Monday, March 31, 2008

Luke 24:13-49

Easter 3

Luke 24:13-49

With or without power from on high Jesus is capable of surprising.

We seem incapable of recognizing Jesus on the testimony of someone else, even a fellow-traveler on our way. Jesus isn't recognized as present even when we relate past tales and experiences with him. Jesus isn't recognized in all the prophetic scripture that might be re-pointed toward him.

Jesus becomes recognizable in the breaking of bread and the sharing a cup. And, then, like any good catalyst, leaves unchanged, but leaves a changed situation. Jesus becomes a new community and gives it space to re-form.

Later we hear. witness added to witness, that a resurrection has taken place. And, yet, fear is a first reaction to a next surprise visit by Jesus. Again our fight or flight response needs to be addressed with a word of new perspective and possibility – peace.

Here the whooshing wind of a new creation doesn't come immediately after a word of peace and a revelationary reorientation. Now we hear - it will be coming. Those of us who know the story can see this as a setup by Luke to get his sequel (Acts of the Apostles) off to a fast start. And, so, we are left hanging having taken all the courses, done our best with the tests along the way, and written a thesis based on our gifts. No diploma, no power from on high, and here we are.

Can it be so or is it Luke's understanding that, like a maple double samara (winged fruit), the disciples are to be maturing in Jerusalem and when the time is ripe they will be spun two-by-two out into the surrounding countryside. Maturing is different than waiting, though it does entail waiting.

How's your maturing going where you are? How's your partner in ministry? How's your spinning outward going? How's your readiness for a surprise?

Friday, March 28, 2008

John 20:22-23

Easter 2 - Holy Humor Sunday

Whether holy humoring or not, I find sweet release in "The Message" version of John 20:22-23. It is a reminder that the resurrection of Jesus brings the forgiveness he asks for in Luke's version (yes, acknowledged, it's not fair to so conflate Luke into John).

With some stage directions thrown in:

Then [Jesus] took a deep breath [bigger, bigger]
and breathed [Pentecost whooshed] into them.

"Receive the Holy Spirit," he said [with a smile, knowing it was going to change them].

[Then seriously] "If you forgive someone's sins [dramatic pause],
they're gone for good [good chuckle].

If you don't forgive sins [start of giggle],
what are you going to do with them [belly laugh or guffaw]?!!

Sometimes we need to pause in the telling. Thomas wasn't there, so how long before he heard the report of the other 10 (or was it only 8 because a couple of others were also missing in action and it wasn't in their nature to kvetch (doubt/question/complain) about missing something). We can let the good news of forgiveness hang in the air for a bit before proceeding to verse 24.

This helps me remember that "angels can fly because they take themselves lightly" (Chesterton) and we begin to soar when we take forgiveness seriously enough to participate in it.


I believe in Forgiveness of sins Apostles' Creed. Is this what you believe about forgiveness?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter 2 - Holy Humor Sunday

Psalm 16

Trust that I am on a path of life leads to a fullness of joy.

Within this trust we have a perspective that lets us see the various boundary lines of life and to affirm them as necessary, that we have no life apart from them.

This backward look from verse 11 to 6 to 2 shapes us to find instruction in the night, whether that be a Jesus night in a tomb, a Nicodemus night of befuddlement, or a Thomas night of desire for an experience of resurrection. All of us look for our hearts to be strangely warmed that we might find our forgiveness before ever we act (even though we are called to act as though forgiveness has already come before our reception of it).

Trust is one of the best sources of humor there is. So often that which is funny relies on tricks, misdirection, put-downs, finding a survival perspective. However, trust begins to see humor where there is none (perhaps it is time to go back to that old-time medicine theory of humors). Trust is a creative act. Trust leads us to a strange formula: T+GT=C. I don't know whether that can work mathematically, but it does here as Tragedy + G*D's Time = Comedy. From a Christian perspective we begin with the tragedy of crucifixion and add to it whatever is meant by "three days". This results in the comedy of resurrection.


Three tortoises, Mick, Alan and Les, decide to go on a picnic. So Mick packs the picnic basket with beer and sandwiches. The trouble is the picnic site is ten miles away so it takes them ten days to get there.

When they get there Mick unpacks the food and beer. "OK Les, Give me the bottle opener."

"I didn't bring it," says Les. "I thought you packed it."

Mick gets worried, He turns to Alan, "Did you bring the bottle opener??"

Naturally Alan didn't bring it. So they're stuck ten miles from Home without a bottle opener. Mick and Alan beg Les to go back for it, but he refuses as he says they will eat all the sandwiches.

After two hours, and after they have sworn on their tortoise Lives that they will not eat the sandwiches, he finally agrees. So Les sets off down the road at a steady pace.

Twenty days pass and he still isn't back and Mick and Alan are starving, but a promise is a promise.

Another five days and he still isn't back, but a promise is a promise. Finally they can't take it any longer so they take out a Sandwich each, and just as they are about to eat it, Les pops up from behind a rock and shouts........



Lack of trust is merely funny. Trust is the humor of joy.

Alternative ending:

Later the day that Les left to get a bottle opener, Mick and Alan see Les returning in as much of a cloud of dust as he can muster.

Panting as he arrives, Les says, "Duh, we've been living so slowly too much of the past has stuck to us. I saw some folks drinking at the picnic site we passed on the way here - the caps are twist-offs! We don't need a bottle-opener. Let's feast!"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Easter 2 - Holy Humor Sunday

Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Ahh, prophets who foresee what is to come based on what now is. In today's world we don't call them prophets, but consultants.

The C-Monkey

A tourist walks into a pet shop in Redmond, WA and is browsing around the cages on display. While he's there, another customer walks in and says to the shopkeeper, "I'll have a C monkey, please".

The shopkeeper nods, goes over to a cage at the side of the shop and takes out a monkey. He fits a collar and leash and hands it to the customer, saying "That'll be $5000".

The customer pays and walks out with his monkey. Startled, the tourist goes over to the shopkeeper and says "That was a very expensive monkey - most of them are only a few hundred dollars. Why did it cost so much?"

"Ah, that monkey can program in C - very fast, tight code, no bugs, well worth the money."

The tourist looks at the monkey in another cage. "That one's even more expensive - $10,000 dollars! What does it do?"

"Oh, that one's a C++ monkey; it can manage object-oriented programming, Visual C++, even some Java, all the really useful stuff."

The tourist looks around for a little longer and sees a third monkey in a cage of its own; The price tag around its neck says $50,000. He gasps to the shopkeeper, "That one costs more than all the others put together! What on earth does it do?"

"Well, I haven't actually seen it do anything, but it says it's a consultant."

It is one thing to make an appeal based upon a generally recognized prophet and another to bring a king into the role of prophet to make a point. It is hard enough for a prophet to make their point.

[If a picture doesn't show up just above this note click here.]


To what are you witnessing and how many witness do you feel compelled to bring forward to bolster your witness? It seems we are always looking for numbers – my witnesses outnumber your witnesses, or my witnesses can beat up your witnesses.

What would happen to Peter and his affirmation if the passage jumped from verse 24 to verse 32? I am still struggling with the significance of this David reference, particularly since he is not referred to as a prophet in the TaNaKh.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thomas was right to question

Easter 2 - Holy Humor Sunday

John 20:19-31

See, Thomas was right to question --

It cannot be found in the scriptures, but one story has it that upon his resurrection, the Lord appeared to a certain fisherman.

"I am Jesus - My death has saved all who do or will believe, and I am returned to show the Father's love and power.

"No, you're not Jesus, so bug off, you're scaring all the fish," answered the old fisherman.

"I see thou are full of doubt. What would thee have me do to show who I am?"

"Walk across the river," he tells Jesus.

So Jesus starts walking across the river. Next thing, he sinks and disappears under the water. After he swims back to shore, the old man says to him, "There you are, see, you're not Jesus, you can't walk across water"

Jesus responds, "Well, I used to be able to do it until I got these darned holes in my feet!"

John 20:19-31

Easter 2 - Holy Humor Sunday

John 20:19-31

"Legends … deal with the most crucial questions of the world and human life. They attack these questions: Is the order of the world really as we learned to know it? Can we expect that life will run its course as we were taught it should? Do we know all the forces that regulate the universe and our life, or are their hidden dimensions that can divert the causal, rational flow of things? And if there are unknown forces, can they be identified, changed, avoided, or exploited to our benefit?" Legend and Belief  by Linda Dégh

What is the crux of the legend in this passage? Does it revolve around the extended Thomas stories (within and beyond the Gospels) or is it best seen in light of the disciples as a whole? How might these two perspectives help inform one another?

For a bit of fun consider the distinction between
doubt / satire
doubt / cynicism
doubt / sarcasm
doubt / criticism
doubt / disappointment

Then go to and see more doubts like this one

Finally, what revelatory experience of yours would welcome a Thomas-like response from one of your "family"? Would your questioner still be welcome a week after the clarifying of an experiential rift between you?

Friday, March 21, 2008

contemplate this image

Easter – Year A

contemplate this image


Easter – Year A

at your peril

love and more love
as your well-being

Colossians 3:1-11

Easter – Year A

Colossians 3:1-11

Oops! Too many things on the desk. I was still looking at the Philippians passage from Palm Sunday rather than the Colossians reading for Easter.

Perhaps we could appeal to there no longer being a distinction between circumcised and uncircumcised, slave and free, Palm Sunday and Easter. No, distinctions are still important, even if not important enough to kill over.

Given the Holy Week process how do we get rid of such things as anger, wrath, malice, etc.? Crucify them, crucify them! is certainly one approach.

Another way is too look at the new way of living without them, just focus on the new life after they are gone.

This is one of the places Christianity falls down – too much duality, polarity. It's either preemptive crucifixion or resurrection accomplished. It would be interesting to read this in light of Holy Saturday where Jesus is creedally sent to the dead that they might also be raised from the dead.

How, really, do we shift from bad habits of exclusivity that may have been initially helpful to short-term survival, but no longer are, to a habit of inclusiveness that can respond beyond immediate survival? This journey is what all self-help resources are about, but miss. This passage points to the issue, but doesn't help us resolve it any more than simply going back to Galilee does.

Better identification of helpful steps would be of greater use than waiting for revelation or trying to jump to a result without walking a way to it. Easter may demonstrate how difficult it is for us and our forced hope for a resurrectional deus ex machina.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Philippians 2:5-11

Easter – Year A

Philippians 2:5-11

Who else besides Jesus is in the "form of God"? You? Me? Them?

It may not be "form", per se, that is the issue, but what we do with it.

Issues of exploitation abound in a domination system. Not exploiting is an antidote to such a system.

It is not that Jesus became obedient to a god requiring blood sacrifice, but who followed the internal logic of non-exploitation in an open fashion, thus revealing a domination system for what it is and willing to receive a consequence of such revelatory behavior.

A tricky part in all this is that if Jesus would not exploit his relationship with G*D, why would there be an expectation that he would receive kneeling and confessing?

Would there not, rather, be a hope that others would be encouraged to find a way to be non-exploitative in their relationships with one another and Jesus and G*D and the universe?

So, in honor of Maundy (obedience) Thursday let us image a servant that doesn't kow-tow, but reveals a new way of interacting with others, non-violently, non-exploitatively, on the way to living a mandate to love-one-another.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Easter – Year A

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Image "steadfast love" as an entrance gate into a larger life than the one we have so far experienced. It is a gate to honest perspective on what we have already experienced. Our past is seen for what it has been. It is a gate to honest perspective on what we yet yearn for. Our future is seen without a rosy glow and yet larger than we might otherwise have expected. Our present becomes a place of satisfaction without needing to justify or prove one point or another. In steadfast love we are no longer required to carry the present on or entirely invest in what might be. Here is a space for choosing the best of the past and the next available improvement upon it.

In steadfast love we can take another look at today, see what needs doing, and rejoice and be glad in an engagement with today.

Between temple-cleansing and cross-carrying there is an appreciation that both are extensions of rejoicing and gladness. A burden to redeem and a bearing a consequence of such behavior is lightened – rejoice and be glad, steadfast love abides.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jeremiah 31:1-6

Easter – Year A

Jeremiah 31:1-6

When Israel sought rest, grace in the wilderness, a reminder of everlasting love appeared.

Resurrections large and small all have this gift of everlasting love revealed somewhere along the way.

A sign of resurrection is: the weary still pull out a tambourine and dance, dance, dance.

So check your tambourine for dust. It it's there you've lost track of everlasting love tracking its way through your life.

Instead of a static cross, a better symbol of resurrection might be a jingling tambourine.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Matthew 28:1-10

Easter – Year A

Matthew 28:1-10

I was struck by Chris Haslam's comment on verse 10
“my brothers”: Jesus calls his followers brothers in John 20:17 and Matthew 12:46-50. In the latter passage, doing so implies forgiveness.

Galilee is in some sense home or our usual place. It can also be seen as away from politico-religious domination systems.

A resurrection call might then be: "Do not be afraid; go and tell the already-forgiven to go home; there they will experience resurrection." (presuming upon a retranslation of "brother" to "forgiven", "Galilee" to "home", and "me/Jesus" to "resurrection")

Connecting this to a later comment in Matthew, resurrection-life is expressed in transforming forgiveness to home-space for the naked, hungry, imprisoned, etc.

A priest at a local gathering on the 5th anniversary of the Iraq Occupation, under a banner of "Support the Troops; Bring Them Home", asked an important question - to what home will the troops be coming, what with veteran's benefits reduced, health care for the wealthiest, an unregulated economy, demonized immigrants, etc. Perhaps evidence of resurrection will be what gets done in my "Galilee" to expand what "home" means.

The forgiven live their forgiveness/resurrection in all the usual places. To paraphrase a line from John Wesley, "there is no resurrection but social resurrection".

Friday, March 14, 2008


Lent 6 – Palm Sunday – Year A

cloaked in experience
defining limiting
we come to this day
and every day
holding to the ordinary
new life fluttering within

snakes shed their skin
growing from the inside out
our names and cloaks
show where we've been
yet can be beckoned off
by a sun's warmth

from beyond our ken
a call comes clear
to leave one's cloak
without questioning what's left
but looking back to see
previously scattered cloaks

obviously not yet ready
we later pick up our old cloak
fall back into protective patterns
pretending it never was off
blinding us even to others
who in solidarity disrobed

unlike brother snake
and sister serpent
our shedding is not
once for always
we have trial runs
temporary revelations

a crowd of cloak droppers
becomes a mob of cloak huggers
momentarily reveling
in a larger revelation
scared in a next moment
freed four moments on

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Philippians 2:5-11

Lent 6 – Palm Sunday – Year A

Philippians 2:5-11

Hey, you. Yes, you. Though you are made in the image of G*D, how are you doing at keeping that in check?

Been lording it over some other image of G*D?

Here's the thing, when your name is mentioned, do folks take a moment to acknowledge G*D within and beyond your image? Perhaps it would help others have this moment of kneeling if you were to show the way by honoring their image of G*D.

What is your moral equivalent of humility over such a long haul that death, even, if it should be, death on a cross, is embraced by you? When you get to some clarity about such, your name, too, will be a tangible opening to a glory of G*D.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Lent 6 – Palm Sunday – Year A

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Where is the gate of the LORD?

Well, it is in Jerusalem and Jesus rides through it and Herod rides through it and a cheering crowd rides through, as does a jeering crowd. Now, whether one recognizes that a gate of the LORD has been ridden through or not, well, that's a different question.

The righteous enter through it. The unrighteous enter through it. The great mundane middle enters through it.

In this Psalm we only hear of the righteous entering and this leads us to think that only the righteous enter. The word "only" makes a critical difference.

Remember that later will come a plea from the unrighteous and the uncaring for salvation that they might successfully find and enter a gate of glory beyond themselves and the moment.

Remember that later will come an affirmation regarding steadfast love, for all.

Might the gate of the LORD be located where you are? Within you, even? Will you help someone else find a gate, whether yours or not, and enter?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Lent 6 – Palm Sunday – Year A

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Wild flight of fancy – Read this passage from Isaiah as though spoken by a donkey. The only tricky part is reading verse 4 from The Message about "a well-taught tongue" rather than the NRSV, "the tongue of a teacher".

"Let us stand together" is an important line here. In this solidarity we can take part in the "singing union" tradition. We can face any disappointment together. The disappointment of promises broken or good faith betrayed is all too frequent, but standing together is a comfort and a strength.

"Let's take our stand together." What else is there, inasmuch as "the only holiness is social holiness."

Donkey and Jesus and Disciples and Fawners and Onlookers and Wiretappers and Agents Provocateur all standing together. No wonder the word is Hosanna, which in its original sense is a plea to be saved. In taking our stand together (such a motley crew) we are certainly given plenty of opportunity to recognize that salvation is not something we whump up on our own. So keep standing together with all sorts of folks, even asses.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Matthew 21:1-11

Lent 6 – Palm Sunday – Year A

Matthew 21:1-11

No matter how you try to mitigate it (donkey riding and Sir Walter Raleigh coat etiquette) prophets are wild-eyed idealists who challenge current offices, who, if unchecked, would lead to the dissolution of whatever political structures are currently in place.

Had it been in today's world with a prophet riding into town on an energy-efficient green bicycle and folks using quickly renewable switch-grass to smooth his way over a pot-holed infrastructure, there would still be those who were unnerved knowing an ever-so-polite gauntlet was being thrown down, a feared double-edged sword that would cut to the quick had arrived to force a conscious choice of what was going to constitute an authentic community. A populist "Hooray!" can quickly turn to a resigned, "You can't fight city hall."

While a prophet can push for a choice, they can't make it for folks. By definition a prophet never comes around until it is seemingly too late to have a community conversation about where we would like to be beyond where we are. By the time a prophet arrives, even a gentle, peacefully symbolized one, is a still, small point around which power roils and rolls heads.

While we would imagine ourselves on the right side of the past, a quick look at statistics tells us that more folks opt out of elections, than participate. And not even all those who participate really know the issues or consider anything beyond the latest friend/family decision or negative ad.

Did you recognize yourself joining the "whole city" in asking, "Who is this?"

If you did, is there anyway for you to make sense of the response of "a prophet"?

My hope is that more folks would clarify what it means to be a prophet in their setting and would then choose to come as close to that as they can.

[Note: we are following the slow path for the lectionary choices – Palm Sunday rather than Passion Sunday. This honors the decision of the many to further avoid the midweek observances of the deepening of death with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. If we can see beyond the surface of this celebration, some might be intrigued and challenged enough to test the next stages of this journey, but pushing the Passion too quickly only inoculates folks against having to face the reality of death.]

Friday, March 07, 2008


Lent 5 – Year A

Thomas gets it
experience is important
where we put our fingers informs our belief
political analysis is important
whom we travel with determines our safety

Thomas along with the disciples
urges Jesus to do all the good he can
when friends and neighbors call
we owe them the courtesy of a visit
and even a healing

Thomas along with Mary's friends
respond to Jesus' weeping
marveling at his emotional engagement
and trying to make sense of it
by projecting Lazarus as their lover

Thomas may even take the lead
not only in seeing death in resurrection
but not hesitating a moment
jumping forward even before told
to unbind those who can't breathe

Thomas gets it
living large
paying attention
to details
making a difference

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Romans 8:1-11

Lent 5 – Year A

Romans 8:1-11

Yes, there is some of that unhelpful dualism between flesh and spirit present in this presentation. There is also an unhealthy confusion of G*D with Jesus.

Presuming, with Paul, for the moment, that Resurrection, new creation, is where "its" at, righteousness is associated less with our maintenance of it than with G*D's steadfast resurrectional, creation-based, love.

To cut out some of the underbrush of verses 10-11 – the Spirit is life because of righteousness; the Spirit of resurrection dwells in you and gives life.

Righteousness here is connected with G*D's resurrectional processes already at work, like yeast, within. Again the issues of steadfast love takes precedence over any fall away from that. Remember that G*D left Eden with Adam and Eve and journeys with us still and ever.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Psalm 130

Lent 5 – Year A

Psalm 130

Cry with others
Cry for one's self
Cry simply because it is appropriate to the situation.

Wait with others
Wait with one's self
Wait simply because . . . .

Into these conditions of crying and waiting comes a dawning of awareness that they are not done in isolation. It takes awhile to come to this, but the background noise of the universe is not only T=2.735K (cosmic microwave background) but steadfast love (redemption's background).

Immersed in this background, crying and waiting find their fulfillment.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Lent 5 – Year A

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Are there any dry bones around today? Those without health care? (Nearly 47 million Americans, or 16 percent of the population, were without health insurance in 2005, the latest government data available) - A record 1.6 million Americans in prison? (1% total and much higher percentages of black and Hispanic males) - Widening rich/poor gap? (the 55 million Americans in the poorest fifth of the population lived in households whose average income fell from $10,000 in 1977 to $8,800 in 1999).

What about dry bones in other parts of the world? War, genocide, pollution, poverty, etc.

While it may be that "G*D only knows", we are called to do something very important – lift our voice, be a sentinel, prophesy.

Coming out of graves of delusion that the above are not our issues, that we confess to the dry and broken bones of our lives, and that we have lost our vision of anything different than what we now have is no different in our day than in Ezekiel's.

Breathe upon the dead – Network and cry out, "I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!" – then stand back as a breath of new life bursts in and out in all directions.

Monday, March 03, 2008

John 11:1-45

Lent 5 – Year A

John 11:1-45

Who's to blame? A person born blind? Their parents? Jesus for intervening? Jesus for delaying? Last week the wonder of G*D was revealed in a creation story involving mud. This week, with Jesus' delay in coming, Lazarus gets all the way to "mostly dead" (read The Princess Bride). Everyone understands Lazarus and Westley to be dead, but all great stories find a way to a larger possibility beyond apparent limitations. Even tragedies give instruction that we might find another way.

The unbinding in this story is very similar to the revealing to Photini who she might yet become. The unbinding of Lazarus is also our unbinding, even as Photini's enlightenment is ours. All of these Johannine encounters hold a creative edge with possibilities and realities of new births.

Do you see how beloved Photini was, how beloved was Lazarus? This pushes us again to recognize our own belovedness. We are worth being wept over. We are worth being called forth. We are worth being unwrapped (shedding our skin one more time) and set free to a next stage of life. [image here - Lazarus as butterfly emerged]

What a difference a moment, a day, or even four days can make. Each of them hold the initial state of a new way of being/moving – use your favorite search engine for "butterfly effect" references.

Another way of playing with this is to investigate, at whatever leisure you will unbind, the Suzy Butterfly site.