Thursday, September 30, 2010

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Pentecost +19 - Year C

2 Timothy 1:1-14

I remind you to rekindle the forgiving gift of G*D that is within you. [vs.6]

Don't be a coward and let it go for nothing. [vs 7]

Be not ashamed of forgiving, even those who don't know what they do. [vs 8]

You have a holy calling to further G*D's expansive and expanding love. [vs 9]

Fragile life can be strengthened well into the future through forgiveness unto resurrection. [vs 10]

This reception of forgiveness is worth building a life on. [vs 11]

Trust the forgiveness you have received on your Damascus Road. [vs 12]

Hold to the standards of trust and love. [vs 13]

Guard these standards that reveal the Holy Spirit in each one. [vs 14]

- - -

How do you read these words in our day? How do you keep this pericope from being all about salvaging past doctrines and never getting to trust an on-going conversion through the reception of forgiveness and then being radical in extending forgiveness to anyone and everyone?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Psalm 137

Pentecost +19 - Year C

Psalm 137

Remembering forgiveness unlimited, we now weep at what has been lost. The music of our lives that brought us to dancing together, has been lost.

In this strange unforgiving space we are asked to sing of forgiveness out of a reserve we do not have and we find we have lost the words - we don't want to forgive our captors. Our good right hand of fellowship through restored community has withered.

No matter how we intend to honor our heritage of forgiveness, the words just don't seem to come - our mouth is dry.

Our lack of forgiveness has us wishing harm not only upon our current enemies but all their children, not just the first-born.

Yes, we are in Babylon. Weeping. Unforgiven and unforgiving.

To return to health we need this lament. May we see what we have done and are doing to ourselves and not take that out on others. Let us Remember Forgiveness and build Zion anew right here in the middle of Babylon - it is a reliable, long-term, tool still available to refugees from Eden and Everywhere.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lamentations 1:1-6

Pentecost +19 - Year C

Lamentations 1:1-6

How lonely sits a city that once was full of forgiving and forgiven people. How like a bereaved spouse, enslaved by depression. Bitter tears are wept; no comfort is afforded. Friends have become enemies. The felt experience is that of exile, suffering, servitude, and sleepless stumbling.

Even the roads to the city mourn for there is no festival of forgiveness to draw people together. Priests falter, children grieve, it is bitterness all around. Transgressions remain transgressions and a multitude suffer for want of forgiveness.

Lament wherever you are, this fate does not wear out or run down - it waits for a first moment of fierce rectitude that excuses a next and next. Where preemptive mercy and forgiveness falter, self-inflicted disaster eventually destroys every empire built on market greed and self-righteous revenge.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Luke 17:5-10

Pentecost +19 - Year C

Luke 17:5-10

[verse 4] "You must forgive!" ~ Jesus [4 BCE - ?]

[verse 5] In response to this dicta, Jesus' friends responded with equal intensity, "Increase our trust!" (our ability to persistently forgive before, during, and after repentance has been requested).

[verse 6] If we are not careful what follows is seen only in terms of religious jargon regarding "faith." In light of the action of forgiveness, we only "do what we ought to do" when we forgive. The mulberry talk and slave/master imagery can take us pretty far afield if they are not linked more closely than the NRSV heading of this section, "Some Sayings of Jesus". These might be isolated sayings but these sayings take on greater significance if they are recognized as reordering our community life. This reordering is very difficult work for the injuries and difficulties we want to heal are so deeply rooted and grow back so quickly that we need to practice the trust involved with forgiveness and, then, practice it some more.

Friday, September 24, 2010

better now?

Pentecost +18 - Year C

a future projected
is a present in need
of a changed past

our accretions
can do us in

imagine again
how differently
we might have decided

there were choices
whether felt or not
our response was not necessary

imaging again
we have more choices
than we are willing to make

we know this
from our dreams
of justice implemented

while fearful
in the present
seek also contentment

when these inform
one another
new choices arrive

not only choices
but new refuges
new authority

changed expectations
change behaviors
toward one another

even Abraham
will follow Lazarus
with a cup of water

in the name
of a better future
we live better now

Thursday, September 23, 2010

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Pentecost +18 - Year C

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Enough can be enough when it comes to food and shelter and money. More than enough, though, gets in the way of other qualities where enough is never enough.

Has there been enough kindness shown yet? How about enough peace experienced or justice enacted? Will there ever be enough consideration given to the poor? What is the limit of an expansive and expanding love?

When we begin trading in commodities it turns out that enough is never enough. We are measured by an ever expanding base of quantity and coming up short of the elusive enough. This understanding leaks over into the qualities of life of which there really never is enough and we will cut any of their corners in order to receive more of the marketable goodies we desire.

Since those arenas in which enough will never be enough to deal with the latest reality are so important and so vulnerable to subversion, it is important to address the issue of how to deal with matters where enough can really be enough. Here the quality of the day is not a sense of authority to order arbitrary limits on enough or to find a refuge of off-shore tax exempt storage of commodities to add to enough. What is needed is a sense of contentment able to see through the masquerade of adequate diets and housing and income playing the pity game and needing just one little bite more, an extra room, or 10% more income.

Researchers tell us that it is not an absolute amount of money that brings "happiness", but where your money ranks in comparison with others. Simply having more than so-and-so brings the happiness of status, fleeting as it is. This however is not the kind of contentment that needs consideration. Here we have a reference to the Buddhist understanding of non-attachment - being content apart from the standard measuring tools. Contentment is a spiritual gift much needed in today's world of warring words setting family member against family member.

Better than, "Don't worry, be happy" is "In all things, contentment".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

Pentecost +18 - Year C

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

It is helpful to not only know your "authority" (acts of increase in the world), but also your "refuge" (fleeing the world). If these get too close to one another, pride and privilege may rear their heads. In a trinitarian sort of way we need to have our authority, refuge, and contentment (to anticipate tomorrow) all playing nicely with one another and differently based.

Remember your refuge from days past.
Identify your refuge in this day.
Anticipate your refuge in the predictable future.

Within any of these there can be a base from which to do your guerrilla work. Any of these can be a temporary shelter from the consequences of having applied your authority to situations at hand.

A mystery is how we will operate in the not yet, for, here in the middle of the story, evidence of love can get shaky - as well as protection and what we might consider rescue or honor. What used to satisfy our longing for assurance falls apart as another rough beast approaches. In a current uncertainty and our longing for certainty, we are, again and again, trusting where there is no trust at hand and rising from having been treaded upon (various "Tea Party" followers may want to revamp their attempt to avoid being tread upon to what a new community would look like after this particular empire vanishes, is trodden out as a result of having been divided from within).

If a refuge is not providing a re-launching pad of better living together, it is only hedging out particular evils of our day and providing them an opportunity to regroup and come back with more of their friends. So a refuge is not comfort so much as a healing scab and re-learning that we might return to the engagement of life.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Pentecost +18 - Year C

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

What timing G*D has! Surrounded by Babylonians. Confined in the Palace. Comes a vision larger than fear, larger than enemies (external and internal), larger than impotency, larger than silence.

Surrounded by external enemies, confined by internal enemies, Jeremiah buys land about to be worthless. This purchase is to be hidden and sealed until a time when it might be returned to the light of day and the equivalent of a Jubilee happens - land is returned to previous owners.

This is a wonderful stewardship story. This is a story for the Palestinians of our day. Jeremiah would recognize their loss of land, hidden and sealed, for a later time. May that later time be a sooner time - blessings and peace upon the latest negotiations.

How far ahead are you seeing? Can you see beyond the downfall of current empire? Your usual investments are going to be worthless. What investment will see you through worthless times to a time of renewal and restoration, restoration and renewal, Jubilee? You did know that Jeremiah is the prophet we need to be listening to today? What, you didn't? It's not too late to get thrown in prison for telling the truth or traveling to Washington D.C., on October 30 for the Rally to Restore Sanity. No, those are not equivalents, but they are related.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Luke 16:19-31

Pentecost +18 - Year C

Luke 16:19-31

Can you trace back your sense of where authority lies? There are many overlays that will have to be discarded on such a journey. Before moving further a key decision is whether or not it is sensed that a change is needed. If it is, one does not have to travel any further than their present understandings to be authorized to act. If satisfaction, for whatever reason, has set in, you can track an authority back through many generations to Moses and the prophets or to creation and creator before them and never get to an authority authorizing this particular change.

If we are busy defending "what is" as the end point of time or that it will be too risky to move from what currently is, there is no authority, no matter how miraculous or strong that will do to move us off of our present square.

If we see that change is needed to get to a better place, we can get by with an ordinary understanding such as the one my brother sent today regarding math and history as authorities: "Anyone who mentions tax cuts with deficit reductions are idiots, and should be thinned from the herd. It seems simple math, as well as historic perspective has been lost to the Right wing."

Unnamed rich people, unable to see a poor person, are not good candidates for seeing a needed change. They have come to understand the present rules and to shape them to their attain their privileged positions. So intrenched is this privilege that they try to order Father Abraham (euphemism for G*D) to serve their thirst for surface comfort. Even when called on that, they try to help their own class, unable to see the need to help the poor (which would help heal their own). [Note Paul Krugman's editorial, "The Angry Rich", in today's NYTimes.]

We need to develop a way of looking that used both eyes to have a three-dimensional view of life. What will actually help our own group and others? Helping the rich (trickle-down theory) has yet to do anything to the divisions and to really help the poor not still be the poor. Helping the poor, on the other hand, actually does help the rich return to community. As you choose what charities to give to, what causes to support, look for those that emphasize the least. This is not just for their assistance, but your salvation/wholeness.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Commercial Spirit

Pentecost +17 - Year C

The Commercial Spirit
Meister Eckhart
As long as we look for some kind of pay for what we do, as long as we want to get something from God in some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God. Live as if you did not exist. Expect and ask nothing in return. Then the merchant inside you will be driven out of the temple God has made. Then God alone dwells there. See! This is how the temple is cleared: when a person thinks only of God and honors God alone. Only such a person is free and genuine.

= = = = = = =

tiny inside merchant
price tagging life
50¢ for learning math
75¢ for a loving partner
$300 for military security

how do you do it
commodify life
$4 for a janitor
$6 for a doctor
$200 for a CEO

it seems to change
with your desires
$10 for Milwaukee Braves memorabilia
$15 for a Winnebago Sightseer
$100 for bypass surgery

until there is nothing left
but to earn twice as much
for half the satisfaction
invested in manipulated chance
with no way around death

a better economist
values differently
$50 for you
$50 for each
$50 for me

sending prophets
to ensure profit
through regulations
beyond desire and
dishonest wealth

Thursday, September 16, 2010

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Pentecost +17 - Year C

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Pray for everyone. Paul goes on to specifically include praying for people in high places, people who otherwise might not get prayed for. This might be considered to be a prayer for an enemy, someone whose dishonest wealth has led to a dishonest spirituality and a keeping of the one who is praying poorer and poorer.

The emphasis upon "people in high places" is an appropriate reminder that the prayer behind the prayer is revolutionary. It is hard to live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity with all division and inequality of resources that is required to keep people in high places. The lifestyle they have grown accustomed to and want more of requires some to be physically, psychologically, or socially enslaved, hardly a quiet and peaceable life.

G*D does desire everyone to be saved and to come to the "knowledge of truth" which is that we are called to pray without a prayer behind the prayer of overt argument or passive-aggressive anger at the divisions between us.

While traditionally read as leaders are more sons of God than anyone else and so support them with prayer and praise just like you would a God, we can still hear echoes of a more radical call from G*D and Jesus to break down the dishonesty, the hypocrisy of wealth, and all that supports it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pentecost +17 - Year C

Psalm 79:1-9

Even when comeuppance has arrived for dishonest wealth or dishonest spirituality, we are still trying to wheedle G*D to be on our side and to return us to our most dishonest time when we had the most wealth or the most comfort in ignoring one another.

Bottom line here is, "Sic 'em God!"

Beneath the bottom line is, "Forgive us so we can get back to our dishonesty."

The pericopes this week have been tough for folks to hear, even folks who are diligent is opening themselves to an examen.

Can you be honest about dishonest wealth in your congregation without it leading to a drop in financial giving? Can your fellowship address dishonest spirituality and keep everyone participating? Odds are, if you are not a leader, your talk about these matters will find you ignored or asked to leave. If you are a leader, confronting dishonesty will bring about less followers and less money. Is getting back to being honest in church too difficult for the moment? When will it get any better? Is it worth doing anyway?

Examen your self. Examen one another. Rejoice when you have come through. Change when you have been caught out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Pentecost +17 - Year C

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

In The Jewish Study Bible the versification is different, 8:18-23. Don't trust any classification system. All of them will too soon lose the poetic soul of the experience written of as they divide, and divide again, a whole experience - dissection cannot find a soul.

Just before these words at hand (8:13-17), Jeremiah is informed of G*D's decision to put an end to the people - to harvest them (and not in a good way).

I like the translation of verse 18 in The Jewish Study Bible. They note the meaning is uncertain, which always give a bit of liberty.
"When in grief I would seek comfort,
My heart is sick within me."

Jeremiah has heard extremely bad news and is looking for an out and only finds tears available to him. And this is confirmed in verse 21:
"Because my people is shattered I am shattered;
I am dejected, seized by desolation."

There is no healing balm available to the poor - the poor in G*D but rich in various idols.

Only weeping is left.

The spiritually poor lose track of G*D and their own Self. This shows up in the way they deal with One Another, Neighbors, and Enemies. They are already in exile before they even know exile to be a vague, far-off possibility that they will not be able to avoid.

Well, Friends of Jeremiah, a dishonest spirit is as troublesome as dishonest wealth. They go together. Whichever comes first, the other is sure to follow. So, given where we are and the predictability of another exile for any nation claiming to be a city on a hill, a beacon, without actually doing the hard work necessary to have us simply be a neighboring city and to only be a steel against which another's flint is struck, it is time to weep.

We are harvesting the accumulation of dishonest wealth and dishonest spirit. This is worth weeping over as we are too far gone to reasonably shift gears. In fact the pace of a coming exile is increasing. Those with ears can hear it grinding and slouching forward. Be not surprised. Simply do the cleansing work of weeping that keeps clear a larger vision beyond this particular desolation and grief:
Peace and Joy abound
take all you need
and a little more
to pass around


Monday, September 13, 2010

Luke 16:1-13

Pentecost +17 - Year C

Luke 16:1-13

Given: Wealth is inherently dishonest. To accumulate wealth in our world is to do so at the expense of the poor. No matter what the economic system, there is none that is sacred, discrepancy of wealth requires keeping the poor poor. Remember the kicker, "You cannot serve G*D and wealth".

How then does one make friends through the use of "dishonest wealth"?

Is it to use the same amount of smarts but for what is right (as The Message would have it)? This is to again focus on individual salvation and to lose track that we are all in this together - as G*D's creation, we can't have it otherwise.

Honesty requires that we see our economic lives in light of the well-being of all the people and the environment. Whether you have much or little of the dishonest wealth, if you are not using what you have to look to the well-being of others, your own attempt to bridge the gap between G*D and the Bank (a helpful image from The Message), your own well-being (present and anytime afterward), is diminished.

The process of debt-forgiveness here outlined is still a good one and needs to be further used. You may want to look again at the canceling of international debt as a cause to support (Jubilee: USA Network).

Friday, September 10, 2010

a motley crew

Pentecost +16 - Year C

what a motley crew assembles
around a dynamic person
when folk are seen
for who they are
they gather
in abiding hope

powerful people
make gracious hosts
for unexpected guests
seeming to manufacture
more something out of nothing
even from absence beyond nothing

sometimes something is food
and sometimes food beyond food
a healing in and out of time
folks are free to wander away
and be rejoiced over
at every small and large return

poor plans can be improved
beginning intentions strengthened
fears reduced
hopes bolstered
relationships mended
mercy extended

and so Jesus and Jeremiah
Psalmist and Paul and You
and even I
are birthed to new life
nurtured to a next stage
harvesting joy along the way

what a motley crew assembles
in bible, imagination, and here
seeing beyond our differences
of caste and class and past
to what we may yet become
each and all together

for those who wander
and return to wander again
for those who steady
and risk their place
settle in to one another
rest and rise

Thursday, September 09, 2010

1 Timothy 1:12-17 14

Pentecost + 16 - Year C

1 Timothy 1:12-17 14

How does one save a sinner?

  • There is an internal prompting - a prodigal child gets hungry enough to humbly return.
  • There is a faithful waiting - a prodigal parent actively scans the horizon for a sign of return.
  • There is threat of worse to come - a hot wind is about to blow (talk about your global warming!)
  • There is renewal against all odds - fortune happens.
  • There is gratitude - mercy is received.

Different sinners respond to different stimuli.

Paul says there was already a saying out and about (perhaps even seeded by Paul himself) that explains Jesus - he's a sinner saver. This matches up nicely with people who consider that they need to be saved in order to arrive at eternal life (a supposed high value goal). Together, mercy offered and mercy received, a strong bond is established.

In every age there are those who don't emphasize eternal life as a major goal. They are far more focused on a present paradise than on a postponed promise. What value might Jesus have if it is not sinner saving for some later time? Is it enough that faith and love that are in Jesus simply were shown to one and all (some able to receive and some not)? This is not conditional, that it needs to be accepted to be fulfilled, but simply what Jesus does and invites others to also do - trust and love.

This passage is tightened up if verses 15 and 16 are deleted. They are tangential to Paul being strengthened (as a current witness, not for eternal life) and praise of a changed life flowing forth.

This also is worthy of acceptance: Jesus lived in this world with abundant mercy, abundant life. Those able to receive it were blessed and shifted from violence to non-violence that the abundance of life might be maximized. This application of mercy to violence brings eventual wholeness - not automatically, but holistically. So it is that Jesus is less about outcome and more about process.

It is helpful to meditate on the difference between Paul's statement of Jesus's mission (saving sinners for eternal life) and John 10:10b, Jesus' understanding of what he was about (abundant life). What is the interplay between abundant life, eternal life, and present life? Obviously abundance can overflow into some forever, but focusing on the overflow isn't quite the same as attending to the regular flow.

A case in point is my mother who finally died last night. Her work attended to the present without much talk about eternity. Each of her children and grandchildren experienced her as being on their side (that's a lot of differences to be affirmed, mercy to be extended). Her goal was to be engaged with the life in front of her and to encourage growth. Not much, perhaps, but well done and people came to overflow their bonds and bounds.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Psalm 14

Pentecost + 16 - Year C

Psalm 14

Behavior shapes thinking and thinking shapes behavior. We have known this for a long, long time. So how do we learn to pass a test that comes around every time we might "assist the plans of the poor"?

There is an article about learning in Tuesday's New York Times, Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits that suggests:

1) We change our location of study so the same material is presented in a variety of settings. We need to assist the plans of the poor in our family settings, friendship circles, work places, political conversations, etc. To limit our advocacy to one arena is to only study in one place. Our retention of the issue and our effective engagement lessens if we only address this matter at, say, the macro political level or at, perhaps, the personal.

2) We mix our studies together in the same way an athlete will vary their training for strength and endurance and quickness and particular skill drills. There are many aspects to assisting the plans of the poor and we are called to engage our assistance from personal, sociological, economic, political, educational, etc angles. Each facet will have something to add to our learning.

3) We use wider comparisons and fewer intensive immersions. Our brain and heart can pick up underlying patterns when we see the plans of the poor through the lens of ethnic women, white males with a privileged way, hungry children, etc. Each time we look again, we appreciate more deeply the way poverty is entrenched and how we seek to personally avoid it, even at the cost of someone else being poor.

4) We space our learnings rather than cram. Each time we revisit an task such as assisting the plans of the poor we find we have forgotten something and need to relearn a part of our world and work. This makes forgetting a part of long-term remembering. Each time we are surprised that poverty is so stark and pervasive, we have an opportunity to re-learn our place on G*D's side.

5) We seek out tests. The heightened engagement with a test assists us in learning. Like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, "testing not only measures knowledge but changes it - happily in the direction of more certainty, not less." This is not teaching to the test, but using tests to reinforce the learning - there is a significant difference. A key part of the test is where we find ourselves - face-to-face with the poor or just talking about them.

6) We need to pay attention our motivations, who are we are trying to please by learning how to assist the plans of the poor and for whom are we trying please by avoiding or failing this test?

Anyway, intentional foolishness does us no long-term good (for ourself or anyone else). There are ways of shifting to wisdom. Let's help one another so shift. The plans of the poor are a catalyst that will return us to a healing community and the fortunes of all will rise as we engage and implement those plans.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

Pentecost + 16 - Year C

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

For what have you "purposed" and refused to turn back?

For those who are reformers and reformers of reformers in a later day, we have moments of putting all our eggs in one basket and claiming that a given decision or action will make all the difference, for eternity. Each time we have done so, we have found we were incorrect. Things can still get much worse than what we take to be the worst. Conversely, in the midst of the most darkness there are sparks being nurtured into flames and new illumination to guide us out of our present trap.

This process of making a particular, or series of particulars, into a universal pronouncement is so familiar to us that we project it on to whatever is our god of the moment. Yes, we would disclaim ever being be tricked by a momentary god, but when tracking our lives (individual and corporate) we find we talk a better game than we live.

It is important to hear, "...yet I will not make a full end." Even as we heighten our present insight into eternal pronouncement, we are called to remember that "this, too, shall pass."

Now, back to work - hold firmly to your current wisdom while also holding it lightly, that it might better inform.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Luke 15:1-32

Pentecost + 16 - Year C

Luke 15:1-32

Just how small a percentage makes something invisible or is an acceptable loss or collateral damage? Is it 50% (children), 10% (coins), 1% (sheep), 0% (sparrow/hair)? Homeopathically, is there such a thing as too much dilution?

This last week I received a church newsletter in which the pastor's column echoed the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes. It seems that, for this pastor, some "original revelation", confirmed by later creedal/legal formulations, should have kept the ELCA and Episcopal Church, and all others, from self-destructing (his analysis) over "homosexuality". He claimed that schism over a mere 1% of the population, gay men and lesbians, wasn't worth the loss of church unity. Yes, I responded as softly as I could [that his work with a majority 99 would bear much good fruit and that my work with a minority of 1 would bear much good fruit] and hope you will continue to respond to such statements that come your way - letting them go by does no one any good.

Definition of "neighbor" seems to be an on-going issue in our lives. We cycle through which group is currently not included in that understanding. How near a dweller does one have to be to be a neighbor? Do they need to have 100% of the same characteristics as myself? How about 75% of a religious belief? 50% of cultural referents? 25% of food preferences? 10% of disposable resources? 1% of humor style? Less than 1% of a political bias? At one point or another we have drawn circles to keep everyone out. How very Jr. Hi. of us. Corporately, a lack of neighborliness keeps us less than the sum of our parts.

The passage moves from grumbling to celebration, rejoicing, and a question for us is how we might do the same - individually and communally?

Where was the turning point for you? Was it in the finding (at the end point)? Was it in the anticipation of a welcoming (that which can't yet be seen)? Somewhere between?

As this is being jotted my mother is completing her journey amidst us. Breathing is erratic. Some are hanging on every breath. Others are away enjoying a beautiful day. Will there still be neighborliness, given different choices, when all is said and done and immediate tears wiped away? Will a blame spot be chosen to set up one way of responding being the right way? Will we appreciate different gifts and needs and stages of faith? Will lamps be lit [resources, time, and energy used] to bring together all those who have been dropped along the way.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Pentecost +15 - Year C

Pentecost +15 - Year C

knitter together

we pause

for knitting - thanks
for unraveling - thanks

for more of the same - yes
and even more - yes

in this flux
we live and move

and have our being
with pump and pause


resist evil
in every guise


nurture another
with many guides

earn and invest
give and invest

give back
and go on

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Philemon 1-21

Pentecost +15 - Year C

Philemon 1-21

Verse 6: "I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.

Verse 7: "I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother."

Verse 8: "For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty...."

Verse 21: "Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say."

How does your expression of trust become "effective"?

Philemon had the specific issue of slavery before him as an arena in which love might be expressed. The particular has to do with one Onesimus. Is Onesimus already one of the saints for Philemon, in which case Paul's admonition, command, isn't needed? Is Onesimus, at best, a second-class saint and the cultural mores take precedence over a new inclusive community? In such a case Paul does need to reframe the range of "neighbor" to Philemon.

This raises issues of the base range of who is considered a saint, who is a neighbor, and is very important and cannot be left to a quiet, patient love, but to a loving command.

There have been all manner of distinctions made as to who is a saint and who is not; who is in and who is out. Paul leaves it at the same place Jesus does - you are to do more and greater things than you have done before, than others are up to at the present time. Whatever the particular current issue dividing the body -- theological (Arminius v. Calvin), identity (sexual orientation), economic (class), cultural (immigration), . . . . -- a question of what is "greater than the status quo" or what passes for common-sense must continually be raised.

= = = = = = =

Yesterday Amy Someone asked about the comment made here three years ago and asked about including it in her sermon. Here is the link to the last comment we made: Philemon, 2007.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Pentecost +15 - Year C

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Verse 16: Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. [NRSV]

Imagine you still have "unformed substance".

This is not an easy one, so try it again: Imagine you still have "unformed substance".

Part of the difficulty of this creative pull into new being is that it is found between the many (sands) and the one (I am with you!). That which we might become when we grow up is as open as open can be (all the days) and as sharply drawn as anyone would want (days formed for me).

From this personal moment: our grandchildren, ourselves, and my mother, in the good hands of Hospice, are all beholding our unformed substance. Our days and day are as natural as can be in this day. But if we were caught here forever, how sad. The young ones would not grow in grace. We older ones would only have our alzheimic memories. And the ancient of days would have only darkness.

Imagine you still have "unformed substance". What's next? What's not possible?

= = = = = = =

Verse 16: Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. [KJV]

"Unperfect" here refers to an embryonic state in the process of being wrapped or folded together. We might be aided with an on-going appreciation of the unperfect folding and unfolding of stages whether currently in what might be called pre-life, or life, or what might be called post-life.

A blessed "unperfection" or "unformed substance" to you.