Friday, July 31, 2009

John 6:24-35

Pentecost +9 – Year B

John 6:24-35

What must we do
to be a practitioner
of G*D?

So many different
ways of being practical,
which way to go?

Monkey see, monkey do
is an ancient model -
show us G*D.

Practice your performance
here and now
with us and ours.

Do it again
and again

Hop to -
our perfection
is in your hands.

Eat bread.
Be bread.
Share bread

Trick Alert!
That's not doing,
that's being.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ephesians 4:1-16

Pentecost +9 – Year B

Ephesians 4:1-16

I, a practitioner, invite you toward a life worthy of a calling to humility and gentleness, patient bearing with one another in love, and maintaining a Spirit of unity in bonds of peace. [verses 1-3, edited]

It is those who walk the talk who are able to intentionally model the interconnections between body, spirit, and hope. Whether on the way up (sprouting, birthing) or on the way down (wilting, dying) we have a gift to live out. Whether we do or not is quite another matter.

The gifts we have come to and those yet to come are never quite categorical. In fact they usually are in the process of breaking categories. Without crossing lines our gifts are no more life-giving than only talking holy happy talk. We are called to take a long view, not like children seeing everything through the lens of their stage of life. A part of this long view is speaking love truthfully and growing up as did Jesus, with an eye on G*D's presence with every ligament of creation. Wherever those two ways of living come together, we have the high calling of "practitioner of life".

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Psalm 51:1-12

Pentecost +9 – Year B

Psalm 51:1-12

Jim Taylor's Everyday Psalms begins:
     1      Scrub me clean, Lord.
     Rub me down gently;
     By your touch, show how much you love me;
     Flush away my failures;

I appreciate the tangibleness Jim brings to this Psalm.

Clean hearts are not a magical re-virginization of our intentions, but the soaking and scrubbing clean of very real messiness. This restoration is different than, "Wow! Forgiveness. That was interesting." This is not a matter of getting our head right and our heart will follow.

Looking back at John and Samuel, can you find the tangibleness to bread and consequences? We are not looking so much at a fresh start as a renewal within the journey we have always been on. By the end of the Psalm we are rebuilding and repairing broken walls. Our location is alright, Paradise is a good place to be, but we need to revision condemnation and sacrifice and move from a touch that destroys to a touch that loves deeper than failure.

This is an issue key for Christians, as the Jewish Study Bible notes regarding verse 7:
"So extreme are the psalmist's guilt feelings that he sees himself as sinful even before birth; in other words, he is, by nature, a sinful being. The idea of the inherent sinfulness of humans is rarely expressed in the Bible, except for Gen. 8:21 … (see also Job 25:4). Christianity developed the notion of original sin."

Do we want to return to the tradition of Jesus or continue following the accumulating doctrines of Christian institutionalism? What might yet happen should we dial back the extreme of inappropriate guilt?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2 Samuel 11:26-12:15

Pentecost + 9 – Year B

2 Samuel 11:26-12:15

Presuming G*D's level of involvement with David – Teacher's Pet – there is no reason not to presume G*D's level of involvement with a new born – Moral Lesson – or with G*D's level of involvement with you – _______.

A question to be asked: If sin is not the last word, forgiveness is, how does that apply to a baby as well as to David?

Are we here into an earlier version of blood atonement? If so how do parse out whether this is G*D speaking or Nathan's understanding (like all of us getting some things spot on while wildly missing the mark on something else)? Is this something still being worked out with G*D, like a flood? Might G*D not also repent of this (particularly seeing how poorly the rest of the children turned out) tit-for-tat response and later disavow it when dealing with another baby – Jesus (to live in the midst of the messiness of life, not to die as a moral lesson or doctrinal point)?

As you wrestle with this passage can you see forgiveness as a larger word than sin, not just for David, but also Baby ben David? Does forgiveness really take us further than scapegoats and mandatory atonement? In a community's life as well as in an individual's?

Monday, July 27, 2009

John 6:24-35

Pentecost +9 – Year B

John 6:24-35

[Note: This is not a sign of a restart here. Given the quote posted from Saving Jesus from the Church and a campfire last night, the following reflection was made after noting this observation from the day:

caught between
invisible pong paddles

Now, without further ado, a conversation hesitantly continued.]

We wake up one day missing a sense of well-being, control, meaning, fullness.

Where might it have gone? Where to look?

Having been as far away as a prodigal can get, we backtrack our GPS waypoints (noting that we had forgotten to enter some crucial data along the way) to home base. In Jesus' life home base would be Capernaum or Jerusalem or in any city or on the way to one. Having lost Prosperity Gospel Jesus, where to find him?

For a moment we had re-found a past source of present comfort and hope for perhaps tomorrow. Now we wonder how much we might have missed from its first blush to our recognition of missing it. Teacher, is there an assignment we need complete to catch up? How long had our entitled gift been waiting for us? How far ahead of us has it moved? How far behind have we fallen?

These surface concerns of greed are all too readily readable by anyone, but ourself, in our behavior. We know we are caught when we wake up to find ourselves eating our seed-corn – giving up everything for one more serving of gourmet slop – our inner-Esau showing through.

Like any kid caught, we claim our right to one more piece of pie, one more slice of jam-laden toast, one more freshly baked cookie. Manna is our perceived birthright.

May we look deeper into the present to find a willingness to stop yo-yo-ing between ancient glory and anticipated privilege.

When is now, where is here.

Saving Jesus from the Church

While setting up a new-to-us house with all the little surprises that come with that endeavor, I just finished a new book that I recommend: Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus, by Robin R. Meyers.

The chapter titles give a good overview of the perspective of the author:
Prologue: A Preacher's Nightmare: Am I a Christian?
One: Jesus the Teacher, Not the Savior
Two: Faith as Being, Not Belief
Three: The Cross as Futility, Not Forgiveness
Four: Easter as Presence, Not Proof
Five: Original Blessing, Not Original Sin
Six: Christianity as Compassion, Not Condemnation
Seven: Discipleship as Obedience, Not Observance
Eight: Justice as Covenant, Not Control
Nine: Prosperity as Dangerous, Not Divine
Ten: Religion as Relationship, Not Righteousness
Epilogue: A Preacher's Dream: Faith as Following Jesus

In keeping with the main direction of this blog, here is a paragraph from the book that you might appreciate:

Faith itself is a relationship, and scripture cannot be objectified without destroying that relationship. We continue to speak of a "battle for the Bible," when in fact the Bible is a conversation. We overhear it at a great distance, translated (and corrupted) from foreign tongues, and spoken by those who never imagined us as the intended audience. It is always wise to remember that not a single word of the Bible was written for you or for me – so how can we be having a "battle" over it? One only competes for what one wishes to possess, yet how does one "possess" a conversation? We can only listen carefully and thoughtfully and in the posture of one who, in search of wisdom, is listening through a keyhole to the distant echoes of a love affair. [p. 205]

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A People's History of Christianity

While away on a road trip I picked up a copy of a new book, A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass. I recommend it.

The structure of the book follows a quote from Professor Joseph Stewart-Sicking, "I can't separate devotion from ethics." From my United Methodist tradition, this is a familiar combination that sets off sparks of new life – John Wesley spoke and came to live from a polarity he framed as "acts of piety" and "acts of mercy."

Part 1 – The Way, Early Christianity, 100-500
Christianity as a Way of Life
Devotion: The Love of God
Ethics: The Love of Neighbor

Part 2 – The Cathedral, Medieval Christianity, 500-1450
Christianity as Spiritual Architecture
Devotion: Paradise Restored
Ethics: Who Is My Neighbor

Part 3 – The Word, Reformation Christianity, 1450-1650
Christianity as Living Words
Devotion: Speaking of Faith
Ethics: Walking the Talk

Part 4 – The Quest, Modern Christianity, 1650-1945
Christianity as a Quest for Truth
Devotion: The Quest for Light
Ethics: Kingdom Quest

Part 5 – The River, Contemporary Christianity, 1945-Now
Christianity as Navigation
Devotion: Stepping into the River
Ethics: Universal Hospitality

Throughout the book are many stories of folks who have addressed the issues of devotion and ethics in their context – sometimes prophetically reminding the church institutional of its growing one-sidedness and sometimes stretching a settled orthodoxy through new insight and behavior.

I leave this recommendation with a paragraph near the end of the book, "In Seattle Anne Holmes Redding described universal hospitality as 'making connections of the heart across humanly devised lines of separation. Cooperating with God's healing work in self, other, community, and world. Hearing and responding to the groans of creation. Basically falling in love with all the 'wrong' folks. Helping Jesus be a bridge rather than a barrier."

Blessings upon your bridge-work. [That's bridge-work, not bridgework, though if you need a blessing for that as well, consider it given.]