Saturday, June 29, 2013

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Pentecost +6 - Year C 

Freedom is multivalent. There are two places where misuse can easily creep in. One is in thinking freedom is separation or distance from a variety of relationships. Here is the basis for individualism that discounts the wave function of community. The other is the substitution of a technique such as a majority rule. Here is the basis for tribalism that again discounts the value of every part of the community to the health of the whole.

“For freedom we are set free” is a great line, but only with an important caveat. We are not to return to slavery, our own or another’s. We can fool ourselves about slavery as both the above, individualism and majoritarianism are enslavements to particalism, forgetting that none are free unless all are free. This doesn’t mean until all are separated individuals or persuaded to join a coalition making a majority, but free to develop relationally.

Freedom here is a freedom toward community. None of the fruits of the spirit can be accomplished in isolation — they are all relational and unbounded in their implementation. There is no law against the multitude of ways in which we are able to participate in loving our Neighb*r.

For a course on “Living Sacramentally, Walking Justly” I condensed and modernized one of John Wesley’s sermons (On Zeal, #92). It includes these spirit-oriented qualities against which there are no laws and ways toward them. You may or may not find it helpful here. Click Here if you want to take a look.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

Pentecost +6 - Year C 

Here is a process of engaging the Psalms that shifts our relationship with them. Our tendency is to read them as individuals and to apply them individually. This experiment from Godwrestling—Round 2: Ancient Wisdom, Future Paths by Arthur Waskow might open up a new insight for a community.

= = = = = = =

     A more complex and subtle way of facing God through the Psalms has been explored by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, an extraordinary davvener who is also one of the most creative choreographers of new forms of davvening. Schachter-Shalomi brought his own profound mystical sensibilities  first into a deep learning with the Lubavitcher Hassidim, and then into the much wider world of Sufi dancers, Zen sitters, Buddhist meditators, feminist seekers, and transpersonal psychologists. Convinced that for a new era of Jews God must be sensed as directly present, he saw that since the Psalms are addressed directly to God, they offer an important opportunity to embody God in the community of davveners. Rabbi Jeff Roth brought to this insight his own work with Martin Buber’s call for dialogue, and what emerged was what Roth and Schachter-Shalomi called “dialogical davvening” with the Psalms.
     This meant that pairs of people read a psalm in dialogue within the Minyan: One person reads the first verse of the psalm silently, absorbs it, and decides how to express something close to this thought in her or his own words. Then s/he will face the “spark of God” in the other partner to say the new thought to the God Who lives in the partner’s face. The second partner pays full attention to what the first one says, and then turns back to the printed page to absorb the second verse of the psalm and do the same work of midrashic transmutation—taking into account both what s/he has already heard, and what the text says. They continue to go back and forth, speaking to God in each other until the psalm is completed. 
     Becoming God and facing God in this way brings the psalm alive. The movement of thought and feeling that is characteristic of most psalms becomes far more intelligible that what emerges from a more-or-less rote reading. In addition, by addressing a human partner as God and being addressed as God, many participants find themselves spiritually moved in new ways.
     What is the secret behind the power of such practices? We are taking what seem to be poetic metaphors about the face, and turning them into physical reality. The process is a kind of three-dimensional midrash, turning words into action.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

Pentecost +6 - Year C 

Just awhile ago we heard that Elijah heard a silence. How would this story be different if Elijah had left in silence instead of in a whirlwind?

As it is, we might re-look at the silence story and understand that G*D was in the earthquake and storm. The problem was that Elijah was so stormy on the inside that the external storms couldn’t be seen in their fullness, only as an extension of himself. Here the “other” needed silence to be recognized.

Now, with Elijah and the reader prepared for silence, a whirlwind returns. What do you make of a G*D who doesn’t stick to one mode of interaction but is constantly tricking us (a little something picked up in a wrestle with Jacob?).

This now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t continues with Elisha. The narrator shows us a picture where Elijah is lifted away by a whirlwind, gyring him to heaven. Elisha got distracted by fiery chariots and horses and couldn’t take his eyes off of them to see the tornadic energy behind them, the whirlwind.

Of course if we have to make every part of the scriptures cohere we can simply state that there was a whirlwind of fiery chariots and horses rather than have the chariots and horses simply come between Elijah and Elisha as a veil of mystery at every time of death. We are always missing the whirlwind of spirit within another — our own is so blustery and distracting.

At any rate the mantle of Elijah has fallen from Elisha and all subsequent prophets and is awaiting your picking it up and striding through the boundaries of your life to join the continued work of prophecy — Love Prevails!

Luke 9:51-62

Pentecost +6 - Year C 

With a face set toward Jerusalem, there is no time for small talk.

Disciples, who have seen Jesus at work for awhile, suggest escalated retribution — ignore us and we won’t ignore you! Don’t argue, simply state what you know to be true. Hearers will know whether this is for them an affirmation or rebuke.

Easy membership vows still doesn’t make it. Don’t tell Jesus what you are planning on doing, simply do what you need to, and if that is following then get on with it, if it just a show of following, get real!

Convenient promises and excuses don’t cut it.There is no preparation possible, just get on with it!

This is a convenient mirror as the seasons change. Can you feel days increasing in length, decreasing in light? What about sap rising or lying fallow or bearing fruit or simply growing apace? Where are you now and how does this reading bring you up short to face down your temptations or pseudo-realities? There is no time here for subtleness or shaggy-dog story or doing a miracle for. There is only dealing with folks who have gotten too caught up with themselves being the measure of all things.

This passage has the potential to free us. It only needs one more example to make the point. That example of course comes from the reader’s life. What do you add as a fifth encounter with Jesus that exemplifies your particular struggle with integrity these days?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Galatians 3:23-29

Pentecost +5 - Year C 

Our expectations act as law. They rein us in. Self-censorship is always alive and well. We are well bounded by expectations of others and of ourselves. This is a protective function that serves a purpose—for awhile.

At some point an amazing grace of no longer needing the authority of law or custom, but taking authority beyond either becomes possible. This is where there are no laws against the amount of joy one can have or degree of patience one can demonstrate. There is no constraint regarding kindness or who can be welcomed. Some call this faith, some a gift of one religious leader or another, and some simply being human. By whatever name, to come to an experience where a new invitation to health is hearable is like a drink of cool, clean water to a parched life.

One way to follow the biblical storyline is to note experience after experience where expectations fail, where law fails. This is sort of a “Who’d a-thunk it!” approach to spirituality. When the unexpected happens and we are attentive enough to note it, a new person is set loose, a new people is released. To this day we are using categories to divide, not just to describe: My religious/spirit group and every other, those enslaved by systems and those benefiting from any given economic structure, those of one sexual orientation and those of any of the others. Discrimination abounds. This list is infinitely extendable to residents and aliens, one generation and all others, my privilege and your privileges, and on and on. New separations are continually cropping up.

Just as mono-culturing is dangerous for agriculture, mono-culturing is harmful to community. Sameness leads to weakness, blindness, and falling off a cliff. All manner of seeds and gifts are needed to be able to flourish. If you only belong here, you don’t belong anywhere. If you belong everywhere, you definitely belong here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Psalms 42 & 43

Pentecost +5 - Year C 

A place of refuge is a blessing. Finally breathing can slow, hearts can return to rhythm, adrenaline return to normal. Our fight or flight trap can be unsprung.

Can we remember glad tiding?

Can we anticipate thanks renewed?

Longing, thirsting, crying are night time activities. In the dark, creativity stirs. And it is evening. Come the dawn and noonday a new creation is formed. And it is good. In the cool of the day we reflect. Thank goodness we came as far as we did. There is still so far to go. And we are ready to wrestle a new day from the confusion of many a mile to go by a path less traveled.

A place of refuge to save us from ourselves, where our demons can depart, our enemies be resisted. Yes, a place of refuge is precious, too precious to remain long for there is life to be lived. So notice, even in the midst of running, that altar, right there, that you couldn’t see a moment ago. Was it always there? Probably not. For this moment it is. Our place of refuge was with us before we got there. Why are you cast down, disquieted? Oh, right! Well, anyway, remember . . . anticipate, all manner of things shall be well.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

Pentecost +5 - Year C 

At some point fear surfaces. We can manage it while ecstatic or purposeful, but eventually it must be dealt with. The reality of threat finally gets through whether internally from our own body or a returning consequence from a previous external action.

We sometimes flee for our lives. This can be deeper into belief or farther away (from junk food or retaliator).

Fortunately exhaustion sets in when our scare runs its first course. We recognize we are powerless over the threat. Now we begin the journey back to ourselves in the midst of a larger community. At first we don’t know the resources available to us to nourish us, we simply find ourselves fed. Talk about regression and needing to learn again to trust!

Eventually we can sort out the bright and shiny distractions and listen to a “deep heart’s core”. From listening we return to work, but a more connected work that does not simply destruct, but builds—new leader, new compatriots, new energy, new hope.

Try overlaying your life’s journey on this pericope and see where the correspondences come. It won’t be one-for-one, but it may give a helpful clue to what's next.

Luke 8:26-39

Pentecost +5 - Year C 

Boundary-breaking folks are found in our own house and on the other side of nowhere. They come with blessings and challenges. There is no escaping a choice in how to respond. A challenge in Pentecost goes back to its ecstatic beginning — experiencing a compulsion to speak of wonder beyond our ordinary way of interacting — in wonder we are bound together; in ordinary time we fight over everything, no matter how small.

How do we say, “You’re welcome, carry on” or “Rise” or “Come out”?

When the wonder of another finally surfaces, we act, bidden or unbidden, to affirm, to bless, to heal. In our choice to further wonder, we are set apart and lost to many afraid to wonder and more than willing to send us away. We are also set apart and find ever more opportunities to take an initial Pentecostal word of “wonder” and to extend it as an invitation for others to do the same. 

Compare Acts 2:11, “ our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power”, and Luke 8:39, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Here is impetus and continuation of wonder. Imagine where next it will surface in both the pericopes of Pentecost and the situations of your setting.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Galatians 2:15-21

Pentecost +4 - Year C 

Prelude to this passage — verses 11-14 — is good old hypocrisy. It remains alive and well as there remains much fear on which it is based. It is still important to both oppose it in others and have it opposed in one’s self.

“Live by the law, die by the law” is still a rallying cry from those on the margin who most quickly feel the force of law, absent any grace. Eventually even the most callous begin to recognize there is an evolution going on that is leaving them behind. When finally extinction of privilege is recognized by the privileged, it is usually too late to do anything but hunker down, plug your ears, and la-la-la-la-la.

So how do you image Christ? Lawyer or Teacher? Sovereign or Partner? Enforcer or Friend? Binder or Beloved?

Your choice will determine your ability to notice hypocrisy and not buy into it. Depending on your choice it will be harder or easier to reduce hypocrisy in your own life. Blessings on choosing to be included and to include.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Psalm 5:1-8

Pentecost +4 - Year C 

Knowing ourselves as well as we do, is our praise a joyful expression of the moment or a calculated technique to get something (albeit, later than sooner)?

One way or another, we are still asking an old, old question: “What do I need to do to escape the wrath to come?” We are asking to be led because of our enemies.

What is a better question to ask in this day? What is a better motivation for asking?

These are serious questions as I hold a lamp up to see, a la Diogenes the Cynic, if I can find a person asking a pertinent question.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21

Pentecost +4 - Year C

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21

“Sinner” is a temporal categorization. At different times, sin is differently defined. Regardless of a current definition of sinner, sin is usually defined as an act of commission. When sins of omission around a current definition are also considered, we all end up on a sin continuum.

So it is here, Naboth claimed his own identity and Ahab claimed control over Naboth’s identity. In today’s rapidly changing definition of a current sin of sexual orientation, those who play the scripture card to claim those attracted to others of their same sex are automatically sinners are here represented by Ahab. Those who claim their inheritance of sexual identity are in Naboth’s role.

Naboth speaks for women in a patriarchal system, for African slaves brought to the Americas and elsewhere, Native peoples anywhere, or any group dismissed by the powers that be, “I will not give over my identity.”

The powers that be who do not allow people a place at a table of community or decision—making will eventually hear, “You have sown the seed of your own destruction”.

If you have privilege within a power system, no matter how small it may seem to you, and you remain silent, you are complicit in every form of Ahab against Naboth. Divest from the perk of silence. Speak your support of “Naboth” to your current “Ahab”. Do not continue allowing the power of some to define the sin of others.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Luke 7:36-8:3

Pentecost +4 - Year C

Luke 7:36-8:3

"She is a sinner!", comes the complaint as though she were somehow or other not one of us.

The image of a contorted woman — standing behind and yet twisting around the one in front to cry on their feet — is nothing like the contortions necessary to dismiss another for not being a one-to-one correspondence of myself.

Into this contorted scene Jesus brings a question. This question is not to further confuse things, but to straighten out that which is so twisted upon itself that life is denied. Of course the question depended upon the responder having projected themselves into the outline of the story. If they had a large debt cancelled they would be more grateful than if a smaller debt had been taken from them. Having identified themselves with money, they could respond in no other way. There wasn't time for them to note that having a great resources they could handle paying a large debt and so being forgiven or not is a relatively little thing. They couldn't imagine that they were so poor that a large debt was unimaginable and so the forgiveness of their smallest debt would be a big deal.

In falling into the trap of projection the judgers found the screen of themselves turned into a mirror. Bottom line became, "She is forgiven!" And disciples who happened to be female increased in number. And so it has ever been — judged and exiled sinners turn out to be included and forgiven disciples who will support and travel to invite other transformations.

Settled faith needs projection and passive aggression to cover and deny any growing edge that would reveal we are still on a journey.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Galatians 1:11-24

Pentecost +3 - Year C

Galatians 1:11-24

Good news can come from beyond our currently accepted and approved set of cultural/religious norms. In fact it has to, unless one is foolish enough to claim that we have finally made it to the best of all possible worlds.

A revelation of Jesus Christ to a zealous Pharisee such as Saul shifts accumulated details around so a basic structure can again be seen. In this case a posthumous revelation that a pronounced heretic was actually a prophet whose voice needed to be reanimated.

G*D’s creation covenant and its renewal is for everyone, period. Where once it was with individuals and their descendants who became a people, it now needs to return from a focus on the group to the individual as a prophetic sign. A hyper-chosen-people needs to put down its exclusive claim to remain among the chosen (well, alongside all creatures great and small).

This was not an easy shift to make. Paul makes it sound as if it were a three-year confirmation of revelation. This otherwise undocumented journey follows the arc of Elijah and brings Paul back to a multitude of other’s when he was off playing lone-wolf.

So where are you participating in living out a revelation beyond current communal or religious practice? May it bless you and all.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Psalm 146

Pentecost +3 - Year C

Psalm 146

Undifferentiated trust is a place of miracles.

In usual life we limit what can be trusted. Is it health, a significant other, a certain amount of resources, our own perceptions?

As Jacob found out—here is nothing in particular that can be trusted. As a competitive trickster (by nature and nurture) Jacob proved untrustworthy to his immediate family. In the extended family he was tricked. Even G*D wouldn’t stand still, but wrestled him. He didn’t so much prevail as persevere.

The mystery of a grounded G*D with a background of an escalator of angels or Jacob entering “nothing” across the river from his brother who was also evidently wrestling with self and G*D, leads to a trust in life that is larger than trusting self, others, or even cosmic justice. “Praise” in this Psalm might be an alternate spelling for “persevere”. Try it, see how this might allow a clearer vision than our too easy take that praise is hip-hip-hurrah.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

1 Kings 17:1-16, (17-24)

Pentecost +3 - Year C

1 Kings 17:1-16, (17-24)

In a culture of hospitality, how did G*D “command” or “instruct” or “designate” a widow to feed Elijah?

Would that signs would be as straight-forward as a first encounter. There in the entrance to a city, two people meet.

Note the care with which the unnamed widow prepares a last meal. A little flour, a little oil, are prepared as best she can in what would be expected to be a weakened condition. Setting a good table is as valuable as welcoming others to share what is available.

This ability to notice and play out a scene is something we are still in need of. To note details such as childless widow or making a feast out of little continue to remind us that that which seems so empty, is not. Loss is not just the emptiness of necessity, though it may sometimes be, but it is also an opening to see the freedom and possibilities that have grown through cement since the last time we looked. In the midst of despair, there is a trust and hope that sits zazen.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Luke 7:11-17

Pentecost +3 - Year C

Luke 7:11-17

Prophets see life where others see no life. Sometimes a lack of vision is some form of complicity with the status quo and all the privilege and entitlement that carries with it. Sometimes it is not having a sufficient lens through which to see new shoots poking their heads out of a drought.

Prophets do more than see and point. They are engaged with that which is beyond the boundaries of the current community. Here the disciples and large crowd were all looking for what they could get from Jesus. Jesus, prophet that he was, looked both at and beyond them.

Unfortunately, disciples and crowds often have a wrong take-away from a prophetic moment. They get all excited about Jesus, rather than for the mother whose hope for livelihood has been restored to her. They might have had their eyes opened to the standard difficulties of widows and children in their community/culture.

Where was the larger question from this localized situation? Did the Bible get it right that every laud and honor is to go to Jesus, with no learning about paticipating in his Way?

News about Jesus spread. His prophetic vision and actions went unheeded. From this time and distance, we might put this story back together in a new and more helpful way (do note this story is a wooden reprise of Elijah/Elisha resuscitations, but doesn’t help the gathered disciples and crowd grow past adulation of Jesus and continued dereliction of their covenantal duty to love their Neighb*r).