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.