Monday, April 30, 2007

Fifth Sunday of Easter – B

Fifth Sunday of Easter – B

Years B
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

Four words - one from each pericope:

Baptized - yes, even eunuchs
Family - yes, even Iraqis
Born - yes, beloved of G*D
Abide - yes, G*D in creation, creation in G*D

There is a multitude of ways we interact with the world around us. Among the biggest choices are those of what we prevent and what we nurture.

For those within a Christian tradition, here is a strong statement about choosing nurture over prevention: “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and reject non-Jesus people are liars.”

To abide, to be born from that abiding, to be family beyond limits, to be baptized into a way of life leaves little escape from a command toward wholeness: “those who love G*D must love their brothers and sisters also - their common environment, their belovedness, their family relations, their belonging past all divisions.

= = = = = = =

look - water
rippling with life
reflecting glory

look - enemies
still family
ancestral descendants

look - home
abiding here
abiding everywhere

look - love
born and reborn
and born forever

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fifth Sunday of Easter – A

Fifth Sunday of Easter – A

Years A
Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-4

Which is the greater work?

1) “Do not hold this sin against them”
2) “Do not let me be put to shame”

1) “Let your face shine upon me”
2) “Deliver me from my enemies”

1) Jesus’ way is the way, truth, life!
2) Jesus is the way, truth life!

There are many dwelling places.

1) Are you preparing a place for others?
2) Is a place being prepared for you?

= = = = = = =

god’s own person, I
calling from darkness
called from darkness
mercy-less once
mercy-full now

expressing this call
evidencing this mercy
belief becomes life
works become greater
god’s own person, you

god’s own person, we
facing deliverance
agreeing to ask
agreeing to glorify
agreeing to participate

gazing toward paradise
unbelievable connections are made
forgiveness after forgiveness
even for
god’s own I/you/we

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Easter – C4

Fourth Sunday of Easter – C4

Years C
John 10:22-30

Just before this passage we have Jesus' co-religionists divided because of his words. [Note: in broad terms Greeks focus more on words about God and Hebrews more on God's actions - thus this setting is greatly influenced by the cultural perspective in which the Jews found themselves.]

And so the question of suspense - whose side will Jesus choose?
A zealot return to rebellion?
Proper priestly worship (rededication of the Temple)?
Popular miracle doing?

We want precision in his choice. No weasel words that can make him sound like he's on our side and then we find he parsed his way out. Extreme clarity is our desire. Pin him down. There is only one way. Which fundamental doctrine will he espouse? None of that, "those who have ears" stuff!

Doh! It's not the words we were arguing about that count here. The works done are the testimony - Tabitha/Dorcas/Gazelle got it right several days ago - good works and acts of charity. [Dope slap] Just do it.

Just after this passage folks pick up stone because he didn't choose their side and we have a reprise of the "works" work and Jesus heading off for baptismal territory.

= = = = = = =

tell us plainly
tell us precisely
tell us concisely
just tell us

are you what you say
are you what we see
are you what we hope
just who are you

a who from whoville
a horton hatcher
a sneech of any sort
a zax of any direction
a cat in or out of a hat
a loraxian prophet
a bleeding-heart thidwick
a fascist yertle

just tell us and tell us now

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Easter – C3

Fourth Sunday of Easter – C3

Years C
Revelation 7:9-17

Who are the ones who come out of great ordeal? The one's who are loved?

No matter where they have been, what they have done, the consequences they have borne - they are loved beyond themselves.

There is a happy response to understanding past knowing that one is loved. It is here portrayed as a universal joy we all blend into. This may be very satisfying for whatever is receiving such paeans of praise.

Less satisfying is knowing that we are but part of an adoring crowd. There is only love of G*D left, no love of neighbor. While exciting, it is but a thin veneer of exultation covering nothing else. All in all, for all its noise and show, a very static scene.

If this apocalyptic literature is to mobilize us into action in this world, it is important to return to a question of who now is later going to celebrate. May it be the one's we love. And so we expand our love base.

= = = = = = =

tears will be wiped away
this is a grand vision

to live toward it
we identify current tears

huge racking sobs
tender whimpers

from whence do they arise
man's inhumanity to man

to wipe away such tears
a new humanity is revealed

wounded healers
healing wounded healers

ordeal sufferers
suffering ordeal sufferers

rivers of tears
falling from above

springs of life
rising from below

meet in middle age
to cleanse our eyes

who are we
who are they

loved lovers
lovers loved

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Easter – C2

Fourth Sunday of Easter – C2

Years C
Psalm 23

Starting with an experience that has become a faith statement, "The Lord is my shepherd," we move through a variety of additional ways to receive such an experience - lying down, leading beside, restoring, fearless, comforted, etc. - to an expectation ("shall") that this will continue or be present again when needed.

This would be clearer if we were to start with: "Having experienced a restoration that feels like the refreshment of green pastures and still waters after great want, I affirm G*D is like a shepherd to me."

As it is we get all caught up with the faith statement rather than the experience and find ourselves applying this before folks are ready to hear it. In such cases it is a guilt producer because they don't experience it this way or pie-in-the-sky theology removed from their real life. Either way, the words are mouthed, but not lived.

"Surely goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life." So test them. Take a powder-milk biscuit and do what needs to be done because goodness and mercy are always present. Goodness and mercy are the background against which any foreground risk must be seen. With this perspective we go ahead.

= = = = = = =

in the darkest night of the soul
a resolution is finally reached
evil is not to be feared

evil is not feared
what a comfort
when hokies are gunned down

evil is not feared
we can see what gun-free feast
might be set before all

evil is not feared
anointing is still possible
to lead from pain to mercy

evil is not feared
goodness and mercy abide
rosy-fingered dawn approaches

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Easter – C1

Fourth Sunday of Easter – C1

Years C
Acts 9:36-43

Here is a wonderful definition of a disciple of Jesus: devoted to good works and acts of charity.

Disciples of Jesus could comfortably find themselves in Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Wickan, Pagan, Atheist, etc. environments and never bat an eyelash and be in the mainstream of each of them with these two simple expressions of their discipleship for the transformation of the world: good works and acts of charity.

We may need to start a new denomination named after Tabitha or Dorcas or simply Gazelle gracefully leaping ahead, the faster to be G*D, by means of these two qualities.

Any other Gazellians out there?

= = = = = = =

where are you lodging this eve
with someone who is unclean
in the eyes of some majority or other

as a good work
an act of charity
or to prove a point

Tabitha lives in Peter
ancestress and ancestor
are alive within us

we don't give up
on charitable good works
being our epitaph too

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Easter – B

Fourth Sunday of Easter – B

Years B
Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

A "good shepherd" has the power and responsibility to know when to lay down their life and when to pick it up.

Followers of a "good shepherd" don't always get the power of this ambiguity. Some will claim the shepherd can only pick up life and so everyone must give up their life in the light of the shepherd's life. This will keep them from an ability to lay down their life for others. Seemingly, they can see only a crook as a mighty scepter.

Other followers make exactly the other error, that the shepherd must at all times and in all places, lay down (even if this is an active action against violence, it is still a laying down).

What we are still seeking is wisdom on how these fit together in our lives and in our times.

One beginning spot understands that goodness and mercy are ever present. This gives direction to our picking up and laying down of life. At which point does one reveal the background of goodness and mercy through a contrasting action and at which point does the other polarity kick in to better reveal a field of goodness and mercy against which everything else makes better sense? It is here we always find ourselves. Do we zap a fig tree or allow a rich, young ruler to go further down a dark path?

= = = = = = =

resurrectional power reveals
our basic bent in life
to narrow life down
one unique resurrection
to open life up
resurrection as commonplace

to see resurrection for Jesus
and claim it only for him
runs us afoul other sheep
claimed as part of all
runs us afoul of others who also
reduce resurrection to one

to see resurrection as ours
authorized and encouraged
by this resurrected Jesus
for the sake of lost sheep
ordains us transformers
of resurrection to resurrections

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Easter – A

Fourth Sunday of Easter – A

Years A
Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

What an openness to life! Teaching (being led forth), Fellowship, Feasting, and Communicating within and beyond - these are still key elements in a healthy community - whether of one faith or another.

These four qualities bind a community closely enough together that trust of their most prized possessions (even survival) to one another can take place. Without this vital communitarian impetus organic growth doesn't take place. Oh, there can be surface unity, but the lack of deep trust will eventually shine through and fracture will show.

In today's untrusting environment where winning and losing metaphors abound, what Teaching is most needed that would lead us toward trust? What Fellowship and Feasting? What Prayers? Note that teaching toward trust is different than teaching toward a particular doctrine.

There are undoubtedly many responses to these questions. Instead of waiting to come up with one grand theory of everything, you and I are encouraged to Teach, Fellowship, Feast, and Pray as best we can, leaving any later form of such to such a time.

= = = = = = =

called to endurance
is a strange gift
to receive
in a world valuing
this quarter's bottom line
only in light of the next

endurance will best be seen
in light of the flighty
expedient choices of today
which reveal the long-term
values worth investing in
today for tomorrow's sake

to pile value high
pack it down and heap it higher
is still a long-term strategy
with a proven track record
sustainability trumps a Vegas hit
enduring and guarding life

so our ancestors found
again and again and again
forgetting this teaching imperils life
hoarding goods and celebrations
to the fewest possible number entitled
diminishes possibilities

so our descendents call out
again and again and again
to be included in the bounty of life
and so we endure today
with ancestral solidarity
received and passed on

Friday, April 20, 2007

Third Sunday of Easter – C4

Third Sunday of Easter – C4

Years C
John 21:1-19

The generalities and specifics of life often catch us. This passage contains a partial listing of the disciples present, by name, and then "two others". With the fish it gets very particular, "153", not about 150. Jesus asks a large question of agapao and keeps getting back a response of phileo until Jesus changes to ask about phileo.

While Jesus' comments about Peter's fate is often seen as predictive of a martyr's death, if it is translatable to our lives it may have to be brought out of the realm of hagiography to the simplicity of aging.

Death has us all on a lead that eventually gets reeled in. Just when you get to the wisdom of the ages, death won't wait any longer. Your desire to "fish for people", to "love sheep" (in a good way) has peaked and now you are no more. How like a crucifixion in the middle of ministry. Peter will have a death like all, not greater than all, intended to glorify G*D.

All of these reappearances lead to what might very well be the conclusion of John's book, "follow me" - a very simple instruction with extraordinary implications and consequences. "Follow me" to loving G*D enough to love neighbors and one another and others and enemies and fishing and sheep. "Follow" by doing so faithfully right up to death. "Follow" by doing so hopefully into death. "Follow" by doing so lovingly right through death.

"Follow me" to the named and the unnamed. "Follow" to loving (phileo) others as you now experience love rather than as I ask it (agapao) of you. "Follow me" is the ending that brings a new beginning.

= = = = = = =

standing a hundred yards apart
we try to speak and hear

even over water enhanced sound
we are a hundred yards apart
and more hundreds of years

"hey, you missed your mark, right?"
"what's it to ya?"

even in established relationships
we are a hundred yards apart
and more hundreds of experience

"try another direction"
"got nothin' to lose"

even in predictable worlds
we are a hundred yards apart
and more hundreds of miracles

"what'd ya find?"

even in unpredictable worlds
we are a hundred yards apart
and more hundreds of common threads

"let's eat"

"let's love"

"let's follow"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Third Sunday of Easter – C3

Third Sunday of Easter – C3

Years C
Revelation 5:11-14

Last night I saw a production of 1984 and I was reminded of the goal of the Ministry of Love - to so "help" another discard everything they held dear, one's own perception and love of another, that they become empty enough to love only Big Brother. Then the Ministry of Love can fill the emptiness and finally kill a non-martyr, one who desires to be killed before further betraying Big Brother.

I must admit I get a sense of that when I read such passages as this. All honor and glory being given away until we can only cry out, "I love you, Big Brother," or "I love you, Worthy Lamb."

We cry out for filling, for we are nothing. In crying out, our emptiness is filled.

Even if we take such praise as subversive against a power of any age that requires praise be given in its direction, the substitution of blind praise for god is no better than blind praise for nation. Apocalyptic language is not all that different than Newspeak or Doublespeak, it can change direction and symbolism on a moment's notice. Read on its own, without Prophetic pronouncements, it is most dangerous.

We will need to figure out what we love with such forcefulness before sheer glory takes over our "love."

= = = = = = =

one angel is enough for Mary
Jesus had access to ten thousand
now myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands
are arrayed before our eyes

that many angels singing
in unison or four-part harmony
or lovely parts infinite in scope
deafen wisdom and worship

our work is done for us
all that is needed is assent
get on the bandwagon
forever might escape without unanimity

join the angel band
lend your voice
creation's wall will fall
only pure love will be left

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Third Sunday of Easter – C2

Third Sunday of Easter – C2

Years C
Psalm 30

The "dancing" that mourning has become is noted to be the same word as "whirl" in 29:9. In Psalm 29 there is a footnote that "causes the oaks to whirl" might also be translated, "causes the deer to calve."

If one is permitted to smash these together we find our mourning whirled into the birth of new life.

Such a new life might even move beyond a G*D that is only "good, restorative, prosperity-giving," to be played off against adversity. Here we find ourselves casting about for an alternative god when things go klunk in the night.

A whirling dervish dance is slower than one might think and brings all the rooms of one's life together on the sill of a door to enlightenment beyond dualistic patterns.

Rejoice, weeping is connected with joy.

= = = = = = =

twilight comes on
doubts begin to arise
was the day as joyful as thought
when we play it again

evening deepens
relationships aren't as bright as thought
shadows bring back old fears
second-guessing sets in

night sets in
doubts become certainties
it was only false joy
our friends fair-weather

midnight rolls around
rolls over and under
a storm-tossed sea

darkest before dawn
is no old-sailor's tale
all warmth is used up
for ever and ever

and dawn so long in coming
creeps maddeningly forward
false dawn after false dawn
tantalizing in each betrayal

morning rises
bringing relief in its train
but so much weariness
joy needs rest

morning settles
tense muscles relax
a smile returns
a hum begins

morning warms
a slow jig starts in a toe
sackcloth comes off
naked joy is still

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Third Sunday of Easter – C1

Third Sunday of Easter – C1

Years C
Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)

Little Shop of Horrors has a lovely song, Suddenly Seymour.

You may want to begin making some additional connections:
Suddenly Saul (breathing threats descends upon a follower of Jesus)
Suddenly Jesus (or light) (stops violence)
Suddenly Scales (arrive - justice revealed up-close-and-personal)
Suddenly Vision (though not suddenly acted upon)
Suddenly Ananias (with healing hands, not violent ones)
Suddenly Scales (depart - lesson learned)
Suddenly Proclamation

[Note: Another helpful approach is by Walter Bruggemann.]

= = = = = = =

would we see ourselves
as others see us?

not usually
too painful
so excused

for to see ourselves
as others see us

takes confrontation
takes clarity
takes conversion

Monday, April 16, 2007

Third Sunday of Easter – B

Years B
Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

"...repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed...." (Luke 24:47)

"I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety." (Psalm 4:8)

These two lines play well together. In a season of resurrection we can spend time on the process (focusing on what we know - betrayal, injustice, torture, death - rather than what we don't know - visits to hell, empty tombs, experience of continuity even when not immediately recognizable) or on resurrection's intention - changing direction and forgiveness.

To lie down and sleep can also be to die. We can do so in "safety" when expecting to arise forgiven and with a changed direction.

When life is revealed we shall see it as it is - healed, changed, forgiven, onward from here - and we will participate in those same dimensions.

= = = = = = =

we see health or healing and
we shy away from their politics

to admit unexpected healing
that which we were not a party
raises our already high anxieties
to the point of denial of our senses
being out of touch with ourselves
puts us out of community with others

our wonder and amazement can turn on a dime
from loud praise to louder death to loudest peace

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Third Sunday of Easter – A

Third Sunday of Easter – A

Years A
Acts 2:1-4a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23
Luke 24:13-35

"Save yourself from this corrupt generation." So goes the appeal in every troubled time.

The question is not so much an us/them mentality or saved/unsaved designations. Those are constantly changing according to experience and willingness to have same. Rather, how does one be in while not of the world (and it's lesser known counterpart which is just as important - to be of while not in the world)? This question comes from the little word "from" [apo in the Greek] that has two definitions:
1) from - "of separation"
2) in - "of origin"
So it might also read, "Save yourself within your originating generation."

In particular this is a question of intention or direction. Does saving oneself mean oneself alone or does it mean that saving oneself entails the salvation of all?

Repentance and Baptism are very much like a Sabbath. Is the Sabbath made for us or are we made for the Sabbath? Sabbath, Repentance, and Baptism (and other Sacraments) are best considered as stimuli for the reestablishment of community that has fractured. They are mediational tools. They are vehicles for saving a generation.

= = = = = = =

purified truth in angry hands
is dangerous to one and all
such truth becomes organized
for its own sake, not yours

growing truth in hopeful hands
builds genuine mutual love
among differing generations
for their sake, not mine

cooperative truth in faithful hands
grows heart-deep love in our midst
binding our differences with balm
for healing wounds, including yours

birthed anew from perfect to whole
fractures perish in a new light
living enduring inviting feasts
for bountiful living, including mine

Friday, April 13, 2007

Second Sunday of Easter – C4

Second Sunday of Easter – C4

Years C
John 20:19-31

"Put a finger here."


"In a wound."

The Body of Christ is not just a congregation or denomination of faithful believers. The Body of Christ, in the beginning, was with G*D, as "Word", bringing forth evening and morning, daily. Wherever there is a wound, Christ calls us to find belief by putting our finger there and to energize that belief with a life lived to reveal what is behind the wound.

Iraq is a wound of Christ that needs a finger of belief that there is a peace greater than any war or all wars added together.

AIDS is a wound of Christ that needs a finger of belief that there is healing behavior to avoid it and deal with it - eventually binding us together.

Starving children are wounds of Christ that needs a finger of belief that a feast can be set today with more than enough for all.

Negative campaigns are wounds of Christ that needs a finger of belief that honesty is the best policy and cutting a corner to be in a power position cuts that very power from being used from underneath one.

Homophobia is a wound of Christ that needs a finger of belief that love is possible beyond cultural rules and regulations.

Global warming is a wound of Christ that needs a finger of belief that caring for Earth is care for self.

As an individual I don't have enough fingers for all the wounds of Christ, but between us, we do. As we move our fingers toward a wound we find what we believe - that we are more than we believe. We are also what we doubt and what we love and what we envision. Just being in the presence of a wound stimulates us to move beyond assent that something ought to be done to participation in a resurrection oriented toward healing.

In this morning's New York Times Harvey Fierstein concludes an editorial regarding the wound of hate-speech, " cannot harbor malice toward others and then cry foul when someone displays intolerance against you. Prejudice tolerated is intolerance encouraged. Rise up in righteousness when you witness the words and deeds of hate, but only if you are willing to rise up against them all, including your own. Otherwise suffer the slings and arrows of disrespect silently."

= = = = = = =

Tinkerbell asks us to believe
it is a healing force
as Thomas believes
Jesus' wound shrinks

each time a finger
points toward a wound
in Gaia's ozone
Jesus' wound shrinks

each time a finger
points toward a wound
in justice denied
Jesus' wound shrinks

each time a finger
points toward a wound
in peace broken
Jesus' wound shrinks

each time a finger
even begins to waggle
a difference is made
Jesus' wound shrinks

each time a finger
points toward our own wound
wholeness comes and goes forth
Jesus' wound shrinks

each time a finger
joins a finger
community arises
Jesus' wound shrinks

each time a finger
becomes a hand
Jesus' wound heals
no second coming

each time a finger
becomes a hand
Jesus' wound heals
paradise again

Jesus' wound heals
each time a finger
raises a question
about a world's wound

Jesus' finger greets
each wounded soul
mine yours our
peace be with you

each time our fingers
join Jesus' fingers
sparks fly out
peace settles in

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Second Sunday of Easter – C3

Second Sunday of Easter – C3

Years C
Revelation 1:4-8

There is a tradition of Jesus, while theoretically in the grave, descending from the Tomb to Hades/Hell/The Dead. One part of that tradition is to offer salvation to all those who had gone before him. A most gracious act that presupposes some ongoingness of life (a bit at odds with some other traditions from which Jesus came).

Here is another vision of Jesus descending, this time from the Clouds to The Still Living. This time he comes to offer judgment and to bring wailing.

As you play back and forth between these images of a descending Jesus you may want to consider what a subsequently ascending Jesus might be about. In the first case, does he arise to continue bringing salvation (hope to the hope-lost disciples)? In the second case, does he arise to end a salvific process, to only play with and further judge his current best-friends?

How does the separation of us (loved) from them (wailers) advance the ministry of a Christ-for-all?

= = = = = = =

I am
alphas and omegas

herein is all mighty
strength and flexibility
yoga of the soul
responsive chakras

when is and was
and is to come
finally settle to one
great wailing ensues

a wailing wall
walls us in and out
until love again
breaks loose

the beginning
the ending of all
to simply anew
grace that is grace

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Second Sunday of Easter – C2

Second Sunday of Easter – C2

Years C
Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150

On the other side of the "gates of righteousness" is the giving of thanks.

Given that there are plural gates, a question arises about what is on this side of a gate. Presumably there are a variety of states/paths that lead to an open gate into righteousness.

One way of approaching is to know how seriously life must be taken on this side of the gate that it might be contrasted with the thanksgiving on the other side. Otherwise, what is the purpose of a gate but to separate dissimilar states of being?

Another way is to presume that like calls to like. If we don't begin with the joy of thanksgiving on this side of the gate we will never find it on the other side. And so an appropriate living pattern would be that of joy practiced and fulfilled now as well as later.

One way to practice this is to take the Kipling poem that follows and see each of the choices as a gate. How many gates to righteousness can you identify?

Another way is to substitute the word "praise" or "joy" in the "if" phrases (e.g., If you can keep your joy/praise when all about you ....). Here we can see how praise and joy are connected both inside and outside a righteous gate.

If... by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

= = = = = = =

praise is a this world endeavor
done with breath
done with spirit
done with creativity
done with music
done with volume
done with hospitality

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Second Sunday of Easter – C1

Second Sunday of Easter – C1

Years C
Acts 5:27-32

So often this passage is read as though it were a debate that was going to go to the side with the most passion or power. In light of Holy Humor Sunday it might be best to read verse 29 as, "But Peter and the apostles laughed and responded, ...."

So often experiences of religious differences devolve into bitter separation. I can't help but wonder about the lives of the saints and reformers being portrayed as so diligent that there was no time for laughter. Luther has famously been known to pray the more, the busier his day was to be. Imagine prayer as laughter and what it would mean to laugh the more, the more expectations are being laid on.

If Peter and the disciples were proclaiming good news, they might as well enjoy the telling as well as the results. How about us?

= = = = = = =

good news scowled he
trying to be as serious
as a god should be
as ultimate arbiter

made in the image
of kicker-outer
he portrayed disaster
for all

all that was forgotten
in light of creation's dance
leading to forgiveness
steadfastly held
lovingly held
forever held
for all

choose wisely your god
for your face will follow
with furrowed brow
with laugh lines

Monday, April 09, 2007

Second Sunday of Easter – B

Second Sunday of Easter – B

Years B
Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

"Now the whole group" - "when kindred live together" - "that you also will have fellowship with us". These phrases set a tone of what it means to be joined in joy.

A test comes someone is not part of our gathering when a very specific and important event happens. Regardless of the reason they are not present, they are not present. In their absence comes a revelation that could very well drive a wedge between the true experiencers and those without that experience. And so Thomas' story is an important witness of continued openness. Thomas was still welcome even without a corroborating experience. Fortunately he received one. That helps a lot in binding a community together. But, and this is significant, unanimity is not foundational to community.

The downside is that there are expectations set up that folks will be required to come to believe in the same dramatic way as did those who experienced a risen Christ Jesus in this cell. We, to this day, separate folks out according to their experience of faith and their differences from the majority or the powerful. If they measure up, they're welcome. So Thomas' story is used to convince people that they cannot be different (doubt) because that would bar them from fellowship in an already together group.

Thomas is laughed at rather than revealing how laughable are our restrictive standards.

Remember that Thomas was with those who had already experienced a resurrection. Use this as an inclusive evangelistic witness for inviting "others" to be present. This will offset the temptation to have the un-experienced set aside until they measure up. If a community is not focused on key words in the opening phrases: "whole", "live", and "also" it has learned the smaller lesson and missed the larger.

= = = = = = =

revelation is not theory
it is experience-able
with eye and hand
with kindred and enemies
with ancestors and descendants
with light and dark
with male and female
with all orientations
with slave and free
with all economies
with self and others

revelation is not unique
revelation is not eternal
revelation is not owned

revelation is invitational
revelation is expansive
revelation is prophetic

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Second Sunday of Easter – A

Second Sunday of Easter – A

Years A
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
I Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

Joy is not in what is currently going on, but in participation with a vision of a Peaceable Preferred Future always before us. [Look at "Peaceable Kingdom", an early American painting by Edward Hicks, and wonder about what changes are needed to update it.]

This is a loose translation of a phrase from Acts 2:25, "I saw the Lord always before me." It was from this that David affirmed, "therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh shall live in hope."

The word "Lord" is fraught with overtones. It does not mean one thing to all people. So it is important to figure out what one means by the old language of "Lord" when using it and begin to use the meaning (even if it is a more awkward phrase that does not run trippingly off the tongue, thus rejoicing it on one level) rather than the shorthand.

Here it would seem we are speaking of a particular vision. Peter casts it in terms of escaping Hades, but we might well speak of it in a positive way by referring to some aspect of what might loosely be called "Paradise" or a preferred future come on earth.

What vision would you hold before yourself to stimulate joy?

= = = = = = =

in your presence is joy
every love song and hymn
secular and sacred music
every separation we construct
our specifics to generalities
lovers into love
love into lovers
joy to presence

Saturday, April 07, 2007

PreEaster Saturday – A, B, C

PreEaster Saturday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
Job 14:1-14 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16
I Peter 4:1-8
Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42

Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing, a live thing out of a dead thing? Certainly not a magician. Certainly not positive thinking or prosperity theology. Certainly not an acculturated church. Certainly not individual faith.

It is important at some point to give up hope, to have dead be dead. This day we don't even wait. We go through motions. We become the walking dead.

Yesterday was bad enough. Today is badder yet. Tomorrow will be worser than anything. The end of all things is near. I wouldn't believe a proclamation of good news if it were yelled in my face.

Peter with his "disciplined prayers" and "constant love covering a multitude of sins" can go hang himself with Judas. If there is a next generation, they might listen to that but, today, it's most unreal.

Friday, April 06, 2007

PreEaster Friday – A, B, C

PreEaster Friday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 22
Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

Persistence in the face of overwhelming sorrow (try reading the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson) can lead to provocation to love and good deeds, anyway.

Overwhelming sorrow can also deaden us to the point of non-responsiveness. It can call forth intermediary rituals to disperse such sorrow that eventually become a barrier to experiencing the sorrow at all. At this point we cling to our ritual rather than face again that which overwhelms us, every time. Far better to be obedient than to wrestle, as did Jacob of old, with unknown forces.

Suffering does come, as does everything in its time. But here the suffering may be more in the eye of the beholder than the actor. We do come to an empathetic and cathartic experience of suffering, but one that tends to keep us captive to it rather than release us into a new freedom to accept oursuffering and not run from it.

We do not seem to find a way through suffering (a better conversation between Buddha and Jesus would help many a Christian and their congregation). It becomes a totem for us and we carry it around our necks and tattooed on our bodies. A cross becomes an ending spot for us rather than a beginning, everything is seen through its lens.

Note: None of this applies to the kinds of suffering we cause and ignore to the least among us. That kind of suffering has nothing to do with redemption.

Easter Sunday – C4

Easter Sunday – C4

Years C
John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12

Men in fabulous, shining clothes try to speak with the women with spices. First response - acculturated fear and shyness. With no expected attack, memory returns.

Women with spices try to speak with men in ordinary dress. First response - acculturated distance and dismissal. With unexpected persistence, a trial listening ensues.

And so the confusion of resurrection begins. Unlooked for to begin with and unbelievable when a glimmer is caught, a new story begins in the rocky, weedy paths of a few.

We are still working resurrection out. When we get the acculturated stuff out of the way we will get much closer to all that lies behind this multi-valenced word. If nothing more, may Easter be a scraping away of at least one layer of traditional religion that the mystery of life might shine through every attempt to explain and control it.

= = = = = = =

idol tales of common wisdom
lead us to put our tails between our legs
and simply agree with what everyone knows
and develop and idle tail

first we drop our tail
and then our head
no joy of curiosity
no hope for a quantum leap

no matter how long the lenten season
or how dark the easter vigil
a primeval choice keeps presenting
howl or turn tail

Thursday, April 05, 2007

PreEaster Thursday – A, B, C

PreEaster Thursday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
I Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Blood and dust are signs to us. Passover and Baptism are signs to us.

They are signs of needed and continual renewal of community.

We have been enslaved (blood). We have been apart (dust).

We journey together (Passover). We cleanse each other (Baptism).

In such we receive bounty and offer our lives to increase it for others.

In such we are revived with feasting and invite others to more feasting.

We neither cast a glance behind nor peer ahead. We don't need to justify this day by remembering slavery or anticipating resurrection. This day stands within and beyond any past liberation or future death. We simply are in this moment, in this moment, and that is enough.

Easter Sunday – C3

Easter Sunday – C3

Years C
I Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43

What is it to "believe in him"?

To experience an acceptance behind any and every partiality.

To know a depth of peace, momentarily or extended.

To not only see the doing of good and healing of oppression, but to know it as not only available, but a participatory sport.

To recognize life beyond death in particularities, not just in general theory.

To participate in passing all of this on to others.

It is not to give assent to creedal statements about Jeeeesus, but to the G*D experience of life that keeps breaking through - breaking through partiality, agitation, oppression, death, and a passive voice.

= = = = = = =

culturally culled
religiously refined
we lose a cutting edge
to hack through unknowns
beyond limits of idolatrous taboo

we have found death and it is us
our own perfected ideal enemy
against which we hack away
each time dulling our awareness
to yearn to live again for a first time

death as final eschatology
darkens our conditioned dreams
of fated family and faith
hedging us round
squeezing us smaller

even suicide is no longer a question
we face our own cosmic pity
and plant death's last fruit
until it is enemy no more
seen through and through

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

PreEaster Wednesday – A, B, C

PreEaster Wednesday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 70
Hebrews 12:1-3
John 13:21-32

We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses to the cloud of behaviors within. Today the warring of sore throat, bloated belly, and constricted head are all things I would leave behind. Along with them I would leave all the helpful family system techniques that are so helpful in conflictual settings (internal and external). I would also sit out any race someone is trying to sign me up for. I'll take any kindness offered, even from a hand that tells me I am dead to them. I don't care if I am supposed to be nice and conciliatory, whatever is hurting me - get rid of it, now!

Hurry help along the way. May it race to me even if I can't race toward it. Here in the middle of preEaster week the wrestling happens between Demonstration Sunday three days ago and Betrayal Thursday just around tomorrow's corner.

It all comes together into a perfect storm, inside and out. All that is left is perseverance and not even that looks doable. Soul's Dark Night arrives again. It has passed in the past but that is little comfort in the present.

"Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together."

Easter Sunday – C2

Easter Sunday – C2

Years C
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

The phrase "head of the corner" in verse 22 can point in the direction of a keystone at the top of an arch or a cornerstone holding two sides of a building together.

A stone rejected as a cornerstone for lack of squareness yet has the opportunity to be just the right shape for a keystone. This sways me in the direction of keystone.

Once moving in that direction it can be seen how a keystone can rescue an out-of-line cornerstone. It will take the weight, the stress, the pressure of misalignment. This is a more helpful image than that of rule-giver that comes with cornerstones. A keystone is also more humble. Cornerstones often have a date carved on it and a special memory box hidden away inside, while keystones quietly keep things from falling apart.

Easter, a last stone in place to confirm an arc of meaning?

Easter, a first stone in place to set the direction of future growth?

And the ratio of these in your life?

= = = = = = =

right hands and left brains
left hands and right brains
have different sensibilities

when it comes to glory's gate
being opened for me and thee
right or left makes no matter

if it takes both hands
and both brains
just open the door

imagine Alphonse and Gastone
as godly comic gatekeepers
holding open a door for all

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

PreEaster Tuesday – A, B, C

PreEaster Tuesday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 71:1-14
I Corinthians 1:18-31
John 12:20-36

Two days ago we were so close to being in like Flynn. There was this parade happening the next street over, but we were just settling in to the Inn. We missed it.

Now we're trying to get a belated autograph and have a lead through a Mr. Philip who apparently knows someone who knows someone.

And just a quickly there is no response, our contact didn't show up. We're left behind.

So, from the other side - Jesus says, "We're full up. Disciples, stick closer than ever, no more taking bribes so someone can get their picture taken. Everyone, huddle up. The game's going to depend on this next play."

Well, believe it or not, this is a different time and place from these ancient stories. What is our criteria for helping someone come close to Jesus? What litmus test do they have to pass? What is the minimum ante? Will we take the time to introduce someone to the value source of our life ourselves or wait to see if someone else will blackball the idea? Is there still time available to slowly transform interest into involvement or must we expect instant conversion?

Is the game plan still to huddle up? Does looking back on this story from postEaster make a difference for how we are going to act in this, our next preEaster, season?

Easter Sunday – C1

Easter Sunday – C1

Years C
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 65:17-25

On some mountains vineyards are planted. On some feasts are thrown. Here no hurt is done, even with wolves and lambs together.

Given the way people injure creation, it is a miracle that anything still grows. Gaia is not pleased. Given the way people injure one another, it is a miracle that any feasts are possible. Feuds persist. Given the way people hold on to the past, it is a miracle that new relationship can bridge old enmities.

Sometimes a wolf and sometimes a lamb, all too often an individualist and despoiler of earth, there is a time for confession that in each manifestation I face a stuckness I am not able to get past. My wolf is ravenous. My lamb, a perpetual victim. My self is far more central to life than yours. My gluttonous rape of resources, an unreconstructed pity.

The need for Isaiah's imagery is as real as it is seemingly so far off. No amount of betrayal will interrupt the promise. No amount of expectation will prepare us for a breakthrough of vision into reality - it still comes as a surprise, a vision resurrected is transformative.

= = = = = = =

I'm about to create
yep, just about to create
any moment now, I'll create

create a new heaven
come to create a new earth
and it is almost here

create a new earth
pushing on to a new heaven
standby is about to fly

former things won't get in the way
nor will ideals set loose
its all about to come to pass

hold your breath or don't
be on plain or mountain
when it comes it'll come

yes it will be glorious
rejoicing will abound
I am about to create

Monday, April 02, 2007

PreEaster Monday – A, B, C

PreEaster Monday – A, B, C

Years A, B, C
Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 36:5-11
Hebrews 9:11-15
John 12:1-11

Yes, PreEaster, not Holy Week. Our very distinction of "Holy This" or "Holy That" belies the holiness of life in all things. We move into unhelpful dualities that end up with a split between spiritual and material.

Let us take hands and declare to one another that which is yet to come to pass before it has sprung forth. This imagery from Isaiah sees us through every sort of life situation.

The Psalmist reminds us of the continuance of steadfast love (salvation, if you will). We participate in this love and add our part to its continual revelation. Hold hands, do not be driven from this reality.

The writer to the Hebrews knows that a new covenant does not depend on some third party, but on the integrity of those engaged together. She reminds us that it is not the sacrifice of others that brings life, but that of our own participation in that which we deem essential that moves us from life's repetitive works to continually revealed expressions of a steadfast love not held away as a carrot for tomorrow, but offered as a full feast for today.

Whether it is our commitment to giving roses, perfume, anointing, relationship now instead of later or our past experiences of resurrection coming to challenge the leaden, deadly inertia of cultural and political blocks to more life for more people, we challenge the current status quo striving for more advantage and control. It is in fact our generosity and awareness of new life that bring forth the opportunities for revealing the basic choices of life. Here we immediately run into the fears and tremblings of past teaching that we now know what's what. Generosity and awareness of abundance of life are still counter-cultural fulcrum points that can move the world.

Let's keep telling a larger story than our own small part and honor our small part in moving a larger story along.

Easter Sunday – B

Easter Sunday – B

Years B
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

No earthquake in Mark. "When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back."

As you look back at your own life-journey (not always "spiritual") can you identify those times when your eye had been downcast, but, when you did, accidentally or hopefully, look up, it was obvious the dragon's maw no longer awaited you?

These are important markers, individually and communally, when we are then able to enter the tomb we so feared or were resigned to.

As in Mark, we may find even these subsequent experiences to be as frightening in their reality as they had been in their expectation. We may yet run afraid, away. But always there is a remembrance of a stone having rolled away and we can regroup to move beyond a next fear.

The ending of Mark is a marker for us in this process. Just how many endings there are to the resurrectional story, no one will ever know. They don't end with the recorded accretion of endings in Mark. We are still adding new endings to this old story. One way or another, fear never has the last word.

What we know as the original ending of Mark begs for completion in our lives. We have hurried (then and then and then) onward through this story that had no beginning and has no end. We have run right up to and past the last word of "afraid" and found ourselves hanging over an existential abyss - How'd we get here? What are we going to do now? Will this be the last word?

Mark's masterpiece has a masterpiece of an ending that tosses the salvation of G*D and Creation right back to us. Are you going to run forever, away, or stand over your nothing left and trust again, build again, live again?

= = = = = = =

so a new heaven and new earth
are about to be created

will this creation be a partnership
or a wholly-owned subsidiary

if without remembrance
will it long endure

without labor's seeming vanity
where resurrection's blessing

as came death so comes life
through you and me and us

choose this day
a last fruit - a first

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Easter Sunday – A

Easter Sunday – A

Years A
Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

Matthew's image of an earthquake is important to shake us loose from our expectations and fears. Is there anything more to look forward to? How is the blockage ahead ever going to be taken care of?

Even Jeremiah's wonderful image of being built anew and dancing merrily carries with it an earthquake's worth of transition that will be tempted by and returned to bygone days of the sword instead of grace.

Paul's great assumption that "if" we have been raised with Christ we will seek the things above, causes an earthquake in our lives and the life of our communities that will need continual choice between a building upon the past and attempts to have the past build upon the present. What do we do with still being on the earth, but not of it?

Or another earthquake image of Peter's that there is no more partiality. We have built our lives and decision-making on how we might get to be those for whom partiality, privilege will redound their benefits to us.

It will take a resurrectional earthquake to roll away our expectations and fears to move us into a new perspective and better communal behaviors. Even though we might idealize this as a good thing, it will always mean a change of life (read, sacrifice) to enact and the earthquake itself may scare us more than the resurrectional opportunity it reveals.

= = = = = = =

this is a day
holding the tectonic plates
of our lives in place
regardless of the stress
it places upon us
to keep things from falling apart

this is a day
we yearn for sweet release
even a release that shakes foundations
relieving unrealistic expectations
controlling our lives
spending our resources on security

this is a day
of resistance to change
of dreaming heaven on earth
unknowing clouds dim our eye
to unseen consequences
hidden beneath our next step

this is a day
to rejoice and be glad in
to dance merrily
on the graves
within and around
trusting this day

this is a day
like all days
infamous and usual
ready and unready
for an earthquake opening
tombs and joy