Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Psalm 147

Christmas 2 - Year C

Psalm 147

Next year, the Sunday after Christmas, we will hear again Rachel wailing in Ramah. At what point in Rachel's experience would she have found this psalm to resonate?

Would she need to hear it before she wailed that it might be background to all else?

Is she able to sing it along with laments during a slaughter of innocents? (Remember your response to this includes the "collateral damage" done to children on this very day, even though we may not hear about it, by poverty in any city in the proverbial richest country of the world and by that same country's army and bombs in far off countries. Can you sing this psalm today?)

Will she only be able to join this psalm at some future time similar to Job two-fold restoration?

For the moment I am tired of bragging up G*D. How might we better work together for a common good and commonwealth? These boom and bust cycles are wearing us out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Christmas 2 - Year C

Jeremiah 31:7-14

We do like underdogs to pull out a win at the end. Jeremiah's tale is similar to other parts of a larger story. There is a lot of praise when the tables are turned and refugees return home.

As we continue on we might expect that praise will go to our heads and we will think that God is on our side, no matter what. Our praise and pride will falter and fall. Off we go to experience another lesson, whether learning eventuates or not. Hopefully, as part of a larger group story, we'll figuratively return.

There is nothing in the praise that helps us with the practical business of living day-to-day. In many ways it distracts us.

Let's presume a new start is being made. Block out the congratulations for a moment. What is a practical step that might help. This coming Sunday I'm preaching off-lectionary at a UU Fellowship about "One and All: A Consensus Approach". Might intentionality in this arena help get us out of the boom and bust cycles we have had through religious history? I wouldn't and couldn't claim it to be a guarantee as consensus processes can be blocked, but it is a helpful tool that needs more attention.

What would a consensus process look like between G*D and you and yours and others? How would it differ from the praise emphasis of this pericope? It's not too late in the week to get some input to me. Thanks.

Monday, December 28, 2009

John 1:1-18

Christmas 2 - Year C

John 1:1-18

Are you enlightened yet? Surely you must be for "the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (verse 9) and the implication of the scripture is that such a true light not only was coming, but has come into the world. So surely you must be enlightened.

Have you stumbled over your own feet again? What happened to that enlightenment?

The world around you gone awry? What happened to that enlightenment?

Again and again our G*D-begottenness has bumped into our blood-begottenness, flesh-begottenness, sex-begottenness (as The Message puts it) and been forgotten in the melee of begottennesses.

Welcome back to a new beginning spot with darkness hovering. As you go about your cultural business of planning a resolution or two, it will be helpful to choose one that realistically takes in all these different aspects of begottenness. If you are simply choosing a resolution on a meta-Word level, disappointment will come quickly enough. The more aspects of yourself you take into account the longer that disappointment will be put off (but not entirely, remember John's question after awhile - are you really who we once thought you were?).

Are you enlightened enough, yet, to question your enlightenment? If not all this high christology will catch you again having thought all was cared for rather than all still growing, falling and rising, evening and morning.

Friday, December 25, 2009

an absent gift

Christmas 1 - Year C

every year we look to be
returned to Jerusalem
every year we go
to Jerusalem

expecting something new
expecting no change
expecting to be surprised
by no surprise

returning home
no change
but then

in such absence
we return to Jerusalem
with intent
and in tension

no longer caught
on dilemma's horns
we listen
we question

and we find
larger questions
deeper listening
new searching

binding us together
in wisdom

Christmas Day

Christmas Day - Year C

John 1:1-8
Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-12

Going through a long line of prophets, G*D addressed our ancestors in different ways in different times. Recently G*D spoke directly to us through You. [Hebrews 1:1-2]

You have sung a new song of wonder: wonder that righteousness and fairness are still possible. [Psalm 98:1, 9]

This beautiful song of yours scampers across mountain ranges, echoing from friend to friend. Nothing can hold it back. Peace/Salvation/Wholeness are the comfort, the strength, you offer. [Isaiah 52:7-10]

So it has been from the beginning. Word and G*D and G*D and Word dance new beginnings through a present You. This Word and G*D and You brighten every darkness for in You is Life and this Life is Light. Witness. [John 1:1-7]

- - -

Bonus Material: A Christmas Wish

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve - Year C

Luke 2:1-20
Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14

It doesn't matter if there was actually a census or not. An intent to register in order to dominate is sufficient. This was the state of the world - regimented. Was?

Into this legalization comes a child (coming through its mother's line - read Sarah the Priestess: The First Matriarch of Genesis by Savina Teubal and extrapolate from there) a-lying in a manger. This swaddled child of a matriarch is a sign of a new way of doing business. From this generalized description of a child and a manger there is heard a far off hymn of new creation come close enough to make out the words, "Glory . . . Peace." [Luke]

Of course our tendency is to take this antiestablishmentarianism of a manger child capable of throwing a wrench into the gears of registrations and to turn it into the opposite of what we have experienced. Hooray, I get to be in charge. And, of course, that will bring with it grand titles and an assumption of knowing what is just and righteous. How many times has that turned sour on us. [Isaiah]

If we don't take that direct approach to overthrowing the regimenters, we sit back and sing a song of an active God - great and greatly to be praised. It won't be long before the pie in the sky sets everything right and treats everyone fairly. Keep singing those carols. [Psalm]

And didn't you just know the catch to all this is blood atonement. G*D's readiness to give and forgive demands sacrifice. A simple baby in a manger must become God and Savior and dead before being effective. [Titus]

Perhaps we simply need to go back to a baby, any baby. It is urge to birth that brings the light back, a return of complex justice, a continually new song, and giving and forgiving. Look behind an aborted, a stillborn, a genetically compromised, a socially untenable, a healthy birth - any - each is a sign to us in the darkness - fecundity pushes onward. Now we can even claim our birth and the weird way our journey has been woven as a sign in the darkness. May we release the Glory within to become the Peace around and about.

The angels have returned from whence they came, leaving you and me, baby signs. Ready, set, go! [Wesley]

Colossians 3:12-21

Christmas 1 - Year C

Colossians 3:12-21

First be swaddled with compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, and patient discipline.

First swaddle others with compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, and patient discipline.

Yes, that is two "first's". Most of us will find one first will takes priority over the other. Some can't give until they receive. Others can't receive until they give. We can get to both from either direction. Enjoy your process.

With verse 12 under our belts, we can leave the following redundancies to themselves and not get caught up in the subsequent "oughts".

It's good to know that this way of living can come out of a doo-doo manger mess or an event in your life today. Whether echoing from long ago and far away or brightly singing forth in this new moment, swaddle and be swaddled.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Tipping Point

In the midst of the busy of a season that can drive anyone coo-coo, comes this poem near the end of the author's life and yet still looking to participate in a next birthing. May you take a breath and remember to be present where you are.

- - -

The Tipping Point

Pray I say
Inside your heart work hard
Send light send love where it is needed

You be the loving presence
On the job at home
Right here right now

We are so small against this quaking earth
Prayer does not guarantee our safety or theirs
Prayer guarantees only that we are connected

Not alone but related most truly to over there
Where they prepare for God knows what and right here
Where the unthinkable just might happen to

Us or someone dear I need your prayer
To hold me as I choose to hold you and yours and
Them over there and the planet entire in my heart

I think somewhere in the mind of God there may be
A line marking enough prayers enough right doing and
Who knows but that we might be almost there so pray

I need your prayers and mine to help me see
What of love needs doing here and now
And I have great hope that if we truly pray and do

The weight of all our loving might finally bring our world
To that sought for tipping point which lets us roll at last
Toward peace on earth.

(This poem was written by Rosemary Ix Morgan of Amherst, Massachusetts, a friend of a colleague. She is dying and has entered hospice.)

Psalm 148

Christmas 1 - Year C

Psalm 148

What is your horn? Your power?

Is it external to you, raised, for you?

Is it internal to you, growing in wisdom and stature, in stature and favor with G*D?

Celebrate all of creation operating from its source of power (rejoicing, praising) and remember to do the same - basing your praising and rejoicing on your power, your growth your gifts.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Christmas 1 - Year C

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Yes, it is good to know that Samuel and Jesus grew in wisdom and favor with G*D while also increasing their stature and years. Life-long learning is a good thing. This is good iconography - attributing all good things to our heroes (like Tiger Woods before his tumbles in the hay and from advertiser gold). What we are often missing is the balancing material elided from this passage. It is helpful to hear what not to do as well as the generalized things to do. It helps sharpen our moral judgment.

Remember again the sons of Eli as a contrast to Samuel. Whether or not you buy G*D's desire to kill the sons of Eli, thus blocking their hearing, their understanding of the difficulty of sticking to a better way, their living for themselves alone was about to come tumbling down.

Simply hearing how wonderful the wonderful are doesn't give much guidance about following. And simply hearing how there are consequences for actions doesn't keep us from pushing boundaries.

Together we can keep encouraging and correcting one another to find those practical steps to move from where we are to a better spot. Blessings to us all as we continue to work with one another that our births might not just promise good to come, but actually be continually trained in that direction.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Luke 2:41-52

Christmas 1 - Year C

Luke 2:41-52

Note the change between verse 46 and 47.

In verse 46 Jesus is listening and asking questions. In verse 47 he evidences some understanding and is answering questions.

There is a sense in which every question contains and idea, an answer, and so there isn't much difference here. We could be looking at an example of parallelism.

We may also be looking at teaching to the test - all that matters is getting a certain percentage of currently correct answers. One way around this is to focus on responses, not answers. Responses help set a context and keep an openness to new information.

However, this is more likely to be the beginning of Jesus' loyal opposition to the state of affairs within the religious community of his time and space. As such, the questions of verse 46 have a definite priority over the answers of verse 47.

Those questions of Jesus are not restricted to a religious sphere. They expand to his parents and by extension will go to the political rulers as well. They even extend to your life and mine. "Why would you search for me?", asks Jesus. "Where have you looked and to what avail?"

More and more folks are searching for G*D stuff anywhere but in church. This is probably attributable to the church's reliance upon verse 47 and the giving of answers that no longer meet up with the questions being put to it by its loyal opposition or outsiders. May we get back to Jesus and ask questions of today's religious bodies. If they can't take it, they will fade while the questioners will increase in wisdom and in years.

- - -

Speaking of loyal opposition, a book by that title is still a valuable read.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Luke 1:39-55

Advent 4 - Year C

Luke 1:39-55

[I have recently been trying to organize seven years plus of comments. Yes, it is like trying to herd cats. In the absence of another inspiration, here is a reprised and editied note from 2003.]

- - -

What boldness! My soul, yes, my soul, magnifies the Lord.

Oh, I know this is supposed to be about G*D, but can you begin to imagine the difference it would make if your very life was seen by you as clarifying the presence of G*D. This is the life of Jesus, he showed us a close-up view of G*D. It wasn't about Jesus, but his showing G*D, magnifying G*D, revealing G*D already present, even if beyond the current eyes of our work-a-day world.

This is Mary work, this is Jesus work, this is your work and my work.

When we magnify G*D for those in power, they finally catch on that they are not as big as they thought they were. When we magnify G*D for those out of power, they finally catch on that they are of much more worth than they thought they were.

Consider for a few seconds, what does it mean to magnify G*D? Have you seen that as your job description. How would it be for the church to simply imitate Jesus' self-avowed task to help us see G*D much closer than we had thought possible, to magnify G*D?

Let us join Elizabeth, Mary, John, and Jesus in magnifying G*D so all can see, so all can repent of their supposed grandness or their ill-conceived notion of worthlessness, so all might experience the largesse of mercy, finally, mercy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hebrews 10:5-10

Advent 4 - Year C

Hebrews 10:5-10

Yeah, yeah - sacrifices aren't what are desired so a bigger sacrifice is what is needed and gets instituted. Talk about escalation! Sort of like no more flood, but fire next time.

So how do we get past our experiences that keep redefining the present in terms of the past?

About all there is left is a bit of dream, a smidgen of vision, a dollop of hope. For a traditional Sunday of Joy there hasn't been much to shout about other than a commitment to continue blessing, no matter what. So, let's get on with it. Whether our dreams are smashed, our vision disappointed, our hope depleted - send out a blessing rather than a intermediary sacrifice. It may return seven-fold or it may simply be a good to do that was actually done.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Advent 4 - Year C

Psalm 80

"To everything turn, turn, turn - there is a season."

"Turn, turn - till by turning we come round right."

By one tune we wait our turn. By another we do the difficult work of simplifying.

Here we appeal to G*D to turn and turn again until our lives are righted. This is a waiting on our part and a working on G*D's part. Behold, another fine example of having our cake and eating it, too.

Imagine how this psalm would be different were the action to be the other way around, G*D waits while we turn round.

Imagine how this psalm would be different if we participated with G*D in the waiting and the turning, appropriately timed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Micah 5:1-5

Advent 4 - Year C

Micah 5:1-5

Oh, yeah? Well my little brother can take out your whole clan! So There!

That is one way to read the power of "the least". It is not the most helpful approach, but it does seem to be a go-to position in most cultures.

This is not the ascension of the youngest, Jacob, Joseph, David which comes as a surprise, every time. This is an intentional insult.

The power of the least comes out of its triggering of our memory, a surprise. We have become so accustomed to prestige being associated with the richest and biggest that have made ourselves immune to this sort of surprise. We keep forgetting to look in all the dusty corners for our next hope and only keep our eye on the entertaining flash in the center. May we not try to console ourselves by trying to predict a particular small becoming the biggest. We usually miss the real question and surprising resolution.

Of course this is a convenient passage to use to proof-text David's kingly return and Jesus' divine birth (ahh, the divine right of kings), but without that wrenching of the text for a power purpose, there is not much new here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Luke 1:39-45, (46-56)

Advent 4 - Year C

Luke 1:39-45, (46-56)

How do you know a Spirit Holy lives within? - - - when, no matter who shows up, for whatever reason, you respond to them, "Blessed are you among humans, and blessed is the fruit of your life. How has this happened to me, that such a blessed one crosses my journey? As soon as I heard the whisper of your presence, my hope and joy rose."

This response can awaken even more blessing in a visitor as you continue, "Blessed are you who believe you are fulfilling the best put before you."

Having set the stage with this neighborly confirmation and blessing we wait. Will this blessing clarify a direction soon or late? Will we see such a blessing built upon before our eyes or become another invisible building block to be harvested by another?

Rejoice when those who receive a blessing are able to respond in awareness, "My soul is magnified, my spirit rejoices in being lifted up. All who meet me will meet a blessing of mercy in action."

It may be important to spend more time on working out the fears and ramifications that come with this sort of blessing. If so, three months or three years, will be well invested.

Friday, December 11, 2009

sandal theology

Advent 3 - Year C

foundations are shaking
altars cause limping
rough beasts slouch forward

escape routes yearned for
legal outs searched out
who do we bribe

traditions are appealed to
personal deus ex machina prayed for
politicians invested with fascist efficiency

Wilderness John channels prophets
to speak simplicity
in the face of chaos

share with those worse off
work only to principality's rule
no power entitled injury

such commonwealth basics
raise expectations
unrealistically high

come back to earth
with sandal theology
untie them and dance

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Philippians 4:4-7

Advent 3 - Year C

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoicing and Gentleness often feel miles apart. There is a sense that rejoicing and celebrating relate to a specific victory of some sort and is on the edge of turning into a soccer mob. Gentleness, brings a sense of community organizing, being on the side of the injured, working with them and not against them, and has a willingness to fail and not be in immediate charge of the situation.

They need one another and when they draw nigh together it is a sign of the Presence of G*D.

Have you recognized the digital nature of our interpretations? If we aren't rejoicing, we must be mourning. If we aren't gentle, we must know it all.

Now, if we could just delete verse 6 because gentle rejoicing recognizes the flow of life, there are things of concern, and not even thanksgiving can redeem some prayers. Then we might better focus on the Peace-of-G*D Jesus experienced and lived out of. The result will be a bringing together of our hearts (rejoicing) and our minds (gentleness).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Isaiah 12:2-6

Advent 3 - Year C

Isaiah 12:2-6

Without verse 1 we lose an important perspective of timing.

I appreciate The Jewish Study Bible noting these verses (1-6) are, "A song of thanksgiving to be recited in the ideal age." While we can certainly play with these words in our current less than ideal time and can even attempt to live as though they are already true, there are some things that can't be known until their time - long-term relationships and children are two easy examples and you may have others according to your experience in other fields.

Here is the translation from The Jewish Study Bible:

In that day, you shall say:
"I give thanks to You, O Lord!
Although You were wroth with me,
Your wrath has turned back and You comfort me,
Behold the God who gives me triumph!
I am confident, unafraid;
For Yah the Lord is my strength and might [or song],
And He has been my deliverance."

Joyfully shall you draw water
From the fountains of triumph,
And you shall say on that day:
"Praise the Lord, proclaim His name.
Make His deeds known among the peoples;
Declare that His name is exalted.
Hymn the Lord,
For He has done gloriously;
Let this be made known
In all the world!
Oh, shout for joy,
You who dwell in Zion!
For great in your midst
Is the Holy One of Israel."

- - -

May you not be wrothed upon and may you hymn G*D and Neighbor and One Another and Enemy.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Advent 3 - Year C

Zephaniah 3:14-20

The word of a prophet moves from damning to joy. One tendency is to separate these into two different states - G*D's disappointment and punishment; G*D's satisfaction and renewal. Another way to approach this is to note that both are present in every present. This competition seems to be within G*D as well as between G*D and creation/creatures.

For this moment, though, presume that you have an equal choice between organizing your time, energy, and resources toward not being condemned or being cared for.

To begin, can you imagine them being equally balanced so it is your choice as to which you will live out of? Which do you think/feel will bring the biggest bang for your investment of time, energy, and resources? Then, go that way.

I expect that most of us don't experience these as equal choices. Our predilection is to try to figure out methods to escape a wrath to come or to blithely follow our bliss. Whether these biases come from nature or nurture, there seems to be a leaning one way or the other. It is too easy to name this pessimism or optimism as the distinction probably runs back into the temptations of the gods or G*D to wrestle with disappointment and satisfaction, punishment and renewal.

Since this is football season, I can remember back to when many players were both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. I, myself, played end both ways. These days it is exceptional to find someone able to play both offense and defense. So, if G*D's disappointment and punishment are what energize you to live better, stay on the defensive side of the ball, protecting your goal. If G*D's satisfaction and renewal are what energize you, stay on the offensive team, pushing toward your goal. (Yes, "goal" here is the same line.)

At this point in Zephaniah's report, we are encouraged to consider going on the offensive and see what that means for our time, energy, and resources, even in the midst of all the potential disappointments floating around and ready to engage us. See, G*D is for you; who and what are you for?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Luke 3:7-18

Advent 3 - Year C

Luke 3:7-18

The deal here is not to flee from that which you are trying to avoid - wrath to come based on who I have become - future consequences for past actions. No, turn into that fearful place and be kind to yourself and your web-footed friends.

This kindness will show up in the equality of sustainability (the rich with twice what they need will not continue so because it would require those who have less than half they need to have even less). Kindness will appear with a willingness to not claim the usual perks of your familial/social/economic position (entitlement, for any old reason at all, comes in many guises). This kindness is also an antidote for power (a satisfied mind will be recognized for the blessing it is).

Beyond all that, turning from wrath will also show up with a gift of service. John needed to address his own station as well as that of a crowd, a tax collector, or a soldier. His encounter with G*D that led him to wilderness crying was not to privilege him. He is only to soften hard-hearted soil with a gift of water so a sealed seed of wholeness can finally sprout. His privilege is to do the difficult work of clarifying unrecognized need and beginning its journey to joy.

You don't have to be a Messiah or a Messiah-in-Waiting before you can join with Wilderness John in simply clarifying a deep need in the situation of life and pointing beyond a sprout to a fruit. In this small way your appreciation of the Presence of G*D will set in motion good news.

Friday, December 04, 2009

heard or not

Advent 2 - Year C

how bad can it get!
set up your own equivalents
Caesar Tiberius
Pontius Pilate
Herod Philip Lysanias
Annas Caiaphas

how good can it get!
Wilderness John
and you
one voice
added to one voice
crying out danger

so come messengers
of forgiveness
blessed and blessing
praying love overflow
compassion be revealed
consequences be acknowledged

whether heard or not
messengers come
loving much
loving well
learning more love
simply alive

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Philippians 1:3-11

Advent 2 - Year C

Philippians 1:3-11

If we shift "the day of Christ" to today, verses 9-10 take on a different cast.

"And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and understanding to help you determine what is needed." [WRV]

That may be all that is necessary to say. All the rest of the pure and blameless talk about harvesting righteousness can be derived from this, but it is all too easy to fall into the trap of setting up shoulds and oughts about being measured against some ideal purity instead of letting it come of its own accord as we deal with the situations before us.

May you know you are being prayed for to link your love and your decision-making.
May you so pray for others.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Luke 1:68-79

Advent 2 - Year C

Luke 1:68-79

When filled with a Holy Spirit we find ourselves blessing one and all. We bless G*D (you have done that recently, haven't you?) and find what we thought was one specific blessing has become universal as well.

Being in G*D's image we find we are blessed and blessing, as well. Look again at verses 78 and 79 and see if this revision works as a self-awareness: "By my tender mercy, dawn enters darkness and guides us to peace."

Eventually we find that we can't bless G*D without blessing our neighbors as our selves or our enemies. May your tender mercy bless many this day and all days.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Malachi 3:1-4

Advent 2 - Year C

Malachi 3:1-4

"Malachi" means messenger. Might you adopt that as your middle name?

There are various traditions equating the messenger with Ezra (a Levitical renewal) and with Elijah (a prophetic covenant tradition). On the whole, we view the impetus for a messenger is more prophetic than priestly even though more words are given to the priestly option.

To follow in the train of such a messenger as Malachi is to accept the power that has been given to remember a covenant of relationship that has been broken but can be restored. This power is to focus on that which heals and restores. The brokenness has had us reeling and when such a message is acknowledged the dizzy whirl finally falls down. Now we can rebalance and aid one another to stand again.

May you be a Malachi of covenant renewal and leave the refining of others to the energy behind such a messenger.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Luke 3:1-6

Advent 2 - Year C

Luke 3:1-6

As we move toward the Feast day of Saint Nicholas on December 6, it is helpful to return to John who heard his call in a desert. John is in the footsteps and advance of many with this identification of desert with receiving the presence of G*D strongly enough to change a life's direction.

Deserts come in all manner of shapes, sizes, and other characteristics. We are led to believe that John's desert was a desert desert with few resources. Emptiness begets filling. Nicholas found his desert in the midst of a rich family and his sustenance in the giving away of many resources. I expect most of us are somewhere in between the deserts of lack and abundance.

Our family's tradition of expected gift-giving migrated from the standard of Christmas (eve or morning) to that of other gift-giving traditions - December 6 (St. Nicholas) or January 6 (Magi). This took the pressure off trying to cram such an expectation into Christmas (Jesus, Mary, Joseph!) which is packed enough and can turn a Freedom of G*D into a desert of dashed expectations. Try it, you might like it.

A change John brings us from the desert of his call is the costliness of forgiveness. It comes with more than a touch of repentance, changed living. Enter the desert of forgiveness to arrive at a life of abundance. Yes, this turns the order of repentance leading to forgiveness on its head. But, why not, since that "works" related order hasn't gotten us very far as either religious or secular communities. It keeps us saint-bound to extraordinary examples and leads away from a priesthood-of-all-believers forgiving willy-nilly and all other kids.

Friday, November 27, 2009

mindful of mercy

Advent 1 - Year C

be careful what you wish for
a cloud full of power
sounds good now
great greasy gopher glory
has its appeal
oh the shaking
that now attracts
is a journey down a wrong track

remember st. jimi h
“When the power of love
overcomes the love of power,
the world will know peace.”

with a tendency to
advent in all the wrong places
remind your mindfulness
of mama mercy
right now
not by and by
already come in joy
for you and you and even you

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Advent 1 - Year C

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

A thanksgiving pericope on Thanksgiving Day. The focus here, though, is not storing up enough turkey energy to arise early for Black Friday shopping. This thanksgiving is much more personal.

"How can we thank G*D enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before G*D because of you?"


"G*D, Forerunner Jesus, and others down the line invigorate our way to you."


"May All-of-Creation guide your journey to increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you."

You get the picture. Thanksgiving is personal, not some consumer product. Advent will also be personal, not some religious creed.

Thus far we have 4 P's on which to hang our Advent remembrance and anticipation:
  • Parable - opens to new learning

  • Promise - opens a stuck past to a new future

  • Path - opens practical applications of mercy

  • Personal - opens to universal joy

= = = = = = =

"Don't ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive,
   and go do it.
Because what the world needs is
people who have come alive."
          ~Howard Thurman

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Psalm 25:1-10

Advent 1 - Year C

Psalm 25:1-10

This is almost an acrostic psalm. Problem is, two letters are missing and two doubled. Likely this reflects changes it has undergone in its transmission. If so, what is an originalist, a literalist, to do?

One thing available with the broken pattern is for us to be open to more than appears. So, to begin, read the whole psalm. Then focus in on verses 6 & 7 and mindfulness. What do you want remembered and what do you not want remembered?

In these we find out more about ourselves and G*D. In this interplay wisdom comes as we let go what we want remembered and come to terms with that which we do not want remembered.

Advent comes as a time to remember and not remember a prior event. We keep learning the wrong things about our heritage and forgetting right things about it. Advent can be a time of clarifying our previous encounters with G*D.

Advent also comes as a time to anticipate and resist a next coming. Here, too, we project unhelpful behaviors into the future and hold back new responses to repeated situations. Advent can be a time of being open to a next encounter that will dash our previous limits.

Aren't you glad this is an imperfect psalm? It leaves room for you to play with it and make it your own, just like those who cut it for Advental purposes. For instance the word translated as "mercy" in verse 6 might better be translated "motherly compassion" [The New Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 4, p. 778]. This anticipates the central verse 11 with its emphasis upon pardon of iniquity. If we were to view the whole psalm we might find our Advent work to be thankful for iniquities pardoned and to practice to be ready to motherly and preemptively pardon those who "iniquitize" against ourself or another or themselves.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Advent 1 - Year C

Jeremiah 33:14-16

What does it mean to live in the midst of a promise being fulfilled? It is to find righteousness by continuing to live as though the promise were already true.

Stanley Hauerwas speaks of Advent being Patience, "G*D has made us a people of promise in a world of impatience." He goes on to speak of following the teaching of Jesus, a teaching of nonviolence learned without having armies - with only patience. You might be interested in a whole video clip that might well set the theme of Advent for this year. it is found as part of The Work of the People: Visual Media for Mission and Worship site. It will take patience to wait 4 minutes and 11 seconds for Stanley's take on Advent being Patience, but it will be worth it.

Can you see nonviolence, not as a strategy to rid the world of war, but as a living within a larger promise? Oh, we so desire to execute justice and bring a violence of peace to bear on our enemies. Would we would desire a promise bigger than our desire.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Luke 21:25-36

Advent 1 - Year C

Luke 21:25-36

Life is uncertain in its details. [Note G*D, not the Devil, loves the details, all the fiddly bits.]

A basic choice presented with this piece of Gospel writing reflects a disaster inflicted upon Jerusalem and its Temple and how that and other persecutions made it seem as though there was nothing to currently rely upon. Instead of the sun propitiously stopping at midday, it was as if the sun had stopped arising at all.

The choice presented is how we will live at any given time with expectational dislocations both small and large. Will we faint? Will we be alert to stand for G*D's expansive and expanding love as did Jesus and those who eventually were recognized as official Saints.

If you were to project the sense of this choice into today's world you might sense the American destruction of Iraq to be the equivalent of Rome's destruction of Jerusalem. Yesterday I heard Sami Rasouli, Director of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams, speak eloquently of bringing together his Islamic tradition of "One" with the Judeo-Christian tradition of "Unconditional Love" within his own life. This led him avoid fainting and to be alert as to how he might stand. If you have an opportunity to hear him, I recommend you take it. Working in an interfaith setting can bring even larger understandings than working ecumenically within one tradition.

In the meantime you may want to consider a different way of expressing your commitment to life to your family and friends and enemies during the coming consumer holidays. If you go to the Muslim Peacemaker Teams site you will find ways of supporting Sami's stand in the midst of uncertainty - Water for Peace and Iraqi Art. It may even trigger in you a new insight about how you might better stand in a world of uncertainty. May you avoid dullness and be alert to your call to reveal the presence of G*D in your life, no matter how dire the circumstance.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Pentecost Last - Year B

my presence
is not only from this world
but is very much
in and for and with
this world

no need to fight
over this
I simply am
and so are you
to such we testify

belonging to this world
we will tell the truth
listen to each other
mature together

ahh, morning dawns
bright or foggy
dry or glistening grass
look life is here

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Revelation 1:4b-8

Pentecost Last - Year B

Revelation 1:4b-8

Sometimes we find ourselves saying more than we know. In a conflictual setting we sometimes only know we want to replace some negative with a positive rather than moving on to a new paradigm. This happens here in the description of Jesus in verse 5. If nasty old Babylon/Rome has a king/emperor and priests and sacrifices and we want a change, we will change kings and priests and sacrificed elements but not do away with the categories.

Here it would have been enough to indicate that Jesus was a “faithful witness” of the expansiveness and immanence of G*D’s presence without going on to such statements as “firstborn of the dead” and “ruler of kings”.

This would keep the focus on the importance of witness (The United Methodist Church added a fifth category to a member’s vow just last year - In addition to connecting with a congregation and denomination by way of “prayer, presence, gifts, and service”, is “witness”, within and beyond said church). Jesus’ witness to G*D’s presence leads to encountering the world from a perspective of grace and peace that transcends any present difficulty. This is categorically different than miracle and power.

We sometimes let what have become religious phrases roll off our tongue as though we knew what we were saying. If we paid more attention to the witness aspect of Jesus we might then rephrase what follows:

To him who loves us and frees us from sin by modeling abundant living and shows us how to live together by loving both G*D and Neighbor as we love Our Self, to him be thanks and service forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Psalm 132:1-12

Pentecost Last - Year B

Psalm 132:1-12

G*D needs a rest. Too much wandering around outside of Eden and coming up with new responses to these very creative humans packed to overflowing with cosmic energy.

G*D needs a rest. Too many promises to too many people. Too many expectations. Too many covenant revisions and new creations.

G*D needs a rest. Perhaps a Temple will be restful (until rousted by warriors from the outside and curtains ripped from the inside). Perhaps setting up a bloodline will be restful (until squabbles arise between potential heirs and those who prevail set up unstable conditions to suit only themselves).

G*D needs a rest. For such a time as this you have a lullaby to sing and a task to pick up. In due time you will need a rest. Then both G*D and you can rise refreshed to welcome one another and all others to health and wholeness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2 Samuel 23:1-7

Pentecost Last - Year B

2 Samuel 23:1-7

In looking back, David cuts through the good and absence of good to summarize a road better taken even though it is not In looking back, David cuts through the good and absence of good to summarize a road better taken even though it is not descriptive of his own journey. If you were to look back over your life, what would you distill from it? Would someone who knows you well recognize you in the maxims you see as critical or foundational? Even if your distillation of wisdom doesn’t exactly fit your own life, is it generally true over a longer time than your life and in a context of a series of cultures?

It is very tricky to divine meaning from the various journey points of a life. We keep getting caught in in the specifics of what appears to be cause and effect. How do you discern fair governance in David’s relationship to Bathsheba and Solomon? Are these details extraneous to some larger picture?

To sharpen your thinking about psychohistory, remember to browse, again or for the first time, Isaac Azimov’s Foundation series from 50 years ago. The always intriguing Wikipedia has discerned three disparate responses to the series, which leaves room for yours: “In Learned Optimism, psychologist Martin Seligman identifies the Foundation series as one of the most important influences in his professional life, because of the possibility of predictive sociology based on psychological principles. He also lays claim to the first successful prediction of a major historical (sociological) event, in the 1988 US elections, and he specifically attributes this to a psychological principle; Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, credits the Foundation series with turning his mind to economics, as the closest existing science to psychohistory; and Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization, may have been influenced by the novel in its formation as a method to expand Islamic fundamentalist influence, even extending to the name 'Al Qaeda', a translation of the word 'Foundation' into Arabic which otherwise has no natural direct counterpart in the language.”

How do you see actions in your personal life and the lives of individuals around you limiting the duration of a coming “dark age”, to be a sun rising on a foggy day?

Monday, November 16, 2009

John 18:33-37

Pentecost Last - Year B

John 18:33-37

We have moved during this Pentecost season from John 15:26, back in June, to John 18:37, this fourth week of November.

We moved from a promise to send a Spirit of truth to help folks “testify” on behalf of Jesus, who, now, himself, testifies to a truthful life.

We moved from an understanding that those who receive a Spirit of truth will be sought to be killed and the killers will consider that they are doing what is good or expedient to Jesus being in exactly this same position.

In both instances we have moved from promise and expectation to a specific model of internal and external congruity, not measurable by those not on the same page and certainly not about the power of kingship.

It is this journey between possibility and reality that we have been on, trying to make that transition in our own lives. How did you do? Are you further along this year than you were a year ago? As you reflect upon this season of Pentecost and Ordinary Opportunities, note a specific or two that has been encouraging to you. This is also a favorable time to note what needs to be worked on this coming year. We have finished one perspective on this journey, Mark’s, and will turn to Luke to look at the work still needed and to find insight and practice opportunities helping us progress another step closer to wholeness.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Idol Talk

Pentecost +24 - Year B

Idols come in all sizes. Some are Temple-sized. Some are family-sized. Some are assurance-of-salvation sized.

Usually we are inconvenienced by idol talk to such an extent that we cannot identify that we are in an idolatrous mode. Should we come to the conclusion that we are relying on an idol for our identity, we will probably make a choice between suicide or ditching the discredited idol.

Week by week, if we wanted to investigate, the lectionary could identify idol identifiers and hope beyond idols. It depends on what questions we are willing to ask.

This week, some helpful ways of identifying a bit of our idol-thinking are:
  • hanging with a crowd that only thinks the way I think
  • asking irrelevant questions about timing and mechanisms
  • worry about details (negative) of any other way than our status quo
  • asking big “Why?” questions as complaint not investigation
  • running ourselves into the ground emotionally and physically
  • making bargains with the unknown to get what you want
  • knowing we are the chosen and letting those others go

Some helpful ways of beginning to reduce our idolatries are:
  • remember similar times (Temples are also promised to be rebuilt)
  • remember it is the youngest usually picked by G*D, not the first-born
  • remember, when bumping down a stair, to keep a silly old G*D with you
  • remember we once didn’t know how to provoke folks to good and others can learn to join in this joy

It’s usually too much to ask about repressed idols. Our remembrance is often too disconnected from our circumstance. Perhaps, though, we could play G*D and be present with others, as some others have been for us, in asking questions about behaviors and their consequences.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25

Pentecost +24 - Year B

Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25

It is verse 18 that offers a better approach to sacrifice than a mega- or metasacrifice. If forgiveness operates, sacrifice becomes moot.

Using this approach we might then work toward a priesthood of all based on forgiveness. In this way we would affirm that every priest, day after day, offers, again and again, forgiveness of both form and content. It is not that forgiveness takes away sin, but it does obviate the need to continue repeating it or substitute sacrifice (formalized forgiveness without its presence) for it.

If forgiveness applies to the privileged of G*D, the predestined, who’s to say that G*D has not privileged or predestined everyone. For the moment presume Arminius did better in this particular than other followers of Calvin. Now we can jump to the Wesleyan renewal movement with its practices and social structures that would help individuals attend to preparing to greet ‘the Day’ as an occasion of joy, rather than sorrow. [last sentence modified from The Wesley Study Bible]

Good news - forgiveness is available. We don’t have to go through some sacrificial system, but can jump right to being proactive in being a forgiver who thus provokes love and good deeds. This is evangelistic enough to spend time together encouraging and being encouraged. Hmmm, forgiveness as a church growth (root-deepening) principle.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Psalm 16

Pentecost +24 - Year B

Psalm 16

The opening phrase from verse 8, “I am ever mindful of the LORD’s presence” was frequently used for meditation within the kabbalistic tradition. As such, it is often inscribed on the Ark or at the front of the synagogue.

One can play varying traditions off against one another, even if it brings in anachronistic issues.

Imagine an earlier Temple (before the survival mechanism of synagogues) having this inscription. Would it have made a difference in the way the Temple engaged the world? What if they were present in the Anglican churches during John Wesley’s time? How about in your congregation? And in your own postinia?

Would it have made any difference in the way business is done or, like mission and vision statements galore, be entirely beside the point?

To continue into the verse, imagine G*D at your right hand rather than contriving to get yourself located at G*D’s right hand. Isn’t having G*D at your right hand a much more empowering and exciting image! You’re welcome.

With Death advising you by whispering in your left year and G*D walking along holding your right hand, may you and your two good friends do much good this day. May you engage the social justice issues you encounter because a cord of three strands is not easily broken and you shall not be moved!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1 Samuel 1:14-20

Pentecost +24 - Year B

1 Samuel 1:14-20

In Mark we have stones, already built together, falling apart. In Samuel, Hannah is pursuing a keystone for her life to put in place.

Whether from a perspective of things frozen in place or a lack of something to hold on to (Remember Martin Buber’s descriptions of evil) there is a desire to understand the ununderstandable, to keep cognitive dissonance at bay. Disciples want to know when and where and whether they’ll get a reward. Elkanah is trying to figure Hannah out. Hannah was having a reverse-Job experience of being tormented by what she didn’t have available to be taken away. Eli was working on why a rational sacrificial system brought so many sad drunks his way.

“In due time” both comforts and antagonizes us. We appreciate that some things are outside our control and, yet, knowing that something is possible, we want it right now.

May you appreciate the caughtness of your own due time and laugh at how you try to alternately ignore it and run after it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mark 13:1-8

Pentecost +24 - Year B

Mark 13:1-8

The destruction of the Temple in 70 CE becomes but the first of the birthpangs of new life after Mark’s abrupt ending of fleeing women. Another reflection on the significance of Temple destruction, written about the same time as Mark or just after, is found in the Apocalypse of Baruch (Syriac) [also known as 2 Baruch], Jeremiah’s scribe and prophet in his own right.

Regardless of which Temple destruction is portrayed, note the perspective of how the presence of G*D is not taken from the outside but hidden deep within the earth. The destruction is self-imposed. Life-in-fullness will depend on how you look at destruction. We are called to not pay overmuch attention to various destructions, but to continue living as though a new birth were already present and celebration for its presence directs how we participate in living fully.

As we come to the end of this long season after Pentecost, may you see beyond and stand hopeful in the midst of fear and destruction. May you continue to hear whispers from earth and creation regarding the presence of G*D. This stance will hold us well as we enter into another time of detached expectancy.

2 Baruch Chapters 6-9:

(6:1) And it came to pass on the morrow that, lo! the army of the Chaldees surrounded the city, and at the time of the evening, I, Baruch, left the people, and I went forth and stood by the oak. (2) And I was grieving over Zion, and lamenting over the captivity which had come upon the people. (3) And lo! suddenly a strong spirit raised me, and bore me aloft over the wall of Jerusalem. (4) And I beheld, and lo! four angels standing at the four corners of the city, each of them holding a torch of fire in his hands. (5) And another angel began to descend from heaven. and said unto them: 'Hold your lamps, and do not light them till I tell you. (6) For I am first sent to speak a word to the earth, and to place in it what the Lord the Most High has commanded me.' (7) And I saw him descend into the Holy of Holies, and take from there the veil, and holy ark, and the mercy-seat, and the two tables, and the holy raiment of the priests, and the altar of incense, and the forty-eight precious stones, wherewith the priest was adorned and all the holy vessels of the tabernacle. (8) And he spoke to the earth with a loud voice:

        'Earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the mighty God,
        And receive what I commit to you,
        And guard them until the last times,
        So that, when you are ordered, you may restore them,
        So that strangers may not get possession of them.
(9)   For the time comes when Jerusalem also will be delivered for a time,
        Until it is said, that it is again restored for ever.'
(10) And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up.

(7:1) And after these things I heard that angel saying unto those angels who held the lamps: 'Destroy, therefore, and overthrow its wall to its foundations, lest the enemy should boast and say:

        "We have overthrown the wall of Zion,
        And we have burnt the place of the mighty God."'
(2) And they have seized the place where I had been standing before.

(8:1) Now the angels did as he had commanded them, and when they had broken up the corners of the walls, a voice was heard from the interior of the temple, after the wall had fall saying:

(2)   'Enter, you enemies,
        And come, you adversaries;
        For he who kept the house has forsaken (it).'

(3) And I, Baruch, departed. (4) And it came to pass after these things that the army of the Chaldees entered and seized the house, and all that was around it. And they led the people away captive and slew some of them, and bound Zedekiah the king, and sent him to the king of Babylon.

(9:1) And I, Baruch, came, and Jeremiah, whose heart was found pure from sins, who had not been captured in the seizure of the City. (2) And we rent our garments, we wept, and mourned, and fasted seven days.

Friday, November 06, 2009

don't and do

Pentecost +23 - Year B

don't and do

don’t listen to scribes
who describe
strong boundaries
and fail
to walk their talk

do listen to mothers-in-law
who like Naomi
counsel breaking boundaries
and win
beyond their dreams

do’s and don’ts
get confusing
mother-in-law jokes
reality based scribes
who’s to know

wait for it
look to new improved
salvation opportunities
leave behind
sin-focused lives

truly I tell you
risking one’s all
trusting a new day
makes choosing do’s and don’ts
not easy but fun

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hebrews 9:24-28

Pentecost +23 - Year B

Hebrews 9:24-28

No Plato here - no copies.
No Sisyphus here - no again and againing.

Still a little Aaron here - one last, extra-strong, sacrifice.

Here there is a two-stage rocket to heavenland proposed. First stage, “sin-bearing”; second stage, “salvation-bringing”.

As you consider the implications of this division of labor, remember where you are in this model that has yet to convince many: your sins have been borne; you are awaiting salvation.

This could be an enviable position to be in. So, what are you going to do while you wait? Pull a Vladimir and Estragon? Engage your eagerness by encouraging the end to come more quickly? Planting a tree? Forgive others preemptively? There are many choices regarding your wait time. You could complain about the kind of music being played while you are on hold. You could learn some new music or join a choir to learn how to harmonize. You could compose an anti-opera (much like the vaunted reverse country song) that would move us back to creation to find paradise right where we are.

Lots of choices in this waiting time. Pick one. Make it up, if necessary. Be proactive in your waiting.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Psalm 127

Pentecost +23 - Year B

Psalm 127

This sounds more like a Proverb that has lost its way and ended up in the Psalms. It also is of a very masculine ethos, more didactic than hopeful. The contrast with the other pericopes is pretty stark.

The widow seems to acknowledge G*D, it is the context of the event; in Ruth’s birthing of Obed, G*D’s presence clarifies actions leading up to that event; and Hebrews speaks not to meeting enemies in the gate and prevailing, but an eager waiting for anticipated saving. These speak to an openness to a better future and are different than the psalmist claiming of G*D and having "victory" be a certain result.

Perhaps this paraphrase by Jim Taylor will help see this psalm in light of the other passages.

1 The road of life takes many tricky turns;
     you never know what crisis waits around the corner.
2 Each day has only 24 hours;
You cannot accomplish any more by burning candles at both ends;
You will only burn yourself out.
But God knows what you can do, and God will give you the strength you need.
3 God gives family and friends to sustain us when we weaken;
4 They are our insurance against the future.
5 Treat everyone as a friend,
     and you will never lack for support when you need it.
                    From: Everyday Psalms
                    Wood Lake Publications.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17

Pentecost +23 - Year B

Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17

Speaking of widows who put in all they have, Ruth follows here in Tamar’s (both of them) footsteps and those of so many penniless women who choose sex as an option to their current desperate state of affairs or have it thrust upon them. Yes, much is left to innuendo here, but the general direction of the language is toward one or more sexual encounters. There are all too many current references to this reality. Here is recent article about child prostitution in Atlanta/America. Here is a recent novel, The Help

Sex still sells and might be the usual hook, but for today listen to how The Message closes the passage - “The neighborhood women started calling him ‘Naomi’s baby boy!’ But his real name was Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.”

This gives us opportunity to remember our own heritage when we have been identified in one way but understood ourselves to be another. Do you remember your previous nicknames? Do you remember having been put in one box or another, categorized, stereotyped? Isn’t it good to know your “real name.” Who are you today to yourself?

This also give opportunity to anticipate a larger future. Consider the mentoring role you are and could be playing. Who are you setting the stage for? Can you rejoice in who is going to stand on your shoulders? If you are still in a congregation, what congregation are you invested in, preparing for, and also ready to step out of the way of that it might blossom and grow?

Out of this new constellation of your past, present, and future, may you stand with and for marginalized women (and men) of your time.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Mark 12:38-44

Pentecost +23 - Year B

Mark 12:38-44

To bring this passage up-to-date, be sure to substitute “pundit” and “TV evangelist” for “scribe”. No matter their good intentions, celebrity status accrues and care-for-self takes first and only place.

Can one give away all that one can live on? From a perspective of money, of course not. Even John Wesley, as he expects generosity no matter what one’s financial state, doesn’t expect anyone to give to the point of needing assistance or harming their health. It makes no sense to give up one’s ability to further invest.

Can one give away all that one can live on? Of course. The widow is a parable, in and of herself, reflecting that G*D’s creation is rich enough to provide for all of creation to flourish. If there is poverty, it is because some in the creation have taken more than their share and filled their pockets first. The widow’s action is high prophecy. She reveals how far short we have fallen from caring for one another as Neighbor, as Image of G*D.

The paragraph above takes much from Provoking the Gospel of Mark by Richard W. Swanson. Among the several suggestions he makes about how one might dramatize this pericope, the following extended comment is intriguing:

“... What if [Jesus] attacks the scribes’ alleged practice because he has the scribes in his sights, and the widow is simply a rhetorical image that he found ready to hand, serviceable for a generic political attack on an opponent? Somehow in election years everyone is the friend of the deserving poor. Even politicians whose policies in every other year are corrosive to the connections that hold rich and poor together in bonds of mutual responsibility, even such politicians can demonstrate, in an election year, how electing their opponent will be bad for the poor. That is because the poor have no real standing in such wrangles, they are just there as a figure of speech. When real policy-making demands real attention to the causes and effects of poverty, it will generally emerge that figures of speech do not vote or make campaign contributions or lobby effectively. Or, as in the scene at hand, they show up as stock figures that can be used to illustrate something else entirely.
     "What if Jesus were revealed in this scene as such a politician? Christian expectations will surely militate against such tellings of this story. Jesus is, and has long been, the right answer to every question, the solution to every problem, without ever having to demonstrate any effectiveness whatsoever. Before you decide how to read this scene, soak in it for a long time. Remember, it is possible that Mark is telling a story that carries an embedded criticism of Jesus. That may not be an expected practice, but that does not mean that this old script does not preserve something that is foreign to the contemporary world, something strong and surprising, something that may turn out to be a key to other locked problems in the text.” [pp. 246-247]

= = = = = = =

If you were to make a chart and put it on the refrigerator to check your daily balance of being beholden to the economics of the day or beholden to the fecundity of creation, where might this week fall? Is that the balance you are looking for in yourself?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Not Far . . .

Pentecost +22 - Year B

All is well while we keep Jesus in a Jewish context. The great commandment vignette comforts us. Imagine, though, one of the Magi passing by on the track of another star while this disputation with Jesus was going on and heard all this talk about a first commandment that was extended to two. Might this Magi have dared to ask a question since his tradition was not that of the Jewish scriptures.

“Jesus, might you not say the most important commandment is that we can please Ahura Mazda through virtuous deeds?”

Could Jesus respond, “You are not far from a presence of G*D.”?

If the Magi had come a bit further away perhaps the question would be, “Jesus, you expanded a first commandment to two commandments. Would you also agree the most important commandments are to discern suffering, to live virtuously, and to meditate?”

Would Jesus still respond, “You are not far from a presence of G*D.”?

Presuming Jesus is time neutral, the Magi might ask, “Jesus, are not the most important commandments to testify that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, to perform the prayers, to pay the zakat, to fast in Ramadhan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to do so."

Will Jesus still say, “You are not far from a presence of G*D.”?

However you put your current understanding of life, its focal point, your loyalty, are you ready for Jesus to say to you, “You are not far from a presence of G*D.”?

For Jesus, for whom the presence of G*D was constituent, seeing the presence of G*D everywhere he looked and with every person he encountered (including Judas Iscariot and thieves) would be his standard operating procedure. Jesus would not want to stop with just a naming of commandments, but the living of them into a next stage of maturity?

As you meet folks from a variety of perspectives, may your first response be, “You are not far from a presence of G*D.” Of course you will not say this condescendingly and await their conversion to your belief structure. In your meeting, may you also hear that your response is “not far from a presence of G*D.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hebrews 9:11-14

Pentecost +22 - Year B

Hebrews 9:11-14

“There are many ways of helping people to this confidence [that they are a people loved and forgiven by God]. Hebrews offers one very complicated way. The idea that a sacrifice or a symbolic reminder of blood kept God in touch with the validity of love might strike us as odd if not bizarre, but it must have worked for some. We are not committed to using the same methods, but we are committed to the same message - if that is our faith. We are today more sensitive to different religious traditions than our author, but we also need to come to terms critically with our own. We might even seek to emulate the level of creativity our author has shown when we face the challenge of speaking this same message to people in our day who live in a different symbolic world but face substantially the same needs.” [from William Loader]

I appreciate the challenge for us to speak of love and forgiveness in a creative manner in our context. For the physicists among us we might speak of Jesus giving up his Higgs boson. For others of us this brings a big, “Huh?”.

When it comes to the blood sacrifice imagery, I am in the “Huh?” category. If Jesus can bypass the sacrifice of goats and bulls, why limit him to a simple blood substitution as though Jesus was religiously type O-negative. In today’s world we might also wonder about hematopoietic stem cells being a new image regarding Jesus’ on-going experimentation and creativity rather than repeating a past out of touch with today’s and tomorrow’s realities.

Perhaps it is enough to ask what the “new covenant” is and how it might be symbolized. If it is redemption from the past, then we may need to find images that will walk into a new future rather than repeat past patterns.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Psalm 146

Pentecost +22 - Year B

Psalm 146

What is the greatest commandment?

First, don’t trust political/military/industrial/educational/religious complexes to put anything but profit first (well, maybe, power - which may only be a spelling difference).

Second, trust, even if it seems impossibly distant, that the arc of creation bends toward justice and, in that trust, act as though your freedom to lift the bowed down was already mature.

Are there any more questions about these commandments than those Jesus cited?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ruth 1:1-18

Pentecost +22 - Year B

Ruth 1:1-18

When looking at the rest of the Hebrew scriptures we find Moabites at odds with Israelites. When looking at this particular tale, there is no tension.

In the midst of bumper-sticker and 10-second sound-bite politics, the harangues of pundits of every stripe provide classic examples of stereotyping, straw arguments, and excluded middles (and so much more - pick a logical fallacy and you’ll find it in their enthusiasm to be right), the blessing we yet hear and know as still possible is that, on the personal level, two disparate people can still find one another as beloveds.

When the discouragement of “news” and rumors/realities of war get you down, remember Mahlon and Orpah, Chilion and Ruth, Ruth and Naomi, and Ruth and Boaz. Love in the midst of other differences makes all the difference. In this story that shows how poorly conceived are tribal differences we find hope that as the laws against miscegenation fell, one-by-one and all together, so shall the laws regarding same-gender marriage.

We can even cast our hope wider so it is not just individuals, but whole nations, that can pledge hesed (loyalty) to one another by way of a larger picture where everyone benefits more through peace than our status quo. A recent paper looks at the UN in this light. The last paragraph reads: “In short, what is required is a complete revolution in our values and ways of living. It is not at all surprising to me that the UN and its initiatives spark controversy and fear among many in our society. The thought of a world in which all people live happily and contentedly is, on the surface, a very nice idea, but in practice a hugely difficult thing to achieve for those of us who are accustomed to live with privilege. And yet, if we are willing to revise our vision, we will see giving up that privilege, if it leads to a more peaceful world, might just be worth it. On this UN Sunday, I would encourage us to follow the model of Eleanor Roosevelt, roll up our sleeves and support the radical work of the UN.”

Instead of putting the roles of Ruth and Naomi off on Eleanor, how might little ol’ you pay attention to both the personal and public parts of your life? In part it is a choice of loyalties. May you grow into a larger loyalty to expansive and expanding love, no matter what privilege the rest of your cohorts cling to.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mark 12:28-34

Pentecost +22 - Year B

Mark 12:28-34

Right theology is seldom the point, though it is helpful in easing an arrival at harmony between one’s insides and outsides.

Folks with an abominable way of understanding G*D can and do come through with compassion.

Folks who are right on target with their articulation of the expansive and expanding love of G*D can and do falter in living their conviction.

What additional question can be asked or responded to in the face of this great mystery: “Good answer; now are you going to live it?”

A happy week of congruency to you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Healings of the blind distinguished

Pentecost +21 - Year B

Mark has two stories of healing sightless people: Mark 8:22-26 (unnamed - a test object) and Mark 10:46-52 (named - a hope engaged). In some ways they parallel the difference between Job 42:1-6 (living by rumor) and 42:10-17 (living a full life). Here are two retellings that resist a conflation of the incidents.

= = = = = = =

Mark 8:22-26

let’s test this healer
blindness personified
brought to the city square

Jesus changes the test
shifting perspective
moved outside the walls

spit and hands
weave their spell
and we await results

first try brings walking trees
spell rewoven
clarifies human nature

don’t return to the testing ground
avoid group think
make this experience home

- - - - - -

Mark 10:46-52

a voice cries
pity - mercy - blessing
from a road’s margin

a voice cries
come - courage - blessing
from a broad way

a voice cries
hurrah - at last - I come
a journey begun

a voice cries
what - when - where
do you want

a voice cries
life - now - here
I want

want joined want
ipso facto

voices walk
a new broader way
the margins

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hebrews 7:23-28

Pentecost +21 - Year B

Hebrews 7:23-28

And why is a permanent high priest needed? In most ways Jesus is anti-king and anti-priest. This whole priesthood thing seems to be more in keeping with our desire, Adam-old and Saul-deep, to avoid responsibility and set up someone to blame. When this eternal high priest is established we have taken our desire to the n-th degree. Jesus is not only perfect man and perfect god, but a perfect out for our maturing. Go Jesus! Speak up for us, save us!

It would be helpful to hear the author of the Letter to the Hebrews respond to Jesus’ question, “What do you want from me?” This section would seem to say that we want a buffer between humanity and G*D, that we don’t want to see any further to our heritage.

Until this restrictive view of participating with G*D changes, we won’t hear those challenging words from Jesus, “Go on your way!” May you be well on your way today.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)

Pentecost +21 - Year B

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)

Verse 2 speaks of the lowly, the humble, those for whom things aren’t going well (TANAKH, NRSC, MESSAGE, respectively).

Verse 6 continues these references to the lowly, the poor, those in a tight spot.

The “lowly” translation notes this to be the equivalent of those who are dependent upon G*D. This seems to be the most helpful approach in a Wisdom Psalm. It best helps us move from the strange ascription regarding madness as a coping device to the central verse (11) teaching lowliness - a relationship with G*D that allows freedom in the midst of any of the many afflictions that come with life (19).

Evaluate whether this direct approach to freedom through the wisdom of dependence is more helpful than having to retranslate “fear” in our heads to get to holy freedom. If so, we may be able to better attend to the task of living without actual or faked crazy.

Anything in particular bringing you to the brink of madness these days? How might dependence upon creation-gifts free you to participate directly with life’s afflictions rather than adding an internal layer of crazy on top of situational happenstance?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Pentecost +21 - Year B

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

The humanity of Job (dust and ashes) brings us ambiguity of what is being recanted, despised, relented by one who is suffering. This doesn’t address the divinity of Job (made in G*D’s image) that calls to be encountered on that level. A note in The Jewish Study Bible suggests verse 6 “may be a prosaic notice that Job feels this way while he is mourning on a dust-heap”. Once off said dung-heap, Job’s response may be different. How like ourselves.

In some sense all the poetry ends with Job vindicated against his “friends” who are caught falsifying the character of Job and the character of G*D. Likewise the prose ends with G*D vindicated against “The Satan”. All the sturm und drang of Job vs G*D begins to take a back seat against these other level-playing-field debates.

Perhaps we need only focus on the debates we have with our family and friends regarding what we see as the nature of creation - a basic goodness begun. To expect privilege in a goodness-oriented creation is to expect too much and thus the importance of simply not blaspheming creation. We remember our beginning and know that we must stand firm in calling G*D to account - whether a desirable response comes forth or not. When so many false arguments about the worth of the least, the outcast, the closeted, the poor, the uninsured swirl around us, it is good to cut through them all with a clear perspective of basic goodness.

Job’s daughters are a sign of what a new world we are in when we attend to clarity of goodness in this world. The women are named (not the sons) and given rights of inheritance - both contrary to usual patriarchal patterns. What sign will you give, will you be, of the value of this world?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mark 10:46-52

Pentecost +21 - Year B

Mark 10:46-52

“Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling.” Calls went out at the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Here, as Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem, yet another call goes forth to a blind ( _____, your name here) Bartimaeus.

The request from Bartimaeus is not to sit at Jesus’ right hand in some future time, but simply to see in the present. This is more than enough.

Fisherfolk and blind, calls come. In every stage of life - from unknowing to expectant - calls have come. Calls to proceed; calls to back off; calls to wait.

Even at this late date, a new call is coming your way. A call to keep on; a call to a new direction; a call to patience.

It is not so much the last call that defines us, but the next.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Pentecost +20 - Year B

Job and James and John
in the face of uncertainty

Jesus and Buddha and Others
Who you askin’ what?
Silly old bears, they be!

such desire
is never secret
such response
is never believed
and we go around again

antidotes include
being wrapped in light
making friends of wind and flame
diving into deep waters
celebrating a bigger picture

now we share
and differently desire

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Advent Reflections

In the for-what-it-is-worth category. This year's Advent Reflections by the Wisconsin United Methodist Federation for Social Action (WUFMSA) uses my last series of comments from 2006, Advent - Year C. It is available in both PDF for printing and can be bookmarked for daily reading online. If you are interested in this sort of use of this material you can view it at the WUMFSA Advent 2009 page.

WUMFSA now has 9 years of Advent reflections and 10 years of Lenten Studies available at their WUMFSA Reflections page.

Additional information about WUMFSA is at their home page.


Hebrews 5:1-10

Pentecost +20 - Year B

Hebrews 5:1-10

In your baptism - “You are my beloved, I celebrate you” - is your appointment to being a “high priest” (as if priesthood is really hierarchical - remember it is an appointment, not a ladder-climbing profession).

A priest worthy of their appointment brings G*D to others, brings others to G*D, and is gentle in both directions.

There it is, three simple tasks. Enjoy your priesthood this and every day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 34c

Pentecost +20 - Year B

Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 34c

There is much to be grateful for. Go ahead, continue counting the ways.

Had Job and James and John (and even myself and yourself at times) played in the garden of Psalm 104 (no matter how a lection committee cuts it up), there wouldn’t be this striving against a personal sense of injustice and entitlement in quite the same way. As we continue standing up for others and volunteering to take a back seat, at times, we will do so with more grace, alacrity, and compassion for ourselves and others.

My yoga teachers have consistently let me know that a result of the discipline is a moving gracefully through the day as well as in the moment of practice. I suspect the psalmist of being a yoga instructor.

Consider the wind as you proceed through whatever is left of the day. Its flow is shaped by what it meets and its power shapes all that it touches, a bit at a time. May your flow and power be graceful and creative this day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

Pentecost +20 - Year B

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

Verses 1-7 can be compared with the Gospel pericope. Listen to the tonal difference between the response Job got for basically the same question James and John asked.

Things get equally interesting with verses 34-41. Imagine Job hearing that, yes, he could do these but of more import is whether he will do what he can to care for creation (the servant thing) regardless of whether he is prospering or in the midst of travail.

And then even more interesting material arises as we move away from verses from the Bible and into your Life and mine. In what way are we G*D-like, Jesus-like? In what way are we not (hint: this is not a qualitative difference, simply content based on particular opportunities). In our similarities and differences there is one important direction to be headed - to sing together with joy by caring for one another and all. The ways in which we do that will vary, but the direction is the same.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mark 10:35-45

Pentecost +20 - Year B

Mark 10:35-45

“Heads I win; tails you lose.” So we desire it when we express our desires to G*D, whether directly or through some intermediary such as Jesus (the desire is not his to grant).

James and John are thinking about some future glory; Jesus is all about present doxa (challenging what seems to be accepted belief and promoting the glory and good of realized eschatology or Crossan’s sapiential eschatology [A difference between John the Baptist and Jesus can be summarized in this way, according to Crossan: "In apocalyptic eschatology, we are waiting for God to act. In sapiential eschatology, God is waiting for us to act."]{what a nested interlude this turned out to be}).

The issue presented to us is whether we are with G*D, or not. Positioning is not relevant - whether right or left or before or behind or above or below or within or beyond.

If we are with G*D we will be with one another and all of creation. The question of special privilege is spurious.

What it comes down to is heads we all win; tails no one loses. We’re pulling for you.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Disciples as Children

Pentecost +19 - Year B

Children are conniving, manipulative little literalists. They use that trait to explore the world and to play dumb. No wonder Jesus called his disciples, “children”.

The disciples seem to periodically look for wealth and power through backing the right Messiah. It’s not so much that they can’t understand the rich ending up empty, it’s that they don’t want to hear this for it would change their relationship with one another, with visitors/guests, and with Jesus.

It is real easy for kids to stall by looking perplexed. Perhaps a next instruction will be more to their liking. Might as well stone-wall the unexpected, uninvited, and unwelcome perspective of Jesus. It really is hard to see how hard it is for the rich to enter a beautiful realm. We have imagined ourselves in their place, forever. Now to hear we have been barking up the wrong tree is more than discouraging. Let’s just not “get it” and maybe news more to our liking will come about our entitled perks and when we get rich we will be able to simply glide on in.

Still, there is a loop-hole, loop-hope, “with G*D all things are possible”. When I get rich I’m sure I’ll do that well and G*D will give me a fortress wall entryway into heaven for me and my camels. If I’m a Jesus follower and rich, I’ll receive a hundred gazillion time more than I will have invested. The Prosperity Gospel has been with us for a long time.

I think I’ll just ignore that last line about the first being last and bet on a heavenly lottery that I won’t be among the many so, but will be with the exceptional, not-impossible, few of the many. Too bad about you.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Hebrews 4:12-16

Pentecost +19 - Year B

Hebrews 4:12-16

Image the effect of a laparoscopic “word of G*D”.

Perhaps closer to our sensibilities is a Star Trek Tricorder.

In either case, bedside manner is still important. Our weaknesses do need sympathy as well as excision or diagnosis.

When we can put together a doctor priest with good medical and people skills, we are emboldened to proceed through whatever trial is present to find the mercy and grace available there, whether or not curing occurs.

Those who claim Jesus is their access to this kind of care are also claimed by others as their access. This passing-it-forward process is hard to beat. Keep at it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Psalm 22:1-15

Pentecost +19 - Year B

Psalm 22:1-15

How many different ways can you say, “I’m not feeling well, my expectations have been dashed.” If you only have the F- or MF- or S-word available to you, you are not able to communicate the depth of your despair. Psalm 22 can add to your lexicon of descriptors of your woe. Just being able to bring so many different metaphors and similes to bear helps.

This is a case where expanding the expression of experience actually deepens the experience.

One of the interesting phenomena involved here is that using a multitude of images begins to build in such a way that by the time the Psalm ends (you’ll have to look it up) we shift gears and can see our situation from a different perspective - one that will help us move on rather than be stuck. This ability to use so many different allusions begins to cut through our initial illusion of being trapped in a particular circumstance. I can’t think of a better reason for expanding an imaginative use of experience descriptors than this - it is clarifying and healing. Building so many wonderfully concrete pictures begins to put a new picture in place. Literacy is liberating.

Here are two montages to illustrate the many descriptors giving new meaning to a one-dimensional picture:
Bush and Soldiers Killed in Iraq
Jesus and a Congregation

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Pentecost +19 - Year B

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

What must I do to inherit something better?
What must I do to get a fair hearing?
What must I do to get out of the trouble I’m in?

These questions deal with a mystery, an invisible force, and a quandary. It turns out that what we are looking for turns on different questions than we have known how to ask. This leads us to appreciating an openness of the future so we will have time and space to modify our questions in light of the non-response we are currently getting from them.

Inheritance is less an issue than investment.

Fairness pales in the face of simply standing firm in the best decisions one can make at the time and modifying that stance in light of new data.

Trouble continues and so it is not a matter of getting out of trouble as much as it is to find the right trouble to be in and diving into it with all one has.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mark 10:17-31

Pentecost +19 - Year B

Mark 10:17-31

Our tendency is to ask what will come our way without any work on our part. What is our due and when will it arrive? This is the built-in temptation with inheritance and why John Wesley and other saints say that it works against our spirit.

“Inheritance” language works in two contrary modes.

Spiritually, inheritance is a subcategory of hope. It is what our picture of a better future is all about.

Literally, economically, inheritance is an illusion. A 100% inheritance tax would reclaim money earned at the expense of others and return it to the commonwealth that basically made it possible to earn so much. All other taxes may be able to be done away with if we saw income as a public issue, not a private one. It is penny-wise and dollar-foolish.

John Wesley wrote of the folly of saving for your children/heirs in his sermon, On Money:
“Do not leave it to them to throw away. If you have good reason to believe they would waste what is now in your possession, in gratifying, and thereby increasing, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life; at the peril of theirs and your own soul, do not set these traps in their way. Do not offer your sons or your daughters unto Belial, any more than unto Moloch. Have pity upon them, and remove out of their way what you may easily foresee would increase their sins, and consequently plunge them deeper into everlasting perdition! How amazing then is the infatuation of those parents who think they can never leave their children enough! What! cannot you leave them enough of arrows, firebrands, and death? not enough of foolish and hurtful desires? not enough of pride, lust, ambition, vanity? not enough of everlasting burnings? Poor wretch! thou fearest where no fear is. . . .”

The better way is to travel with Jesus and turn the question from inheritance to investment. Invest in the poor, in the community as a whole. Here you will find your hope brought to life. Here is the greatest return.

Friday, October 02, 2009

another circle of life

Pentecost +18 - Year B

another circle of life

and disconnect
and disconnect again

and test
and test again

and walk
and walk again

and mature
and mature again

and play
and play again

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Pentecost +18 - Year B

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

G*D’s articulation of intent has improved over time. What was episodic and variegated has come clear in the life of Jesus. An important focus here is the temporal circle of G*D => Prophets => Angels => Creation => Humans (sufferers) => Jesus (grand sufferer) => Jesus (mature/completed) => G*D.

Fred Craddock, in his Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections on The Letter to the Hebrews in The New Interpreter’s Bible reflects:
     “From the outset the reader is reminded that the subject of the Christian faith is God. It is a regrettable fact that theocentricity is absent from much Christian teaching and preaching. To be sure, writing and speaking about Jesus Christ in a community already firm in its faith in God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer is appropriate. Such is the case with early Christian documents written from within or addressing Judaism in which faith in God lay at the heart of a long history. But when those writings are taught or preached in cultures for whom faith in God may not already be present, beginning with christology is beginning too late. The appropriate starting point is “In the beginning, God . . .” even if the discussion will eventually focus on Christ or the Holy Spirit or the church. The writer of Hebrews does not forget this, and by stating rather than assuming the centerpiece of Christian faith reminds the church to be discerning in what it can and cannot assume about the culture to which it speaks. It could be calamitous to get people attached to Jesus without any faith in God.”

Consider the culture you are in. How might you speak G*D back into being without being covered up by Church and attached to Jesus?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Psalm 26

Pentecost +18 - Year B

Psalm 26

An interesting shift in tense occurs from the beginning of the Psalm to its end. We begin with a claim upon G*D because of our past actions - (verse 1) “I have walked . . . .” By the end we move to the present - (verse 11) “I walk . . . .” and future (verse 12) “I will . . . .”

This is what we have to work with - remembrance of the past, decisions in the present, and consideration for the future.

Focus on these three will move us away from an unnecessary concern regarding vindication. Life will happen in all its joy and suffering, but we can take these in stride as we remember, decide, and plan. To throw vindication into the mix muddies our motivation and distracts our energies.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Pentecost +18 - Year B

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

What land are you from? Job was from the land of Uz, which was a traditional source of wisdom. Wouldn’t you like to be known as someone from the land of Wisdom?

A part of wisdom is to know where to focus; what is chaff and what good grain, what will lead to infinite arguments and what will nourish now and again.

The whole business of the Satan, the agent provocateur, the prosecuting attorney, the litmus tester, etc. gets us into all manner of theodicy issues we won’t find our way out of without some Gordian Knot getting sliced and diced.

Of more pertinence is the reprise of the Adam and Eve (fruit) story with Job and Sitis (bread). Are you going to persist in your understanding of G*D or not? In some sense Job bests Adam. As in Adam all sinned, so in Job are all made to question.

What is your bottom-line? What questions are you asking G*D these days?

[Aside: The description “foolish woman” goes back to a sense of “outrageousness” - in this case a word study leads to the incongruity of a married woman acting as though she were engaged in premarital sex. To have our actions repeat a previous stage of life rather than moving into a next stage is foolishness that does not sustain. This is the foolishness of Sitis contrasted with the wisdom of Job. Now take this out of the patriarchal model and apply it to your life. Are your questions reflective of where you were in a previous stage of life or are they stretching into new territory that will feed your soul?]

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mark 10:2-16

Pentecost +18 - Year B

Mark 10:2-16

“Hardness of heart” is a disconnect with creation. It is this disconnect that is behind the surface of divorce. Disconnect can happen in any relationship - one to one or one to many.

Here it is tempting to focus on the doctrine of marriage and divorce. More to the point is a look at the disciples and how they are disconnected from non-disciples - children and others overlooked by them. This become an entry point to growth for all of us - how are we doing with our disconnects?

Can you hear G*D, Jesus, creation blessing where we would not. Listen again, “The disciples spoke sternly to the children”. Can you hear that as, “The disciples divorced themselves from the children”. Listen again to Jesus, “Do not stop the children”. Hear him say, “Do not divorce the children”.

Which of your disconnects haven’t yet eventuated in divorce, but will unless there is a change in your willingness to bless instead of restrict? It is time to get on with either stopping a disconnect and starting a larger blessing or to get on with a divorce?

Friday, September 25, 2009

of stumbling blocks

Pentecost +17 – Year B

of stumbling blocks

most amateur strewers of stumbling blocks
are unaware of their sowing
it is just the way life is
suck it up and deal with it
I stumbled, you stumble, we all will stumble

professional strewers
know a different picture
of a discipline of restraint
for them to advance
many must falter

healers, prayers, praisers
place warning signs
pick-up stumbling litter
give a hand up to stumblers
stumble themselves and confess their fall
set up professional strewer watches
raise consequence awareness of amateurs
remove millstones from necks and eyes
stumble again and rise again
see systemic patterns
kiss boo-boos and apply bandaids
yes, still stumble onward

Thursday, September 24, 2009

James 5:13-20

Pentecost +17 – Year B

James 5:13-20

Let’s follow some parallels. Sufferers pray. Elders pray. Elders are sufferers – thus the reality of wounded healers.

Prayer of sufferers segues into prayer of faith or praise.

We started with sufferers praying for themselves and the cause/healing of their sufferings. We come full circle with a prayer of life binding sufferers and non-sufferers together with the cheerful and non-cheerful.

Prayer is also paralleled with praise and so we can hear a background of life that leads us to confess our suffering by and praise of one another. This is a community builder that is much healthier than catching another in their sin and praising ourselves for praying them into submission.

It is all too easy to see ourselves as modern-day Elijah’s able to pray consequences into people’s lives. As prayers we tend to see ourselves powerfully and effectively righteous. Praying through suffering and praising the possibilities of others is a good antidote to righteous pride.

Prayer and praise circle a tree of life so fast they merge into one another – yin and yang. Welcome to the joyful chase.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Psalm 124

Pentecost +17 - Year B

Psalm 124

The issue is “help”. What help and whose help is effective in which circumstances?

Can we help ourselves? How are your bootstraps these days?

Can we help one another? G*D and G*D’s people help those who cannot help themselves?

Can we help helping? Imagine who will say, “My help had your name.” Some days it will be you who say that and some days it will be said to you. “Who was that masked man?” G*D, you, another? In help it really is one for all and all for one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22

Pentecost +17 - Year B

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22

There is here an expansion of a joy to include others (the poor). It is an expansion of a one-day celebration into two days.

Given this process, what is the limit of expansion of a joy?

Behind this question is an idea that there is no limit but ourselves. Can you remember a time of great joy and relief to you? Is that not worth expanding through time and space? Can you imagine Mordecai expanding this feasting into a week, month, quarter, or year? Presumably it wouldn’t get acted on in the same way every day as some weeding of the ground and milling of the wheat and fermenting of the grape is important for feasting to continue. However, it might, nonetheless, be acknowledged that this seemingly ordinary day includes a celebration of some previous event and is part of its on-going gladness.

Might you take an important time in your life and reclaim it and consciously live today in its light? What would that do to your interactions with others and your engagement with the cultures of the world? You may still get it in the neck, but with new attitude and energy.