Monday, November 30, 2009

Luke 3:1-6

Advent 2 - Year C

Luke 3:1-6

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

mindful of mercy

Advent 1 - Year C

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

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

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Advent 1 - Year C

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

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

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


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


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

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

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

  • Promise - opens a stuck past to a new future

  • Path - opens practical applications of mercy

  • Personal - opens to universal joy

= = = = = = =

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Psalm 25:1-10

Advent 1 - Year C

Psalm 25:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Advent 1 - Year C

Jeremiah 33:14-16

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

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Luke 21:25-36

Advent 1 - Year C

Luke 21:25-36

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2009


Pentecost Last - Year B

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Revelation 1:4b-8

Pentecost Last - Year B

Revelation 1:4b-8

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Psalm 132:1-12

Pentecost Last - Year B

Psalm 132:1-12

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2 Samuel 23:1-7

Pentecost Last - Year B

2 Samuel 23:1-7

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

John 18:33-37

Pentecost Last - Year B

John 18:33-37

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

Idol Talk

Pentecost +24 - Year B

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 12, 2009

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

Pentecost +24 - Year B

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Psalm 16

Pentecost +24 - Year B

Psalm 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1 Samuel 1:14-20

Pentecost +24 - Year B

1 Samuel 1:14-20

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mark 13:1-8

Pentecost +24 - Year B

Mark 13:1-8

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

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

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

2 Baruch Chapters 6-9:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 06, 2009

don't and do

Pentecost +23 - Year B

don't and do

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hebrews 9:24-28

Pentecost +23 - Year B

Hebrews 9:24-28

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Psalm 127

Pentecost +23 - Year B

Psalm 127

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

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

Pentecost +23 - Year B

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 02, 2009

Mark 12:38-44

Pentecost +23 - Year B

Mark 12:38-44

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

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

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

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

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

= = = = = = =

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