Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21

Christmas 2 – Year B

Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21

When we look back with 20/20 hindsight, it is easy to discern a Wise presence. What wasn't understood at the time as wise (remember the fear that continues throughout the Exodus) can later be attributed to some good plan. This connects wisdom with thanksgiving.

When we look around us for wisdom to make difficult choices, we find ourselves caught between focal lengths – attempting to apply an appropriate learning from history that we don't just repeat and repeat and peering into a dim unknown for a new learning not already in our grab-bag. This connects wisdom with mystery.

When we do thought experiments regarding the future, we find our prejudices coming to the fore. Our assumptions and speculations rev themselves into red-line danger. This connects wisdom with foolishness.

Remember with thanksgiving that G*D has revealed things to the foolish, not the wise? Well what are we to do with Sister Wisdom who is all over the map? Sit back and enjoy the ride? Winnow the results with yet a fifth criterion to measure reality?

Perhaps the best we can do here is to raise our sensitivity to the mute and those struggling to put their reality into communicable language. Who are you listening to and how engaged are you willing to be to wrest meaning from inarticulate groans of creation?

Resolution 3: To listen to Wisdom bubbling from below consciousness and to join in the groans of birthing a new year from an old by at least boiling water.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sirach 24:1-12

Christmas 2 – Year B

Sirach 24:1-12

In this passage not often heard in today's church there is a sense of the drilling down of wisdom from the general of creation to the specific of geography known as here, from time immemorial to this present moment. Where and when should wisdom alight? Well, why not here and now! Can you sense wisdom alighting in your honored life? Hooray!

From the book Where Shall Wisdom Be Found: Wisdom In The Bible, The Church And The Contemporary World, the end of the article "Sirach and Wisdom's Dwelling Place" by C.T.R. Hayward:
     "Disaster befell Sirach's beloved Temple when, in the year 70 CE, the Romans put it to the torch. Yet Sirach's Greek translation of his grandfather's book was not forgotten. It was included in the Greek Old Testament and was thus available for Gentile Christians to ponder. For them, the work proved so popular that it was regularly read in worship, and in course of time came to be called Ecclesiasticus, a 'church book' of great distinction. No doubt this process was encouraged because St. Paul, the earliest Christian writer, had dubbed Christ 'the wisdom of God' (1 Cor 1.24, 30; cf. Col 2.3), and because the evangelists had, in their several ways, used Temple imagery to speak of Christ's body (Jn. 2:20-22; Mt 26:61; Mk 14:58). Sirach proved to be a rich quarry from which the Church's teachers could unearth almost inexhaustible theological resources in their explorations of Christ's relationship to God. And since Wisdom, both in Hebrew and Greek, is personified as a woman, the way was open for them to develop their thinking on the role of the Blessed Virgin in the Christian economy of salvation. Reflection on Mary as Wisdom and Mother of God, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, is discernible already in the writing of St. Ambrose (De Spiritu Sancto 2.51, PL 16.753), and was destined to bear abundant and nourishing fruit in the liturgies of the Eastern and Western Churches alike."

The Three Wise Guys may be profitably transfigured into Gals. If this, even transfigured into your life. After Henry Van Dyke we can move beyond a fourth Magi to a fifth and further on down the line to you as a receiver and sharer of G*D's Wisdom. As said on Out in Scripture: An honest encounter between LGBT lives and the Bible, "Not only is Jesus Wisdom’s Child, but through God’s Word/Wisdom so are we. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender believers bear witness that it is not the church who says whether or not we are God’s children, nor our sexuality, not even our theology or orthodoxy – but it is our welcome of this one sent from God. The Logos/Sophia does not discriminate based on race, class, gender or sexual orientation."

Resolution 2: To acknowledge the distillation of wisdom found in the set of experiences known as mine – to be one more branch from the root of an honored people.

Monday, December 29, 2008

John 1:1-18

Christmas 2 – Year B

John 1:1-18

From the Girardian Lectionary site James Allison is quoted:
     "In the light of the resurrection it gradually becomes possible to see that it was not that God was previously violent, now blessing now cursing (see Deut. 32:39), but had now brought all that ambivalence to an end. Rather, it became possible to see that that was all a human violence, with various degrees of projection onto God. God had been from the beginning, always, immutably, love, and that this love was made manifest in sending his Son into the midst of the violent humans, even into the midst of their persecutory projections of God, so that they might treat him as a human victim, and thus reveal the depth of the love of God, who was prepared to be a human victim simultaneously to show the depth of his love for humanity, and to reveal humanity as having been locked into the realm of the Father of lies."

John's version of a Song of Songs lifts love out of a competition with violence or Platonic philosophy to an exclusive view of life. There is no wrestling between paradigms here, there is only the action of giving light to life and the lie to separation and lording it over. A test for ourselves is to ask what song we find ourselves singing these days? Is it fear of not having enough? Is it joy at being able to share what we do have? What lyric do you hear when your routine is interrupted?

Resolution 1: To anticipate a new light, a new path, by gratefully receiving a glimpse of graceful resurrection in this present situation.

Friday, December 26, 2008

more to come

Christmas 1 – Year B

more to come

good ol' Simeon
limit bound

glimpse receiver
ready to move on

departing in peace
has never attracted me

too curious by far
beyond a mere beginning

what's next I ask
messiah's a good start

but o this drama
is no one-act play

I'll wait

with such a surprise start
imagine twists to come

and project them
dum spiro spero

who would want to
miss what's next

come on Simeon
let's go some more

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Galatians 4:4-7

Christmas 1 – Year B

Galatians 4:4-7

On Christmas Day we are looking at a scripture to help us take a next first step to living Christmas on an on-going basis.

The time has arrived, as it always does and is, for redemption to begin and be completed, all in one swell foop (the spoonerism reminds us that this redemption is in a good way not fell/foul).

Perhaps the best we can do is two-fold: One, following Peterson, those of us who have been "kidnapped by the law" can now, two, live not as slave, but an inheritor of expansive, generative, adoptive kindness.

This is something that is good today and tomorrow – free to follow a new and renewed heritage of receiving and passing on blessing, a gift otherwise spelled kindness.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Psalm 148

Christmas 1 – Year B

Psalm 148

Compare verses 14:

NRSV – He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!

The MESSAGE – . . . he's built a monument—his very own people! Praise from all who love God! Israel's children, intimate friends of God. Hallelujah!

Two quickies:

Are you being done unto (NRSV) or are you among the doers?

Are you close to God (NRSV) or an intimate friend thereof?

I've not delved into the Greek enough here but I do have a preference for the latter perspective. An Active Intimate Friend of God and Neighbor – there's meaning to be found here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3

Christmas 1 – Year B

Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3

Whether intentionally, as a celebrant cares for their appearance, or unintentionally, as nature fecunds away, we are to be engaged in actions that will later be recognized as "righteous" – just.

To join intentionality and unintentionality together not only takes energy, but supplies it as well. There is a wearing down if we are only intentional and a dissipation when oriented on the waiting for some right thing at a right time to occur. Here is a gift – to proceed with intention and yet to be open to making the most of the unintentional that happens along.

So a receiving and carrying of new life and a laying it down in a manger which is no crib are paired and release an energy to be reckoned with.

Can you remember times in your own life when these have come together? Did you recognize it in time to rejoice? Are you still living off that energy? Did you learn to practice recognizing their confluence and even to provoke them?

There will still be additional energies and practices needed, but we rejoice at each of these birthing moments where the steel of intentionality and the flint of unintentionality strike Christmas fire.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Luke 2:22-40

Christmas 1 – Year B

Luke 2:22-40

The wholeness of salvation is this – light for all – not revelation qua revelation or glory for glory's sake (there's entirely too much of that going around – it gets us to react from the gut and receive blowback).

This wholeness is for more than one's own. It is for "them" as well. It is for the devout and for the prophet, for Gentile and Jew, for those passed by and those not yet.

This wholeness is also in process – there is more growing to do – and so this wholeness is not yet whole. Salvation is never as finished as any ritual of purification might be after all is said and done according to law.

Hooray for Simeon and Anna, for a willingness to be guided and alert to a disturbance in the force for status quo. Hooray for any who can see beyond ritual fulfillment to a fullness of life ready to grow and grow.

Friday, December 19, 2008

angel talk

Advent 4 – Year B

angel talk

hey there
hi there
ho there

a thing of beauty ye be
a joy ferever
ferever favored

god be with ye
in ye
thru ye

fear? not!
fear not

now imagine
now conceive
now multiply

you've been named
you are to name
name well

imagine tomorrow
today born
today whole

the impossible
a dozen today
two tomorrow

let it be
pass it on

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Romans 16:25-27

Advent 4 – Year B

Romans 16:25-27

Prophetic writings are at the heart of G*D revealed.

Prophetic writings clarify a faith-direction, a path toward a better way.

Prophetic writings push us to connect past and future in this present moment – to fulfill a past hope and to establish a future reality.

Prophetic writings are our birthright.
Prophetic writings are our métier.
Prophetic writings make a difference.

Do you see what you are doing as prophetic?
This perception does make a difference.
Now do you see your life and work as prophetic in your time and setting?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Luke 1:46-55

Advent 4 – Year B

Luke 1:46-55

Here is a bit of a translation by Richard W. Swanson in Provoking the Gospel of Luke: A Storyteller's Commentary --

And Mariam said:
    It extols, my life does,
    It rejoices, my breath does,
        at Elohim my deliverer.
. . .
    For look: from now on they will call me godlike in happiness, . . . .

- - - - - - -

The cadence makes us pause.
My life, my breath - - - extols, rejoices.
Happiness, as the rest of the poem points, is godlike, is merciful, is just.

How would you fill in the blank for today?

It __________, my life does.
It __________, my breath does.

How would you fill in the blank for tomorrow?
It __________, my life does.
It __________, my breath does.

Are they the same? different (in degree or quality)?

How connected are your life and breath with happiness, mercy, and justice?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Advent 4 – Year B

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

David, safe from his enemies around him, but unsafe from enemies within – both his past and his offspring – belatedly recognizes his ego has taken precedence over his "altar-ego". Of course he tries to make up for that error in prioritizing. It comes to no avail.

Yet altar-ego G*D sets up a throne in perpetuity. In today's world of scandal one wonders what sort of bribe that took.

Were David's family, kingdom, and throne permanently secure? If you say, "yes", what scale of measurement are you using?

When this is overlaid generations later on Jesus, what is it that is being carried forward?

If you were so convinced that your own family, accomplishments and place were permanently secure, what change would that make in your relationships (old and new)? Is this conviction a power that corrupts or sets free?

There is a sense in which David's peace was external to the political and power arrangements of the day? Sealed off in a specimen jar, David's peace turned out to be a passing thing. Even before he was dead, cracks in his family, kingdom, and throne were becoming evident and would eventually break apart. This leaves us with the difficult lesson of engagement with current realities and to work through all the pains and confusions of incarnation, joys of healings, disappointments of betrayal, and uncertainties of death and resurrection before claiming a satisfied mind. Our usual process is to make the claim first, proclaim eternity for this moment, and always see that fall away all too soon. In Advent we need to look at our realities, not just our warm fuzzy Santa wishes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Luke 1:26-38

Advent 4 – Year B

Luke 1:26-38

So did the angelic messenger get it wrong? What's with the pronouncement regarding a coming Jesus getting a throne abolished generations before? What's with the language of "reign" or "rule"? And a never-ending "kingdom"?

I suppose we could say that nothing is impossible with God, but does that cut it in terms of the way Jesus will deny a kingdom in this world, dismiss blood family ties, and focus on prophetic acts of mercy, healing, and teaching?

It will take some fancy spinning to have the angelic message end up anywhere near the experience we have of Jesus. While there are many who would set up institutions to rule in Jesus' name, that seems to end up being heretical to the life lived by Jesus.

Here, as we near the focus of Advent – Christmas, it would be well to pay attention to what is and isn't being said. It is all too easy to toss institutional metaphors around as though they were literal.

If we buy into this initial proposition put to Mary we will be able see how her heart will be pierced later – it's hard to put an expectation down. May you watch your story-telling for saying too much. It is easy to use acceptable images, but they have a way of coming around to bite. Think again, speak slowly, don't over-promise. Learn from an angel's over-stated sales pitch and stick to what you know – "Mary, here's a surprise big enough to take your breath away, but G*D will be with you to continue breathing new spirit into you. Relax and enjoy the ride of your life."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

Advent 3 – Year B

Who are you? Who are you in relation to Christmas, to signs and symbols of new life? Are you a consumer of religious and political power? Are you a prophet of something larger than profit and ease.

In today's culture, this and other questions are often raised through a video. In keeping with this key language of the present we redirect you to:

Advent Conspiracy.

[Note: Click on the video.]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Advent 3 – Year B

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Rejoicing is more than mouth music.

Rejoicing acts. Rejoicing acts by testing everything. No presumptions, assumptions, desumptions, resumptions or other sumptuous speculations. Allow the Spirit to roam beyond your current habits of body, mind, spirit, relations. This is the will of G*D – testing and deciding.

Rejoicing discerns. Rejoicing discerns by choosing better, saying "no" to status quo. This is sanctification, mutual love. In the current popularized language of the traditional United Methodist General Rules: Do no harm; do good; stay in love with God.

Rejoicing rejoices. Rejoicing welcomes joy again - body, mind, spirit, and relations. This gladness is the Peace of G*D. In peace we are opened to testing, choosing, welcoming, acting, discerning, rejoicing – living in G*D's image: faithfully. Pursuing happiness? Follow peace.

[Silly Note: Regarding speculation, you may be interested in the lyrics of a Lou and Peter Berryman song, The Speculator (this is something you have to read aloud to get). Click and scroll most of the way down to Disk 2, Track 11. Their accordion/guitar music adds much to the enjoyment of the lyrics, buy the CD.]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Psalm 126

Advent 3 – Year B

Psalm 126

There are comedic dreams and tragic dreams. Here is an example of the comedic. No matter what the difficulty or intensity of a nightmare, things come 'round right. Restoration after disaster brings laughter.

The prayer of the glass-half-full psalmist is that others who are tearful will find a way to see joy eventuating from their exile into dryness. There is a presumption of life being a comedy, not just because of the importance of timing (and what is Advent about but timing), but because difficulties are wonderfully resolved.

A question we are left with - what to do with a comedic dream in the presence of wide-awake tragedy? Do we step back from our disaster and trust a sweet by-and-by? Do we use the dream as motivation when there is not yet an armload of blessed sheaves to bring home? Do we dismiss the dream as "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato"?

What dream is holding you in the midst of economic uncertainty, political conspiracy, or on-going genocide? Might it hold something as unimaginable in daylight as a manger or a Baptizer John – both of which portend beyond current powers and processes?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Isaiah 61:1-11

Advent 3 – Year B

Isaiah 61:1-11

Hey you! Ya, you! Righteous Oak! Whatcha doin?


How you doin that?

Seeing grace. Talking grace. Living grace.

How you doin that?

Comforting them what mourn. Hey, now you got me talking that way. But, you're OK, so I guess I'm OK to talk your language. Also paying attention to fair dealing whether dealt with fairly or not. And, giving roses to people while they live.

That sound fun.

Yep. Is. New life is springing up even before Spring. This is fun – it's rejoicing time. Even with a lousy economy, lost jobs, and larger class divisions they can't keep Rejoicing from me. In fact, I usually spell meta… G*D but it may also be spelled or named "Rejoicing". Come on in, join me in anointing and being anointed with good news that releases Rejoicing from Exile. Plant the acorn in you for oaks in a grove dance together.

Hey, look at me, I'm a stump shoot – didn't need no acorn. This is fun!

Monday, December 08, 2008

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Advent 3 – Year B

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Thunder in the desert, even lightning, can happen with there being no resultant rain. The clouds on the horizon never seem to actually arrive. Crying in the wilderness often bears similar results – lots of sound and fury….

We are waiting for the rain, for the streams to flow again. All this straightening of roads and leveling hills is fine for job-creation, but loses something in regard to bringing forth a revival. A Baptist needs water for their work and to get sidetracked into construction work doesn't seem like the best use of resources.

At best there is value in the development of disciplines in times of dryness. But it would be helpful if there were a connection between a discipline and a desired outcome.

Rephrasing, John might be seen as a storm cloud that fulfills a promise that needed refreshment will actually arrive, that showers of blessing will revive our perspective. This then raises questions about the work we are called to not being slavish thong tying, but cloud seeding.

Perhaps we might shift job descriptions from being a sunbeam or a narrow-way maker to being a rain seed. Is that worthy enough for us, or still too humble, too esoteric, too elitist.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Another Crier Out Done Gone

Advent 2 – Year B

One of our blessed Criers Out has left us – Odetta died this past week. In her voice is John the Baptist, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr, and yourself. Listen and reclaim your prophet. Her Voice of Ages will ground your hope, widen your faith, and energize your love.

Here are a couple of places to catch a glimpse of Odetta:

Last Word (a worthwhile 20 minutes) [Note: the link is to the New York Times. If you don't want to do a free sign up with them, a lesser quality and shorter version of the same material is found on Youtube. This elision does miss some good stuff.]

Satyagraha (from "Satyagraha: Gandhi's 'Truth Force' in the Age of Climate Change" event sponsored by The Garrison Institute)

Keep on moving it on (from last TV interview – of course on PBS)

Hymn (helping on a song – hum and sing along all the way home)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Advent 2 – Year B

2 Peter 3:8-15a

It's about time!

This is an aha moment. Here is an example of that in the realm of teaching.

This is a gotcha moment. Felt trapped with one day feeling like a thousand? You must be related to Sarah Palin. Such things are not of G*D, but it must be someone else's fault! There'll be hell to pay.

Between these two lie a multitude of other moments that reveal how we are doing on scales of holiness and godliness that we might better look at as a scale of revelation regarding heaven on earth that is already and not yet here (a variation on a once and future life).

Enjoy your time as the two of you roll along in synch and out.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Advent 2 – Year B

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Elijah, Baptizer John, Jesus of Nazareth are forerunners. They exemplify faithfulness, righteousness, forgiveness.

We are forerunners. May your exemplification be a blessing to you and all.

Run well, salvation wholeness is at hand and in yours. Hold it lightly, lest it be squoze to death.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Isaiah 40:1-11

Advent 2 – Year B

Isaiah 40:1-11

Comfort, tenderness, release. This is quite a trio of qualities that define our relationships with one another as we find ourselves in various exiles. Sometimes these will be offered to me by you and sometimes by me to you.

It seems as though living this way is not an easy thing for us to do for one another. Therefore the discipline of preparation. If you are interested in the result of preparing for a Presence of G*D refer back to the three characteristics that began this note – comfort, tenderness, release. If we can see where we are going it makes it a bit easier to stick to the discipline of preparation.

In some sense this is quite natural to us. After all, what we do now leads to what comes after. We know about cause and effect and intention. But sometimes we get confused and participate in some magical thinking that better will just happen regardless of how I am engaged in life.

Finally, an image of a discipline of strength is that of feeding, gathering, and gently leading. The end of the passage can be seen in parallel with the beginning.

Whether focusing on a discipline of preparation (waiting) for use of strength or a discipline of strength (stepping out) as preparation for larger living, may your advent disciplines be a gift to you and through you to others.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mark 1:1-8

Advent 2 – Year B

Mark 1:1-8

A changing of one's ways based on forgiveness would seem to be pretty strong stuff. And yet there is even more change on the way!

The Isaiah passage can certainly apply to John in relation to Jesus.

Imagine, though, how it might apply to Jesus in relation to you.

Isaiah, John, Jesus, and more have prepared a way for you. It has been smoothed and opened – for you.

Hmmm. What could that mean? Only you know.

Following this line, if John brings Water (perhaps changing folks from the outside in) and Jesus brings a Holy Spirit (perhaps changing folks from the inside out) what do you bring?

Advent is not just waiting, but a taking of that next step toward a larger life. A way is open so – on your mark, get set, Step.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Advent 1 – Year B

to wait
not to wait

reasonable question
unreasonable times




Thursday, November 27, 2008

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Advent 1 – Year B

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

"You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ."


Then why this felt distance from heaven come on earth?
Then why this experienced distance from one another?

Our love of G*D isn't yet will all we are and have.
Our love of Neighbor isn't yet comparable to our own survival.

Our image of G*D doesn't yet include ourself.
Our image of Neighbor doesn't yet include G*D.

How then are we not lacking any gift (deleting the spiritual limitation is helpful here) while actively waiting for a desired revelation? If we are not lacking such an insight into the universe, is it our implementation that is awry?

This excused out from our original affirmation doesn't altogether satisfy as surely there is a gift of gift-implementation included in our bag of tricks. What are we to do with this bold statement?

Give thanks that the needed gifts are present, are able to built with and upon them. A primordial soup can be restirred, even at this late date.

Give thanks that not even a carb-overload nap will erode your gifts, only delay their use. A choice to eat in moderation, allowing left-overs their day, and to walk and talk with each other is still within reach.

Give thanks that a gift of giving-thanks is not lacking. Use it frequently. It will open other gifts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Advent 1 – Year B

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Restore us, let your face shine.

This appeal to G*D is a refrain in this Psalm and precursor to "Come, Loving Jesus".

We can think about Jesus as being a face of G*D. By extension we can consider sisters and brothers of Jesus as a face of G*D. Sometimes even the church can be seen as a face of G*D. More times than we might think, all manner of surprising people are recognizable as a face of G*D.

That progression from Jesus to followers to institution to others is a journey, a pilgrimage, a process of entering deeper and deeper into what holds us together. To set any of those off with special brackets around it, makes us more and more superficial, with a center that will not hold.

Restoration is a process worth waiting and working for. Restoration encourages us to continue tip-toeing into Advent, waiting more deeply and working longer. Can you catch a glimpse of yourself participating in a needed restoration and encouraging others – letting your face shine upon those who might also be restorative agents?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Isaiah 64:1-9

Advent 1 – Year B

Isaiah 64:1-9

We desperately yearn for a better future to break in. This is not just a vague expectation of some change making some change that might lead somewhere better. This is a deep desire for things to be made right.

Then we pause to consider what that would do to everything we know how to do. Whoa. We are where we are because of who we are. To change the rules mid-stream would be disaster for us. What would we do without our iniquities; be they large or small?

Yet, if it takes our joining whatever new version of the CCC might be, we are still willing to go that route. We'll start at the bottom again as long as due consideration of a better future in the present would be given. It's that infernal and eternal silence that bugs us. In its face we keep on being who we are, waiting for a great mechanism to fly by and wave a wand o'er us.

As partners of G*D we might also posit that we are the potter and we are the clay. We have the authority to make the changes we know deep down G*D would make. Might we lovingly work on one another to reshape our presence into that better future that attracts and scares us. Might we?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mark 13:24-37

Advent 1 – Year B

Mark 13:24-37

Wasn't it just yesterday we tried to talk ourselves into celebrating "Christ the King"? Today we are looking beyond a king, looking forward to the arrival of a Star Child larger than the sky – like the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

If you want to be reminded of that movie here are two places to look: and

Look where you will, even at a lowly fig tree, and you will see intimations of a future generation contained within a present generation. Watch for three hours or three days or three years, you will catch a glimpse of this resurrectional transformation. Watch it come even as you go about your daily work.

As a bonus, here are two comments from a Girardian perspective that help us watch in a helpful direction, to avoid the power and wrath trip so easily seen on the surface of this pericope. What will be unveiled as you watch the death of one time and the birth of a next?

"Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, has a section entitled "Apocalypse" at the outset of his book, pp. 14-16. It has to do with the very title of his book:

"The word "apocalypse" means "unveiling." What, then, is veiled, the unveiling of which can have apocalyptic consequences? The answer is: violence. Veiled violence is violence whose religious or historical justifications still provide it with an aura of respectability and give it a moral and religious monopoly over any "unofficial" violence whose claim to "official" status it preempts. Unveiled violence is apocalyptic violence precisely because, once shorn of its religious and historical justifications, it cannot sufficiently distinguish itself from the counter-violence it opposes. Without benefit of religious and cultural privilege, violence simply does what unveiled violence always does: it incites more violence. In such situations, the scope of violence grows while the ability of its perpetrators to reclaim that religious and moral privilege diminishes. The reciprocities of violence and counter-violence threaten to spin completely out of control."

And . . .

"Robert Hamerton-Kelly, The Gospel and the Sacred, pp. 35-40. (Hamerton-Kelly's commentary on Mark, written from the perspective of Girardian "mimetic theory" will be a constant over the next year.) H-K begins his commentary on Mark's gospel at chapter 11, the confrontation with the institutions of the Sacred centered around the Temple in Jerusalem. Ch. 13 brings Jesus' teachings regarding these institutions to a climax as he predicts their collapse. It is a mixture of general apocalyptic language about judgment day with more specific references to the fall of Jerusalem and the Jewish-Roman War. H-K lays this out nicely. Most notable, I think, is his closing paragraph (p. 40):

"It is remarkable that among all the apocalyptic imagery of this discourse there is not one claim, that the tribulations to befall humanity in the messianic apocalyptic history and the ultimate eschaton are expressions of the vengeance of God. Rather, the suffering is to be caused by wars, frauds, charlatans, natural catastrophes, misunderstandings and persecutions. These are the sadly predictable human failings that cause human misery without any divine intervention. In fact, the one clear reference to divine intervention has God shortening the tribulation for the sake of his elect. There is, therefore, a significant omission of the divine vengeance from a traditional apocalyptically styled passage, and that confirms our thesis that the generative energy of the Gospel is the opposite of the Sacred. Even though traditional imagery is used, the traditional content has been modified so as to remove the idea of the divine wrath and vengeance. The wrath is the suffering we inflict on ourselves and each other within the order of the GMSM. [Note: H-K's "GMSM" is an acronym he uses for: Generative Mimetic Scapegoating Mechanism.]"

- - - - - - -

So what are you watching for? You'll probably see it. This Advent season are you willing to watch for violence revealed and redeem it?

Friday, November 21, 2008

gone . . . forward

Pentecost Last – Year A

another year done gone
365 pleas of "come" have gone

come, come, come,
weary and sore distressed;
come, come, come,
come and rest.

the snake has eaten
its tail again and again
rolling on and on
so sad, so free

can we hope again
go through this
one more time
anticipated disappointment

mission accomplished
stated with kingly boldness
doesn't suffice the need
of moment or era

may we be clearer
in what we are waiting for
not a harking back
but a deeper investment

being a cup of water
offering daily bread
living with "those" and any
we sustain and are sustained

a transition resolution
not "come" but "thanks"
recognizing beauty present
and sending it forward

- - - - - - -

Note: hymn referenced found at cyberhymnal

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ephesians 1:11-23

Pentecost Last – Year A

Ephesians 1:11-23

"…we [sheep], who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you [goats] also, when you had heard the word of truth…."

Your faith in the Lord Jesus – Commandment 1
your love toward all – Comandment 2
fulfill the law and prophets.

From verses 12-13 and 15 we find a point of larger working together rather than a final solution for those who have tasted the fruit of good and evil and enjoyed the evil, poisonous seed more than the sweet flesh.

May we see what we are called to – an immense and glorious way of life growing from an extravagance of trust and bringing forth endless energy, boundless strength (a gleaning of The Message, verses 17-19).

How much damage to the "original" has been done by this cherry-picking proof-texting?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Psalm 100

Pentecost Last – Year A

Psalm 100

(The Message – non-holy-pronoun version)
1-2 On your feet now – applaud God!
     Bring a gift of laughter,
     sing yourselves into God's presence.
3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
     God made us; we didn't make God.
     We're God's people, God's well-tended sheep.
4 Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
     Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
     Thank God. Worship God.
5 For God is sheer beauty,
     all-generous in love,
     loyal always and ever.

When we get past the judgment, the wrath, the division in our life together there is another picture to be seen, another reality in which to dance. This Psalm is a balance point to many of these end-of-year passages.

For those who respond better to avoiding risks, listen to the threat of a final accounting and change your ways.

For those who respond better to attracting hope, listen to the laughter of already being at home and change your ways.

However you arrive, may you find yourself better than you were.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ezekiel 34:11-24

In the sheep/goat model it is helpful to hear even finer distinctions being made. G*D can spot a sheep in goat's clothing. Even sheep come in different guises - "fat" and "thin". Even then there is a quality behind size - justice.

Here in a last week of our liturgical year we pause to reflect on our weight. Too heavy? Too thin? Must not have had your daily minimum requirement of justice. This is not just a personal reflection but one of family, religious judicatory, nation and environment. Too heavy? Too thin? Enough justice?

Since my "sheep within a sheep" detector is relatively unsophisticated, "justice for all" is probably still a helpful mantra.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Matthew 25:31-46

A difference between blessed and cursed stereotypes is a slippery one. No, it's not a difference in lanolin.

Blessings flow toward us and our response choice is to be thankful and pass the blessing on or to be thankful and hold on to it as long as possible. This is the slipperiness of holiness - to receive a blessing with thanksgiving and send it further along.

Whatever religious techniques we come up with to extend a blessing's presence, turns out to be counter-productive. At issue is not how much can be given away, but how easy it becomes to share that which is available.

Although the focus here is upon judgment, the larger dynamic is about passing a slippery blessing on - regardless of any judgment from any source. This shifts the conversation from a quantitizing consciousness to a qualitizing unconciousness. We use the externals to practice on but the game comes down to the internals that allow the externals to expand without increasing volitional energy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ordinary Waiting

Pentecost +27 – Year A

The Sacrament of Waiting
Macrina Wiederkehr

she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
then the orange, yellow, and red
finally she let go of her brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky
she began her vigil of trust.

Shedding her last leaf
she watched its journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the color of emptiness,
her branches wondering;
How do you give shade with so much gone?

And then,
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
they kept her hope alive.

They helped her understand that
her vulnerability,
her dependence and need,
her emptiness,
her readiness to receive
were giving her a new kind of beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.

Source: unknown – found on Inward/Outward

= = = = = = =

It is this sense of a sacrament of waiting I have been waiting for as we close another church year. Instead, we get an appeal to the base – wrath today, wrath, tomorrow, wrath forever. How does this poem relate to your reading of the "parables" we have been dealing with?

From another perspective, we might compare the pericopes at the end of the church year to the Japanese mono no aware and ask about how this transition to Advent can help us look at these passages. To get a feel for this check out the simple Wikipedia page and Flicker.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

We are enlightened folk who are not surprised at the timing and strength of labor pains. We know there are issues which cannot be side-stepped, only lived through. The consequences of past behavior do come around whether early or late, for this or subsequent generations.

Since we are enlightened we are aware that wrath is not a destiny worth pursuing, but a healthy wholeness is. Whether we are discouraged or sensing a brighter dawn is ahead, we are encouraged and encouraging. To move beyond wrath we pay attention to building each other up. Integral to this is a hope that our vision of a preferred future continues to be mutually refocused until we experience a thinning between today and tomorrow. At that point - future touches present, heaven comes on earth, an energized community is encouraged to put wrath down and deal with what is rather than what might be projected.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Psalm 123

Mercy is indeed needed. It is an ever-present need. There are contexts and events that are not controlable but, nonetheless, need a response that includes mercy.

At issue is whether mercy is exclusively what is needed. For instance, when and where will mercy appear as preemptive advocacy from the bottom-up rather than a benefit dispensed from on high? How might G*D's image interact with the rest of creation as though mercy had already been experienced, rather than still to arrive? What will it take to stand for one's self and another because mercy is real?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Judges 4:1-7

Jabon and Sisera are used by god to punish Israel. Deborah is used by god to punish the punishers, Jabon/Sisera, for their 20 years of punishment.

In regard to punishment, how is god usinbg you? Are you to help punish someone god is mad at? Are you to punish someone who has been one of god's past punishers? Is this a helpful category?

If we posit an eternal reciprocal engine that runs on punishment, stroke by stroke, what would cause us to look for an alternative energy source since punishment seems to be eternally renewable? Is simple inefficiency enough to move us off-center?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Matthew 25:14-30

This passage hinges on the word "afraid". The third "slave" (which is an important starting context) is claimed to be afraid. It is this quality that is then used as a reason for their behavior and eventual dismissal to an outer region.

I'm not in a research place right now to look at alternatives, but suspect that when one has the power to banish, any resistance is going to be claimed as coming from a place of fear. Masters use fear to control and then blame those who stand up to them as fearful. It's a destructive self-referential circle.

Here are three questions that provide an opening through which we can poke at the judgmental character of these end-of-the-year stories:

1) By what means might a slave be expected to double their money?

2) Is not an advantaged slave still a slave?

3) Is not a slave already in a place of darkness?

See this passage through the lens of a fairy-tale with the third telling bringing a needed breakthrough. The benevolent, giving master is now revealed as greedy and demanding. Surely there is a better place to end the year than with the gnashing of teeth.

Friday, November 07, 2008


I'm in the process of trying to shift my language from that of "kingdom" to that of "presence".

From this week some images - kingdoms are long term foolish, closed, answers, and dangerous. Take a look back to see what kingdom has lasted and ask why that became our desire.

Some additional words might be - presence is eternal and momentary, wise, open, offering responses, and assuring.

Choose well your perspective.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Pause

Just a note that jottings here will be intermittent, at best, during the next two weeks as I am traveling without a computer. May you travel well in place and I'll be interested in any reports of same.


1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Pentecost +26 – Year A

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

There will be grieving, but the way in which we grieve still has some choice available within it. Not all grieving is equal.

We might grieve that those who have preceded us, who had been left behind, have as their main perk that we will not precede them. The dead and gone will rise before those still clinging to their life – a sure metaphor of conversion that the current life must be lost before it can be raised.

Without preceding our predecessors we will be able to be joined together in transforming this world (there will still be additional worlds needing transformation for the process of transformation and wholeness is never completed and always completable).

So let's not be uninformed by claiming that which is beyond claim – that our heritage holds sway over our present or that an anticipated future trumps every ancestor's limit. Early or late, soon or anon, we eventually need to arrive at today – a creative intersection of a lost past and an unformed future. Let us encourage one another with the reality of redemption of the past and intentionality of the future. We are not bound by past limits nor beyond a well-articulated, heavenly, "yes, we can" come to earth.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Psalm 78:1-7

Pentecost +26 – Year A

Psalm 78:1-7

Dark sayings from the past do echo down the corridor of time. They bring with them a sense of stability and a constraint of limits. With a sense of steadfastness, there is also a repetition of generations, one after another, as differentiated from a standing on the shoulders of ancestors to travel further.

In contrast are sources of hope and trust that beckon us into space beyond where we have been. Yes, remember the stories, the scope of history within this moment is set, but know that they simply set the stage and give the opportunity for a new incarnation.

Some of this was expressed ever so much better in last night's acceptance speech of the U.S. Presidency by Barack Obama.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Joshua 24:1-25

Pentecost +26 – Year A

Joshua 24:1-25

The long journey is nearly over.

Waiting for relief – along comes Joseph and his dreams –
Crowned by power – enter a long time of slave discipline –
Reborn through a Reed Sea – learning after Spirit learning –

Advent – Christmas – Epiphany – Lent – Easter – Pentecost.

Here is Joshua, a transitional figure, moving folks back into another cycle that will end with being puffed up at court and lost in exile.

In the midst of such turning and turning, never quite right, where do we place our bet? Is it with eternal protection? With revenge when protection breaks down? On holiness codes jealously enforced? With promises of the past, threats of today, fears of tomorrow?

Is this the best we can do, recycle our lowest common denominator? If so, we might wonder where on the wheel we find ourselves today and whether we are heading fast to the ground to be ground into the ground by the weight of the wheel. Hope is not our way out of this, but it can encourage us to always appreciate the wisdom of the wilderness.

Today is an election day. Is it the end-all and be-all and answer-all? No. But it will give us a gauge of how soon a next needed revolution will arrive – later or sooner.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Matthew 25:1-13

Pentecost +26 – Year A

Matthew 25:1-13

As we draw nigh to the end of another church year we sense a frustration of not having been perfected - as we had so hoped at the beginning of the year. Our frustration shows up in hellish threats to shape-us-up on our deathbed, to get our acquiescence for, if not our commitment to and participation in, living tomorrow (heaven) today (earth).

Where division can be a great motivator, note the flurry of negative ads as we draw near to the close of yet another election cycle, it has limited long-term effect. There is a negativity fatigue, as well as a compassion fatigue, and we just don't respond like we once did.

All that to the side, how are you doing with your awareness of the situation around you and your continued ability to share beyond what is "fair" to you? Have you been wise during these days of housing bubbles (what a lovely word to use for such nasty activity – a housing volcano that finally erupted may come closer)? What does that mean about how you will deal with those who foolishly took the word of experts that all was in good order and the market has a benevolent desire for your specialness? Is it time to cut them off, punish them, send them away? If so, what does that have to do with the expectant waiting we did just under a year ago?

We do need to learn from our cycles through the year. If we don't do a better job of connecting beginnings with endings, we may be doomed to repeat them. If you were to write a history of this past year that we might be edified, what would you include and what would you leave out?

Friday, October 31, 2008


Pentecost +25 – Year A

Questions carry within them little mini-answers. Who is Barack Obama? What is the connection between George Bush and John McCain? Should health-care be a common-wealth issue? What about the tie between the Perizzites and Iranians? Are you saved? Among the redeemed of the Lord? Do you remember how hard we toiled for you?

While good power rhetoric, we are still looking for opportunities to respond rather than answer and to investigate together rather than ask a divisive question.

Here is a significant arena for delving deeper into the matrix of the universe – finding and appreciating healthy ways in which G*D might demonstrate solidarity with humanity. The old ways of dividing into clean and unclean, chosen and rejected, and upright and blamed don't seem to have much in the way of relationship between the created order. Of course this may simply be the way life is intended to be – survivalist, being on some pre-determined correct side. In the end, however, the vision of heaven this portrays is one heavily reliant upon hell.

At the end of the week we are left with one overarching question – what are you homesick for? What is your greatest yearning? and a desire beyond that? May you find a kernel within that question that will lead you beyond satisfaction to joy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

1 Thessalonians 2:9-20

Pentecost +25 – Year A

1 Thessalonians 2:9-20

From whom have you been effectively orphaned?

Who do you long, with great eagerness, to see?

These direction-setting questions, mission-orienting queries, are as relevant today as they were in Paul's day. These are also questions that can be applied all along an election campaign, whether for secretary of a service organization or president of a small or large constituency.

What Paul is not catching here is that he is as orphaned from those he terms "Jews" as from those he knows as "Gentiles". His language further enhances his distance from those who do not see the world as he does.

What would you advise Paul about his blinders or decision to draw such a sharp distinction?

What would you then advise yourself regarding the separations and gatherednesses in your own life?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Psalm 107:1-6, 33-37

Pentecost +25 – Year A

Psalm 107:1-6, 33-37

Today we will sing verses 1 and 15 of our next hymn. We will also only pay attention to the 2nd and 10th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Of particular concern will be commandments 4 and 6 (depending on how you count).

In these selective ways we can avoid responsibility for the whole of life or the benefit of another if it competes with my own desire. We can divide up and set one important part of life against another.

In this case the elided verses are pretty repetitious. They are also looking for G*D to take responsibility for our hard times and going back over old hurts.

What this condensation leaves us with is an image of bringing the destitute to a place filled with potential. The response looked for is a return to being stewards of current resources, not revengers of past harm.

We end with Eden revisited. Now the decision on our part of how we are going to practice stewardship in our current setting - how we are going to invite the hungry into the bounty we have and join us in a next cycle of sowing and reaping? This not a "when" question, but a "how" question.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Joshua 3:7-17

Pentecost +25 – Year A

Joshua 3:7-17

Beware of being exulted, even when such purports to come from da Lord. You may be in line for upping the ante from killing the first-born (bad enough) to genocide (bad to some undefinable exponent).

There is an interesting picture here of priests standing where water once flowed (often termed living-water) and now drier than a bone. Given the number of folks to get across the Jordan it must have been backed up for some time. Given the relative narrowness of the rift valley, the extra must have seeped into dry, dry ground or established a new wetland or been like a dam-burst when finally the priests moved their dryness on.

This story is not meant to stand up to that kind of scrutiny. But as precursor to the official line of "my-god-is-so-much-bigger-than-your-god-that-you-are-now-nothing" approach to presidential campaigning or manifest destiny or pre-emptive doctrine or chosen people or . . . , this is not a healthy place from which to bring forth much in the way of heaven on earth.

Suffice it to say that Joshua's better angel might have responded to the "Master of the entire earth", "you go on ahead, this wilderness is a better place to be." But, then, once you have committed yourself and your house to serving, no questions asked, there may not be the same opportunity to bargain as a partner or remind the Master of the House (Les Misérables reference) to cool it.

Beware spectacle, even holy spectacle, especially holy spectacle.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Matthew 23:1-12

Pentecost +25 – Year A

Matthew 23:1-12

In what guise will the Messiah appear today?

My learning is going to be impacted by the clarity and breadth of my ability to see beyond the surface of Messiah regalia to the variety of ways a beloved community is revealed.

The greatest among us will model their accumulated wisdom. They will lead us forth, teach us that which was too difficult until this moment. They are Spirit incarnated. From time to time they will be folks mutually affirmed as consistent sparks of new vision. From time to time they will be folks who surprise for their brief instant, not even fifteen minutes of fame, but, for a critical moment, an indispensable blessing.

Those who attempt to claim a spot without it arising from lived experience will be ambition personified. Even if it is I who so claims a vision from G*D, my posing will be revealed. And so Jesus reminds us about the importance of loving one another. For today I am Messiah, tomorrow, you, and in time after that the joy of another.

In what guise does Messiah not appear?

Friday, October 24, 2008

So Common

Pentecost +24 – Year A

what a delightful foreground
full of shiny things
baubles and bangles
and glimmering rings
vehicles latest and greatest
announcing status
leaving no doubt
shoes of exotic leather
timepieces unique
in all the world
there is nothing missing
against a barely discernable
background so common

warp of god
weft of neighbor
weave of self

Thursday, October 23, 2008

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Pentecost +24 – Year A

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

It is always possible to make demands upon another. That is subtext to negative advertising – Don't!

At the same time it possible to refuse to work in a demand-based economy, politics, relationship. In this space we not only have content (sharing the gospel of G*D) but we have process (sharing our hearts, our selves).

The divide between accepting and not-accepting demand-based relationships is a huge divide between varieties of religions. It takes a huge conversion to move from one side of this divide to the other.

Such a conversion can be led by an invitation from a shared life or pushed by one demand too many. Our usual progressive process is to invite, to model, to share. Our temptation is to use the techniques of the demanders and in our hands it is particularly dangerous. Best to recognize that life is a slow process where we don't throw our weight around, but allow it be an attractor.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

Pentecost +24 – Year A

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

Times have been tough.

Of course god has something to do with that. [wink]

We fear god will reverse engineer us into dust and mud.

So we appeal to god's patience with us.

Then we sort of blame god for having been away while we mice played.

We would rather be controlled than destroyed and we ask god to do so.

All of which ought to get us back to prosperity. [hooray! we tricked god again and live to see another day]

= = = = = = =

The above ain't very poetical but it is familiar territory as we whine and blame, blame and whine.

Given the first two passages for the week, what have we missed about "love" that goes in all directions? What have we missed about a vision larger than our disappointment?

If we could get our heads and hearts and hands and health around these questions we might not again end up rehearsing this Psalm. Blessings upon you as you live through the tough times without bargaining yourself away.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Pentecost +24 – Year A

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

What are you seeing that you are not going to accomplish?

This is a most un-American, anti-positivist question. In places where kids are overscheduled and incessantly prepared for success, we don't catch a picture larger than ourselves. The same resistance to this question arises in religion precisely at the points where issues of tradition and salvation intersect. We yearn for a right answer from the past to care for our uncertainty and for a correct interpretation of signs to equate the present with the future.

To see beyond actually opens us to the unexpected ways in which we engage each moment along the way. Through all the dry times and hungry times and doubting times and unfaithful times we are strengthened. Through all the high times and satisfying times and times of certainty and surety come the next moments wherein we are humbled.

Can you catch a loving glimpse of G*D, of Neighbor? Just a snapshot? Just a quiet word? In that glimpse you have an insight into a larger world than expected. Such a quest is found in clarifying our expectations by looking again at our entitlements and finding them less than we had counted on; investigating again our hopes and finding in them more reality than we had first noticed. What is Messiah if not connected with my life? What is G*D if not a partner, a neighbor? What is a Neighbor if not a revelation of G*D? What is our Self if not connected with Christ?

Thank you Moses for setting a larger context. Thank you Joshua for attending to the details. Thank You for taking your part in gazing farther and carrying forward.

So, again, what are you seeing that you are not going to accomplish?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Matthew 22:34-46

Pentecost +24 – Year A

Matthew 22:34-46

It was quite the tag team match. Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Governors, and Kings all lined up against a refugee-raised, mystic prophet.

A question before us is who wins each round and who wins the match.

Yes, it will be important to define what a win means. To use a Dancing with the Stars image, the judges last word is not the last word – there is a spirit in the air, a zeitgeist that will not be denied. As a result, the results sometimes seem dumbfounding (hopefully the voting machines will not leave us equally perplexed).

To pick up on Eugene Peterson's translation in verse 46, literalists and legalists are stymied by metaphor and creativity. This shows up in whether you are trying to split hairs or find an organizing principle.

In the first scene, regarding Commandments, the detail folks were trumped by a context setting and then, in the second scene about Messiahs, the literalists were out-literalized. We may need to not so much take away a correct answer from this interaction as to un-focus our eyes to see the love shining through – to see every loving line of "you" (line from a Judy Fjell song).

You are hereby given permission to follow where the spirit of love leads you – sometimes seeing the big picture and sometimes attending to a detail. Enjoy the choices as they come your way.

Friday, October 17, 2008

existential joy/angst

Pentecost +23 – Year A

From time to time a reader poses a question or offers a comment in regard to these postings. Yesterday brought this question: "Would taking great joy from the Holy Spirit have an inherent risk of leaving the Holy Spirit joyless?"

There is the joy of play in the question and the writer continues: "I am still working on a construct in which an 'existential joy' lens would be as readily embraced as the 'existential angst' lens. I, of course, am admitting to the power and pervasiveness of the latter in my own life by having even posited the above question. It may well be the unspoken existential joy that enables us to be willing to continue in the face of existential angst."

I am going to leave the initial question alone, as any koan should be respected. In response to the existential joy/angst comment, here are some words from a book I am currently reading, That which Transpires Behind that which Appears: The Experience of Sufism by Pir Vilayat Inayat Kahn. I do recommend it.

"You do not have to look for beautiful music, or beautiful churches or painting. You can find beauty in a face that for all intents and purposes does not appear particularly beautiful. Behind the mask you can see beauty. Jelaluddin Rumi said If only you could see your face through my eyes, you would realize how beautiful you are. People can see themselves through your eyes. You can help them in one of the most important aspects of the personality: their self-esteem. It also confirms your utopic thoughts that, in fact, there is beauty behind whatever appears at the surface of the universe.

"So you are continually guarding your emotional attunement from slipping into a low-key condition. At the same time, you are outraged by any offense against honesty, and outraged against rank selfishness. In a way, you are exalting in joy and, at the same time, enduring terrible suffering. Your heart is broken, there is so much suffering in the world.

"You are so full of joy; yet, as you become aware of the suffering of people around you, it is very difficult to maintain that level of jubilations which you encountered when you lifted your consciousness upward. You find that you are being tested in life: are you able to be full of joy and, at the same time, have a broken heart?

"You may also find that you feel precarious and strong at the same time. As Pir-o-Murshid says, Be able to reconcile the perfection of your divine inheritance with the imperfection of your idiosyncrasies. He calls it the aristocracy of the soul, together with the democracy of the ego-- both together, not one or the other. If you tilt too much in the direction of your personal dimensions, you have a sense of inadequacy; you have a bad self-image. If you tilt too much in the direction of your divine inheritance, you could become sanctimonious; you might think of yourself as superior to others. It is very difficult to reconcile these two."

[Note: This is a way of viewing the pericopes of the week. How do you hear the conversations between Jesus and some Pharisees, Moses and G*D, Paul and some Thessalonian converts? Can you experience them as internal conversations within yourself?]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Pentecost +23 – Year A

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

In days gone by early Methodists were engaged by a question: What must I do to escape the wrath to come?

Many responses had to do with lowering one's tax (sin) burden. On the love G*D end was camp meeting praise, emotional and awakening. On the love neighbor pole were issues of simplicity to be able to give more charity and all manner of mercy acts around healthcare, education, and mission.

In a full-bore capitalist society, instead of being at its industrial revolution beginning, with a focus on present profit, concern about a wrath to come, a significant credit crunch, seems to hold no traction. If there is going to be a rescue it won't be from a prophetic moralist like Jesus. Rather, there will be any number of bailouts tried on the basis of capitalism's idol – Mammon. If we can just infuse enough cash into a roiling economy, its invisible hands will pull itself up by its own bootstraps. [Imagine that position, if you will, and you will soon see why one should never trust a fart and how messy things can and will get.]

A question worth struggling with in our day is: what will engage people's lives in the same way the old question about escaping from wrath did in the early days of Methodism as a reflection of an older time in Thessalonica? What would that be in your own life?

What organizing principle is needed in your life and the life of the world around that would lead to your taking "great joy from the Holy Spirit! – taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble"? [The Message] This present-oriented perspective may well be connected with escaping a more troubled future?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Psalm 99

Pentecost +23 – Year A

Psalm 99

The following paraphrase raises several interesting translational/perspective questions that can lead to good conversation.

- Is G*D's greatness a one-way street from G*D to humans/creation? What is the role of interdependence when dealing with issues of holiness?

- What is the relationship between honoring another and groveling before them?

- How warranted is the reference to "humus" in lines 5 and 6? Can we take this back to Creation or is it simply a matter of the line of Abraham's faithful?

- In verse 8, are "wrongdoings" by the Israelites to be punished while also being forgiven or is the reference to "wrongdoings" about those of others?

= = = = = = =

Psalm 99 - paraphrased by Jim Taylor

Though we have climbed earth's highest mountains, the peaks remain as
inhospitable to our life as outer space. Ancient peoples saw these fearful
heights as the habitation of the gods.

1           Like a halo of holiness, the spirit of God envelops the earth.
In the stillness of space, God's spirit gives life; let us acknowledge our
In the emptiness of infinity, God's spirit creates life; let us acknowledge
our interdependence.
2           Look up if you would see God;
raise your sights beyond your repetitive routines.
3           But do not attempt to face God as an equal--
Fling yourself face down on the earth
Before the creator of the heavens.
4           Almighty God, you love to do right.
In your dealings with your creation, you are always fair.
5           We humans grovel before your greatness.
Humbly, we kiss the humus from which you fashioned us.
You are holiness itself.
6           The humus holds the recycled cells of those who came this way
before us;
Step by step they searched for you, until you found them.
7           By the pillar of fire and the whispering breeze,
by bonfire and whirlwind, by prophecy and parable, you showed them your way.

8           Because they tried to follow you, you forgave them their
But those who laid traps for them, you did not tolerate.
9           So pledge allegiance to our God!
Gather at the foot of the mountain, where even the rocks reach up towards
our God.
Our God is holiness itself.

= = = = = = =

From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Exodus 33:12-23

Pentecost +23 – Year A

Exodus 33:12-23

Goodness can be blinding. This comes from both the sparks of new life that burst forth as a result of goodness and the turning away from goodness by those who fear it will lead them where they would fear to tread.

So the understanding of goodness being too much to look upon directly or in advance. Goodness is best dealt with after the fact.

When we begin to attribute goodness as an expected quality, it isn't long before we are disappointed. Likewise, when we intend goodness to flow from a present action, we are soon discouraged by the number of unintended consequences that also come forth.

Would that we would temper our anticipation of someone good arising to lead us out of our current situation all too clearly connected with our past decisions. That goodness will not be forthcoming. Likewise to come at decisions more humbly, doing the best we know at the time without universalizing it. Decisions always take place in the gray areas of life or they wouldn't be decisions.

What we are left with is the backside of goodness. We can recognize it by what comes to pass. This leads us to simply rejoice at the presence of goodness in the midst of so much that isn't. As folks made in G*D's image, having Glory within us, we are called to doing all the good we can, with all the folks and all the time we have. This, however, needs to be carried out with the humility of backsides. May it be our everyday life to sow seeds of kindness and tend them as they sprout. Much later there will be stories told not only of John Chapman but (your name here) as the fruits of simple goodness mature and nourish.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Matthew 22:15-22

Pentecost +23 – Year A

Matthew 22:15-22

Flattery is an excellent entrapment process. It works in both directions. Flatterers become less than themselves, knowing all along that they are untrue. Flatterees becomes more than themselves, ready to stumble, top heavy, with their head bigger than their britches.

The appropriate use of taxes continues to be on of those problematic issues. We can't live with them when they are separated from the commonwealth and we can't live without them as long as we are in community.

Taxes reveal our balance or imbalance between an individual's responsibility for themselves and a community's responsibility for those not up to that task and those infrastructure matters that benefit all.

So, what is a religious obligation to participate in a community beyond said religious' tenets?

Do you use state money? The state does have a claim on it. Charity, helpfulness, love, care, neighbor, widow and child, also have a claim on it for they have a claim on every part of my life, our lives.

This is not a division between G*D and Emperor, it is a question of proportion. G*D works through Emperors as well as against them and so questions of discernment are always in order. Are you going to keep your taxes to a minimum? Voluntarily double them? Use them as a tool of resistance?

The Pharisees left too early and easily. Their amazement protected them from a reconsideration of their own question, showing that starting with flattery keeps learning at bay. They'll be back.

Friday, October 10, 2008

invitations to life

Pentecost +22 – Year A

invitations to life
banquets galore
come and come
in the midst of distractions
and other calls

anger for being asked
matches anger
at invitations refused
and on anger's unstable ground
we blindly build

unspoken expectations
thinking all is resolved
rear their heads
and lead into another round
of off with their heads

a heavenly presence
is like a wedding
but one without trappings
just joy in relationship
that radiates an excellent harmony

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Philippians 4:1-13

Pentecost +22 – Year A

Philippians 4:1-13

I'm intrigued with verse 5 – "let your gentleness be known" (NRSV)

John Wesley's Notes indicate: " Yieldingness, sweetness of temper, the result of joy in the Lord." Here we can play with simple joy and specific joy in the Lord. Wherein do these signify the same thing and something different?

Is "moderation" (KJV) a better way to come at this text? How about "forbearance" (ASV)? What about the extended form in The Message, "Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them"?

When we find joy in moderation, rather than just moderation for its own sake, or forbearance or being for others, there is a switch that is thrown in our perception of our own experience. Then our honor, purity, pleasingness, excellence, and praise not only grow from G*D's peace, but lead to it. In joy these circles come round right and we find ourselves in a place just right, a valley of delight.

May you Syzygus others, yoking them together (their better fate) than allowing a separation to grow between two, oh so similar, folks.

Along with your daily bread, may you daily en-joy.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Pentecost +22 – Year A

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

An unsung superhero: The Deflector.

In the presence of a gap between the powerful and the un-powerful, the privileged and the un-privileged, and the holy and the un-holy, The Deflector simply stands.

This seemingly inconsequential act of standing does make a significant difference. It keeps all the un-people from being utterly abolished or annihilated. This is an honorable task for a super-hero. In fact it is a quite doable act by anyone.

First, The Deflector has open eyes to recognize gaps between people.

Second, The Deflector analyzes the relationship.

Third, The Deflector moves into the gap and turns to face the more powerful, privileged, holy to hold their passion and purpose at bay.

Fourth, The Deflector at some point transforms into The Reflector. By this shift the powerful catch a glimpse of what schmucks they have been and the un-powerful catch a glimpse of how pathetic they have been. In this manner the powerful pause and the un-powerful perk up – the field and relationship is leveled.

How are you doing in being recruited as the next Deflector/Reflector in your community? If not yet acknowledged, are you at least practicing? When this post is not filled, a lot of people are hurt and social injustice runs rampant, personal injustice rears its head.

Who do you know who is calling you to stand before them thinking you will be deflecting injustice away from them and will be surprised to see their own power revealed to them so they too can stand? If you have only a hint, it is enough to call you to the ranks of Holy Moses and Saint Syzygus and carry on the tradition of doing your best for the un-people.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Exodus 32:1-14

Pentecost +22 – Year A

Exodus 32:1-14

G*D had a second thought that caused a change in G*D. Hooray! Is this not a sign unto us as significant as rainbows and pillars of fire and manna and circles within circles and mangers?

Evil threatened turned out to not be evil done. A disaster was averted through a second-thought.

In the midst of the current economic "disaster" (as perceived by some or many) we might wonder how many second-thoughts were allowed to come to fruition and how many died aborning?

In the midst of whatever personal "disaster" (again, perception is significant here) we are experiencing we would benefit from a reflection on our second-thought process. The same goes for a congregation or other institution.

One of the blessings of the progressive movement is its ability to see beyond what is purported to be common-sense or orthodoxy. We are freed through a second-thought process to visit any number of situations again for a first time. In such a manner are idols best rooted out and extraneous baggage (then and now, gold) let go of.

In this case Moses and G*D sharpened each other. May you continue to sharpen your second-thoughts by honing them against your current "opponent" (again, . . .).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Matthew 22:1-14

Pentecost +22 – Year A

Matthew 22:1-14

Might we be looking at a different kind of parable here – one that rehearses a bit of history? Imagine a stained glass kind of re-telling of Creation, Eden/Babel, Flood, Exodus, Exile by one understood to be a prophet who is raising an important question.

The presence of G*D may be compared to Creation. Is not a wedding a celebration of creation? (Mind, a wedding can become quite trivial in its cultural manifestation.) The honoring of differences in the context of a larger unity, sparks much that is new.

However it happens, celebrations do formally end. A drifting away happens when one celebration doesn't morph into a next celebration. Great is the fall thereof – whether in Eden or at Babel – when my difference is more important than your difference and there are better things to do alone.

O, the Flood of rage, as sending folks away grows and grows into murder most foul – into genocide.

O, the remorse, the rebound, to settle for a new people and an Exodus from our mutual crying and loneliness.

O, the heightened sensitivity when the new folks don't play according to the game and we are still not back at the joy of creation. A trial separation, an Exile, grows from any slight or disappointment.

Yes, we have here a slam of the religious leaders of that and every age who forget their place in this ongoing story of Paradise Lost and Paradise Yearned For. But, also a rehearsal of a vision of every prophet to reconnect Creation and Present.

Where was your emotional connection to this snapshot of G*D? Were you overjoyed to be included in with the good, the bad, and the ugly? Were your fears engaged that you would be the next one to make a slip or get caught by an unrepentant Miss Manners, one with no sense of comedy?

After the little moral at the end, did you find yourself feeling glad you were among the few? Was there a little niggling thought that you had one more opportunity to bargain to increase the few, to more, to many, to all? If feeling the former and recognizing the latter, what are you doing to advocate for those being told to go to hell in today's world?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hear another story

Pentecost + 21 – Year A

Let's listen in on the opening of the four pericopes:

- Hear another story. Listen closely.
- G*D speaks story after story, word after word.
- A story begun in creation and
- confidently enfleshed in my story.

The latest G*D story, against the background of an acceptance by steadfast love, contains the specifics of your story, my story, our story. These are stories that need to be told in our day.

In these stories we will hear hard and easy things about ourselves. We will hear about killing those who are not duly deferent. We will hear a beautiful silence between stories. We will hear a yearning for resurrection in the present, not just the past or future.

As we listen we will have a choice of hearing how murderous we still are and responding to a call of prophetic change.

Our choice will define our meaning and shape the coming generations. If our response is to envision killing, Jesus will affirm that that is what we see and gently encourage us to stumble over an alternative lest what we prescribe becomes our fate. If our response is to pay attention to the gift of silence and resurrection, we will be encouraged to change our behavior in light of a better and larger vision, as bright as the sun and as inspirational as the moon.

Do you want to respond to the questions of life and not just stay on some conditioned message? Listen to your story and learn from creation's deep heart's core.(1)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Philippians 3:4b-11

Pentecost +21 – Year A

Philippians 3:4b-11

Again the issue of authority. What do we claim as our grounding? Is it time to take another look at it? As I wrestle with a vocational call to keep a pastoral authority going or hearkening to a cultural call of retirement (yes I made it to the magic age of 65 last week – just 5 years left on my biblical warranty), I am asking again what am I pointing toward and which route will best move me forward.

Given where you are on your life's trajectory, where you can place an "I Am Here" sign on your life map, where do you stake out what you are looking for. Can you phrase it like Paul, "I'm looking to attain resurrection from the dead"? Would you say the same thing in different terms and thus ground yourself somewhere to be able to achieve such? Would you say something completely different?

May you press on toward the prize of your call, your authority, in this day, in this age, in these circumstances.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Psalm 19

Pentecost +21 – Year A

Psalm 19

"God's Word is better than a diamond,
   better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You'll like it better than strawberries in spring,
   better than red, ripe strawberries."
          [The Message]

In this day we are reminded of basics. What is your better? Is it Resources? Is it Pleasure? Are they located in economic security and/or advancement?

What pulls our life together? What is the value of silence? of waiting? of a way to joy before joy is experienced?

There are so many different explanations of G*D's Presence, so many different measuring tools. Our work is to move beyond fear and beyond sound-bites. Our work is to test "unspoken truth".

May you be blessed in your investigations and sharing of what you have found.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Pentecost +21 – Year A

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

So how would you redact this version of 10 commanding words?

Are the many more words about idolatry and Sabbath than the other commands needed because these are necessarily more complex and subtle than the rest? Can we really simplify these or do they need more said about them because of the little ways they can be subverted?

Wherever you come out on that matter, the harder questions are those at the end. Are you comforted by Moses' response urging us to have no fear because this is only a test to see how fearful (awe-full) we can get? I suspect that their rejoinder to Moses may well have been, "O, right!, there's no reason for us to be afraid, its only a test we can't pass. How could we have been so foolish – Not! We're still afraid!"

This response seems to be implicit because of the way the story proceeds to The Lord going on to give law upon law. And, I suspect, that the Israelites would have been corroborated in their fear - "Who, now, can do anything without going down in flames? Ten we could deal with, but hundreds?!"

During these days of Rosh Hashanah it might be good to remember the principle of a Selichot Prayer and its revelation of mercy before, after, and during a test.

In light of steadfast love and mercy, failure can be borne.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Matthew 21:33-46

Pentecost +21 – Year A

Matthew 21:33-46

Stones at hand to throw. Stones aplenty to stumble over. Stones to build a watchtower and good-neighbor fences.

Wealth desire more profit while it at ease, off and about. In this sense the wealthy are a stumbling stone. Given what is deemed to be sufficient cause, wealth will come down like a juggernaut to crush its stoners.

The question of response to the initial scene is crucial. Are market forces and the divine-right of wealth the standards of measurement for relationships? Is there any other credible response than a killing-for-a-killing that the current rich might continue so? If there are, in what way might they also contain a see that, over time, will grow into a stumbling stone of another color?

In light of economic issues in the news, here is a column I found helpful by Jim Taylor. It's permalink ( will be available later - How else might you link this Jesus story with today's events?

= = = = = = =

Sunday September 28, 2008


I’ll be fine. Really, I will. Enough of my investments survived the recent stock market roller coaster that I can probably live reasonably comfortably for the rest of my life.

But I may have to die five years sooner than I had planned.

Do I sound bitter? I should. I’m bitter about the hypocrisy of governments that profess faith in the free market process and then refuse to let the free market apply its own consequences for fraud and mismanagement.

I’m furious at corporations that treat the public as a bottomless pit of suckers who can be exploited for investment capital, then milked for bailouts when those investments go sour.

I’m outraged at regulatory bodies that invite corporate entities -- anything from an international importer to a national food processor to a rural municipality -- to cut corners to balance their bottom line, by reducing inspections.

On the other hand, I’m grateful I don’t live in the United States where I have to pay taxes to a federal government that has squandered my money shamefully on wars built on lies and bailouts built on cronyism.


But if I were an American taxpayer, here’s what I would have to conclude.

American banks loaned my savings to the mortgage companies. The mortgage companies competed to loan my savings to people who couldn’t afford to buy a house but who were led to believe that they couldn’t lose if the price of houses kept soaring.

Then, still using my money, the banks and mortgage lenders conspired to bundle those iffy mortgages into something they could sell as a sure thing because it was backed by real property. And the hedge funds used more of my money to buy up those toxic investments.

And when the whole pyramid scheme imploded, federal authorities want to use my money once again to bail out the companies that made all those dubious decisions.

Were I an American taxpayer, I’d have to conclude that I got screwed at least three times. Perhaps more.

Because even if I personally kept my nose clean, my credit above water, and my liabilities low, I would still owe around $37,000 as my per capita share of the $11.6 trillion that my government has gone into hock.


Since Ronald Reagan, a series of Republican administrations has steadily promoted the ideology that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness depend on a free market economy.

As an outsider, I see them implementing this conviction through tax cuts and the reduction of government interference in businesses’ business of making a profit.

Tragically, Stephen Harper’s government in Canada has bought into the same mindset. Right now, he’s going around the country assuring voters that if you want to feel confident the country is in good hands, entrust it to the party that will mimic the policies that brought the world’s strongest economy to its knees.

Here in Canada, that mindset led to the Walkerton tainted water disaster, after Mike Harris slashed Ontario’s inspection services.

In the U.S., those policies produced the Enron and crashes, the collapse of the Arthur Anderson accounting empire, and finally the sub-prime mortgage fiasco.

Now George Bush and the Treasury are lobbying to shore up their devastated economy with another $700 billion -- and maybe more -- in handouts.

Effectively, good ol’ free-enterprise George has socialized the U.S. credit industry.


At least this disaster has brought the true Republican principles into the open -- privatize profits, socialize losses.

If you can pillage natural resources, rape the ecosystems, slaughter your opposition, and abandon your wastes for future generations to deal with, you’re entitled to claim any loot you can acquire as a legitimate return on investment.

But if, perchance, your emulation of Attila the Hun should backfire, you’re entitled to be compensated for your losses by the people you pillaged, raped, slaughtered, and abandoned.

Yes, you’re damn right I’m angry.

But don’t label me a socialist. I’ve been a freelance writer and editor for 27 years now. I helped to found and co-owned an independent publishing company for 15 years. I haven’t had a regular pay cheque for ten years.

I quit sucking the teat of a great mother corporation 40 years ago -- although I still occasionally envy the pension plan that rewards those who stuck it out to the end.

But if I had to choose between the bureaucracy of government-run liquor stores, for example, and the crack cocaine dealers who peddle their products on street corners, I’d take the government operation any time.

At least they are accountable. To someone.

In theory, the corporations whose greed has tipped the world’s economy into red alert are also accountable. If not to the government, at least to their shareholders.

But the shareholders were never told what those companies were doing to inflate the value of their shares. According to some news reports, not even the executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, of Lehman and Merrill Lynch, realized how deep in trouble their firms were. Until it was too late.

Now those shareholders find that their equity has plummeted.


It’s said that alcoholics cannot begin to recover from their addiction until they hit bottom.

I’m afraid that the U.S. economy has not yet hit bottom. Because I see no sign that the people who run that economy have learned anything from their experience.

They are still protecting the CEOs, the managers, the corporate interests. They are still bailing out the bad decisions, the gambles, the fiscal flimflams. By analogy to the alcoholic, they are still in denial.

At least when a drug pusher screws up, he goes to jail. Or gets shot by his rivals.

The corporate and government leaders who got us into this mess will come out of it with gold-plated pensions and/or severance packages.

Thanks a lot, George.

Copyright © 2008 by Jim Taylor.
Non-profit use in congregations and study groups permitted; all other rights reserved.

Friday, September 26, 2008

by what authority

Pentecost +20 – Year A

by what authority
will you force a rock
to give up its water
to return to creation
and a separation
land from water

by what authority
will you force an audience
to hear old old old stories
miraculous in their day
even more so in ours
to reshape expectations

by what authority
will your force yourself
to be emptied of gifts given
and turn to others
even Jesus
to empty them

so soon the emptiness
the chaos the deep
falls and rises again
calling for utmost care
and diligent energy
binding will to work

by what authority
will you force a change
upon mind and belief
and move your yes to no
and no to yes
and all beyond both

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Philippians 2:1-13

Pentecost +20 – Year A

Philippians 2:1-13

The love of Christ is personal in that it makes a difference in me and communal it that that difference is to be joined with others (one another in a faith community and neighbors everywhere). The humility required by this keeps us "reverent and sensitive before God" [The Message].

This communal expression of the experience of love is a measure of our soul, of salvation wholeness. Always reverence and sensitivity are on the edge of fear and trembling for experience is just that way.

To put this in the context of the current predictable economic situation eventuating from a market-only approach to life you may be interested in the first News Brief in the latest TCP Nexus -- reflections by the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

Pentecost +20 – Year A

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

We tell old, old stories for a variety of reasons. One of them is that of reclaiming the joy of an overwhelming experience that it might inform the darkness of a present confusion.

Who knows how close to the experience came the first interpretation? Well, no one. But, as time has progressed we have found ourselves circling back to the stories until we can just tick them off. We put our fingertips together and intone, "True." In some sense we have become as trapped by our archetypes as we are set free by them.

in Zoanland and in the sea
with cloud and fiery pillar
through rocks that weep
we rehearse limits and leap horizons

Our old stories are made new with each experience and our new stories morph into old. From every direction wonder abounds for those ready to hear and tell stories old and new, ready to chew on parables and pictures beyond words. May these old chestnuts not trap us in reverie, but set us free to wonder, "Why not" and proceed to find out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Exodus 17:1-7

Pentecost +20 – Year A

Exodus 17:1-7

The Mayo Clinic says the symptoms of dehydration are:

Mild to moderate dehydration is likely to cause:
• Dry, sticky mouth
• Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
• Thirst
• Decreased urine output — fewer than six wet diapers a day for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens
• Few or no tears when crying
• Muscle weakness
• Headache
• Dizziness or lightheadedness

Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:
• Extreme thirst
• Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
• Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
• Lack of sweating
• Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be dark yellow or amber
• Sunken eyes
• Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn't "bounce back" when pinched into a fold
• In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby's head
• Low blood pressure
• Rapid heartbeat
• Fever
• In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

Unfortunately, thirst isn't always a reliable gauge of the body's need for water, especially in children and older adults. A better barometer is the color of your urine: clear or light-colored urine means you're well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration.

= = = = = = =

So were the Israelites dehydrated or not? Only their urine knows. Perhaps they simply still trying to work out the effects of generations of slavery – impotence?

Since they have not had any power with which to effect their circumstances, muttering and complaining rise to an art form. We know what to do with a drunken sailor, but not what to do with a complaining people. In these kinds of stressful situations and these kinds of enslaved minds and hearts a time of testing is unavoidable. If it weren't over water in the desert, it would certainly be the next deviation or delay from being noticeably one day closer to a promised land. Everyone knows it don't take no forty years to move from Egypt to Canaan. A series of complaints, when it appears the journey is going to be longer than anticipated, is to be expected.

This is a situation that cries out for assurance. The question about whether G*D is with us or not presupposes our ability to be able to make that discernment. Unfortunately we have a conflict of interest that arises with this question – we expect that G*D will bring us fortune and if there is no evidence of that, on our terms, then, obviously, G*D is not with us, is dead or, at least, missing in action.

In today's world there are many who are thirsty, at least are able to claim they are, and who need assurance – a key theological need in troubling times.

For now we leave it with a humble recasting of the question: If G*D is not immediately evident to us, is G*D absent?