Saturday, March 31, 2012


Lent 6 - Year B

closing in

take on

has gone on
deeply enough
to grow into

comes round
to earth
and back

from reined

a profligate
come home
glory be

be echoed

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Philippians 2:5-11

Lent 6 - Year B

Philippians 2:5-11

What to do with privilege is an ancient question with ever present significance.

Are teachers privileged? Americans? Wealthy (those who can’t spend what they make and whose money makes more money than they can)? Merciful (revealers of unexpected and undeserved kindness)? Christians?

Is privilege a natural resource to be strip mined? A commodity to be bought or sold or otherwise invested for one type of power or another? In limited supply during a zero-sum game? A gift for oneself or for the benefit of others?

Interesting how humanity is here not privileged (in G*D’s image), but imaged as being slaves (of Satan?, sin?, status quo?). Where did this come from? If humans are made in the image of G*D, when has G*D not been found in human form? Seems there is a wrong question being asked if slavery is the outcome.

At the name of Jesus, a standing ovation and then a getting back to work of living seems more in order than doing a Tebow. We don’t get to confession or affirmation through guilt or creed. If Jesus carries G*D, so can any human. If Jesus can live fully enough to engage current laws in anticipation of their change, so can any human. So give Jesus his due, he revealed a G*D within. To honor this revelation, an appropriate response is not acquiescence but imitation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Lent 6 - Year B

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of “the Lord”. In the name of kindness? In the name of mercy? In the name of a questioner? In the name of settled knowledge? In the name of my understanding?

An old song posits that Jesus loves Mrs. Robinson more than she will ever know? Does the same go for any arbitrary acquaintance? Does the same go for aliens and enemies? Is blessedness more universal and unifying than we are willing to admit? Might blessedness be unlimited by any divine or secular authority because it comes with the circumstance of life?

While thankful that I have caught a next layer of meaning, can I be thankful for others whose current understanding of the value of life is so limited that they think it can be given or taken by them? Is there any hope for them or for a relationship that would include them?

Perhaps it is sufficient to simply be thankful for a constant background radiation of inherent blessedness and on-going thankfulness.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Isaiah 50:4-9

Lent 6 - Year B

Isaiah 50:4-9

The gift of deep, attentive, appreciative listening is critical to clarify the issues in one’s life and the life of a larger community. Listening is the backbone of being a teacher and leads to new learning, important learning, prophetic learning.

It is important to note what one is listening to as well as how one is listening. What combination of listening to the wisdom of ages gone before, dreaming of days to come, and their transition through the present will best serve?

There will be times when appeal needs to be made to an historical perspective. At other times we will over-ride well-settled precedent that no longer carries energy for new relationships and opt for a wide-eyed dream of a better or more expansive community. And there will be times when all we can do is hold to listening as best we can as we wait for a better question to hear a new word of the past or future to come clear.

This will, though, require us to stand in the midst of opposing teachings without claiming special privilege of having some god on our side. With a waking ear we can wait with others to learn without falling prey to bad-mouthing them or arbitrarily setting them aside as being of no account.

With this kind of listening we will likely hear what needs to be relinquished and what needs to be picked up. Blessings on intentionally practicing your listening skills.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mark 11:1-11

Lent 6 - Year B

Mark 11:1-11

They also serve who stand aside when something is needful for the common good. It is so easy to claim life as our property. Sometimes that is another person as they slave invisibly producing what we consume. Sometimes it is fish, birds, or animals that are but bits of our food chain. Sometimes it is the life we cannot see in coal and oil and humus that we co-opt for our desires.

Since the party returns to Bethany for the night, it seems that the colt was from there, rather than from Bethphage. That detail may be important to the “owner” of the colt, but of more import for the purpose of this writing is the dynamic of being able to relinquish.

Palm Sunday can so easily devolve into Hosannas projecting a Power Messiah (revisit your memories of the Power Rangers). It may be important to note the ministry of humility or relinquishment before and after all the Hubbub.

Friday, March 23, 2012

undefined but moving

Lent 5 - Year B

have light
believe it
grow in it

good advice
for others
to follow

but heavy
too heavy


even Jesus
walked away
weary weary

for light
is as undefined
as G*D

promising poetry
from prophets

priestly sacrifice
standing afar

light waves
in particles
covenantally whole

G*D enters
and is entered
as mysteriously

grow trust
have light
restore joy

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hebrews 5:1-10

Lent 5 - Year B

Hebrews 5:1-10

Priests take folks to God through their gifts and sacrifices — intermediary after intermediary.

Imaging Jesus as a priest, high or low, turns Jesus into a functionary.

Hebrews does us the great injustice of turning Prophet Jesus with a word from G*D into merely a sacrificing priest. This has sown seeds of a hierarchical church, orthodoxy, and creedal standards that keep us tied to the past and oh so slow to repent of each of these methods that ask for continued sacrifice of minorities within and without the church walls.

Want to get your faith energized again? Throw out the priestly imagery of Hebrews and return to Prophet Jesus. We don’t need a perpetual priest, but a present prophet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Psalm 51:1-12

Lent 5 - Year B

Psalm 51:1-12

A question from Soft Edges: “How does one sing of cosmic holiness in a society that seems unable -- or unwilling -- to imagine anything beyond a private and personal God?”

So often this psalm is read as a top-down power arrangement. It is possible to read it differently by adding a choice of focus to the standardized language.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to a steadfast love [of all creation]; according to an abundant mercy [for all creation] let us start again.”

“Restore to me the joy of [making everyone and everything healthy], and [together] sustaining a willing spirit.”
Each of us can cultivate a steadfast and abundant love/mercy relationship with G*D and all creation. This expansion of individual responses to community and creation deepens our individual experience with that of innumerable others.

This psalm, too easily seen as a me-and-G*D moment, needs to remember the end of the Psalm that begins,
“Do good to Zion [to see all working together]; [together let us] rebuild safety within Jerusalem.”
Of course folks can stick to a personalized contriteness, but can be even more energizing to enter into a partnership with G*D rather than just having an appeasement policy. Blessings to you on seeing love and mercy as issues larger than just identified as being for me/we.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Lent 5 - Year B

Jeremiah 31:27-34

It is so easy to see trouble coming. It doesn’t take much projection of current processes to see that we are walking down a path to great difficulty. It shows up in economics with profit being the be-all and end-all of too many. Educationally, we have been testing to a test that keeps us limited to the past rather than learning how to learn into the future. Spiritually, we divide ourselves into smaller and smaller communities, each claiming truth and power. And the list could go on.

It is a very hopeful outlook to see within the coming falling-apart, a new way of doing business. In this case moving from the cultural and communal to the individual being responsible for their own acts. This hope is not without its dangers. Foremost among them is a reliance upon intuition, some knowing of G*D that isn’t grounded in everyday experience. It is too easy to want our iniquity erased and so go out of our way to put a cart before a horse and claim a knowledge of G*D, even greater than G*D knows, that will guarantee removal of iniquity and arrival at a pearly gate.

In the United States of America we have abused this hope of individual responsibiity and are falling apart into extreme individualism and states-rights. This means that we need to hear hope in a return to another universal way - that we are in life together and have opportunities and responsibilities for one another.


Monday, March 19, 2012

John 12:20-33

Lent 5 - Year B

John 12:2-36

What is the chain of command in your faith community to connect inquirers with your source of authority? Would folks know you are in that chain of command and ask for next steps?

In the storyline there is a temptation to make Jesus’ responses into a scary kind of evangelism fit only for saints, not the faint of heart. His response to being asked about some Greeks wanting to have an audience was to talk to his chain of disciples about how hard his work is and to depart, to turn down the request.

We don’t know if the inquirers we a part of later crowds, but on the surface here, they didn’t draw near to Jesus because his soul was troubled, he was out-of-sorts, even grumpy, and out of here.

The passage continues with a reference to all Jesus had given his disciples and they still didn’t get it. This would tend to suggest that what the disciples didn’t get was their own part in salvation history. For some reason they still saw the way to G*D going through channels, works-righteousness, and a top-down structure. Imagine if Philip had said, “What can I help you with, for to see me is to see Jesus?” Disciples are reflections of their modeler. Even more, what if Philip had said, “What can I help you with? Together we can partner with G*D.” As Jesus is to reveal G*D, so we are to reveal G*D. Anything less is to discount our discipleship. You and Philip have choices about bumping people one step closer to a disappearing Jesus or acting out the humble authority of following Jesus all the way to G*D.

Friday, March 16, 2012

gift cycle

Lent 4 - Year B

eyes of faith
trust what they see

bronze snakes
become anti-venom

broken bodies
house healed spirits

belief certifies
deeds and outcomes

incarnation interprets
chaos’ intentionality

and our crisis
is mistrusting our trust

for deep below
belief is transient

faith does falter
certainty stumble

first new glasses
and then new eyes

holy and profane
dive again to the deep

surfacing in new trust
beyond one or the other

beyond volitional choice
into blessed gift

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ephesians 2:1-10

Lent 4 - Year B

Ephesians 2:1-10

How we interpret meta-meanings affects our engagement with others (people and systems).

Has there been a radical shift from being children of wrath (posited as who we naturally are) to now being saved through faith in Christ Jesus (proposed as a gift from G*D)? In an either/or world, this is possible. In a both/and environment, this is not so clear.

A part of the difficulty is locating the action. If there is only creature and creator the logical reduction is to either/or, one or the other is the cause of our experienced reality. If there is also a partnership available between the two, a desired outcome of good works will take all the best of both.

If this movement from being dead to being alive is not on-going, we end up being more than “mostly dead”.

May your interpretation of who you are and where you look for energy, be blessed with insight and discernment. May you not stop too soon in your analysis.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Lent 4 - Year B

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Congruence of experience and interpretation is often tricky.

Experience slips and slide away from being pinned down. Memory is famously prone to emphasizing a minor point and elevating it to prominence. Timing is crucial as to when we are open for a conversion interpretation of a previous set of experiences. Are we able to see a new healing while still trapped in a web of debilitating habit of hand and heart? Experiences pile up and our ability to find an organizing principle is notoriously slow and suspect.

Our heads are often set to interpret a next experience only in light of the ethos of the prominent group in our life (past or present, seldom a desired one to come). Having learned that G*D is always the right answer for a pleasant surprise and absolved of pain (except as a set-up for a blessing yet to arrive), we are separated from self and creation/nature. Prevailing ethical standards are ethically suspect when they refuse to allow a second opinion.

So, if you can identify having had a new opening into a preferred future, rejoice, give thanks, and begin living as though tomorrow were already present. When freed from external or internal oppression, develop a steadfast love of your own.

If you can recast a sinful way away from always being particularized and leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy, there will be a background rebalancing of prevenient grace and brokenness. In this reconstituted equation, sparks of paradise will light fires of warmth, not wrath.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Numbers 21:4-9

Lent 4 - Year B

Numbers 21:4-9

Impatience was the source of the snake biting and bronze snake raising. Impatience continues to be a source of intra-communal disputes as well as warring against defined enemies. We want answers and we want them now, a simple response is too process-oriented - presuming another response and another, instead of an easy comfort of a once-and-for-all answer.

Check your language to see if you are talking about giving or asking for an answer or a response. Expectations of ease lead us to attempt to short-circuit reality into utopia.

Imagine the out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire comedy here. Such slapstick is almost too much.
Hey, this is taking too long!
     Oh, yeah? Here’s too long and too painful, too.
Hmm, on second thought we’ll take the too long by itself.
     OK, wisdom has begun.
So how might you come to the wisdom to deal with proximal responses instead of final solutions? I’m sure there’s a funny story involved with this shift.

Monday, March 12, 2012

John 3:14-21

Lent 4 - Year B

John 3:14-21

Again an issue of what can be trusted raises its fanged head. When the danger seems great enough, that deemed evil or death is nipping at our heels, we are liable to pursue the improbable, if not impossible. How might gazing upon a bronze snake care for the poison a live snake has injected?

This then is the context of famous John 3:16 line about believing to receive a conditioned gift of a positive eternity - something not intrinsic to persons, but given to or withheld from them.

If your greatest fear is a wrath to come, then what became substitutionary atonement theology is the only way to go. Faith becomes a zero-sum game that needs dividing line between up and down.

If we focus more on a scene with Nicodemus and the allusions there, we might hear this retrojected into the conversation. As is as though the whole business of being lifted fills two functions. First, it builds on an assertion that Nicodemus did not understand his own tradition about where belief can come from - fear - and how it needs to be understood as sign and mystery rather than doctrine based on one experience [go get intentionally snake-bit so you can look on a bronze snake and prove G*D]. Second, since you are not ready to receive my experience, I can make the most outrageous claim and it will not add or detract a whit to your willingness to see things differently.

Rather than get caught with the problems of a conditionally loving G*D, it may be more helpful to look at verses 20-21 and the potential of using embarrassment of having one’s hypocrisy (often a great evil in the Christian Scriptures) revealed to others. Here is the antidote to secrets and night-meetings - by your deeds will you be measured, not by what you say and then don’t do. Religious leaders still need to learn this every generation. In our day this shows up around GLBT, immigration, and economic issues. In each case there are scapegoats expelled instead of community broadened and deepened. Some churches have done well to know it isn’t just a matter of looking to a past sign, but paying attention to a present choice to both proclaim love and express it in deed. This is light that illumines all the other born again and bloody atonement excuses to avoid deeds done in G*D’s freedom.

- - -

Fun equivalency: Pinocchio = animated puppet and Jesus = begotten bronze snake.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Passover is near

Lent 3 - Year B

Passover is always near
we are so trapped by systems
only an unexpected fire
can start a new journey

I know you
you are Moses
stammering murderer
still excusing yourself

you are to go
to the seat of power
with a full upset of plagues
to bring new health

I know you
you are Jesus
parabolic agitator
still zealously you

you are to go
to the seat of power
upsetting transactions
to raise new life

I know you
you are who you are
I am who I am
we will be . . .

we are to go
to the seat of power
analyze the marketplace
and offer common-wealth

Thursday, March 08, 2012

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Lent 3 - Year B

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Is there no foolish question? How about, Who do people say I am? About the only possible response is another question - Who do you say you are?

When it comes to how we live together, is it foolish or not to need an external force for living morally with one another? What is the effective power of a commandment? Or is it simply a matter of being able to raise a question about choices about to be made?

Are we finally left with the foolishness of silence? One hand clapping, and the like, where foolishness is wisdom and weakness, strength?

In all of these there is the mystery of an alternative choice beyond the limits of our imagination and the traditions which have come down to us. Blessings upon your alternatives, seen and unseen.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Psalm 19

Lent 3 - Year B

Psalm 19

Invisible hands, unheard words, and unperceived errors - we live in an unconsciousness around us and within. There are strands of routine, control, and power that swirl us first one way and then another.

Into these voids we use small words and meditations to act like the crow in Aesop’s fable. May our words and meditations bring life to ourselves and others.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Exodus 20:1-17

Lent 3 - Year B

Exodus 20:1-17

“I am the G*D who brought you out of the land of Markets.”

From this new beginning we hear about the danger of idols, markets in any form. Their main difficulty is the same as portrayed by this strange G*D - they mix up and confuse jealousy/rejection with steadfast love.

The passage goes on to give other particulars that reveal this same dichotomy in relationship to creation, family, and community.

How easy it is for any little thing to become something for which we are jealous and enter into a zero-sum game to get it or leads us to reject someone or whole groups of someones to protect our own.

How difficult it is to see the larger picture of an expansive and expanding love behind each little thing that pricks our comfort.

Re-imagine each of these insights, sometimes called commandments, in light of your favorite Market. What challenge do they make to your background idol?

John 2:13-22

Lent 3 - Year B

John 2:13-22

Market presumes a transactional valuing of life. When that is certified by religion it begins to mark the beginning of what will ultimately move from being an incipient to a full-blown idolatry.

For 13 years the Wisconsin United Methodist Federation for Social Action has read a book for Lent. This year it is Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street by Jim Wallis. You can follow along with the reading or review other books at their Lenten website.

Jim Wallis has this to say about this passage:
     A few points about context. This passage is often misunderstood. Jesus’ indignation and anger were not fueled by the buying and selling of goods in the temple. In others words, this passage is not an indictment against church bake sales, and I’m pretty sure even a gift shop in a cathedral is still okay! The passage is about greed, not commerce.
     The story is set during the time of Passover, when pilgrims traveling from distant countries came to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. When they arrived, they were supposed to offer sacrifices, but it would have been impossible for these travelers to bring livestock with them on their long journeys. The merchants and money changers conveniently set up shop in the temple’s outer court to provide these pilgrims with the scripturally mandated animal sacrifies. However, the worshippers were frequently cheated in this marketplace. Greedy money changers inflated the currency rate (only a certain type of coin could be used in the temple), and the merchants had a monopoly on the sacrifice market.
     Interestingly, in his turning over of tables, Jesus specifically targeted the merchants who were selling doves. Doves were the least expensive sacrifice permitted to be offered in the temple and, therefore, were often bought by the poorest of the pilgrims.
     It was a marketplace that took advantage of the poor, who had little other choice. It was a “subprime” marketplace in which a few accumulated great wealth for themselves at the expense of those who could least afford to pay. The money changers had taken a place reserved for the values of God, and used it to put their profits first. No doubt these money changers would have argued that they were only responding to a demand of the market, but Jesus didn’t seem to see it that way. What was happening in the marketplace was a spiritual and moral problem, not just an economic one.
As always prophets are questioned by the establishment for whom all things are working out well. What would be your response if you were caught being a mini-prophet? Might it be similar to Martin Luther who was channelling Jesus when he was questioned - “Here I stand I can do no other”. Somewhere along the way your body will have to come into a conversation about life.

Friday, March 02, 2012

travelin' on

Lent 2 - Year B

we travel on
who am I now
who are you now
who are we now
who are they now

we travel on
where have I come from
where have you come from
where have we come from
where have they come from

we travel on
where am I headed
where are you headed
where are we headed
where are they headed

we travel on
story by story
remembrance by remembrance
hope by hope
fear by fear

we travel on
losing and gaining life
ashamed and anointed
promised and promising
consistent and mutating

we travel on
and on
and on

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Romans 4:13-25

Lent 2 - Year B

Romans 4:13-25

We all trust in a variety of mechanisms, processes, and theories. At question is whether these “promises” reveal grace or not. If so they will grow over time. If not, they will eventually falter and fail altogether.

If we are interested in participating in a story of creation-long development bearing witness to great fecundity, we will be asking whether or not the basic story-line we are trusting in has room for surprising twists, turns, and reorientations. This openness to mutation is trustworthy and turns out to be our grace, our righteousness.

Lent is an opportunity to remind ourselves where it is we want to be headed - into boring grace, standard grace, everyday grace - far deeper than being amazed at such.