Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Acts 16:9-15

Easter 6 - Year C 

A call for help is helped by dreams. Awake the world is too much with us, night and noon, and our habits cut to a whisper any call to risk what we have and who we have come to know ourselves to be.

In a dream a call is just a call. It stands on its own. Oh, we can still dismiss it simply by not recognizing dreams, but a dream call cuts across our usual defenses.

What we don’t know is whether previous dreams had set Paul up for this one, if this was simply the call that finally got through. Whether unique or a series of dreams, appreciate the delicious bait and switch of an anonymous man calling Paul and a the result of his visit recruiting a very certain woman—Lydia.

We get so caught up in habits that we can’t hear need, our own or others. When something does make it through we usually expect it to go the way we first heard it or our fantasy about the great work we will do. These traps don’t let reality build on the dream seed.

Dreams can’t be trusted, but that is not what dreams are for. Rejoice, your dreams are simply freeing you to live where you would never have thought life possible—they are stimuli to resurrection (yours and others). In your own backyard or half-way around the world—listen to a dream that calls you to garden or to go and be present in Saudi Arabia. To show up in Macedonia is no more or less marvelous than disappearing into a grave or appearing in a locked room or following your dream.

Monday, April 29, 2013

John 14:23-29

Easter 6 - Year C 

Those who love me will be connected with me. Those whom I love (G*D/Neighb*r/Y’all/“Them”) I connect with. In all of this we hear more than words. We see more than hope delayed. We sense a Presence that aids our connection and we find ourselves at rest with one another, even in the midst of a next death and on-going sifting and winnowing of what we test and find real.

This Presence is all too easy to call Holy. When doing so we mask death and connection and are able to hide a fear-starter next within our sourdough. We hear of and desire peace, all the while still fearful.

If we were at peace, goings and comings would be a source of rejoicing. If we rejoiced in a larger view, peace would be right there. These polarities wind back and forth between one another—rejoice/peace/rejoice/peace.... Or, since we know not of chickens and eggs—peace/rejoice/peace/rejoice....

This we know before we know it. It is deeply remembered even if deeply buried. Come let us remember together that we might live forward.

Friday, April 26, 2013

casting love

Easter 5 - Year C 

cast your bread upon the water
cast it into Judas

it will return to you seven-fold
or thirty

and it was night
after so much light

in this darkness - glory
in glory so much dark energy

with such pairings
we could go on forever

such time we do not have
but in little time

the only thing left to do
is love one another

Revelation 21:1-6

Easter 5 - Year C 

Can you imagine Judas affirming this passage as he is on his way to earn his 30 pieces of silver? Isn’t it almost necessary for him to be doing so. Seeing a new heaven and a new earth leads us to deeds beyond ourselves, both honorable and dishonorable, life giving and life taking.

Can you hear echoes of Peter’s transformative vision?

If we could bring heaven to earth, wouldn’t we do whatever it took to do so? Of course. A vision of G*D among us, instead of at some distant remove, is motivational in the extreme. It is the source of X-Theology (no, not the Greek chi beginning Christ, but the contemporary eXtreme)

This is a source of any number of extreme theologies.

See, G*D is making all things new. I just need to do this one necessary, trustworthy and true deed and it is done! How refreshed I will be after attending to this now X-cusable deed.

Judas wasn’t seen as a betrayer in his moment of leaving. Peter was seen as a betrayer by the Christian Circumcision Party. Later these perceptions of the moment were reversed. For the moment pretend you are a new you in a new environment. What would you be doing? Well, go ahead—it’s true.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Psalm 148

Easter 5 - Year C 

The mysterious “us” and “our image” from Genesis 1:26 is called to honor one who acted.

Subsequent or contemporaneous angels are called to attention as an honor guard.

All the various fiddly bits bring their own honor through being what they are.

Yes, even the monsters and storms offer their honor by being who they are created to be.

Those in power and those out of power are ultimately going to have to serve someone and honor that which beyond themselves.

The next time you are called to praise something, try honor instead and see if that brings a better taste to your mouth. Find the necessary action and join in. Honor is due those who participate, regardless of the outcome.

Honor, instead of praise, opens us to relationship, transformation, and new insight. Praise, instead of honor, separates life from life, wears thin, and traps us in the past—praise for the future just doesn’t substitute for hope for the unseen.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Acts 11:1-18

Easter 5 - Year C 

With Judas gone and a new teaching to “Love one another” that will define followers of Jesus, that very inclusive new way became very exclusive. This command became the standard for the other teachings of where love is to be evident—Love G*D, Neighb*r, S*lf, En*mies.

A cult of community re-established itself. As a result Peter is questioned: “How dare you engage those who are not us? Explain yourself!”

Group self-preservation is a powerful thing. Peer pressure can get people to deny what they know to be true in any other setting. Religious groups are always in great danger of identifying what they do as “G*D’s will” and staying with that long past any time when it may have been applicable.

To break the enthrallment a really good story by an in-group person is needed. This is the value of allies of any outside group. Obviously such stories are not always heard. How long have allies of LGBT people been at it and still “marriage” is only on the horizon? How long will allies of controlling gun-violence need to tell stories? How long will allies of the environment need to speak before being heard over the monied lobbyists of profit-seeking, non-human corporations?

In this case Peter’s vision reconnected a divided universal love ethic in such a way as to elicit conversion. This was evidenced in his questioners moving from implied accusation to silence to thanksgiving. Tell your truth one more time.

Here is a continued telling of a larger vision by Sandra Steingraber. What say you to this larger vision? How would you reconnect a divided creation?

Monday, April 22, 2013

John 13:31-35

Easter 5 - Year C 

Clarity is generally a good thing. Conversion, forgiveness, and repentance, however, are not predictable. No matter how clear decisions appear to be. There needs to be room left for Judas to have a change of heart. Who knows what encounter he will have between leaving Jesus’ crew and arriving in a house of power to betray Jesus. Bet against new insight at your own peril.

I do wish it wasn’t reported that Jesus had/shared his “new” insight after Judas left. Having Judas among those who are to love one another would add a whole new dimension to this revelation. There is long history of disciples not entirely accurately representing their teacher in their dealing with their teacher, neighbors, or one another. If love doesn't incorporate differences, is it love?

Want to know you are dealing with Jesus’ disciples, see how they love their sisters and brothers with whom they have profound differences. Anything less than this is a fairytale that they live happily ever after without difficulties.

Does Judas fit within “love one another”? Or is “love your enemies” the only rubric left for Judas?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Revelation 7:9-17

Easter 4 - Year C 

When an ordeal is over thanksgiving is in order. In fact, great thanks giving simply comes through, whether in order or not.

That which can wipe away our every tear is highly valued. Of course it is exactly this that often gets us into ordeals. Fascists and dictators of every stripe first appeal to being a source of great comfort — getting the trains to run on time or to overcome some great internal or external foe.

Wiping away every tear is a worthy value. The question is at what expense and for what purpose. If it is to control or for praise of the most powerful around, the value of comfort is diminished and needs to be replaced by rebellion.

What other responses are there to coming through terrible troubles? “Remember!”, is one. “Never again!”, is another. “We learned X or Y or Z and will structure that in to next decisions,” is yet a third. Do add your own fourth or fifth or tenth.

Imagine for a moment that Revelation were to return us to earth to rectify past errors and eras. What then would be the appropriate behaviors, something beyond 24/7 worship. Even in heaven, minds can stray after some time of continuous thanksgiving. If there is any humanity left in heaven it is hard to imagine this level of good-time lasting. At some point a mind will wander, an extraneous thought enter, admiration of that gorgeous set of wings will set off some greed-o-meter. If this is a next garden time, will there be time for an evening talk as well as an insatiable coveting of more and more thanks?

If Revelation is simply encouragement for folks in travail, what happens when onlookers of another time begin to claim the perks of ordeal survival without the ordeal? It turns into a pie-in-the-sky theory that removes us from the development of relationships with one another in order. We end up with only a relationship with whatever we name god. This becomes a control mechanism of a religious institution.

Watch out for a false future representing a false Messiah.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Psalm 23

Easter 4 - Year C 

The function of a shepherd is important. Here is protection of wandering assets. Here is development of a herd and its health. Here is support for religious ceremonies and culinary delights.

Shepherds can also be metaphors and similes for care giving. Even to the point of great responsibility for souls.

Generally, however, the status of a shepherd is as if they were of no importance. They are overlooked, discounted, and dismissed. This is nearly an invisible vocation. In a city-based environment, it is not usually a vocation but a job of last resort, a step above begging.

It is a great comfort to be comforted. This is a psalm of comfort that could begin with a parent, a friend, a lover, piece of chocolate, scads of money or any number of other sources people have identified as a comfort to them.

As in so many other cases, this could be read in the plural as well as the singular.

     We are to care for one another, none need be in want.
     Resources are abundant and we willingly point one another to them.
     In the midst of the direst of circumstances, we are encouraged and encourage.
     All in all, we trust one another and find healthy ways to journey.
     Even in the presence of bombs, we resist fear.
     After all, you are with me and I am with you— what comfort!
     And so we feast and invite everyone, including family black sheep.
     We bless one another, deserved or not, for we have been blessed, deserved or not.
     We abound in relationships which are a source of abundance.
     This is tried and true, not fleeting.
     We welcome justice wrapped in mercy and dive into its depth.
     Together we build houses and transform them into homes.
     This village sustains.

This focus on Neighb*r reveals G*D’s presence even as G*D teaches hospitality of Neighb*r.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Acts 9:36-43

Easter 4 - Year C 

What is to be focused on here?

— Is it the resurrection of Tabitha? A reprise of a young girl being raised with words of “Talitha cum”?

— Is it the resurrection of Peter, still in his pre-expansive vision state, actually staying with an unclean tanner?

In this story, Simon the Tanner is practically a throw-away line. Living with someone who is perpetually designated as unclean for dealing with dead animals may have emboldened Peter to at least speak to a dead body, if not yet touch it.

Imagine a midrash on St. Simon the Tanner who so influenced St. Peter the Rocky. No, not St. Simon the Tanner of Coptic fame from the 10th century, but the not yet St. Simon the Tanner of Joppa in the 1st century. 

One commentator posits that Simon was host to the “first multi-ethnic conference in the history of the gospel.” That may be a bit much, but it points at an innate sense of hospitality. At any rate, would you or would you not vote to canonize little ol’ Simon, humble tanner and straight-man for Peter’s conversion/resurrection to inclusion?

Whichever way you vote, the role Tanner Simon played in Peter’s life and Jesus’ cause of being for everyone still needs playing in our world. Tag — you're it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

John 10:22-30

Easter 4 - Year C 

Who are you? 
“I yam what I yam,” says Popeye the Savior.

No. Who are you? What category do you fit in. What kind of Savior are you? 
“Just a humble saviorman who swabs decks and looks out for all the anointed, like Olive Oyl— silly misfit though she be— and orphaned Swee’peas.”

There is no category for a swabbing savior. A suffering one, yes; a swabbing one, no.
“Avast ye blutos, I yam what I yam and it’s all that I am.”

As long as you keep doing stuff we will continue to judge it. Oops, make that categorize it.
“You can toss me in the booby hatch, but I only have my actions to speak for me—you have heard my less than dulcet tone, haven’t you?”

No one wants to make you walk the plank, just tell us plainly how you keep doing the things you do.
“Well, there’s this spinach . . .”

Spinach, minach, talk sense or we’ll swab the deck with you.
“Ahoy there, a warning shot across my bow! We’ve been chewing the fat long enough. The wind is up and I’m running my course. Gangway! Fair Winds to you bilge rats! Remember what I’ve done! Oh, and try the spinach.”

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Feed Tend Heal

Easter 3 - Year C 

another’s identity
is a never-ending game

your claim
of your experience
has no connecting spot with me

instead of
entertaining another angel
i can but counter-claim you’re wrong

there is little
that will free us
from our privilege

so tempting
so addictive
me and my and mine

mean nothing here

are not convincing

of a new earth
run aground on my limits

miracles are needed here
three at least
and quickly

these miracles appear
in commonplace

only be ready to see anew
to tend to feed to heal
everyone anyway

while unready to go there
here crops up

while surprised
we kindly say

and a miracle happens
in honoring your identity
my identity is firmly grounded

eyes are opened
hearts are extended
community is deepened

tu casa es mi casa
your cause is is not yours alone
there is enough to tenderly feed one another

abundant grace
how sweet the life
that joins me with you

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Revelation 5:11-14

Easter 3 - Year C 

Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class, acted in anticipation of receiving his wings after 200 years of trying. His tending of George Bailey worked out well — it’s a wonderful life. So now Clarence is flitting around singing (probably off-key) “... glory and blessing!”

That is one story-line. It’s all about Jesus, Lamb First Class.

To hear Jesus tell it, he is the one who sings, “...glory and blessing!” to those who tend and feed. This means dealing honorably with the blind and healing them even if, when they can see again, they will then be able to target you for destruction. Those who presume the teaching function of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others hear Jesus singing, full voice, to both the current and the future teacher.

Just tend and nourish where you can. This is Easter personified — rolling some blockage back that a new way might be opened. Somewhere in your tending will come an awareness of the music of the spheres, an eternal hum, expressing thanks for your being kind regardless of your intentions or any other response you might receive.

Remember worship is a “workshop” for practicing tending and healing, not an end in itself.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Psalm 30

Easter 3 - Year C 

Day by day it is evening; it is morning.

Day by day it is weeping; it is joy.

Day by day it is exile; it is ecstatic union.

Day by day it is remembering; it is dreaming.

Day by day it is created; it is creative.

Day by day; it is day-by-day.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Acts 9:1-6, (7-21)

Easter 3 - Year C 

Who are you?
Where are you?
What are you?
When? How?

I can hear you but not see you. This is darkness.

I can still hear you and now see you in those I persecute. This is light.

From Brian McLaren’s book, “Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices” 
If you’ve lost your way to the desired destination, you’re in shallow trouble. But if in the process you’ve also lost the address you were supposed to visit, your trouble just got deep. If you don’t realize you’ve forgotten what your desired destination is, you’re in the bottomless pit the great Dane Soren Kierkegaard called the deepest level of despair—namely, to be in a hopeless situation but not realize it or feel bad about it.
A common destination is too often particularized. Individuals and homogenous groups have claimed exemption from having to rethink their understanding. It is everyone else who needs to come around. “If they don’t get my vision, ‘Off with their head!’”

May we continue to hear our name called and respond with behavior becoming a beloved.

Monday, April 08, 2013

John 21:1-19

Easter 3 - Year C 

Jesus started the whole Rahnerian recognition of an “anonymous Christian” as constituent of Easter. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. Paul didn’t recognize Jesus. I have not recognized Jesus in my dealings with folks who needed bread, shirt, or visit. How about you?

Easter and glory are so easy to miss through dismissal of their possibility.

We are now moving into a third week of Easter. How’s it going? Still looking around ready to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Here is a big hint about doing so — feeding and tending Neighb*rs. Confirm your blessedness through blessing Neighb*rs already beloved — recognized or not.

Friday, April 05, 2013

From a Question Authority

Easter 2 - Year C 

Explore God's Love

What is holiness?

Does God change? Is God of the book of Genesis the same God of today?

Will I be punished if I am angry at God because I feel miserable and alone?

If Jesus and God are the essence of love, why does the Bible so often threaten us with hell and damnation?

What is the significance of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus?

Where is the kingdom of God?

Does God make mistakes?

Why does God let bad things happen in the world?

What is meant by the "grace" of God?

Where do I look to find God in this world of tragedy and pain?

Does God punish us for our sins?

How can God love us when we consistently fail to follow His word?

How can the God of judgment and punishment, as often portrayed in the Old Testament, be reconciled with the concept of a God of love?

What is the power of prayer?

What if God doesn't answer my prayers?

What if Christian teachings fill me with feelings of guilt and worthlessness?

Explore Your Faith

How are we to respond to acts of terrorism and the hatred expressed by self-proclaimed "enemies" of Christianity?

I read the Bible and try to follow what scripture tells me to do. Why aren't things working out better for me?

Why would a Christian object to posting the Ten Commandments in public places?

How can God help me when I'm in the midst of depression?

How could depression lead to a richer spiritual life?

Why not emphasize the afterlife as the best reason for becoming a Christian?

Is it necessary to be part of a religious community in order to fully experience a relationship with God?

Why not believe that the Bible is the literal word of God?

How can I know the truth about Christianity if I question the Bible's status as the literal Word of God?

How can I know when it is God who is speaking to me?

Isn't searching for the God within just an excuse for narcissism?

Why are there so many disagreements about certain passages in the Bible?

What proof is there that Christianity is not a myth created to assuage our fears about death?

Do I have to believe that Christ literally, physically rose from the dead in order to be a Christian?

What if I'm not certain what I believe?

How can I know what God wants me to do with my life?

Is it all right to be spiritual without being religious?

What if I don't know how to pray?

How can I best incorporate God into my parenting?

What is the point of asking theological questions? Can we ever really know the answers?

As a Christian, how do I reconcile stories from the Bible with current scientific thought?

How can I live the life of faith?

Explore the Church

What if I am troubled by the negative attitudes toward women that I find in the Bible and in some churches today?

What is the difference between spirituality and religion?

How can I find a religion most suitable for my beliefs?

What is the heart of Christianity?

How can Christians accept Christianity as the way to God, and still give credence to the truth and reality of other religions?

I am uncomfortable with some of the doctrines professed in organized religion. Is believing certain creeds really what Christianity is all about?

Is going to church necessary for salvation?

What is Holy Eucharist and why is it so significant?

Do Christians really believe they are eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ when they receive Communion?

What is Pentecost and what difference does it make in our lives today?

What can Christians learn from other religions?

Why does the church put so much emphasis on the formal rites of worship?

What does Christianity teach about the moral status of homosexuality?

Do Christians believe that followers of other religions are doomed?

Do spiritual practices that are most often associated with Eastern religions have a place in the lives of Christians?

What if I strongly disagree with the views of someone else who professes to be a Christian?

How can Christianity be called a religion of love if "Christians" condemn those whose lifestyle and views differ from their own?


contain ideas
excuse inaction
bid us approach
fill lacunae
search for information
make a point
test hypotheses
bind together
simplify complexity
investigate events
build tomorrow
express faith
bully differences
lead astray
limit debate


Codes of ethics or behavior are responses to life’s disparities. They answer all too well what can only be a response to life’s unanswerable questions. It is helpful to consider codes beyond any given set to the process of “coding theory” which is concerned with finding explicit methods of increasing the efficiency and reducing the net error rate of data communication over a noisy channel (human experience, if you will). These codes can be roughly subdivided into data compression (source coding) and error-correction (channel coding) techniques.

If we take the beginning list of uses of questions above, how do they helpfully interact without being reduced to one true purpose of a question? A dynamic between compression and error-correction needs honoring. Just as any series of creeds sets up a never-ending possibility of a next question, we live between what we have known and what is becoming known. Compressed faith brings error-correcting questions and vice versa. Anything else than this bubbling dynamic tension will get left in the dust of time.


Following lines of questions can be as addictive as picking a scab. For more you may want to bookmark The Critical Thinking Community for return visits.

Blessed are questions and questioners — well, at least some of them.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Revelation 1:4-8

Easter 2 - Year C 

Twice we hear the refrain: “Is...Was...To Come”. This Trinity is a source of grace and peace.

Being able to play with these elements brings forth helpful questions.
  • Is this order of significance to you: Is —> Was —> To Come ?
  • Some folks seem to prefer: Was, period or Was —> Is.
  • Some folks modify this projection into: Is —> To Come.
  • Utopians may move from: To Come —> Is.

You get the idea. 
  • What is your starting point for evaluating a next important decision spot?
  • Has G*D said all that is necessary and now is just judging folks on that basis?
  • Is G*D waiting for some next propitious moments to enter into dialogue?
  • Is this moment more a continuation of the past or prelude to the future?
  • Does this moment have a life of its own regardless of where life has been or might go?

A similar sliding scale can be devised for the Alpha to Omega, A-Z, imagery. Are you more starting out or winding down? And the culture you identify with?

All too often the Book of Revelation is read as “To Come” when it is more helpfully read as “Is”. Blessings on playing with a Trinity of Time available to you this day.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Psalm 150

Easter 2 - Year C 

Following Thomas:

Question prevailing wisdom! 
Question G*D in the sanctuary
   and everywhere.

Question authority and power
Is this as good as it gets?
   this is greatness?

Question G*D blatantly
   or implicitly
Questions are music to the ear

Question enthusiastically
   question in concert with others
Questions set our lives dancing

Question out loud
Question just because
   And be questioned in return

Let everything question G*D!
Praise the Questioner!
Question praise!

Acts 5:27-41

Easter 2 - Year C 

Any current religious organization has an investment in the past being continued into the future. This keeps current leaders in place. Should there be a challenge to the past that has arrived in the present (a burning-bush focused Moses, a manger and empty grave way of Jesus, or your own experience) it must be dealt with by insisting only current religious rule will help us simply survive.

A quick look will reveal that no religious organization lasts forever. Bidden or not, G*D will not be constrained by survivalist rules.

While not everyone needs to be able to articulate a future appreciative of the past, but not bound by it, everyone is capable of playing the role of St. Gamaliel (Feast Day, August 3) to encourage careful thinking. Knowing your history (here tracing Theudas and Judas the Galilean and bringing to mind others) remind us to look again lest we end up denying G*D and making martyrs - a deadly duo to resistant souls both individual and religio-institutional.

Where today would you counsel listening for G*D? You might try asking “What’s behind this piece of news?” and “What more than eye can see is going on here?” These aid us in not falling prey to lowest-common-denominator responses or entrenching our penchant to deny G*D room to move beyond our past understandings of G*D. Go ahead, be a Gamaliel — if you can’t join the resistance, the movement of a new day, at least allow the possibility that more is going on than a simple narrative of prevailing power.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

John 20:19-31

Easter 2 - Year C 

In Lent we were between dusts -- where we came from and where we are headed.

In Easter we are between a pre-conception word, "Don't be afraid" and a post-resurrection word, "Peace be with you."

These Easter words are as preludes to unimaginable experiences to come. In both the case of Mary and the disciples a spirit of new life is sent forth. First to conceive a child overflowing with mercy and then to empower forgiveness for all children of every age in everyday life.

Easter is a moment, a ministry of forgiving is a lifetime long.

How can you tell someone has received an Easter experience in their own life?—whether they forgive easily, even before there was a need for it. Any religious talk outside of the realm of forgiveness is glib. It doesn't reckon with the need for forgiveness and the difficulty of living up to being commissioned to forgive.

So did you have an Easter on the official day? Yesterday? If not, fear not. Peace be with you. It's not too late. You can simply start with the easiest forgiveness available to you and grow into the rest.