Friday, February 29, 2008

mud slung

Lent 4 – Year A

mud slung
at each other

some sticks
building armor

some washed
heals sight

just dirty

so come
make a mud pie

stomp with glee
each mud puddle

until we sing
laugh with god

ahhh ha ha

so that's
what I look like

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ephesians 5:8-14

Lent 4 – Year A

Ephesians 5:8-14

An alternative translation of such dualities as "dark" and "light" or "evil" and "good" is that of "limitation" and "possibility".

This has the benefit of removing the judgmental, all-or-nothing, eternal aspect from a conversation so that the participants in an experience can engage with one another rather than go toe-to-toe.

Here we are reminded that once we operated on the basis of our limitations, but, now, Christ has drawn us into possibility. As we shift our decision-making from limitation to possibility we find our decisions more consistently result in what might then be described as good and right and true - as tested by time rather than by cant.

This challenges us to find the possibilities of new life in our current situations and to expose limitations so they might add to better decisions, not stymie them. Eventually, underground, un-exposed, secret-power limitations lead to regretted and even shameful results. But, that which focuses on bringing out the remaining possibilities, reveals an opening for a preferred future to enter. It is this "light" of possibility that comes to waken and energize us. Rise beyond your limitations! Possibility is present!

= = = = = =

This same approach can be helpful back in our long pericope with the man born blind. It is in the possibility of G*D's wonders that we grow to learn from our limitations without being bound by them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Psalm 23

Lent 4 – Year A

Psalm 23

So often this Psalm is used quietly, as if we were blindly searching around with our hands to find the boundaries of the space we are in. Sometimes the quiet is meditation and these days a first time someone may hear it is in a funeral service.

Sometimes it feels as if we are limping home on a wing, a prayer, and the 23rd Psalm.

This time around I have found it helpful to shout it at the top of my lungs as an affirmation or a challenge to the junk in the world that is too much with me, encroaching upon my time and space and hope.

Would you care to join me in loudly sharing this Psalm? I'll be listening and if you listen carefully you may yet hear echoes of my cry.

= = = = = = =

If, though, loud is not your thing, you may want to try this devotional.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Lent 4 – Year A

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Samuel may help us into the question of "blindness". Early on he was deafened by his own name and not able to hear beyond it. Here Samuel is stymied by his fear which feigned grief. Later Samuel is blinded by Eliab's physical attributes. After anointing David, the last and least of Jesse's sons, he sets out for Ramah, anticipating a later scene of Rachel's weeping grief for her children.

Blindness is not just personal, but corporate. As we talk of social holiness, so we need to speak of social blindness. As Rick put it on the Midrash Lectionary List, "I have another thought on this. To translate this to modern concepts - I think we could say that the Pharisees may not be blind, but they might have been blinded. If something is in a person's blind spot, they won't see it. If light is too bright, they won't see it. If there are too many distractions, they won't see it. The arrogance and self-righteousness of the Pharisees blinded them to what Jesus was telling them. Although I am not deaf, if a sound blocks people's voices or if I am in a room with a lot of echo, I am deafened."

Samuel got caught in a cultural appeal for a king, fearing a king out of power, and not able to recognize a next king. In each case his blindness and deafness did not lead to playing a mean pin-ball. Things fall apart and we fall with them. Things are crookedly put together and we are misshapen in crooked's image.

In the end Samuel returns home to Ramah – a high place for idols - that systemically, culturally, blocks a new word and later will be a place of slaughter (always a prime indicator that blindness and deafness is present in high places). Samuel returns home after this scene and the next we hear of him – he died.

Though fondly remembered, Uncle Samuel, is one who wrestled long with not hearing and not seeing.

Monday, February 25, 2008

John 9:1-41

Lent 4 – Year A

John 9:1-41

Who sinned? This one or their parents?

These questions come into better view when asked a couple of other ways around.

Who triumphed over sin? This one or their parents?
Is sin personal? This one? or generational? Their parents?
Is sin individual or social? Ours or our culture's?

These sorts of dualistic questions are responded to by Jesus at the end of the passage. When we hearken back to our Adam and Eve story and claim we are now able to tell the difference between good and evil, we are out of touch with a creative force that is not limited by such a distinction.

The initial question is one of putting one's self in the place of G*D – that there is only one answer to any one question. This is the fundamentalist downfall – they always falter on a next creation while trying to defend a past creation.

How close can we come to claiming the mystery of our purpose – to allow the "blind" to see and to assist those who claim to "see" the differences of life might experience how much of a blind-alley they are walking down? I expect that our closeness will have something to do with the temptations we have faced and our willingness to gaze into the middle-distance between foreground and background.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Lent 3 – Year A


Jesus is a will-aholic
fasting for fulfillment
living off revelation
self – I am
other – I too

a banquet is coming
but until then
enjoy the appetizers
while planting seeds
to be harvested

for two days
bodies were prepared
for rising
from being told so
to truly knowing

and so the seed sprouted
a third day arrived
new life set free
everything done
shines in a new light

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Romans 5:1-11

Lent 3 – Year A

Romans 5:1-11

Pop Quiz: Compare and contrast the following two statements

* God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and

* God proves God's love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

= = = = = = =

If you play long and well with the words "pouring" and "proving" you may begin to see the secondary nature of atonement and suffering and dying.

Pouring is a release and is tracked back through the words "vent" and "wind" to a creation breath of life.

Proving is a testing of what is good but can easily shift over to a rigidity of "answered once-and-for-always". There is a tendency to rely on a proof for all time, rather than any new questions such testing raises.

Trust, again that the steadfast pouring of love into your life will continue, regardless of the suffering you or any other has experienced. This out-poured love is the experience we desire that will allow us to deal with every temporary blockage of same. No matter what the suffering, there is none great enough to substitute for a cup of love overflowing.

Rejoice in the flow, not its explanation.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Psalm 95

Lent 3 – Year A

Psalm 95

On what mountain do you find salvation/health/wholeness? Is it Mt. Zion or Mt. Gerizim? Might it be the mountain or rock that Moses struck to bring forth living, flowing water?

Even that rock became a stumbling block, keeping Moses and the people from entering the rest of a promised-land (compare with Numbers 20:1-13 as the source of G*D's rejection of Moses regarding entry to Canaan - Deuteronomy 32:48-52).

Sing, rejoice, do not harden your heart to the impossibilities before you. This is part of the Lenten testing or temptation – to not personalize every trial and complain when life is not "fair" to you and yours. How do we simply die or keep on moving ahead until we do?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Exodus 17:1-7

Lent 3 – Year A

Exodus 17:1-7

So, is G*D among us or not?

This is a question that often cannot be asked or responded to because survival questions of one kind or another get in the way - sometimes physical survival, sometimes emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or relational survival.

Presuming we are able to get past the survival level, it isn't long before we end up in the confusion of what we will use for measurement. Is it our feelings, traditions, peer group experiences? What that will suffice to quantify whether or not G*D is with us?

Even if we periodically are able to come to some standard, we find it soon irrelevant as we move, by stages, to a next level of maturity and all the old certainties fall by the wayside.

And so, here we have the never-ending question: Is G*D with us now? Is G*D with us now? The Verizon phone company is a late-comer to this type of question.

Monday, February 18, 2008

John 4:5-42

Lent 3 – Year A

John 4:5-42

The disciples of Jesus, those baptizing ones, had gone into Sychar, for they were feeling a little eleven-o-clock-ish. When they came back, they brought no one with them (and were still not strengthened enough to ask the questions on their hearts). Apparently they had not yet connected Jesus' "food" with food for the stomach and used their feeding opportunities to expand their hunger to compassionately connect with the "hunger" of others.

Contrast this with Photina (the traditional name for the Samaritan woman at the well) who was the post-modern of her time and who was able to raise leading, expansive, questions of her neighbors and brought many out to visit with and invite Jesus in. In 1:41, Andrew states, "We have found the Messiah" while here Photina says, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" Are these evangelistic techniques simply a difference between male and female sensibilities, or the difference between how you speak to the privileged versus the unprivileged?

In some sense the visit to the well was her being led into the wilderness by the spirit, there encountering the "other" that allowed reflection upon present constructs and set a direction for reentering life from a changed perspective.

[Side note to self: Try tracking through John to see how the identity temptations were worked out in longer conversation blocks with people:
   - "Here is the Lamb of God" and "Can anything good come from Nazareth" -- "If you are the Son of God"
   - "Turn this water to wine" -- "Turn these stones to bread"
   - "Stop making my Father's house a marketplace" -- "All the wealth of the world can be yours"
   - "How dramatic does renewal have to be, rebirth?" -- "Jump now, reveal angels"
   - Etc.]

Do note the lack of rebuke Jesus gives Photina and how non-creedal her testimony. Does that give you permission to tell your insights based on your experience?

Friday, February 15, 2008

a voice

Lent 2 – Year A

keep your eyes peeled
your ear to the ground
your nose to the grindstone
your hands on the wheel
as you toe the line

keep a level head
your head above the clouds
your shoulder to the wheel
your finger on the pulse
with both feet planted on the ground

keep avoiding any change
your past is your future
your experience constitutive
your belief restrictive
yet a voice from above lifts

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Lent 2 – Year A

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

"Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised?", questions Paul.

Is "belovedness", then, announced only on the baptized, or also on the unbaptized?

Paul, here, makes the argument of prevenient grace – even before anything there is call and response. Later we can call this preference for universal salvation a question of faith, but before anything it is an experience – an experience of belovedness.

In our compartmentalized approach to a liturgical year we get caught with a tradition of Transfiguration ending Epiphany rather than beginning Lent. Once we get over the versification of the Bible or the liturgicalizing of a year, we are free to travel where the spirit leads, whether from Ur to the Negeb or from baiter of the Way to the legalizer of grace.

- - - -

In light of the conclusion of this passage regarding a G*D who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist – we were traveling Sunday and saw a billboard that said, in large letters, "Nothing is too difficult for God." A beloved traveler in the car saw said sign and remarked, "Yes, 'Nothing' is 'too difficult' for God." This insight is the impetus for creation – that "nothing" was "too difficult". God had to start making stuff (creation) because "nothing" was too difficult. [Are you grinning yet?]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Psalm 121

Lent 2 – Year A

Psalm 121

If the mountain to which we raise our eyes for help is that of Transfiguration, our help is found in the depth of Creation (Behold, it is very good) and Blessing (Belovedness) from above.

It is this sense of a warmed heart that is the source of our experience of being preserved, kept, guarded beyond simple survival. Our being safe from evil is not a removal of difficulty or death, but a participation in the testing that reveals maturation, forgiveness, love, resurrection and being born again (realized or immanent reincarnation).

Now for a story or two of coming to this point of affirmation in the midst of whatever dark night remains around you. What might you tell?

Here is a piece of music I like. The tide will soon be turning my way because the river's flowing north in my backyard. It flows from a mountain in everlasting light. It is this sense of turning, of water flowing from mountains, that gives hope. Listen to the accompaniment as well as the words. Jackie - click on the song Jackie when you get to the webpage (if you have the time, check out the rest of the songs, particularly Blue Parade for its imagery of the Mississippi flowing by, a blue parade).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Genesis 12:1-9

Lent 2 – Year A

Genesis 12:1-9

We all journey by stages (no, not the wild-west kind). We are uprooted (poisoned) and settled (healed) and pray a next round will find us in a better place.

In sci-fi terms, we pollute where we are. This pollution is psychic, spiritual, physical, violent, etc. Eventually the whole planet is filled with our offal and it is time to take off for a new promised land.

It is this reality that is found in the middle-of-the-night. We resist and resist the need to change that we might be born anew where we are. Eventually, though, this new birth is put off so long that we destroy our host in the birthing process, we will never be able to go home again.

At this point we need to get off the dialogic impasse of being born again or from above and all that it symbolizes to different experience bases. The only choice open is death promising new choices or healing requiring repentance where we are.

Always we are looking for the healing available in death and the death that is needed for healing. When we are able to hold these two together, we find resurrection - a healing, a new birth, a reincarnation.

Monday, February 11, 2008

John 3:1-17

Lent 2 – Year A

John 3:1-17

Hearken back to Genesis 3 with a tempting serpent and Numbers 21 with poisonous serpents and a "fiery"/bronze serpent. Let your imagination flow to see how Jesus takes his baptismal creation as a Beloved and his temptation by "a snake by any other name" and how he finds a redeeming image of his experience as a recapitulation of an adam/eve story through Moses.

In using Moses' experience with a fiery/seraph/bronze serpent (note the change in the charge given to Moses and the way in which he carried it out) Jesus images himself as a wounded healer or icon of sympathetic magic.

Given your life-work of understanding your good creation and ruing your having tossed various parts of it away – sometimes out of a cleverness of entitlement and sometimes to be able to mature to a next level – what image from the wideness and wilderness of your tradition would you hold up to signal redemption?

If you are going to identify with Jesus as a way to draw near to G*D and to transform the world by bringing heaven and earth together, do you identify with the redemption of the serpent image in Genesis - being recreated, forgiven - and what will be your part in enacting such?

It may be that we need to wrestle with this image to better get at its set-up story of night-time rebirth.

= = = = = =

To come at it another way – consider a little jazz
     "You and the Night and the Music"

Can you hear Nicodemus or Jesus singing this song to the other?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Silly old wisdom

Lent 1 – Year A

A poem by A. A. Milne

The End
When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

Not only is there a kid in me, but a very specific 6-year-old child who is oh so very clever. This cleverness will find a way to get or justify any and every want. Herein lies my tempter – idolator of now and forever – and it is so hard to argue with a 6-year-old.

In theory I should be many times wiser than my clever child, but somehow clever trumps wisdom all too often. Silly old wisdom.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romans 5:12-21

Lent 1 – Year A

Romans 5:12-21

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. (Romans 5:20b)

Grace Greater than Our Sin was catchy hymn for previous generations. The refrain is hard to beat:
     Grace, grace, God’s grace,
     Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
     Grace, grace, God’s grace,
     Grace that is greater than all our sin.

I suspect that Jesus could easily have added this refrain into his singing of the Psalms – it would have been a "contemporary" hymn addition to the tradition. I'm not so sure he would have approved the verses with their exclusive focus upon crucifixion and a formulaic reversal [sin condemned = death; death justified = life]. Anyone out there up for a rewrite than scans better than this?

Marvelous grace of a living G*D,
Grace that exceeds any sin or guilt!
From deep, deep within each life's facade
Creation wells up to be rebuilt.


Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten each soul with infinite fear;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Reveals a refuge always so near.


Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Unrestrained in its application,
Extends to each neighbor an embrace
Grounded in salvation's foundation.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Psalm 32

Lent 1 – Year A

Psalm 32

John the Baptizer: "I baptize you with water for repentance…." (Matthew 3:11)

"Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven…." (Psalm 32)

Jesus: "It is written …." (Matthew 4:7,10)

Out of Baptism comes a happy word, "This is my Beloved…." (Matthew 3:17)

This "happiness" (a combination of repentance and belovedness) opens one to receive and live out of Psalm 32:8 – "I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."

Here we have the development of a storehouse of treasures from which new and old (appropriate) responses to life might be applied (Matthew 13:52). Here the remembrance of old responses and investigation of new ones takes place in an intentional study of life that is both alongside and moving toward G*D.

Out of this happiness comes an openness to hear the intent behind a question and a willingness to respond to that larger organizing principle. Out of this happiness comes a sense of enough (even when hungry or entitled to more of anything from simple bread to complex economic/political power) that can identify and move beyond each temptation to be satisfied with the surface of living.

Many are the faces of unrepentance, unforgivenness, unbelovedness. Each face is best responded to in steadfast love (Psalm 32:10).

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Lent 1 – Year A

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Don't you love it that the serpent was more clever than any other wild animal (including Adam? – probably, since Adam got out clevered). We spend so much of our time trying to be clever on our own, when we could simply try a little parseltongue (though those who have a parselmouth seem to be relatively rare) to get ahead.

One of the questions that might be asked whenever things are starting to go astray (building Babel, choosing a king, etc.) is where brother snake or sister serpent might be found camouflaged in the background.

It takes cleverness to find the question that will redirect one's attention from the joy of revealing heaven on earth. What does it take to get us on a par with G*D – Babel? What does it take to reach parity with other nations and build secure borders – a king? What will reveal a Messiah – moving something from an pre-animate to a post-animate condition (stone to bread) or interfering with a natural law such as gravity or focusing on the glitz of 15 minutes of fame?

It takes reaping-the-consequence-of-cleverness to open eyes that steadfast-love might be steadfastly affirmed.

So where be ye – pre-clever, clever, or post-clever?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Matthew 4:1-11

Lent 1 – Year A

Matthew 4:1-11

Angels abhor a vacuum. The moment a tempter leaves, angels arrive to return twice that which was lost (80 days and nights and a burnishing of one's title to Belovedness).

That is less a story about temptation than a reprise of a Spirit of Job's G*D leading Jesus into harms way (read, into power).

Would you rather face a slow accretion of hunger and tired for a proverbial 40 days and equivalent number of nights (Jesus) or a series of events that quickly, seemingly simultaneously, come out of the blue (Job)?

Remember, your response will say something about the combination of your personality type, past experiences, and remaining hopes.

Play with the archetypes of temptation all you want, but do not ignore the set-up.

Friday, February 01, 2008

o it is so very good

Epiphany 4 – Year A
Epiphany Last - Transfiguration

o it is so very good
we are here
to validate the goodness
created before us

it is so very good
we are so capable
of interpreting
the signs of the times

we can see
what is meaningful
and what is not
we'll take care of it

one and all
figuring out
a best memorial

going along
honoring the honorable
dismissing others
we're good at this

so here is what we will
do for god
for our investment
for our self

a temple for you
and you
and you
_ _ _ _ _ _

3 temples
4 lines
what to do

perhaps if it be your will
we could build a fourth
that would be just big enough
to hold the three

what a grand plan
we have come up with
quite doable
. . . . .

and this has to do with
belovedness how
listen again
and again