Friday, December 31, 2010


Christmas 2 - Year A


world-wide web
word’s wonder-way
witnessed water/wine

wickedness wills weeping
we worship wounds
what when where

want whole who’s
watch wise women
write with wind

~ wisconsin wesley white

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ephesians 1:3-14

Christmas 2 - Year A

Always with the particularlizing.

Christmas turns out to not be a joy to the world, a sign of peace to all people. One way and another, laying a baby in an open manger transfers the significance from angelic song to joy and peace for all to only being available through one personification of an expansive and expanding G*D.

What new lens is needed to see everyone as adopted? Are we all in this together, or not? What value is there in continuing to make “wisdom and insight” smaller in scope rather than larger?

Read your Rahner again to see that everyone is marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.

Was your Christmas for you and yours? Was there an element of it being for everyone? If the last 2,000 years are any indication, an end to us will not happen before another celebration of Christmas. This gives a year in which to better celebrate a wider joy and a deeper peace. Blessings on your journey from an echo of a previous Christmas to the implementing of a next Christmas of “every blessing”.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Psalm 147:12-20

Christmas 2 - Year A

“He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.”

One of the questions of our day is about a correlation between our realities and the scriptures. In a three-storied universe this laser-like action of G*D from above looks different than a distributed universe filled with horizontal uncertainty principles, quantum indeterminacy, and evolutionary processes.

As we celebrate a new year, how might we celebrate a new approach to and appreciation of ancient wisdom that does not constrain a future to the past or enter a future forgetful of its past?

Christmas is not just remembrance, but a continued anticipation of the new breaking into the settled and returning it to its in-breaking energy, releasing it from accreted constraints.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jeremiah 31:7

Christmas 2 - Year A

Feel like you are part of a remnant? I suppose there are plenty of reasons that could be given for such an interpretation of your experience. The surrounding bounty doesn’t seem to translate into bringing folks back together but has been used by those in power to further divide creation from itself and the rich from the poor.

Feel like you are part of a remnant? Recalculate. A gathering beyond our ken is already begun. We are asked to live as though this gathering is more real than our fears that we are spinning apart, never to return.

Let’s return to a translation of yore - KJV.

9 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble:

12Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.

Track the parallels - weeping to singing, the water (rivers and gardens), and souls (no stumbling, sorrow). Choices here make a significant difference in how we engage opportunities.

Feel like you are part of a remnant? Get over it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

John 1:(1-9), 10-18

Christmas 2 - Year A

"Word" was in the world.
The world came into being through "Word".
The world didn't know "Word".

Wrap your heart and mind around that series and you can take the rest of the year off.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

Christmas Day - Year A

The light of a sign continues to radiate. Neither time nor distance dims its packets of waves. Our time and space asks of us to be conscious of a ray of light and a willingness to point it out, to pass it on.

A light here, a light there. Pretty soon all are enlightened. Children of G*D here, children of G*D there. Pretty soon our common experience of grace and truth opens us to one another. Everyone sees G*D and Neighbor (one does not stand alone). We all become everyday children of G*D and Neighbors of one another.

May the people who have received Jesus rejoice in their reception and equally rejoice with those who have received other signs of G*D. Every child of G*D shines glory on creation, becomes a Light unto the nations. Thank you for releasing your light.

May this day of rejoicing in Jesus soon be a day of rejoicing, period.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve - Year A

Kings don't want a sign that will confirm there is a change a-comin'. Change is always dangerous to their position.

Shepherds don’t want a sign that will confirm there is a change a-comin’. Change means a big risk.

Those in power don’t want to lose any authority. Those out of power fear being even lower on the authority scale. Signs are difficult for everyone for they require a response. Better if a sign is not asked for nor recognized.

This night we remember the Shepherd part of the equation. A sign of the Messiah come to reorganize our specific culture and those of everyone else has become a given. Unasked, in its own time, within a context acknowledged to be far from a healthy, a sign is given - a baby is born. Thankfully it was born in a manger which is far easier to track down than a baby born in a household - mangers are something shepherds know about.

Fast forward to the Shepherds actually checking out an unasked for sign. Who all do you envision being in the manger? Mary, yes. Joseph, yes. Anyone else? So when the Shepherds saw a swaddled baby in a manger and made known the stimulus for their coming to look, and Mary treasured their words - who all heard their testimony? We often fantasize about the Shepherds going door to door to tell  folks about what they had heard and seen, but probably not.

They talked with Mary and Joseph and returned to shepherding, filled with glory and praise. Again, we often fantasize about their composing songs of thanksgiving. What is your experience of being filled with glory and praise? Hopefully it will have something to do with proceeding to live the next stage of your life differently than you have done up to this time. I envision the Shepherds expressing their glory and praise by forming a Shepherd’s Union and beginning a Jubilee process from a labor base.

May your sign, your checking it out, your witnessing to it, your calling, all be engaged in transforming the present into the presence of G*D come on earth as it is in heaven.

May what ordinary signs you hear and see this day awaken you to new hope, new options, new commitment.

weeping continues

Christmas 1 - Year A

weeping continues
for children lost
oblivious selves
bloody atonement
surface unkindness
dismissed refugees
death by hunger
winning at any cost
short-lived honors
over-time jobs
compromised health
invisible babes
rote praise
surprise unacknowledged
dimness of imagination

weeping continues
in heaven
as it is on earth
self-selected out
exorcised out
angelic weeping
wracking sobs
diminished we-feeling
suffering raised
expectation lowered
for one and all
refugee wandering
away and back
and on and on

weeping continues
a sad-eyed dog
never petted enough
after excitement wanes
turning once and twice
three times and four
curls in manger hay
awaiting a next influx
of lives and life
each as holy
as holy can be
receiving a gift
of just enough
in a greedy world
and then its gone

weeping continues
in the face of green
garlands galore
in spite of hymns
high in glory
in preparation of hope
living within
in reaction to hope
dashed aborning
tears dammed
break lose
flooding decision-makers
in sorrow

weeping continues
personal identity issues
arrive and arrive some more
having danced with race
and gender and ethnicity
sexual orientation and immigrants
we go around
variation upon variation
until outsides are exhausted
and so we weep
in prelude to inside segregation
loyalty oaths
creedal formulas

weeping continues
inhumanity to you
inhumanity from you
inhmanity around you
weeping continues
lies are told
bullshit grows
truth is avoided
weeping continues
experience begins
literalism chimes in
integration continues
weeping continues

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hebrews 2:10-18

Christmas 1 - Year A

The weakest person you meet today is still your long-lost sister or brother.

As their sibling, be not ashamed to proclaim wonders that they might overhear and put their life in a larger context. You will be proclaiming mysterious things such as death doing away with death-dealers and thus freeing those enslaved by fear of death.

You’ve been tested and sometimes come through. This is the authority you have to proclaim new life to someone who has had a test they didn’t altogether pass. To proclaim past our experience is to get into the tricky area of saying more than we know, having our praise become mere words and formulas. So stick with reality.

It may help to remember some of the tests Jesus faced - birthed in a no-account place by ordinary folk; being a refugee from persecution and knowing that innocent others  were killed while he got away; growing up oblivious of the turmoil he caused by not traveling with the family; being in another no-account place for years of silent growth; hearing he is beloved and not letting it go to his head during some temptations; etc., etc. What tests have you faced? This is the grounding we need to be an evangelist.

Today, while rejoicing over yesterday’s defeat of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and health benefits for 9/11 responders we can’t forget the children of immigrants, allied with those from Ramah, denied a reasonable path to citizenship.

G*D, Jesus, Spirit, Church, you, me - are to help our long-lost sisters and brother. To work together is a position of hope and power. Through your testing experiences you have learned to be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of G*D. With this learning under our belt, we have only the small matter of implementation. Go ahead, be not ashamed of your long-lost sister or brother or whole clan, express G*D’s mercy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Psalm 148

Christmas 1 - Year A

From Walter Brueggemann’s, Israel’s Praise, we hear about a process moving from transformation to order:

     The Psalm is basically a set of imperatives mobilizing all of creation to affirm, praise, and legitimate. The reasons are compelling, but they are nearly smothered beneath the succession of imperatives.
     The loss of reason and the preoccupation with summons reflect a shift in theological sensitivity that begins to cut off the worshiping community from its own experience.

It is this cutting ourselves off from our experience by our doctrinal affirmations that begins to set us up for another round of repentance.

What is your experience of Christmas? This, as differentiated from what you think your experience of Christmas should be.

Brueggemann concludes his analysis of hymns of praise with this schema:

      I have identified three rather different ways in which the shift is made in the hymns of praise, from authenticating experience to legitimated world:
  • A shift in the balance between the rhetoric or reason and summons. Israel loses its concrete memory and experience, and ends with no reasons for the praise that is compelled with an imperative. The summons to praise becomes absolute and unjustified. 
  • A shift from specificity to generalization. Israel loses it specificity and recites generalizations which have a bite of neither affront nor energy. 
  • A shift from the motif of liberation to the motif of creation. This shift softens the memory of displacing transformation which is both threat and gift, and evokes a happy, organic world of harmony and well-being.
     These three shifts, I submit, reflect Israel’s move away from a radical world of disciplined obedience and imaginative commitment to a new community of humane possibility, to a world of complacency, triumph, prosperity, and self-sufficiency. In this world obedience is not as urgent, human possibility is not as cherished, hope is not as defiant or dangerous.
     In addition to these three changes in rhetoric, I should mention a fourth dimension of such an adjustment which I shall not pursue. There is, I believe, a reduction of language so that the great narrative accounts of God’s activity are reduced to barren adjectives and finally to comforting nouns.

The account and experience of Ramah doesn’t just jump to the praise of this Psalm. Too much is lost if a call to transformation of violence to mercy simply becomes expected praise with no connection to our experience.

- - -

Bonus Christmas Story: Gifts of Life.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Isaiah 63:7-9

Christmas 1 - Year A

I’m intrigued with the language of:

according to G*D’s mercy
according to the abundance of G*D’s steadfast love.

At first blush we see the salvation of our distress when a certain level of abundance shows up. Mercy is not put off because of anything in particular on our part because G*D seems to prefer to see us as “not dealing falsely” with G*D’s mercy - we’ll appreciate it and respond to it. Mercy is delayed as a result of a lack of abundance of a desired steadfast-love. When steadfast-love is again abundant, merciful action based upon it will again be engaged.

If we were to extend the passage through the next chapter, we would see that these three little verses are only prelude to a much longer lamentation. From this optimistic beginning, the passage devolves into a complaint about G*D’s alternator not charging G*D’s level of steadfast love. Being a refugee is no easy matter, even if it is a time of learning and a provider of opportunity to show steadfast-love toward G*D before G*D can show it. We have experienced G*D coming through in the past and we want to remind G*D that intervention in unfairness can be done again.

Given that this passage, standing on its own, devoid of context, is such a happy one, how do you see it playing in Ramah, then or now?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Matthew 2:13-23

Christmas 1 - Year A

Gift-givers come and gift-givers go. Gift yourself with a remembrance of those who have gifted you. Some are still with you and some are not. In either case their gift remains even should you find yourself alienated at home or abroad.

The prophecy, the classic quest, contains places dangerous and foreign to our experience. We all are called out of one “Egypt” or another. Heroes and heroines all face their own alienation and are eventually strengthened through that process to offer compassion to not only themselves, but others.

Living as a refugee turns out to be a much better gift than gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It shapes one’s identification with other “children of Ramah”. This is bottom-line creation material. Out of disaster, chaos, lamentation, disunion, and disjuncture comes a new word, “Let there be a new light on our commonality - weeping for one another.”

We weep for the generations of gay and lesbian patriots who were barred from service to their country. There is still weeping aplenty for gay and lesbian Christians barred from discipleship through their church. Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is helpful, but there are still miles to go before this becomes a non-issue.

We weep for the generations of immigrants barred from participation in their new country. A refused Dream Act has a certain irony in this season of being led by dreams. There are still miles to go before this becomes enacted, much less seemingly natural.

Gift-givers come and gift-givers go. Deliver the gift that is you and it will be enough.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Advent 4 - Year A

times up
signed or unsigned
choices lie at hand

angel signs
are iffy signs
believe it or not

prophet signs
are always later signs
well I’ll be

kingly signs
are muddy signs
allowing high handedness

shiny signs
are distracting signs
can you be sure

speculative signs
are partisan signs
all too sure

times up
what sign
will you choose

uncertain signs
are our only signs
and choices are here

beneath signs
a breathless sigh
awaiting your choice

a saving sign
a damning sign
times up

a waking sign
a sighted sign
a chosen sign

a named sign
a G*D with us sign
a fleshy sign

we have met the sign
and it is us
a consummate sign

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Romans 1 :1-7

Advent 4 - Year A

How would you measure your spirit of holiness? For Paul it apparently is only recognized in resurrection. Going off to prayer, standing up to temptations, affirming one’s belovedness, accessing an appropriate parable for the moment, healings, feedings, etc., etc., wouldn’t be holy in and of themselves - only in the light of resurrection.

So, will only passing a pearly gate give credence to your otherwise mundane holiness? That seems a bit iffy for ever being able to confirm your holiness.

Perhaps your holiness will be acknowledged if you insist that those who are not of your particular faith are constrained to become just like you? If you can get a modern-day Gentile to obey your faith, you must be holy?

What say we take a step back and not do so much claiming of authority. It may be that holiness is not measurable or a commodity which one can have more of than another and thus lord it over them. In a Gumpish sort of way, holiness is what holiness does.

So at this last minute of Advent, don’t just stand there - do something. Practice, as they say, will bring its own reward. Oh, wait, I mean perfection. Isn’t that what is meant by holy - not fleshy, just spiritual.

It sounds like Paul maybe meant to start his letter, “I, Paul, friend of Jesus, write to you who need to be servants of Jesus.” While it doesn’t sound as nice as his second draft, authorized authorities can and do take some liberties with liberty.

Are you holy enough yet to belong to a Holy Club? Well, keep trying, you’ll be on the guest list one of these days.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Advent 4 - Year A

Here is a strange request for a sign: Let your face shine.

Could be talking sun-god
Could be talking justice
Could be talking Buddha happy
Could be talking anger

Now, since G*D and you are related, what would it mean to a wobbly old world for your face to “shine” no matter what is going on about you?

Go ahead - - - - shine!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Isaiah 7:10-17

Advent 4 - Year A

We aren’t often asked to name our sign from G*D. I expect each of us would have a difficult time coming up with something and so be tempted to turn it back to G*D, “Go ahead, G*D show us what you want to show us.” A lack of taking responsibility for our part of an interconnectivity with G*D is Eden-long.

So, what does G*D show? A baby, conceived and born the ordinary way, with a strange name, diet, and eventual ability to choose.

What do we get hung up on? A baby’s genetics (read up on parthenogenesis).

What do we miss? A perspective naming an expected and desired relationship - G*D with Me, with Us. A turning everything into a feast of metaphoric milk and honey. A remembrance of walking in the cool of the evening with G*D.

Who is the young woman bearing G*D’s sign? You.
Who is the baby related to G*D? You.
Who participates in a promised paradise filled with milk and honey? You.
Who walks and talks with the Common Good? You.

If you don’t recognize yourself in this description, odds are you are as close to a fall as was Ahaz.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Matthew 1:18-25

Advent 4 - Year A

Last chance to prepare for a surprise greater than a great surprise 2,000+ years ago. If we are just getting ready to reenact a past surprise, don’t be surprised if we are not only not surprised but more jaded than before.

Question before us: What will it take for you to birth G*D in and through you?

Too much emphasis has been placed upon some creedal theory of virginity. Where we missed the boat was trying to get a compelling symbol put in place. Whether you take the Isaiah quote as being about any young girl giving birth or a virgin doing so, the deal is not that of virginity. What is crucial is the ordinariness of any girl or the absolute surprise of G*D working directly through a single lowly virgin.

You, of course, could fit either of these categories - simply ordinary and simply surprising.

So, pay attention to your dreams this week. You may catch where your ordinariness will be just what is needed to shift a world’s perception. May you acknowledge how surprising your life really is and begin to play to that.

May your dreams reveal to you that you are with child, pregnant with possibility that is quite ordinary and equally surprising. There is actually much power to simply be who you are, an ordinary surprise ready to be sprung on an unsuspecting public. Imagine, acting on a sense that G*D is with you will surprise the rest of us to acknowledge G*D is with us, too. 

Thursday, December 09, 2010

James 5:7-10

Advent 3 - Year A

Want to practice strengthening your heart? Don’t grumble. Holding back a grumble is a good isometric exercise.

Want to be ready for a better tomorrow to arrive today? Be prophetic about values having particular outcomes (you can’t talk a good game and not play it and then expect your pious words to have more power than your questionable action). Prophesying can’t be done without a cogent critique of today and how we got here in dynamic tension with a stronger evocation of a preferred future.

So, exhibit some patience toward yourself as you have patience with one another. When you skip a day and let a grumble pass without it exercising you or you fall back into securing life by means of current resources, simply recognize it and get back on the wagon.

So, know, also, that suffering is part of heart-strengthening. To cross the threshold of tomorrow, today, takes a quantum leap of energy and that some of that energy is generated from suffering as well as from vision.

Still the Advent question comes - for what are you preparing the way?

Are you willing to give up a correct and self-evident answer for a right relationship?

Are you willing to stick your neck out on behalf of others and tomorrow?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Psalm 146:5-10

Advent 3 - Year A
Without a context, this is just praise in the air. Verse 3: "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help", gives us some traction.
With verse 3 we can begin to make comparisons and make sense of a better way of living than that where princes are known to adjust everything to their own benefit. Now we can begin to line up qualities under princes and under G*D's Image.
     Princes                           G*D
     promised happiness     present happiness
     resigned                         hopeful
     monarch                         creator
     favoritism                        justice for the oppressed
     more for me                    food to the hungry
     security                           prisoners freed
     poverty                            health care for all
     oppressed                      lifted up
     entitled                            caring
     outcast                            hospitality for strangers
     classism                         vulnerable honored
     temporary                       sustainable
During Advent we light candles to catch a glimpse of a new light, a new way of doing business with one another and creation.
Suggested Activity: Sit comfortably before a lit candle - gaze open-eyed at the flame. Note the colors, the flicker. Feel and smell the warmth. When you have it well seen (at least 2 minutes), gently close your eyes and see it anew. Look beyond what you see with your eyes closed. The not yet is yearning to draw close to you - listen to its whisper, anticipate its being revealed. When you sense what the not yet has to say to you, simply say, "Thank you" and return to your time and space to begin making one change that will help the not yet become more firmly established.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Isaiah 35:1-10

Advent 3 - Year A
Fear closes eyes as well as hearts.
When fearful we need to encourage one another to open our eyes even when know we will find our fears confirmed - there is a lot of really nasty stuff out there.
We will also find that the nasty stuff is not a last word. It is still possible to choose. We can choose to open our eyes and that's worth rejoicing over, even if what we see is still bad news.
Intentionally opening our eyes, we may also glimpse transformation going on all around us. Perhaps not large steps, but transformation, nonetheless. Not only can fearful people open their eyes, but folks who have felt helpless find they can stand straight and strong and tall and by such say a clear and firm, "No", to evil. Those who are able to speak their "No" will also find the words and music to sing a larger "Yes" to good.
Believe it or not, fear is catching. When we are fearful the world around us is fearful - streams dry up, storms increase, and the surface shakes. Fortunately, opening eyes is also catching.
Mostly, though, with eyes open we can see a next step where before we were stumbling in the dark. This next step is a Holy Step. Even if we can't see further than one step, it is enough.
Advent is a time of practicing opening our fearful eyes and taking a next Holy Step.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Matthew 11:2-11

Advent 3 - Year A

What are you looking for? A miraculous sign? A guarantee of comfort?

What we are to be looking for is a prophet, a vision that will take our all and more.

No matter what their heritage or tradition or style or anything else, prophets revive our memories of who we are when we are at our best and point in a direction where we can put our best to work.

Whether Baptizer John knew it or not, he triggered memories of healings and revolution by the poor. We do not need to be constrained by our current situations. Healing can come. Release can come.

John pointed folks who had their memories revived toward Jesus as a way of engaging their renewed hope with their current reality.

So, this Advent season, what is your best ancient memory that you have put aside as no longer possible or practical?

May you find a prophet to follow who will allow the best hope in you to be engaged and to again lead you to participate in changing our present caughtness.

In another day or two, I'll tell you about one of my prophets, Amy.

Friday, December 03, 2010

for what

Advent 2 - Year A
prepare ye
an end to all so far known
is in the offing
never is it the same river
that is stepped into
prepare ye
broods of vipers and oligarchs
will have their night
safety in numbers
is no safety
prepare ye
fruitless trees and old forests
face the same fate
a greed of entitlement
spreads quickly
prepare ye
yet seedtime and harvest
each newly sprung
prepare ye
an unexpected shoot
from a long-dead stump
greens and signals
deep surprise
prepare ye
stand with arms widespread
defend and deliver
hope joy peace trust
all else falls
prepare ye

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Romans 15:4-13

Advent 2 - Year A
Posited perspective: The past was written that we might find our commonality today. Well and good, has it worked out?
Rather, a more fruitful mantra is "welcome as you have been welcomed". This anticipates a future commonality breaking into the present.
There are some folk who have not been welcomed well. Their behavior reveals that lack. Welcome them anyway, for you have been well welcomed.
There are some folk who have been welcomed well but for whatever reason have not received that welcome. Their behavior reveals that lack. Welcome them anyway, for you have been well welcomed.
A stimulus or a response to poor or generous welcoming is not predictable. There are some folk who overcome an unwelcoming beginning and those who are thankful for the welcome they have received. There is not an automatic response to welcoming. When a positive response is available to a welcome it can come in an instant or in stages.
Nonetheless, there is a bed-rock need of welcoming as broadly as possible and then to go beyond what seems it is possible to welcome. This is the key to this pericope, "For G*D's sake! Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you." Substitute "forgiveness" for "welcome" and you'll see the connection. Try "be merciful to" as another alternative and the connection deepens.
Whether believing or not - joy, peace, and abounding hope are revealed in how we experience being welcomed and how we welcome. Act as though you were introducing these qualities as greater than your own entitlement. Could you be the equivalent of Baptizer John preparing a way for joy to flourish, peace to be grounded, and hope to bounce around? -- Well, yes. -- So?