Thursday, May 31, 2012

Romans 8:12-25

Pentecost +1 - Year B

So, sisters and brothers, we are not called to live according to our past, for this is a way to irrelevance and death. But, if you forgive the deeds of the past, you will live. For all who are led by G*D’s mercy are freed. In this freedom you are to release your slavery to the past. Adopt the future!

To make this shift is to participate in a creative force that is willing to move through difficulty, suffering even, for a larger purpose. It is this revelation of something better that moves us beyond all-things-being-equal and on to living for ourselves and the next generations.

We waited long for this revelation that we have a part in tomorrow. We were caught in the futility of coming to a better place by using the same old processes. Hope has been reborn for us and we are willing to risk what we have for what we anticipate is arriving.

It was not just ourselves that was groaning, awaiting a birthing of a new way of relating to our past and to one another. All of yesterday and today have been moving toward tomorrow. Now, together, we are able to each be beloved for the gift we are — the gift of who we have been and all it has taught us; the gift of who we are and of our deep questions; and the gift of yearning for more.

This hope organizes our health. It is not yet seen, but already is at work changing patterns and engaging us in the patience necessary to act boldly without relying on immediate results. We are making adjustments in life-long habits simply because our health depends on it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Psalm 29

Pentecost +1 - Year B

In a manic phase the focus of power can be quite varied. Whatever the obsession and compulsion there is a sense of connection with root causes. Whatever becomes triggered is closely allied with “the Lord” or G*D or some other elemental force.

This gives “strength” for the endeavor at hand.

This also gives rise to the very difficulty of addressing any pathological orientation of a mania. It can give either the insight of saintly moment or the universalizing of a minute point. It leads to both universalism and fundamentalism.

Hooray for jumping off the deep end to change a paradigm and hooray for an equilibration of neural and experiential networks that keeps one coming back to some more solid solidity.

In the midst of our lack of control, may we also find a final word to balance the strength of a mania — “peace”. Blessings to you of a strong peace.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Isaiah 6:1-13

Pentecost +1 - Year B

In the year that Jesus died, we experienced an astral spirit nicknamed, “Holy”, in a locked room. Seraphs in the form of winged fire rested upon us. The foundation shook and smoke filled the room.

Our first response was being lost. Jesus Crucified, ourselves overcome.

Then a voice from the flame joined my voice, “Our waiting is fullfilled. Power has arrived. Our fears departed, our weeping blotted up.” Between the two — a third voice came — a voice in another language. And together the voices of flame and self and the unknown started on a journey. “We’re ready as we’ll ever be. Let’s go.”

Without comprehending we began listening and encouraging more listening. We ignored our mind’s babble, paused our ear's attending to a beckoning siren, softened our eye’s search for a next shiny bauble. And we found a healing in an expansive and expanding company of diverse voices.

Cities have lain waste long enough. Exiles have been away long enough. Let’s talk. Let’s re-decide to use all the gifts available, discarding none. The least voice adds to our common wisdom. We go forth to learn other experiences, other ways to say, “L’chaim!” We find ourselves returned from Babel to Paradise.

Monday, May 28, 2012

John 3:1-17

Pentecost +1 - Year B

Loyal Oppositionist, Nicodemus, visits in the night. A conversation ensues.

“We know you teach a way of G*D.”

“In the midst of all the miracles going on, claimed and unclaimed, this is indeed high praise. Y’all must have had a ‘new-birth’ experience to discern this.”

“Did not!”

“Then your praise was false.”


“Don’t you know how you give yourself away? How then can you receive a new teaching?”


“Lord love a duck -- and also you and yours. Remember life is not a zero sum game. Differences are not a reason for condemnation. The goal is health, internals bound to externals. Think about it. We’ll meet again.”

- - -

Of course this is all told in self-referential Johannine-speak. If you were to listen to the wind blowing where it will, you might have heard this shorter version. Is it less inspiring?

If you listened carefully, you might also have heard a non-conditional statement of verses 16 and 17, “G*D loves the world. All are beloved and are to work together to make the world healthy.”

Sunday, May 27, 2012

never forget

Pentecost - Year B

a spirit of truth

current disconnect

broken isolation

return to community

and so we progress
through wind and fire

to experience 
a lack of sin

in the face of 
intentional dialogue

a resurrected revelation
“life is good”

an abundance of thanks
keep us focused

pointing connection
with a better future

still hidden
yet underway

discrimination put down
discernment enjoined

even so never forget
there’s more to bear

beyond correcting wrong
is building aright

while fearfully caught
a door is unlocked

voices are raised
ears are engaged

deeds are shown
lives are connected

even so never forget
there’s more to bear

our beloved clay
so us so now

holds many shapes
unto a new day

through an astonished past
and bewildered present

hand in hand
we sculpt next steps

into a mysterous mountain
and a deep blue sea

to listen together
to what will be

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Romans 8:22-27

Pentecost - Year B

With birthing images galore we might hear verse 26 as: “...the Spirit helps us in our gestation periods.”

In the midst of all the busy-ness of life it is sometimes difficult to see ourselves as still gestating, not yet ready for birthing. Our innate narcissism and sense of privilege doesn’t know when we are out of our league, inarticulate, waiting, growing. And so a sense of preveniency is good to have to wrap around and remind ourselves that we are being interceded for by many friends, ancestors, descendants, and all of a still-laboring creation.

Pentecost is another name for yet another birth opportunity flooded with the blood of birthing and one last great push and whoosh of breath exhaled. Let’s see if this next birthing can have us rebuilding alongside one another and call it G*D at work or, more simply, expectant hope.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Ordinarily the following response would have been a comment under yesterday's blog. I so enjoyed (if that is the right term) it that I wanted to be sure it had the formatting available here and not in the comment section. Thanks, Tom!

= = = = = = =

Are “sinners” and the “wicked” part of the manifold works? Where then lies their being excluded and if they are excluded, who will protest when it is our turn? What feels good from a privileged position now cannot be guaranteed.
No wonder someone feels like they must continually sing praise. Might a bit of a lapse bring being lumped with those sinners we cared not a whit for? This is dangerous territory when we stop to consider some imaginary gap between creation and sin and whether praise can bridge it.

Continually singing praise to keep something you don't want from happening is kinda like a filibuster (or OCD), but hey, after all, it's not the singing praise all day that gets to me, it's the incessant asking me to chip in $5 or $10. (I will admit that the other day I found myself humming "row, row, row your boat" instead of "onward christian soldiers" but then I immediately thought of River Jordan and figured I was safe.)

Ever since that "Cherubim United" decision, G*DPAC has been asking daily for my money to help counter the massive wicked-anonymous-donor million$ that have been funding those divisive attack ads against praise-singing bridgers. The Children of Light appear to be grossly out-spent by the Children of Wickedness and Sin. We've lapsed. We've been lumped with the uncared-for not-a-whits, commodified, dis-informed, bought and sold and discarded until the next election cycle. We must fight back! Let the wicked be consumed! And if you are one of the wicked, send in your money to us before you get consumed and your name will be put in a redemption lottery (more $$$ means more chances!).

Praise alone can no longer bridge the imaginary gap between creation and sin.
Your generous contribution will!
Which side are you on!
Skip the praise! Today it takes money - lots of money - to bridge that imaginary gap. Please chip in $5 or $10 today! 
And don't worry, we'll ask you again tomorrow!
We're re-defining the word "pray" (as in "unceasing") to include monetary expressions of praise and thanksgiving!
How manifold are YOUR works?????? (For your convenience we have pre-filled the contribution form.)

[x]  Yes! Accept my generous non-deductable donation of [ ]$50  [ ]$100  [x]$500 [ ]other today!
[x]  Yes! I want to be sure to keep my place on the right side of things. 
      Make my contribution recurring
          __  daily
          __  weekly
          __  monthly
          x   all of the above
[x]  Yes! for only $15 more, please send me an endless-loop praise cd of "onward righteous rowboats" which I can keep running 24/7.
[x]  Yes! I want to join the Occupy G*D movement ahead of time: I agree to be pre-occupied.
[x]  Yes!

By the way, anyone interested in doing a grassrooots recall of G*D? I'm not sure how many signatures we need on the petition but this is not the Creation I know and love, not the Creation I signed up for. All those outsider sinning wickeds... and whose bright idea was flesh-eating bacteria? I mean, talk about imaginary gap - creation might as well BE sin.

For now imagine the wind blowing ships hither and yon. Imagine them tacking into and running with the wind. When wind interacts with life, there are all these little decisions to make. Blessings on your hearing a new wind blow and responding well no matter from whence it arises.

And why, why, WHY is the answer always blowin' in the wind? it's just not right. I'm figuring a recall will be easier than impeachment, but hey, what do you all think?


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Pentecost - Year B

Always be a bit suspect when something is left out. This section of the Psalm begins, “ manifold are your works!” Then, at the end, leaves out “Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more.”

Are “sinners” and the “wicked” part of the manifold works? Where then lies their being excluded and if they are excluded, who will protest when it is our turn? What feels good from a privileged position now cannot be guaranteed.

No wonder someone feels like they must continually sing praise. Might a bit of a lapse bring being lumped with those sinners we cared not a whit for? This is dangerous territory when we stop to consider some imaginary gap between creation and sin and whether praise can bridge it.

For now imagine the wind blowing ships hither and yon. Imagine them tacking into and running with the wind. When wind interacts with life, there are all these little decisions to make. Blessings on your hearing a new wind blow and responding well no matter from whence it arises.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost - Year B

Can you imagine Pentecost without everyone being together? That seems to be what we have turned it into. Instead of being able to speak in the native tongue of others, there is an insistence that my formulation of G*D’s deeds of power is the only creditable one - so you learn my language.

Note that the first part of this extended sermon has not yet mentioned Jesus. Pentecost is a universalized experience and without that expansiveness would not have had the effect it did.

The communal nature of Pentecosts has deep roots. Remember Tobit 2:1-2 where enjoying and sharing a feast completes the rejoicing. If you go on to verse 3 ff. there is a presaging that here also it won’t be long before the joy of this moment seems very fragile and sorrow arrives.

The practice of counting seven times seven weeks (or years) and then having a Jubilee time is time-honored. For a moment, step back from Easter as an individual event and see Pentecost as a time of consolidating our individual responses to crucifixion/resurrection or dashed-hopes/hope-aglimmering and moving toward economic justice, a meeting with foreigners and the poor. If it is just motivation for a party, we’ll take it, but hope that that party has redemptive qualities beyond feeling good (not to discount feeling good).

What is a vision? - What is a prophesy? - Where is a community? - that will transform us again to pilgrims covenanted together across our divides and moving together toward creating a paradise among us?

Monday, May 21, 2012

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Pentecost - Year B

Between "...none of you asks me, "Where are you going?"" and  "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now....the spirit of truth...will declare to you the things that are to come" are questions of sin and righteousness. What is sin? What is righteousness? What does Jesus' journey have to do with making a judgment about such?

These are questions that are fraught with uncertainty. Our limited vision has proved to be wrong, time after time. Why would we think that suddenly we are now getting it right?

If we are so consistently short-sighted about sin, continually thinking it has to do with our particular aversions, might we not need to put the idea of sin down for a while? If we have such variation in what it is that G*D desires, developing one creed after another, might we not need to set categorical righteousness aside for a bit. In both cases we will probably find ourselves sliding back into some meta-wrongs and meta-rights, but we may also be able to see them anew - with all their glorious limitations in addition to their aspirations to ultimacy.

How did the world get sin wrong? Perhaps we hear here that Jesus is not really about sin but determining what is trustworthy and following wherever that leads.

How did the world get righteousness wrong? Perhaps we need to hear that it isn't about moments of revelation but a larger journey toward joining with G*D in a healthy way and it is unhelpful to do agreed upon righteousness when we might simply connect self with creation.

How did the world get judgment wrong? Perhaps we need to hear that judgment is not about right and wrong, something Satan loves to confuse, but about how well our current behavior accords with healthier living. Judgment is not so much between A and B (though that is a helpful marketing, design tool) as it is comparing both to C.

It is time to consider again whether or not our current judgments about sin and righteousness are getting in the way of developing healthy temperaments.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Noh Theatre

Easter 7 - Year B

making meaning known to others
is quite a bother

eventually I must speak on behalf of those
who don’t quite know

and in this disappointing moment
more is lost than won

an intermediary can guard but not grow
and meaning goes

demanding structure determine personnel
masks need and gift

claiming we reap more than we sow
we say more than we know

soon it comes down to me us and them
elect and condemned

Thursday, May 17, 2012

1 John 5:9-13

Easter 7 - Year B

“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

And who arbitrates who has the “Son” and who doesn’t. Since the days of Constantine, the church institutional is the decider. This is a power position. No wonder church and state are so intimately intertwined — each using the other to its ends that become closer and closer together.

At stake here is something called “eternal life”. That’s big. At least it sounds so. If you are out for it and the arbiter is the church you are willing to cover your conscience in order to follow where it leads. A few shady thoughts, doctrines, actions can be excused in light of eternity.

Why an indefinite length of time as time is a desirable, I don’t know. More ticks and tocks, in and of themselves, do not appeal. In a loving context, time is luminous. Listen to a few sentences from The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible about the word here translated “eternal”.
The basic sense of the Greek word aiōn is the relative time associated with something, such as a person’s life or a generation in the sense of an “age” or an “era.”... It may refer to an indefinite past or future, often with prepositional constructions; e.g., “from of old”, “before the ages”, “forever”.... Similarly, they may also have the sense of “in perpetuity” ... Aiōn as the time of the world elides with a notion of the “world” itself. ... Thus, in the NRSV, aiōn is also translated “world”.

Imagine how differently we might approach this passage if we were talking about G*D giving us the world or G*D giving us this generation. To see this passage as some heavenly eternity does a disservice to more energetic translations that wouldn’t have us sit back and talk about Jesus. We could be doing what Jesus did, take advantage of the time given a person to draw near to G*D and to Neighbor. We could be asking what it means to honor the world as we honor Jesus rather than crucify the environment as Jesus was crucified, for the sake of power.

May you know you have your life in which to shape meaning. May you know your life to be invested in your generation, your era, your time and context. May you know your life to be connected with both past and future, but neither being your end-all or be-all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Psalm 1

Easter 7 - Year B

Delight in law is not in its minutiae and restrictions, but in opening possibilities to a larger future. At stake here is not law qua law, but an ability to engage the experiences of life and learn. [Note: The usual translation of “law” is better understood as “instruction” or “opportunity for learning”.]

Delight is having a source of sustenance and refreshment as well as a result in participating in the future through fruit able to reproduce. Image yourself as a tree – what does that entail and are those universal needs that need protecting wherever law becomes restrictive and discriminatory.

This delight in learning and growing, experiencing and passing on, are available whether we walk, stand, or sit. No matter our current state of affairs, blessedness is available.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Easter 7 - Year B

So often we define ourselves against someone or someones. We are not as bad as they, so we must be good.

At least Judas was still seen as one of the twelve, even as Thomas was after his desire for personal confirmation in addition to the witness of the other 10. This leaves room for me and for you when we have done our own betrayal or evidenced our own deep questions of authority.

Back then there was magic in numbers. There probably still is. And so more magic was used to determine who would be added for the purpose of some desired number. Neither Justus nor Matthias seemed to have anything going for them other than having hung around for long enough. Sometimes that is all we have going for us, longevity.

So why would G*D shave the dice to favor Matthias, of whom we nevermore hear? No good reason. Why are you where you are, with the opportunities you have? No good reason, so go ahead and make the best of it.

And what of Justus? Was he humble enough to get back in line? Did he pack up and leave, as so many others had done over the years? Did he pick up a third alias?

These are probably the wrong questions to be asking and so let’s return to numerology. Should any Christian Community be larger than 12? This size can engage one another and fruitfully have both a Peter and a Judas in it. Larger gets into voting folks out or pressuring them to not be themselves. Imagine what limiting a congregation to 12 might mean for freeing up resources (no building needed); for engaging the world prophetically (what other option would there be); and for attending to the mystery of a community together (folks called together, not a social club).

John 17:6-19

Easter 7 - Year B

To connect with G*D is to run the risk of privilege. We can circularly assert that those who hear our version of G*D already belonged to G*D as G*D’s slaves and those who are already G*D’s property are the ones who respond.

It is not a far jump to then argue that everything is being done for these special ones and they have an inside track, a protected path, a guarded life, a safe journey and end.

By the time we get to sanctification, holiness of living, it becomes a question of belief, of truth, of doctrine, not a maturation of spirit or a wholeness of vision connected with behavior.

Why would we not pray for those not part of my group? Why would we take responsibility away from believers and put it all on Jesus?

Are we protected for ourselves alone or are we protected in order to be able to risk on behalf of self and others? Are you a Christian for the perk of some imagined salvation or to engage the world and reveal it as beloved creation?

This passage is a most troublesome construct that gets us in more trouble than it resolves.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Simon Says

Easter 6 - Year B

as . . .
so I have . . .

if . . .
I will . . .

that my joy . . .
your joy . . .

love one another . . .
friends . . .

known . . .
chosen . . .

fruitful . . .
ask . . .

Thursday, May 10, 2012

1 John 5:1-6

Easter 6 - Year B

1 John 5:1-6

All manner of a priori statements here. The biggest of them is that our faith is the source of victory. Somehow belief in Jesus as the preeminent one born of G*D trumps everything and is the answer to everything. Some preexistent truth that has been labeled Spirit, validates this. This puts the Spirit in the same position as a concierge who validates a parking token.

Can those who believe Jesus is related to G*D, believe also that everyone else is also so related? If they can, they are larger than belief, they are compassionate. If they can’t, they are smaller than the experience available to them, they are dogmatic.

Compare verses 6-8 from the NRSV with The Message:

“This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.” [NRSV}

“Jesus—the Divine Christ! He experienced a life-giving birth and a death-killing death. Not only birth from the womb, but baptismal birth of his ministry and sacrificial death. And all the while the Spirit is confirming the truth, the reality of God's presence at Jesus' baptism and crucifixion, bringing those occasions alive for us. A triple testimony: the Spirit, the Baptism, the Crucifixion. And the three in perfect agreement.” [Message]

Now, you try to put into words what these constructs do that a simple, “The Universe, G*D, if you will, engages life - respond”, does not do.

Might this quote attributed to Albert Einstein help us connect with a larger circle of Jesus’ birth and death as well as our own and others we relate with or are at odds with? - “We are part of the whole which we call the universe, but it is an optical delusion of our mind that we think we are separate. This separateness is like a prison for us. Our job is to widen the circle of our compassion so we feel connected with all people and situations.”

Psalm 98

Easter 6 - Year B

To judge is to engage in discernment.

Where is righteousness?

Where is equity?

When will judgment take place? Well, now and now and now again.

Want to be well judged? Judge well where righteousness and equity might be revealed and reveal them through your actions.

Acts 10:44-48

Easter 6 - Year B

Gifts bear the most fruit when done in community. “While Peter was still speaking”.... the uncircumcised, the alien, the outcast, the pagan, the unclean, the unacceptable are revealed as human as any circumcised, native, in-group, pious, clean and worthy of my peers. They, too, are open to and active in thanksgiving.

And then a testing question to those in control, with privilege, will we withhold “inherent worth” from those we had labeled as beyond grace by virtue of their community or choice? If we will, for how long? If we won’t, why not now?

This same testing question comes again and again as we peel back the layers of our prejudice to reveal the next person or group that sets our teeth just a little bit on edge or raises the hair on the back of our neck just a tad.

I am less impressed with Peter’s preaching than I am with his application of grace beyond authorized lines. We have so many fine preachers who can get a crowd riled up, even speaking in tongues, but who can’t make the practical application of the universal nature of G*D’s generosity beyond our limits.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

John 15:9-17

Easter 6 - Year B

In John 13 we hear the importance of “loving one another” - it is the preeminent sign of community. Those who do so reflect their connection with wholeness. In the Christian community this is being a disciple of Jesus, one who loves those Jesus loves. Of course this quickly becomes a universal stance toward all people and all of creation as we are all relatives of one another.

Here we again hear about “loving one another”. This is not about being an attractant to church - others seeing our love for one another and coming to wonder and give an offering to keep us going. At the first level this is simply a way to live, whether a disciple of Jesus or not. All manner of folks offer themselves to others - to show what they know and understand.

A more dangerous level is reading this too literally, as though only Jesus’ disciples can love, follow this command, or that love is outcome based - that we will love as long as we are getting what we want.

There is also a circularity here - I am giving you a command to love one another so that you will love one another as you can’t do it without being commanded. Can a commanded love be love?

Back to a more helpful reading, your gifts will bear the most fruit when done in community. Therefore love one another and prosper.

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Easter 5 - Year B

vineyards need care
vine growers
vines grown

we abide
in one another

I am vine
you are branches
I am a branch
you are vine

here is soil
here is water
wide knowledge
deep understanding

bold action
does not miss
freedom’s opportunity
to love

love’s possibility
focuses attention
on implementation

1 John 4:7-21

Easter 5 - Year B

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” (verses 20-21)

What is the freedom of G*D? Do others have that same freedom? If so, how does that change our relationship with them?

There will be those who claim that only G*D has freedom.
There will be those who claim that everyone has freedom.
There will be those who claim that no one has freedom.
There are other claims as well.
What do you claim?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Psalm 22:25-31

Easter 5 - Year B

Dominion? Rule? Bow down? Serve?

Or, the poor shall eat and be satisfied!

Which is more praiseful?

Acts 8:26-40

Easter 5 - Year B

And so we were led to go toward the south that goes down from Wisconsin to the Florida Keys. There was the United Methodist Church in Tampa, seated in General Conference, debating what it meant to be transformed into disciples of Jesus. Actually it was more about making others into ourselves. We heard so many different interpretations of scripture that it became a babel of confused theologies. At one point 44% voted that Grace was not available to all - John Wesley wept; John Calvin winked.

Unspoken was the question, “How can I understand? Where is a reliable voice in the midst of so many voices?"

The good news is that there is a reliable lens through which we might hear the depths of a religious tradition call out to us.

At General Conference human identity issues measure every vote. What will divestment from Israel mean for Palestinians? What does ordination have to do with sexual orientation? Who benefits from a concentration of power into the hands of the pious? How much of a budget belongs to the poor?

And we left Tampa with these questions unasked. Baptisms deferred rather than offered. It was if we were never there.

May the spirit prepare better questions for the United Methodist Church to ask.