Thursday, February 28, 2013

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Lent 3 - Year C 

We have had our formative experiences, whether individually or generationally. These are wonderful and cumulative. We rejoice.

Our formative experiences do not hold up over time. We become accustomed to their presence and they turn into idols. We keep applying their specifics rather than their universality. We use them to justify accumulated power and prestige.

Here the specific of sexuality rises up to deny the variability of this gift. Here the presumption that we are the end spot of creation justifies spinning an ancient story for present purposes. Nothing new in this, just that it happened again then and is again now.

We are appropriately encouraged to make choices today, as folks have had to make all along the way. During and after the Exodus folks were no more united than were folk then listening to Jesus or now to testimony about him.

How do we express the freedom to learn more than has been passed on and how do we care for others whose learning goes in a different direction from ours. This tension is somewhat relieved in hearing the many plurals used here that are too easily limited to individual experience. It is also eased by warnings that our most cherished rituals do not bring with them guarantees to protect us from going aft agley.

The poetic reference to a mouse ends with:
Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!
The way out of our various slaveries to the past and blindnesses to the future remains a mystery to mice and men. Caught between dreariness and fear we set up tests of passed on paradigms (a little more manure) and yet unseen growth (a little more time). May you evaluate your data well; may you help us all evaluate our common data.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Psalm 63:1-8

Lent 3 - Year C 

I seek
I thirst

in hand
on lips


to this
I cling
with this
I hold up
in this
I live

= = = = =

Alternatively you might want to hear Jim Taylor’s paraphrase:

The third Sunday in Lent, Psalm 63:1-8. Some downtown churches are thriving; many are memorials to a former glory. Why do we maintain them, when they’re so often empty? Because a few people still come there to seek sanctuary.

1   Crowds of people crush me. 
       They bump and bounce my mind; 
       they break my concentration. 
       I feel like nothing more than a means to an end,
       merely a cog in the crunching machinery of a city. 
       I long for the gentle touch of loving fingers, the intimate whisper of acceptance.
2   So I have come looking for you, Lord, in your holy places.
3   In this dimmed light, in this hushed silence, I sense your presence.
4   I wish I could feel you as near me in the rabid frenzy of life in the urban core. 
       I want to reach out and touch you in the marketplace as well as the chancel.
5   Then I will not feel alone; you will be part of every thought and every breath.
6   I will know you at my desk and in my den, in my bed and in my bathtub.
7   Nothing will come between us.
8   And I will hold you close in the forest of my fears.

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Isaiah 55:1-13

Lent 3 - Year C 

Seeking G*D while G*D is active in ways our senses can appreciate does imply an unceasing awareness. Asking whether G*D is present now, in the midst of this sorrow, this joy, this everyday, does increase our ability to catch a glimpse of G*D.

Of course we usually record our experience as more than a glimpse. We turn a moment into eternity. In doing so we cease asking whether G*D is present as we bask in echoes from the past — after all, we have had our fix and don’t need to attend for just a little while.

It is also worth seeking G*D where G*D is anticipated. Here the accumulated wisdom is clearer. Where is wickedness being pursued, G*D is present. Where widows and orphans are not cared for, G*D is present. Where doubt rises, G*D is present. Where idols reign in marketplaces, G*D is present. Basically, wherever G*D is an afterthought, G*D is becoming more present. The corollary is that wherever G*D is thought or felt to be present, G*D is already moving on.

What kind of perversity is this sort of steadfastness? It is the same challenge every teacher uses. Prophets have simply learned the latest lesson about how to learn about presence. Attend to the present; anticipate more depth than surface; there is more ahead than behind.

Luke 13:1-9

Lent 3 - Year C 

It is extremely helpful to have a scapegoat. Along comes a hurricane, it must be the fault of those who were killed or injured — recompense in the world. Here is an earthquake, we were hurt and that isn’t right so it must be our favorite out-group to blame — they are even worse than we thought. A flood rises, it is a god’s right to do in everyone for the fault of a few (remember the bargaining over Sodom) — cynics arise, you are right that steadfast love is not what it appears and there will be no pie, by-and-by, but we will all be in a pickle.

Without a scapegoat, a blamee, we have to look more closely at a longer time of reference. When we do so a wider view leads to greater patience and clearer points of decision.

Anyone want to blame the gardener for all the ills of the current state of affairs? If only we had cracked down more quickly and directly, there wouldn’t be the specific disappointments confronting us?

Anyone want to blame the owner or mechanisms of the economy for whom immediate productivity takes precedence over any longer term benefit called common-good?

I am going to die — so... — what do I have to lose to show patience to another and to nurture others at each stage of their growth in wisdom as well as stature? And what do you have to lose? What does our culture have to lose to gain perspective?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

this very hour

Lent 2 - Year C 

this very hour

scram and skedaddle
they are out to get you

not realizing they
hadn’t thought it through

all they had was force
applied over time — exhausting

implacable hardness
just can’t keep up

new life casts off
once helpful scabs

yes hardness was once
a lesser evil

but consolidation of lesser harms
escalates back into great loss

to reduce the lesser further
requires greater care of the young

so prophets talk crazy talk
careening through time

bring everyone together
affirm our common need

protecting class status quo
guarantees further woe

cast that demon out
through each healing

until a blessing way
is our blessed way

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Philippians 3:14-4:1

Lent 2 - Year C 

To be mature is to assess situations with a greater number of experiences and evaluative tools. Younger folks are limited in both and tend to be shaped by their circumstance rather than to anticipate choices needed to be made and to make difficult choices regarding the long-run.

Holding fast to what is true to this point does bring a better experiential base than the last time around, but holding fast also locks us in to building today's defense on yesterday’s war. Maginot lines and nuclear weapons simply do not work any more – each was surprised and surpassed by subsequent tactics of speed and non-state attacks.

A clear-eyed analysis is perennially needed. This is the role of a prophet, not of a founder of an institution setting up ritualistic imitations of the past.

It is important to take seriously where folks are oriented. Abram and Jesus are quite grounded in the end game of space and time—Abram with descendants; Jesus with the children (sisters and brothers) of his day. Paul, on the other hand, has us gazing on heaven which will resend Jesus to us rather than on earth and carrying on the Jesus who had already been sent. If earth is to be as heaven, we need to focus on earth and needed changes here.

So if there were one significant issue for you to strengthen the protection of a threatened part of creation, where would you put your time and energy?  It really doesn’t make any difference what your significant issue is as we need folks engaging all of them. Is it around discrimination of a human identity characteristic such as sexual orientation? Is it around common welfare of a labor matter such as a living wage? Is it focused on the environment and monopolized abundance? Is it around a matter for a next generation or a current one? Is it related to spirit and health? Whatever matter you have been gifted with to constructively engage, do it with good prophetic energy. When you are engaged in your arena and others are engaged in theirs, blessings will flow in quite wonderful and unexpected ways. In one way and another the impossibles of being past child-bearing time and even death will find a surprising resolution of birth and rebirth. If there is no significant issue, you have taken your eye off the importance of now and substituted some pie in the sky, by and by.

So be on your way. Do not give heaven or jail a second thought. Do not collect $200. Simply be on your way with your gifts to the part of the common good that is a gift to you. When these gifts join, amazing life burgeons from generation to generation.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Lent 2 - Year C 

Visions come in two basic varieties: illusion and illumination. Visions can hide or reveal. It is never easy to know which you are dealing with.

Abram’s vision sets in motion several fateful ripples.

First is assurance that we are of consequence, there is more to come. Here it is a biologic offspring (Ishmael? Isaac? Unnumbered descendants?) To trust this understanding of more to come than can yet be counted on is a significant decision. It merits being reckoned with.

Second, in the missing section, Abram’s life of moving away from circumstance and on to journey anticipates a repetition of this rhythm of being called out and called to by those who follow in Abram’s train.

Third, this note from The Jewish Study Bible
“The ritual of cutting animals in half and passing between them is found both in the Bible and in Mesopotamia. The parallel in Jer. 34:17-22 makes it likely that the essence of the ritual is a self-curse: Those walking between the pieces will be like the dead animals if they violate the covenant. In the case at hand, remarkably, it is the Lord, symbolized by the “smoking oven” and “flaming torch” (15:17) who invokes the self-curse, and nothing is said about any covenantal obligations that Abram is to fulfill. This type of covenant is called a covenant of grant, which is a reward for past loyalty, and does not involved any obligations upon the grantee. The same pattern is prominent in texts about the covenant with David (2 Sam. 7:8-16; Ps. 89:20-37).”
     This vision within a vision is an example of prevenient grace. It is a solemn promise of presence no matter how dark it becomes. The very darkness, like a previous rainbow, is a sign that “all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well”. A hazelnut’s hard wall will only hold back descendent upon descendent for a time. The future will entail a dropping away from originating circumstance to unknown bounces and burying to on-going generations. This is beyond any promise we make of participation in this process, it is a light in the dark illuminating something larger than our faith or trust (ready or not, like it or not, there is already a motion carrying us onward).

And so with Abram and Jesus, we, too, announce that, like yesterday — today, tomorrow, and the next day I am on my way onward. May your strewing of blessings be blessed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Psalm 27

Lent 2 - Year C 

Where does one turn for a source of comfort and safety when external or internal threats arise? The Psalmist finds their confidence in a context of beauty and inquiry (v. 4).

These gifts of seeking beyond and beneath the surface for context and process lifts a weary or tortured head. Ongoing inquiry and instances of beauty set an openness to actually hear a response to a plea for perspective and plan to move forward.

To see ourselves as fundamentally beloved takes more than being a reflection of who others see us to be (too often as a slave or extension of them). With beauty and inquiry we find our own will and way. Even in the face of violence we can see the goodness of what we mean by “G*D” and our own participation in a larger creation.

We hear of “waiting for the Lord” through “strength” and “courage” (v 14). There is not more strength needed for nor received from an engagement with “beauty” and “inquiry”. Likewise, courage is not found in pulled bootstraps, but in simply following a crack of hope revealed by “inquiry” and “beauty” still present in an oppressive setting. Waiting is not passivity, but active openness to inquiry beyond our certainty or other-definition of self and appreciation of moments or extended experiences of beauty emerging from beneath fear, like grass growing through cement.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Luke 13:31-35

Lent 2 - Year C 

Dire warnings are all around. Rebecca Ann Parker in her book, “Blessing the World: What Can Save Us Now”, reminds us there are two ways of looking at disaster through an apocalypse lens.

1) We can anticipate an apocalypse and become passive or simply await its arrival to set things straight. 2) We can claim an apocalypse has already occurred and our work is to redeem the current time.

While we usually find ourselves somewhere between a glass more than half empty (anticipating an apocalypse to fill the remainder?) and a glass more than half full (working to remove the rubble and establish community yet available to share the little we have with those who have less?), the addition of perspective on apocalyptic matters does add value to our interpretation of what the next needed thing might or might not be for us.

Jesus is speaking here post-apocryphally – he continues, not in fear of what is to come but in blessing-mode on what has already happened. You can hear the passion for setting things right after they have gone terribly wrong (and aren’t we living in a time when we can say things have gone terribly wrong!). If there is not weeping as we rehearse Jesus’ words about Jerusalem, about our place of living, we have not read them well. This is not a time for a monotone reciting of holy words. Rather our pre-apocryphal resignation or engagement with a post-apocryphal setting will be revealed through the reading of and response to these words: “This place, here, now, arrived at by ignoring/killing prophets and dismissing/stoning those who would bind up wounds! I offer consolation and consolidation as a hen gathers her brood under her wings even as I am isolated/exiled. Yet I proceed in hope that a time will come when you experience a need for blessing to go forward and will remember it is in blessing I have been among you.”

Hopefully we will someday take this symbol of a protective hen 

undergirds us and is more powerfully motivating than a cross.

In so doing we will reveal our orientation at the side of G*D mopping up willful and involuntary messes.

 - - - - - - -
Video bonus of Dominus Flevit

Friday, February 15, 2013

Last Temptation

Lent 1 - Year C 

having graduated from
a last temptation
after great exercise of wisdom
through ages of learning 
and clarifying of purpose
this framed certificate
is not holding well

qualified to deal with
a last temptation
means exactly that
while it appears
excruciatingly clear
that a last temptation
is not a present temptation

some similarities can be found
a last temptation
is not entirely unique
but the emotional tug
between past and present
seems always weighted
to today’s temptation

a stoney loaf for dessert
a last temptation
was just a set up
to move from power over
to simply implicit power
with no time between
to rebalance awareness

at the time
a last temptation
seemed a big thing
its overcoming
worth stars in a crown
an angel delivered meal
and so much more

for now
a last temptation
is simply that
if anything it relaxes
opening a way for
seven more to enter

successful defense of
a last temptation
opens more fronts
far from expected attack
not even dread came close
to anticipate vulnerabilities

while grateful for
a last temptation
against which to hone
policies and procedures
it is not at all predictive
of unintended consequences
or unrecognized fault lines

so here we stand
a last temptation
passed and past
and proud
only to be schooled
and again

a never-ending story
of last temptations
for no reason
for quid pro quo
for proof of G*D
for ever and on
is our opportunity

treading wilderness
a first blessing
shows belovedness
connected with creation
shared in community
anticipated through compassion
regardless of any next temptation

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Romans 10:8b-13

Lent 1 - Year C 

Three key phrases to attend to:
word of faith
confess with your lips

Word of faith - an external eternal.
Confess with your lips - offer assent for assurance.
Believe - trust there is no advantage to be gained and all are equal before G*D

Our words of faith are incompatible with their words of faith. Battle lines are drawn and friendships quartered over the difference of one little word. So was Eastern Christianity divided from Western and is every schism justified.

Confession with our lips tempts us claim form takes precedence over function. These are never order-able, but always interactive. Here is the beginning of hypocrisy that cannot see itself.

Believing is action based on trust in a wholeness between intention and implementation. To do anything other than both is to deny our earthly and earthy dustiness as well as our heavenly image dwelling within and through us.

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Lent 1 - Year C

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Note the elisions, this is where temptation goes on.

We say we trust G*D, but we are really expecting that our praise will have an excellent return, just as major contributors to political campaigns expect consideration of their needs. Our trust is to pay off in deliverance, protection, fear reduction, and avoidance of punishment.

See, “Because” we trust, no evil shall befall us. We have G*D’s word on this, “Those who love me (at least flatter me), I will deliver....”

This is an early-in-Lent opportunity to reflect on both our motives and our willingness to fudge our values for an additional perk. Blessings on a clear-eyed evaluation of your relationship with G*D, Self, and Neighb*r.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Lent 1 - Year C

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Why institute a ritual if not for the temptation to forget.

If ritual were simply something to do for its own sake, life would be rather mechanical. Ritual bridges a positive past experience with its doppelgänger temptation. Ritual is also a bridge to a future by carrying a bit of wisdom from the past along.

Here the ritual is sharing the first fruits of our living in a newly conquered land. It deals with the temptation to forget our history of enslavement. To forget is to set the stage for repetition of history, a falling back into slavery. Remembering we were slaves brings the possibility of continually evaluating our freedom.

Unfortunately ritual is rather narrowly focused. How might the israelites have ritualized their displacing people to make room for them and engage in restitution for themselves and others? Some of it is done with rules about gleaning at the end of a harvest, leaving some for the former owners of the land. But a gleaning rule doesn’t carry the same energy and power as this ritual of first-fruits.

To only remember our own displacement and return without remembering who we have displaced and wants to return, is a set-up for losing a significant grounding and a need for prophets to arise and remind everyone that injustice begun with such as small thing as forgetting all the displaced now threatens to bring a drought that will reduce the first-fruits to the point of famine and another journey to a proverbial Egypt. Forgetting not only dries us up, it dries up the very land.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Luke 4:1-13

Lent 1 - Year C

Luke 4:1-13

Guarantee: Get Spirit: Get Tempted.

If there is one thing that the Spirit of Life is not, it is not a guarantee of anything. It blows where it will and in its wake come all the Pandoran temptations to turn from life to death. Somehow or other Spirit, in all its ecstasy, leaves hope behind.

Without hope still remaining, Spirit feels like an answer to prayer and arrives with great transformative power. Imagine the Transfiguration scene from last week and everything works out well — Jesus floats away. Rather death was an intimate part of that event, including the conversation with Moses and Elijah and Jesus’ announcement on the way down the mountain and more?
The spirit comes, belovedness arrives and is tempted away from being a grounded self to an elevated sense of self. Why not turn stones to bread or the other way around? Why not use this new charisma to develop a political following? Why not test the boundaries of miracle?

Do note that the temptations will continue to follow any who dare pay attention to the spiritual part of their life. So rejoice in the temptations and learn from them. This removes their power from them and transfers it to you. There is another temptation on its way, are you ready to rejoice and learn? If not, what is Lent for?

Friday, February 08, 2013

Snippets from Luke 9:23-48

Epiphany - Last/Transfiguration - Year C

Snippets from Luke 9:23-48

attempts to save
that which is not lost
fires imagination
tires attention

the presence and practice
of wisdom personified
opens to disclose
while we doze

when attentive
at altitude or dead sea level
life is aglow
future flows

especially the past
pushes us onward
breath by breath
beyond death

until we shine
and affirm dying
scaring brothers
affronting others

there is no time to wait
buildings schmildings
too many unloved
need to be-loved

demons within
powers without

a strong word
and gentle hand
steel us to heal
every raw deal

in battles for greatness
a child’s potential
is welcomed
and becomes

Thursday, February 07, 2013

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Epiphany - Last/Transfiguration - Year C

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Paul was not a biblical literalist. There is no report in scripture of Moses' sense of the presence of G*D having dimmed or failed. He was strong enough to complain and ended his days full of vitality. To move from a reference that Moses wore a veil to cover glory to Moses not wearing a veil mistakes and limits the presence of G*D to a moment of ecstasy.

Glory, like gifts, is revealed in different way to different people and at different stages of their life journey. To start measuring the amount and style of glory among us is a battle that, at best, ends up being lose-lose.

G*D is large enough to not require all having the same gift or the same amount/expression of glory, either in the present or at some future time.

We can still have heart, whether we revel in or dismiss Moses. The refusal to admit to cunning is a very cunning thing to do and we all fall short of self-revelation to others. Let's get off this either/or approach to various components of everyday life. An extension of being both saint and sinner is that we are have a whole range of glory from prevenient grace to lived wholeness. Lift up your heart and lift up your Neighb*r's heart — we are in this together.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Psalm 99

Epiphany - Last/Transfiguration - Year C

Psalm 99

Changing media changes meaning.

The media of direct experience rumbles and quakes with no advance warning. This primal uncertainty affects our communal relationships. When powerful people rumble and quake we connect the two experiences into prose and poetry in ways that keep us off-balance.

In trying to enlist power to our side, we set up rules about what will placate an earthquake, what will satisfy a king, and what will domesticate a G*D.

Earthquakes still remain beyond us. Kings, over time, die and/or are overthrown. G*Ds become pets we can bring out to scare other people even as we are comforted.

We find ourselves watching out for G*D, not engaging. We know that enough of us together can deal with a king. We have enough experience to know where earthquakes will most likely happen and choose to be elsewhere or build more securely.

The earth quakes and, in our mind's eye, heaven becomes more stable and reliable. We move from shaky ground to a ground of all being, never recognizing how the physical has become the metaphoric and in turn a story becomes a constraint.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Exodus 34:29-35

Epiphany - Last/Transfiguration - Year C

Exodus 34:29-35

To be connected with G*D is to be raised to the heights.
To be connected with G*D is to enter the depths.

We beckon each other, entreat each other, to reveal our best to each other.
We move on to testify and reveal our best to others.
We return to vision and to again go forth.

This rhythm enlightens and energizes all of creation.
This rhythm engages our hopes and fears.

We reveal and are revealed.
We veil and stand naked.
We alternate until we can't tell the difference

Connected with G*D our fear of what is possible is palpable.
Connected with Neighb*r our hope of covenant is constant.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

Epiphany - Last/Transfiguration - Year C

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

Those who want to save their life will lose it.
Those who want to save the church will lose it.

These parallel paradigms inform one another regarding the universal found in every particular and the unique in the midst of larger pictures.

When we lose one of these perspectives, we lose both.

In both cases we are caught by any number of temptations to attempt to control an uncontrollable urge of creation or to demystify the mystery of life and relationship. The result of narrowing self or church down to what we can understand or construct to force understanding is stasis or death.

This is the context from 8 days ago. Play with 7 "days" and take away 8. We are back in chaos. Any usual definition of saving will lead us back to a darkness over the deep.

What then will move us on to participating in the ride of our lives, both individual and corporate? Transfiguration. New life. Remembering, "You are beloved" or "We are beloved", leads us back down whatever mountain of remove we have clambered up to get an over-view. To "lose" our temptation to save the unsavable we return from our isolating perch to the rough and tumble of relationship. There are only additional encounters with the brokenness of life to engage in. Parents are disconnected from children, generation from generation, and self from self. In the midst of the discontinuities of life we invite brokenness of every stripe into our experience of belovedness.

All our usual tricks of superstition to shape an outcome - rally hats, deep thoughts, self-abnegation, political power - fall short. It will take a return to the expectation of the unexpected. In this case Jesus calls it "prayer", but we are talking about a water to wine experience, magi to a baby, dignity to the forefront.

The humility of silence is antidote to an aggrandized sense of saving self and meaning. This opens us to extend the reading to "greatness" being that of welcoming potential, welcoming a child, welcoming a return to an 8th day as prelude to another 7 days and 70x70 days.

Transfiguration sees its own loss [vss. 43b-45] and goes ahead anyway. This is its validation, its shift from caution (saving from) to courage (investing in).

Friends, it is time to remember our belovedness in the gift of silence and to return to the noise of life and its potential. Onward.

Friday, February 01, 2013

refugee's refuge

Epiphany 4 - Year C

a prophet’s first work
is a revelation to self

primal distress abounds
attention must be paid

who am I - beloved - really
what is my authority - clarity - really

so many unresolvable doubts
so many predicable fears

identity is refuge
always available in a moment

have identity
will travel

prophets do not reveal G*D
already closer than breath

prophets do reveal distance
from intention to consequence

we hurt the ones we love
when in them we see our captivity

prophets only do their best
to work themselves out of a job

their responsibility is great
even though they cannot be responsible

simply being there and here
their reflective nature is easily dismissed

patiently they give themselves away
insistently they endure hope

all for a moment of insight
put into motion from then on

oh, I have been a child
it is time to be accountable

face to face reveals
the distance we have come

face to face reveals
the distance yet to go

face to face reveals
belovedness clearly

face to face
refugees heal