Monday, July 30, 2012

John 6:24-35

Pentecost +10 - Year B

Attend to G*D. 

Not while survival ranks so high.

So there we have it, a basic choice or non-choice.

Is G*D not all about survival. G*D will go as far as resurrection, a second incarnation. And undoubtedly a third and fourth and so on. Choose with G*D to survive. Now, of course, we will have to define survival. How tied up with meaning is it?

Those confronted by Jesus got a twinkle in their eye after hearing about this part of G*D. So what is needful for survival, for the work of G*D?

And the non-response one might expect if a moment’s reflection was available — Trust me.

OK, comes the reasonable response to this non-response — So can we trust you for more bread, daily?

Sure, says the koanist — I’m bread and drink aplenty.

So there you are. scratching your head and thinking and pondering all the day long — This world needs a life implant : I’m here in the world : can I trust that I am also sustenance and refreshment?

Having been fed, incarnated for the umpteenth time, I feed. This is not less than — I think, therefore I am or any other search for meaning.

Friday, July 27, 2012

glean to give

Pentecost +9 - Year B

to and fro
signs completed
crowds following
unto hunger

up and down
run errands
and complain

no money
no store
no vision
no energy
you do it

bread in hand
fish in hand
clap enthusiastically
watch sandwiches
splash about

ahh satisfaction
enough reached
but another errand
poor learners
glean the leftovers

pieces cannot be built
into a temple
they are only good
for nothing but
giving away

around again
to where we began
crowds enraptured
with words
and deeds

fed and humbly
asking for more
we gradually learn
available abundance
feed and be fed

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ephesians 3:14-21

Pentecost +9 - Year B

Fullness of G*D. To know “love” is to experience this fullness. Rooted and grounded saints that your are, may you know fullness as the breadth and length and height and depth of “love”. 

In our Hebrew heritage, fullness connects with plants ready for the harvest, that have reached maturity, and is the basis on which tithes and offerings are made - out of what we have not what we don’t have access to. Abundance overflows and we are to let it flow, not store it in a larger barn. We respond to fullness with thanks and sharing.

From our Greek tradition, fullness also speaks of the quality of gifts given or yearnings arrived at. So questions arise about what it is we are putting in as fill. Is it empty calories or sand instead of top-soil? What is the vision you have been working on for years that carries sufficient hope beyond your lifetime? Being thus filled is satisfying and engaging.

Whether thankful or satisfied do note how far you have come toward being a filling presence, mature in nutrients for a next generation. Also note how that was not just hard work and perseverance, but growth within soil prepared by those who have gone before. Fullness is fullness for all and by all - when in the course of human events it becomes possible for people to reconnect what had been dissolved by will for strict independence, declare the cause for being bound together: great fullness received and shared.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Psalm 14

Pentecost +9 - Year B

Position One: No one does good. All have gone astray.

Position Two: There is a company of the righteous — the poor.

Position Three: The fortune of the poor/Jacob/Israel will be restored, goodness restored.

This sounds like a good deal for the now poor. They will receive from those who have devoured them economically. They will switch places.

Now the tricky question, will the newly poor, those previous rascals, ’fess up that they weren’t good partners but now they will be? Further, will G*D and the former poor welcome them back to a journey of freedom (deliverance, if you will)?

Jesus has had a revival, David will soon be rebounding, why shouldn’t today’s breakers of community for their own profit also be restored. Victims we will always have with us. What then is the work of restoration with such a moveable target as former o’erseers and the poor now reversed? Stay nimble, my friend, that all might know safety and sufficiency.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2 Samuel 11:1-15

Pentecost +9 - Year B

Want to make a difference? Popular opinion says, be a leader. The more leader you are, a leader of leaders, a king, the more difference you can make.

Trouble is that this runs contrary to a reality that we are in life together. As the old nursery rhyme or proverb has it, for want of a nail a kingdom was lost.

With no balance, kings get themselves into all manner of difficulty. If their difficulty is not on the battlefied it is within their desires as deep as biologic urges. In our day we are not dealing with political kings, but economic kings. Yes there is a direct relationship between politics and economics, but the question of accountability is different. Ultimately political kings need a modicum of attention given to the well-being of the populace. Economic kings don’t have people as their arbiter, but profit. Needed work can be shifted from populace to populace with no care for any populace at all.

We can tsk-tsk all we want about David and sex, but if we miss conspiratorial murder we have revealed ourselves as questionless careerists or privatized kings.

This is what Jesus might well have been afraid of with the beginning of a Draft Jesus for King campaign. We wouldn’t just have later innuendo about Mary Magdaline and institutionalized male descendants, but Jesus would be zapping Syro-Phoenicians, Romans, and Pharisees with nary a second thought. Jesus knew Samuel even better than David’s first-hand experience.

Looking beyond the immediate text we might wonder about Nathan being a night’s sleep off of challenging David’s plan for a Temple and showing up late regarding Bathsheba. Where are Jiminy Cricket or Nathan when you are facing your temptation. Community hasn’t yet designed any mechanisms for aiding folks in their lonesome valley of temptation (whether rather mundane or murderous), so what have you learned about walking that valley by yourself?

Monday, July 23, 2012

John 6:1-21

Pentecost +9 - Year B

Pentecost as surprise seems to grow out of the anti-Pentecost of foreknowing (verse 6). How this can be, I do not know. Basically I think John got it wrong — that Jesus was as surprised as anyone that water became wine, that five loaves and two fish became a feast for thousands.

Certainly hope and trust were engaged, but guarantees make this into magic, not revelation.

Either way, the validation was not the manifestation of mulitiplication, but the recognition of an experience breaking boundaries.

Again, why a response to such an experience was an attempt to force it into political meaning is a mystery to me. We do such out of lack of imagination of what simple thanks might do and resistance to rearrange our systems of gross national product into gross national happiness.

Thankfully Jesus recognized his surprise at the multiplication and at the crowd’s response and took off for parts unknown.

Now, return to the gathering of the fragments after the feast. What would you do with them? How might they be sown further? Do they represent you in your simply having been gathered in or in your being sown in people’s lives to reveal mysterious experiences of contentment and enough, again and again?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Proper 11B condensed

Pentecost +8 - Year B

I’ll tell you
what I’ve done
and modeled

what I can’t tell
is what I haven’t done
and falsely modeled

to sail with both
is a scarey ghostly ride
tossed stressed

where is “take heart”
or “be not afraid”
when out of my depth

later landed

chosen gifts
meet unclean acts
without hostility

where once
was twice
new growth

health is recognized
flocked to where
even fringes heal

until promises
are landed
keep rowing

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ephesians 2:11-22

Pentecost +8 - Year B

Remember your roots. John was grounded in the prophets and stayed with that unto death. David was grounded in common work but lost his footing as he gained power. Folks at Ephesus were rooted in being Gentiles. A question comes — how will they continue or betray their heritage?

If a dividing wall of Gentile//not-Gentile has been broken down, wherein is the advantage to one or the other to win a battle between them? Are they now a new people that can identify with both sides of a previous divide and also partner together to address additional walls between folk in other groups and further divisions within their new identity.

Overcoming a religious difference does not automatically translate to divisions of power, privilege, and property. Remember the Greek widows back in Acts.

If both are to live in peace — peace far and wide as well as far and near (wouldn’t Sesame Street like to do both of these descriptors at the same time) — the subtle distinctions that grow from previous discriminations and prejudices will have to be corrected, time and again.

In places where it is not yet possible to bridge divides with Jesus, what other structural changes would be helpful and necessary to basic common thriving? Perhaps dealing with eduction or wealth inequities comes before the philosophic/religious divides. We can act our way into peace as well as peaceably act.

Remember your roots. Know your present reality and choices. Anticipate a new humanity.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Psalm 89:20-37

Pentecost +8 - Year B

A youngest son out tending sheep is finally found and anointed. Three ancestresses, foreign and sexually wily, Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth had to be overcome. There is no predicting his ascendency with this background — so imagine the political ads against David. We will, however, grant great importance to his descendants.

There are whole theories about the queen of England being a descendant of David’s along with who knows how many Jews. There are whole organizations of David’s descendants such as the Davidic Dynasty, much like the Mayflower Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

There is a drive in us to be among those who are “established forever like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies”. You don’t have any prophetic responsibility to live up to, you’re in like Flynn.

Presumably David’s descendants are as motley and of no account as he was before Samuel came looking. It’s not fair to presume upon your lineage if you are not going to do anything that would honor it. First do what the kings didn’t - protect the weak, lift up the weakened. This is the line to be continued — care-for-all has persistence while looking-out-for-one’s-own eventually leads to division and exile. If the internals are not strong, there will always be a crack for an enemy to exploit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

2 Samuel 7:1-16

Pentecost +8 - Year B

Again a rest that is not a rest. See, give folks a rest and they gather enough energy to engage beyond their pay grade. David pauses long enough to consider locating G*D.

Nathan, at the end of a busy day, goes along. But after a night’s rest Nathan clearly sees things differently. There will be no temple-building.

Seems some folks do their best work when engaged to the hilt and others after sufficient time away to reflect on a longer view.

This brings us to an awareness of our own processes. Do your best insights come in the midst of a large task at hand that is taking all you have? Do they arrive during breaks?

To know this is to have power doubled. You can use your own rhythm to your benefit.

Generally it might be said that insights come while off the clock. Then a whole variety of subtleties can interact and reveal a new way. Of course this presumes you have been on the clock well enough to have an experience base to parse a new idea. 

May you know what is yours and what is for the next generation. This humility will energize your work of this day.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Pentecost +8 - Year B

After the Herod/Herodias/”Salome”/John interlude we are back at the ranch with Jesus and the apostles. They had been off teaching and healing and were reporting their success after Jesus had been stymied in Nazareth.

For folks unused to their tasks and running on adrenaline, Jesus noticed they were about to crash and took them on a mini-retreat. Except, as typical in Mark’s breathless recounting, there is no respite.

Consider that compassion may be an adrenaline antidote. It smooths out responses and refocuses attention toward a larger picture.

In this pericope we miss more adrenaline producing events of being challenged to impossibly feed 5,000 males (not mentioning females nor intersex persons) and challenging headwinds and a ghostly apparition.

The most important part of this is a missing line (verses 51-52) — the apostles were so astounded they couldn’t put two and two together. 

As a result, the apostle’s foray into teaching and healing is brought to an end. The focus is back on Jesus who has consolidated his teaching and healing again after Nazareth. This could be seen as a disrespecting of the apostles. They can’t feed folks and their puny teaching and healing pale before Jesus’ work with so many. Who could hope to live up to this, much less exceed it (presuming the author of the Gospel of John - got it right).

This has a feel to it that Jesus is always the answer, no matter what the question. Blessings on you as you claim what you have taught and renewed, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, as yours and valued.

Friday, July 13, 2012

heading into the wind

Pentecost +7 - Year B

does nothing stay dead?
Baptizer John
good ol’ Headless
pops up

one of the reasons G*D
hates adultery so
is that was G*D’s sin
in the Garden
flinging the day away

wherever a partnership contract
becomes hierarchical
some John-ian
names it

the thrill of guilt
is oddly attractive
to those against whom
a prophetic pronouncement
is employed

offing the prophet
doesn’t help Herod
it universalizes
the internal dissonance
and Jesus becomes John

from the grave
headless prophets
rise searching
for a next voice

now there’s a zombie story
with all the thrill
of live danger
with no stunt folk
to take the fall

a cosmic and comic
question comes echoing
will you lose your head
speak truth to power
and re-head John

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ephesians 1:3-14

Pentecost +7 - Year B

How does it feel to be destined, fated, determined?

This is Paul saying that he has  filched a copy of G*D’s plan while visiting a seventh heaven (well, third, at least) and all will be well if you give in to the plan now and praise, praise, praise.

Want proof?

When you believed you got the Good Holy Spirit seal of approval (now where did I put that?) which is your guarantee of moving toward getting paid for praising. Maybe it is still a long, long way off, but if you can pin that seal of approval on your lapel it is bound to happen by and by.

A blessing is appreciated, but a bit of its edge is taken off when there is a self-serving expectation that comes with it.

In its day Ephesus was the population equivalent of a Chicago or Houston in the USofA. You can pretty much expect that there will be an audience for a blessing of any kind. Imagine how many sects are in a large city and then begin to add them together. An American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) in 2008 indicated 2,804,000 people in the USofA were part of New Religious Movements & Others (many of which sound very Pauline but with non-Christ imagery) and 34,169,000 had no “religion”. Paul would have had a built-in audience.

So far a pretty negative review of “celebratory theology”. This does shift if the first two verses are left in. Here the context set is that of a community, not an individual. Our tendency these days is to privatize faith and religion. It also shifts if we extend the passage for two more verses, which orients folks to others. To universally celebrate is one thing; to celebrate from a privileged position is quite another. Eventually these matters come down to how one experiences being welcomed rather than acceding to an internally coherent theology. The above mentioned seal of approval is not a lapel pin, but the reality of community. Can folks see our “love of one another” or just my looking for an edge?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Psalm 24

Pentecost +7 - Year B

What do we know about those who make it to prominence? Their hands and hearts are purely practical. They will do whatever is necessary to arrive at their goal and then do even more to keep it and even more to secure it.

All “acts of necessity” are finally called “blessings from the LORD”. Taking advantage of neighbors turns out to be taking advantage of G*D. Such is the company of those who seek the glorious and unending G*D - Mammon. Please look at stanza 4 of Philip Appleman’s poem, Five Easy Poems for Pagans.

In today’s political/economic realm we hear these ancient words anew:
Lift up your heads, O gated community!
and be lifted up, O golden job creators!
that glorious Mammon may come in.
What is Mammon’s glory?
A plutocracy, strong and mighty,
a fascism mighty in efficiency.
Lift up your heads, O gated community!
O golden financiers!
that glorious Mammon may come in.
What is Mammon’s glory?
The God of Prosperity,
is the king of gold.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

Pentecost +7 - Year B

In temporary lives in a temporary universe, we find it comforting to point at some eternals. An Ark-of-G*D is invested with such a characteristic. A new cart (technology) may be constructed, but it is for the carrying of an old god. In the end this is not any better than trying to put new wine into an old wineskin. Eventually the Ark is misplaced, forgotten again. And again.

For now there is blood aplenty. There is Uzzah’s death for touching the ark and knowing it to be acacia wood (temporary) [elided section]. There is the death of an ox and a fatling (or 7 as per 1 Chronicles 15:26 or 70 or 100s), unnamed and temporary, in anticipation of placating further G*D-anger against even David (also temporary).

Bringing an Ark to Jerusalem has the feel of later rulers playing the bread and circus card to distract folks from an unmediated experience of radical temporariness that has about it a universal quality and thus an eternal quality.

Most ironic, this moving Ark o’G*D intended to be with the people on their way is now safely esconced in Jerusalem and “the people went back to their homes” rather than continue on a larger journey. They settled for temporary in the present of eternity. How does that speak to the church of today? To you?

With what dignity, fear, and élan are you bringing your experience of the universe into the specific and temporary time and space where you are?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Mark 6:14-29

Pentecost +7 - Year B

Living a “temporary life in a temporary world”, we might learn two lessons from this passage:
Telling the truth is to be avoided.
No second thoughts allowed.

See where the truth got John — headless. See where it got Jesus — rejected at home and hung.

These lessons jump out at our “fear response” (wherever it may be located). We look at this passage and see truth being spun by folks trying to define Jesus. It is difficult to tell the truth in a confused setting. Sometimes there is only a Jimmy Stewart/Jesus story/parable to be drawled out for those who might later remember it and think again.

When we read about John we see again that power has its perogative to avoid self-reflection. If those in power don’t get us through ignoring, marginalizing, discriminating — there is always “stop, question, frisk” as well as arrest, prison, execution.

Herod learned the first lessons wells — get born to power and use its trappings to stay there. These first decisions mean that there can be no second thought given for it is a sign of weakness and you will soon be powerless. There is no Prince and Pauper story here to learn from. When it comes to someone else taking the brunt of our self- and societal-imposed model of power — that’s simply necessary, no matter how much private grieving might go on.

We seldom wait for over-active speculating to clear — it’s John, it’s Elijah, it’s a prophet-of-old — so we can see what is in front of us. A second thought would be helpful.

Speed of thought becomes a manipulative tool and leads us to being in charge — missing important questions or thoughtful responses — that might add value to a quick insight. Looking for more partners would be helpful.

Blessings to you as you do what you can to honor a good deed simply because it is good, no matter from whom it comes, and the humility to see if there is a another and better way forward. May you live in this temporary world as though it had some persistence.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Hometown Pride

Pentecost +6 - Year B

hometown pride
is accorded quarterbacks
CEOs and political victors
beauty pagent winners

strength and comeliness
keep our fantasies
greased and running
smooth and efficient

anyone can become president
hard work and perseverance
are guaranteed
to eventually win

if you haven’t won yet
it isn’t yet the end
for to doubt our present
is to deny our future

never never never
do the unexpected
for home town pride
refuses any such

yes be president 
it brings tourists
but no prophecy allowed
it brings unwanted change

instead of heading home
redefine hometown
as a next town
honoring those who roam

whether on the road or at home
welcoming graceful mercy
replaces heaps o’money
in measuring shalom

Thursday, July 05, 2012

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Pentecost +6 - Year B

For Paul who has boasted and still is tempted to do so there is a gift of a “thorn in the flesh”. There are many approaches to what such a “thorn” might be. I recommend a recent book by R.W. Holmen, A Wretched Man - A Novel of Paul the Apostle which incorporates recent scholarship into a novel genre.

In light of the previous scriptures for the day we might posit a thorn as the gift of not-so-loyal oppositionists in the body of the congregations Paul catalyzed. We can’t get too literal here and think that a thorn is a thorn is a thorn. Nazareth was a thorn in the side of Jesus and it led to new evangelistic methodologies - disciples sent out two by two and acting before they graduated.

Jerusalem was held by the Jebusites, thorns in David’s military career. Jerusalem becomes Temple Central.

The non-Israelite kings are imaged as gathered together and a thorn in Israel’s safety and security. G*D is then imaged as a “world-King”, in Peterson’s phrasing.

Thorns sharpen our attention and lead to new directions. If only fleshly pain, the new direction would be backward. In these cases, the thorn becomes something you head into to find a blessing hidden up until now. Thorns are not unlike cracks in cosmic eggs that allow a new stage of growth.

Consider that Paul is talking about a temptation to comfort and control that becomes particularly evident when dealing with late adapters to a new way to paradise. They don’t get it as quickly as Paul can hint at and theorize about a mystery he has heard in a once and future paradise. Paul wants to be a partner with folks who only are looking for a parent. This is a thorny place to be.

Now, who is that thorn in your side? Know that they are not going to leave. Can you be content to simply work on your integrity and telling as much truth as you can? Are you willing to wrestle with/meditate on suffering? Such as these will not let you to be in control, but they will strengthen you to be creative in the face of misunderstanding and rejection.

Honor the thorn even as you rejoice in the flower.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Psalm 48

Pentecost +6 - Year B

So far this week it is Jerusalem 2: Nazareth 1. This is where the power lies and thus the story. 

Regarding power there is positive power with Jerusalem and negative power at Nazareth. There is the power to build up and the power to tear down. Either way power is power.

Jerusalem is forever while Nazareth may have a moment or two.

It is really no contest between Jerusalem and Nazareth.

Now, expand this past geography to metaphor and mind-set. Where would you rather live? — Jerusalem, where G*D is? Nazareth, where Jesus isn’t? Are you not already living there, regardless of where you are physically?

Power and protection, what could be better? Culturally we are fated to adore Jerusalem and to scorn Nazareth. Religiously it is a toss-up. Pentecostally we will hear the wind more quickly in closed-in Nazareth.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

Pentecost +6 - Year B

David became greater and greater, for the Lord, God of hosts, was with him. Contrast that with the gospel lesson that Jesus became lesser and lesser. It was the disciples that were growing greater.

Difference? Jesus was in his hometown; David was at Hebron and went to make Jerusalem “his” city.

Being of the same blood and bone and flesh can cut two ways: to lift you up or bring you down. The context of response by the community makes all the difference. This is an opportunity to evaluate the tone of your various communities and to decide where you want to put your time and energy. Where do you need to hold hope in the midst of a discouraging word? Where do you need to move on or you will get caught in privilege and prestige issues?

In either case, you might be intrigued enough about building from the outside in, as David is reported to have done. As Walter Brueggemann comments, “An effective government, then as now, maintains a working social order, protects people from external threats, keeps the economy functioning and makes the trains run on time.” What are the social order issues that protect it? Healthcare for all can be understood as one of the bulwarks - if the general welfare is not in place all the common defense you can generate will not be sufficient to keep you from crumbling inside.

Note the order Brueggemann uses - working social order —> protection from external threats —> functioning economy —> efficiency. If you try to do these in reverse order there will be problem after problem. Now look at the preamble to the US Constitution and think about what a strict constructionist might set as their order: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, —> establish justice, —> insure domestic tranquility, —> provide for the common defense, —> promote the general welfare, —> and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. How do you compare and contrast these and what is a key work for you to engage?

Monday, July 02, 2012

Mark 6:1-13

Pentecost +6 - Year B

Pentecost question: Where did that wind come from?

Is it from out there somewhere or from in here? Is it Jesus or what others are claiming about him? Did we blink our eyes or is this person the same we have known since Joseph and Mary came back from their “census” vacation?

What does it mean that he did no “deed of power” in his hometown? Healings were accomplished, but no deed of power? Obviously there is a distinction to be made between curing and power.

Presumably power has to do with teaching, with revelation that we are not at a spot we would wish to be at - hence a need for repentance to move a bit closer to our desire.

Presumably the disciples did deeds of power after they taught repentance, named blockages (demons), and anointed as a vehicle for healing.

Peterson names the short-hand of “repentance” as a joyful urgency that life can be radically different. Those predisposed to the process of church seem to be better able to hear the judgment of “repent!” than the beckoning of “joyful urgency”. Translating "urgency" as "!", the one word response to Repent! is Joy!

As long as the repenters hold sway within the institution, it will roll along, eventually slowing down, and stopping. Perhaps we need to read this pericope again from the perspective of Jesus coming to your local “Christian” congregation where he should be known from conception to resurrection as a doer of power and those within the church know him so well that they are able to dismiss any thought or deed outside their current knowledge of Jesus. Congregants have become immune to surprise - a great judgment upon pastors - so take to the road with whomever will travel.