Friday, November 30, 2012

sign gazing

Advent 1 - Year C

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Advent 1 - Year C

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Psalm 25:1-10

Advent 1 - Year C

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jeremiah 33:14-18

Advent 1 - Year C

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Luke 21:25-36

Advent 1 - Year C

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

a voice crying

Pentecost Last - Year B

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Revelation 1:4b-8

Pentecost Last - Year B

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

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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

Pentecost Last - Year B

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2 Samuel 23:1-7

Pentecost Last - Year B

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

John 18:33-37

Pentecost Last - Year B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

all fall down

Pentecost +25 - Year B

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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

Pentecost +25 - Year B

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Pentecost +25 - Year B

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

Try this one from Jim Taylor . . .


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

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

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

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

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

I had lost hope.
I shall call her Hope.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

1 Samuel 1:4-20

Pentecost +25 - Year B

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

Do apply the stages of grief to this short story.

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

Do apply the placebo effect to this short story.

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

Mark 13:1-8

Pentecost +25 - Year B

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

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

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

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