Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Year A Book

I have been a bit erratic with postings these last couple of weeks. There has been a push on to get a book and e-book published. The Title is Wrestling Year A: Connecting Sunday Readings with Lived Experience. Hopefully next week will see me back on my usual Monday to Friday schedule.

Today a proof of the book arrived and I am noting more corrections are needed than I had hoped would be the case. I knew there would be some, but as a first time author am surprised by the number. Anyway, I'm basically pleased with the way it is looking.

There will be more information about the book and e-book as it becomes available. For the moment, sending energy in this direction for the completion of this particular is welcomed and appreciated.

wwhite (at) wesleyspace (dot) net

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Psalm 119:97-104

Pentecost +22 — Year C

Misreading alert—a first glance at the pericope found this, “Oh, how I love your law! It is my medication all day long.”

Two reading leap to mind. One is a curative one. Struggling with the meaning of commands with some presumption of importance can lead one out of a morass of confusion. A path can be discerned. A second one is a masking one. To too quickly toss chemicals into a living system can make it dependent (like land on fertilizer) and cover the underlying cause of dis-ease. A status quo won’t be questioned.

If some newfangled medication automatically displaces a tried and true folk remedy, there do need to be some questions asked about unintended consequences (that long list of dire results listed at the end of a sunny commercial). It is also important to not simply lose the folk remedy for when the new goes bust or further study of it might bring forth something even better.

Medicated thinking can lead one to greater clarity of boundaries and it can erase them all so only I have a true understanding and anything you have to offer is false in every way.

Blessings on your use of a community heritage such as the bible, quran, vedas, etc. as helpful meditation medicine that moves you and all along a clearer path to common goods.

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Here's a resource from John Wesley and his concern with physical health as well as spiritual health: Primitive Physick.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Pentecost +22 — Year C

While it sounds like a good thing to be responsible for one’s own actions and consequences therefrom, there is a significant loss of responsibility for the common good of the community. Yes, it can be posited that what is best for each is for the best for all to take place. However, to break a dynamic tension between an individual and their community predictably opens several doors to dysfunction for both an individual and their larger context.

Foremost among the difficulties is a lack of a feedback loop which allows folks to plausibly deny their actions carry any sin for they are thick with G*D.

It would be interesting to have a conversation about covenants. It won’t be long before it is recognized that we each have multiple covenants. The same is true for groups as small as friends and as large as one multi-national group against another multi-national group. Where these covenants rub up against one another there is a weakening of integrity. Some of us have more weak spots than others, but the number is basically immaterial. One is sufficient to cause trouble for all.

It is helpful to remember these words in their context and to remember that we have our own current context where we periodically need to remember to engage the other side of whichever individual/communal pendulum swing we are on at the moment.

It won’t be long after Jeremiah's message when this whole section will need to be repeated with the position of individual and community reversed for there is an eternal dance between me and thee and us’ns and y’all.

We need to do a better job of wrestling with our multiple covenants and applying the many, varied, and even conflictual gifts all needed at the same time to make reasonable decisions better enough to last a traditional 7 generations long.

Blessings on dealing with your complicity in the social sins of your cohort as well as your own personal sins. One exacerbates the other and addressing any of them will likely start in bailiwick of the other. This is a much more difficult and worthwhile encounter than leaving it to G*D to bail us out of our latest Egypt or to take over our internal guidance system with the excuse that it is what is best for us.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Luke 18:1-8

Pentecost +22 — Year C

How do you play between importuning G*D for justice and being persistent and creative in your own part of claiming justice for yourself and/or someone else?

Now, why would Jesus tell this story about a probably years long struggle for justice until the judge was worn out from dealing with it? Presumably he recognized that G*D’s “quickness” in matters of justice wasn’t very quick in human lives and required partnership with us rather than snapping some metaphoric fingers to have it miraculously appear. Magic justice turns out to be very little justice at all.

We might translate “pray” as “do what needs doing”. Prayer here is not just crying out, but acting to make a difference. There is a big divide between those who see a need for social action and those who are caught up in privilege enough to advise closet prayer. If you are going to pray for someone, do it in their face. Otherwise it is spiritual gossip.

So, yes, G*D delays participation in overt justice-making until those who note injustice engage it directly. Praying about something so as to tell G*D what to do, even to pray for G*D’s will to be done, does not endear us to G*D.

Have you lost your heart to live lively and so all that’s left is mumbling prayer? I hope not. So raise a glass to widows everywhere and rejoin the on-going party of assurance and belovedness and just plain kindness. If you are familiar with ballots that show a picture of a candidate or the logo of a political party, be sure to check the widow iconography after disclosing your cause in the streets and investing your time and resources to have us live better together. Hooray for disruptive widows.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Pentecost +21 — Year C


on the way
to our expected goal
there are calls to pause
along the way to practice
what we preach

Jerusalem will be
a personal transformation
to even newer life
from heavy to light
from ow to ah

but we’re not there
it can be offered
to others

in fact Jerusalem
is here now
where prophet meets priest
where thanks is given
instead of further sacrifice

journey expectations
find refreshment
along the way
sufficient to continue

so onward
again assured
an exile’s home
is a strong pull

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Pentecost +21 — Year C

All words are imprisoning. Event as they leap to mind from their metaphoric ground to break new ground, they return to rest providing support for subsequent leaps beyond them.

How noble Paul can be as he sets the good of a select set of others above his own inconvenience. Presuming Paul to understand himself as a chosen one, no matter how thorn infested or out of time he may be, to work for other chosen ones is a limited and limiting understanding of resurrectional and pentecostal power.

We can’t seem to not be in a battle over words. From an earlier “Let it be” to the latest “Let it not be” guiding sentiment of government defunders we struggle to define all else in light of me. This sophomoric argument that everyone else is but playing a part in my dream has significant consequences when it turns out we are not dreaming but in the midst of a much larger and longer story.

Any attempt at interpreting some message of truth is full of stumbling blocks. Here it turns out that a beginning spot of rising up and descending down takes second place to a “faithful saying” that rallies like-to-like in a common defensive position rewarding loyalty.

Knowing only a few of my own limits and how easily movable are boundaries, I have great sympathy for these 8 verses plucked from a larger work as they note a grand transformational moment that keeps sliding back into a creed of exclusiveness after its burst of new life.

May we simply live together for, like it or not, we die. This carries a different sense that trying to avoid our death by positing a dreamy eternity and reinforcing a limited chosenness.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Psalm 66:1-12

Pentecost +21 — Year C

Expressing joy is deep work requiring a strong base. Before going further you can strengthen your base:
  • breathe in for a slow count of 5
  • hold for another slow count of 5
  • exhale slowly and fully through a count of 5
  • hold empty for a final slow count of 5

Repeat and repeat until your center becomes clear, beloved.

Here is the beginning of a field of joyful murmuring underlying periodic louder expressions.

From here we engage tests of our joy, whether from internal temptation or external turmoil. These tests temper us as is steel from of old, in fire and water.

We are free to be joy. There are no limits to expressions of joy other than our fear of self and/or others. Whether at home or in exile we breathe easy until we can breathe no more and in both breath and its cessation is our connection with the depths of creation’s continuity.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

Pentecost +21 — Year C

Displaced. Exiled. Refugee. These words and more like them are artifacts of cruelty trampling community. They essentially say, “You must be done away with that I might flourish.” These are zero-sum game categories.

Jeremiah recognizes the reality of what we do to our selves and one another. There is no getting around the political, economic, and military realities of power and its lack.

Jeremiah also recognizes the reality of looking beyond a current balance of power. Since power is always being subverted from within, Jeremiah looks forward by essentially saying, “Flourishing where you are is the best investment you can make in a better future.”

This passage will need much further parsing as it could be used to justify cultural slavery and personal abuse. Part of the trouble we get in with scripture is how it can be manipulated to justify situations other than the one from which it arose. For the moment, if you always have your weather-eye open, close it for space for a long view; if you use a dream-eye to avoid another loss of worth, open it to see whether escape or subversion is available.

Can you both flourish and subvert (take a step to be elsewhere or toward a changed circumstance)? Yes. So, may you flourish no matter what degree of subversion of power is available to you. If you want to read more about a contemporary version of flourishing and subversion when exiled from your religious home, try LovePrevailsUMC.com.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Luke 17:11-19

Pentecost +21 — Year C

Two notices here.

First, Lepers are an excluded people. It matters not what other identity they could also carry, their exclusion is an identity that supersedes any other. A nation of excluded folks within a nation is a crack in the foundation of that nation. This excluded nation does continually raise a cry from the margin. A prophet/priest does periodically come to release.

As a prophet, Jesus announces freedom. It is as though he said more fully, “Go show yourselves to exclusionary priests who are the gatekeepers of privileged inclusion.” This points toward “outing” one’s self—claiming a place at the table.

While still categorically excluded it is difficult to reveal one’s claim on community. Before an exclusion is excluded it is surprising that even one in ten claimed their belovedness, their basic wholeness, their inherent belonging in the face of categorical discrimination. Being a pioneer in claiming one’s self in the face of exclusion is difficult, difficult work.

Second, once one knows they are whole, not just a person in form but through-and-through, Joy is released. This is shown here with nine out of ten still needing an external validation and obviously not getting such from a discriminating priest. They are not heard of again. Here one comes to a prophet/priest claiming their own with thanksgiving. Indeed, trust is their password—I trust I am whole. [Note: From the discriminating side, Welcome is a sign of a healthy priest.]

Another synonym for faith is following one’s bliss. For an expression of a Leper returning you might get your own T-shirt by one who is still a Leper in The United Methodist Church that categorically excludes gifted and called lesbian women and gay men from ordained ministry simply on the basis of their sexual orientation. Rev. Amy DeLong was tried by the exclusionary priests of her denomination and is still present because of enough prophet/priest on the trial court. You can still support inclusion by purchasing one of her T-shirts

If you are preaching on this text, what would you think about wearing this T-shirt instead of a robe or other professional attire? Would you use this as bulletin cover or video image to preach on?

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Lamentations 1:1-6; 3:19-26

Pentecost +20 — Year C
World Communion Sunday

A rewrite —

How lonely sits a church that once was full of people! How isolated and barren! How small and irrelevant after such numbers and influence! A once shining beacon is now an overly protected flame safe from wind—only to have no source of fuel.

There is a great bitterness within—a divided self with comfort limited to true believers. Friends and potential friends must first prove their loyalty and do so again and again for fear they will eventually reveal a flaw in a self-contained and unambiguous system.

Yes, exile has come, the center has not held and takes more and more work to sustain. What once honored its many differences and gifts has splintered, each looking to confirm its own before affirming another. The very surety of parity desired now comes back to bite far harder than the labor needed to bind compassion to every-day varieties of lived experience.

False enthusiasm keeps deep joy at bay. No matter how loudly we sing the same song it can’t be loosed from walls of silence intended to protect those within—turning the sanctuary into an echo-chamber with naught to offer beyond. Priests groan; youth grieve; blame grows.

Without turning differences into community, we are controlled by denied differences defining a small and smaller realm of participation. More and more discrimination to protect an ever smaller range of acceptable behavior transgresses G*D’s prerogative for steadfast love, especially relevant in the midst of creation’s variety. The descendants of Eden have again scattered themselves through a failed hubris of building a babbling code of “holiness” within a larger Holiness all around. We have been bound by the eternal enemy of self-magnification.

A grandeur of Spirit has departed the construct of Church. Starving the body has us hearing voices of danger in every direction. Finally we sit down alone feeling as persecuted as we have persecuted.

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In this silence we feed on our shame of trusting our blame of all that wasn’t yet us to keep us pure. Our digital approach to holiness in an analogic abundance failed. Where is hope now?

Is steadfast love trustworthy after all? Are mercies we claim sharable with those we don’t like?

If love and mercy are new every morning, we can dare to lift our eyes from blame and join in seeking their application in our infinite variety.

Our surety striving let us down, again. Let us rest in hope beyond uniformed peace. Let us seek a common good beyond today’s limits. Let us live in communion beyond control.

Luke 17:5-10

Pentecost +20 — Year C

It takes a good deal of trust that forgiveness is the way to go. This is particularly true when it appears that forgiveness is not an effective tool to change the behavior of someone else.

If there is not a change in another’s behavior after we have forgiven them for an incident, we have a built-in excuse to not try that again and pull out a countervailing power. When even that doesn’t work there is only escalation left—a hand for a fingernail, an arm for a hand, a life for a felt slight.

No wonder the disciples asked for a sign worthy of their greater trust—that their reservoir of forgiveness would not run dry.

Jesus does not give such a sign. Instead he refocuses on seeing there is no lower limit to an innate ability to be engaged in a relationship to understand, modify, and transcend previous behaviors.

The second part of this passage is problematic as it is based on “earthly” behavior in need of a “heavenly” reconstruction. It is important to not be satisfied with a master-servant example when it comes to basic relationship dynamics.

If we stop here we justify abusive relationships.

Homework: How would you improve this passage by substituting some other example or an additional image to reinforce that we have sufficient resources to forgive without tying that to behavior control or privilege within a relationship?