Friday, June 29, 2012

Health Care

crowds gather
politics is going on
what are the questions of the day
how will we decide them

a voice is raised
my daughter, my friend, myself
is out of health
fill them again

a plan is formed
an implementation begun
other events intrude

other voices rise
they're dead 
don't waste the resources
stick with the temple

priests and money changers
our intermediaries with
a G*D too big to fail
are our only redemption

between not good enough
and a promise of better
some proceed quietly
with commotion all about

with a vision of sleep
instead of a despair of death
a third voice rises
little one arise

and the forgotten
lonely and lame are not left
a decision - a feast
a toast - l'chaim

let's feast

Pentecost +5 - Year B

a boat is transporter 0.002
its a long way to Star Trek
now in this port
now in that

travel is slow enough
a bow wave of people
assembles faster than
a wake suggests

with people are needs
for other’s well-being
and for one’s own

events rise up
whether named or unnamed
healing occurs death happens
we do what we can

we fear consequences
doubt forgiveness’ truth
work to get life right
only to find enough

enough time enough distance
enough hope enough trust
enough love enough balance
to satisfy a baby bear

and so we are touched
and share such with touch
little one arise
let’s feast

Thursday, June 28, 2012

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Pentecost +5 - Year B

Which comes first - chicken or egg? Faith or Generosity? Do you think yourself into being generous or act your way into faith? Of course, both/and is usually a safe response.

Don’t you love the various translations:
You excel in ... our love for you - [NRSV]
You do well ... you love us - [Message]

This variation is of course done to test the genuineness of your incoming and outgoing love ratio and your generous sense of ambiguity.

Imagine Jesus’ healings in light of some “fair balance” - for every unexpected healing there is an equally unexpected death or disaster.

All in all, an appeal for generosity in resources is probably best responded to by pats on the back. The early Methodists, working among those impoverished by the transition to an industrial revolution, knew that no one was too poor to participate in an offering for the poor. Everyone can excel in generosity and so that may be an excellent spot to start a conversation about what is trustworthy. It turns out that nothing is trustworthy, particularly wealth, so being generous for one’s own pleasure is a good thing. 

For those interested in such things, a book from the early 1990’s might be worth the read. It’s subtitle is “Choosing Service Over Self-Interest” and the simple title is Stewardship by Peter Block. Shoot an arrow of generosity into the universe and it will find its mark.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Psalm 130

Pentecost +5 - Year B

Out of the depths, we cry for intervention. When things are at least passable, we don’t.

Of course G*D marks iniquities, even color codes them. And yet we stand. Obviously iniquities are not all they are cracked up to be – eternal.

So G*D sees your iniquity and raises you two forgivenesses. This abundance boggles our minds and we ignore the second one. We insist that one iniquity only takes one forgiveness. Unfortunately we don’t see how our iniquity is not just with G*D but with Neighbor and One Another. We need that second forgiveness, and more, to be able to go to make amends and even to forgive those who won’t forgive us.

Blessings on being bold enough to claim both your iniquity and a most generous forgiveness.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

Pentecost +5 - Year B

Methinks David doth protest too much. How the mighty have fallen, indeed. It’s as if David hasn’t been at odds with Saul. All this mighty talk simply says is that David has done extraordinarily well to have survived against someone so mighty. Praise of Saul redounds to David’s benefit.

This dirge is neither religious (not about G*D) nor national (not about Israel). It does reflect on how courage does not keep one from their “fate”. Considering that laments usually end with some word of hope or praise, the closing words here are: “The weapons of war perished!” We are still looking for courage-in-action to do away with weapons of war, not just opportunities to protest against them.

In what is a very personal response to the loss of anointed and known leaders carries with it a word of prophecy - living with a sword, like having only a hammer when faced by a screw, turns everything into violence, into a nail. This applies to Saul falling on his sword, harakiri like, wherein violence toward others ends up being self-negation.

There might be a sense of this happening institutionally to the Christian church. After generations of power (ruling politically and militarily, enforced conversions, and the like) there is a question whether it can only be meaningful as top gun, 2,000 years of history may be no more than 3 days in Ziklag - waiting and surprised when Saul finally goes down and Godot shows up with a new identification card in another name, with another face.

- - -

For an interesting read, try the elided section in conjuction with 1 Samuel 31:4. Now try to sort through which story rings true for you today. This may be a more fruitful preaching place to tie in with the Markan passage.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mark 5:21-43

Pentecost +5 - Year B

Stressful situations bring out different aspects of a person. In theory Jairus wouldn’t ordinarily give Jesus the time of day. But the nearness of his daughter’s death (do note it was a daughter) begins to have Jairus becoming aware (name derivation) and shifting from issues of uncleanness/sin/illness/death and Jerusalem to this popular healer but questionable person. (Do compare with Matthew 9:18 so you can decide whether to stick with this story or expand it.)

On the way an unnamed woman (do at least note it was a woman) foreshadows a daughter’s healing. For those interested in such things, her name has traditionally been remembered as either Bernice or Veronica

In both cases there is a forthrightness of approach: prostrating and touching.

Jesus is just as forthright with Jairus as he heard the news of his daughter’s death, “You trusted, keep at it.”

So Jesus and his triumvirate enter and used common street language (would that church prayers could be as simple), “Little girl, get up”. [Note: If significance is made of Jairus’ name, why not his daughter Talitha in the line of Jezreel or Lo-Ruhamah.] Mark has another “immediately” and this “unnamed” girl rises and eats. When we get to resurrection time, may we see it as plainly as this is described without going nuts with blind belief or disbelief.

For now, the pattern of Jesus’ words may suffice:
do not fear - trust!
why this commotion?
get up
let it be (implied)
let’s feast (implied)

Friday, June 22, 2012


Pentecost +4 - Year B

it has been a tiring day
battling the headwinds
of established doctrine

a calm harbor
looks inviting
after such work

so obviously
as evening settles
its to the other side

as long as rest is coming
we can sample it now
anywhere there’s a pillow

and wouldn’t you know
winds are winds
blowing where they will

blowing minds
blowing barques
blowing to blow

making indistinguishable
quieting minds
quieting storms

fear not
be at rest

that together
we might 
take care

dream strong
smile gentle
and so go well

Thursday, June 21, 2012

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Pentecost +4 - Year B

G*D is sometimes imaged as a slot machine. You puts your money in and, at an acceptable day and time, bounty is heaped upon you.

You may have to put up with a lot of being ignored, but through great afflictions and by great patience, what looks to others as a waste becomes for us the possession of everything.

So, open your heart - your heart where your treasure is - your resources. Feed the slot machine.

We are always in the midst of such a perfect storm that we never think twice about putting our last nickel in. We have cut every other choice but that of random luck to see us through the destruction of our ability to make any choice other than bet on today being an acceptable day for a big payout.

Dear Corinthians and any others listening in - you pays your money and you takes your chances.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Psalm 9:9-20

Pentecost +4 - Year B

If we were to take the “poor me” approach out of this psalm we would still be left with the perennial problem of classes. The class of power (oppressor) versus the class of the powerless (oppressed); the class of the fortunate (holy) versus the class of the sick or unfortunate (sinner); the class of the “caring for” versus the class of the “cared for”.

We might look to verse 18 as a key verse - “The needy shall not always be forgotten, ignored, or taken advantage of.” At some point the disjuncture between their hope and their reality will become clear enough that they will stand up for one another. Then structures that have seemed so safe, a teaching boat, will become threatened, a storm-tossed barque.

“Everyone with enough earthly possessions must seriously ask if they are not responsible, to some degree and in some way, for injustices and oppressions. We know, from the book of Exodus, that G*D’s judgment can fall over the oppressors in a tremendous way. We also know that authentic love, the source of justice, can change the face of the earth.” [modified comment from The Christian Community Bible.]

Rise up, O Lord! Throw off chains of captivity to the power of social norms sanctioned by the powerful. You have nothing to lose, period. You have everything to gain, period.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 3-11, 19-23), 32-49

Pentecost +4 - Year B

Storms at sea and battles on land. In the midst of crisis we look around and find someone on the edge of perception is a source of breakthrough. A sleeping one and one too young bring a new way of looking at a situation. Fresh eyes see a way through. So many fearful eyes had missed important connections. We have a boat-load of teachings, pick one. We have so many stones, pick any five.

As per usual, life comes down to one new choice. Rejoice - today a new choice is available to you. Pick one or five, but pick.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mark 4:35-41

Pentecost +4 - Year B

The parables are over, now it is time for disjunctures in nature - miracles, if you will. The same boat from which grand teachings came is the boat in danger on the sea. The best of teachings do not protect from a choice of responses available.

The Presence of G*D is not only like a mustard seed, but like a boat in a perfect storm.

Is Jesus sleeping a reincarnation of Buddha? Does Jesus really exorcise the wind (spirit/ breath/ruach/pneuma)? Why suggest that fear and faith are in opposition to one another and are a zero-sum game where only one will prevail?

In hearing teachings from the boat and in experiencing miracles in the boat, the question of the disciples is what we are all left with - “Huh?”, “What?”, “How?” “Who?”

Pentecost began with the roar of wind in the midst of fear. Pentecost continues with the roar of fear in the midst of wind. We are a tiny, buffeted community murmuring and muttering along our way. Blessings on our not having it all worked out and simply proceeding.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

long live tangents

Pentecost +3 - Year B

the Presence and
Freedom of G*D
is sensed
at the edges

we tell stories
and codify them
of what was sensed
turning our story
into a doctrine

when we try
to talk
except in parables
we end up
in self talk

we turn presence
into kingly dynasties
freedom becomes
economic bondage
to heaven controllers

our troubles
need freedom
to leave heaven
to reenter paradise

here’s a commendation
raise a glass to
risk freedom
refocusing eyesight
on present beauty

2 Corinthians 5: 6-10, (11-13), 14-27

Pentecost +3 - Year B

What many take too literally (heaven), is an extended parable or thought experiment:
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [NRSV]
The certainty of heaven is no more so than the certainty of hell: both certainties are bound to disappoint (that’s the nature of certainty).

If you had to pick something on which to stake your behaviors, you could do worse than verses 16-20 from The Message
Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
If one perspective is going to influence another, let it be looking at humans through non-utilitarian eyes will give us a better understanding of whatever a “heaven” might offer to a feed-back loop that keeps us moving along.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Psalm 20

Pentecost +3 - Year B

How wonderful! Everything is going to work out!

A parable will never miss the mark or be misinterpreted.

A G*D/Prophet anointed one will never falter.

A current heart’s-desire will last eternally.

Victory, at any price, is assured.

Each and every utopian dream has trouble distinguishing background and foreground, a part and a whole.

Remember your synecdoche and pay attention to false comparisons.
"The daily press, the immediate media, is superb at synecdoche, at giving us a small thing that stands for a much larger thing. Reporters on the ground, embedded or otherwise, can tell us about or send us pictures of what happened in that place at that time among those people. The overarching theory rationalizing the great expense and effort that goes into those little stories is they somehow give us access to the big story, the big picture, what is really going on. . . .
     "But synecdoche works only if the part really does stand for the whole. And that is something you often cannot know until long after the moment."
(Bruce Jackson, "Bringing It All Back Home." CounterPunch, Nov. 26, 2003)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13

Pentecost +3 - Year B

“Sorry”, says G*D. “Sorry”, says Samuel.

“Sorry”, doesn’t cut it without the addition of, “Here’s what I’ve learned and am beginning to enact.”

Behaviorally, David is on a par with Saul. G*D’s move beyond “Sorry” seems to be that there will be no second-guessing. David becomes a teflon king.

Samuel helps us recognize how easily things can go awry and how important it is to stay standing up for your own perspective. Samuel didn’t seem able to face the People or G*D or Family. Confusion about who’s calling or what’s needed runs through Samuel’s story. Samuel might be a patron saint for our day - “I won’t be sorry again, I’ll go along.”

For G*D, there is the wonderful out that G*D has a secret plan based on “knowing hearts” - “I won’t be sorry again, I’ll be over here pulling strings and revising history.”

Now for a “Sorry” that will engage rather than avoid or manipulate. I have a way to go. How about you? Surely there is a way to practice a new way, even for us old dogs. Surely a way to claim our “one”ness and our “all”ness with the bold humility of integrity.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mark 4:26-34

Pentecost +3 - Year B

Enlightened “dominion” requires information. We do have much data about seeds these days. In fact we know so much that we are constructing new crops and it is next to impossible to get some heirloom seeds. 

Our “knowing” doesn’t automatically come with “understanding”. There are periodic difficulties with the new manufactured seeds. While resistant to some traditional pests our monoculturing set us up for that next or unknown-until-now pest that can wipe out a whole uniformized crop.

We run into the same dynamic with institutional growth that we do with plant growth. Adjusting the mystery of diversity to achieve an enhanced emphasis on church growth raises questions about churches and mustard plants. Is the only way to go a manufactured mono-cultured, mono-doctrianal church?

Participatory “dominion” does appreciate the mystery involved in there being anything, much less a reasonable rotation and scheduled fallow time. The fruit of a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil needs a little wine and cheese to mellow such a duality into understanding.

What parable would you use these days regarding the Freedom of G*D (and thus of ourselves)? Might it have to do with more conscious choice? Choices that appreciate mystery as well as information?

Friday, June 08, 2012

crowded eyes

Pentecost +2 - Year B

ah crowds
I so want to be one

so do others

crowds clash and crash
over membership

I’ll control
lest you control

while divided 
crowds crash and burn

they take many
down with them

the only common remedy
is to find an acceptable enemy

so who’s your mother
and extended kin

those ready to forgive
lest we plunder to extinction

at last
even our own

enemies are a dime a dozen
a false illusion

2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:1

Pentecost +2 - Year B

The spirit of faith that moves one from “belief” to “speech” is universal. It is the same whether it is a political right or left party or religion. In and of itself there is basic sound and fury signifying only intensity of felt belief.

It is a wonderfully circular business, this faith to speech to faith. Around and around it goes; where it stops, nobody knows. Here it is belief that G*D raised Jesus (rather than Jesus using his own bootstraps, unless, of course, G*D is Jesus, as so many affirm) and will, of course, raise us (and you, if you join “us”).

So we don’t lose heart or think a second thought. Everything is lined up and we are not willing to stretch past the limits of this purity of process and purpose. In fact, everything that happens to us is a reflection back of what it is we believe. If it should bring persecution, which is how we interpret any resistance (it being Dalekian futile), this is but a temporary setback - we never lose the war, only a battle.

Faith, thus exercised, is a wonderfully comfortable restraint that we will not give up without considerable cognitive dissonance first.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Psalm 130

Pentecost +2 - Year B

There is not much worse than being rejected by your family. Being sent into exile as a person with no family or nation calls everything you know about yourself into question. It is a great temptation to do whatever you need to do to get back in the good graces of your identified primary unit.

It is this threat of psycho-social death that allows discriminations and official harm to continue past their time. We aren’t up to challenging that which needs challenging because the cost to us is too great. Mostly we will not abide exile.

This is the great iniquity: that we saw harm going on and we did not oppose it for fear that we would be ostracized.

Forgiveness, then, is tied with returning to an opportunity for confrontation and doing so.

This is not a matter of waiting, but of proceeding. May you hearken again to your favorite prophet of days gone by or of the present. In renewing your relationship with one who claims harm is actually happening and points to where good might yet flourish, you, too, are redeemed. Blessings.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)

Pentecost +2 - Year B

Jesus, you are doing it wrong. Samuel, you are doing it wrong. ______ (your name here), you are doing it wrong.

In all times and all places, you will be accused of doing it wrong, of being crazy.

This is a test. You might be crazy and doing it wrong. You might be the only sane voice in a hubbub of same-think.

There is no sure-fire guarantee that you are simply off-base or on-target. In this uncertainty, consider how the world would be different if we don’t follow the temptation to uniformity and empire. To follow in this direction is about as close as we can come to testing our participation in creation’s growth.

Today is election day in a gubernatorial recall election. We will see what the people of Wisconsin will advocate for - power and riches over common-wealth (Saul) or people banding together to care for themselves and one another (alternative family members).

Monday, June 04, 2012

Mark 3:20-35

Pentecost +2 - Year B

When both friend and foe accuse you of being crazy, of having reached the point of “having made your point and now you are just hurting your cause”, you know you are on to something. A point has been reached where you are being unreasonable or that you have your finger on a very important transformational issue.

It is not easy to tell the difference between delusion and prophecy. Both fall prey to a need for internal consistency and defining oneself against others. Both are vulnerable to temptations to choose peer pressure over personal gift.

I hope you have had to make a choice as to whether you are crazy or if society or institution or family is the crazy one. This will mean that you have experience with the joy and frustration of living out being in the image of G*D. Every time there is shift in religious authority, decisions are being made that it is just crazy to continue to believe in some “god” and not crazy to believe in a different “god”. Now we can get down to something more important — what makes a “god” a “god”.

In Wisconsin tomorrow we have a state-wide vote on “god”. Whichever way it goes there has come a realization that we are in the midst of another opportunity to choose more of the same or to make a quantum, evolutionary leap, to a different “god”. Are the rich (“gods” in our culture) a motivating force for everyone to try to get rich, everyone being for themselves? Are the rich responsible for all that has allowed them to reach that state (the un-rich) and called to reintroduce potlatch? Is the financial economy the most important economy we have?

A divided state or nation or person won’t last (though they can cause plenty of pain). The pain they cause can be forgiven; the decision to break community goes beyond pain to an unbalancing of creation that will not be undone in their time.

And so a time of choice for Wisconsin voters and for you and for me. Who is birthing me and shaping me most? Who is my family? Which “god” or social construct will I commit to? Am I a creature of my past or my future and which is riskier?

Blessings on finding your family, your issue, your “wild-and-crazy-guy”ness.