Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Second Sunday in Lent – C2

Second Sunday in Lent – C2

Years C
Psalm 27

"Waiting for the Lord" can be a passive waiting for something to happen or a spring-loaded readiness to act at a kairos moment ripe for intervention. A key question is, "What is meant by 'living in the house of the Lord'?"

Is this a readiness and willingness to praise and sacrifice? Is this a readiness and willingness to prophecy justice? If it is a bothness, which takes precedence when both are present - we suggest prophecy trumps praise (reference John Wesley's sermon "On Zeal").

Here we see waiting as an active state. Living in the house of the Lord is to live in the image of the Lord - a creator and a co-creator and a re-creator - a lover, if you will. This progression is where we find risk, partnership, and mercy - three important qualities that define the beauty of the Lord, of creation, of ourselves.

= = = = = = =

my light
shining down the future's broadening way
pointing to fulcrum spots today
where the past might be moved
from fate to fortune

my salvation
putting a hand out
taking a hand in hand
joining lives
revealing goodness

my strength

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Second Sunday in Lent – C1

Second Sunday in Lent – C1

Years C
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

There is too much reward talk and bloody sacrifice here for me to grab hold very well. Sometimes dry times come or there are some things that are not helpful to remember.

Even verse 6, that has come down to us as a source of the whole "justification by faith" movement, will later find two sides of it described by Paul and James - a division within a division. Paul will affirm that faith, apart from the works of the law, is the ultimate basis for salvation while James will call out that works must accompany faith. And that division within the body continues to bleed.

In each instance there is a back story to the language of belief and faith and righteousness - trust. Trust is more basic than belief, faith, or righteousness. These extensions or constructs of trust can cover over what is at stake - a relationship beyond our usual bargainings, contracts, and self-interest.

= = = = = = =

walking between the pieces of our lives
the divisions that keep us from being whole
we are worn down and out
even going so far as to defend our divisions
sacrificed for what seemed like good reason at the time

it isn't until we get to dream-time
we finally set aside
needing to be in charge
able to let flame and smoke
travel where they will

can we make sense of it
beyond a wanted reward
of nation upon nation
added to our revenue stream
nope, we'll settle for any reward

bloody scenes verify
our fear of trust
our need for reward
to lighten the dark
we carry even in victory

Monday, February 26, 2007

Second Sunday in Lent – B

Second Sunday in Lent – B

Years B
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:23-31
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38 or Mark 9:2-9

Last week the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. Here, halfway through Mark's Gospel, Jesus again recognizes the presence of Satan in his own inner circle. In the wilderness or at home there is a temptation. Does the Spirit only lead to wilderness temptation without also leading to homeland temptation?

Most starkly put, the temptation is to be what you are not, to be ashamed of what you are not. We can put that off on G*D by claiming G*D is not what G*D ought to be. Again we are ashamed to be in the company of a G*D that doesn't get it.

It doesn't matter what the promise - of enough descendants to fill a starry, starry night, a heart that lives forever, being reckoned "in" by an alternative standard - there are those moments when we agree to get a descendant by any means, when we relinquish the responsibility of feeding the poor, or stumble over hope. Somewhere along the way we do not keep our eye on a prize and we are shamed or we shift that to shaming someone else.

Perhaps a key for us is the openness of Jesus' understanding of himself. It is this open affirmation that keeps shame at bay when it is being misused and turned into blame rather than reformation or transformation.

Sociopaths and saviors seem to not be ashamed. For the rest of us it is a marker that needs to be noted in order for us to join Jesus in living and speaking openly.

= = = = = = =



Sunday, February 25, 2007

Second Sunday in Lent – A

Second Sunday in Lent – A

Years A
Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

Can one be born again? It happens all the time.

Abram, Sarai, Lot, and more are born again through immigration. This is not an issue of legal or illegal. It is a call from G*D, a necessity. Abram ran a risk greater than deportation. He felt in danger of his life and felt this strongly enough to risk his relationship with Sarai.

Elijah was born again while hiding in a cave.

Moses found a birth canal through a burning bush.

The Psalmist found new birth with a song of trust and confidence.

Peter is reborn through questions of his love.

Saul is reborn Paul on his way to Damascus.

To think these folks had only the one rebirth is too limiting. I've had several, myself. What about you? Can you count the birth canals?

Even folks we have a most difficult time have had a new birth to get as far along as they have and we pray for more births for them. If we parallel this to forgiveness, as we pray for their rebirth, we pray for our own.

= = = = = = =

1 + 1 > 2
my current life plus
plus my rebirthed life
is more than the two
I now also have
an anticipation
of yet another 1
even if I reach
70 * 7
there is more
for there is no end
of toil
of bookmaking
of steadfast love
of rebirthing forgiveness

Friday, February 23, 2007

First Sunday in Lent – C4 Bonus

First Sunday in Lent – C4 Bonus

Years C
Luke 4:1-13

A piece of wisdom from the United Methodist tradition - that which sustains life is to be dealt with according to this formula: Earn all you can; Save all you can, Give all you can. Alternative phrases include: Be Industrious; Be Frugal; Be Generous

One way of relating this to the temptations and turning them on their ear:

1) A temptation to a Lottery way of life. A temptation is to Wait for the miracle that will turn your stony life into one of pleasure, where bread becomes chocolate and caviar and cream. Somehow we don't have to till the stony ground and nourish it with water and mulch. There is work to do among the poor-in-property and the poor-in-spirit to transform them from a fixation on relying on a Lottery (either PowerBall or PowerExegesis).

2) A temptation to an External Saving way of life. A temptation to Rely on Mechanistic Salvation that will turn our perceived danger into one of a universal Get Out of Jail Card, where accumulated resources, strength of positioning, and other connections can cover the reality that every bigger barn will be called to account - tonight. Somehow we can hedge ourselves around with all manner of protections to keep us from feeling that which goes bump in the night - our security angels that promise to hold us up. There is work to do among the fearful and the satisfied to transform them from a fixation on relying on a leverageable economic position - a pile of money will be as hard to land on as cold hard ground and the invisible hand of an economic angel is not where life will ultimately be found.

3) A temptation to Staying in Charge way of life. A temptation to find a way to make it All About Me and my personal salvation, apart from the salvation of all, and thus avoid the integral part mission plays in a basic commission to not simply receive a blessing, but to be a blessing. There is work to do among dominionists and fundamentalists to transform them to take a stewardship responsibility for the earth and an evangelistic responsibility for the whole-story into the world.

This is a formula that must be read backward. If there is no impulse to give there is no motivation to be frugal with the fruit of one's labor or to invest labor in many small returns. Without the impulse to give we look for comfort first and find it accumulation of resources. Without the impulse to give we see our accumulated resources being our source of wealth rather than our on going investment of time and energy which will put us in a position to give more.

The most opportune time to get to us is when we are focusing exclusively on getting and having. Always we need to move on to a stage of integrity of giving, not settling for any previous state of receiving and storing that will ultimately leave us flat. If we don't keep a focus on a theology of generosity and expansive love we will settle for get-rich-quick schemes, reliance upon mechanistic buffers, and power and control over our resources and that of others and thus miss the joy of diligence that more might be given, the joy of frugality that more might be given, the joy of giving that more might be given.

= = = = = = =

joy joy joy
comes in the morning
anticipating giving
justice justice justice
comes in the day
earning honestly
peace peace peace
comes in the evening
daily bread shared
hope hope hope
comes in the night
satisfaction enough

First Sunday in Lent – C4

First Sunday in Lent – C4

Years C
Luke 4:1-13

O how many opportune times there are for compromising just a bit on matters of expansive love, specific justice, and desired peace. This passage makes it sound as if there might only be one more test - thus the marvelous work by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ.

Presuming Jesus to be our brother, we know that there isn't just a superbowl of temptation that comes around in a scheduled sort of way. Temptations are built into the system (ever wonder what it says about God that Jesus prays for release from testing, temptation, and a load of debt?). So we regularly pray to not be put to a test. We know from experience that temptations are not usually codified, first a temptation about this aspect of life and then another about some other aspect. Temptations are as holographic as blessings - they run all the way through and any one experience of temptation is found in every experience.

I would find it more helpful to pray for a presence of hope in the midst of temptation, rather than simple avoidance of temptation. It may be that presence might make it seem as though temptations have been avoided, but there is a qualitative difference between not being tempted and assisted in the presence of temptation.

This difference might be glimpsed as Jesus, full up with spirit, becomes famished after 40 days. What hope is left to proceed as though life is still about expansive love when facing diminished resources? What hope is left to hold to justice when power and authority offer so many shortcuts to constrain behavior? What hope is left to live peaceably when spectacle is the coin of the realm? What hope do you return to, time after time, when you are not full-up with Spirit, when you are facing a soul's dark night? Is it something deeper than hope?

= = = = = = =

how much grace it takes
to sift through a deep listening
to life's persistent questions
to find a nub of the matter
and respond straight-forwardly
without arguments ad hominem

how much surety it takes
to stay put when the world swirls
around with answer upon answer
and shift the ground
to a response that opens
further conversation

how much hope it takes
to match our experience
with our understanding
to sift and winnow both
without resorting to despair
of ever coming whole

Thursday, February 22, 2007

First Sunday in Lent – C3

First Sunday in Lent – C3

Years C
Romans 10:8b-13

Presupposing that the division between Jew and Greek has been done away with, that those who "believe" are able to bypass such distinctions, there is left the division between those who believe the way I do and those who don't. Be they Jew or Greek or blood relative of a non-Jew and non-Greek, anyone can still be cast away on the basis of their stated beliefs, if not their genetic/cultural heritage.

It might be helpful here to simply focus on the last line with a different translation. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be found whole." Of course there will be quibbling about this "name" business. Perhaps a Lord by any other name will respond as mercifully and generously as another.

This is not to discount the heritage one names most easily, but is to open us again to the important theological point of "generosity." Wherein lies a stumbling block to a named Lord who is generous to those who call in a particular timeframe and to not also be generous to, simply put, all? Anything else would lead such a named Lord to also be named stingy, petty, tyrannical, and soon enough ignored.

= = = = = = =

one reason prophets are discounted
is their lack of distinction
they do not pretend to power
they don't insist on the number of angels
who attend or dance

if only they would allow
a distinction to be made in their vision
that would allow everyone to continue
living just exactly as they are
if they were only to eat their peas

we keep looking for the distinctions
that set us apart and give a leg up
on sitting right and left of royalty
setting the level of needed sacrifice
and calling down fire on "them"

you're Greek, you're odd man out
o yeah, you're looking in a mirror
huh? were the same
then women must be out
ahh, sweet distinction

we distinguish ourselves
by not distinguishing our commonality
commie, social democrat, trade unionist
rasta, Muslim, anti-globalist, liberal
speak for one another or forever hold your peace

[last fragment reference:]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

First Sunday in Lent – C2

First Sunday in Lent – C2

Years C
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

In some ways Lent is a sheltered workshop. Here we develop skills while on the job. Here we employ skills developed through repetition.

In the refuge of Lent we practice knowing all is well and will be well again. We practice acting from a position of knowing we are guarded - boldly. We practice living from a perspective of having been borne up - thankfully. We practice living from a platform of steadfast love - mercifully.

Out of this practice come changed lives - as changed as resurrection or other metamorphoses.

Isn't it good to know we have been sheltered in the shadow of trustworthiness. Isn't it good to know we shelter others in this same gift.

= = = = = = =

Lent for Dummies
Chapter 1 - remembering love
Chapter 2 - practicing xxx
Chapter 3 - practicing yyy
Afterword - Easter

Ash Wednesday – A, B, C

Ash Wednesday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Integrity in the small matters is important for an overall sense of well-being. Warnings about secrecy are not so much a matter of hyper-humility, but acting with integrity. What needs doing is done, straight-forwardly. When action is simply a matter of course and not being played for ulterior gain (whether consciously or not) there is a reward of wholeness of being. And, what better reward is there? It is priceless.

This sense of the language of secrecy comes to the fore when the question of hypocrisy is raised. We are not looking for unknownness, but wholeness. A show is not in order, whether that show is unseen or posed. Knowing where your heart is is a great reward.

= = = = = = =

you been practicing your sexual orientation again?
nope, when you're this good practice isn't the issue
you still practicing breaking a bad habit?
yep, don't know that I'll ever not be a xxxx-ist

there are things that come quite naturally
in a healthy way
there are things that come quite naturally
that destroy

we are told our nature is unnatural
forced into hypocrisy by family
we find our nature to be righteously right
our left left no choice but secrecy

finally we face the difficulty
practicing the practice of wholeness
in all we do and refrain from doing
without simply practicing practicing

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

First Sunday in Lent – C1

First Sunday in Lent – C1

Years C
Deuteronomy 26:1-11

When you have come into the land of Lent that is your inheritance, take the fruit of your journey and remember how you have come to where you are. Then, celebrate the bounty of your Lenten landscape.

So often we forget that Lent is a journey that is important, in and of itself. We are so much in a hurry to get to Easter that we forget it is the wandering Aramean in us that will mysteriously land us in a new relationship with G*D, creation, one another, aliens, and our self. It doesn't come on our schedule and so rejoicing along the way and remembering Forrest Gump's injunction that bounty is as bounty is received - we enter with no expectation of getting to Easter, just journeying.

This might be a time of recognizing ourselves as illegal immigrants or aliens in a strange land. In this Lenten recognition we will find a fine harvest.

= = = = = = =

are we there yet
so demands the kid
in the back of my head

beauty all around
imagination and conversation so rich
and such impatience

bounty drips through fingers
celebration dies aborning
this is not Lent but pre-Easter

kid, its time we pulled over
to rejoice we have come this far
to play with what we have

blessed one, let's move on
wasn't it good to have been there
isn't it good to be here

Ash Wednesday – A, B, C

Ash Wednesday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Entreating someone on behalf of Christ may have some power, if there is a relationship with said Christ to begin with. For someone outside the fold, this doesn't carry much weight. Sort of like an Ayatollah imploring President Bush for the sake of Muhammad to be reconciled to Allah the Merciful that he might become righteous.

Then we get to the personal entreaty of what I have had to deal with. Because of my faithfulness, you, also, ought to be faithful. Again that has some strength or is rather weak, depending upon the relationship.

Seldom, it seems, do we entreat on behalf of a joy to come. Usually we are operating out of the past and trying to make the present conform to it. On Ash Wednesday we may want to simply have space for folk to remember their fondest dream of how life might work well for all concerned, what has gotten in the way of that, and how this might be a moment to shift gears by practicing that which move them one step closer to a better future. Nearly two months of practice might get us ready for an Easter, Transfiguring, Transforming, Resurrectional reality.

This practice is based not only on what others have found helpful down through the year (that's a pretty wide spectrum of spiritual disciplines) but which of those best corresponds to the person's experience and tendencies. If it doesn't touch some base inside, all the appeals to external authority will simply be appeals that don't appeal.

= = = = = = =

gee, mom, you have done so much
have I learned enough that we can talk?
this guilt of not measuring up is pretty strong
do we go to our respective deaths this way

hey, dad, you know so much
have I done enough that we can rest?
this regret of not measuring up is pretty strong
do we go to our respective deaths this way

Jesus, Paul, you have done so much
have I obeyed enough to be righteous?
this accusation of not measuring up is pretty strong
do we go to our respective deaths this way

[second lines based on a song by Greg Brown, Driftless on his CD The Poet's Game]

Monday, February 19, 2007

First Sunday in Lent – B

First Sunday in Lent – B

Years B
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

For many the radio stimulates the imagination more than does television. This is in part the way we receive the two senses. Mark's silence on the temptations brings more possibilities to mind than the traditional three in Matthew and Luke. Mark also reminds us that this was not Jesus and Satan, mano a mano, but Jesus was attended by angels even during temptation (not just to soothe afterward).

If so attended, what does this do to the hunger and jumping off temptations mentioned elsewhere?

A connection with angels connects us with time beyond ourselves (you may want to refresh your reading of some of Madeline L'Engle's supposed children's books - her Wrinkle in Time series).

If we are connected beyond one current time, we might begin to wonder about Christ suffering once and salvation through water (Noah and baptism) as singular events.

During Lent we may wonder about what it means to be a sign of reconciliation between G*D and creation. Whether that is a one-time sign or repeated, it is a lifting of soul - ours and many. One sign is not shying away from temptations that we might slyly defeat them through avoidance, getting overly busy with something else, or nit-picking the language of the temptation.

= = = = = = =

it has been said
we are built to buffer bad news
defense mechanisms are a gift from God

trying to make bad news Not True
requires a special attitude

now comes an intriguing question
can even this situation be turned around?
facing it is a first step to saying Yes

[this prayer fragment is based on a bit of Unbinding the Gospel, pages 24-25]

Ash Wednesday – A, B, C

Ash Wednesday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
Psalm 51:1-17

Here are some words you may not be familiar with. In regard to the medicinal use of hyssop: It admirably promotes expectoration through its stimulative, carminative and sudorific qualities. Included in the definitions are: expelling gas from the stomach or intestines so as to relieve flatulence or abdominal pain or distension, causing or inducing sweat, and discharging matter from the throat or lungs by coughing or hawking and spitting.

When combined with a whitewashing we have internal and external cleansing, a making whole or healthy, through and through.

We yearn for a restoration of joy. It is this energy source that turns us into evangelists (in a good way - O how we yearn for the day we won't have to distinguish good from bad evangelism, but for now there is too much bad "good news-ing" that goes on). What are you most joyful about. This is what you will plant more of in the world. For a helpful reference you may want to check out Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism.

Here we are at Ash Wednesday, setting the agenda for the rest of the Lenten season - renewed health and joy. What disciplines for yourself or your congregation would be helpful this year? What will clean your insides and what your outsides?

= = = = = = =

language can be offputting
as offputting as offputting
technical terms get bandied about
pulling the wool over some eyes
too often used approximately

this season may need plain-speaking
monosyllabic words
five syllables meaning one
hmmm, there's a long way to go to
help - way - joy

Sunday, February 18, 2007

First Sunday in Lent – A

Years A
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

A tree of knowledge certainly sounds helpful, particularly if it aids one in distinguishing good from evil - even if such distinguishing is as fine as the difference between a white and black thread at the rising and setting of the sun.

Such a tree presupposes that there is good and evil to be distinguished. If created by G*D was good and evil only latent until a eye was opened or did it exist already? If so how important is the whisper of its existence? Does it take some ability to distinguish good from evil to desire to better distinguish?

There is some sense in which stepping between good and evil leads us into confusion.

It is from this very tree that Jesus seems to have also eaten. He is able to distinguish helpful applications of the scriptures (accumulated wisdom of our experiences with G*D) from unhelpful applications. It is not that scripture is automatically helpful. Knowing when to apply which is important.

There is some sense in which stepping between good and evil leads us to clarity.

Thank you "Adam" for joining "Eve" in engaging wisdom.

Thank you Jesus for building on wisdom and clarifying the need for larger contexts regarding "tests" or experiences of life.

= = = = = = =

I am a type of one who has gone before
and a type of one who will follow
I am a free gift borne by a past
and a free gift invested in a future
of all the options available - I arrived
and now more options are opened

wrestling still with good and evil
my appetites struggle to be met
my desire for immortality leaps into the fray
my controlling power claims first place
and on other days they all face
poverty, chastity, obedience

Ash Wednesday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Isaiah 58:1-12

There is much magical thinking that goes on. If I do "this", then "that" will happen. We come up with all manner of rituals in our attempt to control life. Little by little our rituals cover over the intended change we are looking for and we settle for form instead of functional change.

A piece of good news worth celebrating is that our habits are not fate and we can once again see what it is they were attempting to accomplish.

In terms of fasting we are called to look behind a form of refraining from food and the wearing of discomfort. What was once a laudable spirit quest became formulaic and can now be released.

Unsatisfied with your life? Fasting is not a self-help process to hike yourself up by your bootstraps. Rather, look at your context. It will contain a call to return to community/G*D/love - to fast appropriately. Fasting needs to be healthy, both inhaling and exhaling. Loose a bond of injustice and find health. Undo a yoke of oppression and find health. Share bread and space and find health. Cover nakedness and restore kinship and find health. This is a corollary of, "None will be saved, until all are saved."

= = = = = = =

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice
[from Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot]

fast for silence
fast together with walkers in darkness
fast behind veiled light

face a face of hope
face a face of now
face a face of ever

fast, now, fast
face each other
fast, face grace

Friday, February 16, 2007

Transfiguration Sunday – C4

Years C
Luke 9:28-43

Raphael has an interesting painting entitled Transfiguration. In it we have both parts of the pericope - blessing and healing. This is a devotional painting, not a scenic one (note the calm devotees in the upper left and the agitated ones below). Some have said the woman is the Church, the Bride of Christ, pointing out the to-do list for Jesus.

The congregation here is having a Capital Funds Campaign Commitment Sunday for the raising of a shelter/temple in this community. Interestingly, it is going to be located at the bottom of a hill. Perhaps we might yet see that Christ's glory is enough without monuments to it and that the mission outpost or hospitable hospital image might yet be ours.

The distance between transfiguration and healing is not all that great in this painting. How is it in life where you are?

= = = = = = =

got it figured out?
not without figuring
on transfigurement
for figurers


is no figuring
at all


and that's cold

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Transfiguration Sunday – C3

Years C
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

There is a mystery in a relationship that cannot be finally plumbed. We like to think a relationship with G*D will bring clarity about many things - no more dim mirrors or veiled countenances. This may simply be our conceit - that we (I) can live without veils.

In some tremendously important ways to be in the presence of another is to be in a cloud where belovedness is understood to be present, but just how is an entirely other matter.

Another way of coming at this is that mercy is always appropriate to apply to the circumstances one experiences. Mercy - for ourselves when we find ourselves doing exactly what we have renounced. Mercy - for others when they are not up to our standards. Mercy - for G*D in whose image we find ourselves.

With large hope we boldly engage mercy.

= = = = = = =

whatever our brand of faith
we work with veils
some call them creeds
masking new revelation
some call them experience
avoiding larger grounding
some call them discipline
fencing in options
some call them mercy
lost without boundaries
some call them hope
insulation from pain
some call them literalism
deflecting multiple meaning
some call them heresy
bypassing engagement
whatever our brand
we work with veils

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Transfiguration Sunday – C2

Years C
Psalm 99

We are not only spoken to by a shining face, but from a pillar of cloud. Where and when, then, are we not in the presence of revelation, of transfiguration?

If following the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany and looking at Psalm 37 (1-11, 39-40) we also find a transfigurational process present in everyday events as well as on a mountaintop or in desert. Among these events are the times when we do not fret - thus refraining from anger and forsaking wrath. Such a simple formula for dealing with life - don't fret.

Of course this is easier said than done. There is a helpful practice, though, that is mentioned before an injunction to not fret - be still. This we can practice. Paying attention to one's breath helps "still" happen. From "still" we find renewed patience. This patience makes us appear meek, which is only a cover for transfigured delight veiled lest it scare those not "still".

And so we move from a reference of a pillar of cloud to sitting dandasana. In this stillness keep what you find.

= = = = = = =


a trinity of movements
from one state to another
something active appears

yet clarity for each of these
comes in quiet moments
still centers, gentle breaths

without such stillness
there is busy-ness
there is willy-nilly-ness

to have them move ahead
rather than in cycles
gather a clear still eye

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Transfiguration Sunday – C1

Years C
Exodus 34:29-35

When in deep conversation with G*D, self, or other we aren't always aware of the difference it is making in us. One way or another, deep conversation sets off fires within that cannot be hidden.

There are changes that occur in deep conversation that affect every other relationship we have, including with the one with whom we have had a deep conversation. Fear, from ourselves or another, is not an unexpected response to the significant change that has happened.

There really isn't any way to cover over the consequences of a deep conversation. This, of course, is one reason more such conversations don't go on - our preemptive fear cuts them off before change becomes necessary.

Are there some conversations you've been meaning to have that you've avoided for fear, yours or another's, that the result would be devastating to business as usual, would transfigure/transform your life and the life of the world?

If we were dealing with the Seventh Sunday of Epiphany (Genesis 45:3-11, 15) we would look at the issue of how other forms of presence can be as dismaying as Moses' - as when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. Here, deep secrets that have been kept are a veil that needs to be lifted, not a deep conversation.

From whichever way we come at this issue of having one's face or one's family transfigured, this is a significant issue in a culture of fear - wars, disagreement is equated with treason, management by leaks, etc. Transfiguration may be one of our yet available hopes to make a difference.

= = = = = = =

introverted Moses
finds energy
in mountain-top

extroverted Joseph
finds energy
in intra-personal

sparks fly
when energy is found
to light one's face
to light another's

its time
to engage energy
inner and outer
for transfiguration

of self
for edification
for reconciliation

Monday, February 12, 2007

Transfiguration Sunday – B

Years B
2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

A whirlwind - horses of fire, a chariot of fire - fire before and tempest around. These images call to let light shine out of darkness. They hearken back to the energy of creation - and let there be light (as though that were an easy, instantaneous event leaving no cosmological trace over time). There is judgment in these images, there is death and inheritance. We find here markers of transition from one generation to the next and a separation of the past from the future. All-in-all, blind violence is very much present.

Listen for another light, perhaps an energy saving compact fluorescent rather than a strobing spotlight, with the mystery of a floating cloud rather than a known tempestuous whirlwind. This comes with a message different than separation and doubling, different than judging and perishing. A message here is that of belovedness that can bridge the gap between what has been and what might yet be.

If we were to compare it with what might otherwise have been the pericopes of the seventh Sunday after Epiphany:
Isaiah 43:18-25
Psalm 41
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Mark 2:1-12

we find a new thing springing forth. A whirlwind of fire becomes a whirlwind of mutual care as a roof is blown off that a paralytic, one already judged and found wanting, might find a healing of forgiveness and walk forth. A way will be found in the wilderness that is as refreshing as a river in a desert. There is an opening up, not a closing down to one transitional moment - every moment of opening leads us onward and reveals the Yes of life. We find a life to be a first or next installment of Life, not a final culmination. We don't need to build more houses to separate us, but an opening of the houses already present that belovedness might enter and go forth.

= = = = = = =

a double portion of spirit
so cries the religious capitalist
making a profit off the prophet
to build more and bigger
dwellings to be franchised

of course this is intended for good
the veiled, the perishing
will be left behind
those who work hard
and persevere will triumph

equally true is the way
this keeps us separated
one profiteer from another
claiming a quadruple spirit
or a hundredfold

eventually we return
no prophetic profit
only a gentle quiet
a light-dimming cloud
murmuring a beloved lullaby

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Transfiguration Sunday – A

Years A
Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 2 or Psalm 99
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

These passage can be played against what, in another year, would have been the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany:
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
Psalm 119:33-40
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
Matthew 5:38-48

A focus on Moses' appearance in Exodus is brought back to the content of Moses' encounter (Leviticus) on the mountain - Here's how to be holy, rather than here's what holy looks like.

Psalms 2 and 99 are again outwardly focused on causing trembling, if not blindness, in others. Psalm 119 here brings the issue to one's internal decision to act on one's understanding, rather than on naming another's source of vain plotting.

Peter has a leg up on prophetic messages. His experience trumps any other experience. Paul builds on a firm foundation in his fashion and others are encouraged to build according to their gifts. Is the faith hierarchical or communal? What is the place of the one with a spiritual gift of questioning or a baby in the faith or one in the midst of transition in their faith - subservient or welcomed?

The conversation Jesus has with Moses and Elijah (Mt 17) might be overheard with Jesus' comments about, "You have said, but I say" (Mt 5). This moment of shift is transformative in a person's life as they move to a next stage - transfiguring, even. When the new perspective comes, it becomes difficult to return to the prior picture with equanimity. A culture shift has occurred and this is a time of danger for the new vision. Fortunately transformative moments are ultimately irradicable and are confirmed in later resurrections into a new community.

= = = = = = =

buildings can break new ground
built on a new vision
they rise in new shapes
reflecting a new day

buildings can trap new ground
repeating an old vision
ticky-tacky on a hillside
restraining a new day

irrepressible Peter
reflecting restraining
needing yet a clear voice
assuring belovedness

from fearful restraint
comes a word to get up
to move beyond reflection
to practical healing

practice loving enemies
here lies new community
resist eye gouging
there lies old feuds

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – C4

Years C
Luke 6:17-26

I have appreciated the translations that say to the poor, hungry, sorrowing, reviled - "You are not cursed." When we leave it simply as "blessed are you", the affirmation soon becomes enough for the sayer to do. While one statement (you are not cursed) may be implied within the other (you are blessed), they touch different parts of us.

To be blessed means I'm in need of blessing and the question is whether that blessing is sufficient to cover what needs covering. There is something clearer about not being cursed.

At other times I am aware of not being cursed, but without the motivation to do anything about that state and I stand in need of a good blessing to free a direction of engagement.

How do you play back and forth between being blessed and not being cursed?

Within this may be some hints about the healing process. Some of those who came needed a vaccination of blessing to hold them through every diseased scene they will pass through. Others needed a seal of approval only received through a proclamation that they are not cursed. The healing arts really are an art form - knowing where to apply what.

Amid the crowd who came to hear and be touched, those looking for a word found themselves spoken to and those looking for a touch found themselves embraced.

= = = = = = =

Nationalism is militant hatred. It is not love of our countrymen: that, which denotes good citizenship, philanthropy, practical religion, should go by the name of patriotism. Nationalism is passionate xenophobia. It is fanatical, as all forms of idol-worship are bound to be. And fanaticism - l'infame denounced by Voltaire - obliterates or reverses the distinction between good and evil. Patriotism, the desire to work for the common weal, can be, must be, reasonable: "My country, may she be right!" Nationalism spurns reason: "Right or wrong, my country."
Albert L. Guerard, The Paradoxes of Nationalism.

let me have all things
let me have nothing
so goes a covenant service
let me be blessed
let me not be cursed
so goes plain speaking

my fear of woe
my fear of not being blessed
are revealed in possession
yes, all is mine
yes, all will be mine
are revealed in present desire

weal or woe
blessing or curse
show which nation we are part of
welcome or restraint
healing or captivity
distinguish good from evil

blessing for me
blessing for all
one calls forth the other
a curse for you
a curses for all
one compounds the other

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – C3

Years C
1 Corinthians 15:12-20

If I proclaim there are WMDs in Iraq, how can some of you say there isn't?
If there aren't WMDs, then democracy is futile and we are controlled by terrorists.
In fact there are WMDs.

There is a vast gap between a proclamation and an experience. This difference is not notable for the one doing the proclaiming, but is for the one being proclaimed to.

We struggle to put our experiences into words that they might be approximately received by others, but ultimately we trust that we might make glancing contact with their experience and our imaginations might, together, be set loose to find more meaning in our experiences than we have heretofore found.

So it is that we find some proclamations to be more fruitful than others. Condemnatory proclamations generally are short-lived (though never short enough, for even one proclaimed off their experience is sufficient to slow the world). Imaginative proclamations have a much longer shelf life (though they too often take a long while to be recognized).

A proclamation of imagination that goes beyond our usual limit of death is a fruitful one. It is too bad that it is often delivered as a condemnation of another's current limit. How might you imaginatively proclaim resurrection without the use of consigning those who are not at that point to un-resurrected states?

= = = = = = =

faith in resurrection
opens our senses to its presence
sharpens our language of argument
grounds our institutionalization of same

hope of resurrection
sets us up for disappointment
causes tentativeness in the present
cuts us loose from action

love with resurrection
moves us toward a preferred future
softens our response to others
deepens our experience of time

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – C3

Years C
1 Corinthians 15:12-20

If I proclaim there are WMDs in Iraq, how can some of you say there isn't?
If there aren't WMDs, then democracy is futile and we are controlled by terrorists.
In fact there are WMDs.

There is a vast gap between a proclamation and an experience. This difference is not notable for the one doing the proclaiming, but is for the one being proclaimed to.

We struggle to put our experiences into words that they might be approximately received by others, but ultimately we trust that we might make glancing contact with their experience and our imaginations might, together, be set loose to find more meaning in our experiences than we have heretofore found.

So it is that we find some proclamations to be more fruitful than others. Condemnatory proclamations generally are short-lived (though never short enough, for even one proclaimed off their experience is sufficient to slow the world). Imaginative proclamations have a much longer shelf life (though they too often take a long while to be recognized).

A proclamation of imagination that goes beyond our usual limit of death is a fruitful one. It is too bad that it is often delivered as a condemnation of another's current limit. How might you imaginatively proclaim resurrection without the use of consigning those who are not at that point to un-resurrected states?

= = = = = = =

faith in resurrection
opens our senses to its presence
sharpens our language of argument
grounds our institutionalization of same

hope of resurrection
sets us up for disappointment
causes tentativeness in the present
cuts us loose from action

love with resurrection
moves us toward a preferred future
softens our response to others
deepens our experience of time

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – C2

Years C
Psalm 1

Much of scripture is the positing of positions - "this" is the place one should end up. "Hooray", if you do. "Boo", if you don't.

What is not so clear is how to navigate the lives-we-really-live in relation to a particular endpoint. Journeys and destinations are not all that easily connected. It may not be all that helpful to turn this dynamic into static consequences of heaven or hell.

This comes down to saying that those who do well, do well and those who do not do well, do not do well. Fortunately there are still another 149 Psalms to go from this beginning point. I suppose that starting with the word "Happy" may have a slight edge over "It was a dark and stormy night". However the Psalm seems to run backward. Happiness here is a celebration of having avoided perishing wickedly. A dark and stormy night may yet have something to commend it - there is an adventure ahead.

= = = = = = =

a tree by water
lives forward
season by season

chaff in the wind
is left behind

if a choice were needed
polls show trees
well ahead

hulls have protected
tender seeds
and been jettisoned

their servant's role
they're blown away

having come to serve
we thank the chaff
and are happy

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – C1

Years C
Jeremiah 17:5-10

In memory of Molly Ivins: "They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes." So are folk who trust in their own strength and don't know how to extricate themselves from the very messes they have caused. Shrub folk are always causing an unintended consequence.

In light of the limitations of a shrub masquerading as a stately oak and a desert having lush dreams the prophet suggests another picture for us - trees by a stream.

With these two alternatives we come to the heart of the matter - deviousness not only happens, but abounds. A test is always running (and not just the annoying emergency broadcast test) to see which of these pictures we will choose - shrub or tree, desert or stream. Like it or not, each eventually bears consequences, bad or good.

= = = = = = =

"We are the people who run this country.
We are the deciders.
And every single day,
every single one of us
needs to step outside and
take some action to help stop this war.
Raise hell.
Think of something to
make the ridiculous look ridiculous.
Make our troops know we're for them and
trying to get them out of there."
[from Molly Ivins' last column]

a shrub sees itself
as substantial as a tree
when it finally meets a tree
it can see itself as it is

at this point there is hope
and so the call
comes to each to stand tall
that shrubs might see themselves

it is this gift of irony and satire
rightly applied to power
that lightens our souls enough
to put down strong roots

with a connection to
thousand year old aquifers
we are nourished
are not discouraged

when choice is willing to receive decision
we gather wisdom
from every direction of time
and we fear not to stand tall

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – B

Years B
2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Mark 1:40-45

Naaman begins with the imagery of the Psalmist and Paul, that one can make their own way in relationship to G*D. Naaman seeks to punish himself to free himself. He looks for some quick fix answer that G*D will bestow upon him, as Jesus did the leper.

After all, he is important enough to receive. In fact, things shouldn't have gone awry in the first place.

There is anger here in Elisha's willingness to display his prophetic power, in Naaman's response to Elisha's directions, in the leper calling Jesus to him instead of calling out "Unclean", and in Jesus' response of healing in anger and casting a healed one away (if you have a Bible that only talks of Jesus' pity or compassion and his sending a healed person to the priests, you need to read some footnotes or other translations).

Anger and discipline often go together. They can urge one another onward. These passages are not helpfully dealt with at face value.

The conscience in these passages is portrayed by an unnamed slave girl. It would be interesting to imagine her comment on each of the subsequent scenes. As a slave, what would she think of the Psalmist desire for extraverted thanks? of Paul's bootstrap pulling? of the leper's trick and Jesus' anger? To look at these passages through her eyes might bear some good fruit.

= = = = = = =

a Red Queen and Paul
run twice as fast to stay in place
run twice as often to stay fit
run twice as far to find a shortcut

this running demands results
Naaman ran twice
to Elisha and away
walked twice
to a river and from

this running presumes rights
a leper putting a burden on Jesus
Jesus casting out leprosy
and casting out a healed leper

this running calls for questions
is twice really enough today
is the end result the result we seek
is anything but power used in healings
is thanksgiving ever humbly done

this running eventually runs out
our historic restlessness is calmed
we are grateful to not prove our power
to not demand curing
to breathe and breathe again

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – A

Years A
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
or Sirach 15:15-20
Psalm 119:1-8
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5:21-37

To choose or not to choose: that is the question.

On the one hand, everything depends upon this moment. What we decide will echo on forever. What we decide against is stillborn. All of life hangs in the balance - all of heaven holds it breath. What will they decide?

Here it might be good to listen again to that old hymn, "Once to Every Man and Nation" [written by James Russell Lowell in the Boston Courier, December 11, 1845. Lowell wrote these words as a poem protesting America’s war with Mexico]. What decision is now needed regarding America's preemptive war against Iraq and impending one with Iran? Will you choose to choose it? What else has changed within and around us, leading to new choices.

Will you throw a first stone or a last stone or no stone at all? Does it make any difference whether the issue is personal or communal, spiritual or political (not that these pairs can be separated very well)?

On the other hand, a choice doesn't make the slightest difference. We are simply G*D's servants whether we find ourselves with Apollos or Paul or Amy or Janet or performing one function or another. As a simple servant of G*D, just how much choice does a milk-sucking child have?

Now, when to choose to choose or to choose not to choose, aye - that is a good question. When to say Yes! or No! is both imponderably confusing and intuitionally clear.

= = = = = = =

happy those
who are able to decide
after the fact
Monday-morning quarterback
after the fact
but happier still those
who decide
with an eye to the future
before the fact
that will become an after fact
to move toward a preferred tomorrow
before its factness
is highly satisfying here
decisions take on deep meaning

Friday, February 02, 2007

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – C4

Years C
Luke 5:1-11

Nets are being washed and readied for the next night's fishing. Jesus is talking to people on the lakeshore. Jesus enters a boat and teaches and then asks Simon to go fishing in the daytime.

Fishing at night might symbolize economic sustenance based on what has become known over the generations. Fishing during the day may represent a willingness to suspend common sense that a new revelation might have room to be welcomed.

Sure enough, after getting the nets back in place they broke their pattern and were nearly swamped with a new catch. Simon, in a boat filled to the brim with wriggling, newly-caught fish, falls to his knees in their midst. (If there isn't some element of humor in a new revelation, it probably isn't.)

If this event was possible, what isn't? Simon Peter asks that question with a fearful, dramatic phrasing to distance himself from even more changes. The culmination of a willingness to suspend more than common sense regarding a routine task leads Peter to hear an important response to his question, "Relax, if you can catch fish at such an inopportune time, I'm inviting you to look inland to fields ripe for the harvesting and few to put their hand to that task." Simon quickly surmises there is more going on here than literal connections between fish and fields and people. Here is a challenge that can't be passed up and allow one to remain satisfied by going back to a previous routine.

May we each hear a more expansive invitation than we were ready for. Ready or not, daylight comes, patterns are broken, fear rises, courage for a new challenge abates that fear, new life goes on.

= = = = = = =

yet, if you say so
I will come to myself
in this very place and time

until every midnight and noon
every fullness of employment - doing
every empty laid-aside - suffering
sings a body electric

yet, if you say so
I will come to neighbors
in their moment and space

until every race and gender
every variation in culture
every difference in orientation
sings a body eclectic

yet, if you say so
I will come to you
in your whim and wisdom

until every call and response
every habit questioned
every opportunity welcomed
sings a body elected

yet, if you say so
I will come to rest
in expectation and trust

until every premise and assumption
every unexpected youngest child
every unentitled eldest
sings a body selected

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – C3

Years C
1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Proclaimed and received - a circuit through which energy might flow. This is a valuable tool that can evolve as it works.

We might want to take a step back to remember the expansive love of G*D proclaimed to Saul. Was that proclamation as early as Saul's learning with Gamaliel or was it present in the stoning of Stephen? Might it have been heard as Saul went around persecuting followers of a risen Christ? How many times might Saul have fallen on his face in recognition that G*D's steadfast love was not threatened by folks trying to honor it in a different way? Finally, outside Damascus, Saul received a proclamation and life changed. Paul arises.

How many proclamations had come to the folks at Corinth before Paul came along and a proclamation and a reception connected?

The proclamation seems to be that a risen Christ can and has appeared to many in every generation. This appearance transforms people's lives, changes their named identity.

How many different ways has this connection between Christ and an individual or group occurred? As many ways as there are people and groups. Whether it was one way or another for you, it is probably different for me, and different from either of us when we are dealing with someone else.

We can get caught up in doctrinally defining Jesus in this passage, but that won't get too far. It is far better to look at the sweep of process, proclamation and reception, in all its many combinations and permutations. This will keep us ready to receive strangers, unaware as we are of the spirit's work with them.

= = = = = = =

the last of the apostles
is a very hallowed position
we all want to be the culmination

the first of the apostles
is important but the new and improved version
finally arrived can't be beat

yes, apostles can define everyone else
out of their ranks and ranking
but mystery abounds beyond apostles

the last is never last
take a breath and you're next to last
thus the danger of pride of reception

may we so hallow the next apostle
that we will find our apostleship
confirmed in giving it up