Monday, January 31, 2011

Matthew 5:13-20

Epiphany 5 - Year A

Matthew 5:13-20

Good old Popeye, "I 'yams whats I ams, and dats all that I 'yams". Quite a salty guy and light unto a thimble of a world. Popeye takes a lot, but as he sinks into the lowland, lowland, low he has his spinach resurrection that returns him to "all that I 'yams".

How salty are you? Will you allow yourself to be yourself?

Now that a trial date is set, I would speak to you of a friend of mine, a United Methodist clergyperson who will be tried on April 11 for not allowing the church to dilute her saltiness by reining in her celebration of Holy Unions and for letting her lesbian light shine. Amy has come to do what she can to complete a vision of Expansive Love. There is still a long way to go until all is accomplished and Grace is revealed in fullness.

Think for a moment what Jesus says is the basis of all the Law and Prophets. Is it not to love G*D with all one is and has (an expansive love) and to love Neighbors, Self, One Another, and Enemies with that same Expansive Love? If so, this is the law that will not be put aside. If we can still remember the Belovednesses from last week, we might say they are the "grace in-law" which cannot be avoided.

If you would like to learn more about Amy and be in support of her, I invite you to go to In reading some of her material, may you find your saltiness restored (yes, it can be restored through healthy relationships) and your courage to be yourself strengthened unto light.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Epiphany 4 - Year A

beloved are the poor, ready for fulfillment
beloved are mourners, ready for dawn
beloved are the gentle, already living their inheritance
beloved are those who yearn for wholeness, satisfaction has begun
beloved are the mercy-full, their joy overflows
beloved are those forgiven, they see G*D everywhere
beloved are those steady in peace, images of G*D for others
beloved are refugees, their home shall travel with them
beloved are those reviled for good, their worthy work will reveal them

beloved are the fair-hearted, they ground reality
beloved are the kindly-lived, they enhance creation
beloved are the humble-minded, they reveal the future

beloved are you, period
beloved am I, comma

beloved, be loved, be love, be

Thursday, January 27, 2011

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Epiphany 4 - Year A

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Those with Power claim they has wisdom on their side. How else would they have been “entrusted” with the power they have, if they did not represent the wisest possible way to go. We hear that expressed in one way or another by every winner of a power position. Power and meekness or power and humility do live well together.

At play is a large movement from the nothingness of chaos to everything being vain. We live between and do what we can to hold briefness lightly and with all the gravity we can muster. It is this heavily invested and laughably usable moment that makes a difference.

Paul would equate this with his language of a cross that measures the meaning of creation and re-creation. Paul’s cross image stands to show up power, of whatever ilk. It stands as a bookend to belovedness which lifts up the powerless. And we stand in this moment between a so-solid melting before our eyes and a yet ephemeral future casting a faint path, one less travelled, one day to be recognized as an avenue we all need to tread. And we make a difference.

A conversation with death reminds us how frail is our sense of power and how far from wisdom we yet are. This throws us back on how we choose to live. Our choices will be noted by their grounding. Will we live in light of such qualities beyond the collusion of perceived power and accepted wisdom as the following?

The ancients say, “Aye”, The present says, “As soon as we can, but not until we have surety our wisdom is safely in charge”, the future says, “Yea”. This movement can help us stand prophetically in the present whether from Paul’s vision of “Cross” or another creation-centered or eschaton-engaged perspective.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Psalm 15

Epiphany 4 - Year A

Psalm 15

So what are the quizes from Jesus and Micah about. They are practical ways of training our hearts to be ready for healthy responses in very difficult situations.

When we begin to be ready for the next quiz and face a very human choice, that quiz can surface quickly because it is already anticipated. Engaged with questions of meaning will allow us to avoid an opportunity for slander because we are looking to be kind. Likewise, engaged with the deeper cycles of life will have us sidestep getting every tax break we can, every opportunity to get more at another’s expense, every occasion to take advantage. In light of desiring mercy, we will offer it.

Those who are willing to be quizzed again and again, end up solid in their learning, their growing toward G*D (theosis).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Micah 6:1-8

Epiphany 4 - Year A

Micah 6:1-8

Talk about your on-going pop-quiz! Justice! Kindness! Humility!

Or should that be: justice. kindness. humility.

This is one of the lesser known passage regarding the honesty, integrity, judgment of the environment.

G*D is plaintiff and you and I and we are defendents, one and all. G*D’s case is very straight-forward and is placed before judge and jury - creation.

What are the mountains hearing about the way we treat the air, water, land? It is the canary in the mine for the way we treat one another and resources of exchange between us.

G*D’s complaint seems to be about the way we have treated G*D. The suit turns, however, on our relationships with one another. Were these to be characterized by justice, kindness, and humility the case would be thrown out. The mountains and hills could return to their everyday business, G*D’s relationship with us would be restored - as is done to a Neighbor, so it is done to G*D.

And so today’s quiz: Are you and yours any more just/fair than you were yesterday?

And so tomorrow’s quiz: Are you and yours any more kind than you were today?

And so a quiz for the day after tomorrow: Are you and yours any more humble/loving than you may think possible tomorrow?

And so the quizes continue, opportunity by opportunity.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Matthew 5:1-12

Epiphany 4 - Year A

Matthew 5:1-12

These wonderful words of the Sermon on the Mount are addressed to those apprenticed to Jesus, “the committed”, as The Message has it.

If just tossed out to anyone, they lose their power. Aphorisms, platitudes, and the like are more likely to act as barriers to learning.

Rather these are are part of a periodic snap quiz, variously constructed.

1) Give evidence that the following statements are blessings.

2) Rank the following blessings in your life from the most evident to the one you are most uncertain of.

3) Note an intermediary blessing between each of the following that connects the blessing before it with the one that follows.

4) What would change were Pilate or Herod to recognize these blessings were the expected outcome of their rule?

5) For each blessing, note 3 people who are doing better than you are with acting out of that blessing and then go to them for further instruction.

6) What is another blessing that should be added to the list for at least a day?

7) Complete the sentence: “Blessed are the blessed, for they . . . .”

When these blessings are engaged as part of an on-going self-study, they deepen one’s spirit. When joined into as a community journey, they widen the reach of the common good. Note that these are not conclusions, but quizes of our life and lives.

Friday, January 21, 2011

job creation

Epiphany 3 - Year A

the end is near
by end I mean
a preferred future
is arriving

follow me
new relationships are near
by new relationships I mean
perfection turns out
to be wholeness

a push from the past
a pull from the future
redeems arrests
with new vocations

Thursday, January 20, 2011

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Epiphany 3 - Year A

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Church quarrels go back to our very beginning. They are part of our DNA. We are still splitting ourselves into various constituencies.

Has Christ been divided or is that a necessary component of a Christ that engages this particular creation. We do tend to idealize our leaders, whether Paul, Apollos, Cephas, a particular Pope, Martin Luther, John Wesley, the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Thomas, Mary, or yourself. What do you make of our ancient or contemporary quarrels? How many Saints were burned as Heretics and how many Heretics have been elevated to Sainthood. What is the half-life of a Creed? What is the cost/benefit ratio of any given Creed?

If Jesus told us to go and baptize and Paul explicitly says he was not sent to do so, what does that mean for you? How else might you join Paul in foolishness beyond a literalism of red letters?

Are you following Jesus and baptism, Paul and the cross, Kairos CoMotion and expansive love? One of these? Two? All three? Another? Blessings to you on following your call, even if not understood by the institutions (formal and informal) around you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Psalm 27:1, 4-9

Epiphany 3 - Year A

Psalm 27:1, 4-9

What does it mean to live in the “house” or “rebuilt tent” of G*D?

Here are some responses of the Psalmist to that question:
  • to behold beauty
  • to inquire of meaning
  • to receive shelter
  • to have a good view
  • to be supported
  • to be joyful in service
  • to seek clarity
  • to have presence

Are these characteristics of the congregation you are with?

What mechanisms do you use to experience, see and act on, a heart full of courage? Hopefully they include at least one from column A, another from column B, and yet a third option from column C. That is, that you are not limited to religious responses, even if asking a question to which religion is all too quick to respond.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Isaiah 9:1-4

Epiphany 3 - Year A

Isaiah 9:1-4

It is good to hear about “no gloom”. Even as nations and regions are brought back to life, we hear, in the midst of their circumstance, a new call beyond themselves. This passage speaks of a joyful harvest, which could be imaged as putting together all the various fruits of the sea and land and air in a net.

What this passage is waiting for is our response to participate in bringing this picture of the future into the present. We may not be able to harvest the future in all its fullness, but we can do our part in our present part.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Matthew 4:12-23

Epiphany 3 - Year A

Matthew 4:12-23

Stories of call can be seen through a number of different lenses. This week we hear about Jesus being proactive in recruiting followers. Last week it was Baptizer John who was instrumental in connecting followers with Jesus.

In both cases there is Good Action behind the calls. John has Jesus say “Stay with me” which means, stand with me, see what grounds me. Matthew notes the grounding is good news about our living and loving together - healing of the public - and healing of individuals.

This Good Action is still available for us to participate in and reveal to others. Whether you then name Jesus or not, Good Living will continue to draw people toward G*D and one Neighbor after another.

Likewise, “fishing for people” is not about forming exclusive clubs. To fish well is to identify and use every available Good Action (our lure, our net), public and private. Blessings upon your being alluring.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Universal Background

Epiphany 2 - Year A

After a week of finding a reason to say “Yes” to the opportunities that come our way and also finding that there is no little Friday condensation leaping full-blown from a lowly forehead, one of the sources I’ve invited into my email space brought a poem that said what I would affirm and thought you might appreciate it, too.

Read it and do a small dance while a Cosmic Background Radiation, with slightly more matter than anti-matter, sets a lively beat. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Epiphany 2 - Year A

“Called to be saints”, is a line worth remembering as well as simply membering - being mindful of something important, like being beloved.

We might translate this phrase, “Intended to be beloved”. Note that this is addressed to a congregation and not just an individual. When was the last time you dealt with the plural reality of “saintliness” or “belovedness”?

A result of revealing mindful saints is the giving of thanks. May someone be thankful for your individual saintliness and our common belovedness.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Psalm 40:1-11

Epiphany 2 - Year A

I waited and waited and waited for God. [Psalm 40:1a, The Message]

Remember how far it is from Jesus’ birth to baptism. It is far longer than Christmas to Epiphany. Traditionally it was a 30 year wait. Less than the 40 year wait in the Wilderness, but still a long time. How many died for no good reason during that wait? How many were born? How consistently perfect were our heroic figures?

“At last God looked; finally God listened. [Psalm 40:1b, The Message]

The wait was about a direct encounter, a sense of belovedness strong enough to stop waiting. Enough, G*D, of the active listening. Enough, G*D, of the appreciative inquiry. Enough, G*D, of the anticipatory waiting. Enough.

Now, with a firm understanding of mercy beyond repentance, Jesus rises out of chaotic waters (even as Moses put his sandals back on after that mystery of an unconsumed burning bush). And you? No matter how great your repentance it will always be outdone by mercy. So you might as well get on with it - receive great mercy, give great mercy.

So it is we move to the end of the pericope, “Do not, O Lord, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever. [Psalm 40:11, NRSV] No matter how long it has been, living the moment in mercy more than balances all the years of waiting (well, if your view is long enough and you don’t want to apply fairness or justice to each opportunity faced). Perhaps we only need to affirm that mercy is a more wholesome approach to life than is an insistence on repentance.

May you find a new song of mercy on your tongue and in your life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Isaiah 49:1-7

Epiphany 2 - Year A

Being called before being made is a marvelous image of the pull of the future working its way into the present and, if you are bold enough, into the past. Pushing a picture into the future of a preferred way of being is another way to talk about this same mystery that connects space and time with all parts of time and space.

Note that this work of deep calling to deep - whether forward or backward - is not intended for such minutia as finding a parking space or extra dollars. If deep is going to call deep, it is for much deeper effect than the personal (not that such is excluded, just that the personal will be included within a larger context).

You and I and we together are lights and light beyond ourselves. There is a temptation to use the comic phrase of “Flame on!” except that it is all to easily understood as abusive language precursing violence. Mere heat is not what is looked for, rather light that illumines an original choice - not simply knowing good and evil but actually choosing the good when it is inconvenient to do so.

Tomorrow desires us to light today that tomorrow might better shine.

Monday, January 10, 2011

John 1:29-42

Epiphany 2 - Year A

Simply being born a child of G*D does not seem to be enough to have us care for children.

Recognition by the poorest menials, rich foreigners, or a prophet such as Anna brings no additional shift from cultural expectations.

Simply having good 12-year-old questions of authority does not seem to be enough to have our spirit nurtured.

Witness of a spirit returning to one’s breathing being (instead of leaving) still leaves questions of commitment beyond belief. John can affirm Jesus for John’s disciples, but seemingly not for himself.

As you look around, where do you see the Spirit descend and remain? On a person? A group? An ecosystem? That is a call to be present there, not to send money or others, but to be personally present.

As you see the light dawn, be the light.

Friday, January 07, 2011

a long way

Epiphany 1 - “Baptism of the Lord” - Year A

I’ve come a long way
Galilee to Jordan
takes intentionality
not to mention
time and energy

I’ve come a long way
and then I hear
I’m to give
what I came to get
and I say no

I’ve come a long way
now I have only one word
now is the time
now go ahead anyway
now now now

I’ve come a long way
did I mention
Galilee to Jordan
don’t try to get out of
doing your job now

I’ve come a long way
from Galilee to Jordan
from refusal to accord
from underwater to heavenly height
from be-loved to beloved

I’ve come a long way
Galilee to Jordan
isn’t so long any more
Jordan to Jerusalem
is now a longer way yet

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Epiphany Church

This morning I posted comments about the Matthew lection for Epiphany.

This evening I was reminded of a sermon by Janet Wolf about being an Epiphany Church. Her sermon begins 3 minutes into the podcast. It is worth 50 minutes of your time.

Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany - Year A

In addition to Jim Taylor’s column, be sure to read the last of the “Your Turn” comments.

Acts 10:34-43

Epiphany 1 - “Baptism of the Lord” - Year A

G*D shows no partiality - except, of course, to us.

G*D ”allowed” Jesus (that rambunctious child in need of learning propriety regarding spreading grace willy-nilly) to appear to us, to the chosen. And Jesus (having apparently learned his religious etiquette) is set to judge lack of grace.

Forgiveness is no longer individually received through ritual or communally received on an annual basis. Now it is a Jesus commodity, part of his conglomerate, his corporation.

Peter had a wonderfully expansive insight and then backed off extending it past those he had personally encountered.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Psalm 29

Epiphany 1 - “Baptism of the Lord” - Year A

Even though it is 10 verses to 1, a basic balance between Creator and Creature continues. The first 10 verses “Ascribe to the Lord...”. The 11th verse “Ascribes to the people...”.

Even with all the praise language, honor is still given to the people. They have belovedness on their side and, with that, a basic core strength that is precursor to peace. With their belovedness, the people are able to stand firm in peace, not needing to rely on violence, even a redemptive kind.

Don’t be fooled by the verse count. This Psalm affirms the importance of blessing and being blessed, of acting with peaceful strength.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Isaiah 42:1-9

Epiphany 1 - “Baptism of the Lord” - Year A

Here is one version: “You are beloved.”

Here is another: “You will be just.”

Justice is not extraordinary action. You do it without raising a ruckus. Steady - don’t faint. Be a light where you are to reveal better choices.

So here is the thing: You are beloved; you are just. Go ahead, reveal it.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Matthew 3:13-17

Epiphany 1 - “Baptism of the Lord” - Year A

So often we would prevent others from receiving what we have. Somehow or other we play an exaggerated zero-sum game when it comes to ourselves - If “they” get some of what I have, I won’t have anything!

Here Baptizer John has a variation on with that by preventing himself from offering what he has. He plays a “poor me” game.

Jesus has a helpful approach to change - “For the moment, let’s just try it as an experiment and see what happens. If it turns out the way you say, I’ll do it your way. If it turns out what you have to offer is more than you think you have, we’ll just take the results.”

The Baptizer consented to this approach and baptized Jesus for repentance of sins.

Turns out that the Baptizer’s baptism brought forth a great deal - belovedness restored.

Now the game is afoot. Angels singing of “Peace on Earth” is one thing, a dove’s coo of “beloved” is quite another. The first takes responsibility away from ourselves and the second energizes us to take one more step toward a healing of our past (see Healing of Memories by Dennis and Matthew Linn) that our present and future might blossom and grow.