Friday, May 30, 2008

Zeal of Love

Pentecost +3 – Year A

Not everyone who say "Lord, Lord" does the work of "Lord, Lord." Here is an excerpt from John Wesley's sermon 92 – On Zeal. It makes the same point – if you've been doing your "Lord, Lord"-ing, and fail to care for an immediate need, you really haven't done a very good job of "Lord, Lord"-ing. Otherwise your eyes and ears would have been tempered or energized to see and hear what needs doing.

= = = = = = = =

In a Christian believer love sits upon the throne which is erected in the inmost soul; namely, love of God and man, which fills the whole heart, and reigns without a rival. In a circle near the throne are all holy tempers; — long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, fidelity, temperance; and if any other were comprised in “the mind which was in Christ Jesus.” In an exterior circle are all the works of mercy, whether to the souls or bodies of men. By these we exercise all holy tempers; by these we continually improve them, so that all these are real means of grace, although this is not commonly adverted to. Next to these are those that are usually termed works of piety; — reading and hearing the word, public, family, private prayer, receiving the Lord’s Supper, fasting or abstinence. Lastly, that his followers may the more effectually provoke one another to love, holy tempers, and good works, our blessed Lord has united them together in one body, the Church, dispersed all over the earth; a little emblem of which, of the Church universal, we have in every particular Christian congregation.

. . . .

For example. Every Christian ought, undoubtedly, to be zealous for the Church, bearing a strong affection to it, and earnestly desiring its prosperity and increase. He ought to be thus zealous, as for the Church universal, praying for it continually, so especially for that particular Church or Christian society whereof he himself is a member. For this he ought to wrestle with God in prayer; meantime using every means in his power to enlarge its borders, and to strengthen his brethren, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

But he should be more zealous for the ordinances of Christ than for the Church itself; for prayer in public and private; for the Lord’s Supper; for reading, hearing, and meditating on his word; and for the much neglected duty of fasting. These he should earnestly recommend; first, by his example; and then by advice, by argument, persuasion, and exhortation, as often as occasion offers.

Thus should he show his zeal for works of piety; but much more for works of mercy; seeing “God will have mercy and not sacrifice;” that is, rather than sacrifice. Whenever, therefore, one interferes with the other, works of mercy are to be preferred. Even reading, hearing, prayer, are to be omitted, or to be postponed, “at charity’s almighty call, when we are called to relieve the distress of our neighbor, whether in body or soul.

But as zealous as we are for all good works, we should still be more zealous for holy tempers; for planting and promoting, both in our own souls, and in all we have any intercourse with, lowliness of mind, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, contentedness, resignation unto the will of God, deadness to the world and the things of the world, as the only means of being truly alive to God. For these proofs and fruits of living faith we cannot be too zealous. We should “talk of them as we sit in our house,” and “when we walk by the way,” and “when we lie down,” and “when we rise up.” We should make them continual matter of prayer; as being far more excellent than any outward works whatever: Seeing those will fail when the body drops off, but these will accompany us into eternity.

But our choicest zeal should be reserved for love itself, — the end of the commandment, the fulfilling of the law. The Church, the ordinances, outward works of every kind, yea, all other holy tempers, are inferior to this, and rise in value only as they approach nearer and nearer to it. Here then is the great object of Christian zeal. Let every true believer in Christ apply, with all fervency of spirit, to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that his heart may be more and more enlarged in love to God and to all mankind. This one thing let him do: Let him “press on to this prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

. . . .

Lastly. If true zeal be always proportioned to the degree of goodness which is in its object, then should it rise higher and higher according to the scale mentioned above; according to the comparative value of the several parts of religion. For instance, all that truly fear God should be zealous for the Church; both for the catholic or universal Church, and for that part of it whereof they are members. This is not the appointment of men, but of God. He saw it was is not good for men to be alone, even in this sense, but that the whole body of his children should he “knit together, and strengthened, by that which every joint supplieth.” At the same time they should be more zealous for the ordinances of God; for public and private prayer, for hearing and reading the word of God, and for fastings, and the Lord’s Supper. But they should be more zealous for works of mercy, than even for works of piety. Yet ought they to be more zealous still for all holy tempers, lowliness, meekness, resignation: But most zealous of all, for that which is the sum and the perfection of religion, the love of God and man.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-31

Pentecost +3 – Year A

Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-31

Our distinction is that there is no distinction between us. This is a distinction worth celebrating.

We can argue about whether sin and glory/belovedness are the correct categories upon which to note distinctionlessness. Even throwing in faith as a way to break the tie doesn't really help us out here.

Consider a relationship with every other part of creation. Does a measuring of sin, glory, belovedness, faith help clarify anything? No. A calibration of any of these does not enhance it. We do need a shift of focus.

One shift is suggested by Parker Palmer as he speaks of living in the tensions between our various perceived categories of vice and virtue, "To be in the world nonviolently means learning to hold the tension of opposites, trusting that the tension itself will pull our hearts and minds open to a third way of thinking and acting.... We must learn to hold the tension between the reality of the moment and the possibility that something better might emerge." [from A Hidden Wholeness: A Journey Toward an Undivided Life as selected by Inward/Outward]

Focusing overmuch, even on a significant question, leads us to an unhelpful judgmentalism of self and others through a tool of measuring us against a too large goal. If we can draw our eyes back a bit, unfocus them for a moment, we will see beyond the boundary of any given perspective. Consider here the swings of art history and the various arrivals and dismissals of perspective or the swings we have made regarding holiness (social/personal) or genetics.

To jump even further than any platform will allow, our distinction is that there is no distinction between G*D and us. This is a distinction, full of a possibility of something better, worth celebrating.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Psalm 46

Pentecost +3 – Year A

Psalm 46

G*D is a place of safety, not security. In this sense we finally realize that our building has been on shifting sands not able to bear the weight we assigned to foundational material. We keep trusting in surfaces, not their depths. In some sense this is creation – sandy, slippery, changing.

A part of our response to this is to then run about as noisily as we can to set things right, to move our house to a different foundation and then a different one. We insist on keeping the house without consideration of its foundational environment.

If only we were still for a bit. Eugene Peterson puts it, "Step out of the traffic!" Were we to take as long a loving look at G*D as we experience being looked at by steadfast and expansive love we would note that living on shifting sands is exactly where we need to be – living on sand is our rock. Remember back to all the strange folks who have set out on journeys, to enter into temptations, to know that hometowns aren't where its at, to trust resurrectional processes over any other, and to live life as though it were worth something. Remembering that we are among the traveling saints of old, we know we are always sliding down a sand dune of some sort and we can enjoy the ride.

Whatever sand you have built upon, G*D is with you. Stop, Look, and Listen and join the chicken crossing to the other side of the road. After all, as Grandpa says, "In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough." So, you're living on sand - build lightly, not a bigger barn. It is time to get back to tent living, not palace construction.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Genesis 6:9-22; 7:24; 8:14-19

Pentecost +3 – Year A

Genesis 6:9-22; 7:24; 8:14-19

The earth was apparently built on a sand foundation when a breath moved over the deep. The crust over the deep was shaky. It leaked. Some even called it corrupt.

Eden turned out not to be all it was cracked up to be. Our nostalgic tendency has made more of them than they could stand.

A building on sand is very much like an ark afloat – unstable, uncertain where it is going to end up and when it will finally come back to reality.

At any rate, after falling buildings and falling water Noah and family come back to earth only to find that corruption has come with them. Not only have things come on board, two-by-two, but so has our ability to see things dualistically. Immediately after landing we find irresponsibility, nakedness, and blame all back. Wine and bodies and relationships are all ambivalent experiences, but here they become either-or, this-or-that, that takes the life out of them and leaves us with only caricatures and exaggerations of G*D's image.

Since we are always dealing with the limits of creation, it shouldn't be too surprising to find Noah and family back where they started – in need of steadfast, rainbow, love that builds on sand, again and again, until we learn to have this reality become the rock upon which we can rely – wait a moment and the life we have constructed will all come tumbling down – a readiness for change.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Matthew 7:21-29

Pentecost +3 – Year A

Matthew 7:21-29

This summer I am not going to follow the lectionary, though I will still post about it here. We will be having guests (this week, Mel Duncan, Executive Director of Nonviolent Peaceforce) and responding to desired sermon topics from the congregation. I expect there to be connections between the lectionary and other scriptures chosen for their more literal connection to a given topic.

For instance: a general sermon title might be: "When 'Lord, Lord' is a Foundation of Sand" and a specific application this week might be – "You can't use Jesus as an excuse for hitting someone".

An immediate connection is with the possible list of good things we have done that would allow us to excuse ourselves from the evil we have also done. Jesus doesn't seem to have a concept of impartial justice that weighs good and evil and whichever is an ounce/gram weightier wins. Thus the history of evil-doers who are appreciators of the arts and gentle with their own children are not excused because of those and other virtues. Or, in this passage, those who prophesy, exorcise, or otherwise do miraculous deeds under the cloak of "Jesus" are not commended for simply doing such. Even the devil can quote scripture.

Here Jesus suggests a return to his foundation – belovedness. In the baptism of life, wherever rain falls, is there an increase in belovedness – one's own and that of everyone? If so, its solid foundation is revealed; if not, shifting sand is revealed.

Sometimes we desire to hide our base foundation. Here Jesus asks us to reveal it. On this "Memorial Day" can we remember a foundation of Jesus in non-violence (the reported mini-apocalyptic statements attributed to Jesus aside) such as Luke 9:51-56 – "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village."

Friday, May 23, 2008

consider again

Pentecost + 2 – Year A

consider again
a moment of new vision
a flower stopped by
visited and blessed
how beautiful

consider again
a moment before
a flowering
breaking new ground
how beautiful

consider again
a moment before before
a seed
sunk in soil
how beautiful

consider again
a moment yet before
a fruit
full of potential
how beautiful

consider again
an even larger moment
holding all moments
full and empty
how beautiful

consider again
a worry before
this reading
and after
how beautiful

consider again
a field of worry
in which a flower grows
a once and future blessing
how beautiful

Thursday, May 22, 2008

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Pentecost + 2 – Year A

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Worry is very much connected with judgment. The greater the sense of impending judgment, the greater the worry. When these are low it allows for saints and sociopaths to operate out of the same criteria. Sometimes it is very difficult to tell the difference between them and sometimes very easy.

One approach to reducing worry comes from the Appreciative Listening presentation we had yesterday at the annual meeting of United Methodist Transitional/Interim Ministry Specialists (TIMS).

If you can visualize organization (personal or communal) as a mystery to be embraced rather than a problem to solve, we can project that solutions to current issues are already present.

Then we can appreciate and value what is best by focusing on life-giving forces, build on affirmations of what is working.

This leads to an envisioning of what might yet be as we amplify what is working.

Dialog regarding what can yet be becomes possible as we learn from what works.

From here we are open to the innovations needed to arrive at what will be. Out of this agreement we find it easier to walk through this process a next time around.

Click here for more information about Appreciative Inquiry.

Even presuming that this approach works well, it won’t be long before a recognition dawns that worry and judgment are very much still alive and well. Appreciative Listening and other helpful tools need some larger sense that we are living into experiences and revelations of G*D’s preemptive mercy. Extravagant forgiveness and assurance of same are the countervailing forces to judgment and worry. How are you doing at identifying and receiving these larger gifts?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Psalm 131

Pentecost + 2 – Year A

Psalm 131

With a calmed and quieted soul we are able to hear amazing things. We can hear still small voices. We can hear “Beloved”-ness all around. We can hear no-thing to distract us from hope.

Isn’t that the kind of listening we would appreciate being a part of? May you listen for your own sake and also for the sake of the world and friends and enemies that we might learn to hope together - for there is no hope but social hope.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Isaiah 49:8-16

Pentecost + 2 – Year A

Isaiah 49:8-16

G*D says, “In a time of favor I have been present.” This is one of those perception issues. We have times we label favorable and unfavorable and we equate our reception of G*D’s presence with our experience of what finds favor in our sight. In this duality of abundance and scarcity we find ourselves sometimes claiming we are forsaken when G*D is still saying, “I am present with you.”

Listen again to creation: “Sing for joy, O heavens and exalt, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For G*D is present with comfort and compassion.” All of creation except those made in G*D’s image, male and female and hermaphrodite, seem to be able to experience each moment as a time of presence. We may be too close to G*D to experience ourselves as living and moving and having our being within an expansive gift of compassion and mercy. We keep grasping after some invisible short-cut to being in absolute charge. In our perception that life could be better, we falter in our ability to sing for joy.

It seems we are continually in a state of worry based on a perception that we are being thwarted in what we are entitled to. The ability to perceive that we are forsaken and forgotten, one of the curses of being made in G*D’s image, is exactly what gets in our way of perceiving that we are as present as a scar on G*D’s hand.

What, you say, G*D’s hand can be scarred? Consider your own hand and the scars you have received in offering it. Remember your creation and the scars you have caused on the hands of others, including G*D.

May the time be ripe for us to cast a larger vision beyond our worries, fears, frustrations, losses, and sin. May we experience again compassion, possibility, new growth, and mercy. In such experiences let us join a mighty chorus that hails a new creation.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Matthew 6:24-34

Pentecost +2 – Year A

Matthew 6:24-34

"You cannot serve God and wealth." A recent movie exemplifying this is Redbelt by David Mamet. God here might be defined as personal integrity, but, however you spell it, the issue is one that is contemporary in every culture and economic system.

If you can neither serve G*D (the good I want, I don't; what I don't want, I do) nor wealth (there is always someone more sneaky, more wealthy) we are pushed back to the wisdom of Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 [The Message:

"The one who loves money is never satisfied with money,
Nor the one who loves wealth with big profits. More smoke.

"The more loot you get, the more looters show up.
And what fun is that—to be robbed in broad daylight?

"Hard and honest work earns a good night's sleep,
Whether supper is beans or steak.
But a rich man's belly gives him insomnia.

"Here's a piece of bad luck I've seen happen:
A man hoards far more wealth than is good for him
And then loses it all in a bad business deal.
He fathered a child but hasn't a cent left to give him.
He arrived naked from the womb of his mother;
He'll leave in the same condition—with nothing.
This is bad luck, for sure—naked he came, naked he went.
So what was the point of working for a salary of smoke?
All for a miserable life spent in the dark?

"After looking at the way things are on this earth, here's what I've decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that's about it. That's the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what's given and delighting in the work. It's God's gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It's useless to brood over how long we might live."

When you can't move into the future (G*D) or live with the past (accumulated wealth), there isn't much left than the present – so, don't worry, enjoy. This may be what is meant by the difficult task outlined of "striving" for the presence of G*D. In a moment of enjoyment all that is necessary will be found.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Of Brighid and Her Realms

Pentecost +1 – Year A

Of Brighid and Her Realms

Today's witches take many of their Imbolc associations from pagan Ireland. There, Imbolc belonged to the goddess Brighid or Bride (either is pronounced Breed), mother of poetry, smithcraft and healing.

In their Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom, Caitlin and John Matthews quote the tenth century Cormac's Glossary: Brighid is "a poetess... the female sage, woman of wisdom, or Brighid the Goddess whom poets venerated because very great and famous for her protecting care." Cormac's Glossary gives Brighid the poetess two sisters, Brighid the smith and Brighid the "female physician"; Brighid thus occurs threefold, called by the Celts the Three Blessed Ladies.

The three Brighids multiply, to three times three: Caitlin and John Matthews call Brighid "a being who has nine separate spiritual appearances and blessings, which are ubiquitously invoked through Celtic lore." Hers are the "nine gifts of the cauldron" mentioned in Amergin's "Song of the Three Cauldrons": poetry, reflection, meditation, lore, research, great knowledge, intelligence, understanding and wisdom. The Christianized St. Bridget had nine priestesses, the "Ingheau Anndagha," or Daughters of the Flame, who lived inside her shrine and tended her fire, whom no man could look upon, according to Kisma K. Stepanich in Faery Wicca, Book One. Brighid is also a midwife and protector, a war-goddess and a teacher of the arts of battle.

Celtic lore makes Brighid the daughter of the Dagda, the Good God, and marries her to Bres of the Fomors, by whom she bears a son Ruadan. But, as Janet and Stewart Farrar write in The Witches' Goddess, "The fact that Dana, though goddess/ancestress of the Tuatha, is sometimes referred to (like Brighid) as the Dagda's daughter; the hints... that the Dagda was originally the son of this primordial goddess, then her husband, then her father; the dynastic marriage between Brighid and Bres - all these reflect a long process of integration of the pantheons of neighboring tribes, or of conquerors and conquered, and also of patriarchalization." Like many goddesses, Brighid probably once birthed the god later called her father. Brighid's name can be derived from the Gaelic "breo-aigit" or "fiery arrow," but the Matthewses prefer a derivation from Sanskrit, "Brahti," or "high one."

The entire Celtic world worshipped Brighid. She was Brigantia in Britain, the patron goddess of the tribe of the Brigantines in northern England and of the Brigindo in eastern France, Stepanich says. The Celts continued to worship her in Christian times as St. Ffaid in Wales, St. Bride in Scotland and St. Bridget or Bride in Ireland. St. Bridget was said to be the midwife and foster mother of Christ, the helper and friend of Mary.


Trinity and trinities of trinities abound. No matter where you look there are groups of threes. We even seem to think in trinities of thesis, antithesis, synthesis (perhaps the smallest number in which to do three-D modeling or holographic work).

May you have a full portion of 3x3 gifts –
   great knowledge


Thursday, May 15, 2008

2 Corinthians 13:5-14

Pentecost +1 – Year A

2 Corinthians 13:5-14

Here is one of those compare and contrast choices between the tone of the NRSV and The Message.

NRSV: "Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed."

The Message: "You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it. I hope the test won't show that we have failed."

In both cases the crux of the matter is Jesus Christ in us. From there things get dicier.

A never-ending argument can be had, both internally and externally, about what an appropriate test is that Jesus Christ within is being revealed without. Paul, evidently, has his litmus testing process. I fall back to Karl Rahner and others who find Jesus Christ to be within each person, "anonymous Christians" if you will. Without magic signs of fishes and crosses and ever-changing code language it becomes next to impossible to be certain about intentions and motivations.

Regardless of any given testing process it will be helpful to focus on verse 10 in the voice of The Message: "The authority the Master (Jesus Christ within) gave me is for putting people together, not taking them apart."

This is a difficult task when folks are not willing to be put together, but it is still a hope held out beyond there any longer being hope, that, even beyond an ending place, we will continue to be put together and find unexpected and undeserved blessings abounding.

So, remember again – Jesus Christ within is before baptismal validation as a starting point, is always in a process of creatively putting together, and will not quit even when beyond some arbitrary ending point. Given this remembrance, how would you evaluate the just stated trinity in light of other trinities you have known?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Psalm 8

Pentecost +1 – Year A

Psalm 8

In solidarity with those taking final exams in some school systems, here is an essay question:

By how much have you and I (we) missed being G*D, a fourth partner?

Please respond to this question by first considering it in light of humanity and secondly in regard to your own individual life.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Genesis 1:1-2:4

Pentecost +1 – Year A

Genesis 1:1-2:4

Distinction and Extension. Dividing this-from-that and generating more-and-more. With these two tools no-thingness goes beyond some-thingness to potential more-thingness.

When these two processes do not work in relationship to one another we end up with the battle any institution faces as it strives to hold itself together in the face of forces ready to tear it apart. To put this in a different and more contemporary process of creation and de-creation here is a working paper THE CENTRIPETAL NETWORK: How the Internet Holds Itself Together, and the Forces Tearing it Apart that exemplifies some of it.

Put graphically

Creation is a fractal and our brains are hardwired to appreciate it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Matthew 28:16-20

Pentecost +1 – Year A

Matthew 28:16-20

The lection passages this week have been chosen to give authority to the idea, concept, reality, hope, relationships that has come to be deemed "Trinity." A key question is whether this metaphor is still constituent for Christians or if it has passed its helpfulness. My sense is that we are moving past this doctrinal formulation, but there are miles to go. What will be helpful is our not taking it more seriously than a vision of the past can bear. If the Trinity can't take being laughed at, it probably needs to be sidestepped in favor of a larger picture. Panentheism would broaden it to Infinity and monotheism would return it to Unity. Are you on one pole or the other or on the continuum between?

Paying attention to context is helpful. Here we have travel-tired disciples worshipping and doubting, at one and the same time. This is key to the on-going debates about Trinity and how difficult it is to teach this concept.

I am presuming that more than Thomas are doubting, that others learned from him that doubt is an acceptable beginning spot for interaction with Jesus.

In this mix of tired, worship, and doubt Jesus draws nearer than his worshiped distance would otherwise allow to say four things, with the Trinity being but a subset of one of them:
   • Be.
   • Baptize.
   • Teach.
   • Re-member.

In these we find some basics.

Go can also be Be. There is a journey and we are on it. Authority that can motivate to journeying is helpful. Authority that constrains to pre-ordained outcomes is not helpful.

Baptism and it's qualities of Repentance, Turning, Belovedness takes precedence over any institutional words that define and limit it. To be baptized by John is as significant as that in one, two, or three names of what we call Trinity. Whatever leads one to a reconsideration of life and recommitment to larger life is holy.

Baptism is an entry into learning; learning even from temptations. Teaching is thus a holy endeavor as significant as journey and baptism. Teaching how to love one another, love enemies, love self and neighbors, and love G*D goes beyond mere obedience, all the way to life itself. What else are we teaching all day long? What else are we learning all day long?

Each of these points finds new and renewed life in the context of an on-going experience of G*D's incarnation – re-membering or rebirth in the mangers of our hearts. This experience vivifies authority and journey, visions new baptisms, challenges teachings and doubts.

= = = = = = =


A census of remaining disciples brought them back to Galilee. Here angelic song and shepherdic doubt came together one more time. In this crucible Christ was heard to say: I'm entrusting the creative authority John sees in me to all of you. Get moving to share what you know. Start with repentance from past and present (use any experience base you find helpful – that of creation, resurrection, or interconnection) and move deeper into a preferred future through the five love images I taught. Most importantly know that Love never ends and my participation in that will help sustain you all along life's journey. We are yoked together – onward – Emmanuel begins again – in you!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Pentecostal Babel

Pentecost – Year A

Yo! Thomas, Mothers, Anyone Oriented Toward Common Good, etc. – Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Good works include finding ways to listen to and speak to as one does the best one can with what one has. In this setting there are rumors and rumors of rumors about several subjects. Language is being used to set decisions in stone that need an openness to new vision. Language is being used to limit the options G*D has to bless and individuals and systems have to receive blessing. Language is being used to divide the body. Even in a Pentecostal context, Babel lifts its head again.

Were it not such a mixture of Pentecost and Babel we would have long ago destroyed ourselves – give thanks for language well used. If it were not such a mixture we would have long ago experienced heaven on earth – be sad for language used for entitlement.

Yippee for Pentecost! Hip Hip Hooray for Mothers! May the ouches of life caused by words as real as sticks and stones be kissed and band-aided and new inclusive language be learned. This inclusiveness is not just about people, but tomorrow.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

1 Corinthians 12:3-13

Pentecost – Year A

1 Corinthians 12:3-13

The variety of gifts given is too large to count. Go ahead - just try to count the ways in which folks are gifted.

While we appreciate the variety of gifts among us, we have a more difficult time comprehending that all these gifts have been held in whatever G*D might be. One of the ways in which this has shown up over time is not understanding mothering to be a gift given and yet retained within G*D. The divine feminine is a weak spot in our Christian doctrine.

Until we can affirm a larger common good than getting our own way we won't be able to affirm a more expansive image of G*D. In speculative fiction this would be the movement from a moment of creation to a continued expansion that at the same time moves to a singularity – and beyond.

Imagine an intersection of these symbols > < [remember to extend them past these truncated versions and put them in motion in regard to one another] and a progression from <> to < > [imagine connecting curved lines] to <, while > to < > was just as mysteriously real, leading to <> and finally . and taking all that experience to an even livelier expression of common good.

While yearning to see this under light, in motion, I am only as far a noting elements, not their interaction. May you aid us all in re-viewing the many gifts yet available, the strengthening of those present, and the letting loose of those needing to be put down for the benefit of a current and next common good, a once and future steadfast love.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Pentecost – Year A

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

From Eugene Peterson's translation – verses 29-30:

You come, and they [all creatures] gather around;
   you open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back,
   they'd die in a minute –
Take back your Spirit and they die,
   revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life –
   the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.

Here is a model of a generous person, as well as a generous G*D. It raises questions for us about how we hold our hand – open with food, clenched ready to strike; extended to lift up, closed to pound down. The hand here stands for our whole being, not just specific acts that can be counted up and measured.

Here is a prayer from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Christian Prayers and Devotions (page 102) that exemplifies this Pentecostal ethic:

Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, Found Beside a Dead Child
Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted; remember the fruits we have bought; thanks to this suffering—our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out all this, and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits which we have born be their forgiveness.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost – Year A

Acts 2:1-21

My ability to speak another language seems to be limited. In bygone Peace Corps days I did know some Filipino. A part of my learning that lovely language was rather cacophonous. If enough of us learners of poor ability were together it may well have sounded windy.

If this learning another's language process was instantaneous, it may have been a quieter Pentecost and fewer people would have been drawn to see what was happening. Thank goodness for the noise of a learning process.

As it was, care for another's difference (language, at least) emboldened folks to move outside their room to engage others with what they had just experienced – an open heart to others that opened their minds and doors. A joy contained in that movement does become noticed.

The membership vows of the United Methodist church have long been four-fold and inward focused. We are called to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, and service. Note that this is support for the institutional church. At our General Conference just completed, a fifth vow was added that functions like the fire in that small wind and fire room of long ago – witness – tell deeds of loving-kindness (not doctrinal belief, but deeds). We'll see what this small change makes – hopefully as much as the small room and small number of people made in earlier days.

Monday, May 05, 2008

John 20:19-31

Pentecost – Year A

John 20:19-31

Fear on the inside the equivalent to mighty winds on the outside. Both bring life-quakes.

A word of peace is a vision of a renewed appreciation of diversity (renewed from the richness of creation in all its variety and interdependence).

Forgiveness allows a next opportunity to hear again a mystery of the universe. This forgiveness and hearing cuts across all barriers that were thought to be so strong.

Forgiveness includes in those who have not had the same experience of fears relieved and community believed. Forgiveness is a blessing every once and future person needs to both experience and practice offering until it is second-nature.

So it is that life comes forth and is renewed.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Faithful Witness

Easter 7 – Year A

Glorifying and being glorified are related to persistence of call. While not always able to finish our tasks or achieve a desired result, our very faithfulness to the task at hand has an intrinsic value that cannot be denied.

Here the persistent witness of Hee Soo Jung was a valued beginning to a day of witnessing. The text of his sermon and all too brief video are worth your time.

Later there was a positive witness by GLBTQ People and Allies. You can read about it and watch a Quicktime recording of this witness.

For most of the day there was a negative witness by the combined IRD, Good News, and Confessing Movement as they did their best to derail constitutional changes leading the United Methodist Church to be a world-wide denomination. It was evident that their multitude of referral motion, speeches, extraneous amendments, and voting signalers were designed to keep the primarily white-male "evangelical" power-brokers in charge with their ability to play the "evangelical" holiness card in the U.S. and the various delegations, primarily from Africa, were designed to keep them anonymously pulling the strings. They lost control of their talking points about a world-wide church and the body took them up on what for them was just a wedge issue. Hooray for a living spirit that took them at their word – don’t you just groan when it happens to you!

Faithful preaching, faithful and unfaithful witnesses - each brought their emotional response. Now for a last day with very exhausted people doing their best in a brutal environment we created for ourselves.

Peace to those far off and to those near by. May positive witness continue here and where you are for faithful witness is resurrection living.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Easter 7 – Year A

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Being reviled for following one’s call from Christ is one thing when the difficulty comes from an outside culture that denies your call or an internal process of not doing what one desires or the other internal process of doing what one has resolved not to do, compared to being reviled by another person, also called from Christ, who claims you are incompatible with their call and therefore your call is invalid.

Here at General Conference we have been dealing with the last of these scenarios and it feels as though this intra-call reviling is the most difficult to deal with. Again, time after time, we refused to listen to the truth that we are differently called.

The matter of sexual identity is a very easy target and will not be something only suffered for a little while. It is also not an issue that is resolvable in some great by-and-by when some “glory” will swallow up the glory of sexuality in this paradise. This matter is very much oriented to our current relationships.

Until this matter is dealt with, there is no option but to find alternative “church” forms either within or beyond current denominations. This is a discipline that is hard to keep because of the comforts of established ways of thinking and acting and the comforts of power and payment for services rendered. You may want to rethink things in light of what the Church Within a Church Movement is doing.