Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Pentecost +21 – Year A

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

So how would you redact this version of 10 commanding words?

Are the many more words about idolatry and Sabbath than the other commands needed because these are necessarily more complex and subtle than the rest? Can we really simplify these or do they need more said about them because of the little ways they can be subverted?

Wherever you come out on that matter, the harder questions are those at the end. Are you comforted by Moses' response urging us to have no fear because this is only a test to see how fearful (awe-full) we can get? I suspect that their rejoinder to Moses may well have been, "O, right!, there's no reason for us to be afraid, its only a test we can't pass. How could we have been so foolish – Not! We're still afraid!"

This response seems to be implicit because of the way the story proceeds to The Lord going on to give law upon law. And, I suspect, that the Israelites would have been corroborated in their fear - "Who, now, can do anything without going down in flames? Ten we could deal with, but hundreds?!"

During these days of Rosh Hashanah it might be good to remember the principle of a Selichot Prayer and its revelation of mercy before, after, and during a test.

In light of steadfast love and mercy, failure can be borne.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Matthew 21:33-46

Pentecost +21 – Year A

Matthew 21:33-46

Stones at hand to throw. Stones aplenty to stumble over. Stones to build a watchtower and good-neighbor fences.

Wealth desire more profit while it at ease, off and about. In this sense the wealthy are a stumbling stone. Given what is deemed to be sufficient cause, wealth will come down like a juggernaut to crush its stoners.

The question of response to the initial scene is crucial. Are market forces and the divine-right of wealth the standards of measurement for relationships? Is there any other credible response than a killing-for-a-killing that the current rich might continue so? If there are, in what way might they also contain a see that, over time, will grow into a stumbling stone of another color?

In light of economic issues in the news, here is a column I found helpful by Jim Taylor. It's permalink (http://edges.canadahomepage.net/2008/09/28/459/) will be available later - How else might you link this Jesus story with today's events?

= = = = = = =

Sunday September 28, 2008


I’ll be fine. Really, I will. Enough of my investments survived the recent stock market roller coaster that I can probably live reasonably comfortably for the rest of my life.

But I may have to die five years sooner than I had planned.

Do I sound bitter? I should. I’m bitter about the hypocrisy of governments that profess faith in the free market process and then refuse to let the free market apply its own consequences for fraud and mismanagement.

I’m furious at corporations that treat the public as a bottomless pit of suckers who can be exploited for investment capital, then milked for bailouts when those investments go sour.

I’m outraged at regulatory bodies that invite corporate entities -- anything from an international importer to a national food processor to a rural municipality -- to cut corners to balance their bottom line, by reducing inspections.

On the other hand, I’m grateful I don’t live in the United States where I have to pay taxes to a federal government that has squandered my money shamefully on wars built on lies and bailouts built on cronyism.


But if I were an American taxpayer, here’s what I would have to conclude.

American banks loaned my savings to the mortgage companies. The mortgage companies competed to loan my savings to people who couldn’t afford to buy a house but who were led to believe that they couldn’t lose if the price of houses kept soaring.

Then, still using my money, the banks and mortgage lenders conspired to bundle those iffy mortgages into something they could sell as a sure thing because it was backed by real property. And the hedge funds used more of my money to buy up those toxic investments.

And when the whole pyramid scheme imploded, federal authorities want to use my money once again to bail out the companies that made all those dubious decisions.

Were I an American taxpayer, I’d have to conclude that I got screwed at least three times. Perhaps more.

Because even if I personally kept my nose clean, my credit above water, and my liabilities low, I would still owe around $37,000 as my per capita share of the $11.6 trillion that my government has gone into hock.


Since Ronald Reagan, a series of Republican administrations has steadily promoted the ideology that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness depend on a free market economy.

As an outsider, I see them implementing this conviction through tax cuts and the reduction of government interference in businesses’ business of making a profit.

Tragically, Stephen Harper’s government in Canada has bought into the same mindset. Right now, he’s going around the country assuring voters that if you want to feel confident the country is in good hands, entrust it to the party that will mimic the policies that brought the world’s strongest economy to its knees.

Here in Canada, that mindset led to the Walkerton tainted water disaster, after Mike Harris slashed Ontario’s inspection services.

In the U.S., those policies produced the Enron and World.com crashes, the collapse of the Arthur Anderson accounting empire, and finally the sub-prime mortgage fiasco.

Now George Bush and the Treasury are lobbying to shore up their devastated economy with another $700 billion -- and maybe more -- in handouts.

Effectively, good ol’ free-enterprise George has socialized the U.S. credit industry.


At least this disaster has brought the true Republican principles into the open -- privatize profits, socialize losses.

If you can pillage natural resources, rape the ecosystems, slaughter your opposition, and abandon your wastes for future generations to deal with, you’re entitled to claim any loot you can acquire as a legitimate return on investment.

But if, perchance, your emulation of Attila the Hun should backfire, you’re entitled to be compensated for your losses by the people you pillaged, raped, slaughtered, and abandoned.

Yes, you’re damn right I’m angry.

But don’t label me a socialist. I’ve been a freelance writer and editor for 27 years now. I helped to found and co-owned an independent publishing company for 15 years. I haven’t had a regular pay cheque for ten years.

I quit sucking the teat of a great mother corporation 40 years ago -- although I still occasionally envy the pension plan that rewards those who stuck it out to the end.

But if I had to choose between the bureaucracy of government-run liquor stores, for example, and the crack cocaine dealers who peddle their products on street corners, I’d take the government operation any time.

At least they are accountable. To someone.

In theory, the corporations whose greed has tipped the world’s economy into red alert are also accountable. If not to the government, at least to their shareholders.

But the shareholders were never told what those companies were doing to inflate the value of their shares. According to some news reports, not even the executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, of Lehman and Merrill Lynch, realized how deep in trouble their firms were. Until it was too late.

Now those shareholders find that their equity has plummeted.


It’s said that alcoholics cannot begin to recover from their addiction until they hit bottom.

I’m afraid that the U.S. economy has not yet hit bottom. Because I see no sign that the people who run that economy have learned anything from their experience.

They are still protecting the CEOs, the managers, the corporate interests. They are still bailing out the bad decisions, the gambles, the fiscal flimflams. By analogy to the alcoholic, they are still in denial.

At least when a drug pusher screws up, he goes to jail. Or gets shot by his rivals.

The corporate and government leaders who got us into this mess will come out of it with gold-plated pensions and/or severance packages.

Thanks a lot, George.

Copyright © 2008 by Jim Taylor.
Non-profit use in congregations and study groups permitted; all other rights reserved.

Friday, September 26, 2008

by what authority

Pentecost +20 – Year A

by what authority
will you force a rock
to give up its water
to return to creation
and a separation
land from water

by what authority
will you force an audience
to hear old old old stories
miraculous in their day
even more so in ours
to reshape expectations

by what authority
will your force yourself
to be emptied of gifts given
and turn to others
even Jesus
to empty them

so soon the emptiness
the chaos the deep
falls and rises again
calling for utmost care
and diligent energy
binding will to work

by what authority
will you force a change
upon mind and belief
and move your yes to no
and no to yes
and all beyond both

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Philippians 2:1-13

Pentecost +20 – Year A

Philippians 2:1-13

The love of Christ is personal in that it makes a difference in me and communal it that that difference is to be joined with others (one another in a faith community and neighbors everywhere). The humility required by this keeps us "reverent and sensitive before God" [The Message].

This communal expression of the experience of love is a measure of our soul, of salvation wholeness. Always reverence and sensitivity are on the edge of fear and trembling for experience is just that way.

To put this in the context of the current predictable economic situation eventuating from a market-only approach to life you may be interested in the first News Brief in the latest TCP Nexus -- reflections by the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

Pentecost +20 – Year A

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

We tell old, old stories for a variety of reasons. One of them is that of reclaiming the joy of an overwhelming experience that it might inform the darkness of a present confusion.

Who knows how close to the experience came the first interpretation? Well, no one. But, as time has progressed we have found ourselves circling back to the stories until we can just tick them off. We put our fingertips together and intone, "True." In some sense we have become as trapped by our archetypes as we are set free by them.

in Zoanland and in the sea
with cloud and fiery pillar
through rocks that weep
we rehearse limits and leap horizons

Our old stories are made new with each experience and our new stories morph into old. From every direction wonder abounds for those ready to hear and tell stories old and new, ready to chew on parables and pictures beyond words. May these old chestnuts not trap us in reverie, but set us free to wonder, "Why not" and proceed to find out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Exodus 17:1-7

Pentecost +20 – Year A

Exodus 17:1-7

The Mayo Clinic says the symptoms of dehydration are:

Mild to moderate dehydration is likely to cause:
• Dry, sticky mouth
• Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
• Thirst
• Decreased urine output — fewer than six wet diapers a day for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens
• Few or no tears when crying
• Muscle weakness
• Headache
• Dizziness or lightheadedness

Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:
• Extreme thirst
• Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
• Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
• Lack of sweating
• Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be dark yellow or amber
• Sunken eyes
• Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn't "bounce back" when pinched into a fold
• In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby's head
• Low blood pressure
• Rapid heartbeat
• Fever
• In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

Unfortunately, thirst isn't always a reliable gauge of the body's need for water, especially in children and older adults. A better barometer is the color of your urine: clear or light-colored urine means you're well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration.

= = = = = = =

So were the Israelites dehydrated or not? Only their urine knows. Perhaps they simply still trying to work out the effects of generations of slavery – impotence?

Since they have not had any power with which to effect their circumstances, muttering and complaining rise to an art form. We know what to do with a drunken sailor, but not what to do with a complaining people. In these kinds of stressful situations and these kinds of enslaved minds and hearts a time of testing is unavoidable. If it weren't over water in the desert, it would certainly be the next deviation or delay from being noticeably one day closer to a promised land. Everyone knows it don't take no forty years to move from Egypt to Canaan. A series of complaints, when it appears the journey is going to be longer than anticipated, is to be expected.

This is a situation that cries out for assurance. The question about whether G*D is with us or not presupposes our ability to be able to make that discernment. Unfortunately we have a conflict of interest that arises with this question – we expect that G*D will bring us fortune and if there is no evidence of that, on our terms, then, obviously, G*D is not with us, is dead or, at least, missing in action.

In today's world there are many who are thirsty, at least are able to claim they are, and who need assurance – a key theological need in troubling times.

For now we leave it with a humble recasting of the question: If G*D is not immediately evident to us, is G*D absent?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Matthew 21:23-32

Pentecost +20 – Year A

Matthew 21:23-32

By what authority are you living?

This is not a comparative question. It is looking for a declaration. A comparable question is, "Who do you say I am?" Again, not a question looking for a comparison or a counting of the ways.

When this question is parsed, it isn't long before fears and confusions set in. Then it isn't long before we deny the very authority we had.

To further exemplify this authority question comes a test questions that appears to be either/or – a question about will-doing that is different from well-doing.

When we are within a healthy creative authority we aren't so quick to answer an either/or. We, rather, ask a question or two in return before responding [contrast "respond" with "answer".]

In the case of this question about will-doing, we want to know more about the nature of the "father". The presenting question about "will" isn't self-evident. Is obedience the key to "will" in this case? Is John the Baptist equitable with the "father"? Is there another anticipated encounter between "father and sons"?

We have the authority needed to lay down our lives and to pick them up. We have the authority to change for the better. We have all the authority we need. Our question is whether we are bold enough to enact it – to be a prophet connected with other prophets to move the status quo ahead. In responding to our question we find our health (salvation and blessing) working toward wider health, larger salvation, and stronger blessing.

= = =

John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, in their book In Search of Paul: How Jesus's Apostle Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom, comment on "Spirit":

"In itself, Spirit or spirit is clear enough as the invisible glue that holds any group together around some past memory, present purpose, or future project. It is what turns a collectivity of people into a community of commitment either permanently or temporarily. It manifests itself in what that community thanks, says, and does; plans, decides, and accepts; believes, hopes, and loves. Everything thereafter depends on the content of that Spirit. And if you speak of a Holy Spirit, everything depends on the nature of that holiness. Finally, if you invoke the Spirit of God, everything depends on the character of that God.

"You can insist, with Paul, that God's Spirit is a charis, a grace, a free gift like, for example, air or gravity. From those analogies, God's Spirit is that which you can neither create by your own action nor deserve by your own virtue. But it is also permanently available for anyone and demands only that you accept it freely and cooperate with it fully. But, even so, you still have to face this question: What is the character of that God whose Spirit has overtaken you as a free gift?"

Friday, September 19, 2008

periodic reset

Pentecost +19 – Year A

periodic reset

what a story it was
everyone paid the same
regardless of energy output
community built
vocational understanding

what an experience
the most pressing hunger
is released
old bread remembered in manna
lamb stew flies in on quail wings
complaints are quelled

what a remembrance
first-thought loot
turns out to not be much
a surprise river
watered rocky ground
dried out lives

what a purpose
assurance of joy tomorrow
so strong
today can be risked
suffering for trust
for both our sakes

what a reset
coming after
every other try
has worn us out
turned us inside out
ready to create again

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Philippians 1:20-30

Pentecost +19 – Year A

Philippians 1:20-30

The Message has it that "suffering is as much a gift as the trusting."

Reading backward from here we are able to strive, side-by-side, toward another gift – faith.

Reading further backward - faith perseveres, joyfully progresses.

All of this points to unending fruitful labor, regardless. There is no pie-in-the-sky desired here, only continuation with one another, growing in trust with one another and with G*D.

For some this reading backward is more helpful than reading forward. Try it both ways and see which better clarifies your own life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

Pentecost +19 – Year A

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

Were a hurricane, typhoon, or exodus bearing down upon you what would be your first choice to carry with you. Particularly given the recent news about Lehman Brothers and AIG you might want gold and jewels for the journey. They could be used to buy food and water.

Forgetting geography for the moment and where one might travel to from Egypt without a desert wilderness experience, gold and jewels might be a good choice. As it was and is an extra tuckerbag or bota might come in handier.

Thank goodness G*D is a covenant rememberer. Such a steadfast lover becomes a much needed deus ex machina.

What are you remembering these days? Might your own convoluted life become "a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty"? Remember well that you might actually be an integral part to deal with an intractable problem that later generations will laud as the improbable strikes again. Remember, in these earlier times when the nature of improbability was less well understood, it was not appreciated that any event that is infinitely improbable will, by definition, occur almost immediately.1

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Exodus 16:2-15

Pentecost +19 – Year A

Exodus 16:2-15

Where two or three are agreed, ask! See what happens when a whole company asks!

Apparently the half-life of blessings is just a tad longer than that of plagues.

All too soon we forget. It will only take folks 6 days to forget what to do on the 7th. After a plague is released we seem to immediately return to what was our normal and reverse any learning that had gone on.

Yet, big lie memes seems to catch so quickly and last forever. What is a thoughtful person to do?

Following is a comment I made a year and a half ago on "mercy", that can easily be translated as "manna" (and aren't we still wondering what mercy is). Are two or three of us crying out for mercy or have we left it in G*D's hands, forgetting our imaging responsibilities?

"We cry out for mercy. When asked about a consequence of receiving same it is so easy to start bargaining, talking about works that one will do in response. You give me mercy and I'll do whatever you say. Give me mercy and I'll hedge myself round with the law so I will never have to ask for mercy again.

"The more difficult route is to receive mercy and humbly ask for more. This presumes that there is not a static juridical balance point for blind justice. Receiving mercy is to live boldly again, not to hide away in respectability. Receiving mercy is to pass mercy on, not handy one-liner proverbs or aphorisms. Receiving mercy is to see one's secret heart, to know creation is good, and to experience the spirit of the law. Yes, to be law-observant or dutiful is a minor virtue. To live mercy is the better part of virtue.

"On this last point check out the whole Charles Wesley Hymn based on Psalm 116 or hear a shortened version with music at CyberHymnal."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Matthew 20:1-6

Pentecost +19 – Year A

Matthew 20:1-6

The Presence of G*D is generosity expressed to a fault.

More could be said; a multitude of stories told to exemplify this intentionality that runs from creation to eternity.

But more can't be said and one more story won't make it any more or less true.

Our response seems to be less an image of G*D than anti-G*D. Given half a chance our envy and stinginess comes to the fore. We try to hard to control the blessings by focusing on our work and diligently attempt to deflect rejection by limiting G*D's options. In each and both cases we want not only our own, but to have our own be the most.

It would seem that a better response to generosity is humility. A simple thank-you to be able to witness generosity applied liberally prepares us to participate in being generous for no reason at all. Any other response keeps us from learning and re-learning and expanding our learning of this key quality of life.

For those in the American political scene, take a step back from the negative ads and ask some questions about generosity of heart. Perhaps "your heart will tell you as my heart has told me" that at this point the Republican presidential candidates have more to learn than the Democratic. May they both grow more generous with the last, lone, least and move away from those whose outsize expectations lobby for restrictions on generosity for the benefit of societies first privileged.

Friday, September 12, 2008

early mercy

Pentecost +18 – Year A

be merciful
or else

and so we learn
unmercy first

for surely there is an option
to simple mercy

and we try each in turn
putting mercy off

until it becomes
such a mercy we do

like an Olympic pole vaulter
we pass at each mercy height

waiting for a personal best or heroic act
for a mercy what is a mercy

we exhaust our humility
to be the most merciful

when a little early mercy
is all that is needed

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Romans 14:1-12

Pentecost +18 – Year A

Romans 14:1-12

If we do not live to ourselves or die to ourselves. How do we keep falling short of community between the faith generations – those who have had faith for a long time and those just creeping into it? Forgiveness between these generations is important and seldom seen.

A Baylor University series in faith and ethics on Forgiveness has several interesting articles. In particular, turn to page 29 for Thomas Long's piece, "To Err is Human; To Forgive . . .?" ["The New Testament is always calling us to do what we cannot do. No, we ourselves cannot forgive, but as we strive to forgive we are given God’s forgiveness as a gift. We are not called to create forgiveness; that is beyond us. We are called instead to participate in a forgiveness given to us as a gift."]

Our experience is the passing of judgment upon one another, not the participation in a larger forgiveness. Let's continue working toward Frame of Reference 2.0 and beyond.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21

Pentecost +18 – Year A

Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21

Do you remember the biggest moral equivalent of a "roadside bomb"? – God and Moses and the Red Sea!

How did you first react to this passage? With joy because you identified with trapped Israelites? With sorrow because of the insanity of persecution?

Have you kept to your first reading or have you found another perspective from which to view such events?

Miriam dances her response? How would you use your body to demonstrate your response?

Was it for such an event as this that cloud and fire had led the Israelites? Are we again proving a God's need for praise? demonstrating the essential weakness of a chosen people needing saving, time after time?

When there is no Truth and Reconciliation process forgiveness is not forthcoming. New life is held in abeyance. So threats continue to be made, lacking any wisdom or different model. In response, a defensive action becomes offensive. And we are set up for further conflict internal (golden calves and rampaging death) and external (seeing giants and committing genocide).

This praise doesn't last all that long. Moses who used a staff to beat water into rock will soon be baited into beating a rock into water. Neither of these grand actions move the story along, we are kept in a retributive and reactive mode.

Let's find something larger to sing about.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Exodus 14:19-31

Pentecost +18 – Year A

Exodus 14:19-31

Moses baptized those Egyptian charioteers "real good." That perspective is questionable from many directions.

With that silliness aside, remember that Moses not only dealt with water that rock might be revealed, but, later, dealt with rock that water might be revealed. We are always finding balancing points.

What needs to be passed on from this "saving"? Yesterday we heard that forgiveness (a kind of saving/healing) was to beget more forgiveness. How might ways be opened for those who are finding themselves no less trapped than the Israelites of old? Is there an economic component to this "saving" for those whose job has moved? Is there a political component for political theories (such as the liberal or progressive which has taken such a PR beating in the last generation or third-party platforms) to be revived? Is there a racial or gender or sexual orientation component that hangs on long after legislation was to have done away with it or in the face of legislation further marginalizing a people? Is there an educational component in the face of cultural boredom?

By and large, none of the Abrahamic religions have done well in expanding salvation past their own self-interest. How are you doing on a personal level?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Matthew 18:21-35

Pentecost +18 – Year A

Matthew 18:21-35

To reveal what is going on in the church it is helpful to take a look at another system and reflect it back into the church setting. A part of the reason this is so helpful is the lack of perspective we so often have on our own junk.

When it comes to forgiveness, Jesus looks at a most unforgiving system – the power system of the day. This is still a good thing to do in our day. In the United States of America the political season is nearing the championship game (and as long as we frame it athletically it will continue to devolve). Many a speech has said no more than, "My Friends . . . God bless America" [kudos to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart for this observation] and it is this lack of standards that allows power to do what power wants to do - it is not even held accountable to its own words, which it changes to get what it wants because most folks don't pay attention enough to remember how the opposite was just posited and then denied.

Forgiveness, as simply forgiveness, is, on its own merits alone, eternally elusive. Our resistance to forgiveness and desire for power seem to require a punishment if forgiveness is not forthcoming. Without the extra motivation of fear of retribution, we don't seem to engage forgiveness with our lives and the lives of others. We keep missing the essential simplicity of, "forgive." Our resistance to receiving and/or giving forgiveness leads to forever parsing out when forgiveness is appropriate. The best question that can be asked at this point is, "when is forgiveness not appropriate?"

If you respond that forgiveness is not appropriate for those who have been forgiven and then don't forgive, you've missed the point.

Friday, September 05, 2008

moving toward we

Pentecost +17 – Year A

moving toward we

if another sins
against you

if you sin
against another

what is good
for goose and gander

want some slack
loosen your noose

want accountability
tighten your disciplines

in this and every

comes a struggle
for freedom

comes a wrestling
with death

comes an encounter
with love's debt

willing for night
to pass

waiting for light's

a finishing touch

sin of all

sin of any

no longer
three against one

death's angels
pause their strike

as a puppet
grins and counts

five ways
we agree

you love being you
I love being me

I love you
you love me

and sometimes
we both even love

being we

[last 5 stanzas taken from Judy Fjell's delightful song, "Gee I am Glad I am Me" on her wonderful CD Living on Dreams]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Romans 13:8-14

Pentecost +17 – Year A

Romans 13:8-14

When you add up all the "don't"s, they reveal a larger "do" – do love others as well as you do yourself.

Why not focus on the "don't"s? Won't that show your steely resolve to resist temptation? Isn't that the ultimate character test that proves leadership qualities?

No, because the negative of a proposition only carries with it power, not wisdom or life. It is better to affirm the larger purpose of bringing life to one another. To make it through one more day holding an addiction or threat at bay is laudable and common wisdom has it that this is a workable model in our day. But looked at through the eyes of fasting, we'd best have our eye on a larger picture and in its light we take a smaller part.

While "don't"s and "do"s can certainly be seen as complementary that may be experience and personality driven, a distinction of hierarchy and movement is crucial to our participation in life. Let's not mistake a curmudgeon or pessimist for one lacking a larger "do" picture. To confuse surface response and depth of understanding is not helpful.

We can posit that only having a "don't" approach leaves one self-absorbed and exhausted, ready to repeatedly fall off the wagon. It needs an affirmation within which the "don't" can make sense and express grace. Likewise, having only a "do" direction leaves one vulnerable to naivety and disillusionment. It needs the discipline of "don't" for clarity's sake. Our religious culture tends to desire an emphasis upon "don't" and our Jesus spirit leans toward "do". One's orientation in this regard is important.

To temper power with wisdom and energize wisdom, we need a picture larger than fact or truth – a vision of a better tomorrow connected to better living today. G*D and ourselves are putting some finishing touches on a larger wholeness than we have so far known. This takes a deft touch informed by looking at "do"s while knowing there will need to be some practical "don't"s along the way. Anything else will cause too broad a stroke and a smudge.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Psalm 149

Pentecost +17 – Year A

Psalm 149

It is all the Lord's doing! Whether or not two or three agree and use Jesus' name to seal their agreement, kings will be fettered and decreed judgment executed.

The Lord's exultation of the humble is not only the Lord's glory, but a glory we can bask in. We are just so grateful that we were blessed to see it happen and give witness back to the Lord about how great the Lord is!

To move away from such subversive thoughts, let us return to the Gospel lesson for the day. In this light, we might paraphrase the psalmist:

Praise the two or three agreed in Jesus' name! Sing to them a new song, let their assembly rejoice G*D.

Let the Church be glad in its prophets; let the Alumni of the Church rejoice in these models.

Let G*D dance and sing and make melody, let angels get their wings, in the presence of listening and agreement.

For the Church takes pleasure in Jesus' modeling of "yes", making healthy mediators through remembrance.

Let G*D exult and sing for joy, everywhere.

Let high praise of the prophets be quick to G*D awareness and a listening ear open to cries of injustice,

to be quick to forgive and continue saving even the untrustworthy and cruel,

binding King Fear and Queen Shame,

to bring a steadfast love proclaimed from afar and ago. This is glory that is glory. Praise where it is due.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Exodus 12:1-14

Pentecost +17 – Year A

Exodus 12:1-14

Have you marked a first month for the rest of your life? Not only do we remember the first month the Israelite community, we are now in Ramadan begun again. These are lunar holidays, not solar. Their perpetualness is enhanced by the peripatetic nature of a maddening moon going its own way, marching contrary to the regularity of evenings and mornings. The moveable nature of these months makes intentionality all the more important. We have to plan more for them. They interrupt all our other plans.

What are you to do when a whole nation and its power is against you? Clarify the needed change and affirm your basis of authority. Say, "No." Say, "Let people go." Say, "Past, Present, and Future Life is calling."

Let us continue to be about the business of loosing (never again slavery) and binding (ritual to remember loosing).

To best be about this business of setting people free, attention to the realities of beginnings is important. A danger of ritualizing beginnings is that the on-the-ground pain is covered in a patina of glory. The whole Exodus story goes back to a Pharaoh who forgot. We need rituals that help us remember the whole story and not just a dramatic moment.

In election times there are a lot of attempts to define the starting place from whence we can arrive at a solution being offered. Pay attention to political theatre to see if you agree with their assessment of the issues. Who best gets the "set people free" bumper-sticker? Note that it usually has something to do with the reigning economic paradigm. Pharaoh wanted to continue being on the top of his wealth gap over others, even if that meant their enslavement to the economy of his day. My current assessment is that John McCain best fits the Pharaoh model and Barack Obama better sees the disaster coming and how best to deal with it. This is not a pronouncement, but an attempt to remember our history and actually apply it to the issues of the day. How do you see your situation in light of your history?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Matthew 18:15-20

Pentecost +17 – Year A

Matthew 18:15-20

If another member of the church sins against you – work it out by outnumbering them and putting them in a bad PR position. Where you are working this plan your "two or three greater than that one" will have Jesus among you.

Consider for a moment those times when it isn't a member of the church sinning against you, but the whole of the church. What then?

This is the position many find themselves in on one identity issue after another. First it was the Jerusalem part of the church against gentiles. All too quickly it began focusing on gender and social position (slavery) and race and currently includes sexual orientation.

In this instance the only part of this Ann Landers / Miss Manners advice that holds up is the identity part of it – let your "yes" be "yes".