging G*D is high. It comes with an increased regard for the lowly and a willingness to engage in deliverance of the troubled. To do this an increased consciousness of the haughty and wrathful needs to be cultivated so they can't hide behind fancy language, accumulated resources, and easily applied power.

Soul strengthening implies a steadfastness of not only purpose, but application. To take one's eye off the prize of regard for and engagement with every level of the poor leaves one open to cooption by the haughty and wrathful. If we are not diligent in our awareness and implementation we become part of the problem and our soul shrinks.

What seemed like a wonderful offering - soul strengthening - turns out to be as difficult as anything. This is a task that cries out for not just a personal resolve, but communal support. It takes a village to strengthen a soul.

= = = = = = =

let us now be thankful
for humble people
who are willing to be
soul strengthened

they will find their
time eaten
resources robbed
hopes erased
faith compromised
troubled aplenty

these are not techniques
to bring a soul kiss
from a higher power
but a temptation of the lord

they have found
needy beyond imagination
poor unto the generations
abused just because
war-torn millions
abandoned children

for all of this and more
they cannot sleep
until souls are joined
and grow once more

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – C1

Years C
Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)

Guilt is very powerful. Whether it is appropriate or inappropriate guilt, it has a controlling presence in our lives. We find ourselves reduced when it is felt and monstrous when it is absent. In some sense, guilt is something we can't live with or without.

Even when we have previously experienced guilt departing from us and the freedom that opens, we usually forget that sequence and hang on to the next guilt as long as ever we can. A great benefit of a congregation is the reminder system available to help us remember that it is more possible than we thought to be relieved of guilt - just in time to be burdened by a particular calling.

The Natural Church Development folks talk about gift-based ministries (pdf). One of the blockages to this is personal and congregational guilt (note: guilt operates on every level in which we do - ideational, national, personal, theological, congregational, etc.).

It makes a huge difference when guilt is taken away or cast away (directionality here probably doesn't make any difference, though it would be very important to some to have it fit their theology/philosophy).

Remember a time your guilt was removed. Apply that to a current guilt. Go ahead.

= = = = = = =

trapped - touched - freed -
an on-going cycle
moves us from stage to stage

the current play of our life
takes a lot of staging
it is hard to take it on the road

the next stage of our life
asks us to put down
guilty baggage

when staging our next act
there will be a different audience
we will know through play

honoring our current stage
honoring our next audience
ahh, play is the thing

Monday, January 29, 2007

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – B

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

Though there is a tendency to attribute power to that which is greater, longer, wider, deeper, power that is implacable and must be bowed down to, it is important to see an on-going vitality of steadfast eternity. Time, Creation, G*D are powerful in relationship to grasshoppers, slaves, or frail (various images of humans). But to stop with that distinction is to dismiss everything in favor of some one thing.

In these passages a key dynamic is not the distance between the great and the small, but the willingness of the powerful to energize the less powerful. This might be called silly as it adds to entropy (at least in a closed system) but it might also be envisioned as the only perpetual energy mechanism there is, one that passes on energy in an open environment.

Our tendency is to look at a given cycle of rising and falling, rather than an on-going stream of life. When looking cyclically we get into law issues such as this interesting one: "(though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law)". When looking on-goingly we can see patterns of connection between our predecessors and our descendants, our selves and others, one religious, economic, or political system and another.

Here we proclaim a connection of intentional interaction between every disparate moment and rejoice in time's flow that supports us and encourages us and engages us to join the flow. Rejoice in every evidence of power coming to the faint, being received, and passed on.

= = = = = = =

haven't you heard
has your heart not known
it is not what gets stored up that counts
but what passes through

hearts get attacked
with storage blockages
they faint and fail
in need of new flow

as we pass through
we store of loose
set your heart on this choice
that others might also hear

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – A

Years A
Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)
Psalm 112:1-9 (10)
1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)
Matthew 5:13-20

Time and again we come to ask the question of - what’s in it for me? And time and again we come to be asked – what’s in it for others?

An awareness of the distinction between whether we are asking or being asked focuses us on whether or not we sense our sense or common sense or human wisdom is the chief measuring rod of life. If it is, we have seen evidence of our following prescribed rituals such as fasting and finding their limit in justifying what we are currently doing.

If our sense is that these ritual righteousnesses have their place but there is a mystery of more-life that takes place beyond them, then we may find another level of fasting and living. If this is the case, we have evidence that our actions can have a positive effect in the lives of others that echo in our own.

If fasting from anger doesn’t loosen bonds we wrap around another, our fasting only makes us look tolerant.

If fasting from greed doesn’t loosen a yoke we place around others to provide our well-being, our fasting only makes us look philanthropic.

If fasting from food doesn’t loosen our hold on our bread, our fasting only makes us look sleek.

If fasting from sloth doesn’t loosen our regard for privacy, our fasting only makes us look kingly in our castle.

If fasting from comfort doesn’t loosen our closet locks, our fasting only makes us look the emperor in new clothes.

If fasting from jealousy doesn’t loosen our remembrance of injuries done to us by those who love us, our fasting only makes us look justified.

Fasting for our benefit is one thing. Fasting for the benefit of another is another.

= = = = = = =

a cosmic aarrgghh
rumbles forth
I write of fasting
and take a break
for cheese and crackers

for but a bit of
lovely Wensleydale
how Wallace and Wesley
could go on and on
oblivious to anything but
honey-tinged Wensleydale

hopefully with the help of
a faithful friend
we will muddle through
steady of heart
triumphant in the end

pray all cosmic aarrgghhs
will come ‘round right
to comic har-har-hars

Friday, January 26, 2007

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - C4

Years C
Luke 4:21-30

Everything was moving along swimmingly. Jesus claims an important past vision has come true. That which folks had been waiting for, need not be awaited any longer. Everyone spoke well of him. His state of the nation speech was a hit. It didn't require any change on anyone's part - it was already decided.

This guy really is one of us, no matter about some outstanding little details (after all he wasn't born here and there was that refugee time in his life and there have been a few grumblings about him). Pleased that they would be known as the deciding place, he was indeed Joseph's son, our son.

Then, instead of leaving well enough alone, Jesus had to go and push. He said, "Perhaps you are wondering why you got inspiring words from me, but there hasn't been any corroborating evidence of healing here? Well, you should wonder why this is all talk, the same old stuff, and no action. When your wondering leads you to understanding the implications for you and all, I'll move pretty quickly from being a favorite son to a meddling prophet. Crowds can rapidly move from Hosanna to Hang Him. Remember Elijah! Remember Elisha!"

Well, they caught on. They remembered and anticipated not being able to have pride of place. Not having a hanging tree at hand, they prepared to hurl him.

What are you remembering and anticipating this day?

= = = = = = =

today scripture is fulfilled
when else, pray tell
could it have been
and still been scripture

scripture lifted from the page
writing turned again to speaking
speaking engaged with hearing
heart heard to life lived

bone by bone
dried and alive
danced and threatening
we meet and go on

again and again
our image of home
fails to be home
drive on

filled full leaves no room
Bethlehem or Nazareth
America or Iraq
scripture passes by

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - C3

Years C
1 Corinthians 13:1-13

As a paean to love, this is hard to beat. As a poetic definition of love, we find much to be admired here. And yet there is a distancing that sets up love standards without helping anyone approach them. With this distance all manner of ill has been done in the name of love. High among the painful interpretations are justifications of patience requiring an abused person to express their love by returning for another beating.

There is another hymn out of the United Methodist tradition that is not sung very much, much less in its entirety. It is Wrestling Jacob (often referred to as "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown".

The mystery here is found between stanzas 8 and 9 where the question hangs in the air,
"Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy Name is Love."
Pause (or not)
"'Tis love! 'tis love!"

We are better served not to posit definitions, but to wrestle with ourselves and creation regarding the bedrock relationships that continue in halcyon days and brokenness.

This leads us to love being qualitatively set apart from faith and hope which both can find themselves so distanced when things fall apart.

Question: given G*D's failure of faith, e.g. flood; and G*D's failure of hope, e.g. Babel; where would you find G*D expressing a failure of love?

= = = = = = =

we find our power
exemplified in
charisma tongued persuasion
sheer torturous techniques
self-fulfilling prophecies
bait-and-switch slights of hand
enough knowledge to be dangerous
delusions of grandeur
log cabin-birthed humility

so we hide behind
explanations and shoulds
to appear what we are not
we claim our present is
superior to our past
as will be
our future to our present

in every day, in every way
we are more loving
dare you question that?
if so you are not very loving

let us forgive such love
and reclaim a wrestling love

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - C2

Years C
Psalm 71:1-6

When in a ticklish situation it is helpful to find a focus of foundation that can re-center our vision of where we are and what is going on. When such a focus returns it is amazing what options are still open.

Here the Psalmist understands that life around her is very tenuous. Boxed in and threatened, what is there to hold on to? There is no historical precedence to fall back on for consolation and plan to move on. There is no expectation of change no matter how persuasive might be a rhetorical speech of smoke and mirrors, trying to distract us from a potential opening for change.

Paying attention to the present, particularly, seems to hold no direction that might bear fruit. So, wherever one looks, there is nothing but a hope against hope.

What is left is miracle and wonder. This is both a diminution of G*D and an expansion. Whatever gap is left, is G*D. G*D is beyond prediction and repetition of previous encounters.

Settling in to there being no option, all of a sudden there is. And praise flows as Butch and Sundance jump again.

= = = = = = =

Listen up god
I'm looking for refuge
a fortress, a safe haven
I'm looking for a structure
within which I might be secure

even though that's what I'm looking for
I am open to a surprise rescue
one not predicated on the past
or an extension of the present

my tendency is to see how
you have operated with me before
and look for that again

if not that then what I hope for
a comfort and winning new move

finally its just us, let's go
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - C1

Years C
Jeremiah 1:4-10

Once upon a time I thought it would be more truthful to shift my language away from that of the predominant patriarchy - male language standing for all people.

It was an interesting birthing process that took a fair amount of time.

It began with the conception of the idea. Just even thinking about it took awhile.

In fact it began before conception with the witness of faithful folk.

My first attempts were not very hopeful. I would hear myself sliding back into the old language pattern, time after time. It seemed my best intention had no effect. If Homer Simpson had been around at the time I would have echoed his, "Doh!"

Little by little the time between hearing my slip and the slip itself was reduced. Image the word "his" being recognized closer and closer to my lips.

Then came that awkward moment that lasted, again, all too long, when my mouth wrestled with a caught word. It would still get out but not without a struggle that may have sounded like a stutter.

Eventually the word didn't make it to the mouth and the process continued to before the thought.

What other words and concepts do we need to work at leaving behind, beginning with understanding their desirability before their presence?

PS - actually there are still slips in moments of stress - old tapes don't die they just bide their time.

PPS - We know what needs to be changed, now we just need to begin the formation of a change process in the wombs of our lives.
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - C1

Years C
Jeremiah 1:4-10

It is not unusual for scripture to be written backward. A wonder is experienced. Wonder about wonder goes on and on. A meaning is settled upon. Reports go forth. It is repeated and finally written. By the time the writing is done it has gone through much refinement and interpretation.

Just as the birth stories of Jesus were probably the last part of the gospels to be written, this understanding of Jeremiah's birth probably came much later in response to the difficulties he faced. It would give much needed support in his trying times to come to understand that his current consequence is a natural outgrowth of having been a prophet from before a life-confirming breath.

What story do you rely on to get you through your consequences? Does it go back to creation? to conception? to an event? to yesterday?

The better you know your foundational story, the bolder you can be in making a difference in the usual mind-set of your cultural setting.

= = = = = = =

today a second adopted grandson
comes to his new home
before adoption
he was known
before being known
he was

thanks be for
grand kids with grandkids
may they have words in their mouths
for the joy of life

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - B

Years B
Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

We do so easily become accustomed to idols - that which would captivate us for its own end. Even the good things of our lives, or, more precisely, exactly the good things of our lives are prime candidates for being the strongest of idols. Personal wants, family, nation, doctrine all have moments of being exactly the right response to a particular situation and then they hang around to hang us out to dry in another.

Being so captivated makes it very easy to question any intervention on our behalf: "What have you to do with me. If I followed where you lead I won't recognize myself. In that choice your destruction is to be preferred over mine."

There is probably not a justification I have not used to keep on keeping-on with what I am doing. My knowledge about what I am up to is very puffed-up. Over-blown, even, to the point of fragility and hyper-sensitive to any attempt to change coming from the outside. Such change would explode my world and where would there be anything left on which to start to rebuild?

A first task of a prophet is to have their bubble burst about what is good. Love-of-G*D good doesn't revolve only about our knowledge. We are one satellite, among many, that becomes aware not only of trespasses against us, but ours against others. In this crucible a future is conceived, nurtured, and brought forth. This is also a first task of a congregation and a priest even though it is more difficult here to come to see it.

= = = = = = =

How you doin'?
got anything to do with me?
anything for me?
anything from me?

we so question godly idols
ourselves and others

when we catch a connection
beyond captivity
it is no surprise

then we enshrine
our new connection
in routine expectation
ripe for bursting

teaching authority
goes beyond anything for me
beyond eternalizing moments
how are you doing?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - A

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - A

Years A
Micah 6:1-8
Psalm 15
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Matthew 5:1-12

Blessedness and rejoicing are both exciting, over-the-top, expressions and bedrock foundations from which comes steadfast love in shown in many ways. They need particulars to bring goodness into better clarity. They need particulars to respond to questions that will set case law.

Let's track some parallel terms from Micah, Psalms, Paul.

do justice - speak truth from the heart - do not take a bribe - desire wisdom

love kindness - do what is right - do not lend money - demand signs

walk humbly - walk blameless - stand by your oath - decide through foolishness

All manner of arrows can be drawn between these terms. Some will double-back on themselves, particularly when the beatitudes are tossed into the mix. Each of the blessings can be related to good effect to each of these terms.

In fact we have a season of possibilities here. Write them on a magnetic sheet and cut them apart. Each day rearrange them on your refrigerator until you have identified the best pattern for your life in this season. (In another season you may go through the same process and find yourself with a different best pattern.)

= = = = = = =

O my poor spirit
you have mourned much
destroyers of creation
the unhumble dominionists
who settle for righteousness
presently defined
devoid of future, of hope
the strict constructionist
setting up blowback
and child soldiers
through persecution
an evil of falseness
unable to see itself

prepare to contend with yourself
for yourself
plead your case

no more sacrifices
internal or external
they will not fix
they will not heal
they will not cover

rejoice persecuted soul
peace is at hand
in heart and gut
created to comfort
to strengthen
your presence

Friday, January 19, 2007

Third Sunday after Epiphany - C4

Years C
Luke 4:14-21

To be praised by everyone is either faint praise or an accumulation of political capital.

If praised by everyone it would be very easy to begin to think one can push to the next level. It was now time to move away from the exploratory committee stage and into full campaign mode. So a platform was presented and Jesus walked onto it, wrapping the mantle of prophet about himself. What we have been waiting for has arrived.

As we will hear next week, this doesn't go so well. Today candidates still go back to their hometown, or symbolic hometown, to announce their candidacy for the mantle of power.

What would you say if all eyes were upon you? Would it be that the past is fulfilled? that the future may now begin? Usually we are pretty humble about those sorts of pronouncements, but it may be time to dust off our pride of relationship with God and know the importance of this moment. It is a turning point for you and all of us.

A question before us is which way are we going to turn. Isaiah lays out a pretty good way for us to go, even as it is a pretty difficult way to travel - given the inertia and investment many have in their current state as better than it might otherwise have been.

Try saying this three times in a row several times today:
Today scripture is fulfilled in my life.
Today scripture is fulfilled in my life.
Today scripture is fulfilled in my life.

Response after you state it again?
Response after you affirm it yet again?

= = = = = = =

scriptures arc
more broadly
than we hark

hard work and perseverance
pay off for a lucky few
they are part of a pair

hard work and perseverance
fail all too many who
are the pair's other part

a fortunate few go their own way
unaware their freedom is built
on the back of captive workers

good news for the suffering
Gautama's noble truths
illumine this blind spot

a culmination of generations
lucky and many
find release

Isaiah Buddha Jesus
you I we us all
fill the arc

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Third Sunday after Epiphany - C3

Years C
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Now you are the body of . . .
and individually members of . . .

At first blush this is a wonderful formula. Unfortunately it soon runs afoul others in the same body and confusion as the body is variously understood as a religious experience, national identity, family blood, service organization purpose, or any other corporate identity that might get pitted against another until we are at each other's throats vying for power (Bears and Saints, to use an American football image).

I am that which I am joined to and have both communal and individual identities. Like it or not, being part of the body of Christ puts me in connection with some very questionable characters, including Jesus. To pull my individual Christian identity too closely around me would finally isolate me from every other Christian and to have theirs pulled too closely around me makes me want to give up an identity I have cherished. It is important to claim Christ as larger than any of our Christianities.

As we begin another Week of Christian Unity (January 18-25) one might wonder how we are doing after 99 years of the celebration of this week and nearly 2,000 years of this scripture.

It is so easy to get into rankings within a body. Are we talking first Apostles or executively-privileged Presidents, or Father as family head or . . . ? Are we talking spiritual values trumping national values which take family values that in turn ranks higher than . . . ? If I am members of several bodies what happens when they are in conflict, when my patriotism claims my religion?

It is nice to have such a formula at hand to use against others when they don't measure up. It would be even better to have clarity about the limits of such a formula and a way to cut through the "apples and oranges" choices of real life.

How does this work in a world that is increasingly mistaking religion for nationalism and permitting one small segment of family values to smash larger family values by excluding those of a variety of sexual orientations? Between and within any aspect of this formula there are gaps that will only be healed by an application of "the greater gifts. . . ."

Without the greater gifts conversation, this one is fraught with danger.

= = = = = = =

I sing a song of the saints of G*D,
patient and brave and true,
who prayed and thought and lived and died
with the G*D they loved and knew.
And one was a Buddhist, one was a Muslim,
one was a Christian, and one was a Jain;
they were all of them saints of G*D, and I mean,
G*D helping, to be one too.

[Variation on I Sing a Song of the Saints of God in honor of the Magi who were the best Magi they knew to be.]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Third Sunday after Epiphany - C2

Years C
Psalm 19

King speaks to King - Arthur with David

"Morte D'Arthur"
from Poems, 4th edition (London: Moxon, 1845)
Alfred Tennyson, 1809-1892

And slowly answer'd Arthur from the barge:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within Himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou se√ęst--if indeed I go--
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."

Avilion tells of the glory of G*D, as well as does creation. Where wounds are healed voiceless stars sing and a sun freed from domesticity runs wild across the sky.

Let the words of our mouths, our prayers for one another's souls, find an acceptability and purity of our best intentions.

= = = = = = =

it takes several times around the block
no only going around once for me
to begin to glimpse glory
behind usual days marching on
all at once for no reason at all
what once was a silent loneliness
rattles the windows of our rooms
with every timbre of joy

a few more laps bring an understanding
of perfection never being perfect
and wholeness always being whole
that sets our eyes anew on
what might yet be beyond joy

and but a bit further
lies a funeral barge
and final words
still searching for peace
still praying for souls
still trusting simply trusting

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Third Sunday after Epiphany - C1

Years C
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

There is still a teaching function for the followers of Levi. It is one thing to be high and lifted up, repeating holy words, and another to walk among people. Without the last part of verse 7 and all those named in verses 4 and 7 we lose the teaching function and only have the ceremonial left.

It is this ceremonial function, even of good words from the past, that so often gets us in trouble. Eliciting emotion is the key here - ritual crowd behavior (raising hands or lighters), corporate confession and moaning, and expectation of prosperity get us to lockstep. Standing only on ceremony we don't stand outside the judgment of the past, so easily revised, moment by moment, until we no longer know ourselves. We don't claim any worth for today qua today, as that is for the magic book to decide for us. We don't dare risk what little we have or a lot that we dream about and play the lottery for.

Of course the teaching of the Levites might well simply support the ceremonial. But the integrity of teaching may also allow us ask for background information, corroborating evidence, and rational expectation of consequences for mass behavior.

For the moment I will hope that even though my tongue doesn't wrap itself smoothly around Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah that they will receive some mention for doing what they could to humanize past laws understood to be from a holy one. To help people understand their situation can be revolutionary and liberating.

= = = = = = =

word by word
phrase by phrase
sentence by sentence
paragraph by paragraph
chapter by chapter
book by book
and back the other way

we look for the key perspective
is it a word?
a phrase?
a sentence?
a chapter?
a book?

what is the unit of meaning?
does it come in a blinding flash?
a day-long sermon?

how do word folk
interpret to sentence folk
book folk to paragraph folk?

one of these days we may yet stumble across
a universal solvent for communication
perhaps a babble fish
perhaps an understanding heart

until then we walk among ourselves
proclaiming and muttering
may we do it as well and as kindly
as we can

Monday, January 15, 2007

Process Comment

What goes on here is at attempt to present one aspect of a freedom to pursue the nature of a theological task part 1 and part 2where such is noted to be:

- both critical and constructive
- communal
- contextual and incarnational
- essentially practical

This involves freedom of conscience, thought, pulpit, and media. Each of these have their own particularities, but all are intertwined. Lose one and all are at risk.

Here is an important presentation regarding media that has import regarding the theological task inquiry that goes on here.

Bill Moyers opening address at the 2007 National Conference for Media Reform.

Third Sunday after Epiphany - B

Years B
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62:5-12
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

There are many great balancing acts where we are not shaken, where we rest. Among the greatest is that of "none."

Are you seen, do you see yourself, as being of little value, of great value? The difference is smaller than a jot or tittle. It takes nothing to push a balanced scale, an empty scale. Let it go.

Fisher of fish or fisher of folk? Net leaver or family leaver? First journey or second journey to Tarshish or Nineveh? We tell ourselves stories that one is better than the other.

In a time of fulfillment "all" and "nothing" lose significance.

Let me have all things, let me having nothing, I freely and heartily yield.
Let me have repentance, let me have good news, I freely and heartily yield.
Let me have mourning, let me have rejoicing, I freely and heartily yield.
Let me have prison, let me have Galilee, I freely and heartily yield.

What has been the tension you have been holding on to to define your present time here? Might this be a time of fulfillment where you can yield to both rather than wait for one to knock off the other?

= = = = = = =

rock against rock
devil against sea
addiction against addiction
we set our dilemmas
wavering between them
holding both so precious
we could never put one down

time against space
matter against energy
galaxy against quark
we set our paradoxes
choosing one and then
favoring the other
once, twice, and thrice

doctrine against doctrine
hymn against praise
faith against hope
we set our institutions
burning with passion
burning each heretic
loving sets more than love itself

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Third Sunday after Epiphany - A

Years A
Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 4-9
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Great affirmations are tested by great questions.

The Lord is my light . . . seek his face/light. What is this distance between having and seeking that finds us living most of our lives between?

Go into all the world, baptizing . . . Christ did not send me to baptize. Here a distance between community and individual sets up another omnipresent environment where we adapt and are evolved.

Light has dawned . . . repent. Repent . . . good news. Given time and space and matter and energy it seems we cannot escape these outcomes that circle through our lives. A dawning light reveals a present darkness and recognizing the possibility of changing direction brings comfort enough to test our current orientation.

An Epiphany star reminds us of the found and lost and found again process of growing spirits to find a next immanence or incarnation of G*D illumined by the ordinary. Stars of any sort in our lives are a joy to behold and a source of yearning when lost in storm clouds.

Where are you, your friends/family, spiritual fellowship with a star this day?
__ It is in sight.
__ It has recently dimmed.
__ It peeks and hides.
__ It has been a long time gone.
__ It is a non-issue

= = = = = = =

a great light shines
great enough for us to rejoice for a moment
blinding us to flickery light twinks so small
they can be discarded with nary a squint

upper lights glare until
lower lights are lost
so enamored of mercy received
we lose track of mercy extended

it seems the brighter the beam the deeper the sin seen
pray also for a faint of gleam that does not scare us
with such darkness as would swallow us whole
rejoice forever in a nearing humble light

Friday, January 12, 2007

Second Sunday after Epiphany - C4

Years C
John 2:1-11

What to do while waiting for our time to come? Doze? Run in circles? Take a class?

There is such a focus on completedness that we sometimes forget the journey.

Mother's know mothering is never done. The kid will always be in process. So idealized mothers attend to the moment. What does it mean for G*D to be with us in the manger? What about when in Egypt? How about as a runaway? At a wedding?

When we begin to ask what it means to evidence G*D in the particular setting in which we find ourselves it becomes more possible to just go ahead and find ambrosia and amrita in honey, nectar of the gods, and plain old water (divided by the firmament, but still water on both sides of the sky). Having found the moment of G*D present is now, not an hour away, allows a savoring of the simple and finding it simply divine.

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich may be another way of coming at this story. An excerpt: "We do not yet understand the neuronal basis of . . . pleasure, but an interesting line of speculation has opened up only recently. Humans are highly imitative creatures, more so even than monkeys and others of our primate cousins. As all parents learn, to their amazement, an infant can respond to a smile with a smile, or stick out its tongue when a parent does. How does an infant transform the visual image of a protruding tongue into the muscular actions required to make its own tongue stick out? The answer may lie in the discovery of mirror neurons, nerve cells that fire both when an action is perceived -- when the parent sticks out his tongue, for example -- and when it is performed by the perceiver. In other words, the perception of an action is closely tied to the execution of the same action by the beholder. We cannot see a dancer, for example, without unconsciously starting up the neural processes that are the basis of our own participation in the dance."

In other words, to see Jesus' baptismal water flowing in a wedding scene calls us to perceive it flowing through us. Water/Wine makes no difference, G*D is with us!

= = = = = = =

O little cana, how still we see thee lie
on the back of your "Welcome to Cana" sign
it reads, "Welcome to Cana"
your still had run dry
you had the makings
but not the time
for fine wine

look again
you've got the time
you still have the makings
for still water to become living water
to welcome the world
to welcome the universe
still no longer, still right now

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Second Sunday after Epiphany - C3

Years C
1 Corinthians 12:1-11

While we were yet "pagan" we did not experience ourselves as led astray. It wasn't until there was a moment of revelation that our accepted reality didn't match up with our experienced reality - a moment we later called holy - that we began to make important distinctions regarding decision-making moments and decision-making methodologies.

Recognizing that just because we all believed something didn't make it right opens us to questions about what is now needed that is different than has been needed. We can still affirm that what moved us forward was a particular decision (gift) but that keeping on with that same gift in a different setting is now holding us back.

In the midst of a listing of various decision-making modalities (gifts) there is a key element that takes us beyond simply discussing, debating, warring about the numbered hierarchy of gifts that ranks those who hold them. This key is that of "a common good". In this sense all gifts are good gifts if they are able to play their part. When there is no dialogue between them, the gifts fall apart into sectarian prejudices.

Gifts are activated by a common good (a holy spirit moment) that senses a turning tide and shifts gears to a next gift, already present, even as we momentarily shift away from a previous gift. This activation process calls for a gift of ambiguity appreciation larger than any particular decision-making gift. It calls for a gift of humility to let go and humility to step forward.

= = = = = = =

common spirit
holy good
mix and match
holy common
spirit good

here a gift
there a gift
a gift gift

gift of moment
gift of choice
gift of application
gift of letting go
gift of holding on
gift for every season under heaven

gifts activated
gifts received
gifts that are no gift

common spirit gift - kite sky blue
spirit gift common - kite sky bluer
gift common spirit - kite sky bluest

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Second Sunday after Epiphany - C2

Years C
Psalm 36:5-10

G*D's steadfast love is showered all over the place. It doesn't make any difference where or who one is or whether we are talking a human being or a mountain - that love is a given background.

Why then the plea that it continue. Is it not rock solid? Why in particular would those who know G*D need continual assurance? Are we the most tempted to ignore it? Are we the most likely to subvert it into power for ourselves? Are we aware of how much we are in debt to it and can't ever quite hold our heads up on our own?

For folks who claim to know something so extraordinary as a source of steadfast love, we seem to keep losing our way within it. We imagine it to be limited and we need to scramble for our share. We suspect that the future may be different than the past and that we will find ourselves not being uniquely privileged by our knowledge. We fear that it is too good to be true and since we obviously need it, it may, as obviously, be turned to greater and greater expectations that we cannot live up to and we will lose love.

Why might you plead for more steadfast love for folks who are exactly as we are? Might it an attempt to lull G*D into setting us as the standard, thus protecting our rights forever? Obviously we are upright of heart, was there ever a doubt, and if that is the criterion, we get the love we need. Too bad about those others that didn't do as we do.

= = = = = = =

extend to heaven
an upright heart
an upright heart
becomes heaven

Monday, January 08, 2007

Second Sunday after Epiphany - C1

Years C
Isaiah 62:1-5

We dare not be silent for the sake of a place of Peace. There is so much unrest and wrong that silence is not just turning a blind eye, but actively sticking a stick in whatever sight is left. Silence is a catalyst that amplified the wrong. Silence is an exponent of unrest, raising it more quickly than it might otherwise rise.

A new name is needed in the difficulties of the day - a name that names what might yet be rejoiced over. This name holds a future of active peace and justice, not just a holding tank keeping unrest and wrong at a minimum.

Again and again we are called to call out Delightful and Heart-of-My-Heart. For our sake, as well as Zion's, we see what can be built on, not just what must be restrained, and we can call that out.

As you look at your community, your relationships, what will you so name?

= = = = = = =

any last words?



pardon, were those first words or last?

Second Sunday after Epiphany - B

Years B
1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

With tingling ears we have searched and searched for something that will not disappoint. We have searched inside ourselves and found the house of Eli still alive and well. We have lowered our expectations of everything and everywhere, it is all like Nazareth - unacceptable as a starting place.

A big place we searched was the law but we found it didn't reflect a Law of Justice very well. We could follow it forever and never find it brought us to a beneficial place, only a place bounded by Eli's sons waiting for a loophole to be found.

Finally it is important to fall back on such basics as being trustworthy and without deceit. These are very tough roads to travel that go beyond easy, prior, answers and are continually in need of integrated responses.

Finally it becomes a question of whom we will be with at the end.

If we will be with those we are now with, what response is needed now?
If we will be with ourselves as we are now, what response is needed?
If we will be with that unknown to us, what response is now needed?

= = = = = = =

follow me
come and see
hurry on
we will come to a mirror
and see as we are seen

choices will be feasted upon
responses will be made and remade
we'll see how this looks
and that

shapes will be formed
lives hidden will be revealed
roads will open
laws will fade

pay your money
takes your chance
you are seen
you can see

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Second Sunday after Epiphany - A

Years A
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Even though I was called before being birthed [Isaiah], yet I have waited patiently [Psalm] for spiritual gifts [1 Corinthians] to be identified and put to work [John].

This is an arduous journey at each stage.

Calling before birthing leads to entitlement that all ought to go well with me. When it doesn't a tantrum ensues. It is difficult to be patient.

Presuming patience is learned there is still a desire to arrive and we can patiently go down many a wrong alley. Patience is needed, though, to clarify a gift's presence.

Again with the entitlement, seems it never goes away, isn't a spiritual gift a very valuable thing to possess and to use at every occasion, even when a different gift is called for. The spiritual gift of a hammer sees every occasion as a nail, even when it isn't. It is difficult to find one's place and to humbly use one's gift.

And we are back to a call again. Jesus is called, disciples are called, all G*D's children are called to birth after birth, to use of their present gift and future gifts (but not necessarily past gifts) again and again. A call to communal birthing moves us onward even as we try to find our place in a community that will challenge our entitlements with its own and both will need to be seen in a larger light.

The initial process seemed pretty straight-forward at first and then our realities set in. Now we need to move on to see our community as but one gift part of a community of communities.

= = = = = = =

through time
through space
through ancestors
and descendants

in time
in space
in ancestors
and descendants

in spite of everything so far
in anticipation of something different

through insight
through attribution

through and in mercy
to birth ad infinitum

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Jesus' Baptism - C4

Years C
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Paper covers rock. Rock breaks scissors. Scissors cuts paper.

Fire evaporates water. Turns it to spirit?

Fire clears the chaff. This includes everything not repented of. This includes a desire to repent more than has been repented so far - to keep peeling back the onion of repentance, layer by layer. Eventually getting to the question of what is left when there is no more repenting to do or what new clarity is released when we stop using repentance as a key model for life.

In some sense the baptism(s) of spirit and fire are part of a good-cop/bad-cop routine.

One way of trying to clear ourselves of mechanizing baptism and sub-dividing it into component parts is to look at our involvement in the process. It is recorded here that baptisms were completed and praying was still going on. It is this praying part that may move us from baptismal technique to its potential reorientation of life.

= = = = = = =

Let us pray.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Jesus' Baptism - C3

Years C
Acts 8:14-17

They had only been born. They had only been born Samaritan. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is all we know.

Somewhere along the way that is not enough. It seems nothing is ever enough when it comes to measuring up to someone else's experience they consider normative for everyone - right now. No process or stage of a process is enough. Not even being at a stage a measurer will come to is enough as the measurerer isn’t yet there to measure it.

At any rate, a Holy Spirit was deemed necessary. How fortunate that Peter and John were confirmed in their experience by others seemingly, finally, measuring up to it.

We still make up rules and regulations about effective baptism and its deeper meaning when that is not measurable. I can't help but wonder what Jesus would have said about what additional was needed for a baptism in his name to be a baptism in his name. I can't help but wonder how surprised he was to find a dove diving at him as he shakes water from his eyes.

Might a needed Holy Spirit simply be a sense of belovedness, regardless of style or language of baptism? And is that enough, or not?

= = = = = = =


unto Samaria and the ends of this earth
we go before there is any evidence
that going will redound glory to us

we identify greatest need and focus there
even if it is only our greatest need projected
we impose meaning wherever we pray

twisting arms and patting backs
we handle the reins of reigning understanding
that we might drive rather than be driven

indeed we handle if not always gently
indeed we pray if not always wisely
indeed we go if not always happily

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Jesus' Baptism - C2

Years C
Psalm 29

The voice, spirit, presence of G*D is over water. A slight sound, a breeze is magnified. G*D is positioned to be reflected.

It might be asked, what are we if not water enhanced? Some bone, some minerals, some nano electrolytes, but mostly water and here we are speak and act G*D in our time and place - reflective glory created with a glory of our own.

Over rivulet and flood, G*D hovers. Over time and space, we hover. Nested beings - Christmas has brought an angel hovering over witnesses hovering over a babe hovering over nations hovering over angels. Epiphany has brought us a star hovering over a manger hovering over creation hovering over stars.

In each part and whole is blessedness found. No one remains lost in chilly exile. Baptism of Jesus, yes. Baptism of all, yes.

= = = = = = =

virtual water
sprinkled water
poured water
engulfing water

where is the presence of G*D missing
if we go to the ends of the earth
there is water
if we ascend to the heights
there is water
if we descend to sheol
there is water

my baptism is your baptism
your baptism is my baptism
our baptism is creation's baptism
in our beginning is our end
and through it all - baptism

Monday, January 01, 2007

Jesus' Baptism - C1

Years C
Isaiah 43:1-7

Formed incarnate, redemption already secure, we pass through waters dark and deep, water standing against water.

Called from chaotic exile, already created for glory, we rise through waters light and lively, water living within water.

Isaiah envisions glorious redemption as an integral part of our incarnation, our formation. He remembers an exodus initially protected by parted water and all the desert and parting of more water to come. He anticipates those who had been buried far away to come surfing back.

Reading Isaiah emboldens us as we pass through our next water of redemption to find a glory not fully dreamed. Can you imagine living already redeemed, already glorious?

= = = = = = =

that which you create
is imbued with a goodness
never lost

we learn this creation gift
reflecting on our own
ever found

Jesus' Baptism - B

Years B
Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

Creation moves from formless to formed, only to become the ground for new formation. Day by day lightness and darkness interplay.

Repentance called and responded to, follows this same process. This assertion calls us to look around: what light from today's repentance has come to guide us beyond repentances of old?

John's baptism unto repentance, Paul's baptism unto tongues and prophesy, Jesus' baptism unto belovedness, raises the question of what baptism through you is unto? Might it be a baptism unto peace?

Regardless of the baptism focus offered or age/understanding when one receives, there is an entry into the mystery of creation and creation beyond creation. Relax, enjoy, baptize.

= = = = = = =

have you received a holy spirit?
what is that you ask?
it is this says you
well ok says I
and off we go

what once we knew we knew
it is reduced to babbling
pretty and comforting
but babbling still
it is expanded to consequences
harsh and challenging
but consequences still

what once we knew we knew
bows its head to play its part
between the less and more

between the less and more
is less and more
than spirits holy or muddy
can contain without
breaking apart into a blessing
on light and dark
beginning again
moving beyond

have you received a holy spirit?
of course
does it measure up?
not now not ever
and you
have you been released
from a spirit holy
to arise once more?