Friday, December 30, 2011


Christmas 1 - Year B

take G*D in your arms
and dance through the stars

fear not to discern G*D
in whatever you hold

if at first you miss it
look again in stone and eye

recognize your death
in your holding

then bless widely and wildly
that thoughts be revealed

thoughts that would close down
thoughts that would open up

bless both that both
would be seen in action

here is revealed again
trust in what is held

hold G*D or don’t
it will be revealed

in need of a revelation
see G*D in what you hold

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Galatians 4:4-7

Christmas 1 - Year B

Galatians 4:4-7

The phrase “under the law” reads in the Greek as simply “under law” or the Jews.

In current parlance, “under the law” carries with it a sense of being oppressed by a heavy thumb of the law on the scale of justice. Here the thumb is not public/governmental, but particular/religious.

In this later sense, an article about law and adoption is in today's New York Times. It appears the Roman Catholic bishops have closed Catholic Charity affiliates rather than comply with a new Illinois state requirement that they include same-sex couples for consideration as potential foster-care and adoptive parents.

The article contains the self-pity of, “In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated.” Additionally there is the wonderful contortion of, “It’s true that the church doesn’t have a First Amendment right to have a government contract, but does have a First Amendment right not to be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs.” Why such silliness is not reported as such and simply left to muddy the waters is a journalistic mystery, but there we have it.

These self-serving apologies are especially egregious in light of this reported data: “Catholic Charities affiliates received a total of nearly $2.9 billion a year from the government in 2010, about 62 percent of its annual revenue of $4.67 billion. Only 3 percent came from churches in the diocese (the rest came from in-kind contributions, investments, program fees and community donations).”

This may be a kernel a sermon to be built around as we are still in the season of Joseph’s adoption of Jesus, the affirmation of Simeon, the universality of salvation, and the limitlessness of inclusivity. Just be sure to note your own denomination's hypocrisy, will to power.

Galatians 4:4-7

Christmas 1 - Year B

Galatians 4:4-7

Ahh, fullness of time. It’s about time. Do you sense time’s fullness in your life?

We might also talk about the birthing of time. A whole new continuum has been birthed with the choices we make. These choices begin to set up a whole new set of relationships with the rest of creation. Want to adopt a new future, adopt a new choice.

I just picked up a new book, The Jewish Annotated New Testament edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler. Another way to approach this is the reflection on verse 6.
6: Spirit of his son, Paul distinguishes between Christ and God but not between the Spirit and Christ. In the fourth century the Nicene Creed distinguished God the Father, God the Son (Christ), and God the Spirit. This Trinitarian conception is unknown to Paul and is barely attested in the NT. Abba! Father. Rabbinic theology, following biblical precedent, often conceived of God as father and Israel as son or sons. Still, although rabbinic prayer were sometimes directed to “our father in heaven” or “our father our king”, no rabbinic prayers invoke God as Abba, which affects a level of intimacy with the divine that made the rabbis uncomfortable. [references to rabbinic works and scripture deleted]
Can you read the New Testament without foisting later conceptual models on it, including your own? While helpful to see how others have dealt with the imponderables of life, there is a freshness available when we have to deal with source material as itself.

I was also intrigued with their observation that the first verses of chapter 4 suggest we are moving on to adulthood, maturity, and in but a few verses the metaphor shifts to being adopted. Try playing with verses 1-2 in comparison with verses 4-5 and see what fits your experience of yourself and your setting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Psalm 148

Christmas 1 - Year B

Psalm 148

The New Interpreter’s Bible reflects: “While the songs of praise generally push toward universality (see Pss 67:1-7; 100:1; 103:20-22; 117:1;...), Psalm 148 takes inclusivity to the limit, surpassing even the final climactic verse of the psalter (150:6). The inclusivity of the invitation to praise God has profound implications that demonstrate the inseparability of theology and ecology....”

And the question of the day: Is there a limit to inclusivity?

If “yes”, what is it?

If “no”, why do we keep playing the same discriminatory games against people and creation?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3

Christmas 1 - Year B

Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3

For what will you refuse to remain silent? For what will you not rest?

As we move toward a low attendance Sunday we are reminded of a key institutional issue, heirarchy - which is to say, let the preacher do our faith for us. After all, we pay for the privilege of avoiding zeal. Oh, we can get exercised about the way someone else’s idea won the day on the color of the kitchen or the time of holiday services, but on the big justice issues, the national issues, the world issues - we play the “I don’t know” card or the false balance of there being at least one point on both sides.

Yes, rejoice for the blessings that have come your way. But an even bigger Yes needs to go to the use of such blessings to increase blessings for all, commonwealth for all. To settle for personal rejoicing in the face of such great need is an abomination and we don’t hear much about abomination in a Christmas season.

If you have a sense of salvation for yourself and keep it there, it will slide away quickly enough.

Will you speak out for Mary and women this week? For children after their birth?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Luke 2:22-40

Christmas 1 - Year B

Luke 2:22-40

What’s the right time to move toward purity/justice? The right time to be dedicated to larger visions?

Are you going to wait for New Year’s midnight plus a minute? How about another 40 days for purification, which would take us to Groundhog Day 2012? [What would happen if Mary presented herself for purification and she didn’t cast a shadow?]

Poor Mary, here to be purified and instead of that being the biggie we have Simeon and Anna butting in to talk about Jesus. Even after the ceremony is done, it is not talked about in terms of a new start for Mary to look toward more teen pregnancies but the focus is on Jesus growing strong and wise. The favor that was Mary’s is transferred to Jesus, just like that - ahh, patriarchy.

In Luke we find other details overlooked - the redemption of the firstborn (5 shekels) as well as a reference to the cost of betrayal (30 pieces of silver).

These details aside, a question remains about what rituals you see as important enough to go out of your way to fulfill? Would you have stayed on in Bethlehem for 40 days? It was probably out of the question to walk back to Nazareth and to return to Jerusalem in that time. Did Joseph have enough saved up? What did he do about jobs carpentry jobs previously contracted? Do any of these practical questions have anything to do with anything?

At any rate, Luke seems to not know all the rituals required for birthing. Even without them, blessings from Simeon and Anna come forth. Note the blessings that arise in your life even when not following the straight and narrow. You might almost think that G*D is about being a prodigal blesser. And your image of G*D; your being in G*D’s image?

Friday, December 23, 2011


Christmas Day - Year B

beginning with covered depth
a word breaks swirling waters apart
for room for isle and continent

this becomes this
that becomes that
all the while related

sparks fly between
this and that
light shines brighter

each part is and reflects
a lightening
and light shines

darkness threatens
each part to cease
its identity

no threat is large enough
to close down a hope
that lives in us

we may falter from time to time
attempting to make meaning
but light is built in

sometimes we miss opportunities
to witness to this light
to testify to larger lessons.

to claim one’s own
to make a choice
for flesh made alive

there is no darkness
large enough to hide
a light for everyone

grace upon grace
we claim our place
in time and space

some days

Christmas Eve - Year B

in those days
now misremembered
we think life was numbered
but that is only a story

in those days
we made things up
to make them sound better
than ever they were

in those days
we connected birth
with music of the spheres
even angels sing

in those days
we gathered protectors around
for no one would mess around
with shepherd’s staff and sling

in these days
we are misremembering still
chosing our child
over all others

in these days
we are still making things up
to make us look better
than we have so far been

in these days
our organizational complexes
care not a whit
for mutual care

in days to come
we pray to not misremember
our source of security
is sign beyond surity

in days to come
we pray to not make up stories
and to trust the mystery
of experience

in days to come
no matter what comes
we will protect one another
honoring and rejoicing

in those days
in these days
in days to come
ponder deep and treasure well

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)

Christmas Day - Year B

Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)

The first 3-1/2 verses here are Christmasy, the rest might be considered a thought experiment gone awry.

G*D spoke to our ancestors, directly and through prophets. G*D speaks still directly and through prophets.

G*D’s speakings are revealed by reflections of G*D. We have one of those reflections in a manger scene. When we look in the manger, what do we see?

How wonderful to see back to creation now recapitulated in a new born. How wonderful to see back to Jesus who trained to further reveal and reflect G*D. How wonderful to see ourselves reflected in a baby’s eyes and responses.

To leave nature out of revelation, doesn’t work. To leave a reflection of G*D out of our experience, doesn’t work. To leave ourselves out of Christmas or any other thin-time, doesn’t work.

Imagine you are a reflection of G*D’s presence. This will bring Christmas to many all through the year.

Imagine you are an exact imprint of G*D’s very being or might becomes such. This will give courage and strength to train well that it might be so.

One way to get at this is to reflect on a verse now omitted from O Little Town of Bethlehem (between now popularized 3rd and 4th verses). How would “church” be different if this was a key verse to sing at Christmas?
Where children pure and happy
    Pray to the Blessed Child
Where misery cries out to Thee
    Son of the Undefiled
Where Charity stands watching
    And Faith holds wide the door
The dark night wakes the glory hearts
    And Christmas comes once more
Prophecy continues. What we do in dark nights wakens hearts and, voila, Christmas!

Christmas comes to call us away from the duality of spirit and flesh, G*D and self, sacred and secular. Christmas calls us to do our part, to give our heart.

Titus 2:11-14

Christmas Eve - Year B

Titus 2:11-14

The first two verses seem appropos of Christmas while the last two come out of some post-birth story speculative theology.

Let’s focus on verse 12. How is the church training us to renounce foolish theologizing, the real impiety, and indulgent living? These are parallel terms - the impiety of self-indulgence. But back to the question, do you sense that there is any training, education, progress being made in clarifying deep values revealing G*D as our goal?

To move in this direction there needs to be a structure to our movement ahead, our training toward an end. How do we help one another bring together living upright lives and being filled with G*D until there is no way of telling which came first? How do we practice honoring G*D and N**ghb*r and S*lf? These are day-in/day-out issues that take personal discipline and communal support as well as correction.

Without training we fall prey to the strangest of proclamations. Here is a secular example of lying about reality and shading issues for short-term gain [Palestine's imagined identity]. Without training we imagine identities that aren’t there. This is anti-Christmas behavior, untrained behavior.

Christmas, the grace of G*D appeared, brings a picture of wholeness to all without artificially defining some people out. We are beckoned to draw nigh for hope refreshment and encouraged to now take this moment and grow it in ever wider circles within ourself and within the world. This is more than singing Silent Night in candlelight. It means we will commit ourselves to live-long training in living tomorrow today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Psalm 98

Christmas Day - Year B

Psalm 98

Here is a most marvelous thing: G*D has remembered to steadfastly love and to be faithful.

While these two characteristics are closely aligned and often in parallel with one another, it is important to know that they have significant differences. For instance, there are numerous examples of G*D (and thus creatures) having been steadfast in love while turning a back. Likewise G*D has stood by folks even while cursing them.

In this season of light with Star and Candles and Yule Log we rejoice whenever and wherever we see in others or ourself a remembrance of steadfast love and faithfulnees joined again.

Victory here is not in vindication, but in a new beginning, a resynthesis of steadfast love and faithfulness. May you be a part of such in your particulars.

Psalm 96

Christmas Eve - Year B

Psalm 96

In honor of “Peace on Earth, goodwill to all” - - - -

Sing to your N**ghb*r a new song;
  sing to your N**ghb*r where’er they be.
Sing to your N**ghb*r, bless them;
  tell of their wholeness available this day.
Declare their worth among the human family,
   their good works to others.
Great is your N**ghb*r, and greatly to be praised;
they are to be revered.
For discrimination among people is an idol,
but N**ghb*rs are part of paradise.
Honor and worthiness are in your N**ghb*r;
strength and beauty reveal their security.
Bravo for your N**ghb*rs, they are family,
   Huzzah for your N**ghb*r’s presence and joy.
Hooray for your N**ghb*r filled with glory;
   share with them, listen to them.
Be in awe of your N**ghb*r;
   rejoice with them in this time and space.
Say aloud, “My N**ghb*r, my friend! Our relationship is firmly established;
   we support and correct one another in equity.”
Let the air be glad and the earth rejoice;
   let the sea shout, and all that fills it.
let animals of the field exult.
   In sign of all this the trees of the forest will sing for N**ghb*rs.
N**ghb*rs are gathering, gathering for discerning action.
   N**ghb*rs act with dignity to one another - G*D smiles.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Isaiah 52:1 - 53:12

Christmas Day - Year B

Isaiah 52:1 - 53:12

We have been sold for nothing. It seems like we have arrived where we are by the most natural process available. Little by little we have come to today and we can’t figure out how it happened, it must have been nothing, just happenstance, and who can argue with that.

As importantly, the only way out of our present perdicament is as equally mysterious as nothing. On the farthest horizon a whisper of a messenger who seems to be taking such tiny steps in our direction. For the longest time an approach seems so slow. Little by little we catch advance echoes calling us out - “Depart, depart.”

Where we thought we were stuck, we find it was a wraithful illusion. We don’t go out in haste, but one deliberate choice after another choice deliberately made. We have heard, “Depart, depart”.

Though hard to hear, we found trust available. We have seen the courage of others before and around us. We sense a new wisdom rising in the next generation. Between these we are encouraged to think a new thought, even though threatened.

All that is said about a suffering servant could be said about you and me.

For now we simply focus on knowing this current situation cannot be defined as normative. We are called to, “Depart, depart.” No more retribution. Rather, the blessed will lead others to their own blessedness. May you so lead and light a new way.

Isaiah 9:2-7

Christmas Eve - Year B

Isaiah 9:2-7

When in darkness - a glimmer is a joy.

A burden is not only personal, but corporate. Whole peoples have been oppressed by an iron hand of the market. Whether a single person or 99% of them, being burdened is a sure sign of inequity and such always falls, soon or late.

While we sometimes get caught thinking we need some wonderful counselor, mighty god, etc. to defeat such a huge system, it is important to be able to see a crack in the juggernaut (the huge nothing - no not the official derivation) that can be dealt with by a child - even a child such as yourself. Each of us is a sign of the times. As we choose justice and trustworthiness, we brighten the light available to see where else we might choose a better way.

May you unwrap the present that is you. May your authority grow continually. May peace expand through your choices.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yuletide Carol

For those who prefer hearing a story on Christmas Eve, instead of an attempted interpretation of great mystery, you may want to consider this offering from Dan Dick, Yuletide Carol.

John 1:1-18

Christmas Day - Year B

John 1:1-18

The universal is always becomeing the particular, and vice versa. This interpenetration of life with life is one in which we are participants. So it is, we are to identify with being light to one another - love your N**ghb*r as you love Y**rs*lf and one another and especially enemies.

Believe it or not, the universal Word has become your Flesh. While Brother Ass, our flesh, gets us around, we are to be more than asses. From before and after, we are smack dab in the middle of transformation of energy to matter and matter to energy (Word to Flesh and Flesh to Word).

There is trouble brewing when this is not acknowledged. There is blessing aplenty when it is.

Merry Christmas to you and Merry You-mas to all.

Luke 2:1-20

Christmas Eve - Year B

Luke 2:1-20

Decrees go out all the time. Communal politics enters personal politics and vice versa.

Everyone is registered somewhere because that is the nature of our lives. The registration may be something we thrive in or not.

Here we hear of an angelic messenger announcing a birth. If we only had the ears to hear, we would hear such an announcement at every birth. It is our willful disregard of the value of each person, both at birth and long afterward, that grows out of past communal decisions and keeps them rolling past their time. Eventually this shows up as one inequity or another.

May we have the courage of our ancestors, including Mary and Joseph and guardians of the flock. May we have the wisdom of our descendants.

These are gifts given to us, far more significant than gold, etc., and we can only wonder at how often they are ignored while in plain sight.

When such gifts are acknowledged, peace beyond favoritism is present.

Friday, December 16, 2011

6 Months

Advent 4 - Year B

6 Months

six months into someone else’s story
we find we have our own to tell

of course we thought they were favored
and now we can’t avoid our own

when we stop to think with favoring comes fear
who needs a voluntary earthly hell

what this means for me and mine
is all too well known

Joe is at risk and who ever heard of a boy
named Jesus in our family

fertile fantasies re-appreciate barrenness
especially with being overpowered

spirit rape is no better than any other kind
to sanitize it is simply silly

this needs to be faced along with Tamar and Bathsheba
such a conception is hard when conceived

yes favored fear is all too real
our soul shakes

large promises are no less real
we bake 32 birthday cakes

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Find Comments on Lectionary Passages

Another Lectionary Cycle has come and gone.

If you are interested in previous comments (2002-2011) posted here on a particular lection, you are welcome to visit

Romans 16:25-27

Advent 4 - Year B

Romans 16:25-27

A mystery known as Jesus is now revealed for purposes of “Obedient trust” - a fine example of an oxymoron (from the Greek for “pointedly foolish”) and such a small end.

Advent is a participation in a mystery at one and the same time already accomplished and just over the horizon. Our work is to find applications of prophecy applied to our present circumstance. These are not altogether clear or they wouldn’t be prophecies, but common sense. We are to be playing loyal oppositionist to our own proclivities as well as a status quo which extends privileges to the already privileged, in perpetuity.

Advent pays less attention to special cases, such as a manger scene, and more to the usual cases wherein we find ourselves distanced from ourselves and one another while pretending glad tidings and great joy - obedient but not trusting.

Advent moves us away from mundane obedience and toward the glory of trust. However this requires that we remember to keep focused on what has yet to be disclosed - and this is very difficult as we keep trying to figure out how to make obedience redound to our benefit and still remain open to our being a part of the revealed rather than it simply being an extension of ourself.

Advent gives us something worthwhile to chew on while living out a trust beyond our singularity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Luke 1:39-56

Advent 4 - Year B

Luke 1:39-56

Blessed are you who believe there will be a fulfillment of what is spoken to you by G*D, the Universe.

What have your heard? This is important - what have you heard? We can’t go further until you identify what you have heard. Do you hear how important hearing is? It is the beginning that will require cycles of work and rest.

Thank you for listening and trusting it to be true.

Thank you for also recognizing the danger inherent with listening to voices. Blessings on your discernment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2 Samuel 7:1-16

Advent 4 - Year B

2 Samuel 7:1-16

Pastors today are the equivalent of the king, living in static property while recognizing that the power of G*D resides in movable tents and the poverty of a manger. These two worlds have a most difficult time interacting. Priest does not mingle well with prophet.

G*D seems to have the same temptations to grandeur that we do. Basically G*D says, “Well, yes, I wouldn’t mind having a few comforts after another 6 “days” of work manipulating things for my people and smiting others. A little R&R wouldn’t hurt. Having a pay-off for all this hard work would show those other gods who’s top God.” And so G*D won’t take a “house” from David, but Solomon - that’s a different story. There is no explaining this decision.

Advent is a time to sort through our values: A moving G*D living with the poor and scattering holiness? A settled God expecting folks to come to a holy place? Advent asks us to discern what is behind our questions and to say “No” to the established trappings of success.

I’m still waiting for a creche that will have dung on the floor, holes in Joseph’s sandals, no halos, special magi, shepherds with light-saber crooks, and Mary in wrinkled garb with no eye-liner. This is where a living G*D might visit without getting loaded down with expectations.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Luke 1:26-38

Advent 4 - Year B

Luke 1:26-38

A mystery - How did Mary find “favor” with G*D?

A mystery - “Favor” is also yours.

“Favor” here is but another way of saying “Grace”. It is not so much what Mary or you or I have or have not done. Being grace-full is a gift. This gift is available to all and today and brings new life beyond all expectation of life.

When it happens to you (or again to you) I expect you wonder, “How can this happen to such as myself, particularly knowing how far from ideal I have been.” Such is my experience when grace and favor and new beginnings have come my way.

And so we simultaneously shift into two gears - non-attachment and deep-attachment - Here I am; let it be; onward.

Friday, December 09, 2011

John Doe

Advent 3 - Year B

John Doe

make way
make way
from G*D is sent
an unworthy
worthy enough
to throw back curtains

standing aside
opening a door
an outside outsider
rough dressed
welcoming all
who come

how confusing
not to go through
official channels
is a door opener enough
a water sower
not winer diner

no I’m not that
nor them
give me action
or give me nothing
freely and heartily
I believe

better is available
mourn our present
repent our past
prepare our future
open quiet doors
walk gently forward

Thursday, December 08, 2011

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Advent 3 - Year B

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Rejoice, Anticipate, Give - these are ways G*D is revealed and drawn near to.

These qualities of relating keep one grounded and flying high.

Rejoice in opportunities available, even in the most dire of situations. Even Uncle Sol was able to start a worm farm in his demise.

Anticipate an unceasing flow of time. Regardless of how erratic time is, our engagement with it continues. We cast an eye ahead and translate what we see into our work of this day.

Give. Yes, thanks, but ever so much more as well. Give energy where you sense spirit is loosening the grip of the past. Give heed to questions of a current system thinking it is the culmination of creation and claiming there is only fear and chaos beyond current limits of our thinking. A G*D of peace is also a G*D moving ahead for the violence of today is not a good place to rest.

Test everything. Particularly test the tried and true.

Advent is practice time for breathing in (keeping a gleam in your eye), engaging processes of change, and breathing out (participating in the potlatch jubilee of life).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Psalm 126

Advent 3 - Year B

Psalm 126

We dream we have been restored before.
We pray we will be restored again.

Advent dreams of fulfillments prior.
Advent prays for fulfillment on its way.

We live beyond our past.
We live before our future.

Tears became joy.
Weeping becomes blessing.

And so we stand, past bound.
And so we stand, future free.

We mourn being stuck here.
We laugh to move on.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Advent 3 - Year B

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

It’s time to play the game, Which of These Doesn’t Belong.
good news to the oppressed
liberty to captives
healing the heartbroken
release of prisoners
a year of grace
destruction of enemies
comfort for mourners

If, as in verse 9, our enemies will know us as blessed, why their destruction before their enlightenment?

Is there a breaking down of a wall of enmity through an expansion of blessing rather than running a tank through it? How might that look in your life? I know it will take some work in mine and would say this is Advent work on the ground before we can recognize what we have been looking for.

So, having been given a garland of flowers, we respond by following a bespangled E.E. Cummings and passing them on:
One winter afternoon
(at the magical hour
when is becomes if)
a bespangled clown
standing on eighth street
handed me a flower.
Nobody,it’s safe
to say,observed him but
myself;and why?because
without any doubt he was
whatever(first and last)
mostpeople fear most:
a mystery for which i’ve
no word except alive
—that is,completely alert
and miraculously whole;
with not merely a mind and a heart
but unquestionably a soul-
by no means funereally hilarious
(or otherwise democratic)
but essentially poetic
or etherally serious:
a fine not a coarse clown
(no mob, but a person)
and while never saying a word
who was anything but dumb;
since the silence of him
self sang like a bird.
Most people have been heard
screaming for international
measures that render hell rational
—i thank heaven somebody’s crazy
enough to give me a daisy

Monday, December 05, 2011

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Advent 3 - Year B

John 1:6-8, 19-28

If the criterion is being a witness able to testify to what you have experienced as a source of meaning, anyone and everyone can be identified as sent by G*D. The worth and dignity of every person grows from this seed of integrity between the courage to trust experience and the strength to share this truth in the midst of other truths.

This is a measure of one’s own way in the world, not another’s. When we remember and participate in our journey, there is not a need to judge another in relation to our journey, but for an encouragement of them to engage their own journey. What is a next step for one is not a universal.

A further measure of our way in the world is the clarity between what our experience is and what we make of it (our belief).

So, who are you? You can’t be measured against any other model. You can be measured against what you hear - “Make a better way.”

Friday, December 02, 2011

good news begins

Advent 2 - Year B

good news begins
with a messenger sent ahead
of said good news

a bit of in-breaking
begins to rattle boarded up windows
as a touch of more enters

at first a whisper
and over time - meme added to meme
the past is questioned

a crack occurs
in cosmic eggs large and small
wild hope hops about

people everywhere
pause listen hear gather act (and repeat)
for a messenger

in their gathering
it becomes clear each of them is a messenger
no one is before or after

each is engaged
with simple water and living water
in saving sins

my prepared way
attends to whispered messages
and announces

your prepared way
attends to whispered messages
and announces

where cross our paths
new futures are discovered and sparks fly
multiplying announcements

Thursday, December 01, 2011

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Advent 2 - Year B

2 Peter 3:8-15a

When the expectation of a quick eschaton fails to appear - there needs to be an explanation. So it is that we hear about the mutability of time. Somewhere between today and a millenium from now, what we believe will actually become what happens. So strong is belief that it will look to change the very structure of creation and demand the impossible.

So it is not that G*D lost the track on an endless plain of no valley nor mountain, it is that that G*D has deliberately not asked the way so you can have sufficient time to repent, since you obviously haven’t yet gotten it right or G*D would have come. It can’t be that we got the start of Paradise re-entered wrong (that it will come when G*D is good and ready) or that we misunderstood our part in Paradise (claiming its presence through our interactions). No, the delay is intentional so we can get right with G*D.

If we take the justification of G*D and time out of our calculus, it will become clearer that we just don’t want to take on the principalities and power, to hone ourselves against them, and reshape our current time and circumstance into a desired Paradise. It is so much easier to await some future change done to us. So we claim a delay in Paradise is G*D oriented, when it more accurately is about our delay, not some patience of G*D.

Advent is not just four weeks before Christmas or some indeterminate time before an eschaton. Advent is our present opportunity to incarnate Paradise. Whether hinted at or embodied in wholeness, Paradise is our goal, not just a moment known as Christmas.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Advent 2 - Year B

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

At some point we look to reuniting steadfast love and faithfulness. We also look to a wedding kiss between righteousness and peace. These will come from forgiveness and pardon of the past.

This is to say that currently there is a gap between steadfast love and faithfulness. They look in different directions for the object of their affection. Right now righteousness and peace are separated with irreconcilable differences.

One piece of work to be done in Advent time is working to define these terms and to assist them in combining forces rather than each claiming precedence. Blessings on your bringing clarity and inciting solidarity.

An important Advent question is how these were separated from one another. Yes, they can be seen as parallels, but the different faces do reveal various facets of a smaller/larger something behind them and affect how we function in the world.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Isaiah 40:1-11

Advent 2 - Year B

Isaiah 40:1-11

Before preparing an honest way forward, attention is paid to resetting the past.

Here a comfort of forgiveness comes prior to announcing a better future. There may be times when a vision of a better way will bring recognition that some form of a truth and reconciliation process needs to be set in place. But here it is a shift from past realities that leads a way into today’s work on behalf of a preferable tomorrow.

When we have lifted valleys and lowered mountains so all are on the same plane to look together at some clearer semblance of reality, we find we can also look at our own lives without shrinking away from the reality of being temporal beings.

Inconsistent? Yes.
Mortal? Yes.

So how might we better deal with these realities? Two quick ideas:

We need a consensus approach to life. Majorities tend to let power (money) dominate. Dictatorships focus on what’s good for those in power. Consensus processes can be manipulated, but when we focus on intentionally hearing everyone’s voice and concerns there is a much improved chance for us to catch our inconsistencies before they are inflicted on others.

Knowing we are not only frail, but temporary, assists us in sorting through our various options to ask about folks generations ahead and their benefit from today’s decisions. When doing long-term deciding there is an improved chance of our best intention carrying on long after our body has faded.

After lowering mountains that we might better see, we need to rebuild the mountains where we can lift up a voice of good tidings. So far we have seen that every generation needs to find their own way to honor that which brought them this afar along and to deal with their own divisions (partly based on our mountain building) and to tear down our Announcement Mountain that they better see how to care for generations yet further ahead. Someday this dynamic may change, but for now it obtains.

For now, be comforted - the future is open. Gently assist one another onward.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mark 1:1-8

Advent 2 - Year B

Mark 1:1-8

See, I am sending Advent ahead, to prepare a way;
Advent announces in a wilderness:

          Prepare honest paths.

Advent can be personalized. In the past it was a camel-haired John. Today it is a honey-eater you.
  • You are proclaiming a way out of our brokenness, are you not?
  • You are clarifying needed change and shifting from paralyzing guilt to next opportunity, are you not?
  • You are stepping outside a consumer culture of couture, are you not?

You are not announcing for the honor of imitating John, but an internal necessity to announce we are not yet at the pinnacle of success, no matter how it might be measured. You are simply kneeling to teach tomorrow how to tie its shoe laces that it might walk among the shards remaining from yesterday and onward to a next level of integrated community.

Can’t you hear people calling after you now, “Hey, Advent, What gives! and Who do you think you are?” Pay no heed, you have work to do today to prepare tomorrow’s infrastructure.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Advent - practiced sharing

Advent 1 - Year B

fig tree, fig tree
showing now
a far-off song

tea leaves
presently read
connect with tomorrow

and all we want
is to tear open heaven
to energize today

we'd settle for yesterday
restored to glory
projected forward

but our best gift
is waiting together
in the meantime

practiced sharing
strengthens all
into fellowship

mean times come
unbidden yearning
for better meaning

look for fig leaves
leave them on the tree
let your gift shine

Thursday, November 24, 2011

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Advent 1 - Year B

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Thanks be given on this day of commercialized thanksgiving – we are not lacking any gift needed (for waiting or other aspects of growth in wisdom and stature - together).

What we are lacking is strength to affirm one another's gifts and their importance to the whole living process (implying action and waiting and ever so much more). Somehow we have lost the gift of connecting gifts (Christ being strengthened among you, so to speak).

Rather than counting your blessings on this day, try acknowledging and counting the blessings of another and all together (we are called into fellowship).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Psalm PS

After sending today's posting, I read one of my favorite bloggers - Jim Taylor. I thought his reflection could be fruitfully paired with the Psalm pericope.

You can find his words at: While there you may want to browse other Softedge and Sharpedge postings.

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Advent 1 - Year B

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

To what do we need restoring? Or is is G*D that needs to be restored (come back)?

This relationship is a complicated one. Who's related to whom and in what way?

Rather than choosing a particular way to look at this, it will be helpful to hold the question open. It will be important to wait for the multiple ways of relating to reveal themselves.

If it is simply "restore us" or "come back to us", it is a bit too us-oriented, which limits the effectiveness, usefulness, or application of the psalm. If restoration is more object oriented than relation oriented, we lose its power.

Another way to look at restoration is to rephrase it:
     Restore us = Reveal our relationship

Now we can proceed together and get further without all these little substitutions for direct relationship.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Isaiah 64:1-9

Advent 1 - Year B

Isaiah 64:1-9

Do you remember “awesome deeds we did not expect”?

Here we clearly have some expectations of rescue.

Here we clearly, also, have an accusation of blame - because G*D didn’t dance to our tune (hid) we transgressed. Yeah, G*D made us do it.

Advent, ancient and future, requires the unexpected. December 25th, a known date anticipated before Advent begins, will not make it as an unexpected deed. We use the all too well known gift of Christmas to vaccinate ourselves against the very process needed to redeem Advent - the unexpected. We’ve gotten away with it for far too long, but we won’t be able to fool ourselves too much longer. Christmas has to go if we are going to get off to a good start of becoming healthy again.

Would you be willing to forgo Christmas to better wait for the unexpected resolution to our all too familiar problems?

If we do so, it won’t be long before we have become like on who is unclean, who fades like a leaf, blown away. We will be tempted to reinstitute ritual and to lose our ability to be surprised. We will call out to G*D to do all the work, including that of preparing us for a surprise. “Shape us G*D”, we call out, “shape our year, our rituals.”

We want to claim control over G*D - don’t be angry, forget the past, reconsider pleasing us (your people) - and to still be surprised. This closed circle needs an intervention.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mark 13:24-37

Advent 1 - Year B

Mark 13:24-37

In Church Year 2011-2011, after suffering through 2010-2011,
places of meaning will be darkened,
sources of inspiration will not give light,
elected leaders will fall from their heights,
power bases will shake.

Rising from beneath will be the apocalyptic poor
redefining power and glory.
Messengers will be neighbors speaking to one another,
ways will be found to fruitfully gather together.

The relearning of lessons will continue:
fig trees in bloom do indicate summer's nearness.
a shift in consciousness edges closer
we experience it near
so near we expect it in our next breath.
This change does not change.

While not knowing its departure or arrival time,
we keep alert - bags packed for today
ready to be discarded tomorrow.
And so we go looking for a next home
leaving slavish habits to continue their routines,
expecting different results from same actions.
As alert as they may be,
warned to keep awake,
they are left behind,
but echoes of their beginning.

In this day
after that
before then
we wait
through journey.

[bonus: Journey Home]

Friday, November 18, 2011

lest the least

Pentecost + 23 (last) - Year A

lest the least

when a glorious judge
finally arrives
then the nations
will be gathered
to be separated
again and forever

hmm hmmm hmmmm
how do we take advantage
of the interim
between now and then
how little can we give
how much can we keep

there is an apparent line
invisible in the moment
rued after the fact
which cannot be crossed
without a consequence
present from the beginning

a line that begins
separating out enemies
moving to divide neighbors
inexorably against
one’s own
zero sum in orientation
that is less than even one

a light that may have beamed
across sea tossed many
begins to flicker
dimming dimmer
to one log alone
and out

it is no new story
a center does not hold
when there is no periphery
yet good news reveals
care for a field’s edge
strengthens the whole crop

make a joyful noise
before a forced gathering
sing yourselves healthy
send a gleam along a wave
lest alone we struggle and sink
as the least rise and shine

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ephesians 1:15-23

Pentecost + 23 (last) - Year A

Ephesians 1:15-23

How is your trust translated into caring for your own? Got a good ratio going?

Good. Now gather around so you can find out what you have won. You have won a glimpse at Jesus’ glory. That ought to be more than enough for anyone.

What you thought was about you turned out to be about Judge Jesus moving from background to foreground. Great reward, right?

A church year has brought us through hopes and fears and ups and downs and ups again to the glorious position of having a larger crowd appreciate how great it is to win - that is, to judge losers. As The Message puts it:
The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world;
the world is peripheral to the church.
Rather than acknowledge this is not the best of all possible worlds, we haul out a flag and plunk it down in Jesus’ name. It’s sort of like hoisting a “Mission Accomplished” banner up and thinking it is reality because we said so.

Well, prepare for reentry - next week we recognize how far short this Sunday has fallen from its claim. Let’s try again.

- - - - - - -

A judgment scene is a better starting point for the year (potential Advent 1 lection), not an ending point for the year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Psalm 100

Pentecost + 23 (last) - Year A

Psalm 100

Hooray, I’m a sheep in G*D’s pasture, lying down in good green pastures.

But then I have to consider; am I a fat sheep (boo hiss) or a lean sheep (ta da). Well, what day is it and what time in such a day. It seems my constancy as a sheep is not as constant in its sheepness - sometimes acting fat and sometimes lean.

And then I have to consider whether I might also be a goat in G*D’s pasture, also enjoying a green pasture instead of a sandy one with only patches of dry grass. And what of being a snake in G*D’s garden, with or without legs?

Oops, too many thoughts twirling around. I may have started to respond to a different issue and now can’t get out of the rut of this one.

Perhaps, with all the other talk of judgment, it may be important to simply remember the last line:
For good,
steadfast love enures forever, and
faithfulness generates for all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Pentecost + 23 (last) - Year A

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Start the sub-categories. Ezekiel doesn’t tell us about the dualism of good and evil, sheep and goats, but the complexity of sheep. Here, what you do doesn’t put you in a category. What G*D chooses is what makes the difference.

G*D will bring back those who have strayed away from hospitality of food. G*D will bind up those who have been injured by their withholding of water from thirsty folks, because that withholding scars the soul. They will be made whole by being fed mercy.

And yet those very lost and weak ones are the same as the fat and strong ones who have disadvantaged others to their own advantage. They will be destroyed by being fed justice.

How are you going to bring Ezekiel alongside Matthew to investigate the ever present realities of human response, growth, and conversion? These two pictures of some form of judgment seem to need one another to correct self-perception. Blessings on juggling the intricacies of motivation, behavior, and the effect of change.

The Occupy Wall Street folks are reviving the Ezekiel storyline - a culture/society cannot exist that lets their fat-citizen sheep run over their lean-citizen sheep without a penalty flag being thrown, accepted, and enforced.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Advent Candle Lighting

I was asked today about an Advent Candle Lighting script that would be intergenerational in nature. In specific the request was:
"What I'm looking for is Year B, Gospel based, writings, that could be written in 3 voices. I'm skipping naming the candles as Love Joy Peace, etc (was the fourth one Clyde, I know it wasn't Patience). ((Oh, yeah, Hope)). First voice grand parents, second voice parents, third voice kids (simple language, some of my kids are first grade, some are high school srs). So if you could dip into your reference section, and come up with five simple scripts, I'd be very appreciative."

Thought I would pass on to you what came from that request. Careful, the candles have been renamed.

Advent Candle Lighting Script - Year B

How would you have handled the request?

Matthew 25:31-46

Pentecost + 23 (last) - Year A

Matthew 25:31-46

Well, it has been quite a year.

Advent ------ Pope Benedict XVI discusses sexual abuse of children by priests while dining with cardinals and bishops.

Christmas -- The 112th United States Congress is convened. Republican Representative John Boehner of Ohio is elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, succeeding Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California.

Epiphany --- U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower who is thought to have revealed secret U.S. government documents to the international public, is reported to be held in solitary confinement awaiting trial by the United States for seven months now, treatment which the United Nations deems a form of torture when used for such prolonged periods.

Lent --------– An 9.0 magnitude earthquake hits offshore of Japan's Miyagi prefecture, producing tsunamis as high as 10 metres near the epicenter, reaching land throughout the Pacific ocean, and disabling nuclear reactors.

Easter ------– NATO jets fly over Tripoli on their mission to destroy Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Ordinary ---– Occupy Wall Street begins and continues.

- - - - - - -

Who amongst us will separate sheep from goats?

OK, each of us does it as we make our daily decisions.

Rats, that brings it back to what we are now doing as opposed to what we might do later.

Let’s not get caught up with some glorified mythology of cosmic judgment. It’s all we can do to set one more blessing loose in the world, to consciously choose (until it becomes second nature) to change one system that separates people out and then ignore them.

For instance what grabs your heart and won’t let go:
the hungry (“the food insecure” is too passive)?
those without potable water?
refugees looking for a home?
those without clothes for warmth or work?
inequitable health care systems focused on profit and illness?
punitive legal system untouched by restorative justice?
education systems locked into tests rather than learning how to learn?
religions not trusting G*D and making up rules for lesser gods?
mental illnesses that remove people from community?
your addition?

Choose one arena in which to both apply bandaids and reform systems. Note how far we have fallen short in that one area as we come to the end of another year. Commit to one thing that will be different by this time next year because you will have shifted your weight from protecting your own “inheritance” to investing in a better outcome for all those who are no longer visible.

Remember this vision is not the end of Matthew. We go on to hear of Passover two days hence and a plot, betrayal, and death; and a surprise - both capable of engaging our life. Don’t settle for closing the year with a dualistic courtroom scene when you could be planning a feast, accepting consequences of building common good, and heading on to some edenic “galilee” where we see face-to-face.

Friday, November 11, 2011

loyalty good - unmerciful loyalty not so good

Pentecost + 22 - Year A

gifts have come
out of the blue and unbidden
identified in time and space
as to their origin
and where thanks and loyalty
is to be directed

loyalty demands loyalty
even when it should
bring forth justice
or mercy
and so best intentions
fall before strict loyalty

gifts intended for expansion
brought self-constriction
lest past and future gifts
be diminished
great care is given
to securing gifts

and eventually a gift
intended to lift all boats
puts a hole in the hull
with a mere bit-o-mass
of heaviest density
an empty spot sinks

blind loyalty
conditional mercy
cheap commitment
comes around to bite
lions as strong as nittany’s
to cause cain’s self-exile

surprising gifts
turn to expected perks
privileged position
never ready for
a next surprise
or humble response

therefore encourage
a wider application
of building up
a reservoir of common good
against punctured entitlement
of ballooned loyalty

Thursday, November 10, 2011

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Pentecost + 22 - Year A

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

No matter how large a hole you have dug for yourself to bury your treasure in we expect a surprise that will counter our darkness and reveal to us and all that a treasure can’t help but shine.

So it is we do our best to live in a light of surprise - our darkness has been stolen away from us and we have been built up enough to build up others. Certainly not what we expected, but it turns out this is a pretty good way to live - not for wrath, but for wholeness.

Be ready, again and again, to have light shine out of the darkest of places. Enough of claims for false peace and falser security. We trust steady decisions, not flash-in-the-pan solutions. We look forward to surprises, not put off by them. And so the latest polarity - steady surprise.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Psalm 123

Pentecost + 22 - Year A

Psalm 123

In Judges we hear of people calling out to G*D for help. We don’t hear a direct response. What we do hear immediately after the plea is, “At that time Deborah....”

This Psalm might be seen in parallel with the Judges pericope.
Hear it from The Message
I look to you, heaven-dwelling God, look up to you for help.
Like servants, alert to their master's commands,
   like a maiden attending her lady,
We're watching and waiting, holding our breath,
   awaiting your word of mercy.
Mercy, God, mercy!
   We've been kicked around long enough,
Kicked in the teeth by complacent rich men,
   kicked when we're down by arrogant brutes.
What we now hear immediately after this plea is, “At that time Occupy Wall Street ... summoned Ketchup and a thousand more non-leading leaders....”

Cries for mercy are important.
Showing mercy is important.
Claiming of mercy is important.
Being impatient for mercy is important.
Risking a justice that will reveal mercy is important.

So, been kicked around enough? Join G*D and N**ghb*r in releasing mercy from where it has been held in captivity. Yes, now.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Judges 4:1-7

Pentecost + 22 - Year A

Judges 4:1-7

Ai yi yi! Oi! Gevalt! Again evil? What chutzpah. Meh keyn brechen!

Today’s Palm Tree Deborah - where are you?

Barak? Who? The doubter requiring Deborah’s presence and later elevated to the rank of ever-so-faithful by the writer of Hebrews - this Barak who could be you or I or me or them?

In seven verses “the Lord” discards the Israelites and picks them to win. Hard to keep your head from spinning. What does being thrown into outer darkness mean in light of an equal and opposite rotation of forgiveness? It’s enough to pause yin and yang.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Matthew 25:14-30

Pentecost + 22 - Year A

Matthew 25:14-30

Ahh, sweet investment. Out in the world one person’s gain seems to be another’s loss. It is good to know that a person with wealth is willing to commit it into another’s care. Even further, it is so sweet that 2 out of 3 double their original holding. Wise beyond belief? Willing to risk a charge of usury? Lucky? Predestined?

Depending on a time frame for return, the un-regulated derivatives of that day may not have crashed yet, but did so right after the story. Whatever economic bubble or larger debt may have come between their eventual effects and not turn 5 or 2 units of wealth into 0 or some other negative return, did not so come.

More to the point than again pointing out the consequences of not following the prescribed way, is a vision of G*D as “harsh”. If you are going to get it in the neck anyway, why put yourself out? There may be a correlation between an envisioning of a harsh G*D and following a restricted life.

There are those who see a harsh G*D and claim that it motivates them to find ways to not be cast out. They, of course, see themselves ending up with 11 units of economic wealth where they began with zero. That may work for them in the short-run. However, to claim that one is protected and will always win because they have backed the right G*D, will eventually be shown for the forced and failed joy it claims. Eventually we lose our early edge and begin to err.

A basic question here is whether property is only good for leveraging more property or if it has a relational component that does not pit one person or group against another. It may even be that we need to bring some other parts of the Bible to bear to find even the two exemplars here failed to redistribute the wealth available to them.

This is all leading up to the story of sheep and goats and another division between people. How does this story play out in light of the one coming two weeks hence?

After another church year, is this harsh casting into outer darkness the best we can do? Is the goal of acquisition the best we can do? Is this the image of G*D that we are to imitate?

If this is the culmination of year’s worth of work, it is no wonder we need another Advent. Start now and avoid the rush!

Friday, November 04, 2011

keep awake

Pentecost + 21- Year A

keep awake
 you know not
  day nor hour
   of seeing heaven

   keep awake
  and you may see
 story upon story
of seeing heaven

keep awake
 lest you be uninformed
  or get confused
   about heaven

   keep awake
  and after awhile
 it will clear
heaven is not so clear

keep awake
 and it won’t be long
  before it is here
   that reveals heaven

   keep awake
  talk with others
 tomorrow’s heaven
is today’s paradise

Thursday, November 03, 2011

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Pentecost + 21- Year A

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

The kingdom of heaven will be like this. Twenty bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. On the way 10 of their lamps went out. Now let’s have no grieving for them for hope will see us through. Since we believe that Jesus’ lamp went out and was relit again, even so, through Jesus, God will relight those 10 lamps that went out. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord that we, whose lights still burn, will not precede those whose lamps failed.

Of course there was muttering for having a light had so privileged their holders before this. Revisionist history is difficult to come to grips with (see 5 Logical Fallacies That Make You Wrong More Than You Think).

So the apologist continues: For the Lord’s cry, the Archangel’s call, and God’s trumpet (in some order or other) will descend from heaven and the unlit will rise first. Then the remainder, with lamps aglow, will be caught up and join them in the clouds. And we will all live happily ever after.

Tell one another this until you believe it.

And people still wanted to win - to have their lit lamp signify their privilege;
still didn’t see this rise from probable to the way everything else works;
still feared they would be forgotten if they weren’t first;
still participated in double-standards that left them on top; and
still couldn’t understand this story-telling as a fact.

So what are you telling yourself and others about heaven elsewhere than here and now?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Psalm 78:1-7

Pentecost + 21- Year A

Psalm 78:1-7

Beware - I’m about to parablize you.

The word mashal, here translated “parable” comes with this set of ways to use it:
   a. proverb, proverbial saying, aphorism
   b. byword
   c. similitude, parable
   d. poem
   e. sentences of ethical wisdom, ethical maxims

and apparently goes back to an earlier marshal - in some original sense of superiority in mental action which suggests:
to rule, have dominion, reign
   a. (Qal) to rule, have dominion
   b. (Hiphil)
      1. to cause to rule
      2. to exercise dominion

How is this dominion to happen? by way of a parallel, a “dark saying”. The Hebrew behind this is chiydah which translated could also mean:
riddle, difficult question, parable, enigmatic saying or question, perplexing saying or question
   a. riddle (dark obscure utterance)
   b. riddle, enigma (to be guessed)
   c. perplexing questions (difficult)
   d. double dealing (with 'havin')

So, incline your ear in this direction to hear the unraveling of the past that we might bequeath more light to future generations.

And when sufficiently riddled, what is to be heard? Hope and don’t forget that which builds community. This is not something gathered by easy pronouncement but worked out in the tangles and perplexion of real life.

Imagine dark places being made plain through riddling enigmas! Isn’t there another way? Perhaps, but nothing is more astute than Edward Albee’s line, “Sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly” and that is the gift of a riddle, a dope slap, a demythologized reperspectivizing.

So where is this leading - to the middle of the Psalm (vss 37-39):
Their hearts were fickle;
   they weren’t faithful to covenant.
But G*D, being compassionate,
   kept forgiving their sins,
   kept avoiding destruction;
   took back anger so many times,
   wouldn’t stir up all wrath!
G*D kept remembering
that they were just flesh,
   just breath that passes
   and doesn’t come back.

What a puzzle G*D is. What an enigma we are. What mystery that there is no difference. What a long way to travel to arrive at a new beginning.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

Pentecost + 21- Year A

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

The presence of G*D will be like Joshua calling everyone to a covenant service. They came and heard Joshua recite a condensed version of the courting process.

In most crowds gathered by decree there will be folks more into the process than others just walking through the motions.

Joshua did his best to put the deal in very stark terms. “Serve your above recounted process and lift your lamp high” (when you see lighters or illuminated cell phones at a concert, know this is an ancient act updated through technology). Or, “Serve those dim-wicks around you.”

And so we go into an extension of the previously condensed recounting of the courting process. Joshua says, “Oh, you’re excited now, but don’t let your enthusiasm wane or your wick be too short. If you fall away after this rally, you will find yourself trimmed but not relit.

So they all agreed to be light holders. Of course if you pay attention for any length of time after this, it is clear that the covenant made between unequals failed.

Whether with others or not, a challenge before us is not a lock-step “yes” so easily gotten in a time of transition and stress. Rather it is two questions of commitment: 1) what/whom do you find worthy to engage, worship, and 2) to what/whom are you a witness and will you do so. These keep us awake.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Matthew 25:1-13

Pentecost + 21- Year A

Matthew 25:1-13

Would that politicians had lamps indicating their basic wisdom or foolishness that would either remain lit or go out before an election. Obviously life and decision-making isn’t that easy.

Bottomline it seems that there is plenty of oil, it is available at the dealers. The foolish folk had resources to have sufficient oil, they just didn’t bother to take it along. Whether from a misjudgment in time management or simply being cheap is unknown.

I’m curious why lamps were needed in the first place, is that part of the wedding regalia of the time?

I’m even more curious why everyone didn’t simply go out to meet the bridegroom, as instructed. Somehow there was this wandering away to get oil when there was sufficient illumination to follow the lamps of the wise.

So is this a parable of a new heaven based on some litmus test of packing sufficient light? Is it a reflection of a current way of doing business, “I don’t know you.”? Is this light business similar to being wise as a serpent while remaining innocent as a dove?

Questions for today: What/Who are you expecting to yet meet today? Have the resources you need? Presumably there is time to boldly go ahead or to call for delivery.

Remember, in this story there is enough oil at the dealer. If you give some away, it will be just fine.

Anticipate abundance and see what it does to your decision-making.

Friday, October 28, 2011

individually seated

Pentecost + 20- Year A

sitting in Moses’ seat
wasn’t easy for Moses
much less Joshua
and even less so
generations later
for Annas/Caiaphas
or usurper Benedict
or insightful me

with each iteration
distance grows
between teachings
and practices
moving from one
to many
is confusing for all
good intentions fall

no one but Moses
is to have Moses’ seat
all are called and gifted
for their hot seat
which is sufficient
so grab your ass
with both your hands
enjoy the ride

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Pentecost + 20- Year A

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Isn’t it wonderful to be identified by someone as their pride and joy? This is a great motivator to keep on keeping on. It grants permission to forge ahead into new territory where we can engage our fear and trembling with new relationships and ways of being together.

Pride and joy are also a great manipulation techniques. They let us hear about limits on the present enforced by the past. We hear about the need to imitate those who were before us. The pride and joy we receive is for not going past past limits, which makes it conditional. Now we fear and tremble should anything begin to shift or change.

Are we in the presence of G*D overflowing with pride and joy?
Are we in the presence of G*D ever ready to break into wrath?
Are we in the presence of G*D who arbitrarily fluctuates between these?

How we see G*D may have much to do with how we, in turn, respond to events in our life. Once again, choose this day what of G*D you will reveal.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Joshua 3:7-17

Pentecost + 20- Year A

Joshua 3:7-17

I am looking for an artist who can portray some sense of a G*D-presence around which is a prayer shawl fringed with such as Moses, Joshua, and You (yes, and me, too).

Unfortunately this prayer shawl finds itself in a strange world and prayer turns to preying upon strangers. We are all complicit in damming rivers for our own benefit and overrunning our neighbors property while calling it G*D’s will.

How important is it that we claim a right to protection from G*D without a concomitant sense of responsibility to nourish others?

Sometimes I want to jump out of G*D’s phylactery and fall away from privileged prayer’s fringe.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Matthew 23:1-12

Pentecost + 20- Year A

Matthew 23:1-12

Ever has it been thus: Those in power define life for all according to their experiences and a desire to remain in power. Of course it could be emphasized the other way around, power and experience, but, either way, there is a persistent practice of coliseum games, sweet foods, and whatever cultural values are esteemed for the moment.

Even if Boris and Natasha’s “esteemed leader” is captured by the rubrics of power, they may yet have a true word mixed in with their behavior.

As we are closing off another church year this is a good time to haul out the gifts of evaluation and critique to distinguish a good word from an iffy action.

With the Citizens United decision and other ways in which corporations hide behind personhood, it is not always easy to tell those who love their current place of honor so much that thy will only question those who question their values and never consider questioning themselves. With creative bookkeeping is it difficult to discern the phylacteries of profit.

We do a lot of assuming about profit as a sign of power for it is not just reported profit that must be considered, but how it measures against some expectation of ideal profit. Profit is not profit until it has been maximized and everything bows to it.

This is not the way it is to be with us. We are not to pray, My Corporation which art on Wall Street, blessed be thy profit-making ways . . . .

The greatest among you will be those who assist in building a commonwealth (this is the creative impetus from creation).

Friday, October 21, 2011

silence sought

Pentecost + 19 - Year A

looking for healthy silence

silence from
being put down
not yet knowing enough
lack of authority to ask
not having a reasonable response

is not healthy silence

silence to
see patterns
study reality around
find a deeper question
push authority to awkwardness

begins healthy silence

silence by
incumbant politicians
letter writers to editors

hides healthy silence

still looking
for healthy silence
in a daily schedule
in common with neighbors
based on tomorrow
lived today

Thursday, October 20, 2011

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Pentecost + 19 - Year A

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

When we share what we understand is approved by G*D we are also sharing ourselves, because the two cannot be separated. This would seem to call for restrained passion. controlled enthusiasm.

“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves. . . .” To be clear about the differences and confluences of G*D and our self is a source of blessing for our self and for others (both G*D and Neighbor).

We bless G*D by not confusing our heart with G*D’s heart. We bless Neighbors by not confusing a word of life with a judgment cutting life off. We bless ourselves by truthfully telling the difference.

May you be blessed with serenity to accept the realities of an expansive and expanding love.

May you be blessed with courage to move our currently experienced limits into a larger venue.

May you be blessed with wisdom use both serenity and courage to guide your fruitful use of gifts sufficient for your time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

Pentecost + 19 - Year A

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Translation: cellular regeneration.

What would it mean to shift the ground from some G*D micromanaging reality and thus having anthropomorphic characteristics grafted on to said G*D? Would a matrix facilitating growth and regrowth hold as much mystical presence?

A ground of being matrix begins to make more sense in fitting ourself together with ourself and others - sweeping away and flourishing - renewal processes.

May this work of generation and regeneration be manifest and may you rejoice in your part in it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Pentecost + 19- Year A

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

What do you see that you will not be a part of, other than as an extension of what you are doing today?

This vision will help keep your sight unimpaired and your vigor unabated. To drop your eyes to where you are presently standing to merely find ways to keep standing there is to cause one to weep for oneself rather than have others weep for you.

Lift up your eyes to the world you want to see and live as though it were already present.

Then, when death comes, it basically won’t matter.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Matthew 22:34-46

Pentecost + 19- Year A

Matthew 22:34-46

Which child is your favorite? There are any number of attempts at forced choices that don’t lead anywhere.

To respond to this sort of reductionist approach it is important to stretch things just one notch. Later more stretching can be attempted.

So it is Jesus responds with two favorites, not one.

In today’s world there are still dualistic/reductionist questions being asked. We are called to ease out of them in a similar manner, add one little stretch. This subtle response probably won’t be caught, but will aid folks hear a new story in just a little bit (like in Luke 10:25-37 where a similar encounter is reported).

The great sadness here is in the last line, “they quit asking questions for good.” (MSG)

Asking questions is directly related to good. It is in the interplay of question and response and question of a response, etc. that we test for the common good. When economic theories trump questions about same, we are in deep difficulty. This is the real world equivalent of not asking religious questions - when they stop we are in deep difficulty.

Testing questions, helpful questions, require that everything be up for grabs. They also respect provisional responses knowing that they will be tested in time to come.

Blessings on your affirmations - Loving beyond yourself reveals a deeper and more vigorous, rigorous life.

Blessings on your questions - hoary answers don’t satisfy, nor do our present glib attempts at universalizing particulars.

Friday, October 14, 2011

temptation tests

Pentecost + 18 - Year A

ready for today’s test?
of course!
whether announced
or not
we all know
tests happen.

life isn’t hypocritical
promising rose gardens
then yanking the rug out
tests happen
and we take it
or complain

there is no out
from an unending stream
of temptations
none are final
all pop up
to burst certainty

we’ve made good choices
and again
and again and again
until we are certain
we are good

we are good
as good can be
god good
unquestioned good
second to none good
just good

good enough
to get a pass
on a next test
that is only
a breath away

and so my pride
faces off
against your hypocrisy
what happened
to that pass

I’ll see your malice
and raise you
a great offense

and so they left
and so

here comes
another breath
another test
pass or fail

leaving no option
don’t breathe
don’t anticipate
well you know

Thursday, October 13, 2011

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Pentecost + 18 - Year A

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Want to be saved from a coming wrath? Unfortunately, there are no free passes. Fortunately, there are resources to aid us in not responding to wrath wrathfully.

Find a living and true G*D. That ought to be easy, except such tends to toss salvation back to you. Since the future is not just an in-breaking of a quantum leap surprising to behold, but an outgrowth of investments we make in it by the way we operate today, we again hear those ancient words, “Choose this day . . . .”

All the encouraging words patting us on the back for having moved in the direction Paul was headed, will eventually lead us to a key issue in the whole book of 1 Thessalonians - persistence in the face of difficulty that we be ready to receive a present paradise in what appears to be a dark and dismal day to come.

Let's say Jesus saves us from a coming wrath. OK. How?

Not by snapping fingers or impecable calendaring or a past act of integrity that rolls on of its own accord. No.

Modeling a persistent drive for a preferred future through intentional present action. Yes.

In following Moses' way of following G*D, following Jesus' way of following Moses and G*D, encourages others in following us following Jesus following Moses following G*D - not unsimilar to the house that Jack built. Such persistence does not allow a passive waiting for an apocalyptic moment, but insists on active investment, willingly risked, anticipating a way through a next self-caused crash based on what we do today.

persistence of trust
of something better
in the face of great persistence
claiming only more of the same
is our way through
to paradise
while wading deep
in unnecessary wrath

[You might be interested in an economic paper that talks about persistence in dealing with the wrath to come from the latest burst bubble pipe-dream of an ever upward economy. The authors speak of persistence in this fashion,
Rather than lurching from one futile mini-stimulus and quantitative easing to another, we must build consensus around a five-to-seven-year plan that matches the likely duration of the de-levering with which we now live, as well as that of the time it will take for emerging markets to transition to patterns of economic growth driven by domestic demand rather than exports.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Psalm 99

Pentecost + 18 - Year A

Psalm 99

Extol - lift up. By extension - to flatter, to inflate, to raise higher than one’s station or level of competence - to be Peter Principled into ineffectiveness.

By the time we get to the end of extolation we are ready to set the hook and catch us a god.

What can live up to unrealistic expectations? Certianly not I.

Three cheers, if cheers they be, and only cheers, begin to ring hollow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Exodus 33:12-23

Pentecost + 18 - Year A

Exodus 33:12-23

Show me a coin with which to pay the taxes you are asking about.

Show me your glory which claims to know me by name.

Feeling trapped or frustrated? It is helpful to know what needs to be shown, not just talked about. Just know that even a showing doesn’t prove anything. Seeing Caesar’s face or not seeing G*D’s face is ultimately beside the point. Both will be false. Both will fade - Caesar from irrelevancy and G*D from meta-relevancy. Caesar will be left behind and G*D will be moving on.

So if this sort of tangibleness isn’t able to bear our search for meaning, where might we more fruitfully look in the moment.

The suggestion here is that our best bet is to focus on:
attending to goodness
showing mercy/kindness beyond bounds

Let’s not get caught with golden calves or coins of realm. Their very solidity will trap us into their shape.

It is enough to meditate for a moment in a rock’s cleft and then to come forth to catch up to a living, moving, presence beyond our settled doctrine, corrupted economy, and power-crazed political system. This presence will be revealed in the common good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Matthew 22:15-22 *

Pentecost + 18 - Year A

Matthew 22:15-22

It doesn’t take much to entrap some of us. The obverse is that it doesn’t take much for some of us to overestimate our ability to trap another.

The Pharisees fell into the second category. The Pharisees understood themselves to be so much in the right that they could send some surrogates to practice on Jesus.

And so it came to pass that students set out to trap Jesus. They used a standard practice of beginning with flattery. It is one of the temptation techniques that has proven successful over time. A little flattery turns the head, distracts. It doesn’t take much loss of focus before we trap ourself.
“You are so sincere. You are surely in touch with the ways of G*D. You are as truthful as the day is long and filled with integrity from top to bottom.”
[Any of these catch you?]

And then the innocent question disingenuously put as an easy choice.
“We’re confused, can we pay taxes to the emperor or not?”

When we are awake we can catch the simple questions of life and see beyond them and respond with the complexity they deserve - with another question.

“Ah,” says Jesus, “what do you mean by ‘pay taxes’?”

Rather than think about the question, the stand-ins thought the question too easy and so quickly responded, “Should those who support Mosaic Law support Caesar?”

“Hmmm,” thought Jesus aloud, “Seems like there are many claims of authority. Each claims a right to body, mind, spirit, and resources. After you have sorted out the authorities, you can respond to each appropriately.”

“Oh,” said the pharisaical delegation.

And so it was that the Pharisees were disappointed and waited to see how the Sadducees fared with their trap.

[Note: economic questions are often the ones that trip us up. It is so easy to fear losing whatever perk we have and thus elevate the current socio-political system into that of equivalence to a universal human need. The Occupy Wall Street events cropping up reveal that we are at a time of seeing behind the Ozian curtain of a silent plutocracy we set in place by not being able to critique capitalism and democracy. This duo has lost its rhythm to the point of democracy no longer being able to offset capitalism’s excesses.
   As we enter our equivalent of the disjuncture of economic and political structures at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, a radical critique of our economic, political, and religious decision-making is painfully overdue and necessary.
   To think we can find an easy way out of facing basic common good values is disingenuous. Unfortunately we have no political process readily at hand to assist us to bring an economic system into a constructive conversation with our spiritual/communal needs.
   Prophets don’t need to know what the next rebalancing is going to look like, only that every aspect of our current life has been unbalanced in its own arena and in relationship to every other aspect. This is why they call us back to issues of the common good - not that there is only one way to express that, but without having this background revealed we will simply ping-pong from one foreground extreme to another without learning anything.
   This may be the most important pericope of the year and well worth dealing with every week for another year.]

Friday, October 07, 2011


Pentecost + 17 - Year A

a most beloved phrase
And the LORD repented

and Moses and you
and I and me and all

the most specific
the one and only

LORD ever constant LORD
LORD the same LORD

repented then and now
repented again and again

And the LORD repented
a most beloved phrase

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Philippians 4:1-9

Pentecost + 17 - Year A

Philippians 4:1-9

Stand firm. If you are going to be an inviter, don’t, at some point, begin to limit that invitation. There are going to be inappropriate people engaged with church. That’s a part of the definition of a church.

To find one criterion or another by which they can be turned out is not standing firm.

Why would Paul have to encourage Euodia and Syntyche to continue reinviting one another if the they and others hadn’t started to wobble in their firmness?

Let your gentleness (your invitational nature) be known to all. Don’t worry about how such incompatible folks can learn to stand firmly together. There is peace and joy enough to sustain you and them in this journey.

Finally, whatever is true (invitation trumps tossing out), whatever is honorable (when disappointed invite the more), whatever is just (variety of gifts need a system whereby they may each add to the common good), whatever is pure (following Jesus’ way, not the way of Jesus’ codifiers), whatever is pleasing (paying attention to the next steps available without getting stuck in past steps), whatever is commendable (we are in life together and co-responsible for each other and creation), enact it no matter what the temptation to follow a short-cut. Keep on, stand firm, be not afraid, peace is not lost.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Pentecost + 17 - Year A

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Commercial exchange varies across different traditions and economies.

Does the economy of G*D vary according to circumstance and time?

This question is at the heart of what we might trust and hope for and invest with love defined. Presuming G*D to be living (with all the herky-jerky movement that means) or an ablity to move on from past unproductive responses, we might well fall into resistance to shift traditions [G*D might still be there] or a willingess to wait for a new revelation [G*D might be moving to a plateau I can’t even see yet].

Is it reasonable to expect that “great things” from the past will see us through a present dark valley? Where is that flame by night and cloud by day?

Perhaps most reasonably, what is keeping you from standing in the breach between G*D and neer-do-wells to protect both from rash action and cutting off possibility based on some pride or other code? Each of us have that opportunity, each in a different arena of life. Rather than try to figure G*D out, stand for some grand purpose, even in the face of an angry deity. Who knows what unknown test you will both be passing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Exodus 32:1-14

Pentecost + 17 - Year A

Exodus 32:1-14

When our main source of inspiration is delayed or otherwise falters, we are often very quick to give up on it. We expect our connection to the biggest power we know to be very present to us and quick to respond.

Of course there are always those who stubbornly stick with a previous iteration of a god, never able to let go and attach to a seemingly more effective power. Additionally there are those whose relationship to what they trust is more complex.

Simply know that both those who quickly give up and those who stubbornly hang on always lose their resources. Either they face a rising ante to get the old god to come through or they get over-run with bad investments in the face of a rising new economy in an old universe.

Spiritual stick-in-the-mud’s can stir the ire of a jealous god or simply be ignored. In some sense it is easier to deal with a jealous god as they will at least give negative attention rather than none and if we are to persuade our god to act on our behalf we need to first get said god’s attention.

Don’t you love it when Moses goes all Buddhist on YHWH - “Hey, big guy, seems like you are getting pretty attached. Got a co-dependency going?” This seems to have been effective ministry to G*D.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Matthew 22:1-14

Pentecost + 17 - Year A

Matthew 22:1-14

Again with the parables. If Jesus, as a revelation of G*D, does so much with parables, we might begin catch a glimpse of a subtle G*D. In so doing we would do well to engage some humility in our understanding of G*D. Blessings to you for appreciating a more expansive G*D than doctrine or literalness can contain.

What a difference if we were to use an “invite everyone” approach to living life. Finding the good and the bad within each person we meet, we will find those ready for a next step and those who are not.

Given a choice between “inviting everyone” and “throw him away”, when a particular everyone doesn’t measure up, we see the parable ending with verse 10 - “filled with guests”. After this we get into what we take is a later addition and agree with the Jesus Seminar folks who write in The Five Gospels, “The Matthean version has strayed from from the original parable. The body of the parable (22:2-10) has been turned into an allegory of history of salvation: a king (God) prepares a feast for his son (Jesus) and invites his subjects (Israel) to the banquet. They treat the invitations lightly or kill the king’s servants (the prophets). The king destroys them and their city (Jerusalem) and invites others (foreigners) to the feast. This allegory is alien to Jesus, since the story has been thoroughly Christianized and looks back on the destruction of Jerusalem.”

It is not enough to hear that a parable is being told without an appreciation of what a parable is. Otherwise we fall prey to the old bait and switch - I’m going to tell you a parable . . . at least I want you to think highly of my allegory I am claiming to be a parable. A discerning ear and eye can help us move deeper into reported experiences and not be fooled by an initial claim.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Considerable Rising Needed

Pentecost + 16 - Year A

absentee landLORD
wherefore art thou
o how the rich are
we are convinced
our welfare begins
with their welfare

landLORDs claim
our undivided attention
by which I mean work
no talking behind their back
no imitating mannerisms
they are
holy as holy can be

landLORDs demand
increased work time
for your time
is their money
forty hours is a beginning
two hundred eighty plus
is not for them unreasonable

landLORDs are exempt
from family leave
sick leave
bereavement leave
vacation limits
personal days
too bad about your folks

landLORDs are freed
from accident responsibility
long-term disability
screwing their employees
out of relationship time
entitled to their loopholes
too bad you don’t have any

landLORDs are released
from telling the truth
about their real worth
proprietary property
trade secrets
hostile takeovers
everything that’s yours

landLORDs are caught
from time to time
when their time slaves
rise up to claim
a garden spot
and dream dreams
of a new start

landLORDs own
public roads as theirs
public protection as theirs
public education as theirs
each claimed as natural law
leaving no counter-claim
against simple profit

landLORDs forget
what lies ahead
claiming the present
is all that is needful
and they have the present
wrapped as a beautiful present
to themselves

landLORDs tempt us
with their perks
we see and want
immediate prizes
to measure our worth
pause for a moment
consider then rise up

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Philippians 3:4b-14

Pentecost + 16 - Year A

Philippians 3:4b-14

We are always defining the right way to live in terms of our own experiences. Stephen Colbert’s persona trusts his feelings, not facts. No matter how confident we are about our having found the one true way to live, a bit of mercy for what others have found is in order.

While it is important to ground our actions in what we trust, we simply can’t trust our trust to not fool us into foolish action. Claim is not proof.

So act on what you know, knowing that you don’t yet know enough. Willing to leave what lies behind; straining forward; we press on. This can be for some a preferred future or imitation of a living G*D or just stubborn DNA, but we press on. This is not some Easy Button pressing on, but a pressing on that calls for our best which is better than we’ve been able to do up until now. Pressing on will come from our emotional life as well as our intellectual life, employing our individual gifts and striving for a common good.

Even sure of our present definitions of reality, we press on.