Friday, January 30, 2009

Teaching Is . . .

Epiphany 4 – Year B

Teaching Is . . .

Teaching is a contrarian sport. You enter where you can into arenas that are not at the same place you are and teach.

Teaching is intentional confrontation. Such encounters can be gentle, but there must be clarity about what is and what a better option might be.

Teaching is humility inducing. To be a teacher is to be continually taught and that informs what and who you will be teaching.

Teaching is teacher recruitment. Without an eye to who might climb on your shoulders, as you have risen in honor of others, you are but an idealistic declaimer.

Teaching is hallelujah enjoining. We move from hallelujah to hallelujah being raised within oneself and another.

Teaching is sensitive freedom. To know a small step for a small faith and a big step for a big faith is a precious knowledge, wisdom even.

= = = = = = =

-- With thanks to Charles Schulz and his first book from so long ago, Happiness is a Warm Puppy

Thursday, January 29, 2009

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Epiphany 4 – Year B

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

The tension between living what I know to be true and living by what you know to be true is a truly difficult spot. After trying to legislate on behalf of those with a different political bias and coming up with no takers from the other side, demonstrates the demon in taking sensitivity to the point of no return.

At that point any tension has been resolved in favor of the "weaker". That sounds a lot like Jesus telling folks they are to serve one another and the greatest among us will be the greatest servant.

Certainly that is one part of a larger story, but not large enough to stand on its own. For Jesus did not back down from Pilate or others to backtrack on his sense of belovedness.

The weaker among us will bully and whine, alternatively, until they wear down the firmest prophet or saint. A question for us is where we stand because we can do no other. Even if the weaker have to get themselves into deeper difficulty, we cannot presume growth to more strength without having a larger vision, a stronger stance against which their internal contradictions might break apart.

While freedom is not to be flaunted it is also not to fizzle out. Blessings upon you as you go forth to carefully sin boldly and to boldly live carefully.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Psalm 111

Epiphany 4 – Year B

Psalm 111

[G*D] manufactures truth and justice;
All [G*D's] products are guaranteed to last—
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that [G*D] makes and does is honest and true: [The Message, vss 7-8]

In all of Days 1-7 we have reported the externals of light and life and reptiles and rest. What is not reported at that time, but later noted here, is that each day has its part to play in revealing truth and justice.

Light is created . . . TO REVEAL TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
Water is separated . . . TO REVEAL TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
Plants are seeded . . . TO REVEAL TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
Time proceeds . . . TO REVEAL TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
Fish swim, birds fly . . . TO REVEAL TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
Animals procreate, humans create . . . TO REVEAL TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
Even rest pauses . . . TO REVEAL TRUTH AND JUSTICE.

= = = = = = =

Hallelujah! I give thanks…. [The Message, vs 1]
. . . . . . . .
[G*D's] Hallelujah lasts forever! [The Message, vs 10b]

We live between Hallelujahs!
Are you remembering to let your Hallelujah loose?
Are you remembering that even G*D Hallelujahs?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Epiphany 4 – Year B

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me (Moses). . . ." (18:15)

"Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses. . . ." (34:10)

In light of the blessings and woes associated with being a prophet (living on the edge of G*D and Self) wherein one might profit or lose everything, is there any doubt about G*D's HR problem. No wonder prophets are notoriously reluctant and extravagant props like burning bushes are needed.

All that to the side, there is a distinction to be made between you being raised up as a prophet and the lack of heed you will receive from a larger people. These two parts of the equation are separable, he said regretfully for he had prophesied well enough to be heeded.

Even before we get to Lent you may want to do a mini-fast around the discernment of your prophetic gifts. Then, heeded or not, proceed to remind folks that their attempts to wriggle out from their responsibility (their facing G*D) by putting that responsibility on a prophet has come to an end. It is time for prophets to prophesy the end of prophecy. Each and all are accountable.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mark 1:21-28

Epiphany 4 – Year B

Mark 1:21-28

Teaching draws opposition. This seems to have been true from before Socrates and ever since. Teaching (of which preaching can be a subgroup) has its power in clarity (authority is revealed in clarity, not subterfuge) and this is always dangerous for people and times that are interested in simply consolidating or actively trying to replicate a previous experience..

The opposition in this passage is confusion – noise and accusation (still favorite tools of those not ready to proceed).

Can you imagine Jesus not yelling back, not shouting or raising a voice or using an exclamation mark – but simply stating, "Quiet," in a low tone that can be heard in the midst of chaos?

For some it would be enough to settle for "Quiet" but there remains a need for a resolution of the situation. In this case there is also a sending away of that which broke in. A boundary was set. Again, authority is not just control but resolution.

News of this kind of authority does travel. It even awakens the one who demonstrates such authority to additional uses of this resolving power to make whole and make one.

An image we might remember is the play honoring Anne Sullivan, in regard to Helen Keller, is entitled, "Miracle Worker", while the story Helen tells about herself and Anne is entitled, "Teacher." May we all tell this story about ourselves – that we taught those who came after us that they might go further.

A question for us this week is about the authority we demonstrate regarding our own life and the lives of those around us. May it help us resolve the questions we have about who we are and give direction to our courage to be on the edge of new teaching.

Friday, January 23, 2009

for all the people

Epiphany 3 – Year B

John is arrested
Jesus ascended

whence will come a call
to life here for all

changing vocation
into Vocation

using resistance
to show persistence

that simplicity
brings reality

time's up - change your life
it's your turn to live

arrested you're not
ascended you're not

once spoken twice heard
gives power to word

believe you're a part
of healing a heart

everyone changes
G*D and each image

new vision new life
time enough to live

I'm not arrested
I'm not ascended

free to go I am
grounded well I am

prophet disciple
for all the people

Thursday, January 22, 2009

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Epiphany 3 – Year B

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

"I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don't complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out." [The Message]

Time is important. It is always coming to an end and opening up. In this regard it is as tricky as particularly wavy light that can't be pinned down to one state or another. Whatever the reigning paradigm, early or late, it will be gone soon enough. This whether it is desired or not.

Referencing the recent transfer of power between George W. Bush or Barack Obama, regardless of political perspective, the world as it has been known or is currently known is on its way out. So, don't complicate things. Be whom ye be. Barack was Barack before entering professional politics. George remains George after his political run. Every pastor and president and teacher and doctor and reformer knows how quickly their effectiveness fades when their presence fades. All one can do is all one can do. Opportunities pass and opportunities arrive. Take advantage of your time without taking advantage.

Run toward good news or away from bad news: pause between runs to reflect that time is of the essence. Have a Powdermilk biscuit and do what needs to be done. May you leave a freshness stain wherever you go.

= = = = = = =

Bonus material

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Psalm 62:5-12

Epiphany 3 – Year B

Psalm 62:5-12

For G*D alone my soul waits in silence.
For G*D alone my soul pants like a deer for flowing streams.
For G*D alone my soul searches the heights and depths.
For G*D alone . . . .

My rock, my deliverance, my questioner, my friend, my image, my judge, my . . . .

For Neighbor alone my soul waits in silence.
For Neighbor alone my soul pants like a deer for flowing streams.
For Neighbor alone my soul searches the heights and depths.
For Neighbor alone . . . .

Beyond an affirmation that G*D pays a fair wage for a good day's work, how's your good-day's-work quotient? What would you consider a fair recompense for it?

Would you be willing to be recruited to the long line of prophets who are able to see the good and evil results of current behaviors and speak it clearly (whether believing it will make a difference or not). It is this seeing the results of present actions that is the gift of Eve's choice, not some a priori ideal of good and evil to be parsed beforehand and chosen for or against. Waiting in silence, etc., brings a new view of disciples and prophets. In addition to being alternative spellings of one another, they are both experience-based. Prophet Eve leads to Prophet Jonah leads to Prophet (your name here).

Play prophetically with these pairings:
     silence – rock – deliverance – pour out
     hope – salvation – honor - trust

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Epiphany 3 – Year B

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

I just saw a sermon for this coming Sunday that posited WalMart (called Mall Marty World in the sermon and VoldeMart by others) as Ninevah. That may trigger other arenas for you where this tale might well be told. The message Jonah brought in the sermon is: "It's not keeping the customers happy that I'm most concerned about; it's the way you treat your employees. They have nowhere else to work and you don't pay them a living wage. When their children are sick, they have no health insurance to pay for their medical care. When they are too old to work, there are no pension funds to help them maintain their mortgage and car payments. It's not right. Your managers and executives live very comfortably." [Found on Midrash posting from John Sumwalt]

Instead of just a generic "Repent" it is helpful to be specific about what is needed. When you find your Ninevah you will also find your voice and it will thrive on detail, not generality.

Behind every prophecy is an understanding that the future stands open, G*D is open. An important corollary is that G*D is not fate, but life. Change is at the heart of life. Responding to new situations with new responses is crucial to healthy living. When one part of the equation changes, the whole situation can be rethought. To change the present is to change the future. However you cast it, smile, a Living G*D is at work and a Living Image of G*D can do no less.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mark 1:14-20

Epiphany 3 – Year B

Mark 1:14-20

Time is always fulfilled or redeemed. It don't get any fuller than "now!" Deemed or redeemed – now is now. The presence of G*D is always eschatologically present. This is a truism Jesus and many have affirmed down through time.

A trickier part is the relationship between repentance and good news. Following on John, Jesus starts with repentance as the initiating action. This then leads to or reveals good news.

This repentance first policy works for many people. However, it is interesting to note that, if you posit Jesus doing a cold call on Simon and Andrew, the first word he says to them is about good news – that they will learn to "catch men and women instead of perch and bass" [The Message]. Only later will they find out that they will need to learn repentance, prayer, and mercy to fulfill this new life they now sense rising within them.

Of course we can imagine that Simon and Andrew had heard or heard of Jesus and the repentance first message he is reported to have continued from John. In this case there may have been some repentance work that went on previously that had opened Simon and Andrew to actually follow.

A tension of preaching repentance and recruiting based on good news has the most appeal this day of remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. It reminds us of a long line of saints who have helped us refine issues of nonviolence. A reality-of-brokenness and a hope-of-better is a productive pairing.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Epiphany 2 – Year B

I see you

"Even before they respond to a tickle, most babies will laugh at peekaboo. It's their first "joke." They are reacting to a sequence of events that begins with the presence of a familiar, comforting face. Then, suddenly, the face disappears, and you can read in the baby's expression momentary puzzlement and alarm. When the face suddenly reappears, everything is orderly in the baby's world again. Anxiety is banished, and the baby reacts with her very first laugh.

"At its heart, laughter is a tool to triumph over fear. As we grow older, our senses of humor become more demanding and refined, but that basic, hard-wired reflex remains. We need it, because life is scary. Nature is heartless, people can be cruel, and death and suffering are inevitable and arbitrary. We learn to tame our terror by laughing at the absurdity of it all." [from The Peekaboo Paradox, about the Great Zucchini]

and so
and Jesus
greater laughter
rolls on the floor
imagining Jesus
as ladder
still greater
joy peeks
out of me
and you
in laughter
through laughter
to laughter

= = = = = = =

Nathanael – patron saint of guileless paradox (not to mention tanners and those with neurological diseases).

= = = = = = =

"Can anything good come from . . . ." when responded to with hope can turn into a bonus poem, Are We Not of Interest to Each Other, by Elizabeth Alexander, chosen by President-elect Obama to read one of her poems at the inauguration.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

1 Corinthians 6:11-20

Epiphany 2 – Year B

1 Corinthians 6:11-20

"This is what some of you use to be . . . ." To look back is to see what was there before we later recognized it. It is to remember there is always more present than is recognizable at the moment.

When did I first know who I was and what was it I knew? Looking back, that would have been a good question to ask back then, but one quite difficult to respond to. It is still a good question even if we still don't quite know how to respond to it.

It does not take traditional Christian sanctification or justification or confession or redemption to come to understand that in the midst of many options (everything being lawful) some options are better than others (you are not simply your own).

A call and response is to see more within another than they can yet see in themselves and to listen when others see more in us than we can currently see. Sometimes that visionary is a neighbor, sometimes G*D. Whichever visionary starts the process of awareness, the other will soon be engaged. May your dreams be strong, may your relationships be strong, and may your strength be the start of a new community.

= = = = = = =

What's in you?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Psalm 139

Epiphany 2 - Year B

Psalm 139

Even before a word is on my tongue or I am seen under a fig tree in my everydayness or I dream - my word is heard, my presence called forth, and my dream fulfilled.

So we envision G*D before the fact and after the fact. This can lead to a misunderstanding that our days are purposed and set. It is easier and more accurate to simply acknowledge that everything is connected to everything, so, of course, there is a connection of our present with our past and with our future. This connection is not, however, determinative.

A more fruitful approach is an appreciation of vastness, of beauty. To see beyond our usual constraints to a multivalent call - always echoing and always changing - that can be lived out in so many different ways, is to participate in drawing heaven to earth through every vehicle available. To see deep within each opportunity its connection with our life and a connection with other lives, is to discern what is already there and what may yet be present if nurtured and beckoned forth.

Yes, known and search by G*D, I, in turn, investigate G*D’s presence. Together, not even the sands can measure up to life’s possibilities.

Here is another take on YHVH you might appreciate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

1 Samuel 3:1-20

Epiphany 2 – Year B

1 Samuel 3:1-20

"This was a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen." [The Message] Here we have the moral equivalent of "once upon a time . . . ."

In these days anything can happen. In fact we might even begin to expect that there are games afoot and they will play out. In a day when the elder's children are messing up, dreamtime becomes important. The dreaming of everywhen is still afoot in our lives when we can be alert enough to catch it on one of its turns through ourselves.

How many times have we been called before responding? Are we still waiting for some deus ex machina that will keep us running off to an expert?

Alternatively we can listen to the dreaming that creates out of our nothingness a day of new beginning. This dreaming carries us beyond our projections that claim eternal protection. How would this story be told if G*D weren't so personal?

Monday, January 12, 2009

John 1:43-51

Epiphany 2 – Year B

John 1:43-51

How did you hear about Jesus? Was it from a relative? From a friend?

What did you hear about Jesus? That he connects law with prophets? That he is honest at a very deep level?

Where did you hear about Jesus? Was it under a fig tree where you were studying or feasting or trysting? Was it, as per Jacob's dream, at the bottom of a ladder connecting heaven with earth?

Regardless of these journalistic questions, did you recognize the plural "you" in the ladder vision? Perhaps in days of yore one person could whomp up this dream, but now it is communal. Want to see a picture of a better day when a curtain of separation is ripped asunder and the spirit of G*D moves freely between heaven and earth? – be with others who are so seeking. If you can keep yourselves free from mass hysteria – be your part in a supportive and correcting community with one another (the odds are you are already family with Philip and Nathanael) already under your (plural) "fig" tree, and dreaming strong together.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Mark 1:1-11

Epiphany 1 – Year B

Mark 1:1-11

Here is a draft of a sermon by Mike Johnson, as found on Midrash Discussion Group. You can join that discussion here.

= = = = = = =

Sermon Title: "The Galilean Candidate" (or "John the Baptist and the Queen of Diamonds" or "God's Sleepers")

Prime metaphor: Jesus as a "sleeper" planted by God in Galilee and activated 30 years later by the preaching of John the Baptist (à la Raymond Shaw in "The Manchurian Candidate" -- a sleeper planted in the US by China, in the original movies, and by a man who doesn't know he's a sleeper)

Entry-into-scripture question: How did Jesus know it was time for him to emerge from his Galilean obscurity? And did he know what it was time for him to do? And did he know all along -- or, as Jim asked in opening comments, "Was everything revealed to him in a great flash of understanding? Or did he figure it out as he went along?"

Existential belly-button question: Who am I that I may not know that I am? A swan and not the ugly duckling I see in the mirror. A prince and not a pauper? A child of God? Raymond Shaw was activated by the Queen of Diamonds. Jesus was activated by John the Baptist's preaching. Jesus is God's instrument for activating us -- letting us know who we really are.

"Where did this guy come from?" That question was asked by more than one person (especially among Hillary Clinton's campaign crew) as Barack Obama rose from being a 47-year old extremely junior senator to first the winner of the Iowa primary and then the Democratic nomination. Nothing in his background marked him as a possible, let alone successful, presidential candidate. He was not the son of a former president or senator. Born of a basically absentee father from Kenya, for a while the stepson of an Indonesian, raised in Hawaii by a single white mother and grandparents -- not exactly a fast-track to the presidency.

And even after his big splash at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when people began thinking of him as a future presidential possibility, no one assumed that he was a shoo-in for the 2008 nomination. Who knew that this charismatic speaker would also have such finely honed political skills as to understand the importance of caucus primaries and the savvy to know how to go about getting them a few at a time, in a way that would make the final difference. Even today, marveling at how far he came in so short a time, without the pedigree of so many others, I find myself wondering, "Where did this guy come from?"

Bystanders may have said that about Jesus, too. He was not the son of any famous religious figure - like a Robert Schuller. He may have been spiritually precocious, if there's anything to Luke's story about talking with the elders in the temple at age 12, but he was hardly a well-known child prodigy -- a spiritual Tiger Woods -- on whom the whole world's fascinated attention was turned as he neared the age of 21. Moreover, he was a Galilean -- a boundary figure from the northern fringe of Judaism. If somebody had said, "The Messiah stands among us," nobody would have picked Jesus. And when he started to make a splash -- maybe beginning with his baptismal splash -- don't you know people said, "Who is this guy?" "What's a Galilean doing in these parts?"

You can never tell, based on background alone, what people have in them. Sometimes we don't know ourselves what we have in us. People differ in their beliefs about how much Jesus knew when about what he was to do and be, and I wouldn't argue about it. But I favor the view that he learned as he went along, because otherwise it doesn't seem to be he was really human -- and because the scriptures say that he was tempted in every way we are, and you can't be tempted in every way as we are if you know totally ahead of time the exact outcome of every situation, and exactly what to say and do, no sweat.

As I say, other Christians think that if Jesus were in any legitimate sense, the Son of God, then he must have known all along. And that may be your view. And that's fine. We can still commune together. But one thing is for sure. Whatever Jesus did or didn't know all along about what he had in him, and what he was to do with it, we don't always.

[Tell the story of the "ugly duckling" -- maybe also the story an eagle raised in a chicken lot.]

And Paul the apostle didn't know he was Paul the apostle. He thought he was Saul, the righteous defender of the faith and godly destroyer of the liberal "Christian" heresy -- that was absolutely his identity right up to the point where he was activated by a blinding light and a voice on the road to Damascus. And Moses may have thought he was a son of the Pharaoh -- with all the finest clothes, the whole east wing of the palace to himself, six sports cars -- everything -- right up to the point where he was activated by seeing an Egyptian overseer strike a Hebrew slaves -- suddenly he was activated and knew himself to be, not the son of the Pharaoh, but a brother to the slave. And Rosa Parks had no idea who she was, or what she would mean to this nation, that day when she understood herself to be a human being

People don't always know who they are, who they are supposed to be, what they have it in themselves to be, or what sort of a difference they can make -- until God activates them in one way or another. That's why I think that was true of Jesus too. That he was activated by the preaching of John. That all he had learned about God, from his rabbi, from his parents, from the people they sat next to at the synagogue (who knows who all played a role in his coming to understand the radical nature of faith in the radically sovereign God of Israel -- an understanding that led him to see how far from actually following God's lead the people of God often were?) -- all he had learned about God and what it meant to love and trust God was engaged and taken a step farther by the preaching of John the Baptist, who was saying exactly what Jesus knew to be true.

John's radical call to radical repentance and faith and disciplined living triggered something in Jesus. And John's sense of urgency triggered something. Now is the time. God is on the move now. Now. Get ready. Prepare yourself. Open yourself to God. Leave off your fooling around with religion, let alone your cavalier sinfulness, and start taking God seriously and actually living in faith. And Jesus knew he could never go back to the carpenter shop. He was a part of what was going on.

Maybe he knew he was destined to lead at that point. Maybe he just knew that whatever was happening he was a part of it and the rest was revealed to him later. But whenever and however much he knew, it was the preaching of John that moved him to offer himself for baptism -- to take a flying cannonball leap into the waters of baptism, body and soul, absolutely unreservedly offering himself as an instrument of God to be and do whatever and wherever God lead him to do no matter what.

And as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens were torn apart and he saw forever and the spirit descended on him and a voice from heaven affirmed him.

But the main question here, finally, is not what did Jesus know when. And the question that comes to me out of all this is, "Who am I that I don't know that I am?"

[Haven't fully developed this yet. But want to emphasize especially that God's estimate of us is almost always different -- and always, ultimately grander and nobler and more beautiful and more life-affirming that our estimates of ourselves. Shouldn't be hard to come up with illustrations here.]

Whether Jesus always knew, or didn't know till that point, John the Baptist's preaching was the trigger that activated him. And Jesus is the trigger that activates us. Jesus may not have known until he came up out of the waters of baptism that he was God's son. But thanks to Christ, we know going in that we are children of God. It is God embracing us in Christ who transforms us, who affirms us, who calls us his children, who gives us a new identity.

"Where did this guy come from? Who is this guy, anyway?" We may, and do, often say the same thing of ourselves. "Who am I? I'm a nobody. I do not matter. I have no worth." Indeed, many of our attempts to be somebody come out of our feelings that we are nobodies. Our attempts to impress come out of our feelings that we are not very impressive. Our desire for praise comes from our never having been blessed. Our desire for power comes from our feelings of weakness and vulnerability. On an individual level we may do many foolish and counterproductive things because in an effort to escape the nobody-ness we feel. And on a national level, a people may engage in all kinds of massive destruction, working out their fears and flaws on a global scale.

And that remains our identity -- unless and until we experience ourselves embraced by God, declared to be his children, loved. That's when we find out who we really are -- and begin to live out of that identity. Until then religion remains just a matter of doctrines we ought to believe, commands we ought to obey, but which we can never really get into -- because we do not yet know who we are.

Whether Jesus always knew, or didn't know till that point, John the Baptist's preaching was the trigger that activated him. And Jesus is the trigger that activates us.

That's why Mark tells this story. That's why we keep on telling this story.

So: who are you that you don't know you are?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Acts 19:1-7

Epiphany 1 – Year B

Acts 19:1-7

In Mark, folks come to John for a baptism regarding repentance. Jesus' experience of Beloved-Pleasure seems to have been a bonus ("Wait! There's more!) that others didn't notice or receive.

Here, folks seem to be satisfied with John's baptism. Then, along comes Paul bringing Jesus' experience of Holy Spirit Assurance-of-Belovedness to them.

Between a movement of intentionally going out to receive (Mark) and an experience coming in, whether looked for or not (Acts), is the vitality of life.

When the two come together, prophecy that will result – both fulfillment of past prophecies and the setting out of new prophecies that address the current situation. (One does need to decide whether or not tongues and prophesy are related, sequential, or two different experiences. But whichever way you go, prophesy is still a key result of a revealed Spirit of Holy.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Psalm 29

Epiphany 1 – Year B

Psalm 29

a rain god thunders forth
lightning flashes
deluge floods

thunder echoes
from deep to desert
shaking winnowing

wind strips bare
revealing joy

hard rain
strips bare
Lebanon's cedars

from above waters
comes strength enough
for assuring peace

the simplest font
beneath a wild eagle
floods a heart

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Genesis 1:1-2:4

Epiphany 1 – Year B

Genesis 1:1-2:4

The Mark pericope really should start with verse 1 rather than 4. Baptism is grounded in creation, or its not grounded. This Genesis passage might well fit Mark's opening line, "In the beginning of good news. . ." and continue on with "See, I am sending my messenger ahead." [All the little fiddly bits (as fjords have been described in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), including all the details of days 1 to 7, have come before us to give evidence of good news.]

If we conflate the first and second creation stories we might choose to focus on the third day. "And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters God called seas: and God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:10, mostly KJV) From here it is but a hop, skip, and jump to Genesis 2:6. "But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground." (KJV)

That which was separated still belonged together. Baptism is a bringing back together of the humus/human/earth/ground and the sea/water/mist/river. Baptism is a creative moment – "Let there be . . . !" a returning back to basics in order to go further than we have so far come – one step back that we might take two steps ahead.

Baptism that is Baptism is a very present ancient future that energizes us to new levels – indeed, to the very good. Baptism that is only baptism is still good in it's bringing to mind what might yet be. The difference seems not to be in the amount of water or the trace minerals it carries, but this mysterious, creation-oriented, gift of Wisdom (from last week) and Holy Spirit (this week). Good luck in trying to tie them down through any ritual, including Baptism.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Mark 1:4-11

Epiphany 1 – Year B

Mark 1:4-11

Baptism is one of those words that comes freighted with layers of meaning. There are questions of style and consequence.

Baptism is simply a response to a recognition of being off-kilter. Whether called sin or misgiving, whatever comes after its acknowledgement is our baptism. It may be a baptism into further delusion so we have deniability of any wrong or a baptism into some degree of repentance or life-change.

Baptism is simply a repeatable action of daily cleansing. Such a mikvah affirms conscious and unconscious, intentional or unintentional, missteps on a daily journey and anticipates some grander baptism that would be once-for-all.

Baptism is simply an assurance that one is marked by L*VE or L*FE and as L*FE and L*VE. (Enjoy the difference between voiced and unvoiced labiodental fricatives and know the difference is subtle enough that you can freely translate between them and be understood.)

Baptism is simply not simple. The Wikipedia article is representative of the divergences of baptismal traditions. If you were to confound your particular baptismal tradition, what one question would you ask?

Regardless of your preferred baptismal ritual, may you live and love out of an assurance of being loved into life.

For those interested in a more orthodox presentation are welcome to attend to several additional sites:
United Methodist Overview
United Methodist In Depth
Overview of traditions from Religious Tolerance
Or – use your favorite search engine: "(your tradition here) baptism"

For those interested in a disconnect with baptism:
The Godfather: Baptism and Murder

Friday, January 02, 2009


Christmas 2 – Year B







Thursday, January 01, 2009

Ephesians 1:1-14

Christmas 2 – Year B

Ephesians 1:1-14

Blessed be! We have been blessed with every spiritual gift.

Remember this is a corporate blessing.

Together we are adopted and we adopt one another.(1)

In this we find our voice of praise and thanksgiving and the wholeness of a healthy salvation, one for all.

Planned or unplanned, this is a cup of kindness.

Resolution 4: To receive grace and peace on behalf of those not yet able to receive and to continue sharing the same with them regardless of their present ability to receive.

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(1) A Pale Blue Dot - an opportunity for a new year.

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Bonus New Year Material:

Hear Kenneth McKellar sing Auld Lang Syne in Scots.

The Millennium Prayer (combo of Lord's Prayer to Auld Lang Syne tune)

Aretha Franklin & Billy Preston bring another kind of joy to the song.