Thursday, July 31, 2008

Romans 9:1-5

Pentecost +12 – Year A

Romans 9:1-5

Going to a deserted place has some hope within it of finding something new or being prepared to return to some same-old same-old.

Here we have an image of going to a deserted place as a result of giving up something already deemed precious. Imagine what it would take for you to be voluntarily cut off from Christ/Allah/Buddha/G*D/What(Who)ever/Food/Energy/Money/etc.

Going to a deserted place also has some loss within it of leaving something behind, never to pick it up again.

As you consider again the need and/or opportunity you have to go to a deserted place, are you looking to find something or to lose something? to break beyond a current barrier or to return, fortified, to encounter it again?

Are you ready to depart for your deserted place? If not now, when?

Is there a way to engage your busy place with your deserted place? A pastoral counselor for a state-wide Council of Churches suggested taking one's vacation (deserting a current idolatry) at one's busiest time. How might this put into regular, daily, practice and not just once or twice a year? For those of us who are work-aholics, giving up our work for the sake of another is heretical, yet crucial to a holistic life. For alcoholics, it is giving up alcohol. For Paul and other Jesusics, it is giving up Jesus. And for you?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Psalm 17:1-7, 15

Pentecost +12 – Year A

Psalm 17:1-7, 15

Our alone time, whether with a multitude of others or an internal legion, has a desired outcome. Eugene Peterson, phrases that outcome, "And me? I plan on looking you full in the face, when I get up, I'll see your full stature and live heaven on earth."

Whether there is a plan for our lives or a purpose to be lived up to, there is a meaning to be participated in – living heaven on earth. Regardless of external/internal mechanisms, we are called to "live tomorrow, today."

It is this that leads us, again and again, to a deserted spot where we don't have to give directions to G*D (as per this psalm) or receive some eternal answer to every question. When we simply are able to let the circumstance be what they are and to stretch into a new way of being with others and with our self, we are just what we say we are - We are angry gentle people, singing for our lives, doing what we can to live heaven on earth.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Genesis 32:22-31

Pentecost +12 – Year A

Genesis 32:22-31

Sure enough, being alone is tough. If we've just sent a crowd away, we still have an identity to wrestle with.

Wrestling through who we are now to the folks we once knew is painful. It is like competitively forcing oneself to an advanced yoga asana – some hip is going to be permanently out of joint, at least a nose.

Rejoice that an unexpected blessing can come from folks showing up out of the blue or settling down for a long winter's nap.

A face of G*D is constantly showing up. We find that face in others needing mercy. We find that face in ourself needing mercy. Having been trained in parables we can see G*D's Presence anywhere and everywhere.

May you find the blessing of a face of G*D in your today.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Matthew 14:13-21

Pentecost +12 – Year A

Matthew 14:13-21

Getting away to a deserted spot is never easy. At the very least along come memories of triumph and regret, the last thing we heard before leaving, and visions of dragons yet to be slain.

Jesus, sometimes successful in sending folks ahead while he remained or walking through a hostile crowd, here was brought an opportunity to serve.

For those who tend toward Jesus having a plan for every moment, suspicions might arise about his withdrawing to a deserted place where folks in droves would be waiting. (Was that one person who noted his going minion of the tempter to see how he would deal with a conflict between wanting to be away and a commitment to mercy or just an observant person on their way for a healing who caught a glimpse of Jesus disappearing around the corner ahead of him?)

The news Jesus had just heard was terrifying and the last thing one needs in such circumstances is to be alone for fears to grow and temptations to return.

We might consider that continuing deeper into his ministry, particularly a ministry of mercy, would trigger a remembrance that such is still possible in such a terrifying world. This may have been the most healing thing Jesus could do for his sorrowful soul – to arrange a mercy moment on a large scale.

How is it with you?

Are your withdrawal times a source of energy-building or draining? Is this a time of practice of your particular ministry focus?

Are you glad for not being alone even when you had planned for the alone? Under what circumstances? Do you find ministry opportunities to show up alongside your non-ministry intentions?

How would this incident of mercy feeding have been received if it had been done as street theatre response to John's death in a busy spot rather than in a deserted spot on the sly?

Friday, July 25, 2008

. . .

Pentecost +11 – Year A

it's like
you know

and so we search
for metaphor
for our life
for well uhh it's like you know

so sad
it's like
you know

inarticulate groans
utter forth
as we continue slouching
toward Bethlehem

toward treasure
toward mystical union
toward certainty
toward edenic utopia

how long?
"7" years?
another "7"?
well well well

untold generations
have brought us
a missed parable

begin again
beginning again

but love

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Romans 8:26-39

Pentecost +11 – Year A

Romans 8:26-39

G*D's Presence unifies us in the presence of any number of fears.

It is so easy to get caught in the fatalism of predestination, rather than its challenge to live as though one were. It is so easy to get caught in hesitating to live because some power greater than ourselves will knock us down, big time. It is so easy to get caught tip-toeing through life lest this charge or that be brought against us.

Each of these separate us from G*D, self, neighbor, and one another. They over-emphasize an enemy that we cannot love and who cannot love us.

A parabolic approach to life is going to begin the other way around. Once there was a person who was afraid of an enemy. They were so afraid that they began to see an enemy in every reflective surface. Finally, they realized that for every weed seed their enemy tossed into their field of dreams, the only way for them to deal with the harvest was to invite their very own enemy to a weed party at the end of the growing season. There the weed seed and the wheat seed were separated. The weed seeds were burned and the wheat seeds were shared.

From this party both began to see a larger picture -- there was nothing, not even twice as many weed seeds the next growing season (the next new heaven and earth), that would keep us from continuing to share the blessings we have received. Together we planted twice the wheat and found a two-hundred times yield.

We are destined to bless our enemies, so we might as well be about it this season.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b

Pentecost +11 – Year A

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b

"Make known G*D's deeds among the people." This is a call to tell parables, not to construct creeds.

Since G*D is notoriously obtuse in being revealed (whatever the motivation, plan, personality, or distractability that is behind that quality), a part of our partnership with G*D is to let others know what G*D is like.

Here G*D is like a real-estate agent in a time of volatility (perhaps not unlike our own). This agent has found a real fixer-upper that appeals to our participatory spirituality. The terms are almost favorable, just a bit more wholeness or perfection on our part and we'll be able to engage it directly.

While we are not yet able to sign on the dotted-line, the agent continues to be supportive and encouraging. "Canaan has you written all over it." "Don't give up." "Keep building up your reserves." "It will be worth it."

When you are finally settled in, remember with thanksgiving, the agent that facilitated what will become a blessing for us and others as we add on rooms in which ourselves and all will be welcomed to continue growing in love with G*D and Neighbor.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Genesis 29:15-28

Pentecost +11 – Year A

Genesis 29:15-28

Parables of G*D's Presence are all around us, all the time. What is not present is our presentness to G*D's Presence. Lack of anticipation of it degrades our ability to be aware of it at all.

G*D's Presence is like Laban asking Jacob, "What might I give you?"

Desires are expressed and frustrated and met in the context of reward for the past and investment in a future. Tricksters are tricked. Tricksters of tricksters are tricked. The unloved are opened to new life, the loved are opened to new life.

And, in turn, we are asked, "What might I give you?" We are bold to ask for the unconventional and willing to take the conventional. We are bold to keep asking for the road less traveled.

G*D's Presence is as slow and quick as "7 years". As you look back over the last seven years, having received more than you expected, how will you reinvest in the next seven years? In thanksgiving for the past, may you rejoice that this day will move you and yours into a larger future. In anticipation of the future, may you rejoice that this day deepens a fulfillment of the past. Whether you mostly live in thanksgiving or anticipation, may you feast well this day.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Pentecost +11 – Year A

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Apparently it takes training to be able to have a variety of appropriate and helpful responses to the infinity of situations in which we find ourselves.

Without such training we find ourselves compulsively repeating the same response and behavior in diverse and contradictory scenarios.

G*D's Presence is not quantifiable. It is not consistent. It is not uniform. It is not predictable. It is not controllable. It isn't this or that. . . .

So what is this mysterious presence? It is what is needed in the moment. Worry not about what you will say when accused, words sufficient for the day will be available. Worry not about adding (or subtracting) an inch from your waist or a hair on your head, the body is sufficient for its image. It is old and new - in no particular order.

"Are you starting to get a handle on all this?" (The Message, asks.)

To go much deeper into each picture of G*D's Presence will be to dissect the life from it.

Sit back, unfocus your eyes from the cascade of images and from your own life.

Now let G*D's Presence and Your Presence begin to spin gear-like until there is a meshing at some point. Note a need revealed and resources available to address such a need. Rejoice. Come back tomorrow to repeat this process without expectation of it being a similar need/resource combination (though, of course, it may well be). Again, rejoice. And so goes one's training. Halleluiah!

Friday, July 18, 2008


Pentecost +10 – Year A

erupts around
startles within

just when beginning
to be comfortable
with surprise

ceases to surprise
as we settle for comfort
and lose track of another beginning

may a blessing of startled surprise
awaken us
may a blessing of erupting surprise
encourage us

around us and within
surprising pregnancies
enlarge us
enjoy us

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Romans 8:12-25

Pentecost +10 – Year A

Romans 8:12-25

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

[Maria from The Sound of Music]

“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” [verses 22-25, The Message]

May you hold yourself open for a surprise beyond your expectation. This is where we find energy to live, give, and love. Hold out your hand, a moonbeam is waiting for you.

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-34

Pentecost +10 – Year A

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-34

Where is the presence of G*D?

It is right in the middle of wheat and weeds. It is in a hard rock pillow. It is at the farthest limits you can imagine and nearer than breath. It is as distant as Sheol and as close as a heart in the dark.

It won’t take long for G*D to search our heart, for G*D is already present and has indexed every part for quick retrieval.

It won’t even take something as dramatic as a parable or an extra-ordinary event. Think closer to the everyday -- G*D present in an acorn, washing dishes in the kitchen, attending a study group, chatting with a child about Iron Man on a ferry.

So take wing; settle afar. No matter the choice made, G*D is present: you are present -- so enjoy the interaction.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Genesis 28:10-19

Pentecost +10 – Year A

Genesis 28:10-19

Why would one climb Jacob's ladder if "the Lord" stood beside Jacob and the ladder?

There is a lot of archetypal stuff that has gone into this scene from outside it. Somehow it has become an image of a gateway to heaven, rather than the presence of G*D in the paradise of the present.

So often it is true that G*D is present without our knowing it. So are people. Here's a song that will take a little work to get to – "Soul Kiss" by Garnet Rogers.

Go to this link of The Morning Show on Minnesota Public Radio to a RealOne Audio. When you open it slide the time line along to one hour (1:00) and listen.

His story about the song is available at this MySpace Link.

[Note: You may need to get a free download of Real One Player to hear and see these. Windows version or Macintosh version]

Jacob had a "soul kiss" while having his head on a hard rock. Isn't that just the way it is in life?

What would you say constituted a soul kiss for you?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Pentecost +10 – Year A

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

A long time ago, early in our faith growth, while yet babes in faith, we dared not pull weeds among the wheat. So it was -- we waited with evil in our midst, drawing nutrients from the soil that would have produced more and more fruit for the "kingdom".

Fortunately we have grown in the faith, always looking for ways to appropriate science to our own ends. Finally we have mastered the art of targeted herbicides. We can now get rid of those weeds when they poke their heads out of the ground. It won't be long before we will be able to treat the very soil itself to, again, finally rid our fine wheat of those nasty weeds. Yes, finally, a final solution.

Having accomplished this leap for "mankind" we will soon be able to apply it to other contexts. Immigrants will be banished and forbidden. Little pre-evident gay and lesbian children will also be done away with without the need for such public events as weed burning. We will quietly care for these and other matters. Finally, our ancient gift of knowing good from evil will be applicable. We will return to Eden to aid God in ridding this world of sin. With sin gone salvation will be present, with or with out a Jesus intermediary.

So goes a re-telling of this out-dated story. Aren't you glad to be alive in this time so our dominion might be complete? Dominionists arise! Get those weeds now!

Oh, fair warning, those who live by herbicide, die by herbicide. None are pure enough to escape an ever-stricter accounting of who is a weed this week. This is a lesson often too late for the learning.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Pentecost +9 – Year A

A sower
went out
[how natural
it seemed]
[spectres rise
choruses groan]
the sower
some seeds
[how now]
on a path,
birds came
ate them up.
[how were
Hansel and Gretel
to return]
Other seeds
have fallen
on rocky ground,
they did not have
they sprang up
[visions of loveliness
danced in their heads]
since they had no
depth of soil.
when the sun rose,
[a sun
by any name]
they were
[and sent
they had no
[fly away all]
they withered
Other seeds
the horror]
among thorns,
[a briar patch
of home]
the thorns
grew up
[as thorn
will do]
choked them.
Other seeds
[how long
o lord
how long
a song]
on good
can't be
is not all
brought forth
[a new
a new
a trinity]
[miraculous manna
lasting manna
new improved
some a hundredfold,
some sixty,
some thirty.
[some twenty
some ten
some one
some none
blessedly sown
in bird's bellies

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Romans 8:1-11

Pentecost +9 – Year A

Romans 8:1-11

Hooray, Spirit-walkers! Boo, Flesh-walkers!

Aren't you glad that you are in this new family and not that odd old one?

This has been a strange week of dividing this part of the family from that part of the family. The early adapters get perks. But then they, in turn, become the old part that can't keep up with a living, moving, expanding G*D and are left standing on the outside or hardening, and further hardening, the rules to keep themselves perk-ful for at least their generation – the next will have to fend for themselves.

Is it not the case that if Christ is in you that your body becomes alive, regardless of its disability. A healing, if not a curing, goes on and a striving for meaning comes alive. In keeping with anonymous Christ-ians everywhere (who doesn't have Christ within?), it is time for our mortal bodies to come alive – to stop harming; to increase blessing; to deepen relationships. Until we get to a spiritual/religious "Esperanto" we are all anonymous others as well as honored members of our particular tradition.

The very dualism Paul writes about is the downfall of dualism and when we run out of our double, we run out of ourselves. This whole conversation is problematic and it is miraculous that what begins chapter 8 so divisively can end at a spot recognizable and affirmable by all.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Psalm 65

Pentecost +9 – Year A

Psalm 65

Ask G*D, "Who is family?" The Psalmist sees G*D responding, "Creation." Each part wanting to not only play its part, but take on more. There is not only an optimal environmental economy (and that is perceived differently when different values are used as measuring rods), but a rebalancing of too much wind or water in time and space.

The Psalmist perceives G*D's goal to be to find an equalized balance, at least for the moment, when each part sings for joy, together, with the others. Less than joyful singing comes when one perspective or presumptive value trumps the rest.

Here is a brief article, Economy of the Earth, that reflects on how G*D's family of creation can be separated from one another and G*D by market forces and capitalism, that which has an investment in seeing their corner increase in value regardless of other needs. A question before us is that of having the eyes to see "family" in contexts other than human biology. With a clear picture we can identify those parts of the family that hold us back and those parts that call us to move on whether they be economic theologies or Gaian limits.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Genesis 25:19-34

Pentecost +9 – Year A

Genesis 25:19-34

What is the family relationship here? Are either Esau or Jacob any better at being their brother's "keeper" than were Cain and Abel or Jesus and his mother/brothers/sisters?

It is so easy to trick and to give up on one another. I expect that Esau thought he was tricking Jacob, even as Jacob was returning the favor. Family knows all too well the weaknesses of the others. With this power over weakness we manage to take just a little advantage of each other. And, in this case, a little is as good as a mile.

If you were to compare semen with seeds and wombs with soils, what sort of seed did Isaac sow, what kind of soil did Rebekah carry? Lest we get too categorical and deterministic, consider also ovaries and testes. What sort of egg did Rebekah sow, what kind of seminiferous tubules did Isaac carry?

And yourself?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Pentecost +9 – Year A

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Just prior to this passage we have Jesus responding to questions about who is part of his family. If it weren't for the artificiality of chapters and verses we would see Jesus' blood family outside. After redefining family as those who are paying attention to G*D in a similar way to Jesus, he goes outside.

Does he glimpse Mama Mary on the way to the sea? Are his sister or brother able to make their way through the crowd set loose to look him in the eye to see his rejection of them?

For purposes of this note we might wonder about the connection of the sower parable to a continuation of the family insight preceding it. This would push us to the power of the soil ('adam/'adamah – human/humus) to determine the fruitfulness of the seed or breath of life given into its care.

Following back to the Genesis 2-3 story, it is all too easy to read the sower as a story of blame. 3/4 of the seed is focused elseways than the well-being of the seed. This obliviousness to creation care is all too familiar.

This issue of blame/constraint is important in every family structure. What is the long ago heritage of your family? How does that compare with more recent experiences? Where did the breath or seed of life enter in? Can that be reclaimed? What cosmic responsibility have you worn and are you still expanding that or has it been narrowed from fear of others?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Revelation: source or target

Pentecost +8 – Year A

To whom would Jesus choose not to reveal G*D?

NRSV: "and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
The Message: "But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen."

Translational issues are not simply those of moving language A into language B. Here and elsewhere nuance speaks louder than anything else. The larger issue at hand is that of how folks respond to an offer to see more of G*D through the lens of Rabbi Jesus.

Here is a series of videos that adds a bit more to yokes and calls, rabbis and disciples:

Part 1: Rob Bell, "Dust" (part 1)
Part 2: Rob Bell, "Dust" (part 2)

Upshot: you are chosen to receive more of G*D than you thought possible and to pass on to others more of G*D than either of you expected. Receive and Pass It On – so goes the breath of life, so goes the process of revelation.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Romans 7:15-25a

Pentecost +8 – Year A

Romans 7:15-25a

The Message puts it: "What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary."

What Paul seems to have forgotten is that he is created in G*D's image. Do you remember G*D having times of remorse after the flood, promising never to do that again, looking for a reason to repent in Jeremiah 26:3, and regretful of making Saul king? Trust and dealing with the aftermath of mistakes is a big deal for G*D, and for us.

Sometimes G*D blesses and sometimes curses. And so do we. Sometimes blessings are rued and curses were correct. Sometimes not.

Even with all the dangers, would be assisted to move away from language demanding external commands to the more intangible, but ever so real, presence with one another. This will help us define and redefine what it means to be on the winning side, always a desire for validation and comfort? Better dealing with inconsistency and intuition is unlikely to come from the outside, life simply turns much too quickly. The best-intentioned command leaves much to be desired as the world turns. It is inappropriately institutionalized. It operates from a single perspective rather than in 3, 4, or 5-D. It is dissective rather than vivifying.

To party? <---> To fast? Now there's a question.

So what presence (not what command) do you carry into parties? into fasts? so you might be alive in either setting?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Psalm 45:10-17

Pentecost +8 – Year A

Psalm 45:10-17

Hooray! The virgins are coming, the virgins are coming! Hooray!

They are forgetting the context of home that kept them virgins. The virgins are marching toward baby-making!

With no appreciation for what we now know about how sons are developed, the virgin is responsible for the gender of the baby.

All-in-all, after a too-short night trying to get the wrinkles of a new internet provider taken care of, I don't find much here to comment on. It presents an attitude I get some attitude about, but all in all this may be a day for a flight of fancy. I trust you will take one and enjoy the trip.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Pentecost +8 – Year A

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Chapter 1 – female and male created together
Chapter 2 – Eve created from side of Adam
Chapter 12 – Sari and Abram were already together
Chapter 24 – Rebekah comes from a distant well to be by Isaac's side

There is a rhythm of togetherness and separateness that keeps running through the scriptures and our lives. This seems to be part of the nature of creation stories – rhythm.

In the separateness narratives it seems the female is much more interesting as a character. She is described with a better script and at the juncture of plot thickening and development. In light of the Gospel text, the women carry the burdens and release new possibilities as the guys muddle along. Patriarchy may be a compensation for the lesser role. It certainly raises the stakes and makes the female roles all the more significant for the resistance they have to deal with.

Patriarchs are famous for saying "Dance" and "Don't Dance" at the same time. These instructions may stand behind another categorization of females – Harlot and Virgin.

Note how little Isaac has to do with bride selection compared with decisions Rebekah faces and makes.