Friday, July 30, 2010

and it is evening

Pentecost +10 - Year C

and it is evening

wise or not
this night
begins another day
today's soul
is laid to rest

all we have prepared
is laid to rest
our judgments
our lack thereof
is laid to rest

wise or not
all together
Ephraim Israel
Admah Zeboiim
are laid to rest

compassion continues
and steadfastness
brings old sorrows
home to be
laid to rest

wise or not
gather to offer
thanks beyond measure
and even this
is laid to rest

thirsty lands
hungry people
laid to rest

wise or not
seekers above
greedy for glory
and entitlement
are laid to rest

lies rest
anger wrath malice
slander abuse
are laid to rest
for an eighth day

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Colossians 3:1-11

Pentecost +10 - Year C

Colossians 3:1-11

If we were to intersect this passage by Paul with the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus we would get a different feel for the import of this passage.

The first part tends to set us in the direction of splitting body from spirit and claiming spirit takes priority. All this talk about above, not on earth, hidden, and glory tend to separate us from ourselves and to try to get us to do the behavioral injunctions in the last part of the passage at a surface or temporary level (just until some revelation of Jesus - second coming in some perspectives).

If we were to bring the Sermon on the Mount to bear on the first part - so we are setting our minds on such earthly issues as poverty (whether communal or spiritual), mourning, peace-making, being persecuted for doing good - when we get to the no lying part (no anger, wrath, malice, slander, abuse) we would know that there is a depth of integrity that we need to attend to that will take all we have to give and then some. These are issues that are not going to go away soon - they are intimately tied up with who we are becoming right here in Paradise and not just practicing for some future Glory.

The Message comes closer here as we try to reveal Christ present, not wait for Christ to come. We are called to become better, not out of fear of G*D's anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abuse, but because it is where our blessing, happiness, journey is going.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Psalm 107:1-9, 43

Pentecost +10 - Year C

Psalm 107:1-9, 43

Let the redeemed give thanks - whether they should have needed to be redeemed or not.

There are folks who are outcast because of their very being, according to one religious source or another. They don't need redeeming for their being and yet they are outcaste (caste-away) far enough to feel that way.

In recent days, comparatively, the ELCA has "redeemed" some of its years of discrimination and loss of pastoral gifts and graces from gay and lesbian sisters and brothers. The Presbyterians, even more recently, are following at their pace. The United Methodist Church still has a goodly way to go to find their strength in using all the gift and graces available to them.

The pastor of a local Reconciling in Christ congregation in the ELCA recently returned from a convention in Minneapolis and I thought part of his newsletter reflection should be shared more widely as we continue to grow in wisdom and give heed to gathering the scattered.

I come away with a new appreciation that much of our Holy Scriptures was written for persons who are on the margins of the world. Here is a small list: Hebrews as slaves in Egypt; Hebrews wandering in the wilderness; the people of Judah in exile in Babylonia; Psalms for all occasions including sadness and loneliness; Lamentations as cries of many hearts; words to Gentiles who were considered unclean and outside God's love; a voice touching the lives of lepers excluded from community; words of acceptance addressing women and children rather than men.

How many times have you come to church wondering if anyone understood how you felt? It could be your sexual identity, your loneliness, your struggles with depression or other emotional health issues, the daily struggle with unrelenting chronic pain, unemployment, struggles with family or spouse or partner, grief at a recent loss. The Word of God is spoken to those who most need God's living presence. The Word of God is not meant just to bless those who are already blessed. It is meant to cut to the heart of our very existence, with our deepest pains and longings heard by God, and to bring us to God's word of new life and new hope in all circumstances. Many who are with us at any worship or gathering are living in the margins or feeling that way.

Which part of you has been marginalized? Who in your larger family has been marginalized? As you give thanks for the expression of G*D's steadfast love in your life, may you know there to be enough to share with others.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hosea 11:1-11

Pentecost +10 - Year C

Hosea 11:1-11

The more I called, the more they ran -- this seems to be every parent's/prophet's experience at some point along the journey.

Many of us have been on both sides of that divide. Some of us still prefer one side over the other and operate out of that preference. There are inveterate callers and knee-jerk runners-away.

I've been led with "cords of human kindness" and experienced some of them as shackles. Our "spiritual care" for one another can be pretty heavy, laying all manner of expectation and reservation of acceptance upon us. Greg Brown's song Driftless has a line about this:
Have I done enough, Father,
can I rest now?
Have I learned enough, Mother,
can we talk now?

Yet, thankfully, the impulse to keep everyone a thankful third-grader who would never respond like that older teen, can keep us going long enough to move past a need to control things like setting a fiery sword at Eden's gate. With blessings aplenty we don't give up on folks. With high hopes we just can't bring ourselves to separate from one another, no matter how disappointed we have been.

In our family, my dearly beloved often has been heard to exclaim, "I don't know how we are going to get through this (whatever was having its day or season), but I'm going to keep loving you." Simple words; profound words.

May you be returned to your "home" (which may be different than where you thought it was or who else is there) in such a way that you can move on into the next stage of your life and your relationship with other family members, near and far.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Luke 12:13-21

Pentecost +10 - Year C

Luke 12:13-21

Remember last week - moving from prayer about testing to some stories about testing? Well, this could be a sermon every week - making "faith" real. Again this week we hear about the testing process.

Don't we all search around for an authority that will back us up? The very source of rules we complain about constraining us, unfairly we think, we turn around and use to defend ourselves. Can't you hear the explosion in the heads of a stereotypic biblical literalist if they heard Jesus say to them, rather than to a monetary greedist, "Friend, who set my reported words as a judge or arbitrator over you? - get a life!" A key here is the word "friend". Both the literalist and greedist are looking to get their way - their interpretation verified, their wealth justified, their independence affirmed. A key way out of the self-imposed bind the questioner raises is a return to community rather than see oneself as deserving of more than enough. "Friend" is an excellent starting spot for bringing a difficult word and leaving open an opportunity for more. Here's an irreverent blog posting that you might find reflective of the tone of Jesus here.

Rules and regulations, like other little consistencies, are also hobgoblins of "little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines.  With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do" [a little RWEmerson quote and visual definition] and aren't both the brother and rich man looking for "nothing to do" but walk around a self-serving "heaven" all day.

Since it is so difficult to see oneself as "rich/deserving", I look forward to a literalist or greedist responding about my unconscious appeal to authority [well, I look forward to this, a little]. This will help in my waking up to what it might really mean to take my focus off having all rules benefit me so I don't have to consider "being rich toward others", or, from last week, "keep us forgiving others and safe from ourselves" [Message variation].

Friday, July 23, 2010

Revealing G*D

Pentecost +9 - Year C

made in G*D's image
is no easy road
steadfast anger
roils relationships
steadfast mercilessness
marches and marches
steadfast love
sneaks in from time to time
it is no easy road
revealing G*D

pray your life forward

a preferred future - revealed
an earth-based paradise - reset
secure - repast repast repast
open to change - renewed
tested and unbowed - reliable

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

Pentecost +9 - Year C

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

"Christ" is a special code word. While not supposed to be compared to philosophy, if Christ does not captivate our philosophical bone and bent, this Christ may not survive the rough and tumble of life or it may become uber-philosophical and codify all contradictions away.

"Christ" as a category is not to be deceitful. The most adamant Christ-followers seem willing to stretch anything in order to accomplish a goal of more baptisms.

"Christ" and human traditions are put in conflict with one another. Hard to know what "fully human" means if human experience is to be so heavily discounted. This justifies cultural missionaries.

"Christ" is exempt from the elemental spirits of creation. Hard to know what "fully divine" means if creation is not to be listened to. This justifies environmental rape.

"Christ" is G*D's excuse to forgive. Remember how unforgiving G*D can be - No Mercy, No Forgiveness. This feels like face-saving. Poor old G*D can't just start forgiving again or showing mercy again - some intermediary step was required by G*D and Jesus fit the bill. Consider that the whole bloody atonement thing is about G*D looking good in G*D's eyes and isn't about Jesus at all. G*D could have said, bring me a hundred more foreskins (1 Samuel 18:12-30 - since G*D has been acting like Saul, G*D might as well use a Saul-like subterfuge) and felt justified in getting back on the steadfast love wagon. Or simply, again, acknowledged not living up to G*D's best, repented behavior, regretted absence, set another sign alongside a heavenly bow, and proceeded - imagine such a one acting on one's own for one's own integrity.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Psalm 85

Pentecost +9 - Year C

Psalm 85

In Hosea we hear of G*D running out of mercy.
Here we hear of G*D's anger to generations.

Look around. There is good warrant for those perspectives.

Look around again. What is an antidote to a lack of mercy and an abundance of anger? The Psalmist suggests it is steadfastness. The generalized particular is a steadfastness of love. I suspect that any steadfastness might do and that we might need to model this for G*D.

Here is an extended quote from Wikipedia that synopsizes the conclusion of Leonard Bernstein's Symphony Number 3 - Kaddish that pushes in the direction of Nikos Kazantzakis' Savior's of God and the role children have in waking sleeping parents.

III : Scherzo - Kaddish 3 - Finale. Fugue-Tutti

The scherzo is a fast-tempo dream sequence. God has fallen asleep and the narrator paints a dream. God is no longer in control and the narrator has full power to bring God on this journey through his own imagination. The speaker begins by painting what God has made:

This is Your Kingdom of Heaven, Father,
Just as You planned it.
Every immortal cliché intact.
Lambs frisk. Wheat ripples.
Sunbeams dance. Something is wrong.
The light: flat. The air: sterile.
Do You know what is wrong?
There is nothing to dream.
Nowhere to go. Nothing to know.

The narrator then proceeds to show God that he is in control of this dream.

Now behold my Kingdom of Earth!
Real-life marvels! Genuine wonders!
Dazzling miracles! ...
Look, a Burning Bush
Look, a Fiery Wheel!
A Ram! A Rock! Shall I smite it? There!
It gushes! It gushes! And I did it!
I am creating this dream!
Now will You believe?

A burning bush and gushing rock refer to some of the miracles described in the Old Testament. The narrator next places a rainbow in the sky, in parallel to the story of Noah, when God placed a rainbow in the sky to institute a new covenant with man. In loud triumph and anger, the speaker declares:

Look at it, Father: Believe! Believe!
Look at my rainbow and say after me:

After showing God the problems in the world, he helps God believe in the new arrangement. The music builds to an amazing climax, crowned with the entrance of a boy's choir singing the phrase "Magnified and sanctified be His great name, Amen" in Hebrew.

The pace of the music slows down, as the narrator has finished his dream. He wakes God and God then confronts the reality of the image. The narrator, satisfied that God has seen His errors, beams:

Good morning, Father. We can still be immortal,
You and I, bound by our rainbow.
That is our covenant, and to honor it
Is our honor ... not quite the covenant
We bargained for, so long ago.

The narration ends with a commitment from both sides, God and Human, to "Suffer and recreate each other."

Though there is a resolution to the struggle, the music does not end triumphant and grand. Instead, it ends in a final kaddish by the choir and the final chord is dissonant, suggesting that all is still not right and more work must be done.

= = = = = = =

Steadfast love is not easy work. G*D tires of it and retracts mercy and indulges in anger. Yet, it is our birthright and the image of our creation. Great imagination and deep community is needed for those times when steadfast love falters. May steadfast love be shown you when yours stumbles. May your steadfast love support another in their time of drought. As Red Green has been heard to say, "Remember, I'm pulling for ya. We're all in this together!"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hosea 1:1-10

Pentecost +9 - Year C

Hosea 1:1-10

If you were to look at your family, congregation, community, nation, world - to what image would you compare them that would identify a blockage keeping them from where they might be, were that not present? For Hosea it was a distraction of where their eye landed without their even being aware of it. G*D called everything that wasn't focused on G*D, whores. A convenient digital response of all or nothing.

We do have problems with sexuality in general. Some later interpreters of Gomer denied she was promiscuous before or during her marriage with Hosea. The New Interpreter's Dictionary notes, "Augustine argued that she abandoned her life of harlotry before her marriage; Jerome claimed that her marriage to Hosea remade her "chaste." Luther stated that she was a pure woman who only took on the name of "harlot" as a metaphor."

Regarding their daughter, Lo-ruhamah or No-Mercy, The Message reveals this as a reality of G*D, "I've run out of mercy." In G*D's image, we all run out of mercy. What happens then? Can mercy be transferrable - when one runs out of mercy another can re-infuse them with it? Can we be merciful until mercy returns to G*D?

Well, there is a whole story to go, but for now we need to hear Jesus re-telling Hosea's story right after his teaching of prayer. Is the giving of forgiveness directly tied to the reception of such? If G*D holds back mercy, will mercy be learned?

Again, what image would you use to compare the various parts of your life, given that they could be so much more were it not for that particular impediment? Is whoredom or idolatry still the way to talk about the self-imposed limits? What other options are open to you? As we image our response, we are given a glimpse into where our call might be.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Luke 11:1-13

Pentecost +9 - Year C

Luke 11:1-13

Hmm, even Jesus didn't "pray" continuously. I still appreciate John Wesley's sermon On Zeal where he ends up saying that if you are praying and there is an act of mercy that needs doing - drop your praying and get on with the mercy.

You might be interested in a Peshita Syriac-Aramaic translation:

O Birther!
Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
     focus your light within us—make it useful.
Create your reign of unity now;
Your one desire acts with ours,
     as in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
     as we release the strand we hold of others’ guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
     but free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
     the power and the life to do,
     the song that beautifies all;
     from age to age it renews.

Like in John Wesley's sermon, Jesus goes from teaching a prayer form to merciful action.

Immediately from, "And do not bring us to the time of trial" Jesus goes to examples of times of trial. Will you judge to be merciful? Will you do so quickly or reluctantly?

Mercy is knocking at the door. If you know how to pray and care for your own, open the door and prove your prayer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

seminar time

Pentecost +8 - Year C

a rule of hospitality
is basic to species survival
in a hostile environment

its very requirement
removes it from evaluation
of joy in the doing

continuing education
takes us back to our roots
and pushes our current limits

calling all Martha's and Mary's
its seminar time now
for new opportunities when

hospitality is time critical
hospitality delayed
is hospitality denied

hospitality is basic mercy
keeping the scene
from becoming unjust

hospitality is antidote
for mischief set loose
after a fall is love again

hospitality is steadfast
no matter how many refusals
it can still simply be offered

hospitality is universal
as we model mature living
inviting everyone to a feast

now it is practice time
theory is set
how you doin'?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Colossians 1:15-29

Pentecost +8 - Year C

Colossians 1:15-29

Verse 19: "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell." NRSV

In keeping with what became the theme of the week - hospitality - whether we open a door a crack or throw it wide, where hospitality is offered, a fuller response comes than might be expected. This is a statement of belief. As you know strangers can do you in as well as bless you. Is the risk worth a blessing? A part of Jesus' gift to us was evidencing the value of not putting all one's energy into removing risk - to walk right into Jerusalem with as much fullness of life as was available.

We are encouraged to recognize G*D's fullness is pleased to dwell in us and, with us, to simply proceed to a next stage of personal fullness.

Verse 21: "And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, . . ." NRSV

How might hospitality be shown to those who have locked and, then further, barricaded their door? Perhaps all that can be done is to sing Bob Franke's song, After the Fall with its refrain, "After the fall, there is love. After the fall, there is love again. After the fall, if you can just keep breathing you can walk away." Perhaps resistance will melt in the reminder of this good news and closeted doors will slowly creak open again or be flung aside. Imagine walking away from your perceived and protected Eden and find G*D still with you - a resurrection image.

Verse 23b: "I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel." NRSV

Can you imagine that "doing greater things than Jesus did" would include "completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of [others]"? It gets to be an affliction to not give up singing a song of love that continues past a fall, a hospitality that continues past a refusal to receive it. Bear such well for we desire to "present everyone mature/whole/saved in Christ" (verse 28).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Psalm 52

Pentecost +8 - Year C

Psalm 52

Boasting of mischief done (verse 1) is the result of not having been taught or learned the skill of hospitality. Some have it as a gift, but everyone can develop it as a skill.

It takes a fair amount of trust to find a refuge in kindness for it doesn't provide defensive armor (a star wars shield) or offensive sword (biological weapons).

On another blog we see the internal spat Christians have as some would Solomonly and willingly divide up a baby/bible. Mention hospitality and righteousness is quick to jump to defend itself.
The Enemy Within
The Division-Driven Church

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Amos 8:1-12

Pentecost +8 - Year C

Amos 8:1-12

The shelf life of fresh, ripe fruit is not long - maybe a tenth of a generation of fruit flies (and that's pretty short).

It is within this length of time that we are to consider the decisions we have made and to measure them against community well-being - internal hospitality. Often we limit an hospitable welcome to a stranger and forget how to love one another. G*D says, "Trust me, you are starving one another - you have lost the SOWF (Substance of We Feeling - from Shikasta by Doris Lessing) - and this will lead to a famine of meaning and dissolution of the community."

So set a ripe fruit out on the counter and start considering where you need to engage the community with an internal welcome - basic hospitality - love of one another - kindness - simple civility. If you do not begin to act on your thoughtful evaluation before the fruit rots, you've not only lost a fruit but you are that much closer to meaninglessness.

Here's the equation we are looking for GM = RM where GM=GivingMuch and RM=ReceivingMuch. This is not just about produce, but relationships.

Amos reveals ourselves to us. We begin to change now or we begin to practice a dirge for what we missed. Enough missed opportunities and we are addicted to missing them so we won't even see the next one.

If you are not going to take the authority you already have to offer a hospitality seminar, I hope you will take your precious time and resources and sign up for one.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Luke 10:38-42

Pentecost +8 - Year C

Luke 10:38-42

Last night we had a brief skirmish between atmospheric sisters of differing pressures - high and low, cold and hot, dry and wet. Less noticeable were the tectonic plates tussling beneath our feet (daily earthquakes). We are at another frontal conflict with Martha and Mary.

We've been hearing about the importance, high value, of hospitality and welcome. Here the tables are reversed. The one providing hospitality is reproved while the one acting as non-Samaritan Priest and Levite is commended.

I appreciate Richard W. Swanson's comment in Provoking the Gospel of Luke, "Many scenes in the gospels make better sense when you begin by surrendering the notion that Jesus is always right, no matter what. I am increasing convinced that the gospels do this intentionally, but ideological Christian reading simply refuses to go along."

Are there limits on hospitality? If so, what might they be?

A friend recently reminded me, "I would suggest that the huge irony of being irenic [endlessly hospitable/welcoming] is that 'tolerance' applied to intolerance is like pouring gasoline by the 55-gallon drum on an already raging bonfire."

Where do we need to pause in the never-ending work of welcoming to regain perspective? For instance, congregations often get into trouble when they claim they are "friendly". That may indeed be their intention, but they have no way of evaluating how their "friendliness" is being perceived by others [and, truth be told, have no interest in finding out, as it would lead to change]. Let's pretend that Jesus was holding a seminar on the effectiveness of current hospitality. Martha's very continuing to do what she has done is getting in the way of her doing hospitality well - it has become expected activity and folks better like the way she is friendly to them - or else.

If your congregation hasn't done it lately, it would be instructive to borrow a couple of lay members from another congregation to do two things for you: 1) drop by at a time of worship or fund-raiser and later report on their experience of actual hospitality received, and 2) to do a quick survey of people on the street, in the grocery store, at the gas station, and people such as a banker, police officer, school principal, regarding their perception of the congregation in question. You can even offer to return the favor. This Mary moment might affect Martha and widen the scope of hospitality for her and others.

With our usual behaviors being reviewed, we are also ready to review how deep are our spiritual disciplines undergirding our hospitality. This sets us up for next week's gospel lesson - not prayer as religious activity, but prayer as an evaluative tool for our behavior.

Friday, July 09, 2010

No Loophole

Pentecost +7 - Year C
no loophole

eternal life








Thursday, July 08, 2010

Colossians 1:1-14

Pentecost +7 - Year C

Colossians 1:1-14

Faith and Love are evidenced when Hope is alive (verses 4-5). This emphasis practically turns 1 Corinthians 13 around - here the greatest of these is Hope.

Look - Love is the greatest!
Look - Faith is the greatest!
Look - Hope is the greatest!

So Paul expects and prays for the folks at Colossae that they would lead worthy lives, lives lived with joy, patience, and power that reflect their Hope (verse 10).

This Hope is for them tied to that redemptive mercy of forgiveness (verse 14).

Look - Forgiveness is the greatest!
Look - Mercy is the greatest!

Do you still Hope for forgiveness and live in that Hope (not groveling for some rescue, but standing firm that your expected forgiveness will engage and energize your present forgiveness of others even before you experience your own)? Now there is Hope that is still Hope and not a quid pro quo. No wonder Paul, here, claims its greatness.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Psalm 82

Pentecost +7 - Year C

Psalm 82

We have heard of a Mercy Inn and a Plumb Line. We now hear about G*D holding judgment, doing justice. This is the result of a plumb line of mercy that was unused, set aside for a more pressing issue, and eventually justice was needed to rectify the results of folks being unkind, unmerciful.

If you don't want to face judgment, justice for having gone awry, then show mercy, no matter what the provocation to express something else. Mercy is preemptive Justice. Mercy obviates the need for justice.

If you are among the G*Ds, then your call is to exemplify Mercy so that Justice need not be brought to bear. In the long run Mercy is the most efficient behavior, even when dealing with the unmerciful. Without Mercy non-violent resistance is simply a variation on violence and a will to power.

The longer I sit with this, the more untenable Mercy alone is. Second thoughts arise by the dozens, rationalizations for unMerciful behavior leap into being from nowhere, and satisfaction of revenge is very strong.

Mercy needs a community able to consistently remember Mercy as an option, a multitude of spiritual disciplines, and all the fruits of the spirit to be engaged together. Even then, in our world, Mercy is miraculous in its presence and effect.

Rise up, O you G*D, be merciful.

- - - - - - -

"I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice."
-Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President (1809-1865)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Amos 7:7-17

Pentecost +7 - Year C

Amos 7:7-17

Plumb lines, levels, micrometers, and other instruments of evaluation are so much more difficult in the short-term than "looks good, we'll go with that". Plumb lines and the like don't let us get away with "almost". They cut down on future creativity when we later, surprised, try to fit a square peg into an rhomboidal opening and try to figure out how to get back to plumb without restarting (which may be the most efficient response to the situation).

Prophets like Amos have a well-trained eye that can spot a plumb line in the midst of whatever they are doing. They see the presence of an interactive G*D while laughing at the latest popular pundit or a news article so well-balanced it means nothing except we'll be having more of the same for some time to come. A plumb line conversation with G*D can go on about a more hopeful past and preferred futures when dealing with decisions to be made at any level - personal, familial, communal, governmental, international.

A question for us is training our own eye to glimpse a sea of plumb lines, like using iron filings to note a magnetic field. Plumb lines that are internal to our situations get tricky to notice and follow. A cultural overlay can hide them from even diligent seekers and the very act of trying to find a plumb line in a busy picture distorts our response to it, if found.

At some point the recognition of a multitude of plumb lines (good old situation ethics) can drive us crazy - crazy enough to pile up their seeming contradictions and find a meta-plumb-line for larger parts of our life.

Blessings on your revelation of a needed plumb line in your life and the life of the community. Further blessings on your courage to attempt to straighten situations accordingly. And even further blessings on your quest to move from plumb line to plumb line, shining them as you go that others might more easily respond to them.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Luke 10:25-37

Pentecost +7 - Year C

Luke 10:25-37

I was almost appointed to a half-time pastorate in a self-described "conservative" congregation. Back when that seemed to be the case I had begun thinking about this week's lections as the texts for a first sermon.

Knowing there was going to be testing going on in that setting, as well as in the intro to this passage, I was glad to note the double commandment that would speak to this congregation's piety with "loving G*D" and their local mission emphasis with "loving neighbor".

I was less glad to have to also note those troublesome issues of "loving self" and a congregation being an inn for all manner of wounded folk where we would have to be with them, rubbing shoulders and building new stories, without a guarantee that a first downpayment by Jesus in a Samaritan guise would be sufficient over a long-haul and we would need reliance upon mercy beyond our current loving limits. These "also-noted" would begin pushing at needed growth areas of how we live beyond categories and stereotypes and an investigation of how these more difficult aspects fit with a pride of being "conservative". And, whereas pushing engenders push-back, questions of degree of a new revelation that it might be glimpsed and choice of examples would take more intentional care than would later come more easily.

If I could carry a tune I would sing Song of Bernadette for occasions such as this.

Blessings on seeing your congregation, family, job, etc., as a Mercy Inn franchise.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Traveling Mercies

Pentecost +6 - Year C

seventy times
seven times
forging welcome forgiveness
and strewn everywhere
we might go

in Podunk Center
forgiveness has preceded
our arrival
its practice has prepared
a welcome

in a Capital City
there too forgiveness
has grown ready
to embrace our presence

no matter what eventuates
we have seen a miracle
fear does not prevail
Satan does not burn
a wide-welcome rises

there is no law
low enough to constrain
peace and mercy
from their appointed rounds
where'er we go

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

Pentecost +6 - Year C

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

"Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up."

Keeping on keeping on is the relatively easy part of this, particularly when we claim to be right. It is that tricky business of discerning what is right that keeps tripping us up and sending second thoughts our way.

Just one example, what is the right focus for a sermon in America on July 4th?

Do you focus on Liberty or Independence? Do you focus on a call to a better nation, beckoning it to the good of all (versus the further benefit of the already rich or corporations) or to repentance, to refrain from further boasting about how good we are, for we will be recompensed for the trouble we sow? Do you focus on grace or law? Do you focus on faithfulness (gentleness) or patriotism (legalism)?

If you dare, you might simply read aloud John Wesley's tract Some Observations on Liberty and say that there is an on-going struggle between liberty and independence that has gone on since the founding of our country. This choice is not one that is going to go away any faster than any other question of what is right for any occasion.

If nothing else the closing lines here would make a fitting benediction:
A New Creation is Everything!
For those participating in this creation,
peace be upon you, and mercy, and upon G*D.