Friday, November 28, 2008


Advent 1 – Year B

to wait
not to wait

reasonable question
unreasonable times




Thursday, November 27, 2008

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Advent 1 – Year B

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

"You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ."


Then why this felt distance from heaven come on earth?
Then why this experienced distance from one another?

Our love of G*D isn't yet will all we are and have.
Our love of Neighbor isn't yet comparable to our own survival.

Our image of G*D doesn't yet include ourself.
Our image of Neighbor doesn't yet include G*D.

How then are we not lacking any gift (deleting the spiritual limitation is helpful here) while actively waiting for a desired revelation? If we are not lacking such an insight into the universe, is it our implementation that is awry?

This excused out from our original affirmation doesn't altogether satisfy as surely there is a gift of gift-implementation included in our bag of tricks. What are we to do with this bold statement?

Give thanks that the needed gifts are present, are able to built with and upon them. A primordial soup can be restirred, even at this late date.

Give thanks that not even a carb-overload nap will erode your gifts, only delay their use. A choice to eat in moderation, allowing left-overs their day, and to walk and talk with each other is still within reach.

Give thanks that a gift of giving-thanks is not lacking. Use it frequently. It will open other gifts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Advent 1 – Year B

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Restore us, let your face shine.

This appeal to G*D is a refrain in this Psalm and precursor to "Come, Loving Jesus".

We can think about Jesus as being a face of G*D. By extension we can consider sisters and brothers of Jesus as a face of G*D. Sometimes even the church can be seen as a face of G*D. More times than we might think, all manner of surprising people are recognizable as a face of G*D.

That progression from Jesus to followers to institution to others is a journey, a pilgrimage, a process of entering deeper and deeper into what holds us together. To set any of those off with special brackets around it, makes us more and more superficial, with a center that will not hold.

Restoration is a process worth waiting and working for. Restoration encourages us to continue tip-toeing into Advent, waiting more deeply and working longer. Can you catch a glimpse of yourself participating in a needed restoration and encouraging others – letting your face shine upon those who might also be restorative agents?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Isaiah 64:1-9

Advent 1 – Year B

Isaiah 64:1-9

We desperately yearn for a better future to break in. This is not just a vague expectation of some change making some change that might lead somewhere better. This is a deep desire for things to be made right.

Then we pause to consider what that would do to everything we know how to do. Whoa. We are where we are because of who we are. To change the rules mid-stream would be disaster for us. What would we do without our iniquities; be they large or small?

Yet, if it takes our joining whatever new version of the CCC might be, we are still willing to go that route. We'll start at the bottom again as long as due consideration of a better future in the present would be given. It's that infernal and eternal silence that bugs us. In its face we keep on being who we are, waiting for a great mechanism to fly by and wave a wand o'er us.

As partners of G*D we might also posit that we are the potter and we are the clay. We have the authority to make the changes we know deep down G*D would make. Might we lovingly work on one another to reshape our presence into that better future that attracts and scares us. Might we?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mark 13:24-37

Advent 1 – Year B

Mark 13:24-37

Wasn't it just yesterday we tried to talk ourselves into celebrating "Christ the King"? Today we are looking beyond a king, looking forward to the arrival of a Star Child larger than the sky – like the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

If you want to be reminded of that movie here are two places to look: and

Look where you will, even at a lowly fig tree, and you will see intimations of a future generation contained within a present generation. Watch for three hours or three days or three years, you will catch a glimpse of this resurrectional transformation. Watch it come even as you go about your daily work.

As a bonus, here are two comments from a Girardian perspective that help us watch in a helpful direction, to avoid the power and wrath trip so easily seen on the surface of this pericope. What will be unveiled as you watch the death of one time and the birth of a next?

"Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, has a section entitled "Apocalypse" at the outset of his book, pp. 14-16. It has to do with the very title of his book:

"The word "apocalypse" means "unveiling." What, then, is veiled, the unveiling of which can have apocalyptic consequences? The answer is: violence. Veiled violence is violence whose religious or historical justifications still provide it with an aura of respectability and give it a moral and religious monopoly over any "unofficial" violence whose claim to "official" status it preempts. Unveiled violence is apocalyptic violence precisely because, once shorn of its religious and historical justifications, it cannot sufficiently distinguish itself from the counter-violence it opposes. Without benefit of religious and cultural privilege, violence simply does what unveiled violence always does: it incites more violence. In such situations, the scope of violence grows while the ability of its perpetrators to reclaim that religious and moral privilege diminishes. The reciprocities of violence and counter-violence threaten to spin completely out of control."

And . . .

"Robert Hamerton-Kelly, The Gospel and the Sacred, pp. 35-40. (Hamerton-Kelly's commentary on Mark, written from the perspective of Girardian "mimetic theory" will be a constant over the next year.) H-K begins his commentary on Mark's gospel at chapter 11, the confrontation with the institutions of the Sacred centered around the Temple in Jerusalem. Ch. 13 brings Jesus' teachings regarding these institutions to a climax as he predicts their collapse. It is a mixture of general apocalyptic language about judgment day with more specific references to the fall of Jerusalem and the Jewish-Roman War. H-K lays this out nicely. Most notable, I think, is his closing paragraph (p. 40):

"It is remarkable that among all the apocalyptic imagery of this discourse there is not one claim, that the tribulations to befall humanity in the messianic apocalyptic history and the ultimate eschaton are expressions of the vengeance of God. Rather, the suffering is to be caused by wars, frauds, charlatans, natural catastrophes, misunderstandings and persecutions. These are the sadly predictable human failings that cause human misery without any divine intervention. In fact, the one clear reference to divine intervention has God shortening the tribulation for the sake of his elect. There is, therefore, a significant omission of the divine vengeance from a traditional apocalyptically styled passage, and that confirms our thesis that the generative energy of the Gospel is the opposite of the Sacred. Even though traditional imagery is used, the traditional content has been modified so as to remove the idea of the divine wrath and vengeance. The wrath is the suffering we inflict on ourselves and each other within the order of the GMSM. [Note: H-K's "GMSM" is an acronym he uses for: Generative Mimetic Scapegoating Mechanism.]"

- - - - - - -

So what are you watching for? You'll probably see it. This Advent season are you willing to watch for violence revealed and redeem it?

Friday, November 21, 2008

gone . . . forward

Pentecost Last – Year A

another year done gone
365 pleas of "come" have gone

come, come, come,
weary and sore distressed;
come, come, come,
come and rest.

the snake has eaten
its tail again and again
rolling on and on
so sad, so free

can we hope again
go through this
one more time
anticipated disappointment

mission accomplished
stated with kingly boldness
doesn't suffice the need
of moment or era

may we be clearer
in what we are waiting for
not a harking back
but a deeper investment

being a cup of water
offering daily bread
living with "those" and any
we sustain and are sustained

a transition resolution
not "come" but "thanks"
recognizing beauty present
and sending it forward

- - - - - - -

Note: hymn referenced found at cyberhymnal

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ephesians 1:11-23

Pentecost Last – Year A

Ephesians 1:11-23

"…we [sheep], who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you [goats] also, when you had heard the word of truth…."

Your faith in the Lord Jesus – Commandment 1
your love toward all – Comandment 2
fulfill the law and prophets.

From verses 12-13 and 15 we find a point of larger working together rather than a final solution for those who have tasted the fruit of good and evil and enjoyed the evil, poisonous seed more than the sweet flesh.

May we see what we are called to – an immense and glorious way of life growing from an extravagance of trust and bringing forth endless energy, boundless strength (a gleaning of The Message, verses 17-19).

How much damage to the "original" has been done by this cherry-picking proof-texting?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Psalm 100

Pentecost Last – Year A

Psalm 100

(The Message – non-holy-pronoun version)
1-2 On your feet now – applaud God!
     Bring a gift of laughter,
     sing yourselves into God's presence.
3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
     God made us; we didn't make God.
     We're God's people, God's well-tended sheep.
4 Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
     Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
     Thank God. Worship God.
5 For God is sheer beauty,
     all-generous in love,
     loyal always and ever.

When we get past the judgment, the wrath, the division in our life together there is another picture to be seen, another reality in which to dance. This Psalm is a balance point to many of these end-of-year passages.

For those who respond better to avoiding risks, listen to the threat of a final accounting and change your ways.

For those who respond better to attracting hope, listen to the laughter of already being at home and change your ways.

However you arrive, may you find yourself better than you were.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ezekiel 34:11-24

In the sheep/goat model it is helpful to hear even finer distinctions being made. G*D can spot a sheep in goat's clothing. Even sheep come in different guises - "fat" and "thin". Even then there is a quality behind size - justice.

Here in a last week of our liturgical year we pause to reflect on our weight. Too heavy? Too thin? Must not have had your daily minimum requirement of justice. This is not just a personal reflection but one of family, religious judicatory, nation and environment. Too heavy? Too thin? Enough justice?

Since my "sheep within a sheep" detector is relatively unsophisticated, "justice for all" is probably still a helpful mantra.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Matthew 25:31-46

A difference between blessed and cursed stereotypes is a slippery one. No, it's not a difference in lanolin.

Blessings flow toward us and our response choice is to be thankful and pass the blessing on or to be thankful and hold on to it as long as possible. This is the slipperiness of holiness - to receive a blessing with thanksgiving and send it further along.

Whatever religious techniques we come up with to extend a blessing's presence, turns out to be counter-productive. At issue is not how much can be given away, but how easy it becomes to share that which is available.

Although the focus here is upon judgment, the larger dynamic is about passing a slippery blessing on - regardless of any judgment from any source. This shifts the conversation from a quantitizing consciousness to a qualitizing unconciousness. We use the externals to practice on but the game comes down to the internals that allow the externals to expand without increasing volitional energy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ordinary Waiting

Pentecost +27 – Year A

The Sacrament of Waiting
Macrina Wiederkehr

she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
then the orange, yellow, and red
finally she let go of her brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky
she began her vigil of trust.

Shedding her last leaf
she watched its journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the color of emptiness,
her branches wondering;
How do you give shade with so much gone?

And then,
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
they kept her hope alive.

They helped her understand that
her vulnerability,
her dependence and need,
her emptiness,
her readiness to receive
were giving her a new kind of beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.

Source: unknown – found on Inward/Outward

= = = = = = =

It is this sense of a sacrament of waiting I have been waiting for as we close another church year. Instead, we get an appeal to the base – wrath today, wrath, tomorrow, wrath forever. How does this poem relate to your reading of the "parables" we have been dealing with?

From another perspective, we might compare the pericopes at the end of the church year to the Japanese mono no aware and ask about how this transition to Advent can help us look at these passages. To get a feel for this check out the simple Wikipedia page and Flicker.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

We are enlightened folk who are not surprised at the timing and strength of labor pains. We know there are issues which cannot be side-stepped, only lived through. The consequences of past behavior do come around whether early or late, for this or subsequent generations.

Since we are enlightened we are aware that wrath is not a destiny worth pursuing, but a healthy wholeness is. Whether we are discouraged or sensing a brighter dawn is ahead, we are encouraged and encouraging. To move beyond wrath we pay attention to building each other up. Integral to this is a hope that our vision of a preferred future continues to be mutually refocused until we experience a thinning between today and tomorrow. At that point - future touches present, heaven comes on earth, an energized community is encouraged to put wrath down and deal with what is rather than what might be projected.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Psalm 123

Mercy is indeed needed. It is an ever-present need. There are contexts and events that are not controlable but, nonetheless, need a response that includes mercy.

At issue is whether mercy is exclusively what is needed. For instance, when and where will mercy appear as preemptive advocacy from the bottom-up rather than a benefit dispensed from on high? How might G*D's image interact with the rest of creation as though mercy had already been experienced, rather than still to arrive? What will it take to stand for one's self and another because mercy is real?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Judges 4:1-7

Jabon and Sisera are used by god to punish Israel. Deborah is used by god to punish the punishers, Jabon/Sisera, for their 20 years of punishment.

In regard to punishment, how is god usinbg you? Are you to help punish someone god is mad at? Are you to punish someone who has been one of god's past punishers? Is this a helpful category?

If we posit an eternal reciprocal engine that runs on punishment, stroke by stroke, what would cause us to look for an alternative energy source since punishment seems to be eternally renewable? Is simple inefficiency enough to move us off-center?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Matthew 25:14-30

This passage hinges on the word "afraid". The third "slave" (which is an important starting context) is claimed to be afraid. It is this quality that is then used as a reason for their behavior and eventual dismissal to an outer region.

I'm not in a research place right now to look at alternatives, but suspect that when one has the power to banish, any resistance is going to be claimed as coming from a place of fear. Masters use fear to control and then blame those who stand up to them as fearful. It's a destructive self-referential circle.

Here are three questions that provide an opening through which we can poke at the judgmental character of these end-of-the-year stories:

1) By what means might a slave be expected to double their money?

2) Is not an advantaged slave still a slave?

3) Is not a slave already in a place of darkness?

See this passage through the lens of a fairy-tale with the third telling bringing a needed breakthrough. The benevolent, giving master is now revealed as greedy and demanding. Surely there is a better place to end the year than with the gnashing of teeth.

Friday, November 07, 2008


I'm in the process of trying to shift my language from that of "kingdom" to that of "presence".

From this week some images - kingdoms are long term foolish, closed, answers, and dangerous. Take a look back to see what kingdom has lasted and ask why that became our desire.

Some additional words might be - presence is eternal and momentary, wise, open, offering responses, and assuring.

Choose well your perspective.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Pause

Just a note that jottings here will be intermittent, at best, during the next two weeks as I am traveling without a computer. May you travel well in place and I'll be interested in any reports of same.


1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Pentecost +26 – Year A

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

There will be grieving, but the way in which we grieve still has some choice available within it. Not all grieving is equal.

We might grieve that those who have preceded us, who had been left behind, have as their main perk that we will not precede them. The dead and gone will rise before those still clinging to their life – a sure metaphor of conversion that the current life must be lost before it can be raised.

Without preceding our predecessors we will be able to be joined together in transforming this world (there will still be additional worlds needing transformation for the process of transformation and wholeness is never completed and always completable).

So let's not be uninformed by claiming that which is beyond claim – that our heritage holds sway over our present or that an anticipated future trumps every ancestor's limit. Early or late, soon or anon, we eventually need to arrive at today – a creative intersection of a lost past and an unformed future. Let us encourage one another with the reality of redemption of the past and intentionality of the future. We are not bound by past limits nor beyond a well-articulated, heavenly, "yes, we can" come to earth.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Psalm 78:1-7

Pentecost +26 – Year A

Psalm 78:1-7

Dark sayings from the past do echo down the corridor of time. They bring with them a sense of stability and a constraint of limits. With a sense of steadfastness, there is also a repetition of generations, one after another, as differentiated from a standing on the shoulders of ancestors to travel further.

In contrast are sources of hope and trust that beckon us into space beyond where we have been. Yes, remember the stories, the scope of history within this moment is set, but know that they simply set the stage and give the opportunity for a new incarnation.

Some of this was expressed ever so much better in last night's acceptance speech of the U.S. Presidency by Barack Obama.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Joshua 24:1-25

Pentecost +26 – Year A

Joshua 24:1-25

The long journey is nearly over.

Waiting for relief – along comes Joseph and his dreams –
Crowned by power – enter a long time of slave discipline –
Reborn through a Reed Sea – learning after Spirit learning –

Advent – Christmas – Epiphany – Lent – Easter – Pentecost.

Here is Joshua, a transitional figure, moving folks back into another cycle that will end with being puffed up at court and lost in exile.

In the midst of such turning and turning, never quite right, where do we place our bet? Is it with eternal protection? With revenge when protection breaks down? On holiness codes jealously enforced? With promises of the past, threats of today, fears of tomorrow?

Is this the best we can do, recycle our lowest common denominator? If so, we might wonder where on the wheel we find ourselves today and whether we are heading fast to the ground to be ground into the ground by the weight of the wheel. Hope is not our way out of this, but it can encourage us to always appreciate the wisdom of the wilderness.

Today is an election day. Is it the end-all and be-all and answer-all? No. But it will give us a gauge of how soon a next needed revolution will arrive – later or sooner.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Matthew 25:1-13

Pentecost +26 – Year A

Matthew 25:1-13

As we draw nigh to the end of another church year we sense a frustration of not having been perfected - as we had so hoped at the beginning of the year. Our frustration shows up in hellish threats to shape-us-up on our deathbed, to get our acquiescence for, if not our commitment to and participation in, living tomorrow (heaven) today (earth).

Where division can be a great motivator, note the flurry of negative ads as we draw near to the close of yet another election cycle, it has limited long-term effect. There is a negativity fatigue, as well as a compassion fatigue, and we just don't respond like we once did.

All that to the side, how are you doing with your awareness of the situation around you and your continued ability to share beyond what is "fair" to you? Have you been wise during these days of housing bubbles (what a lovely word to use for such nasty activity – a housing volcano that finally erupted may come closer)? What does that mean about how you will deal with those who foolishly took the word of experts that all was in good order and the market has a benevolent desire for your specialness? Is it time to cut them off, punish them, send them away? If so, what does that have to do with the expectant waiting we did just under a year ago?

We do need to learn from our cycles through the year. If we don't do a better job of connecting beginnings with endings, we may be doomed to repeat them. If you were to write a history of this past year that we might be edified, what would you include and what would you leave out?