Thursday, November 28, 2013

Romans 13:11-14

Year A - Advent 1 - Needed Change [1]
December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving has become a day of attempted satiation. We stuff ourselves with every manner of thing in hopes of being fulfilled. However, every rule we set up about how we will know we are cared for, falls apart on the rocks of an actual relationship. Eventually we confess that food will not satisfy. Then, another year later, we try it again.

It turns out that Paul shares with us this Thanksgiving sentiment:

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law - the doing away with the law. 

So, first, do no harm.

Of course hot on the heels of this is a need to actually do some good. In American politics it is immigration that best reveals how far from a communal thanksgiving we are. Our immigration policies and lack of reform both do harm and refrain from doing good. In other places this will be revealed differently.

For now, be thankful you are still able to hope that Neighb*rs will love one another. Then, take a deep breath for you know that this love has no other better starting place than with you.

Thanks for giving your love away. Love is law fulfilled and set aside.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Psalm 122

Year A - Advent 1 - Needed Change [1]
December 1, 2013

The New Community Bible comments: “It is a fact that true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth (Jn 4:21), but they are still flesh and blood and God often waits for them at the end of a march without which their effort would not have been a real one.”

We do affirm the engagement of our bodies in life. Direct action is not just a social change tactic, but one of living life to the full. We engage in spirit, truth, flesh, blood, and more. Taking any of them away leads us to an ending with a whimper, not a bang. To find your engagement in life is finding a spoonful of Mary Poppins' medicine—it helps every aspect of life when there are expected and unexpected consequences in an unfated universe.

Shifting Advent to a waiting game that we will win or lose “at the end of a march” is to denigrate the communal nature of creation and its impetus to call out “Let it be”. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Isaiah 2:1–5

Year A - Advent 1 - Needed Change [1]
December 1, 2013

This year I am going to be looking at two recent bibles:

The Common English Study Bible
The New Community Bible: The International Catholic Edition (commentary reflects a Liberation Theology perspective from the Philippines and I admit a bias for a bible that emphasizes community).

Here are comments regarding justice coming from temple [CEV] and community [NCB] that you might fruitfully reflect on as you rub them together.

The same oracle (a form of prophetic speech) is also found in Micah 4:1-3, but the conclusions in Isaiah 2:5 and Micah 4:4 differ. Whereas in Micah 1:24 God’s own people were viewed as God’s enemies, here enemy nations become God’s own people, coming to the temple for divine instruction. I contrast to Micah 1:12, where the temple was trampled by unjust worshippers, now it is the source of justice. Such hopeful portrayals of Jerusalem occupy key points in Isaiah (Isa 4:2–6; 12:1–6; 33:20–24;40:1–2, 9–10; 62:1; 66:7–14, 1823). [CEB]

It is true that the Church has many unattractive aspects: her institutions, her hierarchy; her paralyzing traditions are no more exempt from error and scandals that were those of the Jewish community. Perhaps we fail to discern the profound riches which the Church develops in sincere believers. In the world, they are those who keep the fire that Christ lit burning, and who create a network of more human relationships and more authentic life around them.
     In the final analysis, this is what prepares for the coming of the “new creature.” Isaiah alone has done more for human progress than all the kings of Assyria with their armies, their victories and their laws. This leaven of authentic civilization is what, one day, will be placed “on the high mountains”, or “on a lampstand” to enlighten the world. (See Mt 4:14.) [NCB]

How is it that swords are transformed into plows? 
   Divine instruction? 
   Authentic civilization? 
   Would you list a third option? 
Are these just spelling differences for the same dynamic?

Come, let us walk together to create light.

= = = = = = =

As encouragement to consider purchasing our own commentary, Wrestling Year A: Connecting Sunday Readings with Lived Experience, here is an excerpt:

Wars and rumors of wars continue to abound. Such are convenient control methods to keep us fearful and unthinking. So how do we make a shift that seems so absolutely impossible?
     A key phrase is for us to respond to an invitation to “walk in the light of the Lord”. Among other things, this is a call to live the future as if it were already here. Advent is not just waiting time, but practicing time. Advent: the pre-arrival of a future that we climb aboard. We have seen a better future and, rather than wait for it or expect G*D to bring it about according to some yet undisclosed plan, we begin to implement our part of it in the present. A better future is not based on some future event, but on what we currently do.
     Let us walk in the light of what we posit G*D will be doing—teaching, mediating, transforming implements and attitudes of war into communal feeding and universal health care. Our Advent is proactive waiting. Our waiting is preemptive futuring that breaks free from being caught between practice and actuality, a rock and a hard place.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Matthew 24:36-44

Year A - Advent 1 - Needed Change [1]
December 1, 2013
Matthew 24:36-44

The future cannot be foreseen, only lived as it is desired to be.

Remember Noah’s day? It is like that. You build your future in the days available.

Not even Noah knew the import of this as evidenced by his actions after the flood and the subjugation he continued.

We live until we are swept away.

There are those who would warn about unexamined lives and keeping awake and being ready. Unknown in these is what we don’t know. Examining the unknown lacks tools. Keeping awake or ready readily leads to fatigue and plenty of gaps in which not to be ready or awake.

So, a future day will surprise in its suddenness, but not in its preparation. Live well now. In so doing, all shall be well—all manner of things.

Question: What would happen if we didn’t expect judgment/disaster but mercy/grace? As contrasted with living on edge trying to protect what can’t be protected, might we relax into living today as we would want to live tomorrow?

Friday, November 22, 2013


Silently, ever so silently,
Enmity comes to an end.
Life and love are recognized
Among all disruptions.
Healing is our hope.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Colossians 1:11-20

Pentecost - Last Sunday - November 24, 2013 - Year C
Colossians 1:11-20

The church claims Jesus as a singularity. As a result of this the church also claims everything must be in conformity to Jesus.

This doesn't quite square with some of Jesus' own sayings such as the rest of us are to do greater things than he did.

As we round out another year of struggling to perfect an old model when such a journey toward wholeness is never-ending, we come to the end of another year with miles to go.

For some this will mean an attempt at further retrenchment into Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. For some it will be a release to finally claim their own singularity. For most, it is just time for Thanksgiving turkey.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Luke 1:68-79

Pentecost Last - November 25, 2013 - Year C
Luke 1:68-79

On this last Sunday of another church year that we wrap in a victory of hierarchy reclaimed, it is important to remember the prophetic tradition rather than the priestly/kingly.

Have you learned a bit more this year about not having enemies, even if they should still have you? If so, know that being thus rescued from being enthralled by our enemies we can simply live in wholeness and mercy all the rest of our days -- long or short.

The appropriate act here is that of forgiveness in the trenches of life, not the raising of a scepter to lord it over.

If we have learned well this past year, there will be a new dawn, a new light, beaming from you to those darkened in one way or another. This is not a lording it over them, but a setting out of a ministry for a next year. Hopefully our evaluation of how things have gone and one thing that still needs doing will energize us to go forward, guiding our feet and the feet of others in a way that will intersect in a present paradise that might be called peace or reality.

Blessings on your evaluation for tests are just around a corner. Today I was able to be part of giving a test to a bureaucratic church body (United Methodist Connectional Table). For the moment they passed and stopped their formalities to give up a morning's agenda to talk about sexuality and even claim it was important for them to speak about it as a body to General Conference. You can read about it here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Pentecost Last - November 25, 2013 - Year C
Jeremiah 23:1-6

Context: The United Methodist Church trying Frank Schaefer for celebrating his son's marriage to another male -- son and son-in-law -- a patriarch's dream, except for legalistic religious types appealing to some letter-of-the-law type of "justice" with nary a pinch of human kindness, much less mercy.

How can this passage in this context not be a condemnation of everyone along the way who was swayed to vote for discrimination by some fear of losing members or money or their own privilege?

The shepherd has become the wolf, and a self-devouring one at that.

At times like this it is tempting to wait for a "Lord" who punished folks into exile to become self-dismayed and bring them home (blaming things now on another set of folks). [How do you read G*D gathering back folks G*D had driven away?]

This temptation is unworthy of folks made in an image of steadfast love and merciful justice. We need to call it for what it is, serial injustice upon one officially condemned group after another -- same tactics, different targets.

We need to get over some "Lord" being our righteousness. We have integrity inherent in our bones even if we do cover it up all too often with an overlay of officiousness and expediency. To be zealous for judgment is to be blind to mercy.

A second context is sitting in on a Connectional Table meeting that was so boring the leaders had to plead for an Amen after characterizing Jesus as an "adaptive leader", the latest highest praise a functionary can muster. The whole meeting was sad with members nearly dozing off if not browsing Amazon. Energy was at a minimum and communication was all about branding rather than doing/being.

It is tempting to sic a righteous G*D on such unrighteous waste of time, energy, and resources. Again, this temptation is not creative enough for folks who have tasted of good and evil.

"Woe," cry the shepherds who don't know where new grass is. "Woe," cry the sheep sacrificed one-by-one. "Woe," cries a G*D caught in a self-designed trap.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Luke 23:33-43

Luke 23:33-43 - November 24, 2013 - Year C

23:42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

23:43 He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

If we weren't so limited by our context we could see these lines in our current context.

Let's work our way backward into our present.

Welcome to another day in Paradise where steadfast-love weds mercy to justice. Look around again. And again. This is Jesus prayer come true; heaven has come on earth. We are partnered with one another, urging one another onward toward a wholeness already known and yet needing bodies and form.

In this Paradise we are loathe to leave behind for a static pig-in-a-poke in some by-and-by, we blink our eyes again and Jesus is truly here. We are encouraged to continue to stand for a merciful justice. Visit Facebook/StandWithFrank as another trial tries to separate that which G*D has joined together.
This is so overwhelming we find ourselves like Peter in the presence of another transfiguration—stammering: "Remember me when . . . ."

Returning to our senses we know ourselves remembered. When knowing we are remembered rather than forcing some remembrance to be repeated and repeated in some weird Groundhog Day, we can move forward together.

Can you look back over this year to remember when you were remembered and you lived a merciful justice? That honors Jesus far more than some heraldic claim that "Jesus is Lord" or trying to leave this Paradise of "joy to the world" and "fear and trembling".

Use this as a time for evaluation of the last year in order to better engage a next year. What finally needs forgiveness in order to participate in merciful justice?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book is Available

It is now official—the book is available for purchase at the link below and it is time to regather my energies to return to blogging about the lectionary. I am looking forward to starting again tomorrow as we close off another Church Year.

So how has it been since be Advented in 2012? Have we spun wheels? Done any "perfecting" or going on to wholeness? Identified a task that will be worth your life in Year A?

Blessings to you and thanks for reading here.