Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Pentecost +14 - Year C

Jeremiah 1:4-10

We are not stuck where we are. Even though we typically project all possible futures in light of today's limitation, and so settle for a limited tomorrow, this is more connected to our fears than to reality. Again we meet ourselves as our own worst advocate or best enemy who can preemptively disarm our hope.

A new vision and new way of speaking about such is always available.

Here G*D may be appealing to our id more than our super-ego. Reduce your boundary watching and let more energy loose. Dangerous, yes. Necessary for growth, yes. Uncomfortable, yes. Meaningful, yes.

So what boundary excuse have you been using these days? Probably not age, if you are reading this.

One of the best ways around talking ourselves into not proceeding is to gather in a small group able to encourage experiments as well as be in solidarity in the midst of difficult decisions (acknowledging such and working toward addressing them).

Monday, August 19, 2013

Luke 13:10-17

Pentecost +14 - Year C

Luke 13:10-17

Understanding that G*D is an unassailable authority and that Satan is the great tester there are some questions to ask about who is being tested and where authority lies.

The woman? She seems to have remained faithful to her religious duties for 18 years.

The pharisees? They have been consistent about the importance of Sabbath and waiting some brief number of hours would better honor the import of Sabbath.

Jesus? This appears to have been an opportune time for the Satan to return, not with another big test but an ordinary one about patience? Jesus sounds as if he is anticipating the American way of wanting what he wants when he wants it. Is the use of authority qua authority the hammer to pull out for all situations requiring a too?

As always a dearth of information leads to speculation. You may be interested in the series, Provoking the Gospel of __________ by Richard W. Swanson which looks at the Gospels through the lens of theatre. Here is his concluding paragraph:

Did the woman want to be healed on Sabbath and disrupt services? Play the scene assuming that she did. Play it also assuming that she did not. After all, she was still attending synagogue services even though she had been praying (I am sure) for eighteen years for God to straighten her. Sabbath is crucial for faithful Jews. What happens in the scene if she is annoyed at being made the occasion for the Sabbath to be disrupted.

Happy imagining to you.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Survey link

Rats, link to the survey didn't get included in the last post. Here it is.


G*D language survey and instance

The UnitedMethodist Publishing house is taking a survey of people associated with The United Methodist Church regarding the "names of god". I thought readers associated in some way with the UMC might have something to report to them. Our language does shape our practice and there are practices with the UMC standing in need of repentance and reform. Better "god" language would help move beyond the current blockages. Here is the notice of the survey with deadlines and links. It is followed by an example of application.


The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women seeks to better understand United Methodist attitudes about language for God.

This study is designed to be taken by anyone who considers themselves part of a United Methodist Community. All participants, members, leaders, clergy, teachers and seminary professors participating in a United Methodist Congregation or community or otherwise related to The United Methodist Church.

Results of this survey will be used to develop new guidelines for language in worship planning, shape recommendations to the next General Conference, and inform curriculum development.

We want to hear opinions from people holding a variety of perspectives regarding language used for God in The UMC.
Most participants will complete the survey in under 10 minutes.

Your answers will be completely anonymous. Any questions marked with an asterisk (*) require an answer in order to progress through the survey.

If you have any questions about the survey, please contact GCSRW at akrumbach@gcsrw.org or 312-346-4900.

In order to progress through this survey, please use the following navigation buttons:
• Click the Next button to continue to the next page.
• Click the Previous button to return to the previous page.
• Click the Exit the Survey Early button if you need to exit the survey.
• Click the Submit button to submit your survey.

• Questions marked with an asterisk (*) are required.

The link to the survey is: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/names4god

Here is an article showing some of the import of our "spiritual" language:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hebrews 11:29 - 12:2

Pentecost +13 - Year C 

People acted. Presumably they acted on what they understood to be true for them, their faith (since we don’t have faith in that which doesn’t ring true for us). But, bottom-line, people acted.

Given the complexity of communities, there were undoubtedly some who simply acted because others led the way. It wasn’t a faith thing at all for them, just a path of least resistance.

Yet everyone on the winning side is accorded a trophy, faith is attributed to their actions whether they knew it or not. It is this mixed bag of the designated faithful we are called to emulate. They bear witness to actions accomplished and now surround us with encouragement, regardless of faith holding, to participate in the joy and journey of life. Even if you are but a tag-along, do so with all you can muster.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19

Pentecost +13 - Year C 

Who is this “they” who have burned an emblematic vineyard? It is the other part of a sibling squabble.

 What is not addressed is the expected parental/prophetic question, “What did you do that led to their burning the vineyard?” This story is as old as the hills and as recent as any child.

So here we have an attempt to sway the parental unit with partial information, what those others did, and what we promise will be different.

While this represents an all too human game of “You and Them Fight”, it really does need some questions asked.
  • What is your part in your circumstance?
  • What makes you think you don’t deserve the same recompense?
  • What part of your promise can be practiced now to better show your intent for later?
  • Why expect G*D to immediately change if you are only going to promise some future change?
  • Why would restoration be what you are after? Previous privilege didn’t go so well, what would make you think this will be sufficient to not end up in the same position in another generation? and
  • Do you not know that a shining face will reveal yourself as well as another?

Guess what, you could have seen this coming and been proactive in doing something about it. Why the obliviousness? Why the reactivity? Learn! Replant!

Isaiah 5:1-7

Pentecost +13 - Year C 

For a simply ecstatic starting point of cry after cry of “Let it be!” some expectations of being began to emerge from their interactions: Justice/Righteousness.

When what is experienced is bloodshed and a cry of anguish, something is wrong and needs to be set aright. Here the first response (like the first stage of grief, is denial — “Let it not be!”

Of course that is not a response that settles anything.

In the midst of vineyards invading a land of milk and honey, previous bloodshed and cries of anguish had arisen from the previous tennants. Now, instead of overrunning others we are running headlong into one another. Another model is needed.

For the moment image a bi-layer, extended release Mucinex pill:

What might be added to basic justice/righteousness to extend it? Mercy/Forgiveness?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Luke 12:49-56

Pentecost +13 - Year C 

“I came to bring fire to the earth. . . .” brings a direct line to the current number 1 best seller in hardback non-fiction — Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan.

Here are two paragraphs from page 120:

     The Kingdom of God is a call to revolution, plain and simple. And what revolution, especially one fought against an empire whose armies had ravaged the land set aside by God for his chosen people, could be free of violence and bloodshed? If the Kingdom of God is not an ethereal fantasy, how else could it be established upon a land occupied by a massive imperial presence except through the use of force? The prophets, bandits, zealots, and messiahs of Jesus’s time all knew this, which is why they did not hesitate to employ violence in trying to establish God’s rule on earth. The question is, did Jesus feel the same? Did he agree with his fellow messiahs Hezekiah the bandit chief, Judas the Galilean, Menahem, Simon son of Giora, Simon son of Kochba, and the rest, that violence was necessary to bring about the rule of God on earth? Did he follow the zealot doctrine that the land had to be forcibly cleansed of all foreign elements just as God had demanded in the scriptures? 
     There may be no more important question than this for those trying to pry the historical Jesus away from the Christian Christ. The common depiction of Jesus as an inveterate peacemaker who “loved his enemies” and “turned the other cheek” has been built mostly on his portrayal as an apolitical preacher with no interest in or, for that matter, knowledge of the politically turbulent world in which he lived. That picture of Jesus has already been shown to be a complete fabrication. The Jesus of history had a far more complex attitude toward violence. There is no evidence that Jesus himself openly advocated violent actions. But he was certainly no pacifist. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but the sword” (Matthew 10:34 | Luke 12:51).

This passage certainly is a passionate, zealous one. How are you reading it today? How are you interpreting this passage and Jesus in light of it?

I recommend the book to you. There is not any new material here, but Aslan does put together a very readable and persuadable argument that is worth looking at in yet another day of zealotry, imperialism, and generalized terror in and by a security state. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

in summary

Pentecost +12 - Year C 

don’t be afraid
to be generous
to be bold
to be alert
to take it personally
to succeed

be afraid
of routine ritual
of trading evil for good
of presuming justice
defenseless orphans

rejoice in beauty
what seems extraneous
that holds fast
and reveals honor

abjure faith
built upon obedience
without reason for hope
mistaking this for home

There is no escape
from involvement
other than entitlement
which leads in circles
bless each option
and demand more

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16

Pentecost +12 - Year C 

Faith is currently defined in Mirriam-Webster as:
     1) allegiance
     2) belief and trust in
     3) that which is believed

How does this differ from:
     1) assurance of that hoped for
     2) conviction of the unseen
     3) a source of approval

After you have played with the intersections of the connotations of the above, we are then given an example that adds a fourth category:
    4) obedience

Now, against what you first came up with between definitions, play again with “obedience”. How does that change things? Is obedience a matter of faith? When? Under what conditions?

Etymologically, obedience is to be oriented (ob- —toward) what can be (-oedire —heard). What have you heard calling to you this week? Something in the news? A community still to be brought into being by our choices throughout the day?

At stake is what is so firmly grounded in you that whether or not it comes to pass in your lifetime, you will live for it to be available for some generation to come. Remember realized eschatology and be glad.

= = = 

realized eschatology: being engaged in the process of becoming, rather than waiting for external and unknown forces to bring about destruction

For extra credit there is this paper to consider.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23

Pentecost +12 - Year C 

Some folks appreciate a firm boundary more than others. For those that do, marking such a boundary with fire helps keep it in sight and at a distance.

Here the boundary may be seen as beauty—a beauty of interconnections; a beauty of wholeness; a beauty of creation and creativity.

Within this boundary there are two complementary responses. One is a basic thankfulness that is large enough to be attached to any particular form of that thanks (sacrifice of old or some more contemporary ritual expression of it). A second is that of action based on that thankfulness or gratitude—a move from beauty to beauty, as a frozen beauty looses presence to become object.

When these two (thankfulness and responsiveness) get covered over by whatever seems to offer greater control or power or falter in the face of an interpreted false step, there will be a consequence. Here that is imaged as having taken our eye off of gratitude and embodying that. The result is having wandered too close to the fiery boundary and perhaps even crossing it and not knowing how to return.

May you be blessed this day with a clear vision of the beauty of life, your part in it, and many expressions of thankfulness.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

Pentecost +12 - Year C 

Refraining from doing harm unto others is hard work. It is much easier to simply cover over a time we snuck a little piece away from someone else with some penitential act. And, wouldn’t you know it, we will bargain for the cheapest possible penance as though our wounding of another doesn’t send ripples through the community beyond an original sin. Cheap penance never fully redresses the issue at hand, just as cheap grace never fully addresses a needed healing. Compensation plus more is a discounted possibility and changes to any structures that cause as much difficulty as individual acts is removed as an option.

This is an habitual pattern within which each generation grows. As such it carries much power.

To break this habit will take more and more folks doing well unto others until several generations have come and gone and a new way becomes the norm.

This is not a matter of following some external rule book that turns us into willing and obedient servants of this theocracy or that. 

We know what is good: be fair, kind, and grounded. If we refuse to acknowledge and learn from these three, we remain stuck and sundered from one another and ourselves. This doesn’t take any external authority to make it more real than a reflection on what we would want done for ourself. This requires an acknowledgement that others won’t know that without our telling them, and so heightens the importance of mutual listening for what another has to say about how they would know they are being welcomed, honored, cared for.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Luke 12:32-48

Pentecost +12 - Year C 

Want to be healed?

Ante up!

Here it is important to tell the difference between quid pro quo and expected outcome for an anticipated input.

When we lose track of these two dynamics and mistake one for the other, the word “unexpected” may be too mild for the expected results of such confusion.

So, will this be on some final exam or is it for the living now?

Do note that everyone get a beating, for who can read another’s mind or heart? There will be big or small slip-ups. This is simply the way a choice-based reality without sufficient information works.

Rather than read this as a rule to be memorized for a test, it is more helpfully experienced as a mirror. Really, what do you have? Really, what do you need? Really, what do others need? [Pause for consideration and action.] Now, really, what do you still have?

Friday, August 02, 2013


Pentecost +11 - Year C 

divide their assets
multiply mine

guard against greed
anticipate abundance

back and forth
we dignify dualities

it is time to move on
beyond even both

generous compassion
recognizes neither

we are one
and not done

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Colossians 3:1-11

Pentecost +11 - Year C 

For those who don’t live in an either/or world, there is no putting to death those parts of us we would disown if we could. We can hedge them round, but those boundaries need to be constantly attended.

It is tricky enough to attend to what we want to do without adding in control issues about what we do not want to do. Here we have the first two of the United Methodist General Rules: Do No Harm; Do Good. What is presumed is some Engagement with G*D.

Escaping some forecast wrath to come used to be a big motivation. This fits well with the lower part of the spiral development model. It is not fitting so well with the Yellow and Turquoise stages.

Imagine for a bit what might be an organizing question for the present day. If not escape, what?

Would enhancing gratitude be an attractor? This, as differentiated from repression of self? If not something in this arena, what then.

I’d like to establish a contest to come up with a significant organizing questions for 2013 and 2014. I don’t have a prize in mind, but this is really one of those contests where the satisfaction is in the participation, not the result. Do send those cards and letters in.