Friday, May 27, 2011

just because

Easter 6 - Year A

love me
love me by
living your best

love a mystery
too easily named G*D
until such a mystery
becomes such a reality

love a self
as a neighbor
and a clanish one another
that hates to love an enemy

in such
loving and living
we invest our time
and move through space

of course
such is dangerous
for suffering does not direct
our response to deep assurance

and when in the course
of all too human events
we shift to larger loves
belovedness is revealed

living one’s best
just because
gladdens all hearts
to love expansively

1 Peter 3:13-22

Easter 6 - Year A

1 Peter 3:13-22

“Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?”

Well, anyone with a me-interest larger than a your-interest.

And so the necessity of a statement that has enough experience to know how real it is that good intentions are no guarantee of security - “You are blessed whether or not you suffer as you do what is right”.

Be ready to keep on doing what your gentle and reverent hope leads you to, even as demands are made to prematurely prove or reluctantly deny your hope.

If I might argue with Peter for a moment, baptism does not save. It sets one on a course of living out an assurance of belovedness.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Psalms 66:8-20

Easter 6 - Year A

Psalms 66:8-20

Blessed be [G*D], because he (sic) has not rejected my [our] prayer or removed his (sic) steadfast love from me [us]. ~Psalm 66:20

Whether a personal or communal prayer, it is that word “because” that sticks in the craw. I got the “love” I bargained for for myself or ourselves, but it remains eternally suspect and fragile. It continues to need positive results. For in another moment we may be cursing G*D when we find ourselves not rescued on our terms.

Escape from Egypt and Wilderness, Wildfires in Alberta, recent record floods of the Assiniboine and Mississippi rivers, and winds throughout the American midwest all bring forth individual foxhole prayers and blessings.

How will G*D continue to prove to be a G*D worth blessing? By continuing to show how exceptional we are - we can let a roulette wheel ride on red for 47 continuous turns and we win each time. Odds be damned. Realistic projection be damned.

Is it “hooray” for thick times and “boo” for the thin? Doesn’t this make G*D captive or me entitled? Might this be the flip-side of “If you love me, says Jesus, you will keep my commands”? Now, how do we step outside this house of religion built on so many conditions? It is as though Easter has been commodified. Only six weeks out from the astounding, dumbfoundingness, of “empty” and we are trying to stuff ourselves with the empty calories of privilege.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Acts 17:22-31

Easter 6 - Year A

Acts 17:22-31

Paul notes how religious folks are. Indeed, we don’t seem to be able to help ourselves from doing religion. It is a handy way to try to pass on to others any numinous experiences we have had.

A difficulty comes when our religious attempt to articulate a larger reality begins to take itself too seriously and restrict any further experience of a more expansive way of living. Religion starts with a helpful impetus - to share - and little-by-little puts up road-blocks to something new to share. So Paul notes the impetus and notes that the shrines established after the first experience no longer carry life forward.

The processes Paul indicates are still worthy ones. Working within space and time we are shaped into search engines for that which we may become. Searching for, groping for, finding even, even becoming what we find is identifiable with what it means to live and move and have being.

And so, identify your current shrine and begin to step outside its limits. Repent. Break the power of denial. Say No to that which claims your soul for itself. Upset the status quo.

In anticipation of another later saint: Religious people throw off your chains. All you have to lose is stale air, dirty water, and shiny objects that distract you from loving life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

John 14:15-21

Easter 6 - Year A

John 14:15-21

So what are Jesus’ “commands”?

Here are the basics and they all relate to love (G*D’s nature and name - according to Charles Wesley).

Love G*D!
Love Neighbor!
Love Self!
Love Enemies!
Love One Another!

Look at the interpenetration of these. On the day you know them, you will know you’re in the swirl of love beyond definition - I’m in G*D, I’m in you, G*D and you are in me. Those I love will be loved by others; the others I love will be loved by you.

These loves are what abide. Bless them by opening your abode to be their abiding place.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

today's rapture

Easter 5 - Year A

today is a day
claimed to be
first of all
end of all

will trees be planted
pruned or uprooted
will outcasts be welcomed
redeemed or executed

participatory decision-making
shapes our shape
interpreting pasts
anticipating futures

farms bring forth
seed and weed
cities bring together
saints in training

heaven to earth
G*D in all
all in G*D
today’s rapture

Thursday, May 19, 2011

1 Peter 2:2-10

Easter 5 - Year A

1 Peter 2:2-10

G*D, cornerstones, spiritual life, etc., etc. are all in the eye of the beholder.

Destiny? Fate? Original Sin? Circumstance? Nature? Nurture? Training? all can be attributed to actions and their short-term consequences (if any).

Of course assigning meaning is a dangerous path to travel down. It is awfully easy to assign anyone who does life differently to one scrapheap or another and claim it to be their fate. It is likewise all too easy to move from judging people to assigning a date and time for an end-time. Likewise, how hard it is to not pat ourselves on the back and claim G*D is on our side, we’ve been blessed, and so the inescapable conclusion is that we are predestined as part of an elite 144,000 out of all the people who ever lived.

Two important keys wrap around this passage:

Verse 3: “If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” you will be able to escape the destiny mode.

Verse 10b: ...once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” and if such change can be mine, it can be anyone’s at anytime.

Remembering these bookends may help put what comes between them in a better light. Without these comforting arms we get pretty privileged and exude exceptionalism.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

Easter 5 - Year A

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

Yes, in extremis we run to G*D, to a source of meaning, to our last best hope of refuge.

Yes, we implore, we promise, we bargain, we resign ourselves in any number and combination of ploys to get what we want.

Yes, we continue to commit ourselves well past any reasonable suggestion of whatever would pass for success in this plight.

And still we need to change. We even die. Prepared or not, here comes a next test of what we believe and what we will do to confirm that belief or modify it or reject it.

So, sing your song of constancy. Parade your surety. Just know it is a moment. We can sometimes look back and be a psalmist and sometimes we look back and say, “What was I thinking?”

Wherever you find your refuge these days, may it include justice for others who are not able to have that same sense of protection from prosecution.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Acts 7:55-60

Easter 5 - Year A

Acts 7:55-60

A violent end of life is always dramatic.

  • I see something you don’t see.
  • Look, you see it, too.
  • We can’t or won’t.
  • If you won’t stop poking us, we’ll stone you.
  • Stoning is hard work, don’t get your robe dirty.
  • I still see something you don’t.
  • Perhaps one day you will join me rather than discard me.

And so the ministry of Jesus followers in Jerusalem begins to close. What opens is the experience Saul had of the lynching of Stephen. This experience of pre-emptive forgiveness echoes in Saul and readies him for conversion - that which he was adverse to, becomes dear. Now Saul become Paul has two dear ones - his previous Jewish family and his subsequent Gentile family. Paul moves back and forth between these loves doing his best to live as forgiven of Stephen’s death. Paul’s emphasis on Grace continues to crack the Law Code.

Monday, May 16, 2011

John 14:1-14

Easter 5 - Year A

John 14:1-14

Another foreground / background opportunity presents itself. It is easy to experience a foreground of Jesus. He speaks, he acts, he touches, he feeds, he probably even smells. It is less easy to get a handle on that which Jesus claims is the background against which we might receive a larger setting in which we are also a foreground of it and capable of being experienced in the same way Jesus was, or even beyond such.

What is the "Father" background that is so spoken of and so invisible to us? At base it is simply the energy source for Jesus to be able to see what is around him and to say, "Here is what you have been taught, the limitations within which you operate," and then to go on to say, "But here is a new teaching that expands your meaning by expanding your background."

We appropriately ask about the background against which we act. In doing so, however, we take our eye off the foreground of Jesus, of one another, of ourself and in losing focus on what is present. With this either/or we lose track of questions about the context of the present - "How did we arrive where we are?" and "what would be better than this and how do we take a step in that direction?"

This same dynamic needs better attention paid to it regarding politicians and stealth candidates that run one way and govern another.

A helpful tool for this is to pay attention to the polarities of life, its yin and yang, its background and foreground, its paradoxes, dilemmas, and tensions.

If you are not familiar with polarities, here is a quick overview.

In church life it would be helpful to pay attention to those arenas where we are tempted to go with foreground or background rather than saying "yes" to both. From MANAGING POLARITIES IN CONGREGATIONS: Eight Keys for Thriving Faith Communities here are some common stumbling places as emphasis is put on one side or the other, losing sight of both/and:
  • Tradition AND Innovation or stability AND change
  • Spiritual health AND Institutional Health
  • Management AND Leadership
  • Strong Clergy Leadership AND Strong Lay Leadership
  • Inreach AND Outreach
  • Nurture AND Transformation
  • Making Disciples– Easy Process AND Challenging Process
  • Call AND Duty.
Jesus’ talk about doing what is asked in his name suggests that background and foreground are being paid attention to. At that point more can happen than might be expected. The qualifier is verse 13, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the “Father” [background of life] may be glorified in the “Son” [foreground of experience].” When these are separated less wholeness is to be expected.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Easter 4 - Year A

been threatened?
looked up to find a dark valley?
suffered unjustly?

yearned to be a simple sheep?
looking for a bread-crumb trail?
praying for a way through no-way?
needing a sip of refreshment?

and so say we all
caught between then and now
and now and when
look again - look again

knowing release is more
than gatekeeping rules
we enter another womb
of sharpened choices

sheepfolds are not safe for the soul
a new abundance is needed
for which we do climb over walls
in every direction

plenteous tables are set
free to be shared
with enemy and friend alike
had we vision and courage

selling our birthright
claiming goodness and mercy

peace and joy abound
take plenty and
more to pass around
may it be so

Thursday, May 12, 2011

1 Peter 2:19-25

Easter 4 - Year A

1 Peter 2:19-25

If you endure, while loving, you will be blessed.

If you endure, while loving, it will be enough.

Adding others sins to your endurance does not enhance your suffering. Each person’s suffering is sufficient for them.

We live well, despite the risk of suffering for it. This living well is not dependent upon being freed from sins. It can go on with or without so-called sins.

We can see the modeling of Jesus in how to endure while loving. This is sufficient. Adding sin-talk to the model may catch heart-strings, but it also requires the giving up of an equivalent number of head-strings. On balance, this balancing function is unhealthy in the long-run.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Psalm 23

Easter 4 - Year A

Psalm 23

I have recently finished a new book about Jimmy Creech's journey from pastor to minister with gay and lesbian people and eventual defrocking by the United Methodist Church. It is extremely well written. So much so that it brought back those days with a touch of post traumatic stress disorder and a review of what Rev. Amy DeLong is going through with her coming church trial [go to]. I could only read it in small bits.

Yes, I highly recommend it to you: Adam's Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor's Calling to Defy the Church's Persecution of Lesbians and Gays.

This is all prelude to this brief moment from the book that brings additional light to the iconic 23rd Psalm:
“Good morning, Jimmy, this is Bill Finlator. How are you?” Bill was calling from Raleigh early on Wednesday morning, March 11. Chris and I were in Omaha, packed and about to leave for Kearney [site of Jimmy's first trial]. The pretrial meeting was to begin at noon. Chris had answered the phone, chatted briefly with Bill, and then handed the phone to me. My mind was on the trial, and I was anxious. Bill’s familiar and cheerful voice relaxed me immediately.

“I’m okay,” I replied. “Nervous, but also calm in a strange way.”

Bill asked, “Did Mahan ever tell you his story about what he said when he was asked if had a particular Bible verse that comforted him during the controversy at Pullen?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

“Well, Mahan says he thought for a moment, then answered, ‘Well, yes, the twenty-third psalm. You know, the Lord is my shepherd, so . . . what the hell!’” Bill chuckled, and I laughed with him.

It was a welcome gift of humor and wisdom on the eve of an ominious three-day ordeal. Bill’s story helped to put my part in the trial into perspective. I knew that the trial, and the bigotry within The United Methodist Church and our society that had led to it, were much bigger and more important than I was. Whatever might happen to me was much less important than what the church decided. I wasn't really the one on trial. The United Methodist Church was.

“Don’t worry about a thing,” Bill said. “You’ve done the right thing, no matter how all this turns out.”

May you move this psalm back into a real comfort to you and not just fine old words.

Finish the sentence for yourself:

The Lord is my shepherd, so . . . ________________________.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Acts 2:42-47

Easter 4 - Year A

Acts 2:42-47

It is so easy to translate “the apostle’s teaching” into the “Apostles’ Creed” and avoid the life that was being taught - Jesus’ wider ministry of revealing the Presence and Freedom of G*D. To so engage the world in Jesus’ Way takes a good bit of solidarity that comes from a comradeship or fellowship or common-cause with others who will encourage us to faithful action and pick up additional actions when we falter.

The other pairing of bread and prayer can likewise be seen as fellowship (bread) and action (prayer). Should prayer ever become as language bound as creeds are, it will in that moment lose its power of transformation (Easter-ing).

Whether finding the synergy between teaching and fellowship or prayer and bread, we are at an important decision-making point of engaging and growing into G*D through the loosening of our entitlement to possession (whether of money or breath). This example of finding the Presence and Freedom of G*D to be available, as evidenced by Jesus, and for us to abundantly distribute life’s core values in the face of whatever the economic determinism of the day might be, will be long-term attractive to others and transformational for all.

In this day and age, when we can get so angst-driven about numbers and dollars, it is good to remember that significant and emblematic growth occurs through witnessing to the Presence and Freedom of G*D — by having presence and freedom to reorient from restrictive Mammon to expansive Love.

Want to see peace? Be peace!
Want to see growth? Grow!
Want to follow the Apostle’s teachings about Jesus? Fellowship!
Want to fellowship well? Act on the teachings!
Want to feast? Pray through action!
Want to know what and how to pray? Feast together!

Monday, May 09, 2011

John 1:1-10

Easter 4 - Year A

John 1:1-10

Simple stories are usually ambivalent stories. There is much more that is needed.

If we don’t take into account more stories, this one, by itself, becomes overly exclusive. What else in John would point you in an exclusive or inclusive resolution of the kind of gatekeeper Jesus might be? That you are called to be?

One helpful image is that of Franz Kafka laughing at readings of his writings. In the introduction to the Penguin collection of Kafka’s published short fiction Metamorphosis and Other Stories translated by Michael Hoffman, Hoffman writes “When some of these stories were read aloud, people-including Kafka, reading them- fell about laughing. He is not sombre, he is not grim, but often very funny.”

Try reading this Kafka story about a gatekeeper and see what connections with the scripture you make and whether you would “fall about laughing” with Jesus or with Kafka: Before the Law.

Friday, May 06, 2011

8 Years of Blogging

8 Years of Blogging

It has only taken me a year longer than I had expected to organize 8 years of blogging on the Lectionary (2002-2010).

The first draft of postings organized by Book, Chapter, and Verses is now complete. If you are interested in seeing a number of reflections on the same scripture passage, you are welcome at My hope is that by the end of the year, the 2011 postings will also be added in.

There will be an additional section in days to come. This will add what I call a condensation, and what others have been bold enough to call poetry, for each week of the liturgical calendar. Don't look for it before the end of the year, but it is on a list of things to do.

Thank you for your encouragement through the years to continue looking at the Christian Scriptures through an expansive lens. It has been good to grow into knowing that the Bible can take being played with - it is not fragile and such will not diminish it.


so go on

Easter 3 - Year A

gotta love those travelers
on their way to Emmaus
so discouraged
so grief wrapt
so isolated

they knew what they knew
to the exclusion of all else
so head empty
so heart full
so dualistic

and along comes the unrecognized
a Christ in surprising guise
so expectant
so insulting
so traditional

at best they were distracted
at worst entertained
so far away
so closed
so hungry

even an eternal-oriented Christ
knocks the dust off and moves on
so much to do
so prophetic
so opportunistic

just when we want more palaver
anything to cover our loneliness
so comforting
so directive
so so-so

old prophecy no longer cuts it
new creeds are much beside the point
so feast
so bless
so go on

Thursday, May 05, 2011

1 Peter 1:17-23

Easter 3 - Year A

1 Peter 1:17-23

Do you think this was something that Jesus told the folks on their way to Emmaus? Would this creedal language get through to them better than Jesus’ recounting of the prophetic story from Moses onward? I doubt it.

Perhaps the antidote to creedal language is not a counter-creed, but communal experience. Might we redo verse 23 as the key to this section:

23 - “You have been born anew, not of either some difficult to define perishable or imperishable seed, but through the living and enduring presence of G*D in the mystery of a communal meal.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Easter 3 - Year A

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19


We are a results driven people. Something good happens and G*D did it for G*D can do no wrong. Something bad happens and we did it for we can do no right. Sometimes we claim the good that happens and blame G*D for catastrophic, “acts of god”.

In focusing on the outcome and working backward we find a multitude of ways to avoid simply being thankful for an opportunity in which to live and move and have our being. If there is not a direct tie to an outcome, our current behavior is dismissed as irrelevant.

The word “because” is still a valuable tool, but only if it works in a forward direction, not reflexively. Because I have done the best I can, I can stand whatever result comes along.

Being part of a larger system and systems within systems, there is not a single cause and effect. To denigrate what I can do based on immediate results or quarterly financial gain, is to put Ourselves and G*D and Neighbors and even Enemies in impossible situations where miracle is the only out available.

So, If we give up, we still have our supporters who can carry us onward. If all we can do is stand mute in the face of unfairness, it is a valuable revelation of the meanness of the principalities and powers. If we engage injustice with all our will and skill, the fears of a broken community can still overwhelm our witness as well as process and decision-making. If we are dependent upon the outcome, that which occurs “because” of a specific action of ours, we never get to rejoice in the relief, delight, and triumph of the mystery of adding our part to a transformation of this wobbly old world into a new paradise on earth.

May you avoid the trap of “Because!” things didn’t turn out the way I wanted, what I did was valueless.

May your use of “Because!” give you a forward leaning, powdermilk biscuit, perspective, thankful for the strength to get up and do what needs to be done, regardless of the result.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Easter 3 - Year A

Acts 2:14a, 36-41

The model used here can be expanded.

Who have you “crucified”, demoted, defamed, destroyed, made invisible?

Coming to understand our participation in the world has wounded some or someone, we can choose a three-fold journey to a new wholeness or new meaning.
  1. change behavior
  2. enter belovedness in tandem with the crucified
  3. move into a new community together (community as gift)
This process toward wholeness changes our present generation. It doesn’t take us out of our time and space, but redeems both.

Is this something you think is doable? Then test it.

Who or what group do you have the most difficulty with? Can you put them in the place of the Jesus marker in this passage and proceed to walk the steps with them. (Yes it takes two to accomplish this, but without one to begin it certainly won’t work.)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Luke 24:13-35

Easter 3 - Year A

Luke 24:13-35

A conversational gait is 3 miles per hour. A seven mile hike, let’s say 2 and a half hours. If they were dragging grief along, perhaps 3 hours.

It is reported that somewhere in that three hours Jesus caught up with them. Was he returning from Emmaus or catching up from Jerusalem or coming at a tangent? This could turn into one of those famous word problems, if a train left Station A at . . . .

For the moment presume that Jesus was resurrection accelerated and caught up to the grief laden from Jerusalem. With sad faces, closed ears, and teary eyes they were pretty well encapsulated. Jesus might have had to go over the heritage from Moses and other prophets several times to have gotten through to weary travellers. All in all Jesus might have had an elevator ride’s amount of total messaging time. How might you tell the story of your own prophetic journey in a convincing and condensed amount of time? What would the clincher be?

Regardless of how well-told or concise you were with those who would be sympathetic to what you had to say or how much time you had to convert an enemy, it would still probably come down to a symbol or an action that would make the difference.

In this Eastertide, may you pick up a lesson from your Lenten Discipline and put down some accumulated habit in order to find one compelling action that best reveals your G*D oriented living. Odds are that folks will better respond to that than to a 300 page memoir. What blessing might you give that would awaken folks to new life possibilities for themselves?

Don’t just wonder what Jesus would do - do what you are called to.