Friday, March 30, 2007

Palm/Passion Sunday – C4

Palm/Passion Sunday – C4

Years C
Passion Sunday
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 22:14 - 23:56


There are different ways of emptying oneself. One way brings one to one's self (non-exploitation). Another way loses one's self (demanding). Both can be trancelike. Both are open to temptation and subversion.

We wrestle with this all the time. Is this a time to not respond? Is this a time to use every tongue at our disposal? What is obedience and what pride?

Pre-crucifixion, non-follower knees were unbent, goose-stepping toward mob rule. Post-crucifixion followers on bended knee demand a loyalty pledge be on the tip of everyone's tongue to roll off at a moment's notice.

We move from a passionate experience to being passionate about another's passion and, in turn, inflicting said passion upon others. What does it mean to follow one claimed to be non-exploitative and not exploit same for greater ends? This is an impossible line to walk without falling off on one side and then another.

So it is that someone's image of randomly handing some congregants a palm branch as they come to worship, while others receive a stone or nothing at all is a wonderful one. All of this: from exuberant praise, to stoning him softly with a cross, to not knowing what is happening or where to gain traction in the turmoil - is going on within and around us all the time.

May your right hand palm know what your left hand stone is doing that you might break both trances before they lead to one exploitation or another and someone ends up dead enough to require the preparation of spices and ointments. Such preparation is little enough sorrow and restitution for injuries done.

= = = = = = =

rail and roil
tumultuous living
claiming privilege
demanding rights
sturm and drang
rule our hearts
parade our passion

and on a sabbath
night and noon
rest happens
creation blooms
slavery breaks

we take the bodies
harmed and killed
in careful hands
and perfumed bands
to lay in pieces
our own brokenness

on bended knee
confession rolls
as it has before
tongues promise
yet again
calamity remembered

and on a sabbath
night and noon
hope happens
creation blooms
slavery breaks

. . .

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Palm/Passion Sunday – C3

Palm/Passion Sunday – C3

Years C
Passion Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16


What word sustains a weary Jesus?

The Lord God is already helping me, even though it is hard to see right now?
This is the confrontation that clarifies our relationship?
It is for times like this that my practice of trust comes to the fore?

Or should those question marks become exclamation points? (Better to spell that out, otherwise it looks like: should those ?s become !s? - and that is a bit confusing.) Some folks find possibilities more energizing. Some find certainties to better sustain them.

What word sustains a weary you?

A word that sustains me is, "My times are not mine alone."

= = = = = = =

a weariness unto
a vanity of weariness
wears our vanity
into weariness

circular repetition
or steady state
trap weariness
into our bones

passion beaten
into weariness
beats us down
to misery

passion in the midst
of weariness
shines light
beyond time

which was
and is
and may yet be

one kingdom
stringing up another
calls for a new realm

freedom - morning awake
freedom - learns to listen
freedom - open eared
freedom - beyond time

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Palm/Passion Sunday – C2a

I am always thankful for and the lectionary resources it provides.

In particular is TextWeek's reference to this week's essay by Dan Clendenin ("He's Subverting Our Nation!") and his "weekly webzine for the global church" If you have wondered about a Palm Procession being public political theatre, Dan's essay is a helpful way into this image.

Here we are doing Palm Sunday, not Passion Sunday. There is something overwhelmingly important about the passage of time during pre-Easter week. It is not a matter of trying to package the whole thing so folks can easily swallow it on a Sunday and not have to actually do something with their bodies until the following Sunday. This may give folks a nodding acquaintance with the consequences of actions growing from expansive love (some form of dismissal) but it doesn't equip them for an actual breakthrough of expansive love beyond consequences (some form of renewal).

Liturgically this is still a Sunday in Lent (a resurrectional experience in the midst of an incomplete world). To do a Passion Sunday well, means leaving us dead for a week, instead of two/three days - and not even Jesus went past four days with Lazarus.

Another approach is to raise the question of evangelistic results. I wonder if the Lilly Endowment folks could get behind a study of Palm/Passion Sundays and its effect on membership growth? By now decisions about Palm/Passion Sunday have been made for this year, so this is simply a prod to walk the whole week next year and not take a shortcut.

Palm/Passion Sunday – C2

Palm/Passion Sunday – C2

Years C
Palm Sunday
Luke 19:28-40


Go, do ["this specific action"]! And they did.

"If these were silent, the stones would [take this specific action]!"

"This specific action" will happen. In the short-run or the long-run, a sign of a change is ready to be manifest.

Let's listen in to Luke recording of some other folks invited to "Go ...." As you listen, raise the question: where you are being led to "Go ...."? Without the question we might miss an invitation to an expanded life.

John the Baptizer: Lu 1:17 - With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Jesus: Lu 1:76 - And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

Shepherds: Lu 2:15 - When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

Lepers: Lu 5:14 - And he ordered him to tell no one. "Go," he said, "and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them."
Lu 17:14 - When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean.
Lu 17:19 - Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

Paralytic: Lu 5:24 - But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he said to the one who was paralyzed - "I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home."

John's Disciples: Lu 7:22 - And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.

Anointing Woman: Lu 7:50 - And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Disciples: Lu 8:22 - One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side of the lake." So they put out,
Lu 10:3 - Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
Lu 22:8 - So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it."

Hemorrhaging Woman: Lu 8:48 - He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."

Would-be Follower: Lu 9:60 - But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

Questioning Lawyer: Lu 10:37 - [Who was a neighbor?] He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Warners: Lu 13:32 - He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, "Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.

Potential Guest: Lu 14:10 - But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, "Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.

Feast Giver: Lu 14:21 - "Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.'

Two Different Children: Lu 15:18 - I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;
Lu 15:28 - Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

= = = = = = =

being sent
brings questions
of ulterior motives
for whose benefit
am I sent
do I send

to be sent
on my way
as my way
is a great gift
not needing
batteries included

to send
on their way
as their way
is great ministry
not needing
eternal shepherding

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Palm/Passion Sunday – C1

Palm/Passion Sunday – C1

Years C
Palm Sunday
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Palms: Steadfast Love - Forever!

Image living stones. Life built upon life into an edifice surrounding righteousness.

In so building, some life-stone didn't quite mesh with others. The result was chinks in the armor of the wall protecting righteousness. Righteousness leaked.

Of course, to best defend Righteousness and husband it for another day, leakage was not acceptable to the Protectors of Righteousness. When it came to a choice of leaving an unmeshed life-stone in place or replacing it with one that would better protect this most valuable of resources, the unmeshed gets pushed outward, falling to the ground.

Picking itself up our little life-stone moseys around to the gate, proclaiming, "Open to me the gates, that I may come in and give thanks."

One might imagine the gate wondering what in the world this little life-stone would have to be thankful for. For not meshing? For being a leaker of Righteousness?

Presumably, wonder got the better of the gate and open it did.

Whereupon, the little life-stone announces that only Righteousness comes in through the gate, she had come in, therefore even a little, leaky life-stone is Righteous. This syllogism (rightly or wrongly) caught their ear and became for them a new understanding of Righteousness shared.

Eventually they rebuilt with the little, unmeshable life-stone at a corner and Rightousness has shone in both directions through every nook and cranny of its walls and gates ever since.

May you leak Righteousness as did little, life-stone Jesus.

= = = = = = =

steadfast love
endures forever
even better
expands now
expansively encompassing
rejected lovers

Monday, March 26, 2007

Palm/Passion Sunday – B

Palm/Passion Sunday – B

Years B
Palm Sunday
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16
Passion Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 14:1 - 15:47

Palms: Here at least permission is directly given for the lending or leasing of a colt (perhaps because it only entailed one animal? [grin]). Or, a young donkey is "found".

It is instructive that the Gospels (at least part of them) are written from the perspective of the resurrection. Later folks remembered more than they knew at the time. This remembrance was just in time to be recorded as eternal truth for all time. In this circle we are freed, if we desire to live in freedom, to anticipate future insight as well as newly appreciating past experiences. It is helpful to both name the original understanding and the later revision. This grounds both in a larger reality of growth and allows a better appreciation of the witness.

A process of "midrash" is still of the utmost importance to breaking through the religious restrictions that have accumulated down through the years about expected meaning of particular passages. These midrash moments are appropriately responded to with, "Hosanna!"

Passion: Any of the numberless deadly sins could be used as a lens for this section. An easy one to use is that of greed. The set up is John's version of an anointing story and the harassing of the woman on the basis of perceived loss of revenue (greed excused as a good thing because it is "concerned" about the poor - not that they would have received any real help after an appropriate amount of administrative costs and overhead were taken out).

From there we can ask about greed of position, greed of power, and greed of control (all experiences can be commoditized).

We can also ask about generosity as we follow the story of a number of Marys. They offer their time and energy to a faithful presence. It is not as though they have any position, power, or control - they simply are witnessing. I am reminded of the women of the disappeared who publicly dance in solitude with the missing loved ones. To speak would be to be disappeared, but their act of witness is critical.

= = = = = = =

looking back brings new insight
mining experience is valuable
we polish events
bringing their deeper significance
to the surface

standing quietly by
witnessing events is valuable
we avoid secrets
pushing common realities
into the background

hands over eyes, mouth, ears
quickly diminish values
we increase ignorance
keeping insight restricted
to authorized versions

looking standing vulnerable
caring presence is valuable
we join life
partnering common good
with uncommon good

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Palm/Passion Sunday – A

Palm/Passion Sunday – A

Years A
Palm Sunday
Matthew 21:1-11
Psalm 118:1-2,19-29
Passion Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14 - 27:66

Ahh, the joy of choosing to walk a slow walk, even though many will not know how to slow down that long, and focus on Palm Sunday, or to take all of pre-Easter week in one big gulp and focus on the Passion.

Thanks to the wisdom of Robert Frost you are encouraged to take whichever path is least traveled by you and/or your community of faith.

Palms: There is still hospitality in the big city. Someone needs your donkey and colt, you lend it. That's the happy spin.

Less happy is the implication of an entitlement to have one's needs met. There is no reporting here of a question being asked when the disciples followed Jesus' command and took the animals. This is the moral equivalent of stealing. Just being Jesus doesn't get anyone off the hook of the commandment.

From there we are on to Hosanna and a recognized, but too easily passed over, understanding that Jesus is a Prophet. It would be clarifying to counterpose Palms and Prophets.

Passion: Where we usually look at the Passion of Christ and focus on his suffering, we might also look at the Passion against Christ and focus on what it is that drives people to participate with the principalities and powers.

In this vein we would investigate the commonalities between Judas, Chief Priests, (Peter, John, James and the other disciples who choose betrayal after a first betrayal), a crowd ready for violence with swords and clubs, false witnesses, Governor Pilate, a crowd still ready for violence with voice, military cohort, and guards. What passion sustained them, one to the next, until passion led to passion, in not a good way?

= = = = = = =

Thief Jesus dies alongside thieves
like calls to like

Messiah Jesus dies alongside thieves
like calls to like

do you like the call you're calling?
who are you living with?

do you like the call you're receiving?
who are you living with?

like still calls to like
like still lives with like

better like what you like
better like what you like

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C Addendum

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C Addendum

Years C
John 12:1-8

Tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. A current movie, Amazing Grace profiles William Wilberforce as a key presence in the years of work for this abolition.

To learn more you can see many reviews at RottenTomatoes, here is one from Spirituality and Practice. A helpful interview of the cast comes from The BBC.

At least one take looks at the potential of Jesus within our sisters or brothers or you or me and the very practical question of how we put together loving God and loving Neighbor. Mary's anointing shows up in the presence of Barbara who, having studied Jesus' teachings (William's speeches), brings affirmation to continue in the path that he is traveling. Judas' concern about the poor as a cover for greed is apparent in several political proponents for slavery.

There are implications for any number of social justice movements still going on, including that of literal and actual slavery (from sex trade to non-living wages) in our day. Amazing Grace would be an excellent way for you to honor the historic vote to abolish slavery in one political system and to recommit to a community of people whose faith must be put to work for a greater common good than we presently experience. [You may also hear in this film small but specific references to bringing troop home before more die - in regard to the British experience of the American Revolutionary War.]

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C4

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C4

Years C
John 12:1-8

This Mary has stolen a march on the Magdalene by getting her hands on Jesus. Headlines: strike while the iron is hot, give roses while folks live. It seems that our little needs to honor aren't as easy to give to a missing body as a present one.

Once in awhile I wonder whether Mary got confused and had meant to anoint Lazarus, who may not yet be over his four-day stink - thus making him a more acceptable dinner companion. Or, having come to believe Jesus is Messiah and having experienced him getting out of many a scrape, Mary, knowing the authorities were out to get Lazarus (following 3 verses), anointed Jesus to throw them off the scent.

Regardless of such silly musings, Judas is often maligned for his imputed motivation of materialistic greed and Mary is lauded for her spiritual generosity. Into this too easy a dualism - hear William Stringfellow in Dissenter in a Great Society:

"In the Gospel of Christ there is no dichotomy between "material" and "spiritual." Indeed, the realities to which these words refer in the Gospel do not exist separately, in distinction one from the other, or in opposition to one another--although that was what the Greeks supposed and what many Americans still vainly assume. In the Gospel, these are made one, each indispensable to the other, each inherent in the other. The very event of the Incarnation concerns the reconciliation in the world of the realities which men call "material" and "spiritual." Since the Incarnation, for men to persist in thinking and speaking of "material" vs "spiritual" is not only a sign of confusion but is also both false and profane." (p. 36)

If we can associate Jesus with the outcasts, a question for Mary is whom should we be anointing today? Might it be the poor and would that, after all these years, reconcile Mary and Judas?

If we can't associate Jesus with outcasts, it's everyone for their own gain. Those honor Jesus best who end up with the biggest stash. Reconciliation seems absent here.

= = = = = = =

A Duel

The prodigal Mary and the older-son Judas
Side by side on the table sat;
'Twas half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I wasn't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The prodigal Mary went "Anoint, Anoint!"
And the older-son Judas replied "The Poor!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of nard and purse,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney place
Up with it hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh dear! What shall we do!"
But the spiritual Mary and the material Judas
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw-
And oh! how the oil and coins flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate!
I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning where the two had sat
They found no trace of Mary or Judas;
And some folks think unto this day
That religion scholars stole the pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock, it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)

[with a nod and apologies to Eugene Field and the gingham dog and the calico cat]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C3

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C3

Years C
Philippians 3:4b-14

Are you confident in the flesh? Do you have your understandings all in a row? Are you sufficiently certified? Are your advantages being played to the hilt and your disadvantages minimized? In other words, have you padded your resume?

Surely, you have you have an explanation for such intractables as poverty. I've been following a Lenten Reading Program that is about to get to the chapter on poverty in Bob Edgar's new book, Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right. In peeking ahead there is this provocative line, "It is time for a New Revised Standard Version of international capitalism, and it must begin with the simple proposition that each of God's children deserves love equally." (p. 188)

To have the power of resurrection in our back pocket without getting it out and "straining forward" to apply it to individuals and systemic processes is to not have it at all. Nowhere will resurrection show up more dramatically than in the ratio of poor to rich. This is an accurate moral measure of our lives, individual and corporate.

The above book indicates that if someone handed you a one-hundred-dollar bill and in return you gave seventy cents back, every one of the Millennium Goals could be achieved and the lives of more than one billion of the least-of-these would be transformed. Even such a small thing we find it impossible to do.

What social holiness will come from your knowing the power of Christ's resurrection?

= = = = = = =

a degree on the wall
I passed Jesus
I am authorized
to pass judgment
and never lose another game
just watch me point
point at my degrees
at least 34 of them
it is so hard to forget
all that went into getting here
and so easy to remember
that with all that I am
and all that I have
I don't have to strain
quite so much as I used to
to make the train
when the heavenly call
goes out

to be continued
even a progressive pilgrim moves
into a slough of despond
before having their degrees
and replaced
with a dance of joy

to be continued
with others

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C2

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C2

Years C
Psalm 126

Remembering past restorations gives hope for a restoration in the present day. This is very upbeat and a helpful reminder in the midst of difficulties. [Listen to the Song of the Reaper]

This is one of those passages that can bear repeating unto vanity. Inasmuch as life is what life is, this are among the most contemporary of expressions.

As a way of testing this, spend a week with this Psalm. Speak it and sing it over and over. At the beginning of the week note your level of enthusiasm for the work before you. At the end of the week note your enthusiasm. I wouldn't be surprised if this perspective of a different ending spot than starting spot makes a change in the way in which you are able to be persistent in doing good.

= = = = = = =


in retrospect
we find perspective
to willingly perspire

not bound by the past
but taught by it
we don't repeat

eventually our revival
is not a recycling
but a new joy


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C1

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C1

Years C
Isaiah 43:16-21

There has been a running debate about how best to praise G*D.

Some frame praise entirely within religious language - one has to speak religion in order for G*D to hear, otherwise you are wasting your breath.

Some frame praise entirely outside religion's bounds - one must do some will of G*D for a neighbor for it to be accepted, otherwise you are wasting your energy.

Some try to portion those positions out with some acceptable ratio of the two.

This may be another arena where an untenable synthesis of fully praising G*D and fully caring for Neighbor will come to the forefront. In the meantime it might be helpful to consider some new things.

If you tend to lump praise under language skills, a new thing for you (desired from you by G*D, even?) would be engaging your translation skills from language to deed.

If you are one who tends to see praise as doing what was asked rather than talking about it, a new thing G*D may be looking for from you is a reorientation to what lies behind your deeds.

Any approach to praise is open to a downside of habit and a slow, slippery slide toward irrelevance. What keeps praise alive is an attitude of finding new occasions and styles for its expression.

= = = = = = =

carrying father's Alzheimer genes
I look forward
to not remembering former things
of recent days
and living in a land of former things
ancient of days

phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny
and vice versa others
either way
former becomes present
former becomes future

a former of formers
was a new thing once
new things can hold
former things at bay
and open future things
foiling former's fate

this calls for praise
former is former
present is present
future is future
intersecting well
living daily

Monday, March 19, 2007

Fifth Sunday in Lent – B

Fifth Sunday in Lent – B

Years B
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12 or 119:9-16
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

G*D: "I have glorified, I will glorify; I have been who I have been, I will be who I will be." And so the bookends are in place.

Self: "I am beloved." And so the content is in place.

Now comes the living with new covenants, steadfast love, abundant mercy, clean hearts, joyful salvation, and a willing spirit. Thrown into these qualities that open us to an expansive future are those elements that narrow us down: strayless commandments, sinless statutes, reverent submission (with cries and tears), and learned obedience.

As we go along there will be requests to take folks to Jesus. What will you show these inquiring hearts and minds first, second, third, finally? Will you start with something from the expanding list or the narrowing list, and why? Will it depend on the nature of the searcher and begin with where they are (if looking for more, start with the expansive), or begin with where they are not (if looking for more, start with the narrower)? Both have their appeal and effectiveness, but they are probably both equally incapable of being turned into a technology to be applied universally.

Will you start with where you are instead of where the questioner is? Here the questions of application may be even more difficult.

Finally, will any of this impact the kind of life you are going to live (which may have an impact on what kind of death you will have)?

= = = = = = =

someone is coming to dinner
they wish to see what makes me tick
that of course cannot be seen
it must be planted and replanted
grow unseen and burst dark bonds
a fruit here and there and everywhere
may yet appear in miracle and mystery

fed and encouraged
some choose to dive
into the dark
of a miracle self
invested as fallow seed
until tears of pain
waken it to bloom

a bloom of thunder
echoing from the past
awakening a future
with morning glories
twining upward
drawing beauty with them
here today gone tonight

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fifth Sunday in Lent – A

Fifth Sunday in Lent – A

Years A
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45

The church in Rome might also hear that to set the mind on death is to focus on flesh and to set the mind on life and peace is spirit work. These things are not one-way orientations. If we take death as an advisor for what to pay attention to in life, we might name death a spiritual advisor. Likewise, life and peace find their context in death, what transforms it, redeems it, resurrects it.

And so Ezekiel's bones cry out as much as the spirit of the Lord. Lazarus' flesh cries out as much as do Martha and Mary and Jesus. Out of the depths comes a cry for new life and that is tied in with forgiveness.

The Lord needs to deal with forgiveness issues with those lying in the valley of dust. Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus have forgiveness issues with one another. Forgiveness is still a key element in our lives and deaths that desires resolution beyond every opportunity for resolution. A key question: how we are doing with our forgiving and receiving of forgiveness?

= = = = = = =

O so slow we are
to establish a relationship
on and in and through

justice calls for it
and justice grinds slow
but it does surface
even from the dead

forgiveness drives
a hard bargain
as steadfast love's
altar ego

it will not give up
until satisfied
slow or fast

leaving us a choice
cooperation early
prolonged resistance
but no choice

bones will rise
flesh will be unwrapped
death becomes spirit
peace becomes flesh

fear not O crier
from deep places
there is forgiveness
wait - hope - redeem

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fourth Sunday in Lent – C4

Fourth Sunday in Lent – C4

Years C
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Grumbling about those with whom Jesus associated continues to rise up. Jesus' response is a story, not capitulation to the grumblers. In fact three stories that move from care for 1:100 sheep, 1:10 coins, and 1:2 children. Regardless of the ratio, care is needed and given. Regardless of the economics involved, care is needed and given.

In this story we hear the lead-in - Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. Imagine a pre-Emmaus meal with the youngest son who sinned by breaking any number of family and cultural ties and is eating with the pigs. Even in the slops, Jesus joins those caught in dissolute living and a healing surfaces - a coming to one's self.

In this moment of revelation an injured, lame one rises to be homeward bound. The long story of moving away becomes a short story of coming back.

For both the father and older son, it is as if he had never gone. A father is still generous - in welcome back as well as with resources to go. A brother is still put out - once cheated of a helpmate and resources and now cheated out of recognition and rejoicing.

So how will things be different? Will the younger son repeat his stunt seventy times seven times? Will he bring new technology from afar and make the land more productive? Will he be a catalyst for a moment of revelation by his brother? Will he find himself slain in a field at Cain's long hand?

Questions can also be asked of changes regarding the father and brother (not to mention invisible mother, servants, the next fatted calf, etc.) - questions hard and hopeful.

= = = = = = =

no one gave him anything
neither did she receive assistance
with nothing
from nothing
toward nothing
lost and lone
we finally peel back
what feels like fate
to see an abundance
from which we have come
to which we return
in the ashes
from which we have come
to which we return
in an abundance of ashes
we find not only
ashes of abundance
we find also
new sight
new direction
new energy
new life
we hear also
angels rejoicing
as one in hundred is found
as one in ten is found
as one in two is found
as one unique in all the world is found
and so
what have we to lose
when there is paradise to gain

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fourth Sunday in Lent – C3

Fourth Sunday in Lent – C3

Years C
2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Love G*D with everything you are, and your neighbor as yourself.

Be reconciled with G*D in everything you do, and with your neighbor as well as yourself.

Other words that can be substituted in are "peace", "partnered", "engaged", and each of the virtues.

There is an impetus to reconciliation that, once experienced, brings a desire for more. Reconciliation is thus a once and future desire - always available and always sought.

It is this vibrant energy that shows its connection to creation and G*D. It comes from premeditated mercy and results in more of the same. In some ways it is a catalyst where we end up having more - it is negentropic [free energy] with increasing capacity for G*D work.

= = = = = = =

I got me a ministry of reconciliation
and I'm gonna spread it all around
here a reconciliation
there a reconciliation
everywhere a reconciliation

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fourth Sunday in Lent – C2

Fourth Sunday in Lent – C2

Years C
Psalm 32

From The New Interpreter's Study Bible: "The double blessing that opens the psalm (Heb. 'ashre, vv. 1-2) results specifically from breaking silence with God, confession and forgiveness (vv. 1-5)." This double blessing is linguistically connected with making progress in a forward direction. It's as if we can now proceed, where before we were blocked.

A blockage by silence shows how powerful that technique is. To get the silent treatment is a deadly proposition. To speak together again - here or after apple-eating time or whenever - opens us to joy.

Try playing with placement of verses 8-9. Would it make a difference for you if the Psalm began with these lines? The context then is G*D's intentional involvement in lives with either easy or difficult presence. Out of this come the blessings that follow (an eventual response to steadfast presence/love).

What if it were at the end (moving 10-11 up to follow 7)? Here we would again follow the ancient wisdom that all manner of things shall be well again.

Do you like it where it is? - a sequence of personal revelation, G*D self revelation, congregational exhortation to move ahead as per blessing at the beginning.

= = = = = = =

breaking wind is old phraseology
bringing healing laughter
wind is also spirit and word
breaking silence is old healing
a spirit word set loose
to laugh where it will

listen for wind
listen to word
listen in spirit
listen with laughter
listen toward blessing
listen from experience

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fourth Sunday in Lent – C1

Fourth Sunday in Lent – C1

Years C
Joshua 5:9-12

Here I am working out of ignorance. What is the Passover tradition during the Exodus? Do we go from Egypt to the plains of Jericho without Passover? Can quail, manna, and sand substitute for lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs? Given the importance of Passover in the Jewish tradition are there equivalent periods without Christmas, Good Friday, or Easter in the Christian tradition? What about Coke (r) and Twinkies (r) for bread and wine? Are rituals dependent upon the congregants, if not the priests, so injustice trumps correct kosher, as the prophets claim?

I'm not even sure what to make of the questions? Do they go the heart of something or are they entirely beside any point?

In most other arenas I speculate more freely with a modicum of supposed information. Here, without a base to build from, I am stymied.

Time to ask. Anyone have any info? And, will I believe it if I hear it?

In the meantime a look could be taken at circumcision or the restart of Passover observances. But right now I'm too fixated on the Exodus/Passover question. If we paid attention we may even find that our various fixations on supposedly better known pieces of information leads us to equally stuck places. From a point of either too little or too much information we do not find a fruitful place for midrash.

= = = = = = =

dear g*d help
my unbelief
my disbelief
my ignorance
my surety

and in helping
leave room
for all the above

to gather
new life

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fourth Sunday in Lent – B

Fourth Sunday in Lent – B

Years B
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

The poisonous language of complaint usually ends up in a community that bites each other. Any way one turns there is complaint ready to strike. Everyone is a heel to be struck and a heel who strikes.

In a poisonous context, working from the inside is no longer an option for healing. It has to come from the outside. A discipline or methodology needs to be designed and followed for, left to one's own devices, the poison is too strong to fight against and poison breeds poison - that which we abhor, we do; that which we intend, we don't.

Look clearly at the result - complaint becomes a snake. Look clearly at this connection. Perhaps by turning it around and seeing the snake on its way (still on a pole, but ready to descend to bite again) we might yet change our complaining ways.

Wherein such clarity that can stop a consequence by seeing it? Here it is prayer. Prayer for a larger context. Prayer of thanks. Prayer for mercy. Prayer for deeds of light.

In this Lenten season prayer is not just duty, but a lens through which we might yet see more clearly. Or, as St. Richard of Chichester prayed in the 13th century and the Shrine of St. Jude modified for use as a midday prayer in the 21st:

Merciful Friend, Brother and Redeemer
May I know you more clearly
Love you more dearly
And follow you more nearly
Day by day.

[may this prayer be more, this day, than a pious covering of crusade preaching (complaint) against another faith - Richard did have his limits and blind-spots, as do we all]

= = = = = = =

a serpent is raised as a question mark
"is this what you want to become"
that question twines itself around our lives

a messiah is raised an exclamation mark
"come on in life is fine"
that call echoes within and through our lives

a singular you is raised to take them both
and demonstrate that steadfast love endures
that good works are - our way of life

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fourth Sunday in Lent – A

Fourth Sunday in Lent – A

Years A
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Once you were in darkness - threatened by leader and community - then you came to understand "not wanting" and you proceeded as though it were light, as though there were no threat.

When we feel threatened we shut our eyes, physical and spiritual.

With our eyes closed we divide our experience from our theology. Saul is Saul is Saul and ever will be king (substitute the leader of your choice) so there is no sense in doing anything about it. Blind from birth is blind from birth is blind from birth (substitute the present personal limitation of your choice) and so there is no sense in practicing an alternative reality. Once darkness sets in, darkness is all there is.

These limitations and their overcoming are the stuff fairytales are made of. And there isn't much truer than fairytales.

= = = = = = =

sin, sin all around
and not a healing left
unfairness abounds
and blame is our motif

through the most unlikely one
the youngest the weakest
the ugliest the most foolish
the spit and the mud

sin becomes irrelevant
unfairness ceases to be a mantra
so what now that our understanding
of blame needs recalibrating

well well well
it is time for the depth
of experience-based belief
in muddy spit-based kinship

Friday, March 09, 2007

Third Sunday in Lent – C4

Third Sunday in Lent – C4

Years C
Luke 13:1-9

Unless you pay attention in a different way than you have, you will perish as did those at a deliberate hand of violence or in another anonymous occasion of death.

Our usual process is to use comparisons. I'm better than they, so I deserve better. They are worse than I, so they deserve what they got. Or, we get lost in trying to parse a nuanced duality of good and evil out of a creative impulse and bump into irreconcilable differences.

Here repentance doesn't change the final outcome of death, but it does change the energy of it. To pay attention in a different direction is to focus on that which brings life and leave death to do its own thing. We don't try to justify one death as being different than another. We do, however, bring careful compassion to individuals and prophetic justice to unjust systems. In so doing we join G*D and Jesus in watering lives and changing the pH of contexts.

Just a note: often we associate G*D with the "man" in parables and, here, the gardener with Jesus. Given the beginning of this section, "the man" might better be seen as Mr. Market Force, Pilate, or the Principalities and Powers - always looking for an advantage and claiming a seven-year fig in only three - always ready to destroy. In like fashion, the gardener role becomes you, so enjoy digging in the stuff of life.

= = = = = = =

a cacophony
survival needs
desires of niceties
clamor and echo

to listen in its midst
is like tuning a hearing aid
to hear a whisper
amid the latest dissonance

was that a fire siren
a clink of toasting glasses
warning us away
drawing us close

get me some head-on (r)
I can't pay attention any more
and wander and waver
where's good fruit

its not comparing deaths
its not theod-I-see
lets simply see one tree
and bring it many cares

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Third Sunday in Lent – C3

Third Sunday in Lent – C3

Years C
1 Corinthians 10:1-13

No safety. No exemption. Not for Moses, Jesus, me, or thee. Herein is a commonality between us.

A part of our test is that of becoming a special pleader. Because of such-and-such-circumstance, we ought to be able to opt out of difficulty with a god-given get-out-of-jail card given the elect - those who won't be tested too much.

There apparently have been folks sated on spirituality who displease a god and they get theirs. We, of course, are capable of learning from their error, not having life in common with them, and enduring through to a special escape pod. What a sunny side of the street we have to ourselves!

I also don't want us to be unaware that this language is common to every cult. No one ever thinks they are in the same boat as those they are distinguishing themselves from. We are always one rung higher on the mast and able to see ever so much further to a safe landing.

That we are in the same boat may be of more importance than our various perspectives from it.

= = = = = = =

I would like a spiritual rock
to follow me all my days
one that would hustle forward
just as I needed to sit and stay

I expect I would have a number of names
for my spiritual rock
Christ I'd name it Rocky
a foundation to build on

yes a spiritual rock of my own
that would also go ahead
and pause long enough
to be a perch to farther see

of course I wouldn't want it
to get underfoot
or be a stumbling-block
something seen but not heard

yes indeed a spiritual rock
that would be the ticket
I'd paint it gold
and be the talk of the town

but then when envy set in
I'd paint it invisible
so only I could see it
and merrily go my way

testing a spiritual rock
doesn't take any extraordinary measures
simply take it for granted
just apply it to every other rock

in a shorter time than it would take
for a bird to peck a mountain down
it too would be gone
and I'd come looking for yours

maybe it wasn't a spiritual rock
if it could be so misused
and maybe it was
especially if it were

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Third Sunday in Lent – C2

Third Sunday in Lent – C2

Years C
Psalm 63:1-8

A soul thirstily waits, like a fig tree in need of watering and fertilizing. There is no fruit or expectation of fruit. It is unable to break through a dark night on its own.

Whence water? manure (sh*t for those who have filters on their email or search engine)? that will lead a soul to bless them both. W*t*r & Sh*t - a rich feast indeed.

So which is which in your life and are you able to be thankful for both as sources of growth. (Yes, it is possible to have too much of these good things, but for the moment imagine them in appropriate amounts.)

= = = = = = =

it is so easy to get confused about our needs
in dark nights we lose track of whether
water is our need or something stronger
for everything feels like drought
everything feels like emptiness

we can try to avoid the feelings
and investigate some inconvenient truths
how our context is toxic
our insides betray themselves
and what's the use of going on

but always, night and noon, we return
feelings for some trump their facts
and others find it the other way 'round
until there is no avoiding behind both
a steadfast love - our miracle-gro (r)

so we set about to standardize our feelings
to regularize all facts - former and future
we register our love and sell it drop by drop
until even in days of light we are confused
and we cling to any loose track

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Third Sunday in Lent – C1

Third Sunday in Lent – C1

Years C
Isaiah 55:1-9

In just how much of the image of G*D are we made? Are we partners with G*D or just associates? Co-creators? Just how much higher are G*D's ways and thoughts than our own?

All too often we turn this into an eternal co-dependency rather than a movement toward holiness for both G*D and ourselves - a revelation or wholeness of both and all. One book that talks about the maturing of G*D (not needing to show off) is The Disappearance of God: A Divine Mystery by Richard Elliott Friedman. Here is a sample, "It is ironic that, starting with Bible scholars, we have begun to use the intimate name of God again, especially since the nineteenth century, precisely in the period of acknowledged divine hiddenness. Let us hope that we are not using it in vain, but that we are moving closer to the entity that the name represents. The name Yahweh probably means "that which causes to be." And that which causes to be is what we are seeking. It is what we have been seeking all along. We may be very close to it. There is some likelihood that, as some of the conscious matter of the universe, we are created more in the divine image than we have suspected. There is some likelihood that the universe is the hidden face of God." (p 284)

The holiness questions of theosis, sanctification, perfection are importantly applied here.

= = = = = = =

prevenient grace
never so far away
a turn toward Being-In-Love
is always available

when might the lord not be found
if present in grace
if present in ghenna
if present in Dachau and Sudan

when is the lord absent
in towers tumbling
in buses crashing
in nations warring

since salvation is universal
and assured for all
we might as well get on with it
preemptive mercy ho!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Third Sunday in Lent – B

Third Sunday in Lent – B

Years B
Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

You shall not make a marketplace of your life, this community, this creation, this religious perspective, this glorious commonwealth.

Those wonderful markers strewn around the country in 1956 to commemorate 10 arenas of life where things can go awry in were to help market a movie. Now they become traditions that must be held onto at all costs. Law has become law has become law, dividing the very communities once held together by what stood behind such law.

Somehow the glory of life keeps getting pared down enough to pass a legislature. The meaning of day and night cannot be put into words, and yet we latch onto one set of temporal propositions or another. Through proliferating law is glory's silence broken and we finally settle for the law and not the glory.

We even market our religion as though it were the only possible revelation of an expansive love that pushes past every one of our sacred moments - even that of resurrection. No matter how broad even we progressive religionists envision life, we are too pale for the colorful dance that will raise all enemies to friends.

Indeed, zeal for someone else's vision consumes us. Evidence America's preemptive entry into Iraq. For whatever good may have once been possible, we have devolved. Zeal, all by itself, becomes marketed as righteousness. Even action against marketing, becomes marketing. What a dizzying, disorienting flurry.

= = = = = = =

a medium is a message
it lops off the ends
one size fits all
average is good enough

a medium whispers
stories behind stories
believable and not
what you see is not all

a medium well
is recommended
to burn out illness
and blood guilt

a medium nurtures
biologic experiments
testing theories
confirming evidence

a medium colors
pale lives
with pigments
life experienced

a medium law
keeps us from
in medias res
and attendant glory

a medium life
bounded by rules
binding with same
unconscious errors

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Third Sunday in Lent – A

Third Sunday in Lent – A

Years A
Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

"Give us water to drink," quarreled the people with Moses.
"Salvation is present in rocky ground!" rejoices the Psalmist.
"Peace with G*D," is Paul's lifeblood.
"Give me a drink," focuses Jesus' challenge.

An old standard is 6-8 glasses of water per day. In a world of increasing ecological disaster and civilian-oriented warfare, even 1 glass a day is a challenge in many places.

A next war may be fought over water rights. Quarrels have already begun about water's availability. It may be that where folks literally thirst for life - they will rise to take the life of those who withhold such a basic necessity.

Such physical realities have cosmos-wide implications. We can't separate water gushing up for eternal life from water gushing up for daily life. These are not just religious, theological, doctrinal passages, but political and prophetic ones. If you have not already been called to use your gifts and resources in some other arena of life, this would be a worthy place to engage to see if this is for you and your life-giving community.

= = = = = = =

water everywhere
drinks on the house
bottoms up
filled to the brim

water everywhere
rights to be wrangled
dams to build
levees to rebuild

water everywhere
and yet thirst
and yet division
and yet ignorance

water everywhere
water in rocks
water in wells
water in star dust

water everywhere
ho, come to the water
dive deep
until a spell is snapt

water everywhere
watering prayers
watering love
with sips and gulps

water everywhere
and not a god to drink
then a little vesper bell
rings out a change

water everywhere
staff to rock
voice to ear
salvation saved

suggested by a Wikipedia article Info about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Fulford, Tim, "Poetry of Isolation: The Ancient Mariner," Coleridge's Figurative Languages (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), 62-73.
Fulford analyses the composition of the poem's discourses in the context of the assumptions of the historical biblical hermeneutics with which Coleridge was familiar. Fulford argues that the poem's discourses disrupt the hermeneutic circle of believers posited by biblical hermeneutics, and illustrate the isolating freedom provided by an exegesis discontinuous with tradition. Historical biblical hermeneutics attempts to deal with the problem posed by the finitude and historicity of interpretation. By positing a grand unity of perspective in God, historical biblical hermeneutics can deny the inerrancy of scripture (an embarrassingly untenable notion) while placing each sacred text in a cirle with other spiritual interpretations of existence authority, a circle which progresses toward though never reaching the circumscription of truth. Spiritual authority thus rests in a continually reinterpreted tradition of spiritual texts. McGann and Butler argue that Coleridge organizes the multiple levels of discourse in his poem to create such a hermeneutic circle: the Mariner interprets his own experience; his interpretation is affirmed but reinterpreted by the poem's narrator, the balladeer; the narrator's reinterpretation is deepened by the scholarly author of the gloss, who typologically integrates the poem into the tradition of Christian hermeneutics; critics such as Warren perpetuate the circle with their interpretations of the poem, which are modernizations and expansions upon the gloss. Fulford argues that the poem is more problematic than either McGann or Butler perceive it to be. The poem brings together, not in unity but in collision, radically discontinuous hermeneutic discourses; the poem breaks the hermeneutic circle. The Mariner's interpretation of his experience cannot be reduced to the narrator's moralizing or the glosser's typological interpretation. As in "The Wanderings of Cain," in "The Mariner" traditional interpretations of guilt and punishment are destabilized by the poem's sypathetic treatment of the Mariner. The tension thus created between the Mariner's tale, the narrator, and the gloss is left unresolved. Furthermore, the Mariner himself breaks with hermeneutic tradition when he denies the Christian interpretation of the albatross and shoots it. His interpretation of the consequent events disconfirms the hermeneutic circle: through imagination the Mariner creates an interpretation of reality as chaos which is incompatible with the unifying assumption of the hermeneutic circle. His fate as a misunderstood prophet outside of society expresses the radically isolating consequences of the dissolution of the hermeneutic circle into the babble of competing discourses. Even the glosses are fissured by the incompatibility of the various interpretive discourses the glosser draws from the hermeneutic tradition and puts into play in the poem. The unity of the poem's hermeneutic circle is on the verge of collapsing into the fragments of a forced appearance. The poem does not capitulate entirely to radical discontinuity, but suffers intensely from the strain, created by the movements toward unity on the one hand and dissolution on the other, which is inevitable in all hermeneutic endeavors.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Second Sunday in Lent – C4

Second Sunday in Lent – C4

Years C
Luke 13:31-35

We don't see the best in people (call it Jesus, if you will) until we say, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the best." There are a myriad of saints around and about, but we don't recognize them for being caught up in warning others or self-censoring so we will stay out of trouble or . . . .

Our expectations are a huge driver in what we are able to perceive. Are the Pharisees warning Jesus for his sake or their own? We know Jesus has wandered away for a season now and then. Sometimes for regeneration, sometimes to take the heat off so a beheading doesn't come his way. Why not now say, "Thanks" and take a prayer break. Is the downhill run from transfiguration to crucifixion so far along that its momentum can't be broken? If so, what does that say about choice?

Here it might be seen that Jesus is picking a fight with those who have come to warn. Surely it would be good to not automatically pigeon-hole Pharisees as terrorists: never having compassion, always being hyper-doctrinaire.

Even though there is a hair-trigger on this response from Jesus, we do at least arrive at something more than pushing-back or self-pity.

It would be interesting to begin taking this last line about blessing and applying it to a series of other scenes in the scriptures and in our lives. Try it on the neighbor banging on the door for bread for guests. See how it works with Jesus' conversation with his fellow cross-hangers. What about encounters between Saul and David? Is this helpful in Edenic conversations?

= = = = = = =

what time is it?
chronologically, that is
the clock is ticking
now to then

what time is it?
kairotically, that is
time to see and speak blessing
the clock is waiting
to start anew

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Second Sunday in Lent – C3

Second Sunday in Lent – C3

Years C
Philippians 3:17 - 4:1

"Join in imitating me" imitating Christ, is one way to put it. Another way of translating would have it, "Become co-imitators with me of Christ." More to the point is The Message, "Stick with me, friends." This reminds us of the communal nature of heaven and Jesus in a clearer fashion than the mechanistic imitation language.

Of specific interest is the language of transformation. Paul talks of being an example. The Greek suggests an example is something that has been struck as a figure formed by a blow or impression. Remembering Paul's being struck by light on a road to Damascus and the talk of suffering and humiliation being changed into glory, there may be an appeal here for each of us to honor our own transformational moments. This is our similarity - we are imitating the belovedness of Jesus.

This is far different than some assent of belief couched in a specific set of words or actions. It is this transformation of being struck by an assurance of being beloved that turns an enemy of Christ into a friend. How are you doing at imitating this internal reality that will be unique to you and yet held in common by all?

= = = = = = =

cheap imitations
of grace, of art
are cheap through and through

core-deep imitations
of glory, of friendship
are integral to integrity