Saturday, October 30, 2010

choice of words

Pentecost +23 - Year C

I've been yelling so long
has been beating hearts forever
wrong wrong everywhere we look
troubles nights and days
from yesterday ruins today
turns to never-ending feud
begins winning at all costs
slackens into injustice
is at every gate
skews judgment

and watch anyway
and listen deeply
and write what you hear
a heard vision
plain bold large
large enough to last to the end
of lies of delay of pride

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Pentecost +23 - Year C

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy are able to identify two keys to living as a significant group of people, a covenant group, if you will. Clarity of what it means to grow toward G*D in both individual and corporate arenas stands everyone in good stead. My individual faith encourages and challenges where we as a group place our trust. That which we are discerning together affects where I place meaning in my own life. Growth in all directions is key to a dynamic fellowship, in this case Christian (pre-Constantine). This is a different dynamic than later when formal doctrine will cut some off and homogenize the Church which will lead to authoritarian leadership and a one-right-answer willing to name others as heretic and kill them.

A second key is how we express love for one another. Our neighbors, even those in the "church", are different enough from our self that it is no small matter that we honor one another with our different stages of growth in faith and trust. This is a different dynamic than both of us gazing toward officialdom and trying to measure up to a distant and theoretical way of being in the world.

These dynamics are still worthy ones to search after - growth and love. In fact when they are split from one another we find ourselves splitting from one another. There is no church growth product that will substitute for these basics of growth in meaning (individually and together) and love beyond reflections of our self.

What individual or group within your "church" needs your prayer that these two gifts might surface in their life?

What individual or group outside your "church" needs your prayer that these two gifts might surface in their life?

When growth beyond our current understanding and love beyond our self happen, new hope is born and borne, regardless of religious or non-religious expression/tradition in which they occur.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

Pentecost +23 - Year C

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

The world is going to hell in a handcart. Everyone has their own evidence of the devolution of human community. Some is just fear-mongering and some have evidence. Perverted justice is as good an example as there is. Of course, one person's perversion is another's beauty.

There seems to be no process that can guarantee putting a stop to people's perversity. It doesn't seem there is a technique that will put us on a path to a better tomorrow. All we have is our own integrity. We stand and watch and wait and evaluate and act on what we trust.

So what are you trusting these days? Try this, an end is coming soon, but not soon enough that it will keep me from my responsibility and joy to live as though something better than an end will arrive in its place.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Luke 19:1-10

Pentecost +23 - Year C

Luke 19:1-10

Definition of being human ("son of Abraham"): generous toward the poor (at your own expense), honest in relationships within the community (cultural and physical environments), and quick to respond with repentant actions when astray.

We are quick to define people out of their humanity when they are not in accord with a majority or otherwise lack power. We have historically defined people out according to their theology, their clan, their education/status, their gender or orientation, their racial/cultural heritage. Here we hear that humanity has to do with basic community infrastructure of generosity and honesty and intentionality to abide by such. No matter how many above strikes someone has against them regarding their thinking or behaving or being, if they meet these criteria they are in.

It is difficult for us to abide the simplicity of generosity and honesty (both - they can't be traded one for the other) or an ease of return to our common values. We seem to want to make repentance as difficult and painful as possible, but here we see preemptive mercy at work in defining the work of what it means to be human ("Son of Man") - finding and inviting a restoration of ourselves to ourselves.

Friday, October 22, 2010

not down to a river but up to a temple

Pentecost +22 - Year C

oh so trusting we are are we
exceptional folk we be
we even have parables
told about us

its true we are not
like other people
who are good enough
we suppose

we fast and fast from fasting
we tithe at least a tithe of a tithe
alms we could do aplenty but
sacrifice is due

would you like a parable
all to your own
of course

did you see how we stood out
against a dreary background
that is sad so sad
yes sad

what better to do than praise
for bringing us home
to stand proud

whom else is so deserving
than those who deserved
miraculous rescue
whom else

day by day we stand in public
thanking our god
our god

such honor has come our way
and keeps on coming
bringing crowns

a parable is always told of us
did you hear its wonder
yes about us

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Pentecost +22 - Year C

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Pharisee: (verses 6-8) As for me, I am a personification of a fast. I have lived accordingly, right to this moment, following every jot and tittle of faith. I have a crown reserved for me in eternity that will be personally handed to me by Jesus himself. Others who do it my way will also get a crown.

Tax Collector: (verses 16-18) I am deserted, unsupported by anyone except Jesus who strengthens me to forgive others before claiming a right to teach forgiveness to those most unlikely to offer it. Through forgiveness I was rescued from biting the heads off those who sneer at me. This rescue from others and myself is worth touting, always. Amen.

Like Paul, we are much ourselves - wearing our tragic and comedic masks in quick succession.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Psalm 65

Pentecost +22 - Year C

Psalm 65

"We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple" because such are imputed to us.

Can we as happily affirm that we are satisfied with the goodness of our "house", our community, our extended human family, our own body "temple"?

Might we claim abundance comes from a satisfaction with the interrelationship between G*D's house, our house, our neighbor's house? Does creation blossom as a result of how well our houses are open to one another?

Let's back up a moment, is creation blossoming? OK, now, why not? Have we effectively exiled one another from our lives or accepted exile from the lives of others? Pharisees and Tax Collectors, Exiled and Returnees, You and G*D and myself - mirrored images still looking for a home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Joel 2:23-32

Pentecost +22 - Year C

Joel 2:23-32

A tide has turned and we are glad and rejoicing. In retrospect, all that business about swarming locusts doesn't seem so bad. We are going to eat plenty again and that makes all the difference - we'll forget anything that might endanger our next meal, even out-of-proportion responses against us - there will be no talk of reparations from us.

So goes the portrayal of a change in fortune. Being caught between an avenging G*D and a make-it-up-to-them G*D keeps us so off stride that we are thankful for any glimmer of hope, like those whose emotions are tied to any external, such as the volatile movement of stock exchanges.

In this place of being pinged and then ponged, we forget our partnership with G*D and stand grateful for a moment of respite. We became dependent upon the "name of the Lord" and called and called for it to be for our benefit.

It is in the pride of being those who called upon the "name of the Lord" that we lose our humility and again fail the test. In finally claiming our humility we are overly convinced that we are not able to claim our partnership with G*D and wait for a providential moment, an opportunity for survival.

Can you dream beyond this either/or approach of accusation and requital? Do you still dream and envision a partnership with G*D and Neighbor? Culturally, we seem to be in need of a demanding G*D to deal with our reluctant neighborliness and recalcitrant neighbors - approaching either G*D or Neighbor, on our own, seems more than we are capable of. A sense of partnership with either or both - priceless.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Luke 18:9-14

Pentecost +22 - Year C

Luke 18:9-14

Neither righteousness nor self-righteousness (externally it is difficult to tell the two apart) is an easy nut to crack. Confronting it mostly sets it more firmly in its ways. Telling a story can sometimes help, a la Jimmy Stewart roles. Even here, though, a story, more often than not, is time-delayed in its effectiveness.

Here a story is told and you will have to decide its effectiveness. Imagine telling this story on the steps of any legislative body. Who will hear it as affirmation of themselves, humble folk that they are, and who will hear it as a condemnation of the other other, prideful bastards that they be. Yes, that’s right, heads-I’m-innocent and tails-you’re-guilty.

That’s the easy setting. How does this story sound on your steps?

Finally, a question comes about justification - did the Pharisee add a merciful act to his repertoire of fasting and tithing? Would that make any difference? Did the tax collector raise his rates, for who could deserve that more than such a humble person?

Is justification your personal gift or a communal responsibility?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pray All Ways

Pentecost +21 - Year C

pray always
pray all ways
especially the way
rejected as prayer

dreams are prayers
as well as rituals
whether formal or not
housing our hopes

work is prayer
giving feedback
to our experiments
in understanding

community prayer
individual prayer
play back and forth
night and noon

all the while we pray
we breathe out and in
calling and called
everyone belongs

in belonging we find
kindness added to fair
regardless of justice delayed
or covenants unmade

with assurance felt
or trust decided
we pray until prayer is but
working dreams working

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:5

Pentecost +21 - Year C

2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:5

"All scripture is inspired. . . ." Mine, certainly. Yours, certainly, Theirs, certainly.

The purpose of scripture or prayer or dreaming is to be "proficient, equipped for every good work".

Paul sees everything through his converted eyes, but it doesn't take much imagination to know that if I've been converted once, I can be so again and be just as passionate about the next "real truth" as this one. So the quotes above do stand out, not as religion specific, but the best wisdom of each of them.

If we also broaden Paul's encouragement to Timothy in the last part of this pericope, we can see the value of persistence and education. We are to keep at what we know until it is time for us to move to our next learning. We are to keep learning or we cease being effectively persistent and become merely rote. These are matters that pertain to every faith tradition and stage of life.

Our danger point is that of modern-day fundamentalism (and other -isms, whatever their disguise) that seems incapable of learning, requires a fealty of conformity to the past, and is willing to cut off its own for the transgression of not being in lockstep. For further explication of this issue of narcissism you may be interested in an article in Rolling Stone, Matt Tiabbi on the Tea Party.

Our point of opportunity is that of an openness and expectation of learning that will move us beyond where we are, measuring ourselves against our hope rather than our accomplishments, and intentionally looking to increase the community.

Inasmuch as this week has focused a bit on prayer let me conclude by indicating a blessing that allows one to not only walk a mile in another's life, but to pray their prayers, dream their dreams. If you are a conscious prayer, this is a week in which you might practice prayer forms from different traditions. If you are not a conscious prayer, this is a week in which you might try shaping your yearning, for something larger or better than we currently experience in our common life, into words. Both avenues will assist you to be proficient in every good work and model for others the possibility for such in their own life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Psalm 119:97-104

Pentecost +21 - Year C

Psalm 119:97-104

We sharpen our wits against that which isn't very witty. A justice-seeking widow against a judge out for their own. The next generation against the present one. Wisdom against the law.

In this case the law is sweet for what it reveals, my understanding has value beyond allegiance to accumulated knowing. It is not that the law is sweet in itself for law is always too little, too late, reactive or preemptively restrictive, constraining a better tomorrow from influencing today.

We practice having eyes that will see beyond the approved limits of the day - to receive revelation beyond what has been revealed. Keep your eye ready, a subtle opening to better living doesn't last long (but, fortunately, it keeps coming around). It is important to be ready to walk through legal walls by using a mantra - no, not "Open sesame", but "I am who I am and will be who I will be no matter that I have been who I have been". A bit on the longish order, but what could be left out?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Pentecost +21 - Year C

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Note the lack of difference between:
"The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth have been set on edge" and
"The leaders have eaten sour grapes, and the community's teeth have been set on edge".

Unfortunately, the solution to this is not to do a pendulum swing and have everyone dying for their own sins, their own sourness. This shift passes right over the interface and interrelationship of our communal and our individual selves. This avoidance also shows up in the imagery of everyone knowing the same larger reality, G*D, if you will. It misses that we also need one another to be able to work through the perpetual disagreements that rise with one generation following another, each having a different experience base. Even within a generation there are varying understandings of personality type, gifts and abilities, any number of entitlements, and basic political power theories. Without entering into an admittedly difficult interrelationship with both G*D and Neighbor, self and others, we either harden ourselves into authoritarianism or participate in constant blame.

This little story is about more than Atlas Shrugged type individual responsibility or some grand cult in lockstep from the inside out. It raises questions about our being persistent and hopeful "widows" at one point in our life and "unjust judges" in another as seasons of experience and generations succeed one another. What covenant do you see following the one proposed here, as it takes into account this covenant's failure point of pride at having G*D's law within one, G*D defined as "on my side"?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Luke 18:1-8

Pentecost +21 - Year C

Luke 18:1-8

Hot on the heels of a week of dreaming comes one that starts with prayer. Define the difference between a dream and a prayer and spelling will be a major category. We dream for better, we pray for better - not just for ourselves or some, but all of creation (anything less is that much less worthy of it name).

At issue is "justice" - seemingly almost in hand, but never quite, like dreams and prayer, that need persistence and hope (combined - and this is more than a spelling difference).

The widow's hopeful persistence is, itself, a prayer form - even if there is never a religious word uttered. Trying to limit prayer to G*D and Church is like trying to return the jar Pandora opened to never-having-been-opened.

Listen to what the unjust judge said. In listening, hear that G*D is not interested in prayers asking for an intercession with the unjust. G*D is saying, "Get out there and do something about what you think you are praying about."

Oh, folks so wanted to hear Jesus going on to suggest that G*D was open to manipulation by prayer and would eventually, no matter whether early or late, bring injustice to heel, that they wrote it in. Even if this is accurately recorded, there is still the matter of whether attempts to pray G*D to a particular action is faithful praying. To put it all on G*D may be to lose our faith, our ability to trust that our participation in transforming life toward justice, day in and day out, has a worth of its own.

As you take a look around at issues needing more justice anticipated and applied, can you see your action as prayer, regardless of the form it takes? From time to time we will use one of the traditional prayer forms to re-energize our participation, but our prayers can never be constrained by a particular idiosyncratic religious tradition(s). Can you redefine your justice issues and actions as prayers offered by a descendent of our ancestral aunt, St. Widow of Importuning?

Friday, October 08, 2010

manifest latency

Pentecost +20 - Year C

a leader says
you are leprous
only silky skinned
need apply

a leader says
you are leprous
every burlaped skin
is needed

a leader says
my power
depends on your
from earth

a leader says
my power
depends on your
voluntary presence
and yours

a leader says
support me or else
exile unending
will be our fate
your fault

a leader says
support one another
where you are
change will come
welfare blossom

a leader says
praise me
early and late
fearless leader

a leader says
remember who you are
what has happened
how everyone
can play their part

a leader says
no wrangling
here's the way
only one way

a leader says
do your best
tell your truth
hear another's
go ahead

a leader says
dreams are dangerous
they go beyond
my control
into chaos

a leader says
dreams are delightful
they bring tomorrow
to better today
from its dark deep

a leader says
a leader says
and between the two
death and life
chosen by you

Thursday, October 07, 2010

2 Timothy 2:3-15

Pentecost +20 - Year C

2 Timothy 2:3-15

"Good soldier" imagery poses some problems.

No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs [military contract bribes].

The soldier's aim is to please the enlisting officer [fragging].

No athlete is crowned without competing according to the rules [steroids].

The farmer who does the work ought to have the first share of the crop [migrants].

Church people are to avoid wrangling over words ["self-avowed practicing homosexuals"]

There are none of these fine-sounding sayings from the Farmer's Almanac that can't be subverted. Simply stating them, doesn't make them real. They are utopian dreams. Staking an argument on them doesn't get very far and eventually leads us to our present bumper-sticker politics, dividing us from one another.

Finally this whole passages comes down to simply the 15th verse:
Do your best to present yourself to G*D, an unashamed advocate of telling the truth you know and honoring the truth others tell.

More than that brings us to verses 16-17a from The Message: "Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they are not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul." Pious talk, aphoristic talk, either/or talk is an easy way to speak, but, if the only way to talk, turns into simplistic, unrealistic, dreamistic poison talk.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Psalm 66:1-12

Pentecost +20 - Year C

Psalm 66:1-12

"The theme of this psalm is not obvious . . . .", The Jewish Study Bible. So we continue the mystery of dreams. "The exodus-conquest theme may hint at the theme of the return from exile and re-entrance to Judah (... a common symbol for the return in postexilic times...)", ibid.

Praise G*D.
  1. We have been kept among the living while bad things happen to ordinary people.
  2. We have been tested by fire.
  3. We have been grounded like a bird in a net, trapped with no way out.
  4. We have been subdued.

          - - - (dream-like jump) - - -

  1. We have come to a spacious, prosperous place.

When we can't explain the various incongruities of life we are tempted to put it all on G*D - the pains and the joys, the testings and the blessings. None of this "proves" G*D. What lies behind our insistence on making sense of the world, even if it takes projecting experiences onto G*D? It would seem we are still in the midst of a dream.

Keep singing a better tomorrow. When we find ourselves there, perhaps then we will see beyond our multiplicities of experience and better understand this and other praise psalms.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Jeremiah 29:1-7

Pentecost +20 - Year C

Jeremiah 29:1-7

We dismiss folks by calling them dreamers, out of touch with reality. Jeremiah's letter recommending people flourish where they are, opens him to the accusation of being a dreamer.

Does Jeremiah not know our human response to having a perk taken away from us? We are supposed to get angry and work assiduously to regain the privilege and garner more! Or so says our Snake Self when not in healing mode.

In exile many perks are taken away. And it is not just the quantity of loss but the quality. Our native tongue and all the memories it carries is lost. Our favorite seasonings, not to mention our favorite foods, are lost. Relationships, standing, and class are all lost. Some losses bind us to the past.

As we attempt to get our minds and hearts around questions of subversion of our vanquishers, our enemies, along comes this dreamer, Jeremiah, with his letter asking us to simply flourish where we are - fearful and lost. At bottom Jeremiah dreams for us a different present and future than we have for ourself. Our vision is to continue the past, to return to where we were and the power we had. Jeremiah's dream is about cutting the immigrant's nightmare down to size by noting all the reality of loss and moving on. Some losses open us to the future.

Whatever has been lost, has been lost. Spending energy on it in regret and grief, in fantasies of revenge and return, turn out to be counter-productive. The loss cannot be put back together again, no matter how many king's horses and king's men are put to the task. All that is left for us is to put our best toward a better tomorrow for our captors as well as ourselves. If we are in it for only ourselves, we will simply repeat the cycle of violent competition and a zero-sum power game.

For what are you being called, counter-intuitively, to help flourish by remaining true to what is better for all and not just yourself?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Luke 17:1-19

Pentecost +20 - Year C

Luke 17:1-19

The space between wake and sleep where drowsing, active-dreaming, springs to life is a critical creative space. Here the interface between Samaria and Galilee is just as creative. You might want to consider where a creative interface is for you - it may be geographical or relational, perhaps it is is an art form or a time of day - and intentionally and regularly engage it.

Here, in the in-between, the least likely avenue to spiritual growth shows up. In this case, outcast lepers come out of nowhere [where in real life would lepers be waiting just inside the boundaries of a village - wouldn't you expect them to be at some remove?]. Lepers become judges at the gate and might bring an appeal for healing from any number of perspectives. Here the healing rubric is, "mercy" and raises a question of whether the dreamer will be mercy-full - full enough to have it overflow.

In this dreamtime, a community of lepers could be made up of Jews and Samaritans. Their common exile binds them together in much the same way that folks from differing religious groups have more in common with those with similar experiences in a different religious group and be in closer accord with them than with someone else from their religious group who hasn't arrived at a similar values package.

Whether the lepers were all Jews except for one Samaritan or all Samaritans, sending Samaritans to Jewish priests would have no meaning to the Samaritan. It takes an especially active dream to have a/the Samaritan return to Jesus, as though to a priest, to say "Thank you", to offer "Praise/Sacrifice" for completed healing.

And so, in a daze, Jesus reflects that a faithful, trusting, relationship - regardless of its religious orientation - is a source of healing. Quite a dream - healing goes beyond ritual, expectation, or privileged religious affiliation. The faith of a faithless person is a wonder to behold.

May you dream strong dreams of new ways of being together. This sort of dreaming will lead you to situations as equally strange as Jesus and the lepers - all healed, mysteriously on a hidden journey, even if through ways passing strange and beyond our usual sense of reality's limits. As you enact your new, strong dream, may you hear, "Go, on your way; your dream has made you well."

Friday, October 01, 2010

imagine more

Pentecost +19 - Year C

you don't need more
trust, hope, memory, opportunity
but more imagination
wouldn't hurt

imagine the energy
grass growing through cement
mustard seed-sized faith
juggling mulberry trees

imagine the integrity
in serving one another
telling truth today
investing in tomorrow

imagine laments forgiven
songs of old sung again
foundations rebuilt
villages honoring children

imagine continuing conversions
ancestors still alive in hearts
gifts rekindled for common wealth
forgiveness defining faith and love

energy aplenty
integrity deep - deep
forgiveness ready at hand
conversion tying past to future

we don't need more
unless imagination has died
mouldered by marketing
surrendered to entitlement