Monday, February 28, 2011

Matthew 17:1-9

Epiphany 9 - "Transfiguration" - Year A

Matthew 17:1-9

Six days after Peter's affirmation, "You are the Messiah", and denial, "God forbid you to suffer and die" (projecting his own and our resistance to these), Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a high place.

High places can not only have thin air, but be a wilderness "thin place".

Remember the cycle of baptism --–> belovedness revealed --–> wilderness temptation? Here is an opportune time to revisit that previous wilderness temptation with Peter's rebuke/test (yes, a Lucan perspective, but apt nonetheless). Time to have a booster shot of belovedness previously revealed at baptism.

If the Jordan was a baptism by water, an unnamed mountain may be a baptism of spirit. I can't help but wonder if this story is a compilation of many such revelations of belovedness. Surely there was more than one rebuke/test that Jesus faced and subsequent need for remembrance of belovedness - perhaps this was part of those prayer retreats Jesus took.

At any rate, last week we heard the words, "Don't worry", and this week we hear "Don't be afraid". In both instances folks/disciples have forgotten the abundance of G*D and their ability to share beyond what they have at the moment. Choosing the Invisible Hand of G*D over the Invisible Hand of the Market has always been difficult. Choosing returning to work in every holy space of everyday life over designating shrines is equally difficult.

Blessings on your being able to tell real stories of your down-the-mountain work simply, without resorting to exceptionalist tales.

Friday, February 25, 2011

don't worry - choose

Epiphany 8 - Year A

Matthew 6:24-34

No one can divide their allegiance
without other divisions in their life:
extremes of hate and love will come out
fawning and distain will become primary choices.
You cannot long stand between
Steadfast Love and Maximized Profit
without debilitating worry or
self-imposed ignorance.

Participation in meaningful life
is distracted by worry about basics
food, shelter, and universal human rights.
Worry adds no length of days or
cure of self-perceived defects.

Note well birds and flowers
eating when they can and attracting fertilizing bees.
There is value in participating in creation
at whatever level is available.

Our faith falters when we deny our creatureliness
and focus on fancy food and fashionable dress.
G*D-Human living fades when faced with fear
instilled by a class-dividing market.
Our question is not "What to eat?" but
"Why do we eat?"
"What?" worries us, "Why?" focuses us.

Why? A radical freedom of enough.
This is the place of paradise,
this is compassion set loose
far beyond, "More and more".

We have enough trouble staying loyal
to larger care for our commonwealth
without the distractions and worries
of fighting ourselves and each other
for mere "more" today and
just a bit more "more" tomorrow.

Don't worry - choose
rising hope
expansive kindness,
deep care.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Epiphany 8 - Year A

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

What does it mean to be judged by G*D and is that different than being judged by Wealth or Money or Mammon or Profit?

One way of coming at this is to ask about where they end up.

G*D’s judgment seems to end up with mercy outweighing justice and steadfast love taking precedence over disappointment.

Wealth’s judgment seems to end up with there never being enough for all and so compassion takes a back seat to separating oneself from all others.

A) Who or what won’t take mercy away from you? (Matthew 12:7; James 3:17)

B) Who or what won’t eventually take your resources away from you? (Ecclesiastes 2:21)

A) Invisible Hand of G*D and Death
B) Invisible Hand of the Market and Death

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Psalm 131

Epiphany 8 - Year A

Psalm 131

Wealth is far grander than G*D. It has many more shiny things. It ranks high in distractibility from justice. It needs nothing other than itself.

I am acquisitive. I am not calm and quiet. I want more. Any affirmation to the contrary runs counter to what I will be doing next, subverting my long-term well-being for a dream of two birds in hand.

Even had I learned to be submissive, not even glancing up for another handout, accepting of my current place, unquestioning of power hierarchies, settled into a class, quiet as a church mouse in the face of patented injustice, accustomed to mere survival, reduced to an inarticulable hope - an unbidden vision of a deeply satisfying relationship within and beyond current limitations arises.

Something calls from beyond being top-dog, floormat, or middle-class. Perhaps it is a mere asterisk in our language about G*D to remind about a fertile, bubbling, energy that writes on walls and moves on. We live more or we die more.

Acquisitive or submissive, the choice comes down forever twixt G*D and Mammon. Choose beyond - beyond trinkets, money, wealth, seeming security, position. For every Mammon there is a Pirate; for every G*D there is undeniable fidelity (relationship), fairness (justice), and kindness (peace) revealed in the many faces of Love.

So, "Hope on!", "Give it up!", "Get more!", whatever your mantra, and then take a step beyond.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Isaiah 49:8-16

Epiphany 8 - Year A

Isaiah 49:8-16

What happens should you begin to track down a choice of G*D over Wealth? Ancient Isaiah sees what G*D's leadership would mean, "I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to resettle families on the ruined properties."

Right! To choose G*D is to choose to be engaged in service of a larger value than self. To follow G*D is to return to the ancient creation task of confirming and continuing care for the earth that is our source material. To follow Wealth is to claim dominion over the earth for our immediate benefit.

Right! to choose G*D is to choose to see that families have living water, a living wage, a living community to bind them again to deeper and wider living where they are. To follow Wealth is to toss more people off their property, always cutting labor wages, leaving people behind to increase profit - at any cost.

In these two examples, following G*D returns us to the two great commands to love G*D (Creator/Creation) and to love Neighbor (Family/Community).

G*D? Wealth? Long term? Short term? It is still time to decide. Blessings on taking a road more travelled by G*D and less travelled by Wealth. It will make all the difference.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Matthew 6:24-34

Epiphany 8 - Year A

Matthew 6:24-34

In today’s world we might translate, “You cannot serve God and Corporations.”

If that is not self-evident, I’m not sure what can be done to help focus this. The issue of wealth or money is built on a zero-sum principle of competition to get your piece of the pie. And, since it is a competition, there is no end to the size of the piece that one needs. The operative word is a drivenness of “more”. There is no sense of a joy of “enough”.

Today’s inward/outward quote is pertinent here:
The Spiral of Materialism
Matthew Fox
The spiral of materialism is eternal and never ends.... The materialist is never satisfied. For the heart is not made full or satisfied by any, or even all, of the things that the religion of materialism and its preachers of advertising want so desperately to sell us. "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be," warned Jesus. And the treasures that lead to compassionate living are not buyable because they are less objects than they are experiences.... Greed never asks when is enough, enough? It knows nothing of limits. Therefore, it knows nothing of the true pleasures that life is about. It is utterly ignorant of celebration.

If you value relationship, growth, and celebration more than accumulating resources, you might be interested in a new opportunity to band together to return corporations to their functional state and remove them from competition with people’s well-being. Russ Feingold and many others have begun an attempt at challenging the current and growing power of corporations. You join me in signing on at: .

This is larger than Russ, though he is a face for it. It is larger than you, though your action is as crucial as anyones. This is for all those who are tired of striving’s vanity. This is for those who understand the freedom of G*D and healthy relationships are the starting points for knowing how to live with enough today that more will have enough tomorrow.

Here is a key question: What is more about? Is it about food, clothing, security, happiness, satisfaction? What do you need more of? Is it assurance of blessedness? Is it trust in meaning beyond that which passes too quickly away? Is it simple beauty, a graceful movement through the opportunities and challenges of any ordinary day? What do you need more of?

Friday, February 18, 2011

But I say to you

In keeping with Jesus dealing with popularized statements with "But, I say to you . . . ." Here is a link to a series of "But, I say . . . ." responses regarding an on-going revelation about sexual orientation.

I wish you well in being able to evaluate the conversations swirling around you and being able to bring the conversation back to what gives more and more life to people.

Bishop's Counsel to Church

"Good News" Response

My Response to "Good News"

What are you saying these days?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

Epiphany 7 - Year A

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

There is much trust needed in being connected with a religious institution. No matter how well we build new foundations in a new day, someone else will eventually build well or poorly on that foundation.

Paul suggests that the foundation is Jesus and yet we don’t have the same foundational understanding of Jesus as evaluator of each foundation. Consider how far we are from a near-future parousia. Paul saw things one way, and millennia later we see things another way. Consider, also, the variety of Christian sects and the variety within each of them. It would be a very strange Jesus that could be deduced from the variety of religious expression in just one community.

Perhaps the strongest image here is that of connecting with one another. We have wrestled with an image of Trinity for a long, long time. Imagine a trinity of G*D, Jesus, and You. We become interconnected with Jesus and G*D and, through this, with one another.

Realize that G*D is present in you as well as with you. Nothing will look the same again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Psalm 119:33-40

Epiphany 7 - Year A

Psalm 119:33-40

Choose your teacher.
Work toward understanding.
Travel toward basics.
Practice an outward oriented heart.
Practice an inward oriented eye.
Receive assurance.
Avoid disgrace.
And so confirm your desire for meaning.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

Epiphany 7 - Year A

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

Those of you in Wisconsin know the new governor is playing games with the jobs of public workers. Threats are made to jobs themselves, wages, benefits. Threats are made to bring in the National Guard.

It is difficult to read this passage and then face ideologues whose sense of economic realities is as small as their compassion.

Paul Krugman in yesterday’s New York Times speaking of national politics disguised as economics also describes our state political environment.

Which brings me back to the Republican dilemma. The new House majority promised to deliver $100 billion in spending cuts — and its members face the prospect of Tea Party primary challenges if they fail to deliver big cuts. Yet the public opposes cuts in programs it likes — and it likes almost everything. What's a politician to do?

The answer, once you think about it, is obvious: sacrifice the future. Focus the cuts on programs whose benefits aren't immediate; basically, eat America's seed corn. There will be a huge price to pay, eventually — but for now, you can keep the base happy.

Paul calls this "Eating the Future" and ends his column, "And so they had to produce something like Friday's proposal, a plan that would save remarkably little money but would do a remarkably large amount of harm."

Do you hear in this that there is nothing left for the gleaners, for the poor, the alien? Do you hear the defrauding, slandering, and profiting from the blood, pain, loss of your neighbor?

We have here a huge grudge borne against Neighbor. We have here a denial of community. We have here a false idol of Market.

And so the people do as G*D does, rise in opposition to theft of common-wealth. Demonstrations Today and Tomorrow!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Matthew 5:38-48

Epiphany 7 - Year A

Matthew 5:38-48

How does "do not resist an evildoer" feel today after recent events in Tunisia and Egypt?

How does "love your enemies" sound today after recent events?

A part of the difficulty we always face with biblical quotes is their applicability to situations that swirl around us and their connection to other biblical passages.

Presuming a sense of parallelism in this whole sermon, we can begin substituting phrases to see what gets added to Jesus' guidance.

Is "do not resist" comparable to "love"? Play these back and forth.

Now remember last week. How would you play back and forth between "do not resist", "love", "do not murder/be angry", "do not commit adultery/lust", "Do not divorce/be unchaste", "Do not swear by anything outside yourself/say yes or no". If you can't work "love" into a parallel statement, what are you left with?

What are we to not resist? What are we to love?

Parallelism can not only expand meaning, it can also narrow a choice. This will be seen in next week's pericope contrasting G*D with Wealth.

How do you support those in their own version of Egypt (whether run by a Pharaoh or a Mubarak or a Majority)? What would you tell them? For how long would you counsel patience before sending the equivalent of a plague of frogs or citizens? Have you noted the long-term effectiveness of non-violence in contrast to the short-term gain of authorized, institutionalized, violence?

Friday, February 11, 2011


Epiphany 6 - Year A

I thought the rules
were settled
and I had them figured out

thought the rules
were lax
and I am unsettled

"You have heard it said . . . ."
"But I say to you . . . ."

a choice has been set
and I'm off again

Thursday, February 10, 2011

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Epiphany 6 - Year A

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

The realization that we are on differing paths and that those on the same path may be at differing locations on it reminds us that we are living growing beings. If we are going to have any flesh, it is flesh that changes and grows. If our spirit is in anyway tied to our flesh, it, too, will change and hopefully grow.

Perhaps there is a stage of growth we still need to go through to get back to the Garden of Eden relationship with G*D, presuming it is desirable to regress that far - not milk, or meat, but vegan. What might it be like to be fed with food directly from the earth? Might it make the adam - adamah or human - humus stronger after we learn our milk and meat lessons about connecting self - neighbor beyond differing source authorities.

Blessings on discerning a common purpose with friend and foe, alike.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Psalm 119:1-8

Epiphany 6 - Year A

Psalm 119:1-8

What a difference a comma can make. Good for the UCC folks to use the comma in reference to what we are still learning about G*D and our relationship with same. Here, verse 3 continues to speak of those who are blessed when it describes those "who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways."[NRSV]

A first tired reading missed the comma and tied “wrong” with “walk in his ways”. After shaking a weary head it finally came into focus. This reading of G*D's ways are wrong has brought forth a flurry of books in recent years about how wrong are those who seek the usual stereotypical god. Another flurry of resources have come for those who are going so much further than said stereotype, but are tarred with the same brush.

A key here is walking in G*D’s ways. Note the plural “ways” of G*D. Note that walking in these ways is not the same as claiming one of them is universal. Note that walking is not static and it is not creedally constrained. Walking in the ways of G*D requires more faith than certainty, more hope than Realpolitik, and more love than personal salvation.

There is room for a goodly community to walk within G*D’s ways, each with an upright heart and all with room for each other. So it is we may live long in the land.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Sirach 15:15-20

Epiphany 6 - Year A

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Sirach 15:15-20

Jesus' "You have heard it said, but . . ." statements remind us that G*D's nickname is Freedom. Today's New York Times reviews the last 14 days in Egypt. Key is a statement by the newly released Wael Ghonim. After being kidnapped by government forces and held for 12 days he said, "This is not the time to settle scores. Although I have people I want to settle scores with myself. This is not the time to split the pie and enforce ideologies."

Here is a choice as stark as those between the scripturally heightened rhetoric of "Life and Good" or "Death and Evil" or "Fire and Water". Here we have "Violence and Retribution" or "Freedom and Cooperation".

We have heard and lived in cultures of "Power Over" and again we see the gift of "Freedom Growing" from beneath. After remembering an old Egyptian poem, "The Nile can bend and turn, but what is impossible is that it would ever dry up", Professor Mamoun Fandy remarked, "The same is true of the river of freedom that is loose here now. Maybe you can bend it for a while, or turn it, but it is not going to dry up."

The choice to be free, to hear “you have heard it said, but . . .” is basic to life and therefore to G*D and therefore to us as a goal. To not choose beyond enforced consistency is the hobgoblin of little lives (no matter how large they project themselves).

Simply put, we have not been commanded to side with or be wicked, nor have we been given permission to tear down others to aggrandize our self. We are in this together. I rejoice when you can stand tall for the Freedom of G*D [rendered into olde english as “Kingdom of G*D] right where you are. It encourages me to stand tall where I am. I’ll do what I can to return the favor.

A G*D of Freedom again sets before us a choice, settle scores or build new blessings.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Matthew 5:21-27

Epiphany 6 - Year A

Matthew 5:21-27

Ah, the literalist approach to salvation - trying to get into heaven by narrowly defining rules to one’s own advantage. Picking and choosing and narrowly defining statements just enough to always be just on the inside side of the cut. Knowing you don’t deserve heaven because of your wretchedness, what else can be done but to do everything in your power to redefine the rules to their letter and excusing behavior because of intent.

The “But I say to you . . .” lines from Jesus are critical to what it means to be a person on a journey to wholeness. Here murder is no longer limited to the physical but the emotional and the relational. Adultery is not just a final act but a desire, culminated or not. It is this same desire that makes one unchaste and open for divorce.

Jesus is not a letter-of-the-law partner with G*D. This relationship is also not one of good G*D, bad G*D.

How are we going to keep following a “Yes, but I say to you . . .” leader? If our intent isn’t simply a desire to learn the latest, revisionist ropes in order to game the system and advance, what is it? Are we those literalists mentioned above, just over different pasages?

Which is why this pericope ends with an examined life and ability to trust a Jesus Spirit to prompt us to say “No” to bad stuff and “Yes” to good stuff without such being part of a programmatic approach to living or a blowing in the wind. Want to keep your saltiness, continuing to add flavor to the world? Want to send a shining ray far down the future’s broadening way? Learn how to listen to “But I say to you” and, in turn, to say it and live it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Beyond Choice

Epiphany 5 - Year A

intentionally fast
or put the best spin
on involuntary starvation
a lack is a lack

there is a power difference
between putting down
and having nothing
nothing to pick up

for a moment note
you have a choice
beyond fasting
or starvation

to claim your aura
no matter how thick
a basket cover

to claim your saltiness
no matter how diluted
a homeopathic

rejecting sustenance
or failing to find food
we come to life
beyond choice

eventually we stand
beyond choice
dilute salt is not lost salt
confined light is still light

we don’t need either/or
not even both/and
simply four

cut injustice loose
reject exploitation
reverse oppression
demolish class

share bread and community
personally shelter those without
spin cloth for self and others
rejoice in differences

and Lo and Behold
flavor returns
lights come on
a new path opens

we are not playing games
nor thinking strategically
just being a revealer
reveling in just being

Thursday, February 03, 2011

1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)

Epiphany 5 - Year A

1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)

15 - Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.

This may well have been Paul’s experience and claim for authority. For Paul and the plowing and seeding of a Church, he may have felt the need to set up a separation of spirit and flesh, grace and law (short-term effective, long-term problematic). This sort of clarity and either/or was probably helpful in his time and for his purposes, but 2,000+ years later - not so much.

The experience here is that the more spiritual we are the more worldly we must be. Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith is an excellent source of this perspective. She notes, that currently church people seem to think that the only “more” available to them is more of the same.

Somewhere along the line we bought - or were sold - the idea that God is chiefly interested in religion. We believed that God’s home was the church, that God’s people knew who they were, and that the world was a barren place full of lost souls in need of all the help they could get. Plenty of us seized on those ideas because they offered us meaning. Believing them gave us purpose and worth. They gave us something noble to do in the midst of lives’ that might otherwise be invisible. Plus, there really are large swaths of the world filled with people in deep need of saving.

The problem is, many of the people in need of saving are in churches, and at least part of what they need saving from is the idea that God sees the world the same way they do. What if the gravel of a parking lot looks as promising to God as the floorboard of a church? What if a lost soul strikes God as more reachable than a lifelong believer? What if God can drop a [Jacob’s] ladder absolutely anywhere, with no regard for the religious standards developed by those who have made it their business to know the way to God?

Somehow we need to rebind the world to G*D and G*D to the world. Out of this encounter, sparks will fly.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Psalm 112:1-9, (10)

Epiphany 5 - Year A

Psalm 112:1-9, (10)

Want to keep your saltiness? To shed light into the darkness still around us?

Verse 5 may be what you are looking for - “It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.”

The communal and parallel behaviors of sharing and fairness go a long way to keeping steady hearts in the presence of fear producing events such as those who would gnash their teeth at you or otherwise attempt to throw you to lions.

Facing some duress? It’s probably not something you can handle on your own. If it is, it probably isn’t duress? If it is duress, you may want to remember its antidotes: sharing and fairness. These are not short-term cures for anything, but they are long-term health for one and for all.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)

Epiphany 5 - Year A

Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)

From what would you fast if your fast were to be evidenced by sharing your bread with the hungry? Privilege?

Yes, sharing with others means less for you. Yes, that means this kind of fasting as a result of sharing does have consequences. Yes, we are up to facing them (both others and less).

For what would you fast if your fast were to be evidenced by sharing your bread with the hungry? Healing?

Do you want you food to be correctly seasoned? Share. This is how saltiness is maintained.

Do you want to see your food, because we eat with our eyes before eating with our mouth? Share. This is how your light stays lit.

Obviously this kind of fasting goes beyond food. It encompasses every basic need. Only when we are engaged in the process of kindliness and care do we season one another's life and light the way for one another. To avoid a need is tasteless and darkening.