Friday, June 26, 2009

An Interruption

Pentecost +4 – Year B

An Interruption

We are moving to another side, from full-time intentional interim/transitional ministry to retirement.

One of the realities of this is an interruption in routine. As we move from the eastern side of Wisconsin to the western side the first of next week it will take a bit to get computers set up again and my laptop is old enough to not have wireless in it. There are also some travel plans in the offing and so I expect to not be posting here until August.

Given the reality of interruptions and how novelty can rearrange patterns, there is the possibility that this particular sharing of thoughts is finished. We will see. The most I will commit to at this point is having a message on the first week in August 2009 to give an update of plans.

Thank you to those who have contacted us over time.

May you take something to eat as you arise again to life and use the energy to actually "do what you do do well".

take care
  dream strong
  smile gentle
and so go well.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Pentecost +4 – Year B

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

We just completed a successful Capital Fund Campaign. Our scripture theme was 8:12 (CEV) – "It doesn't matter how much you have. What matters is how much you are willing to give from what you have."

The practical use of this passage is thus validated. A part of every encounter with the holy includes, but goes beyond the practical. For instance, the very folks who responded well to verse 12 would have a most difficult time with verses 13-15. Their individual/personal concept of fair stops short of a communal vision of fair. If it should come to actually sharing their surplus and having their deficit covered by others, there would be great grumbling about "socialism". Corporate welfare seems to be alright, but not sharing with the poor. A capital campaign to benefit themselves seems to be alright, but a straight up equivalent for the poor is out of the question, and these are good and generous people. Without lessening our tendency to greed, part of the difficulty is the inability of the whole system to adequately frame the issue.

This is a difficult concept for disciples of any era – from perceptions of Cain regarding Abel, to responses to a woman anointing Jesus, to commitments by Ananias and Sapphira, to any who are hearers but not doers, to the Laodiceans, to prosperity preachers, to profit-first economists, to you and me.

It is so difficult to see what we can do and so easy to see what we can't do. From there it is no stretch at all to cocoon ourselves. Come quickly disaster. Come strongly enough that we will learn.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Psalm 130

Pentecost +4 – Year B

Psalm 130

In keeping with freedom from bondage we hear here of forgiveness – one of those wonderful mysteries that can free two through one act.

When forgiveness becomes our habit, rather than a periodic act of last resort, we find the kind of wholeness implied in worship – the return of worth-ship, worthiness to a broken, partial, bondaged life. When forgiveness and wholeness are not the result of worship, worship is present only in spelling and will take your money and leave you worse off than before.

Hope and be unafraid. Hope expresses steadfast love. Hope is powerful and redeeming. Hope is forgiveness enacted.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

Pentecost +4 – Year B

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

My sorrow is the greatest sorrow. Had I the power, you would moan and cry out my loss.

I would probably not return the favor and attempt to see through your eyes or walk even a block in your moccasins.

These issues of loss are certainly, to use a quote of the day, opportunities for positive motivation (see reference). By synecdoche, David's grief came to be a national grief – like the Bush/Cheney response to folks attempting to terrorize with airplanes became a universalizing of personal response.

All of us would like to universalize our experience. Often we are able to do so, at least with our coterie. It is this attempt that leads us all into harm's way, preparing the universalizing mighty to fall. In just a moment longer David's lust will have the same universal nature as his sorrow and lead to more death. The danger of privilege-of-feeling moves from arena to arena. Eventually parents fall into the trap over their children and the medically impoverished can go to any extreme.

Truly my sorrow is a significant sorrow. As truly, my sorrow is only one of many. Misused it becomes constrictive for others and myself. Used well it becomes a wounding turned healing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mark 5:21-43

Pentecost +4 – Year B

Mark 5:21-43

Continuing the parabolic nature of actions as well as words, Jesus again crosses to "the other side." That would seem to make this side the other side. Once the disorientation settles a bit we see that folks are bound here as well as there.

A Gerasene demoniac; a woman with a twelve-year-long hemorrhage; a girl bedridden to never arise again. Bondaged, one and all. Ched Meyer's ground-breaking work – Binding the Strong Man – could also have been titled Releasing the Other Side.

The demonic from the other other-side is privileged to deal directly with his experience of blessing and mercy. Folks on this other-side seem to always have to filter it through faith language and in so doing distance themselves from their experience (individually to go in peace; communally to be silenced).

Yes, different occasions require different duties, consistency is not all that great a virtue, but note how the energy drops when "faith" enters as a primary way of engaging life. It turns life over to someone else, ordinary life is returned to as the end-all and be-all of our engagement.

A storm erupts for the disciples on the way to the other other-side. A storm is set up to erupt for Jesus after returning to this other-side and will commence immediately hence in Nazareth.

If you have experienced a blessing of freedom arrived, tell it. Life is not just a matter of "our" faith and if it is strong enough we'll get what is desired and be satisfied until a next moment of crisis. To cut the faith talk and go with the experience base is to re-create the joy and energy of finding ourself in G*D's image (healed and released, whether cured or not – imprisoned or not).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pentecost +3 – Year B

Did Jesus' followers moan this poem's antecedent as he slept through a ship bucking the wave?
Did the Philistines chant so upon Goliath's fall?
Did Paul see the Corinthians as fallen, needing a revival of the heart?

by Walt Whitman

O CAPTAIN! my captain! our fearful trip is done;
. . . .
     But O heart! heart! heart!
     O the bleeding drops of red!
     Where on the deck my captain lies,
          Fallen cold and dead.

O captain! my captain! rise up and hear the bells;
. . . .
     O Captain! dear father!
     This arm beneath your head;
     It is some dream that on the deck
          You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still
. . . .
     Exult, O shores! and ring, O bells!
     But I, with silent tread,
     Walk the spot my captain lies
          Fallen cold and dead.

Upon arising, a word of peace and challenge from Jesus. Would Goliath ever offer such? Paul, too, has his poem seeing more in the Corinthians than they yet see in themselves. Who commissions you to be a "poem"? Is part of your "peace" no master, no God? On the sea of chaos we dream our fears and they melt our realities. Only O Love will float our boat.

by Walt Whitman

WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet
         and hands,
Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners,
         troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true soul and body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs, out of commerce, shops, work,
         farms, clothes, the house, buying, selling, eating, drinking,
         suffering, dying.

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than

O I have been dilatory and dumb,
I should have made my way straight to you long ago,
I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have chanted
         nothing but you.

I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you,
None has understood you, but I understand you,
None has done justice to you, you have not done justice to your-
None but has found you imperfect, I only find no imperfection in
None but would subordinate you, I only am he who will never
         consent to subordinate you,
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God,
         beyond what waits intrinsically in yourself.

. . . .


Thursday, June 18, 2009

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Pentecost +3 – Year B

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

There is a time for everything under the sun – Paul's been reading his Ecclesiastes again – now is the acceptable time to commend myself/ourselves as G*D's partner(s) whether right or left-handed, honored or dishonored, anonymous or famous for more than 15 minutes.

Of course paying attention to the details of how that partnership gets enacted will be of the utmost importance. Will truth be told and hearts opened more consistently than not? In hard times; tough times; bad times; beaten, jailed, and mobbed times; working times, fasting times will we recognize our companionship with G*D and one another? Or is our partnership with G*D only acknowledged in smooth times.

When such truth and hearts grow, Expansive and Expanding Love grins all over itself and the rest of creation. We might even want to go past an emerging church into a Spacious Church. Wouldn't you rejoice to be a part of a Sixth-Degree-of-Separation Spacious Church?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Psalm 9

Pentecost +3 – Year B

Psalm 9

It seems the very snare we set for others is the one we ourselves get caught in. The very pride we have in something well-done becomes our downfall, minimally as a trap to keep on doing the same thing over and over again.

The very desire to go away with Jesus ends up in a storm. Goliath’s reliance upon violence returns violence. Again and again we are our own worst enemy.

Our challenge is to not let this rest in an arena of judgment, but to find a way or two, no matter how teensy, twisty, or hidden, to what we experience as deliverance – becoming our own best friend.

A hint here is that of singing praise. This is an expansive praise launched from creation and extended beyond the miracle of the present into an anticipation of hope forever. This is not the kind of praise that expects a return, is obligatory or a hedge against judgment.

With large praise we are opened to see small avenues of opportunity that open to a larger picture. In a Wisconsin United Methodist Federation for Social Action meeting tonight we heard about community organizing from folks in ESTHER in Appleton who are doing social justice work and growing in it. Their training, expertise, relationship building, passion, persistence, and celebration each adds a shine to the work of living and exemplifying G*D’s presence and deeds among people and deep within the environment.

Social Justice is praise solidified into action, is joy set free.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

Pentecost + 3 – Year B

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

What to do in the face of assured destruction? We are not talking here about mutual assured destruction (MAD) that was the basis of the cold war arms race, but just assured destruction. When the world is after your head and there is no way out – what to do?

We hear here about five smooth stones. Not the jagged ones that would slow down on their way to their target, but smooth ones that fly straight and dive deep. One image of these smooth stones is to consider them as the deep questions that cause a pause and a change of thought, of heart.

Liberation forces have never tried to out-do their adversary on the same level. There needs to be some soul-judo that goes on where an opponent’s strength is turned on themselves.

Goliath had assurance to the max. He was right. He had might. He would rule.

Going against Goliath’s assurance is not a winning tactic. He’ll probably win and feel more assured. The same holds for Goliath’s might. What is left is the issue of being right. This is an entry point for the smooth stones to go to the heart of Goliath’s operating system. To raise a question dampens enthusiasm and brings a moment of hesitation in execution.

Imagine coming to someone in the name of the Lord of Questions. What would that do to your interaction with someone constrained enough in their behavior that they think doing away with you would answer some important question? What would that do to your image of G*D? How would it change your relationship with whatever “Goliath” you are facing.

David put his head to the matter, took out a question, asked it, and struck Goliath on his assumption of right; Goliath took a question to the head and he began to change. (This does need to acknowledge that this is not a magic formula. You may remember the enormous and multiple pain incurred during the Salt March in India and the Civil Right Marches in the United States of America – many were injured and killed, but the questions piled as high as their sacrifice.)

What would you ask Goliath?

* Will a superiority of equipment or widening some stuff-gap assure
     your happiness?
* If you met your match and were defeated, would you still have worth?
* How many people must die before you will know that too many people
     have died?
* What color are my eyes that see productivity, not destruction, still alive
     in you?
* What harm would come if we shared our dreams before you murder
     me? Why don’t you go first.

Now, facing your particular “Goliath”, what five smooth questions would you ask of both “Goliath” and yourself?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mark 4:35-41

Pentecost +3 – Year B

Mark 4:35-41

Let’s see, Jesus only related to folks through parable (from last week’s pericope). So when Jesus says, “Let’s go across to the other side,” we are in Parableland. As Jesus emulators/rememberers we are to see and hear in parable. Our difficulty is in being consistent with this approach to life.

The disciples, famous for missing the boat, take Jesus aboard as he was. The presumption was that Jesus was being literal this time and so they hopped to and hopped Jesus right on in. Thinking they were on the right tack several boats leave the shore and head across the lake/sea.

Sure enough, along comes a stormy storm to nearly swamp them. Is this storm a parable of the other side? A little thought experiment would have sufficed. They were in a relatively good spot, things were going swimmingly. The other side from where they were is stormy and on the other side of the storm is Peace! Be still! We are called to head off to the next “other side”.

As if this is not enough for the moment, two additional thoughts. Fear and faith are parable related. To learn to see and hear parables wherever you are lessens fear and increases faith. To not so learn is to stay stuck. We might then translate “faith” as an ability to hear and see parables wherever one is.

And, finally, what happened to those other boats?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Pentecost +2 – Year B

Ezekiel 17:22-24

The small are great; the great, small. This turn around will be home to many.

A majestic cedar dances with a lowly mustard. In both cases, when you have the eyes to see, life blossoms and flourishes.

Birds are a wonderful symbol of our life extended. From Genesis 1:20 onward birds specifically show G*D at work. "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." In 1:26 we are to be in relation to the birds – good old "dominion" or "partnership". 7:3 reminds us that the birds are related to "clean animals" that symbolically draw us closer to G*D.

A bird brought a sign of new life after a flood. Job appeals to birds who evidence G*D (12:7). Psalm 78:27 reminds us of the quail in the desert, G*D "rained flesh upon them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas". Ecclesiastes 9:12 equates the demise of birds with that of humans.

The prophets continue to find connections between birds and ourselves. Isaiah 31:5 equates birds with G*D partners in creation who watch over it. Jeremiah 4:25 shows how desolate life is becoming with even birds having flown the coop. Ezekiel 31 has the cedars of Lebanon populated by birds as a sign of blessing and Daniel 4 sees a similar great tree at the center of the earth, well nested with birds – signs of restoration. Hosea 4 has a new covenant witnessed by the birds of the air, remembering a first creation covenant.

Matthew 6: "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

Mark 4: "…yet when mustard seed is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

Acts 10: Peter's vision of inclusion includes birds.

Revelation 19: "Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, "Come, gather for the great supper of God. . . ." to clear away the decay and make way for a new heaven and a new earth. It would have been a nice touch to have the leaves of the tree of life show the healing of the land by the nesting of birds, but John's vision fell just a bit short of rounding things out.

At any rate – where are the birds in your life nesting these days? In your cedar grandeur? In your mustard weediness? On the horizon? In your soul? Watch for the birds and catch a glimpse of G*D's presence.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

2 Corinthians 5:1-17

Pentecost +2 – Year B

2 Corinthians 5:1-17

O to be "swallowed up by life." This yearning for dissolution and completedness, for exile and homecoming, all at once, is a mystical approach to being that cuts across all religious singularities. It helpfully gets us out of the way of ourselves and others, but is next to useless as a manipulation technique as such issues fall away.

There is here plenty of opportunity for growth. There is a greater awareness of hearts behind behaviors. Our motivations become clearer to ourselves and more evident to others. Even G*D becomes present and alive to us and those encountering us. This is an energizer.

From being attuned with what lies ahead we find the same disinterested involvement that sets every creation loose. Whether encountering pillars on turtles, circles within circles, a Word calling forth, or the other side of black holes – creation is loosed again.

Past experience indicates we usually soon do our best to tighten creation up again, that we might be in charge. Remember this week the value of looseness. May you gracefully reach and stretch your way through and around the constraints and tightnesses that come up against you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Psalm 20

Pentecost +2 – Year B

Psalm 20

Presume for the moment that anointing is an equal-opportunity event. All have received an anointing. A gift has been received – to each for the benefit of all.

If a given, how does that change the process of calling upon an anointer? Do we anticipate or presume? Do we owe and incur obligation?

If all are anointed, why do some apply it more easily than others? (while on a Greg Brown kick, here are some more lyrics – and the music enhances them immensely.) For some it leads to charging in where an angel would fear to tread. For some there is a quiet confidence and an ability to stand no matter what the circumstances. For some there is disbelief that they are anointed.

Anointing was and is for every person, regardless of their status, inside or outside a Pentecostal room. When anointed, barriers are removed, we can cross the usual barriers (huge among them is that of language or culture). Stand tall, weapons of war will rust. Cross the barriers, before they are taken down. Doing so will add to the impetus to healthily remove our last barriers – until we clearly see one another as anointed.

This is a remarkably self-fulfilling prophecy. See another as anointed and they will begin to so see themselves. Withhold that vision and we will live up to our worst. Inasmuch as free will abides, these are not cause and effect actions, but deep calling to deep.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

Pentecost +2 – Year B

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

Ramah – Where Samuel was conceived
Ramah – Samuel persuaded to anoint a king (Saul)
Ramah – Refuge from a last view of Saul
Ramah – Refuge after anointing David
Ramah – Samuel's burial place

Ramah – a high place
Ramah – a place of illicit worship

Ramah – a sanctuary city

Sometimes a place weaves together a number of different life strands. What place keeps cropping up in your life?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mark 4:26-34

Pentecost +2 – Year B

Mark 4:26-34

"The Presence of G*D is as if . . ."

Everywhere we turn we see another "if". Listening to Folk Music on iTunes radio while typing this note brings a multitude of Presences. Remembering the Youth Worship this morning brings more G*D sightings. Anticipating traveling to a new home tomorrow opens us to many "ifs" about new community.

Even before such present/past/future awarenesses, there is prevenient grace behind it all. A new folk song, Never So Far (lyrics) by Greg Brown exemplifies this – we are never so far that love can't find us. Greg will be coming to the Great River Folk Festival in La Crosse, WI (Aug 28, 2009). Let me know if you want to come and crash to attend the festival. For a sneak preview you can listen to the song performed on The Prairie Home Companion, October 21, 2000 here on RealAudio, it begins 2 minutes into the clip. Imagine G*D singing this song to you.

"With many such parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it." When we enter into "if" space we are better able to hear what we need to hear. Practice whatever technique it is that best gets you to your "if" space.

Friday, June 05, 2009

creation's norm

Pentecost +1 (Trinity) – Year B

creation's norm

birth as culmination
birth as initiation

intention and happenstance
brought us this far

intention and interpretation
lead us on

pregnancy is creation's norm
filling and emptying

cries of pain
doxological psalms

yearning and waiting
we birth and are birthed

from above and below
every which way

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Romans 8:12-17

Pentecost +1 (Trinity) – Year B

Romans 8:12-17

"All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." (vs 14)

While "led" usually has a sense of direction about it, perhaps a goose leading goslings, there are also available overtones of time, as in creation preceding but still partnered with creatures. Following the partnership of creation model we might move a bit away from a tendency to an exclusivist view of this passage and say, "All who are in a creation-partnered/adopted relationship with the Spirit of G*D are G*D's kin." A question of whom this leaves out need to be addressed and we can easily respond – no one is left out.

In this cloning of G*D or holographing of G*D we find strength and courage to be constituent parts of creation. Antidotes to fear (non-creation) abound, the trick is to recognize and use them.

Suffering/Glorification become markers, though not always helpful ones, of how we are doing in relation to fear – standing up and overcoming. But they are after-the-fact descriptions that tend to get us back into an unhelpful spirit/flesh dichotomy rather than deepening our relationship with G*D and One Another.

I expect it is helpful to continue this passage on a bit to the freedom found in labor to birth a new creation. Blessings upon your simply having been created and your even simpler partnership in advancing creation.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Psalm 29

Pentecost +1 (Trinity) – Year B

Psalm 29

Trinity really isn't monotheistic. All the talk about relationship within a oneness turns out to be more closely akin to multiple personality disorder.

The Psalmist draws a clear distinction between G*D and Creation/People. There is G*d and there is everything else.

May you experience a tad of majesty rolling throughout the universe(s). May you experience a bit of peace in the midst of thunder.

For now, know the voice of God is not condemnatory – it simply is and is not.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Isaiah 6:1-13

Pentecost +1 (Trinity) – Year B

Isaiah 6:1-13

Having a blind spot is nothing new. It's built into the system. Having a recognition of a blind spot and being able to use a gravitational (or other) field to look around leads to amazing revelations. An unseen can be glimpsed.

We can get so caught up with our usual peddling (both routines and trying to sell our particular vision) that a bluebird of happiness flits through unseen. A typical response is one of lostness, wandering, and boredom. Then, when a recognition of something more being present arrives, we are undone.

At any rate, one of the insights of life is not about the grandeur of some high and lifted up artifacts of glory but the being on a journey in the midst of the sublime and mundane all mixed together. "Here am I; I'm on my way."

May your journey continue through city and desert, crowd and retreat, until the twelfeth of never. Eventually G*D and People will recognize one another, even if but less than a tenth part of either remain. Hooray for this First Isaiah and all subsequent Isaiahs, including whatever number Isaiah you are.

Hop on board. Let's journey to release a holy seed from its stump.

John 3:1-17

Pentecost +1 (Trinity) – Year B

John 3:1-17

Can G*D be revealed except by the intention of said G*D?

Can G*D be accidental?

Consider these questions in light of your own life and see whether or not the add value to you or whether you consider yourself diminished because of their presence.

For the moment we will simply take it as an opening praise or set-up to an intended sharper question to come. Stipulated: Jesus, you are somehow tapping into G*D to be able to do what you have done.

Let's start there, says Jesus. You've glimpsed some surprising actions/responses going on that don't fit in your current picture. To address these we will need to shift perspectives – seen from above there are no boundaries like the ones you perceive while measuring yourself against the past or one another. From above we are also able to consider a future that surprises – like when you finally get one of those Magic Eye things. (Didn't you just know Jesus would know about stereoscopic free-viewing.)

There is usually more available to us than we have yet caught. One of the constant surprises is how universal Love is – how it moves away from suspicion and condemnation toward larger pictures from above – wholeness/perfection/salvation.

In this model a reductionist approach to arrive at a trinity is once again enlarged to some variation of panentheist holism.