Friday, May 29, 2009

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Pentecost – Year B

Ezekiel 37:1-14

One of my favorite images from Nikos Kazantzakis is portraying Holy Spirit as an eagle, not a dove, that swoops down and digs its talons into the back of one's neck and drags you where Holy Spirit desires.

This gives the kind of action needed for Pentecost. It is not a sappy-happy birthday party; it is serious business, transformational for one and all. A response needs to be made, it can't be avoided any longer.

We can't get out of the energy of Pentecost by saying, "Gee, I don't know, what do you think." Eagle Spirit is happening now, so go ahead. Take a deep breath; everything is about to begin.

Bone will knit to bone, separations between languages, cultures, and theologies will be bridged. Creation and re-creation are continuing. Speak and Act: life's dynamic.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Romans 8:22-27

Pentecost – Year B

Romans 8:22-27

Pentecost often comes down to wearing red clothes and having red balloons. Brother Paul sees Pentecost type events in terms of labor, with all the blood and pain that is associated thereto. In these terms you can hear wannabe Pentecostalists opting for c-sections and epidurals – anything to avoid the pain of a new thing (that is not a comment about safety needs).

Our joyful expectancy, when push comes to shove, becomes a secondary consideration in the face of what it would mean to actually begin living as though all folks are part of and can get the wonder of G*D. Much easier just to sit and wait or simply keep talking to ourselves in our safe little place with our personal ecstatic experience.

Imagine the room Jesus' Friends were occupying as a dilated cervix and we are being pushed along to an unanticipatable new world. Wind and fire, pain and blood, birthing a new life through the old – seeing all in the midst of the partial – Pentecost.

Bonus read: D. H. Lawrence "New Heaven and Earth". Enjoy your death and rebirth, Pentecost as a condensed Easter Triduum.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Pentecost – Year B

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Everywhere you look there is a glimpse of the Presence of G*D. That possibility or reality seems to continue to slide away from us, like something thought to be glimpsed out the corner of an eye, only to be dismissed as nothing.

A Pentecost experience is when the blindness is taken from our eyes and we are able to see the Presence of G*D in others and in all. Finally we can speak Mother Earth language, find the mother-tongue of all we encounter. We can take our part in a common song of praise – Wonder.

Blessing Received. Blessing Given.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost – Year B

Acts 2:1-21

Given the scope of time, ten days from Ascension to Pentecost is pretty good for a slow-mill G*D.

One key is that they were "all together". Apparently Thomas wasn't taking any chances about a second visit and stuck pretty closely to the others. Or, the spirit waited for that one moment in ten days when folks were all together "in one place."

From this distance we tend to get caught up with wind and fire, and miss the "all" set-up.

The word "all" shows up four times and is implied in the passage from Joel that gives the kinds of parentheses that indicate all – sons and daughters, young and old. It is this "all" that might well be thought of as G*D's presence or deeds that are touted (glimpsed and affirmed).

Pentecostal tests that leave someone out, break the "all"ness of Pentecost. As wonderful as folks speaking is that of folks listening. Likewise, the distance between amazement and perplexion (why isn't this a word?) is less than ten days and we need to be careful about making too much of this maturational or experiential difference.

In keeping with St. Augustine's appreciation of Ascension, Pentecost is one logical result of what it means to stop looking toward "heaven" or away from one another. When we are gathered and begin to really see one another, it is a Pentecost and a result of such seeing of an all-ness in this small gathering is energy to find all-ness in a larger setting, one beyond our usual boundaries.

Imagine again, where two or three are gathered and agree – what power there is (yes for good or ill)!

In Jewish tradition, Pentecost is Shavuot – a time of remembrance of the Mosaic Commandments, the Torah. An appreciation of "all" is helpful for both Pentecost and Shavuot.

United Methodists will soon be voting on a change in their constitution that changes a negative approach to its ministry ("without regard to . . .") to a positive one simply saying, "we are in ministry to all persons". Time (more than ten days) will tell if two-thirds of those voting will see this as a Pentecostal moment or if they will hang on to an incremental ministry of including one specially identified group after another as "we" become comfortable with "them" by continuing to note or protest too much that "our ministry" is without regard to "them".

Monday, May 25, 2009

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Pentecost – Year B

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Going away is so unhandy to our plans based on our current reality. Whether it is Jesus, friend, lover, or enemy – their going away throws us for a loop. Yet, if we don't have some experience of loss, how will we recognize a new opportunity? Arrgh, what a system and what it says about a G*D in our image.

To be blessed by loss is to be open to revisiting our present anew and seeing what we might have gotten awry and what really needs to continue on for a bit. Could we have gotten the whole sin thing wrong (it's not about flesh, but spirit)? Could we have gotten the whole righteousness thing wrong (its not ours to achieve or G*D's to give)? Could we have gotten the whole judgment thing wrong (its not relative or absolute)? Could we have gotten the limits of our knowledge wrong (its not about either the traditions or what we can handle right now)? Could we have gotten glory wrong (its ours by virtue of another or it stands in eternity)?

When we become friends, not servants, we return to the flow of life, of grace – not based on our current creedal understanding but catching clearer glimpses of the Great Better continuing to inch its way into the present and taking root. This shift from the limits of what we already know to an inbreaking of a growing edge can make a helpful difference for us and for others.

So here is the set up for the week – waiting, in the midst of loss, for new and renewed friendship to gel and be released, to gel and be released, to be acted on and lost, to be and not to be – acting, in the midst of loss, of our own power and control, our own strengths and weaknesses, acceptance or rejection by others.

Wait and Act. Enjoy the wrestling.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Easter 7 – Year B

assured we are safe
we proceed into dangerous turf
theirs claimed uniquely theirs

our assurance of safety
all the more dangerous
when spelled infallible

good polls portend election
from whence we change the world
only to wake up unheard of again

safety as sanctity is unsafe
holding its own seed of destruction
perpetually sprouting

believing our own press
we claim eternity
with dusty fingers

to this certainty
we are strangers
who look beyond

not bound by safety nets
swinging trapeze free
glory unbound

a moment above
no matter what's below
flings us forth

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11

Ascension – Year B

Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11

On this day of remembering ascension we do well to pay attention to footnotes.

* Other ancient authorities lack "and was carried up into heaven" (Lk 24:51).

* Other ancient authorities lack "worshiped him, and" (Lk 24:52

And so we read: "Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God."

This moves us to the same sort of abrupt ending of Mark that cries out for something more. This is a good place for Luke to end his story of Jesus and then to pick it up again to begin his story of Church.

This reading also helps us see the issue of "blessing" without the confusion heaven adds to this and almost every conversation of which it is a part.

Acts begins with a remembrance of Jesus speaking with the disciples for forty days about the presence of G*D, the freedom of G*D, the mercy of G*D, the new-beginning of G*D, partnership with G*D (or if you must, the kingdom of G*D).

This conversation reminds the disciples that they are still not experiencing these gifts of presence, freedom, mercy, new beginnings, or partnership. So the hinge question, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the king-dom to Israel?" This question represents the failure of the disciples to stand with Jesus rather than under him.

Confirming this is their response to Jesus being lifted up and out of sight (still without heaven being mentioned). They gawk upward. Two strangers need to remind them that Jesus will return in the same way, inexplicably, and if they keep avoiding one another and the world around them, they will have missed the next opportunity to, unexplainedly, share their experience of an amazedly unexplainable G*D.

To put the two passages together - It is time for us to rise, as workers/saviors of the world, to throw off our chains of gazing in the wrong direction, and to be a blessing.

1 John 5:9-13

Easter 7 – Year B

1 John 5:9-13

Let's see, I am supposed to believe the human testimony of the writer of 1 John, but even more I am to believe the testimony of my experience of Jesus. This puts me in a particular bind - if 1 John corresponds to my experience, does that give it or me greater credence all along the way? This evidence is circular.

Might we say with 1 John that eternal life is in Jesus or say with our experience of Jesus that such life is in G*D. Is G*D stepping back, forcing Jesus to be the bearer and gatekeeper of eternal life? How do we reconcile the witness of scripture as commonly received with the gift of our own spirit base?

In some sense 1 John is propaganda (yes, these writing are as well) to which I sometimes respond, "Speak for yourself. As for me and my house, we arrive at a sense of life larger than life with the gift of creation and re-creation, not propositions about a "Son of God". Statements about a source of eternal life is one thing and showing one lives from that perspective is quite another.

Psalm 1

Easter 7 – Year B

Psalm 1

Happy delight: an excellent starting place.

Yielding fruit in your time: the time for this is always now.

These two let us know we are moving toward the great better not yet arrived.

In this psalm there is a fine play between the joy of creation and the joy of participation. When these two are active we anticipate joy beyond joy yet to come.

Remember your joys. Live your joys. Anticipate your joys.

Then take the next quantum leap:
remember joy; live joy; anticipate joy.

No matter what order you proceed through this trinity of joy you will find yourself embarking on the other aspects of love.

An excellent start to the Psalms; an excellent start, period. Now that it has begun, keep it rolling.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Acts 1:15-17, 26

Easter 7 – Year B

Acts 1:15-17, 26

Yes, leadership development through a prayer process is still possible.

We can learn something from every leadership attempt and we can help folks grow. Imagine, if you will, a new cycle of leadership selection in whatever group you are a part of. This year, however, you are going to follow this Biblical model of leader selection.

First, put everyone (yes, everyone, not just those deemed appropriate by some criterion or another). Spend some time in prayer that the right leadership for the year will be forthcoming (not the perfect leadership – the right leadership that we can learn from).

Start with what you consider to be the humblest team/committee/whatever and draw out an appropriate number of people for it. The last one selected will be the convener of the group.

Continue until you come to whatever is considered to be the key position and finally draw out the person who will be named.

Use this as your starting point. At a minimum, view this as you would making a decision by flipping a coin – not so much trusting the coin as investigating your response to what turns up. It may lead you to a new appreciation of what it means to be community and to rely upon the least as a way to greatness (whatever that might mean to you).

Presuming you will try it, reflect on these questions after completing the process. What surprised you about viewing someone in a different position than usual? Would you be willing to trust this process over time (perhaps in a given year you might have to learn what not to do as well as what might be done)?

This is as valid a process as a group of nominators sitting around talking about what they know about folks – there is always more to know than we know.

Try it, you may like it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

John 17:6-19

Easter 7 – Year B

John 17:6-19

To what and whom are you to reveal what you know of G*D?
By whom and what has G*D been revealed to you?

Both aspects of revelation are important to keep clear. Both will lead to a sense of assurance, protection, if you will.

Creation, once upon a time and still, has revealed G*D. My thanks for this gift is to protect creation.

Imagination, large and small, has revealed G*D. My thanks for this gift is to protect imagination wherever it appears and regardless of the person doing the imagining.

Relationships, intimate and accidental, have revealed G*D. My thanks for this gift is to protect relationships near and far, mine and yours.

You catch the pattern. What would you add that has brought revelation of G*D to you and are you likewise committed to protecting these important sources of life?

Friday, May 15, 2009

beyond logic

Easter 6 – Year B

beyond logic

as . . . so . . . : therefore . . .
makes it sound so definitive
here are the facts
as I have been loved
so I love you
therefore stay
where I can love you
stay with my commands
loving commandments
of course

if . . . then . . .
keeps it sounding authoritative
if you just stay
obeying commands
following commandments
abiding loyally
then you'll
abide loyally
follow commandments
obey commands

can you hear joy in these logics
is it bubbling up
about to arrive
if only
is this the way to friendship
or a polite cover for indenture
chosen without choosing

appointed for productivity
not for planned obsolescence
but for long term fruit
fruit to eat
seeds to plant
plants to tend
harvests to reap
fruit to eat

ask what you will
this is what you'll get
fruit to eat
enjoy wholly
holy joy

Thursday, May 14, 2009

1 John 5:1-9

Easter 6 – Year B

1 John 5:1-9

We are still dealing with a lot of conquering language in service to matters of love and faith. One really needs to dig pretty hard to avoid the surface connections of one's "faith" (read belief system rather than active experience) conquering every other faith. We do have a difficult time being a gracious image of a gracious G*D.

If the Johannine community is having difficulty and "love one another" is the healing balm needed, this passage seems to set the stage for the community having a schism (another?) as arguments about what constitutes victory or conquering are inherent in the text.

Where would you put a moderating word in edgewise?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Psalm 98

Easter 6 – Year B

Psalm 98

The word "victory" shows up three times in the NRSV in the first three verses. In our current ears this sets us up to hear this psalm militarily, not relationally.

Imagine what some word substitutions for "victory" could do for us. First they would put us in a better position to hear the action of G*D at end of the psalm to be the healthy, positives of righteousness and equity. Victory doesn't really get us to that spot.

Here then are some words that we might substitute for "victory":
     - partnership
     - love
     - friendship
     - joy
     - relationship

The whole "victory" approach leads us to the dead-ends of "Truth" with a capital "T", Orthodoxy that emphasizes style of reporting a G*D experience rather than the experience itself, and Creeds that purport to be the last creed needed because it is the best we can do today.

If joy is to be expressed because of the presence of G*D, it needs something larger than a victory that we know will always be ephemeral, partial, and the set up to more conflict.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Acts 10:44-48

Easter 6 – Year B

Acts 10:44-48

Wouldn't you know it! Just when we thought we had an unrepeatable experience that would set us apart for all time and give evidence of our worthiness, along come these least-likely folks to replicate our experience.

Choice: Accept or resist this reality.

Hopefully when we return from our exalted moment we re-enter everyday living with a difference. We have learned that nothing is impossible and that not only includes us, but all. Here is a real opportunity for all boats to rise. The Market will never do that, but a new spirit can.

Instead of continuing to presume upon our elevated status as a spirit-touched person, we are renewed enough to join Jesus in not presuming upon our status with G*D. We can meet folks between our experiences and grow further together than we ever dreamed. We are also renewed enough to affirm our status with G*D. We can encourage and be encouraged to grow further together than we ever dreamed.

We'll stay on together for a bit and then move on and return and move on. See your life as a dance. This takes some distance and perspective over the long haul. But see your pirouette, your lift, your two-stepping/jive/samba/ waltz/free-style dance of a lifetime. Change partners and allemande left. Break out your tutu and pas de deux as you ready to move from position one to Arabesque.

Ready or not, here comes baptismal water. A sprinkle or a tsunami of baptismal water. Baptismal water approved by others or not. Beyond objection, baptismal water flows and flows.

Monday, May 11, 2009

John 15:9-17

Easter 6 – Year B

John 15:9-17

Institutionally, United Methodists are called to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

This passage from John clarifies that we are not to make servants of Jesus Christ. But if we are to make friends of Jesus Christ there are additional questions to be asked.

Can you "make" friends? What does that take?

Have you experienced bringing your various friends together and found that they thus became friends of one another?

Would this be primarily about our motivation – what would you do for a friend, for Jesus? Lay down your life? What difference would being a disciple or a friend bring to a motivation and consequence-in-living.

Would this be primarily about expansion of Jesus' friends (as if he was incapable of being someone's friend on his own) and so we become the proverbial and catalytic best friend who gets left behind when new connections are made between your best friend and another (sound like a familiar movie plot)?

How would it change a congregation to be made up of friends of J rather than disciples of Jesus?

This friendship talk is supposedly to strengthen our love of one another. How's that working out for Jesus? Has this tactic worked?

We might profitably play with these intersections between servant-friend-lover. On which boundary are you finding your work these days?

Friday, May 08, 2009

swing slow . . .

Easter 5 – Year B

swing slow . . .

resurrection comes dropping slow
honey molasses slow
slow enough
when awareness dawns
it seems as if it had sprinted
all the way from creation to now

in the mystery of transition
from winter to harvest
we find confusion aplenty
of all our previous categories
of up and down and in and out
fast and slow and back and forth

from graves closed and open
we wonder about pruning
just how much needs to go on
to roll a stone way
to lay clothes aside
to become an anonymous gardener

is it this thought
that action
a future or a past
a name or a title
resources or hope
how much more

is this yearning for pruning
a suicide wish
a commitment to growth
simply a shedding of skin
or many meta-s at once
angelically visiting from thither and yon

fear relief feels tectonically paced
in minds less long-lived
may persistence erode
fear of pain of death
until slowness is sweet

Thursday, May 07, 2009

1 John 4:7-21

Easter 5 – Year B

1 John 4:7-21

Want G*D to be recognizable within your life?

"Love" another, each other, one another, others.

G*D's love lives in us and our love lives in G*D.

Now, if only we could figure out what this "love" is.

Is it "bearing fruit"?

Is it "shared understanding"?

Is it "happy, happy, joy, joy"?

Is it "participation in a great congregation"?

Is it "confession"?

Is it "response to being 'loved'"?

All of the above and more?
None of the above?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Psalm 22:25-31

Easter 5 – Year B

Psalm 22:25-31

What is missing from this section of the Psalm is the context in which it began – forsakenness, worminess, unhumanness, scorned, despised, mocked. Without this starting point we have an unbalanced power of positive thinking.

When all you can hear is "bow down – bow down – bow down; worship – worship – worship", beware. There may well be a helpful relationship being referenced, but it may also be a set up for a new forsakenness, worminess, unhumanness, and set up to be scorned, despised, and mocked anew. Take at least one second-look to see what is going on when faced with a single dictum and take the time needed to evaluate its value.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Acts 8:26-40

Easter 5 – Year B

Acts 8:26-40

Inquiring minds want to know what horsepower chariot Philip had to contend with. Had the chariot pulled into a fast-falafel joint and reading passed the time (1 horse power)? Did the Ethiopian have a driver so he could read as they bounced along (several horse power)? Whatever it was, apparently Philip had an angelic booster on his side or at his back. Please, no Jr. Hi. jokes about backside boosters. Apparently Philip was in good enough shape that he could run and talk at the same time.

I often scratch my head about understanding what is understood. Said understanding always seems to come with a particular perspective, not an alternative one. When you hear Isaiah being pondered, I presume readers of these notes automatically think, "Jesus is what needs talking about here." But, with a head scratch, maybe they don't always go to that default?

Fortunately Philip arrived just in time to hear this particular portion of Isaiah. Some other sections would have presented a bit more hermeneutic alakazam to connect Jesus in such a way that a request for Jesus-authorized baptism would be the logical response by this Ethiopian eunuch fellow-traveler of YHWH.

It is this at-just-a-right-moment phenomenon that is of the most interest today. Providence is a powerful, sometimes too powerful, perspective. Even though we don't hear of it, one might presume that an angel of the Lord was preveniently whispering in the Ethiopian's ear to set off at just the right time for Philip to intersect his reading at a particular point in Isaiah. There are a lot of variables the angels had to attend to along the way, the speed of the horses, construction zones, thieves along the way, Dramamine's precursor, etc.

Providential moments can be seen as fated or an opportunity to make the most of an opportunity. Around these parts we tend toward the latter. This means our search for meaning can show up running along side and that we can strike up a conversation in the most unconventional of places and among the most unlikely of folk. The folks caught up overmuch in angels plotting ahead can miss an opportunity to engage an unaware angel. Whether you see life through the lens of "the hand of G*D" or "a god-damn fluke", may you be open to receive and to proclaim good news, where e'er ye be.

Monday, May 04, 2009

John 15:1-8

Easter 5 – Year B

John 15:1-8

We have a friend who comes to prune bushes because we can't bring ourselves to cut off enough to be beneficial. A quick look at derivations pushes the verb "prune" back to a round and rolling wheel. When left unpruned all the little fiddly bits start sticking out, impeding progress.

A second word to play with in this regard is "abide". It heads us back to wait, trust, believe.

Between active pruning and active waiting we find the creative tension that will allow us to move past condemnation of the pruning process or the waiting. In our current United Methodist iteration there are those who would castrate or prune the GLBTQ community from a larger vine, with nary a thought for the gift of fruit they bear. There are those of the GLBTQ community who would closet or prune the fruit of themselves from a larger vine. We have gone through this cycle before with various power plays – poverty, slavery, women, doctrine, culture, tradition, etc.

A Malvina Reynolds song, Magic Penny, with these lyrics, "Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more" brings us a new look at this passage. Imagine if it is love that is pruned in order to have more love (what does this do to the image of burning up branches?). Imagine if we waited for the fruit of love we have trusted to grow into the action of belief (what does this do to the image of a parochial glory?).

Friday, May 01, 2009

I abides

Easter 4 – Year B

I yam what I yam
and that’s all what I yam
a last resort spinach guzzler
come to save the day
if necessary
please say it ain’t necessarily so

now I lay me down to sleep
a rock in the gateway
astral projecting
elsewhere in creation
all the way back to creation
I be loved and be loving

some call me good
some a dirty shepherd
some Netzer
and some not at all
so I’ll just abide
whether called or no

one shepherd one flock
sometime one
sometime the other
together no wants
separate Death Valleys
a comfort way open

sometime deep
sometime artesian
sometime comfortable
sometime not

now you see me
now you don’t
shepherd of this flock
and shepherd of that
knowing all
known not at all

welcome to my world
rejected stone
table setter
the fall and rise
of Reginald Perrin
or Nazareth Jesus

so stand we all
so say we all
healthy and whole
once fearful
but an oasis met
canteen filled

little kid
second-childhood kid
wise kid
and silly
abide abide
love abides