Thursday, January 31, 2008

2 Peter 1:16-21

Epiphany 4 – Year A
Epiphany Last - Transfiguration

2 Peter 1:16-21

Parallelism is alive and well.

Verse 16: "Cleverly devised myths" are caused by and result in verse 20: "One's own interpretation."

Verse 17: "Beloved" becomes visible and is brought forth in the presence of verse 21: "Men and women moved by the Holy Spirit."

These are the direct lines that end up enhancing or multiplying either the harmful or beneficial aspects of life.

When we cross these parallels we get one-way lines that reduce the harmful. For instance, cleverly devised myths can be countered by either end of the other parallel, folks who know they are beloved or a community moved by a Holy Spirit. Likewise, folks stuck on their own interpretation find their limit in belovedness and community that always moves folks into situations where they can no longer get away with their little world-view.

In both cases, however, Beloved individuals/communities where the Holy Spirit is present must give evidence of themselves. Without such standing firm and persistent, the clever-myth purveyors and idiosyncratic interpreters will lead the world in circles.

What have you seen of the inclusive and expansive presence of Beloved Jesus that would lead you to consider yourself and others as beloved? Your eyewitness report is of the utmost importance. Without your witness, the clever-mythologizers of this world will pull more wool over more eyes. Have we learned nothing over the last generation from those who stay on message to the point of causing great harm by hanging on to their myth and interpretation in the face of contrary facts?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Psalm 99

Epiphany 4 – Year A
Epiphany Last - Transfiguration

Psalm 99

"Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob." [vs. 4]

"There is no holiness but social holiness." ~ John Wesley

"Scriptural holiness may still be a worthy Methodist project in an ecumenical context but only if we take social, economic and political structures seriously and learn to read scripture and theology from a new socio-political perspective."
Wesley on Social Holiness from

Letting others know they are Beloved is a beginning spot for the kind of holiness that we hear about in verse 3, "Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is God."

"There is no holiness but social holiness." ~ Your Name Here

How do you hear verses 3 & 4? Are they the equivalent of the double commandment to love G*D with all ya got and Neighbor as self? If so when was the last time you were heard affirming, "There is no holiness but social holiness!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Exodus 24:12-18

Epiphany 4 – Year A
Epiphany Last - Transfiguration

Exodus 24:12-18

As Moses, following G*D's invitation, ascends a mountain, the number of folks with him dwindle. Finally it is Moses and Joshua (aide/assistant/minister) who are left. Before spending a moment with Moses entering a cloud of unknowing in order to further ascend the mountain, there is the business of the usefulness of "disciple" language in today's world.

Try on these descriptors:
I am Jesus' disciple.
I am a disciple of Jesus.

Which of those is the stronger for you? Which is clearer for those you meet?

I am Jesus' assistant.
I am Jesus' aide.
I am Jesus' minister.
I am Jesus' partner.

How do these descriptions change your involvement with the various aspects of your life?

It may be time to reclaim Joshua's relationship to Moses as we encourage and support one another to enter G*D, a cloud.

How might Jesus' Transfiguration scene be different if Peter, et. al., were there as assistants to Jesus, not disciples? How might your own on-going transfigurations be different if you claimed to be a partner with Jesus, not a disciple, where you mutually encouraged and supported one another to enter deeper into G*D?

The deal here is not to focus on the results of tablets, which will vary in syntax according to the context being addressed, but on the journey – entering the cloud, entering G*D.

While we can track time before an encounter with Divine, six days and seven, entering a Cloud G*D shifts our perception to the immeasurable, forty days times forty nights. This can be a scary shift so we need all the encouragement and support assistants, aides, ministers, and partners can give; so we need to give all the encouragement and support we can to others.

Make the most of these days of preparation. Help and be helped to be ready for the invitation to enter a cloud that will call out, "Beloved!", and, in a moment, create another Big Bang, another Transfiguration – you – set loose in the world.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Matthew 17:1-9

Epiphany 4 – Year A
Epiphany Last - Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-9

Earlier in Epiphany we wondered where Jesus was staying, from what position might we get the best perspective to investigate the meaning of life. Having had some experience of traveling with Jesus, we've been waiting for an event that will coalesce all we have learned. Finally, a mountain-top experience to pull everything together and now we, too, can do an extended Sabbath rest.

We move from "Jesus, where are you staying?" to "Jesus, you must stay here!" We shift from visiting Jesus' space to building space for Jesus.

Always this desire for certainty, for stasis, for our structure. Each time we come to some such plateau there needs to be a holy shout in our ear – "Listen, just listen." When we settle enough to do so we, of course, hear, "Get up, get moving." In hearing this we wonder what we will take with us, what witness we will bear with us to barter against another's experience. And again we hear, "Take nothing for the journey – not even this moment with transcendent prophecy."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

repent again

Epiphany 3 – Year A

repent sings John
repent sings Jesus
repent sings Leonard Cohen

from spinning

to walking

how foolish we have been
to not be foolish enough
for today's foolishness

binding Sufi dervish to Jesus-walk way
Buddha's silence of the ages
to Jesus' youthful power

hiding our calling
in callings too small
shelters too fragile

be foolish
repent again

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Epiphany 3 – Year A

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Do you imagine staying with Jesus to be a unitive experience that automatically brings agreement/peace by dismissing disagreements? If so, the lives of the disciples have been disregarded.

Our same mind and purpose is larger than community rules and mediation principles, important as they be.

Note here that our unity is not in baptism, but in gospel proclamation (giving evidence in the depth of one's living space of G*D's presence and how mutually healing such becomes).

Baptism, in our experience, is over-personalized presence and under-valued empowerment of foolishness (living today through a lens of tomorrow).

Tomorrow is the place where Jesus stays/lives that he might take gospel/healing forays into today. After visiting tomorrow, we, too, are arced backward to today to lead it onward.

Psalm 27:1, 4-9

Epiphany 3 – Year A

Psalm 27:1, 4-9

Where shall I stay today? What will be my jumping off from place? From where do I begin a next leap of faith?

These orienting questions enlarge the imagery of "living in the house of the Lord all the days of my life." Without them such a house will become all too static an environment -- no breathing -- only exhalation -- or -- only inhalation -- only a harp-playing heaven.

How's a lazy, self-congratulatory ("everything I do is good and very good") G*D going to get information and challenge without the dissatisfaction and yearning of such as yourself/myself/ourselves with only a backside to view. And so we do our acrobatic leaps of faith to entice and court another glance and we both are fed.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Isaiah 9:1-4

Epiphany 3 – Year A

Isaiah 9:1-4

While it sounds as if there is a moment in which gloom gives way to joy, darkness to light, and contempt is shattered in one fell blow, there is, for those who have the eyes to see, a slower process that has been building to such times of recognition that once we were one way and now we are another.

True believers have a difficult time with this, but those who honor the questions life keep posing to the most obtuse and recalcitrant find they are always on the cusp of great change – change surfers.

As you continue the process of finding a new home because life has changed, or new acquaintances, or new tasks, may you find your quotient of joy also rising. There is nothing carved in stone that won't erode. Even an old man of the mountain moves from hillside to human face.

This is new birth, birth from above, birth from below – new birth. This is faith, hope, and love all rolled together – the joy of change. Revel in it while you can and help those around you to enjoy their own letting go.

In terms of relatively local news, ice jams are causing floods on rivers. As the National Weather Service notes in their own special way of capitalized reports, ICE JAMS ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO PREDICT. THEREFORE...IT IS UNKNOWN AT THIS TIME HOW HIGH THE RIVER WILL RISE AT ANY ONE LOCATION.

Even if difficult to predict, ice does jam and unjam, life does gloom and joy, time does darken and lighten, people accept slavery and demand freedom. Current reality is, deal with it. A different reality is already underway, be ready for it.

Matthew 4:12-23

Epiphany 3 – Year A

Matthew 4:12-23

Jesus changes homes in response to John the Baptizer's arrest. In Capernaum, Jesus finds a location for the beginning of enlightenment. In a rising light, a call for repentance is proclaimed.

From this "other" place, Jesus goes about Galilee teaching, proclaiming (repentance as the good news?), and curing.

In between the journey from Nazareth to Capernaum and engaging his ministry there he picks up some folks who needed a great light in their lives – Peter and Andrew, James and John.

Some questions: How bad does it have to get before you will change homes, change your life? How bad does it have to get before "repentance" becomes a necessary, energizing, and redemptive message? How bad does it have to get before you find your voice? How bad does it have to get before investing in an intentional community to transform itself, the locale in which it finds itself, and the whole of creation?

These negative sounding questions reflect the state of our current world. What has kept us from making significant changes? Is it something that needs to get worse before repentance becomes an option? (A question for another comment - Is it something that needs to get clearer/better, a call?) For now, what needs to go further awry before we will change our lens, our home, our viewpoint?

Friday, January 18, 2008

it is too small a job

Epiphany 2 – Year A

it is too small a job
typo alert
it is too small a joy

just to recover your own
is local action
highly significant

on a journey of light
to global wholeness
mutually beloved
mercy extended

thinking globally is joy
acting locally is joy
combined is joy joy
may your job be joy

now there are some shoes
worth play-acting in
play modeling call
but not exhausted by it

Thursday, January 17, 2008

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Epiphany 2 – Year A

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Again an expansion from the individual to the communal.

To the "church of God that is in Corinth" (or wherever you may be) and to the larger communion that includes both – the call of Christ is strengthened by the combining of every spiritual gift.

Remember those diagrams of a radio tower with the little ball at the top surrounded by concentric rings of signal going out? Imagine that little ball being the testimony of Jesus. It is as weak as a baby's cry in a dusty, out-of-the-way manger outside a noisy inn. A sense of belovedness comes to move that cry outward a bit. One-by-one and, later, one congregation by one congregation moves the cry of faithfulness out another ring and another. There is still a ways to go and so you and your gift are added in – one more ring. And those you have called forth – one more ring. And those they will call - yet more rings.

G*D's faithful, steadfast love continues to expand. It is a joy to receive it and pass it on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Psalm 40:1-11

Epiphany 2 – Year A

Psalm 40:1-11

I waited patiently.
     through desolation
      through new songs
     through multiplications of same
     through revelation
I signed on
     with delight
     with energetic witness
transformed in mercy, steadfast love, and faithfulness

With this summary in mind we revisit John the Baptizer, Isaiah, and our own life. We revere again the unknowns in our spiritual heritage, whose names never made the cut, but who have added their transformational presence alongside that of Andrew to Simon (aka Peter) to the latest one through whom we have been called again.

We see the downs and the ups through which we have clarified the meaning and joy of life. We affirm all the different covenants so far made. We look forward to additional mercy.

Much has been revealed to us and we are now revealing even more than we know.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Isaiah 49:1-7

Epiphany 2 – Year A

Isaiah 49:1-7

It is too little, too light, a thing that our belovedness be limited to a narrow range of blessing. To be beloved at all is to toss off blessings in all directions. There does not seem to be any distinction between a touch of belovedness and a universe of blessing.

A blessing of wholeness (salvation) cannot be bordered according to cultural, familial, experiential, or political boundaries. Once set loose, belovedness has an arc beyond the particular and peculiar. Belovedness will probably start with a specific focus, but it can never end there. This is much the same with the reading and hearing of evocative text – it begins with the literal, but can never be limited to the literal.

Hear Isaiah in terms of your own life: "It is too light a thing that you should be only for those you are currently for; you are given as a light to creation that it might be whole."

Be ye lifted up and shine, shine, shine.

Monday, January 14, 2008

John 1:29-42

Epiphany 2 – Year A

John 1:29-42

While recognizing another one of those conversations that demonstrates that communication between two human beings is nearly impossible, here is a potential look behind the scene by focusing on optical recognition.

John begins: he saw Jesus coming toward him, he saw a spirit come and remain on Jesus, he watched Jesus go by and said, "Look."

Those who did something about the direction to "look" and did something about it (stealthily following), carry the story onward.

Jesus saw them and asked what they were looking for.

The response is in terms of where Jesus might be staying. To keep the visual going this might be thought of as a request for the perspective from which Jesus views the world. "Where is your point of view located?"

To which Jesus responds, come and "see".

Together they gazed in the same direction until late afternoon.

Later, Andrew goes to his brother and says, "We have seen a new heaven and a new earth and our viewpoint will no longer be the same. Come and see for yourself."

Jesus looked at Simon and saw a new person (new name). His looking and seeing revealed (made it so) what was already there.

As those who have seen a new light, we go forth to see what is not yet revealed and, by that seeing, bring it to life. May you be seen to your depths and may you see others and together may you see beyond the mysterious circle of behind and before, and strike out together to live out of and find a new viewing place where blessing abounds.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Three Themes

Epiphany 1 – Year A

Three Themes




- - - - - - -

From The New Interpreter's Study Bible this comment on Acts 10:42-43, "The speech concludes with favorite Lukan themes: witnessing, table companionship, and forgiveness of sins."

What might be your favorite three themes that splendorize experience, fulfill to overflowing, and enchant your time and space, your being and doing, your multivalences and dualities?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Acts 10:34-43

Epiphany 1 – Year A

Acts 10:34-43

It would seem that there is a problem - the phrase "shows no partiality" is immediately followed by the word "but". It sounds as though there is a partiality about to arrive. In this case, partiality is based on whether one currently and consistently fears God and does what God says is right.

This is the usual way of the world and the world sees itself in the image of God, so this is understood to be the partiality of God.

How to get out of this bind between "no partiality" and "but"?

Look again at verse 38 – God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power – as a result Jesus (God in disguise) went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.

If folk in this or any nation are not up to doing good, G*D is. If folk in this or any nation aren't up to loving, healing is still available to them.

The very bind God sets up G*D subverts.

May it be so with us - that the very bind we set up to entrap others into being like ourselves will find itself subverted by the better-angel of forgiveness already winging its way within ourselves. We are witnesses of forgiveness and know the prophets stopped too soon when the suggestion is made that forgiveness is limited by belief.

Beloved, do justice – forgive the yet unforgiven.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Psalm 29

Epiphany 1 – Year A

Psalm 29

Verse 11
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

1) It is helpful to relate giving to blessing. Any giving that is worth receiving will be blessing.

2) What gives strength? At least one response is that justice gives strength to both individuals and communities. This then can be related to peace – also related to justice. Peace is not sweetness and light as much as it is the strength to do justice.

3) The qualities of gift, blessing, strength, and peace are all variations on a theme of belovedness. When we are raised from our dead places we are effectively baptized, we recognize we are beloved by and in the universe and called to share such with others.

When we recognize we have been strengthened to be just and to advocate for justice for others, we recognize the presence of G*D.

When we catch on to having been blessed with a wholeness named shalom/salaam/peace and we use such blessing to bless others, we recognize the presence of G*D.

Now, from the position of the end of the psalm we can return to the first verse and yell, "Bravo!" for gifts and blessings of strong justice and whole peace.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Isaiah 42:1-9

Epiphany 1 – Year A

Isaiah 42:1-9

Great emphasis is placed upon a "suffering servant" as though it might be the be-all and end-all of our desire. Oh, to be a suffering servant! and all the supposed atonement such is suppose-ed to bring.

We have given far less emphasis to a vocation of justice. It's end is often the receiving of suffering and injustice by one attempting to relieve suffering and injustice. Somehow the cause of justice is eclipsed by the effect of suffering.

In one way or another, giving heed to one's calling will call one forth to justice-living. The arena in which one operates may be large or small, but justice is something that needs to be present at every level of life. To not do one's part where one is causes a vacuum that weakens every other justice-seeking and impedes the spirit-of-G*D.

Not only do we have a vocation of justice, but a vocation of light-bearing whereby we might see and reveal the idolatry of past and present and illumine the way of new things. Justice and Light-Bearing are vocational corollaries.

These two vocations guide our thought today. Another way of coming at this is from the Link of the Week at Text of the Week about The Meaning of Vocation: "'Vocation' is distorted by two disastrous misunderstandings: a secularized idea of 'career' and a monastic concept of the religious life. Both are less than the biblical idea of vocation... Vocation is about being raised from the dead, made alive to the reality that we do not merely exist, but are 'called forth' to a divine purpose."

To be raised from the dead (to be brought up from the waters of baptism to hear one's belovedness) is to have a prophetic vocation worth paying attention to – justice-making and light-bearing – regardless of one's current reality of delivery person, prostitute, or presidential candidate.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Matthew 3:13-17

Epiphany 1 – Year A

Matthew 3:13-17

Coming from the "East", the Magi crossed the Jordan River to bring gifts to Jesus. Coming from Galilee, Jesus comes to the Jordan River for another gift and will then cross the Jordan River for additional gifts in the wilderness.

The River Jordan is a place of crossings and openings in both directions. Gaelicly speaking it is a "thin place." Metaphorically, it is at the Jordan River that Holy Land meets Not-Holy Land and, in the meeting, those designations disappear into one another. Our distinctions fail us in the waters of Belovedness.

John's baptism becomes an opening to Jesus to his particular belovedness. John's or Jesus' baptism becomes an opening to us for our particular belovedness. We are authorized to carry on the tradition of opening others to their belovedness.

It is easy to get caught in the trap of the particulars of Baptism and miss the larger prophetic pronouncement – Belovedness (regardless of its etiology).

The questions that lie ahead will have to do with what we will do with a vision of Belovedness that includes us and what will keep us from fulfilling its blessings in and through us.

Yes, remember your Baptism and be glad. Be glad you are Beloved by G*D and Neighbor. What? You haven't recognized your Belovedness? Oh, well, you are anyway!

Friday, January 04, 2008

G*D's rich variety of wisdom

Epiphany – Year A

G*D's rich variety of wisdom
reveals itself in every setting
reveals every setting in itself
sets every revealing free
reveals freedom in every settling

such action startles
as it reveals star-led people
diving deep into imagination
to soar beyond and into
this everyday day

even three stooges of magi
bumbling their way westward
toward a setting sun
see a rising star
promising a better tomorrow

before powers that be
they faux pas all over themselves
setting up babies to be glorified
and babies to be slaughtered
and themselves likewise

from stars from afar
to startling dreams
they provide comic relief
and theologic panentheism
intertwining and leaping

what rich wisdom
to reveal in everyday faces
such as our mirrored own
innocent serpents
sly doves

Ephesians 3:1-12

Epiphany – Year A

Ephesians 3:1-12

There is still a passion to save souls that makes a huge difference in the energy of a congregation. While admitting that such energy has gone astray by emphasizing a passing on of accumulated cultural norms, the power that is available in the phrase, "for the sake of . . ." is amazing. A trick here is to have that desire be in relationship and a willingness to be as changed as one is looking for change in another. A one-way "for the sake of" becomes tyranny.

I'm not holding my breath for a congregation to claim the name of For the Sake of . . . Church, but I would hope that such a sentiment would be more imaginatively held by congregations than automatically forcing "Jesus" to be the ". . .". Usually we would say, for the sake of Christ we do . . . . Here we can say, for the sake of lesbians we will . . . , for the sake of immigrants we will . . . , for the sake those uncovered by health insurance we will . . . , and find this specificity to lead us to a larger community that receives and offers prevenient justice and redeems violence already committed.

There can be real and artificial humility in seeing oneself as "the least". A measure of it is how adamant one is about imposing guilt on another when they don't respond to what-I-have-done-for-their-sake. To simply be persistent in living/loving for another's sake is a worthy humility. To demand they act on our timeline turns that humility sour.

Paul reminds the Ephesians that they have access to G*D in boldness and confidence through faith in Jesus. That is one pole of the double great commandment – to boldly and confidently love G*D with all of one's heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The line about "for the sake of . . ." is our entry into the other pole – to boldly and confidently love our neighbor as we love our self. If we need to we can also ground this in having faith in Jesus.

Here Jesus again acts as a catalyst in binding our life to that that of G*D and Neighbor. It may be that faith is best seen as a catalyst that enters as leaves situations as trust.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Epiphany – Year A

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

The oppressed, facing violence in their lives, cry out, "Give the king, the premier, the president, the prime minister, the leader of any title, your justice, O G*D!" with an implication that the reception and implementation of such justice can be measured by a reduction and removal of oppression and violence.

As always, the language of our appeals needs to be simultaneously individual and communal. Should the leaders of community have the justice of G*D, they would find a way to distribute both their leadership and their justice.

It is not sufficient that one leader be just if the system around them perpetrates injustice.

A sign of a just leader is an increasingly just community with fewer and fewer needy calling and fewer and fewer weak needing pity. There is a presumption here that the gap of justice between the rich and the poor will be narrowing, not widening, and a sign of this is that those who have much will not have too much and those who have little will not have too little.

The psalm might be translated for the economic barons, middle managers, forepeople, laborers, union organizers, and religious leaders from chief priests and popes and bishops to chairpersons of altar guilds. Each one needs to see themself as the one to whom justice is given. Until we each understand ourself as the fulcrum point of justice, the plea for justice will continue to ring out.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Justice for some is justice denied. Justice is not simply individual, but communal.

Justice is an important light to lift for us to see and to imagine the epiphany it might yet bring about in our midst.

Yes, demand justice from others, particularly those in recognized positions of leadership, but do not forget to put your own name and vocation into the list – Give me and those who are with me in my vocation your justice, O G*D!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Isaiah 60:1-6

Epiphany – Year A

Isaiah 60:1-6

Your own shall come from far away.

Yes, they have been so far away for so long that, for the longest time, it has seemed they were no longer our own.

But, finally, we lifted an eye to find our log to be a star and, upon looking again, it is clear those who were far off are far off no longer.

Our own have come home.
We have carried home to them.

Now, just so we don't get too big a head and fail to recognize our kith and kin again, whether near or far, we are to remember that "home" rises on all, it is not just ours, we are its.

May 2008 be a year of everyone being home together.