Monday, December 31, 2012

Comments Compiled

In the for-what-it-is-worth department, 10 years of lectionary comments have been compiled into a table by chapter and verse at If you have an interest in seeing comments from three-years apart next to each other you can visit the table and marvel at how perspective and perceptiveness have changed (spiritual/psycho analysis will be gratefully received). [Note: New postings are still found here by date as the current Year C will not be added to these tables until the end of 2013.]

There is also a listing by church year of Friday condensations at - this is still under the cloud of possible revision of format, but the link should hold for at least the last three years of Friday musings. There are more beginning condensations scattered through the 10 years of jottings that may be added in as time and energy allows.

If there is a format that would be more helpful than these or improvements to either or both that might be made, please do leave a comment on the web, reply to the listserve, or send a note directly to me at wwhite(at)

Wesley White

Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany - Year C

Who dares star-gaze? They will be called malingerers, day-dreamers. Yet to gaze afar is to also look critically for a fulcrum spot in the present. From afar folks may better see beyond their own culture and a new opportunity for an unfated future. Through spotting unknown stars they may better appreciate the mystery of a manger being about more than feed and water.

Still there is a cultural residue as the scholarly magi and our own blind spots seek in a castle for what can only be found in a manger. When stripped of our habits, our dreams see the underbelly of assumed privilege and power and we leave there by a different route. At last we remember again — revolution happens from the bottom up: period.

So dream a little dream — this one from Carly Simon: Let the River Run with its refrain:
     Let all the dreamers
     wake the nation.

How far will your dream, your gazing afar take you? Into halls of power and out again? Into mangers near and far? Deep within your culture and comfort or quite beyond?

Your response will be told in the gifts you bring and give away.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Christmas 1 - Year C

as usual
questions are engaged
a community thinks together

every year
a reunion of hearts and minds
rekindles soul energy

where else
would one be than at a revival
of tradition and possibility

understand this
increasing in wisdom
doesn’t happen accidentally

treasure this
a joy of learning is
a joy of living

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Colossians 3:12-17

Christmas 1 - Year C

Behind every manifestation of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience is a participation in love, no matter how reluctantly or dismissive. Love here is defined as that which holds everything together - it is the graviton of spirituality.

This last paragraph on gravitons from Wikipedia indicates some problems:
     ”Most theories containing gravitons suffer from severe problems. Attempts to extend the Standard Model or other quantum field theories by adding gravitons run into serious theoretical difficulties at high energies (processes involving energies close to or above the Planck scale) because of infinities arising due to quantum effects (in technical terms, gravitation is nonrenormalizable). Since classical general relativity and quantum mechanics seem to be incompatible at such energies, from a theoretical point of view this situation is not tenable. One possible solution is to replace particles by strings. String theories are quantum theories of gravity in the sense that they reduce to classical general relativity plus field theory at low energies, but are fully quantum mechanical, contain a graviton, and are believed to be mathematically consistent.”

Likewise, most spiritualities containing love suffer from difficulties of definition, interpretation, and implementation. We go along thinking we understand love and can either fit it into a definition or recognize it when we see it. Then along comes death and all of a sudden we can see love where we never did before or a love we thought we could rely on turns out to as frail as everything else.

Return again to this unsentimental definition of love: that which binds everything together in harmony. Don’t focus on the binding together but the result of harmony. You may want to browse again The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Psalm 148

Christmas 1 - Year C

Thank G*D.
With more than I have, I thank G*D.
We are where we are, with options yet available.
We are where we are, for the moment and a bit more.
Indeed, “thanks” is an appropriate response to the surprise of life.
Possibility has been risked and raised and won.

The above is from an experiential approach to Christmas or other thin event. It does vary from an assigned liturgy giving direction and interpretation to yesterday and today. How would you transform an apology for G*D into a paean of moving on? To not make an attempt at a translation is to get lost in the some shouldness of what Christmas ought to be without actually moving it into place as an on-going birthing leading us to a next plateau.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Christmas 1 - Year C

Presumably an experience of a surprise such as G*D incarnate in creation is not a once-for-all moment. An infant that is not stillborn, grows - hopefully in relationship to G*D and Neighb*r as well as in stature and girth. 

While yet in Christmastide, within the proverbial 12 Days of Christmas, we hear about the imperative of growth. Our tendency may be to revere the traditions of Christmas when the challenge before us is that of reinventing it beyond rote.

Samuel grew. Jesus grew. And you? Or, put another way, have you stopped? How do you know?

Here’s a thought experiment for you. Instead of considering atonement to be about the cross, what if it is about a manger? To grow up “blessed by G*D and popular with the people”, as The Message has it, are we not talking about an at-one-ment? Evaluate this proposition: Atonement is incarnational, not crucifixional.

Titus 2:11-14 & Hebrews 1:1-12

Christmas Eve/Day - Year C

Christmas Eve Titus 2:11-14
Christmas Day Hebrews 1:1-12

Where did the gift of surprise and choice go so quickly. The gospel lessons are poetry and story. By the time we get to the epistles we are confronted with the didactic and doctrinaire. Christmas moves from a particular to the general only with a great deal of danger to its own integrity.

We hear about incarnation being a source of atonement, “God has appeared, bringing salvation to all”. This act of G*D soon gets shifted to the crucifixion, “[Jesus] gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity”.

What begins with the fulfillment of a promise to our ancestors, becomes, all too quickly, angels not announcing G*D’s work but “worshipping” some idolatry of an eternity beyond flesh and blood birth and life.

Be careful what gets ingested along with all the sweet carols of Christmas. Is it just a set up for a later atonement or sufficient for such in its particularity?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Luke 2:41-52

Christmas 1 - Year C

Here is another creation story, birth story. Instead of going for registration, Jesus goes for Festivities and finds in them a larger story than they knew they carried.

Wherever you search for someone dear to you, you will find them searching for themselves even as you search for them. Of course you return the favor while being searched for.

No wonder searchers don’t understand, even as they draw near.

Now to carry this insight into the rest of a new year. We all search for and are searched for. Remarkably in these infinite searches, what is found has more in common than in difference. Here then is our covenant for the year: that we will treasure one another. Blessings in letting your treasure show and the treasure of others be honored by you.

Luke 2:1-20 & John 1:1-18

Christmas Eve/Day - Year C

Christmas Eve Luke 2:1-20
Christmas Day John 1:1-18

In those days the word was with G*D/Emperor Augustus.
All the world should be acknowledged as G*D’s/registered as Augustus’.
Joseph/John/Shepherds were sent as facilitator/witness/announcer of a new Word.

In these days we are still caught between Love and Power.
Many claims are made upon us and in our name.
A choice remains about facilitating, witnessing to, and announcing the best we know.

Choose well this night, this day.

Friday, December 21, 2012

a christmas before christmas

Advent 4 - Year C

disquieting news
doesn’t call for resignation

questions unresolved
seek interpretation

even afar from circles intimate
we seek our wise woman

and find their wisdom
deeper in than expected

future calls to future
it’s alright come out and play

blessing is sung
to and through us

mercy as far as eye can see
justice through and through

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hebrews 10:5-10

Advent 4 - Year C

Did Jesus offer his body any more than did Mary? We get weird around military deaths and laud and load them with automatic bravery and sacrifice, even calling it ultimate sacrifice.

How might we rebalance our vision of G*D somewhere between a possibility laden creation and a last day reduced to judging? It might have something to do with understanding how bodies bring forth life. Which is more Mary’s forte and Jesus’ teaching. It is only later that we hit on a deathly cross being of more importance than a feeding trough birth. [Image receiving communion from a manger rather than an altar - This is my body. . . .]

Luke 1:46-55

Advent 4 - Year C

Confirmation of an experience is helpful. Remember back to verse 29 — Mary was deeply troubled by being pregnant. By verse 34 she was questioning, “How can this be” or “Why”. Some form of resignation came in verse 38, “Let it happen”.

Within days Mary set off for Aunt Elizabeth’s. Everyone needs a confessor beyond their immediate “family” (a spiritual director from a different tradition is almost necessary). Here, again, Mary found love without expectation hedging it in.

Given this journey it is no accident that Mary’s song is both uplifting and challenging. Her phrasing soars and her content is prophetic. Isn’t this also the way we respond after giving and/or receiving support based on glimpsed but yet unseen abundance? So give; so receive; so sing.

Micah 5:1-5

Advent 4 - Year C

Sometimes we are simply stuck and cannot get out to a comforter with perspective. When everything has been tried and there is no where else to turn, the last resort is an appeal to the future. May something be born out of this failing!

Our anticipation of Christmas is better oriented to failure than to success. We have done everything we knew to do and it came up short. This recognition is prelude to a wonderful surprise, unanticipatable. To make lists and check them twice is antithetical to the surprise of real Christmas that occurs every day. A new incarnation rises from an abysmal defeat. Without prelude and against expectation, peace breaks forth to affront the principalities and powers who will do all in their power to run the cycle another time.

At some point the bullies will get it. Keep a symbolic Bethlehem alive in your time and space.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Luke 1:39-45

Advent 5 - Year C

There are times in life when we are mobilized to react with haste. Had John Wooden been available as Mary’s coach, he would have counseled, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” After her haste Mary comes to John’s ancestress, Elizabeth, speaking as Yoda, “Quiet she is, trusting full.”

The odds are that this was not the first time fetus John had leapt. So let’s take a little focus off an apology of coincidence and put it on a gift of insight or discernment. May you be quick to spread a blessing. It will land where needed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Philippians 4:1-13

Advent 3 - Year C

Broods of vipers are not only found in outsiders seeking to come in, but within a flock as well. Euodia and Syntyche are archetypes of every church split. Having been so close when some slight difference is magnified into a bright line of division.

Given that such dissension is not unusual and even can be helpful in moving everyone along, who is this unnamed “loyal companion” called upon to assist Euodia and Syntyche? Having inhabited the role of intentional interim minister, I see this anonymous one as a patron saint of interim ministry.

With the work being outlined as the 5 tasks of an intentional interim: returning folks to community through a reestablishment of a common vision [(1)remembering who we have been & (2) determining who we want to be], redefining gentleness [(3)a key leadership trait], practicing prayers of  thanksgiving [(4) reconnecting with an experienced antidotes to divisive worry], and having peace stand guard at hearts and minds [(5) preparing space for a next generation]. Intentional interim Ministers do this work of salving distressed congregations through G*D who strengthens and beautifies.

Even as Advent has both a backward glance and forward glimpse of a larger picture than a pointillist’s present stroke, so, with Euodia and Syntyche, we remember past cooperation and look for a more mature consolidation of community.

Isaiah 12:2-6

Advent 3 - Year C

An interesting phrase: “G*D has become my salvation”.

Compare and contrast that with another statement: “G*D is my salvation”.

If salvation is connected with some form of wholeness, might we say, “G*D and I are becoming whole together”? What shifts in our addressing life if salvation is a process rather than either an accomplished end to be remembered or some result to be anticipated. This makes Advent more process oriented than focused on some external mechanism having left the stars and arrived at our humble abode. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Advent 3 - Year C

“Judgments removed here! Get your judgments removed here!” This would be a winner of a marketing campaign. Zephaniah is one testimonial for this way of wrongs being set right, whether they were initiated by you or against you. Our imaginary fears based on gleeful judgment could then be set aside.

Yes, this is supposable. Who wouldn’t want their shame to be turned into praise and renown?

Well, it turns out that there is no business like denial business. We seem to prefer continuing to be judged and to judge ourselves most harshly. Relying on external judgment turns out to preferable to taking responsibility for the consequences of not changing the present. Likewise, having been socialized into a niceness that cannot be lived up to every hour of our day has made us guilt addicts.

It may be that we have had our eye on the wrong prize. Having fortunes restored is not a large enough vision to pursue. Rather there is a more compelling picture available when we deal with being in the midst of our story and knowing that we are not alone [17a]. Before we know it we are in medias res of a story with no beginning. The outcome is not any more certain but the journey is less lonely.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Luke 3:7-18

Advent 3 - Year C

Living expectantly is a good thing. We can do so from a positive or a negative position. Whether expecting the worst or the best, our expectations do change our engagement with the world around us.

Expectations are motivational and perhaps a more discriminating reflection needs not to be between worst and best, but whether an expectation is based on something approximating reality so that we are not just operating habitually in a glass-half-full or half-empty manner. Can we expect either or both the worst and the best, not just one or the other, and begin to see which better fits a particular situation?

John is recorded as mostly being a worst-case motivator. As we move toward another shift in consciousness, my hope is that we not get stuck with wrath as our major source of energy to change. What about being motivated by love — as in love G*D, Neighb*r, S*lf, One-an*ther, and En*my? This seems to be more where John points as a revelation or recognition of an energized spirit even as he seems stuck on bad news as his way to get there.

So what is on your horizon? Disaster? Good Fruit?

Sunday, December 09, 2012


Advent 2 - Year C

order up
forgiveness prepared
feasted upon

pay up
repentance offered
generously tipped

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Philippians 1:1-11

Advent 2 - Year C

What are the limits of grace and peace. They are for the moment offered to the folks at Philippi. What about the churches listed in Revelation 2-3 and the warnings given to some?

If you are interested in being a messenger of creation-wide health, you may want to tack this prayer up and begin to memorize it as deeply as you can.

My love is intended to abound more and more, both in experience and understanding, that with clear conscience and compassionate conduct I will value that which really matters. My intention is to be rich in the harvest of justice that has ripened within. Amen [Meaning: this will please me, my Neighb*r,  and whatever of G*D that can be known]. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Luke 1:68-79

Advent 2 - Year C

G*D blessed through forgiveness. This passage suggests that such forgiveness was only mediated through an authorized route. Those who went before only had a promise of mercy extended to them. We, however, are the ones who experience this freeing.

All those who would rather live with a promise of mercy instead of that promise’s fullfillment - raise your hand. I trust that included you as living in a promise is no easier or harder than living with mercy that brings a clarifying light to keep us from excusing ourselves because we are confused or whose feet are mobilized to dramatize a way of peace in a time of no-peace. I trust you would have also raised your hand had the question been about a preference to live in merciful forgiveness. As has already been posited, they each are worth a hero’s quest.

To be clear-headed is no easy task. To trust what you see to be reality-based is not easy. And to follow where peace beckons is not only not easy, but very difficult.

Note: Usually a Psalm is found on these Wednesday postings. This is an insight into the energy level of a Psalm. Where a prophecy is occuring, it can easily take the form of a poem, either patterned or free-form. Even the most prosaic of prophecies is poetic. Listen to how prophesy rolls off the tongue no matter what its form or content.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Malachi 3:1-4

Advent 2 - Year C

Judgment needs a press secretary to spin the need for judgment. Knowing that the only outcome expected from Judgment is that we don’t measure up, we are tempted to believe there is no out from Judgment. At best it is a refiners fire that removes those parts that don’t measure up, even if that means there isn’t much left. Somehow or other cutting off pounds of flesh is supposed to make us better. Presumably once the soul has been disected out it will only reproduce after its own kind.

There are a lot of questions about a model that disavows choice and time. Somehow only good choices will be made. Somehow, in a moment of judgment, all is made clear so good choices are the only choice available.

So we prefer waiting for judgment rather than be proactive in building the kind of community that will honor, understand, encourage, and challenge its individual parts as well as itself through opportunities to further mature.

It would help if we were to remember that an anticipated messenger is none other than ourself and our neighbor. Proceed to attend to the message you are passing on.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Luke 3:1-6

Advent 2 - Year C

At the direst of times a word is always present: “Forgive—this is the preparation needed for a new creation.”

In this scripture we hear it in the midst of occupation by an empire. In the midst of other empires, including the current one, this same word can be heard. Each and every time, though, there is an argument over the mechanism authorizing forgiveness. In this case a process of baptism and repentance are the necessary ingredients for a meal of forgiveness. There are those who claim the mechanism necessary for the result. Really?

In the presence of an American empire that threatens with a variety of powers from nuclear to economic, a word of forgiveness is still present as every sea rises and every coast recedes, weather patterns shift and drought and rain change places. Whatever the way in which forgiveness might take place, it moves us closer to wholeness and health.

To preemptively give up a claim of privilege is a way of forgiveness. This takes years of practice and comes with no guarantee of technically swaying the present. Forgiveness is the advent season of healthy living. It has happened all along and is done in preparation of this and a next opportunity.

Friday, November 30, 2012

sign gazing

Advent 1 - Year C

sign up here
for the sign of your life
time will show
an heightened awareness
of sign behind sign
until sign is no more

and space
lovely shiney space
will polish any sign
so blindingly bright
it can’t be missed
but is routinely

finally massive speed
limits the trap
unexpectedly sprung
we zoom past siren ads
zip beyond deep thoughts
and bounce to a close

lift your soul
deepen your trust
teach an unknown
again learn for a first time
dreams lead home
thanks shake loose

how many weeks of signs
are needed
to see anew
a month of Sundays
even if none
gaze gently

Thursday, November 29, 2012

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Advent 1 - Year C

Here is a question for the year: No matter what the season, are we actually experiencing an increase of abundant love for one another and for all?

This will call for individual work (prayer) and communal work (restoration).

If we can make some progress on this during the coming church year we will find our hearts strengthened for more years of building on how far we have come. Is this or is this not a time to go beyond the making of a resolution to the implementation of steps that will help us arrive.

This quote may help us: “His mother had often said, When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. She had emphasized the corollary of this axiom even more vehemently: when you desired a consequence you had damned well better take the action that would create it.” -Lois McMaster Bujold, writer (b. 1949)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Psalm 25:1-10

Advent 1 - Year C

What promise are you looking for? Two typical ones are being triumphant or living faithfully. 

This psalm seems to be most interested in winning over others by having picked or been picked by a most powerful god or totem.

Key words here include trouble, shame, guilt, guarded life, and some sense of eternal truth beyond local reality.

If these become less important we can jump to the end of this pericope to focus on what it takes for us to develop and continue in a sense of being a part of a whole - being humble. Here the focus becomes our faithfulness, our promise fulfillment, our covenant, our word. This doesn’t focus on guilt or prevailing. Rather we look at simply using our gifts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jeremiah 33:14-18

Advent 1 - Year C

Justice delayed is said to be no justice at all. Apparently promises live in a different arena of life for here a delayed fulfillment of a promise is called righteous.

David is to provide justice (no delay) and to exemplify righteousness (great delay). David, like all of us, is made of such competing values.

Even though justice and righteousness have been pulled apart here to look at a tension between them, the use of parallelism would mean that one can’t happen without the other — they reveal one another.

So, given the opportunity to look back over yesterday or this day, how have justice and righteousness operated in your life? Have the been separated or not? If there has been separation and you desire to begin shifting to have them parallel one another, you may want to simply consider who might be in an unsafe place and to join them in their danger that you might better advocate as an ally.

A weekly evaluation of the relationship between justice and righteousness in your life and practice at bringing them ever so much closer to one another promises significant changes after a year. Is this a promise you are willing to trust and try?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Luke 21:25-36

Advent 1 - Year C

Signs are present. Signs come in innumerable guises. Some will see them as a destructive judgment. Some will see them as next opportunities. Some won’t see them at all.

Those who are able to see through their hard-wiring or experience will be able to shift. Some will flee from wrath. Some will walk boldly forward.

Signs not only come to be present, they fade from their once presence. Signs are as frail as the leaves of a deciduous tree - spring green, productive day-after-day, celebrative in completion, and fertilizing the future. No one of them is normative.

If not signs, what may stay with us? We can claim it to be words, but they are just signs of signs. It is not the “words” here that are lasting, but what they describe — alertness to how to honorably stand and assist others to do the same.

Clarifying and strengthening an ability to stand, clear-eyed, is worth a year’s endeavor. Can you imagine how individuals, congregations and other communities might grow by the end of November next year by working on this orientation rather than on mediating words? Neither can I. But it sounds worthy of our best.

Friday, November 23, 2012

a voice crying

Pentecost Last - Year B

there is no end
to beginning anew
as long as
we don’t stop
to proclaim truth

when here
becomes as there
we’ve seen clockwise
turn counter-clockwise
for there becomes

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Revelation 1:4b-8

Pentecost Last - Year B

On a culmination day when thanksgiving in the present might be the case, we are still looking forward. Look  to the clouds, notorious for their chageability, everyone will see a cloud that looks like Jesus, even those who are against him. Good luck with that. Claiming Jesus is like catching a cloud formation and freezing it into place. Even then, take three steps to the right, and its gone.

More to the point, incarnationally G*D is with us, already. Any waiting on our part is an excuse to not make the changes available to us to join the healthy of every tradition. With time up for this year, we will give it one more try to see if we can live in the present without a diploma. We have been in medias res and we continue to be in the middle of a story. No artificial final Sunday will change that. Onward to our most realistic of seasons - Advent.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18)

Pentecost Last - Year B

The last Sunday of a church year might be thought to be a resting place. We’ve worked on peace for generations now. Surely one more year would have seen us arrive at a time for sabbath.

The Psalm anticipates an eternal monarchy, the best governance available for eons. At some point, though, recognition was bound to happen that the end-all and be-all of our relationship with G*D is not keeping current classes going in perpetuity, albeit with the poor getting enough bread to subsist on, which isn’t always the case.

If the best we can do is to have “The Lord rise up and go to a resting place” we have missed much in the way of growing into G*D ourselves. This is a static image that time cannot abide. And so in our end is our beginning — G*D is loose. Get a head start on Advent, begin your yearly game of hide-and-seek with G*D, Neighb*r, and Y*ourself today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2 Samuel 23:1-7

Pentecost Last - Year B

Can one rule over another justly? I expect you know that is an extended oxymoron.

A larger question is how we can assist one another to live justly. This takes the best of each of us, even from those who model simply ruling over others.

If you are looking for an everlasting covenant that orders and secures all things, you’ve mistaken David and Pilate for Jesus. Order and security are ultimately unjust. Just note the ending that those the orderly and security-minded consider to be thorns in their side are summarily thrown aside. Order and security demand G*D to be on their side. No rising up of the youngest or most unexpected will be allowed.

On this culmination of a year’s work toward being a bit more whole, we have a passage that warns rather than congratulates us. David is putting the best spin he can on his short time as king, but it can’t cover-up the disaster to come or the difficulties so easily forgotten. This spin doesn’t bring a webbed marvel, but only dizziness for being so out of touch with our realties.

May you imagine a much better covenant than order and security even if it breaks your heart at being so distant.

Monday, November 19, 2012

John 18:33-37

Pentecost Last - Year B

A most intriguing passage for a Sunday traditionally called Christ the King. This is a series of direct questions with slippery responses.

“Are you King of the Jews?” [In a context of Roman occupation, what would any response to this question mean?]

“Who’s asking?”, asks Jesus. This sends us on our first trip. The question is no longer that of hierarchy, but behavior - “What have you done?”

And Jesus spins around again. “My kingdom is not from this world.” So does this respond to the first question about kingship or is it a one-hand clapping statement? Kings are very much of this world. They can’t be king without the world allowing it. What is this other world?

Pilate took the bait with a presumption that this was a response to his first question. “ are a king!”

“You keep harping on power when I’m talking about an authenticity or truth beyond political or religious privilege,” clarifies Jesus.

Conveniently the lection cuts Pilates retort of “What is truth?” as he spins to leave the room. So Pilate doesn’t have to hear Jesus mutter, “The truth is you are Governor of Nothing and never will be the King you desire to be.”

Whether you call it Christ the King Sunday or the Reign of Christ, Jesus says you got it wrong and the church won’t be a source of healing until it puts such arrogance away. This is especially the case when the following week we claim the failure of kingdom talk with the beginning of a needed Advent or start on a different journey than the crazy-making one of repeating doctrines as if they were factual.

Friday, November 16, 2012

all fall down

Pentecost +25 - Year B

look out
a stone wall
meticulously made
all foundations squared
each arch keystoned perfectly
is on its way down

“good walls” don’t make “good neighbors”
what is thought to be walled out
isn’t what is walled out
that desired to be walled in
can’t be kept in
walls are fantasies

we justify boundaries
when we fear everything’s not alright
show our fear of G*D
show our fear of Neighb*r

and sure enough
tear down a wall 
and fighting ensues
we will prove our premise
foundations will shake
when stones fall

and yet
this is but a beginning
of a new way
enclosed garden
wide wide-earth
again friends

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25

Pentecost +25 - Year B

What a huge stone is repetition. Sisyphus knew all about this. And yet this story is not the end of the story, but a beginning of new insight that doing the same thing over again expecting a different outcome just won’t cut it.

So how do we resolve a Gordian Knot of Sisyphean fate?

Pay attention to our current heart, our lived experience. It is through our flesh that our spirit will be freed. This experience is our hope - our resolution that we will not repeat intermediary responses but provoke new love, new deeds of common good.

May you be a Jesus to those in your life who play priest over others.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Pentecost +25 - Year B

A prayer is a psalm, a song of the heart.

Try this one from Jim Taylor . . .


The Lectionary suggests 1 Samuel 2:1-10 as the psalm reading for Sunday November 18. It’s supposed to be Hannah’s song, celebrating her pregnancy, but aside from verse 5 which refers to “the barren” bearing children, it sounds to me more like the victory cry of a triumphant military general. I tried to recast it (rather loosely, I admit) as a woman finally becoming a mother.

Oh, my God, what’s happening to me?
I feel new life moving within me.
It kicks my kidneys; it compresses my bladder;
I love it!
They said it couldn’t happen.
They said I would never have a child.
Now they have to eat their words.

I thought it was my fault.
I wasn’t trying hard enough.
I didn’t realize God couldn’t act
       until I quit trying to run things my way,
       until I quit playing God.
God helps the helpless; the rest just help themselves.

My clock was running out;
Menopause lurked beneath the bed.
Then it happened -- the spark of life!

I don’t know what lies ahead –
       it may be heaven, it may be hell.
I don’t care; I’m committed.
I’m committed to life; I’m committed for life.
There is no turning back now.
I know, beyond any flicker of doubt,
       that this is what God intended for me.
My child may be a genius or a dunce,
       a cello virtuoso or penniless poet…
But God will watch over her.
God will give her the strength I cannot give.

I had lost hope.
I shall call her Hope.

For this and other paraphrases, you can order Everyday Psalms through Wood Lake Publications, or 1-800-663-2775.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

1 Samuel 1:4-20

Pentecost +25 - Year B

One of the biggest blocks to moving ahead is our perception that day follows day, year follows year. Eventually we are reduced to tears. We loose track of what we have (a loving Elkanah) and can’t see that we will have to give up that which we have yearned for (a potential Samuel).

Do apply the stages of grief to this short story.

After doing so, don’t confuse getting through a grief with a particular result. Finally going in peace with a promise of fulfillment is not the same as arriving at some “due time” that is your due. Playing the grim-determination-of-the-soul game is no guarantee of getting what you desire. While rejoicing in a Samuel, I can still refrain from buying into Hannah’s process of wanting something she promises to leave behind if only her want can be fulfilled.

Do apply the placebo effect to this short story.

After doing so, don’t confuse effect with cause.

Mark 13:1-8

Pentecost +25 - Year B

I've been off lection task for a week plus. I come back to find the stones of scripture and tradition seeming larger than before my break. How can they be addressed with such small resources as reason and experience? Where is an entry spot into some larger meaning they represent and cover at the same time?

There is comfort in hearing that they are not so huge. My fears make them larger than life but the reality is that not one word of scripture or stone of tradition will remain to block what is aborning. Both the scripture and the tradition record where we have been in our search for meaning. They report a portion of our journey, but are not predictive of what's next. Moving into and through a next good dark night will mean raging against residual luminescence. As the poet says:
          Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
          And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
          Do not go gentle into that good night.

Beware. Many will claim to be a voice of tomorrow while consolidating today under their control. Many will discount new birth out of fear of the discontinuity it brings in its wake. But the end of yesterday is but the beginning of the birthpangs of tomorrow. There is no easier way through.

What a welcome back - large stones that aren't. How disorienting; how hopeful.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Psalm 146

Pentecost +23 - Year B

Which of these qualities ascribed to G*D is most important to you today? 
For how long has that been the case? 
Do you feel a new arena beginning to open?

G*D is:
faithful forever
does justice for the oppressed
feeds the hungry
frees prisoners
opens blind eyes
lifts the fallen
honors the good
protects strangers
sides with orphans and widows
brings down powers

Which do you ascribe to or aspire to? 
For how long?
What arena of life needs to be added here?

Ruth 1:1-18

Pentecost +23 - Year B

1st rule: Don’t disappoint by Dying.

   2nd rule: Go back Home.

      3rd rule: Secure Borders.

         4th rule: Break Boundaries.

            5th rule: It’s OK to go Back.

               6th rule: It’s OK to go Ahead.

                  7th rule: Determine your limit of Determination.

Now which of these is most important? When? With Whom?

Mark 12:28-34

Pentecost +23 - Year B

It is always tempting to cut to the chase. What is the most important commandment? What is the main thing that is supposed to be the main thing? What’s the basic principle here?

Unfortunately there is nothing that is singular. Note this from an article about Gravitational Singularity: “The two most important types of spacetime singularities are curvature singularities and conical singularities. Singularities can also be divided according to whether they are covered by an event horizon or not....”

There may be no other commandments greater than “loving” G*D and Neighb*r, but there will be those that will be similar to them in particularity instead of generality. After all loving Neighb*r looks quite different through the lens of Obama or Romney or you or me. And so it is with some generalized love of G*D.

The most that perhaps can be said here is that physical symbols and decision-making processes cannot take the place of relationships. When we base our interactions on some form of power, we have missed something “more important”.

May you continue to question your religious tradition about what in the world general commandments mean in a particular situation you are facing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

make an entrance

Pentecost +22 - Year B

remember your entrance
life has been going on
plots have been laid down
new lines are available

not all is clear
blind spots raise tension
denial blocks opportunities
hope rides on anyway

help is always in order
even as it is out of order
clenched teeth are one option
calling out another

the needy call out the healthy
will they be left to beg
will mercy be chosen
will partnership die aborning

the world stands still
as pre-existing conditions
meet new occasions
and spin off new duties

what is your claim
your analysis of need
what is your gift
your mercy quotient

to see past a script
to see again for a first time
to edit the present
to revision the future

hark - a new line
shifts settled plots
from tragedy to comedy
remember to enter

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hebrews 7:23-28

Pentecost +22 - Year B

We do look for immortality. We look back and see how many have gone before. This is discouraging for our sense of importance and star-power. If we are a part of this parade, “Another one done gone” will be said of us, too. If we look ahead we see how soon we will shift position within a cloud of witnesses - from active to supportive - we could become even more discouraged.

So it is we are drawn to concretize ideals and models of permanence. We are also creatures of habit and so our ideals are shaped by our past as well as a vision of a preferred bright future glimpsed through unpolarized and darkened glass.

It was once easy to envision Jesus as a High Priest writ large. But a question needs raising: “Any progress been made in 2,000 plus years?” Does a model of external authority, expanded to also be an excellent and expansive authority, still work in a quantum oriented world. When sun and moon and stars were seen to orbit around us, this model may have had some redeeming quality. But now seeing ourselves in an outer spiral arm of one of billions of galaxies and gazing into what were previously unseeable fields, the whole book of Hebrews needs a make-over. Go ahead, add your version.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)

Pentecost +22 - Year B

Affirmations are a good way to approach life. It is far better to say what you trust to be the case than to mutter about what you don’t believe. For one thing it’s simpler, fewer moving parts. To say everything that isn’t takes far more energy than to claim the little that can be be put forward.

An exception to the general rule of affirmation is affirmation based on moveable ground. This results in a sense that if you just say it forcefully enough, it is bound to be true even if it contradicts what was said just a moment ago. So it is that we are saved from every trouble. And now every trouble plus this one. Oh, and this one. No matter what the trouble, don’t complain, be radiant. G*D gets us out of every mess someone else gets us into.

This is a Psalm that could have been written by Mitt Romney. No one who runs to him to invest will lose out. Everyone who follows will prosper. What do you need to hear, that is stated. What does G*D need to hear, it is already said.

The Psalms are political/theological writing. They put forward a point of view of a plan, control, and claimed success. Unfortunately these posit more than can be known. Don’t lie through your teeth (verse 13) is a much harder standard than no profanity (same verse). Clean language does not indicate a clean heart.

Go ahead and claim G*D is in the midst of every trouble, just don’t err on the side of saying G*D is some transcendent get-out-of-jail-free card you carry up your sleeve to pull out in extremis. Make your affirmation, live it, and take the consequences that come with a still growing creation.

- - - - - - -

Note: Relatedly, this excerpt from Jim Taylor --– “If there’s a belief system operating here, it’s that I -- whoever I am -- exist separately from the world around me. The laws that apply to everyone else -- human laws or natural laws -- don’t apply to me. I transcend them.
       “It’s such a universal belief that I wonder if it influences our religious faith. Almost every religion imagines its god or gods as transcendent. They live on Mount Olympus or in heaven. They don’t grow old or catch colds. They live beyond our petty limitations.
       “After all, why would I want a God who is less than I am? If I can think of myself as above the realities of my world, wouldn’t any god be more so?”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Pentecost +22 - Year B

No matter what the apparent disadvantage, to thine own self be true lest you simply follow the money. This is no easy matter when an adversary cannot be thwarted. Whether we are talking blindness, happenstance, or a kingly god to deal with, the reality of honorable loss is an Eastern trait to be affirmed and nurtured.

The storyline is that one will literally get twice what was taken away. Blessed are the blind for they are such good musicians and blessed is parenthood a second time around.

It’s a nice story all too easily bought into. Somehow we keep ending up with a prosperity gospel which does not speak of reality rightly. Instead of this being a wonderful set-up for a punchline that G*D is Awesome!, we might more simply pay attention to what is available for us to do in any given moment. Claiming harm when harm is done is a righteous act. Knowing when we are in beyond our knowing is a grounding in the face of a tree of temptation. Track the process of yesterday’s blind man and Job, not some magical resolution.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mark 10:46-52

Pentecost +22 - Year B

Imagine what it would be like to be walking down the street and for someone to overhear your being identified with a specific congregation. Now imagine their response, the equivalent of a knee-jerk exclamation, "Hey You! Member of XX congregation, have mercy on me!"

Why do we make it so hard on folks to know what they might expect from us?

Well, for one thing, who wants to get called out with an expectation of making a difference right here, right now? The risk of failure to live up to another's expectation is high.

If we were to find ourselves in this setting it would be easy to pray in Jesus' name, thinking that would take care of it and we could go on our way. The model here, however, is more relational than technical. Would we have the wisdom to first ask, "Hey, yourself, whatcha want?"

Having found this out, now we can engage more constructively with an immediate band-aid or building a communal response to a systemic dysfunction.

First things first, what is your congregation known for? Without this who would know to engage you with expectation?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Psalm 22:1-15

Pentecost +20 - Year B

Who can be saved? Surely not me from this Laurel and Hardy mess.

I have giggled, and now I weep.

I’ve come through so much. We have come through so much. Is it only to find ourselves on the scrap-heap of history and hope?

There is never enough wealth. Never enough power. Never enough prestige. Put simply, there is never enough.

A wrong question keeps being asked: “As I push you out of the way, I wonder how G*D will help you?”

Better questions are: “Why do I find so much pleasure in pushing you down?” or “Am I my neighbor’s?” or “What is my relationship to you?”

Having lost a neighborhood where we can walk and talk in the cool of the evening, how do we reestablish neighborliness, a neighborhood, and neighbors?

Some old understandings of behaving well — no stealing, no lying, etc. — serve well, but with a periodic psychopath/sociopath rising up with with followers excusing their bad behavior in light of their supposed cause, more than behavior control is needed. Unfortunately the something more that is needed is difficult to attain and maintain — perspective beyond one’s own experience and speculations.

Without a glimpse of a larger community with significant interactions, we keep falling back into easy answers — wealth trickles down rather than building up, so I’ll keep mine for me. Wealth proves G*D provides for those who persevere in hard work, so keep yanking on your bootstraps. Wealth is evidence of wisdom, so listen to your betters. Et cetera, et cetera, and etc.

Job 23:1-17

Pentecost +20 - Year B

Job 23:1-17

Today my complaint is bitter!
What must I do to assure something better?

Groaning is not enough.

But contend where?
With whom?

Arguing and debating is slippery territory.
Even integrity is not enough here.

Sparks don’t illumine far in a deep darkness.
But we glimpse enough for now.

From dark chaos we have come; to thick darkness we return.
From ashes you have come; to ashes you shall return.

Treasure what little is known.
Here we stand and from here we leap.

Mark 10:17-31

Pentecost +20 - Year B

Mark 10:17-31

Interested in eternity? Pay attention to now.

If you are interested in more about finding the whole in a part, I recommend this short blog by Jim Taylor.

Interested in lasting wealth? Be generous with currency in need of constant replacement ($1 bill estimated life span is 4.8 years; $100 bill is in use for 17.9 years - according to the US Federal Reserve)

Pursuing happiness will have something to do with coming to terms with parts and wholes and what Eugene Peterson calls the “Great Reversal”.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hebrews 1:1-5, 2:5-12

Pentecost +19 - Year B

Hebrews 1:1-5, 2:5-12

The authoress of Hebrews claims a Son is more persuasive than a Prophet. In the end, it turns out not to be the case. Jesus as prophet is still a better image than “son of G*D”. It turns out that G*D does not have an exact clone, reflection, image — even that of Jesus.

There is also an attempt to make Jesus a better messenger than angels. It turns out that people don’t listen, no matter what the supposed pedigree of the messenger.

Finally we don’t see the past, present, or future worlds under the control of our better angels. The same goes for Jesus. It has taken more than two centuries, but it is clear that building a theocracy in the midst of a fallible world fails as ever greater claims need to be made connecting rulers with their identified overlord. And, soon or late, the faults of temporal leaders are projected on what is more and more seen as an idol. When this happens both fall and fade.

No amount of scriptural jujitsu of some subjected suffering becoming an atoning action will lift such a limited theory into the realm of eternal truth. Religious spin is no more persuasive than political spin. Eventually you can’t even fool some of the people.

Let’s go back to the deleted first verse of chapter two with a key clarification: Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have “experienced”, so that we do not drift away from a “deeper wholeness”.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Psalm 26

Pentecost +19 - Year B

Psalm 26

Need vindication for some awkward situation? Attend to your integrity.

This Psalm is one list of values and behaviors. It is neither an all encompassing list nor one that pertains to everyone. Our call, here, is to see a movement and then to evaluate whether it would be helpful for current needs.

A key repeated word is “integrity”. This ancient Hebrew word comes from a root that points at a completedness, a having been single-mindedly used up in an endeavor. It has been additionally translated to indicate: completedness, fullness, innocence, simplicity.

This makes it easy to sound like a broken record: “I, I, I.”

It is less easy to claim integrity simply by living as though it were true. This political season shows how easy it is for “integrity” to flow into self-aggrandizement, speaking of oneself in the third person, and going negative on others.

One needed measurement of integrity not often used is that of blessing. One of integrity’s first acts is blessing G*D and Neighb*r in a given situation. This is an indication of being full of blessing from having been blessed. It is a sign of assurance.

This becomes clearer when we paraphrase the last two verses:
I remember being graciously healed and claim this as my way ahead.
In the midst of many options, I choose a foundation of blessing from which to encounter life.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Job 1:1, 2:1-10

Pentecost +19 - Year B

Job 1:1, 2:1-10

This passage concludes with “Job did not sin with his lips”. How many ways have you avoided sinning? and how many ways have you sinned? Let us count the ways.

There is an old saying that “sticks and stones may break bones, but names will never hurt”. Here it is loathsome sores may afflict, but lips will never sin.

To go beyond the physical, what about questions? Can we say that “questions may discourage, but responses can remain gentle”?

More to the point, what is a difficulty that you are facing this day? Have you considered a different response than your usual knee-jerk one? This passage can come alive if we take a look at a disconnect available between stimuli and response. This is deliberately phrased in the plural for what it is we face, as almost anyone can deal with one cause and one effect. It is when the stimuli of life gang up on us and reinforce one another. Can’t you just hear the Tester or Confuser orchestrate this:
Stimulus 1, enter stage right.
Stimulus 2, enter stage left.
Stimulus 3, enter by wire from above.
Stimulus 4, enter on elevator from below.
Stimulus 5, enter from upstage.
Stimulus 6, enter through the 4th wall.
Stimulus 7, enter from within a sense of privilege.
Actor, Ad-lib.
And our perfect storm of excuses for having returned a tit for a tat swirls on and on. It is good to pull out for generations.

When a next question comes, what will be your level of defensiveness? And another, how might you detach the stimuli from your response?

Mark 10:2-16

Pentecost +19 - Year B

Mark 10:2-16

It is important to identify your source of authority. Pharisees asked a question and Jesus began with their standard source — “according to Moses...”.

Given that we all operate out of a variety of authorities, depending on circumstance and need, it is always interesting to note which authority is standing behind your latest question.

Back to the story. Hearing a standard Pharisaical response, Jesus basically says, “I’ll see your Moses and raise you a Creation.”

Do jot out your best guess about another 3 interchanges between the Pharisees and Jesus. It is all too easy to stop with Jesus trumping the Pharisees and that’s the end of that so we’ll now turn to the disciples sometime later. Pause. How would the Pharisees have responded to Jesus attempt to predate their contract to replace it?

Now, for part two of the extended story. Can you see the brokenness of divorce resulting in two children crying after a disagreement? Yes it is hard words about divorce and adultery are recorded, but that is the emotional setting, not a doctrine. So what to do? Condemn them both to no community-recognized relationship commitment? Pick them up, like little children, wipe away their tears, and reclaim them as beloved of G*D? Something in between?

From a test comes an affirmation. See it under light and apply liberally. Repeat.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

James 5:13-20

Pentecost +18 - Year B

James 5:13-20

This passage makes it easy to confuse what it attempts to clarify.

What is not clear is the distinction between “suffering” and “sick”. Our tendency is to equate these.

Suffering is affliction from the outside and this falls in the great prophetic tradition of dealing with evil as a systemic reality, with a falling away from best community practices. Prayer, here is not a quietism. Note the example given of Elijah and the elements. Why was drought seen as a result of prayer? or rain? It was to address systemic injustice arising as a result of breaking communal care (think Ahab and Jezebel). Prayer is an open-eyed engagement with the principalities and powers. We do prayer an injustice in making it a solitary appeal for a deus ex machina to be engaged. Prayer is bold and confrontative. Prayer is not head-bowed petition as much as an in-your-face claim or affirmation.

While being sick can be too easily equated with a lack of faith, it is in contrast to suffering by its internal orientation—something we do to ourselves (even if expressed as hurting another) and its source is from the inside out. Here we look to models of community that elders and shamans from every culture engage to reset a person’s relationships that bring meaning and strength. Here, too, prayer is active, is anointing, dancing, purging, etc.

A grand model responding to both is restorative justice. That which harms others, be it systemic or personal, can be redeemed, restored. It is this restoration that measures prayer.

If we had these two better paralleled we might better see their connections and distinctions.

A difficulty or possibility in making this connection lies with how we engage blessings. How does song parallel prayer?

Were I advising James on his letter, I would ask for another word or two about prayer and singing. This expansion might unpack deeds entrusted to reset broken relationships/covenants. This extension might clarify faithful work that engages not only past contracts but new potentials arising out of subsequent experiences.

As we continue to learn more about insides and outsides, prayers and psalms, hopes and dreams — lift up your voice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Psalm 124

Pentecost +18 - Year B

Psalm 124

It is so easy to feel the world is against us. Evidence piles on evidence that this is a dangerous place. No wonder we focus on original sin and displace a dangerous outside situation to be our self-image of sinner worm.

Then, when we sneak by some particular difficulty, we return to the outside and claim some external force intervened (having claimed our evil nature, we can’t blatantly turn around and claim we conquered). Hooray for G*D who left us alone long enough to feel endangered and then came back to be acclaimed.

For the moment consider your weakness and G*D’s strength.

Having duly considered, what happens if weakness and strength were more closely aligned with all parts of the system within which we find ourselves? You have weaknesses, you have strength. G*D has weaknesses (why else would periodic repentance be self-reported?) as well as strengths.

Now, re-write this Psalm in light of a deeper partnership.

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22

Pentecost +18 - Year B

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22

The story of Herod, Salome, and John the Baptist, with Herodias orchestrating from the side, has nothing on the story of Ahasuerus, Esther, and Haman, with Mordecai pulling strings off-stage. Were Haman’s kin to tell this story it may well have Haman honored as a martyr.

In some of the missing verses (7:7-8), we have a direct encounter between Esther and Haman. What were Esther’s options at this point? Why take the one she did?

These questions remind us of the options we have, but often don’t consider. We also bring back to mind that decisions have several components to them, only some of which are we aware. Hopefully these will aid us in finding a way to feast simply to feast and to be merciful simply to be merciful, not to either show off our wealth or commemorate and sweeten the bitterness of revenge.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mark 9:38-50

Pentecost +18 - Year B

Mark 9:38-50

“Someone missed a comma in our authorized orthodoxy! Off with their head!”

So immature disciples react before the individual components of a larger teaching have connected with one another into a nuanced whole larger than the sum of its parts.

At stake is not who is exactly for us or against us, but the connection of folks to deeper powers than they can claim for themselves. Regardless of motivation, whether it comes from one religious tradition or another or none, a blessing is a blessing and receives yet more blessing.

To put a stumbling block in front others based on one’s limited experience is to reduce the value of gifts, including one’s own. When one gift is discounted it turns out that all are reduced. Gifts, like common-wealth, depend on a matrix of gifts that enhance the environment in which they operate.

Consider a list of gifts from Romans 12: Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leadership, and Mercy.

Try prophecying in a culture that does not value teaching carefully considered relationships between categories of life and you’ll see your gift is bound to be relegated to the weird or witchcraft. Exhortation without modeled service based on it turns anything said into pious mouthings and outmoded creedal responses to glimpses of a new heaven and earth. Giving and Mercy unconnected to Leadership reduces giving and mercy to personalized charity bandaids rather than going to the heart of systems to stop hurt being done in the first place and turns our concept of leadership into variations of patriarchy where a few know what’s best for all.

In some sense we don’t get this gift of multiplication without going through difficulties that offer the possibility of seeing beyond the limits of simply addding one cultural platitude to another and glimpsing a better-seasoned life by applying an appropriate tool or gift (mine or someone else's) in a given situation.

Nurture an internal refining fire based on a basic question, “Why not?” and you’ll find a new appreciation for renewal through encounters with “others”. Your gifts will enhance others and their gifts will enhance yours. Now we have a basis for choosing peace together. Peace based on a widening and deepening of gifts is not sweet and ideal, but savory and practical.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a

Pentecost +17 - Year B

James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a

Interesting how inversions cast an important light on on-going realities.

It is one thing to suggest that envy and selfish ambition come from within and purity and gentility are from some far off place.

It is quite another to posit that creation is good and that when we lose track of the elements of everyday life by fantasizing power, plotting wealth, and competing unfairly we are dealing with external idolatries.

If we were to stand this apology for external goodness on its head we may be able to end on a different note — Draw near to your created intention and gift and you draw near to G*D as well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Psalm 1

Pentecost +17 - Year B

Psalm 1

It is not necessary to posit wicked people or sinners as a source of human difficulty. All that is needed is to consider our everyday responses toward getting more. In particular we are intrigued with getting enough power to be able to get our way. Whether two or teen or troubled (and who isn’t), we fantasize about getting what we want when we want it.

Shorthand: we want to be the greatest, we want to prosper just by sitting by a river of wealth.

What does this everday desire have to do with equality, with honoring the disadvantaged?

Well, not too much.

Regarding a righteous/prosperous connection, there is never enough proof that we are either. When righteousness is equated with prosperity, our energy goes to gaining more, not giving more. This is as good a measurement of the meaning of life as we are going to get, so heed it well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Proverbs 31:10-31

Pentecost +17 - Year B

Proverbs 31:10-31

A good and capable wife/woman is hard to find. This starting point makes it difficult to have any but a periodic female exemplar. It excuses much even as it is usually perceived as an accolade.

This proverb is testament to women having to work more than twice as hard to simply hold on to half the respect simply due any person.

Focus here on verses 23 and 31. Husbands/men can be counted among the public deciders simply because they are male. Wives/women show their competency and yet there is only a recommendation that they find personal praise sufficient, rather than public decision-making. Here it is recommended that she have a living wage for communal/household work (any work) and be electable/respected in the marketplace of ideas. Recommendations here are pats on the back rather than actual partnership in community affairs.

All the praises here heaped upon women turn out to be flattery, not serious participation in the decisions of life. And patriarchy, expressed today as capitalism, continues, co-opting women and children and poor men. G*D have mercy and help us see ourselves as we are seen so some modicum of hope might be held out for moving on from this stuck place.

Mark 9:30-37

Pentecost +17 - Year B

Mark 9:30-37

And again we find ourselves in a normal state of affairs - going on from “there”. It is helpful to leave “there” for leaving “here” is always difficult. Our attachements here grow quickly and deep.

Even further, we find that we are not only leaving “there” but doing so on the sly.

Jesus needn’t have worried about being quite up-front about his view of the disaster headed his way - death and destruction which will turn from conflict to celebration. This is never something folks take to easily. Denial runs strong in our DNA - Don’t kNow Anything.

Not only is this such a foreign approach, to head directly for the crux of the matter, where the most heat is, it is beyond foreign — invisible and unable to be asked about.

Instead of wrestling with this meta-view, folks distracted themselves the way we often do, conversing about power, drawing straws for a favored position. Americans do the same every two, four, or six years with the distraction of voting rather than looking at what is coming down the pike. We may have missed the violence at the beginning of an Industrial Age, but we seem to be moving toward it at a rapid pace, here at the end of the Age. The environment has been raped and the poor also. Children have not been been welcomed to their future, only to a past empty of all but financial profit. The gulf between G*D and Mammon has grown exponentially.

May this time of transition be a “there” soon left as we decide to not argue among ourselves, but rise, throw off chains of death and enslavement and move forward to occupy community resources for the larger community.

Friday, September 14, 2012

a humble butt

Pentecost +16 - Year B

we are in life together
agreeing or not
we are interacting
caring or not
we are connected

who then am I
a projection
of the whole
defined by parentage
or tribe or peers

who then am I
with both a persona
and a person
bound together

you get first crack
at defining me
but be tentative
and gentle
it is too easy to be narrow

I get another crack
at positioning myself
with assertion
and affirmation
it is too easy to be narrowed

after cracking together
it is usually time
to back away
to re-engage
or better consider

our goat-selves would
butt and butt again
when humility would ask
room to recognize gifts
and applaud their use

for encouraging support
for course correction
both gift my gift

for challenge
you're welcome
for extension
you're welcome
my gift at work

now who am I
who are you
more than imagined
less than needed

Thursday, September 13, 2012

James 3:1-12

Pentecost +16 - Year B

James 3:1-12

Why should a select few be known as teachers? This begins to rank and thus to breakdown the value of gifts given by one spirit or to enforce an economic ranking of them. Surely value is not based on being judged with a greater strictness. If we begin to vary the strictness or flexibility of gifts usage, what little community we have falls further apart.

A better clue is given with the example of a forked tongue that can shift in a moment from praise to blame. Teachers have a weird ability to parcel out encouragement and beckoning forward in a variety of styles to meet the resistances of those willing to learn with them. Teachers also have an ability to refrain from speaking more than they know.

So many of us want to be perceived as wise and so we make up things when asked about what we don't know. Speculation and over-parsing nuance make up so much of our time together. Even when asked about what we do know we get so wrapped up in our explanations that we lose track of who asked a question and whether our response has gone so far past their ability to follow that we would go on forever, piling detail upon detail.

One model seldom tried is for teachers to teach how to teach that everyone might teach about their own gift. In this sense, we need more and more teachers, not preparers for tests or spreaders of information without context.

Here is a strict judgment perhaps equivalent to being a strict conservative: We are in the cultural quandaries we are in because we have devalued teachers by idealizing them. Each of us is accountable for the current state of affairs. We have not been willing to be taught or to teach basic community processes and our place in them. To this end, pray for those who can be clear about questions and responses (not answers) and next questions - teachers.

Psalm 19

Pentecost +16 - Year B

Psalm 19

There is experience aplenty. There is not language sufficient to express it. Every expression is an attempt to say more than can be said and a container that captures and constrains some aspect of an experience, portraying it as a complete whole.

The same is true about any attempt to comment on a religious collection. Whether Qur'an, Tanakh, Gospels, Epistles, Book of Mormon, Sutta Pitaka, Upanishads, and on and on - explanations are a second and further distance from the stimulus for the text.

Since we are meaning-seeking creatures we are able to use second, third, or fourth explanations as a trigger for our attempt to hold the day and night in place rather than to be held by them or with them in even larger "hands".

In this Psalm, someone experienced their celebration of a key relationship as a new day in their life. They used their undefinable joy in the event to describe a glimpse of the workings of the universe. Well done? Yes. Sufficient? No. Now we are stuck with undefinable joy as a cover for every jot and tittle of Law.

Sun and moon might bring us laws of motion, but laws of relationship - not so much. And so we continue the struggle to understand experience, to know who we are, to shape a future. This difficulty of expression is no excuse, though, to avoid an on-going wrestling with identity - ours, others, and all.

Homework: write a poem (any form) about the significance of your favorite fingernail or Mars landing or your friend. Share it with no further explanation. Rejoice that you don't even know the half of what you write and that much less of other explanations. Rejoice you can still proceed with these large empty ranges.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Proverbs 1:20-33

Pentecost +16 - Year B

Proverbs 1:20-33

Howsomever we identify, we eat the fruit of our way.

This approach to the desired and undesired parts of our life and the life of others and all together does not justify the way in which we interact. There will be folks who get away with mean and nasty acts all their life and others cut short well before their prime. This is not about karma or reincarnation. It has to do with self-justification and an excuse to continue a journey we might otherwise shift.

Evelyn Underhill puts it this way:
The true rule of poverty consists in giving up those things which enchain the spirit, divide its interests, and deflect it on its road to God--whether these things be riches, habits, religious observances, friends, interests, distastes, or desires--not in mere outward destitution for its own sake. It is attitude, not act, that matters; self-denudation would be unnecessary were it not for our inveterate tendency to attribute false value to things the moment they become our own.
Eating the fruit of our way is the reinforcement of a habit or a way of approaching life. Some of this seems to be hardwired, but even that can be amenable to choices made regarding what we will attend to. To begin eating the fruit of another way, of another's life or identity, draws us closer to their experience of life. Here lies the possibility of community that calls us to accountability for the whole of life, not just our own.

In the care of the larger the smaller is also cared for - infra-structure for all is a blessing. Concentration of wealth in a few is a fever indicator of the ill-health of a community. O, we could go on about the importance of one life, but note how the larger context is changed. It is not simply that a next best thing is done, but that it is done in a context.

Whose identity needs to enter your life today, to be tasted and enjoyed in its own right?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mark 8:27-38

Pentecost +16 - Year B

Mark 8:27-38

Can you believe it, Jesus was mugged. Since Judas was keeping the money all they got was Jesus' identity information. Without that what is a person to do in a culture so attuned to place of position.

No wonder Jesus asked, "Where does the culture place me?" and "What do you know of me?"

Peter, of course, pipes up with Messiah talk which an excellent excuse for another mugging, this time by the religious authorities and the state (a noxious mix). And, of course, Jesus says, "Whoa, there big feller!"

This then becomes time to move a bit deeper in, from culture to family/friends to self. Who do I say that I am.

I'm one who gets mugged. Individuals come and go at will through my expression of experience with all of creation. Some come to deny, some to adore. Some stay for awhile and some last more than a life-time. Everyone claims a bit of my identity until there is nothing left.

Peter, still thinking Messiah instead of Jesus having undergone a great suffering - a loss of identity - tells Jesus to get over himself and get back on the track of miracles and crowds and power.

"No", says Jesus, who is beginning to remember his baptism and all that it means to be beloved of creation even while used by everyone else's fantasies.

As you wrestle with your identity - any loss that comes your way - there is a question of where your balancing point is. Is it in victim or beloved? This is not to say a Venn diagram can't be used for overlaps with these perspectives, but which has the more persistent boundary? Pentecost pushes back into life with a new identity beyond lost. Blessings on the next part of your journey.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

Pentecost +15 - Year B

James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

We are each accountable for the well-being of the whole system we are a part of. Were this not the case things would, a) fall apart and b) never change. And, no, those are not opposites.

Acts of favoritism, whatever its basis (usually power or control or desire for same) does not care for the whole.

Acts of favoritism will eventually come back to haunt and, karma-like, give opportunity for us to have to deal with the disfavored side of ourselves.

A key antidote for favoritism is reflection on the old, old question - Am I my neighbor's keeper? As long as that question is taken seriously, we are in big trouble. Keeping this question alive keeps favoritism alive.

It is important to ask it as an evaluative tool, but not as a part of every-day decision-making.

Since mercy triumphs over justice/fairness/favorites we need to take seriously issues of liberty and what it is that would keep us from freely choosing to love our neighbor. The free choice looked for is a claim to be accountable for the well-being of the whole arena in which we are located.

It will be interesting to see what opportunities this day will be recognized wherein subtle favoritism will be revealed to us and we will choose against it. Blessings on being free enough to honestly face your temptation to favoritism.