Friday, September 27, 2013

periodic bread

Pentecost +19 — Year C

daily bread is a dream
for countless millions
were it only one
weeping would be in order

weeping cleans the eye
for compassion to enter
banquets to be open
open sores closed

for now we are stuck
mistaking plenty
as effect from our cause

we are stuck to a whirlwind
feeding on its own
until its moment gone
a rainbow left standing

too late we worry about our own
having not cared about others
we are invisible to ourselves
too self-satisfied to be warned

when warning is ignored
there is no easy fix
commonality in death
is all that’s left

too late smart
threats block change
follow G*D out of any garden
weeping all the way

laughing all the way
for old irony
brings sufficient insight
to change from within

- - - - - - -

I Cannot Sleep by Malvina Reynolds

We Have Fed You All for a Thousand Years
     Song (click “show more” for lyrics)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Pentecost +19 — Year C

Fight the good fight.

This is where we wrestle with what to trust. Here it is phrased in terms of eternity, which is just one of many pen names of G*D. After filtering out all the highfalutin attributions of immortality, unapproachable light, and the like, strive to give life. This is the measure of value to be used in evaluating whether we have dealt honorably with our opportunities.

So what can be trusted in your life? Because of one experience or another or many is there anything trustable? If not, I’m sorry to have not striven well enough for you. If you suspect there might be something trustable, then comes the testing of it. The witness of the generations is that economic systems come and go so whatever “rich” means is both uncertain and never attainable as there will never be enough riches to take uncertainty out of the equation. The same holds true with applicable commandments and cultural norms. Blessings on sorting through the appearances to bedrock, foundational values.

As you struggle with your trust issues and attendant decisions, there are four interrelated tasks that can be noted for the stewardship of what we do have, whether large or small. With what you do have, 
  • apply it to do as much long-term good as possible
  • record those acts that they might be remembered in future times of choice
  • factor in that just a bit more could be invested in making a change
  • again, both intend good and carry it through

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

Pentecost +19 — Year C

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

It’s the pits when the snare of the fowler and the deadly pestilence we need rescuing from turns out to be our very self. What’s a body to do?

Well, like any good magician this conundrum is put under a gorgeous cloth and an incantation said. There, like chicks under a hen’s wing, a sense of indisputable worth returns and belovedness is known. A transformation from fear to faith occurs.

What comes forth as the winged cloth is pulled back is our self, now assured. The Universe claps with joy at this seeming miracle. And the Universe claps every time it happens. And it happens a lot.

What is the incantation? Usually there is a hefty charge for such information. But having had the cloth pulled back one more time, today I’m hopeful enough to give it away. “I honor you.”

That’s it. Try it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

questions as a way of life

Here is a comic strip that plays well with the Luke and Jeremiah passages this week:

A Day at the Park.


Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Pentecost +19 — Year C

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

We ignore verses 3b-5 at our peril. This is where important energy for the passage resides. Without this clear announcement of harm and exile, the action of investing anyway loses its punch.

We are so inured of what little we have that we would never think of anything as foolish as burying our deed to present property going to seed against the great uncertainty of either finding it again or having it carry the day any better than indigenous people's treaties have fared in a colonialist economy.

Without a vision of exile this whole deed scenario loses its way. With it we can see how foolish are hopes of resurrection and to note how much stronger and wider our hope needs to be cast.

In the face of exile, a return: in the face of death, new life (resurrection, reincarnation, re-cycled nutrients, ...).

In light of mini-deaths beyond orgasms, we might yet learn from all the revolutions or stage-transitions we have gone through and willingly invest in a next one. Knowing resources will be available to us on the other side eases our resistance to finally go into our next good night both rejoicing and railing.

Luke 16:19-31

Pentecost +19 - Year C

Luke 16:19-31

Whether ignoring the poor by sticking a nose in a newspaper, attending to Facebook, or listening to your tunes, we have a multitude of ways to compartmentalize our lives. We don't know just what technique for separation this particular rich man used to ignore Lazarus but it seemed to work for him.

Alive or dead, Lazarus didn't make a difference in the economic and political arenas of his world.

Periodically, when circumstances become dire enough for a large enough group, there comes a revolution that would put the ignoring-class in enough hurt to be a warning to future generations of "ignorers". Of course they will also ignore the lessons of their predecessors.

Smashing ignorance and revolution together we find "angels" to be fomenters of revolution leading the currently ignored to a favored position.

Those who do not attend to the prophets won't attend to historical precedent, much less learn from it. Their addiction to short-term personal gain is too all-consuming.

May you be an "angel" this week and for as long as there is not enough for all because of the hoarding of a few.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Pentecost +18 - Year C 

Remembering that prayer is more than private words and is connected to decisions to act in regard to those titular “rulers” in your environ—from family through nation to even enemies. If their “leadership” doesn’t lead to quiet and peaceable living (an unfortunate expectation is that it doesn’t), there needs to be an intervention to see if they can finally become shrewd in their dealings with citizens and foreigners.

When the wholeness of individuals and whole societies is at risk, it needs to be brought to the attention of the “leader(s)”. The historical record indicates that it is very difficult for “leader(s)” to have their attention drawn toward dignity for the disenfranchised if they are getting their own and then some.

This is where applied prayer comes in to kick a bit of butt. For this we are sometimes appointed as herald of a revolution. You’ve heard of interventions? That’s what intercessory prayer is about. After negative supplications and positive thanksgiving have been tried, there is intercessory intervention (except it is not at a distance, but up close and personal).

Blessings on your engagement with G*D and Dignity through your supplications, prayers, Intercessions, and thanksgivings.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Psalm 79:1-9

Pentecost +18 - Year C 

How is one to practice being shrewd in relationship to finally doing what is right—forgiving debts—if our only technique is to lean back and bay at G*D for help.

An on-going sense of impotence or dependence is not helpful to growing spirits. Even though this is probably part of a process of moving to independence and inter-dependence, it is a phase that is hopefully kept to a minimum. Yes there is value here, but not as much as comes afterward.

There simply comes a time when being rescued, only to repeat our problem because there has been no learning, needs to cease. This dynamic is usually present in multiple places within our life. These reinforce our reluctance to pull out of a dysfunctional system and call it to account. It is also the case that doing so in any one area of our life leads to the possibility of doing so in additional areas. These resistances can also build on one another. This is not a straight-forward proposition that automatically happens and so continual attention and choice is needed.

May you make one more shrewd choice this day, no matter the inconvenience to you or a whole system.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Pentecost +18 - Year C 

After 40+ years of legislated United Methodist discrimination against gays and lesbians based on a false theology/reality of their lives being incompatible with “Christian teaching”, this section of Jeremiah seems all too real.

There comes a time for anger after all the failed attempts to honor the wideness of G*D’s gifts and calls. Building relationships has not changed hearts, scripture analysis has not changed minds, and inclusive legislation has not changed votes. It needs to be recognized that there is no current balm in the United Methodist Church. More church trials are on their way.

Enough weeping! It is time for targeted anger and moving on. Check out three websites for directed action.

Regarding full disclosure, I am a part of Love Prevails. I especially encourage you to visit the website, engage, and follow through to:

  • Disclose(t) your support of G*D’s gifts and call to LGBTQI people.
  • Divest from financial support of a discriminatory system and reinvest in one of the above.
  • Disrupt wherever possible the thinking and action of all parts of the institutional church that are silent about the current discrimination and thereby aid and abet it.

I also encourage you to like the Love Prevails Facebook page

May the refusal of gifts and call (slaying the spirit) and complicity in LGBTQI suicides (slaying the body) end practically now and legislatively at the next General Conference.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Luke 16:1-13

Pentecost +18 - Year C 

As you forgive, so you will be forgiven is a difficult lesson to learn.

We will put it off as long as possible. Case in point: when squandering gifts, yours and others, is finally realized and called we may consider better options. Among these is forgiving debts.

Note that forgiveness is called “shrewd”. This is a healthy way to look at an otherwise fuzzy idea. 

Note further the dictionary definitions of “shrewd”:

1 archaic:  mischievous
Forgiveness throws a wrench in the best laid plans to gain power over, what fun to watch.

2 obsolete:  abusive, shrewish
Heard of heaping coals of kindness upon another?

3 obsolete:  ominous, dangerous
Forgiveness is dangerous to dangerous behavior as it calls for a change on both sides of the equation. It is not dependent upon either a forgiver or one who is forgiven. Forgiveness is simply one of the realities of life and we can either work with it and flourish or work against it and be dead-headed.

4 a: severe, hard [a shrewd knock]
   b: sharp, piercing [a shrewd wind]
Forgiveness cuts to the bone of what it means to Live, to be one with G*D, with steadfastness. Forgiveness simply is; deal with it.

5 a: marked by clever discerning awareness and hardheaded acumen [shrewd common sense]
   b: given to wily and artful ways or dealing [a shrewd operator]
Shrewd forgiveness takes the archaic, obsolete, and current understandings of forgiveness and evaluates its long-term benefit within a communal context.

You can’t honor forgiveness and keep debts to your benefit. Debts must be released lest they fester into entitlement and sin upon sin eventuate.

Friday, September 13, 2013

ouch to awe

Pentecost +17 - Year C 

ouch to awe

lost sheep
lost coins
lost boys
lost opportunity
lost innocence
lost direction

every loss is significant
O—wail it long—O . . .
even nothing can be lost
O . . .

given time monkeys type Shakespeare
given time loss lingers long
an alchemic catalyst
refining lives

our identity so wrapt
with signs for meaning
with loss we are lost
and learn hoarding early

loss by loss
we find more than less
‘til finally
a simple Ah . . .

Thursday, September 12, 2013

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Pentecost +17 - Year C 

How convenient that in matters of belief ignorance is a blessing, whereas in law it is no excuse at all. If that is not a selling point for mercy, I don’t know what is.

How would it change your theology to say that Jesus came into the world to find what is lost? Is too much lost for you when you claim Jesus’ presence requires the presence of a special class of lost—sin?

I wonder if Timothy would feel the same way if he didn’t identify himself as sinner in chief (competing with Paul) but was simply a mediocre sinner. Would he have then made the cut for the Bible?

Does being found while being a big sinner seem more exciting than simply being found after ignoring signs of where you have been and thus not be able to return from wandering on your own? Imagine not having a sliding scale of lostness and a resultant ability to deal honorably with folks regardless of their degree of lostness. I know it would make a difference in my life and I presume it would make a difference in yours.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jeremiah 4:11-28

Pentecost +17 - Year C 

Even though it is difficult to break beyond your experience, the values of your community, the paradigms handed to you, to not do so can lead to writhing in soul pain. This is especially true when it comes to major symbols of meaning. Here to proclaim against Jerusalem is to call into question all that is holy. After all, isn’t Jerusalem the sign of religious exceptionalism—our G*D is not only an awesome G*D, but a winning G*D and, did I mention, my G*D.

Those who can only live within current power structures are known as court prophets who tell one another about the way it should be, which is how is currently is, without attending to any cloud on the horizon. A common but ultimately false way to live. We have so many court prophets that we are empty, empty of understanding.

A very neat thing about this passage is that even though all considered holy is abandoned, it is not a full end. Yes, an end, but a necessary beginning point to shed the accretion of lies (especially those mini-truths that go just a tad beyond what can actually be known) that have deafened us to the full range of gifts that can move a community forward. Eventually we will be able to hear all of creation is holy without breaking it into rankings of this is holy, that is less holy, and that isn’t holy at all.

Start mourning now for a next end in your life. It will be as final as final can be. You won’t be able to go back again. Yet (what a wonderful word) Yet this is not a full end, but a final reality that pushes us to journey onward. If you have mourned well, your ears will open to a real and less far-off hymn that hails a new creation.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Luke 15:1-10

Pentecost +17 - Year C 

Let’s see, Chapter 14 ended with “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Now, Chapter 15 opens, “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.”

Just taking those at face-value it might seem as though the folks structurally left out of the religious power loop were the ones best able to listen.

Presuming so, who are the folks who will be listening best in your realm of influence?

If you just run with a religious crowd there may not be anyone, including yourself, who can listen to transformational rejoicing. If everything is aligned, the scriptures and creeds all cohere with no discrepancies, and G*D is in charge—what is there to listen to? Isn’t it just a waste of praise time?

When it comes to the lost, there is no time to lose. Listen for a cry. Find.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Philemon 1-25

Pentecost +16 - Year C 

John Wesley’s last letter was to Britain’s paramount abolitionist, William Wilberforce, who had been converted under his ministry. In it he referred to slavery as “that execrable villainy”. In his Notes Wesley finds here a message that “infinitely transcends all the wisdom of the world. And it gives us a specimen how Christians ought to treat of secular affairs from higher principles.”

What do these higher principles have to do with the slavery of sweatshops and trafficking? What about the enslavement of political processes under a dictator? Where does economic slavery come into living-wage issues and capitalism in general that willingly enslaves the poor for the benefit of excess profit?

Paul tries to use a carrot and stick approach in the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. We try the same in all the above even though it is seldom systemically helpful. You might want to look at and its emphasis upon Disclose(t), Divest, and Disrupt since building relationships, playing elect the delegate, and legislative processes have not taken overtly discriminatory language against LGBTQI people out of The Book of Discipline. [Yes, join in learning more about and doing those three actions as well as sending money to this organization. Disclaimer: I am one of its founders.]

Extra credit: Read John Wesley’s Thoughts Upon Slavery. Note how little scripture he uses, compared to his usual sermons and his reliance upon experience and grace.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Pentecost +16 - Year C 

A part of the fear and wonder of life is the way in which we are shaped and reshaped by transformations of mind and responses to circumstances. We are knit together and periodically are unraveled and reknit—practically snake-like or snail-like.

Even if a frame is known, what is surprising is the geometric fashion in which it scales.

Imagine if you will coming to a last thought of G*D. Might it be related to a first word? Let it be . . . . I am still with you. If “it is good” is a first word and If “steadfast love” is a last word, might “blessed” or “beloved” be a connecting word? If so what might keep us from hearing that for ourselves and hearing it for others until they are able to hear it for themselves? Wrestling with our resistance and our attraction to this procession helps clarify darkness into light.

Jeremiah 18:1-11

Pentecost +16 - Year C 

This sounds very much like a story from Kafka or one of the dystopian novels. There is a plan or template you are not aware of against which you are constantly being measured. Moment by moment you are being conditioned toward some endpoint. Sometimes you receive positive reinforcement and sometimes negative.

This is not really a learning environment. New occasions continue to come along. A new pot or people is raised up and has a flaw. What is a G*D to do—other than toss it aside, of course. If for whatever reason some flash of beauty might be seen beyond a flaw (or even within it), then it may sit on an honored shelf.

Appreciate this for the profligate creativity present as life is called into existence and claimed to be good. Appreciate this for Kali showing up to knock it all about with too many left hands not know what a right is throwing.

So, G*D can shape and unshape from the outside in response to our shaping and reshaping from the inside. This and $5 gets us where? Where is the on-going relationship that accounts for working together for a common good? In the aftermath of Labor Day this passage is weighted overmuch toward management.

Luke 14:25-33

Pentecost +16 - Year C 

Identifying the constraints on our willingness to continue growing is an important part of our development, whether that be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or any other ____al.

Amazingly—or not—the obverse of a constraint is a point of growth. We might also say that whoever is willing to love fathers and mothers of any child, the children of any mother or father, and even their loss to one form of death or another, is already a proficient disciple of Jesus.

Likewise we can also look for signs of new life in people that may yet lead them to a cross rather than only keeping a weather-eye peeled for cross-tropic martyrs.

It is as we add these additional ways of measuring life that we can finally see the cost/benefit results of relating our individual lives with those of a larger community. Eventually we understand that a relationship to a community means our very possessions are transformed from mine to ours and in this transformation find an excess value to invest in bringing tomorrow to today—heaven to earth, if you will.

Blessings to you as you account for both sides of your life’s ledger—Yeses and Noes, Debits and Credits, Limits and Possibilities, Neighb*r and S-lf.