Thursday, May 29, 2014

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Year A - 7th Sunday of Easter or Assured 7
June 1, 2014
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Every life and age has to find a way to deal with suffering loss. We come up with all manner of ways to deal with this. Each of the world-wide and indigenous religions have their model such as a once-for-ever earth to heaven or turning wheel to release or some unifying now.

There really is no surprise that life goes awry, that we block one another’s gifts and growth.

What is surprising is that a humility toward our circumstance cuts across all difficulties and opens us to wisdom found beyond our claimed givens. Humility here is not a passive acceptance, but entails a widening awareness through disciplines that narrow distractions and open more room to breathe. This humility will bring us to patient learning/teaching and revolutionary points of decision that here is where we will stand.

Whether our loss be long or our relief be distant, our solidarity in suffering is restorative, supportive, and strengthening. This is a potential core around which all our various perspective can find room for one another. Might you take one more step toward establishing a common cause with one more person who has lost sight of the kindness still possible.

Note: there is an elision in this pericope that does need to be present for us to continue to do good when feeling dismissed. The New Community Bible uses headings for sections. Here at the end of 1 Peter they run: “Suffering as a Christian”, “Advice to the Presbyters”, and “Advice to the Community” before concluding with “Final Greetings”.

It would be instructive to use this three-fold structure in a worship setting. Begin with our commonality of suffering. Use a variety of processes to draw forth not just the easy surface sufferings it is culturally OK to talk about, but those deeper sufferings behind our discomforts. Shift to how church and state have added to those sufferings by imposing theories absent the sufferers at the table. Analyze the disjunctures of prejudice and discrimination that isolate and continue injustice. Shift again to claim the communal power to raise the fallen and return the exiled.

This will all take time. It is not an hour’s worth of work, but a lifetime’s. If we are not intentional in coming as close as we can to some on-going rhythm such as: Suffering caused by privileged leaders can be rectified by a compassionate community—we are institutionalizing further suffering.

Romans 12:9-16b

Year A - Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth or Elizabeth and Mary meet
May 31, 2014

In days when there is much talk of schism within The United Methodist Church and an increasing gap between the rich and the poor, there is great disjuncture and disharmony. There is no solution to an intractable tension between self and other. Both are real and both invisible. 

An ever present danger of dealing with an eternal G*D is that we too easily claim our experience of G*D to be eternal. This makes it extremely difficult to carry ourselves lightly and humbly with one another. We take the on/off switch of chaos/creation and extend it into every other part of our personal/corporate theology. This turns the analog of tuning life into the digital of right/wrong. Eventually an awesome G*D requires sinning worms and the church develops its scapegoat of the day.

In our economy it gets to be a false divide between the rich and the middle class. The old false saw about seeing that the rich get theirs and then all boats will rise cannot be re-purposed to securing the middle class. As long as the poor are not the central measuring rod for our economic health there will continue to be fever upon fever and burst bubble after burst bubble. Though difficult for us to get our minds and hearts around, ultimately there is no wealth that is not generated by the poor. Sustainable wealth requires the health of the poor for this is the great untapped pool of resources that is intentionally kept from offering the gifts invested in them. 

Where, in a patriarchal system, are pregnant women meeting? Where, in a capitalist society, are the lowly gathering? Here is where hope will be borne and born. In both instances mercy is remembered and enacted. Where mercy is forgotten the beauty-way fades into mirage and we are truly lost.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Year A - Ascension or Our Turn to Witness
May 29, 2014

Inhale love, exhale thanks.


This is the fullness that fills all in all.

Since it is all in all, we can also inhale thanks and exhale love.

No matter where one is on this great circle with a still point of thanks or love and every circumference point of love or thanks, we add to its spin and expansion.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35

Year A - 7th Sunday of Easter or Assured 7
June 1, 2014

Need a definition of G*D to help you know where you fit into living as an image of G*D? Verse 5 and 35b offer this: 
     A parent to the orphan
     and protector of the defenseless
     is our G*D, who dwells in wholeness!
     G*D gives power and strength to people.

As we come to the end of our Easter Sundays we are set up for Pentecost and the going forth to all those folks who are different from us. “Orphans” is but one way of describing our separation from one another and “power and strength” but one way of reconnecting by investing these qualities in those others we have previously orphaned.

Bottom line of Easter—don’t just “ascribe” or proclaim awesomeness, but see that those who are marginalized are raised up and included in.

For those interested in such things, track the Inclusive Capitalism Initiative (ICI) that is willing to give a little more to orphans so the basic drive of capitalism can continue to benefit the current winners. Here’s an article that looks at whether such an economic system can actually care for others or just give them a bit more to keep them from acting on what a revolting mess has been made of looking at the world through the eyes of wealth. ICI: noblesse-oblige? or capitalism’s resurrection?

Psalm 113

Year A - Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth or Elizabeth and Mary meet
May 31, 2014

It is one things to look far down as G*D of all G*D’s observes from afar a faint image. [Verses 5-6]

It is quite another to move beyond observation to engagement. [Verses 7-8]

Mary could have quite easily turned her experience with Gabriel into an observation game. Hmm, how interesting, I’ll just let this be and see what happens.

Instead Mary takes an intentional trip to see another who had a similar experience, though from a desire for a child rather than just having one awkwardly show up. This trip shifts Mary from passive recipient to active participant. An affirmation by another does wonders to set us on the path of our gift, asked for or not and whether or not the general populace would agree. An affirmation can lead to a magnificent job description and the The Magnificat is a magnificent job description for being able to move on from an accepted order of indispensable top dog to disposable mangy cur.

In light of intentional and un-intentional infertility, you might want to either drop verse 9 or modify it outside a cultural expectation of reproduction for reproduction’s sake.

Psalm 47 or 93

Year A - Ascension or Our Turn to Witness
May 29, 2014

“Highness” is emphasized in both Psalms. Whether talking about the quality of being or a title, we have a long heritage of up being better than down. In so many ways the children’s game of King of the Mountain is a model of life. Capturing the high ground brings a tactical  edge (at least until drones came along). We still use some arbitrary moral high ground as a basis from which to whip up the winds of war.

This natural law naturally claims that G*D must be the highest of all highnesses. If we can’t quite get there, we can be associated with that we claim can be at the pinnacle.

As we easily consider ascension as separation from, it might be worth raising a question about any purpose of being above and beyond. Such a position can help question any status quo. When looked at from the perspective of subjected people, the status quo is better than anything worse, even if not as helpful as something else. Coming at life from a generational perspective rather than an individual one allows a questioning of present authority. Ascension can give the distance needed to better evaluate where we have been and come to an insight of where we might yet be. Ascension allows a look over the next range of hills.

This can cut several ways. We may look into a new land and claim there are giants there; retreat! We may also look beyond and see a new community worth all the trouble it takes to get to.

Are you willing to ascend or just leave that to Jesus?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Acts 1:6-14

Year A - 7th Sunday of Easter or Assured 7
June 1, 2014

Here we reprise the Ascension scene once more and see how there is an outcome labeled “prayer”.

It is clear that prayer with the lips following the promptings of the head doesn’t do much beyond manufacture a few endorphins. More and more head-prayer is needed to make the same amount which is why prayer can be an addiction.

It is likewise clear that prayer with the hands following the promptings of the heart does engage the realities of people’s lives and eventuate in the turning needed to repent and forgive and bless (related, but not parallel terms).

The prayer here led to naming a new disciple (and still a needed act) and being open to respond to a Spirit that would lead them into people’s lives, even those lives that didn’t speak from the same experience base.

A prayer form that focuses on itself or gets wrapped up in praise, is not able to transform the world. It will only receive the feedback needed to keep doing what it is doing. Prayer that transforms does so in light of what is currently happening, not recapitulating what used to happen.

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Year A - Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth or Elizabeth and Mary meet
May 31, 2014

There is not much new under the sun. Variations upon themes and a periodic mutation that shifts a theme seems to be the order of the day.This is one of the reasons it is important to choose mentors wisely. You will become a variant of them. Were you part of a tradition that would choose a confirmation name from the saints of old. It was a significant exercise to try to discern who would be an intended model for you to draw near to as you encounter the new occasions and duties of today.

So are the words from Mary in Luke or Hannah in 1 Samuel unique? No. The more difficult question: Are they mine, as well? Note how a religious or spirit understanding has real-world implications. To come at this from the side, rather than head-on, re-read Common Sense by Thomas Paine and see if that helps locate you next to Mary and Hannah. We are talking revolution here.

Acts 1:1-11

Year A - Ascension or Our Turn to Witness
May 29, 2014

Ascension: Take 2

The details of Luke and Acts vary enough that, presuming the same author, all scripture can be said to be in the service of particularized settings and agendas. Scripture comments on scripture, such as the story of Sodom, and presents varying stories about the same event, such as Creation, Jesus’ last meal, Resurrection, Ascension, and the list goes on and on.

Without trying to reconcile the irreconcilable portions of scripture we look for where the variations may be pointing.

We noted yesterday that Luke’s version might be seen through the eyes of witnessing to a blessing still in process.

Acts doesn’t have the blessing motif. Here is didactic instruction: do this, then that, then the next. A word of witness comes after whatever an ascension might be in physics terms, rather than during it. It comes not from Jesus, but angelic messenger types.

The question raised was to move disciples on from their stupefying awe. Basically the message is to stop our mesmerized slacked-jaw gaze and get on with whatever it means to follow belovedness into the world.

Regardless of the setting and timing issues between Luke and Acts, the focus is taken off some future event of restoring political, military, economic power and is placed on the ever present opportunity to be grateful for having been blessed by passing the blessing on to make it larger and larger. This gratefulness is the motivation to move beyond the privileges of glory to the responsibilities of serving.

Ascension is to raise us to engage life. To limit it to Jesus does a grave injustice to his impetus to be a joy to the world. Workers of the world, Ascend!

Monday, May 26, 2014

John 17:1-11

Year A - 7th Sunday of Easter or Assured 7
June 1, 2014

After three-and-one-half chapters of speaking in the presence of the disciples (how much they felt engaged is tricky to know), Jesus finally places his hand next to his face as though using a communication device and begins the Newhart portion of his farewell.

“Father?” [pause to hear, “Yes, my son”]

“the hour has come to glorify your son” [pause to hear, “Jesus! what’s this about glory?”]

“so that the son may glorify you” [pause to hear, “Oh, this is about me?”]

“since you have given him authority over all people” [pause to hear, “Authority, who said anything about authority, I just said your were my beloved.”]

“to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” [pause to hear, “Jesus! Did that go to your head? Who or what isn’t in relationship to you and everything else?]

“And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God” [pause to hear, “Well, yes, if you put it that way.”]

“and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” [pause to hear, “Hey, no son of mine is going to speak in the third person. Have you been turning wine into something stronger?]

“I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.” [pause to hear, Jesus! No, there was no work to do, there was only being. I carry my own glory and that’s sufficient. Why did you call?]

“So now” [pause to hear silence]

“Father?” [pause to hear, “Oh, yes, I was just reading a note from my Satan.”]

“glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.” [pause to hear, “I’m obviously going to have to have a talk with Sophy if this is all you’ve learned. Take a lesson from those folks who don’t rebaptize; you don’t get rebeloved, which, by the way, is far more satisfying than glorification that can be manufactured and specs tweaked so fewer and fewer miracles are needed.”]

[Voice changes from demanding to whining]

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; [voice back to demanding again] and they have kept your word.” [pause to hear, “Sigh.”]

“I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.” [pause to hear, “That’s like showing me talents you buried just to keep things the same. Where’s your initiative to move beyond what you’ve been given? Well?]

[Another whine] “All mine are yours, and yours are mine; [and another demand] and I have been glorified in them.” [pause to hear, “Alright, Jesus, just slow down and breathe. You are making a big deal out of this glorification thing. Do you think you are still in the wilderness being tempted and now you want to bring that temptation to me? Think again about the response you made then about serving, simply serving for serving’s sake. Isn’t there something other than your glory to be considered here?]

[Pause} [and another] And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, [pause to hear, “Yes, my son?”] protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. [pause to hear, “Close enough.”]

Luke 1:39-57

Year A - Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth or Elizabeth and Mary meet
May 31, 2014

Upon connecting the unliklinesses of her pregnancy with Elizabeth’s, Mary hied herself both hence and thence, thus heightening the intensity of her travel.

If we are not going to practice a magic trick of pre-conscious revelation by an unborn or a suspicious correlation instead of causation, we might wonder about a universal greeting that still carries power, “Fear not!”

Having seen Zechariah’s written report of his interaction with an angel, Elizabeth knows a code word when she hears it. Why wouldn’t Mary’s first words to Elizabeth when she unexpectedly turns up miles from home be, “Fear not!”

An appropriate response to this greeting is, “Well, this is going to end in a blessing, so why don’t I just jump there.”

[Side trail alert—intuition is the ancient presentation of a 24-hour cable/babel news cycle. Speculation is set on high, reported breathlessly and ardently. You can take it from here.]

There have been more words about Elizabeth’s words and Mary’s words than can be easily measured by a Google search. [For those who want to know, “Blessed are you among women” clocks in at 879,000 and “My soul magnifies the Lord” is more than 4 times greater, 3,580,000.] Add words your own at your own peril.

While we are dealing with Elizabeth and John, don’t forget to celebrate the Nativity of Baptizer John on June 24 (only 6 months, 191 shopping days, until Christmas) as there is an interesting connection between the birth feasts for John and Jesus. You might want to start now with a new rhythm for your church year:
     — Summer Solstice - June 24 - Nativity of Fire John
     — Autumnal Equinox - September 23 - Conception of Fire John
     — Winter Solstice - December 25 - Nativity of Spirit Jesus
     — Vernal Equinox - March 25 - Conception of Spirit Jesus

[Beside the point here unless you enjoy plays on words: If you can still get it, you may want to spend some time with Fire in the John as a humorous way to engage the Men’s Movement of yore by Bly and others. Its relevance to these women is questionable.]

Luke 24:44-53

Following 3 tracks this week -
   Ascension // Our Turn to Witness
   Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth // Mary Meets Elizabeth
   Seventh Sunday in Easter // Assured7

= = = = = = =

Year A - Ascension or Our Turn to Witness
May 29, 2014

What does it mean to proclaim or live-out repentance and forgiveness? After looking at the history of the Church it is difficult to discern. It seems there is evidence of repeated non-repentance and serial non-forgiveness. Somewhere power went to our head and we denied physical realities our senses brought to us and one group after another was scapegoated on the basis of letters of the law.

If we are to be witnesses of repentance and forgiveness, we had best be about the business of real repentance, not ritualized repentance that covers continued sinning in shadow and silence. The measure of our witness will be an increase of participation in ongoing mutual belovedness.

At issue here is verse 51, “While he was blessing them”. A blessing interrupted is a blessing that needs to begin again, not end here. The United Church of Christ media program of a Comma has much to say here.

Let us learn from a blessing interuptus to complete the blessing through our witness and not claim our worship is anything other than a blessing.

Friday, May 23, 2014

1 Peter 3:13-22

Year A - 6th Sunday of Easter or Assured 6
May 25, 2014

The religious right in United Methodism is just a little ahead of schedule in making their quadrennial appeal to equate a unique discrimination against LGBTQ people with Christian teaching (or doctrine as the original motion in 1972 had it). They are spelling doctrine differently these days, “discipline by majority vote”, but everyone knows it means their understanding of G*D is the only valid one and so they should be in charge of everything. (Reference 1, Reference 2)

Their technique is to whine when caught being discriminatory and turning that around to claim they are the ones who are being discriminated against because they can’t keep their favorite “eternal truths” of the Bible. Then, in nearly a next breath, there comes forth an accusation against others that they are violating one “truth” they hold to be “self-evident” and of some “natural law” and so everyone else should self-deport from the purity of United Methodism (as though it ever were so!).

We’ve been here before. I suspect their only acceptable “win-win” scenario is if they get to win, period. To this end they have previously set up an alternative publishing house to divest from the denominational publisher, an alternative mission sending agency to disrupt the breadth of mission work and limit it to a narrow interpretation of evangelism, and an alternative women’s organization to diminish the effective teaching and compassion of United Methodist Women. It would be interesting for someone to track these regular missives that try to sound so concerned, but for anyone with a long-memory know are part of a larger movement to reduce life to rules.

Related to this passage, there is a question to be raised with every part of the church, “Is it really better to suffer for doing good?” Appeals such as the above are always ready to claim that I have suffered enough, thank you, and now it is time for me to get mine. Amazingly, it is always the right time for me to get mine.

A second question also needs to be raised, “What about all those who suffer at the hands of those so righteous in their doing good that they exile and shun their own children who do not live up to some arbitrary ideal?”

Now to separate the suffering of one’s self for doing what seems to be good from the suffering caused to others for doing what seems to be good. I’m betting that Peter here might say that causing suffering for another is qualitatively different and worse than one’s own willingness to suffer for another.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Psalm 66:8-20

Year A - 6th Sunday of Easter or Assured 6
May 25, 2014

We adore G*D for having a plan. This makes it very easy for us to claim any bump in the night as our responsibility and every plum that comes our way in the day to be of G*D, through no virtue of ourselves.

We seem to know G*D better than G*D knows G*D. We claim that G*D is both in charge of everything and limited by our iniquity. G*D knows all and yet waits for the words of my prayer before acting (oh, yeah, forgot, the out here is that G*D’s plan included my asking at just the right time when G*D was going to shift gears and move from curse to blessing).

Somehow or other this psalm about G*D turns out to be all about us. Awesome G*D. Awesome me.

Where did the surprise of Easter go? The technique described here removes all doubt and surprise. Just bless G*D. That’s it, just bless G*D. No relationship or partnership with G*D or Neighb*r, just bless G*D.

Someday we may yet be surprised that we are blessed even while iniquitous. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Acts 17:22-31

Year A - 6th Sunday of Easter or Assured 6
May 25, 2014

To not be orphaned, but adopted is one gift. To have clarity about who your ancestors are, is another.

There are many orphans who have a drive to find out who their parents are and who their lineage includes. Some are able to find out and some are not. And, of course, there are some for whom the tracing of their physical heritage is a non-issue.

Here Paul is saying, you have been orphaned without even knowing it and you do have a semi-conscious drive to find out about it. Elseway have an altar to an Unknown?

Paul offers to shorten the quest for knowing the unknown by naming a G*D in whose image we have been created to be creators.

All is well up to verse 29 when Paul forces attendance to a great rollout of a new brand. The force comes through a required repentance for not having been able to previously know the unknown. The sales clincher is supposed to be a man raised from the dead by this G*D.

Of interest is what the difference is between gold, silver, stone, resurrection as an idol or as a thin place that reveals our sense of loss has been turned to being found. Yes, there is an awkward shift between our sense of lostness and our experience of being found. Messing around in this awkwardness promises an avenue to new insight about ourselves and others.

Monday, May 19, 2014

John 14:15-21

Year A - 6th Sunday of Easter or Assured 6
May 25, 2014

If you love me . . . .

Such conditional statements lead us down crooked paths.

How much different would be our judgment of one another if we were hear this as: “I love you and invite you to practice these ways of loving one another.”

And I will ask the Father . . . .

The condition is continued as though an “Advocate” would be withheld on the basis of the limits of my “love”.

Far clearer is 14:18 — I will not leave you orphaned; I am with you already. 

Sorrow enters every life, bidden and unbidden. We lose track of our grounding presence of basic joy that everything is connected to everything; stardust shows up in even our least attractive feature. Even on a day of sorrow we will, again and again, catch a glimpse of background joy—you in me, and I in you.

This is enough, particularly when we return to a conditionality of keeping practices of life as though they were law.

Don’t go around too many bushes without stopping to smell the flowers at verse 18.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

1 Peter 2:2-10

Year A - 5th Sunday of Easter or Assured 5
May 18, 2014

Newborns need nurture. The drive to receive such is innate. Without it there arises a great wail eventually followed by great silence.

Presence and absence is one set of poles around which we organize our life. Verse 3, “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good”, reminds us that not just any contact is helpful. Have you been nurtured by goodness and grown in such? Have you been nurtured by suspicion and grown in such?

Depending on the direction of the nurture we find our lives with one set of rooms expansive enough to nurture others or another set of rooms surrounded by a moat to protect us from others.

Those who have been nurtured positively by Christianity can stand in that affirmation to openly engage those who have been nurtured positively in other traditions and have everyone benefit. Those nurtured negatively, if they remain within Christianity, will insist that everyone needs to be seen in the light of their limitations. This is an extension of verse 7, “To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner’”.

For more about this perspective I would refer you to Brian McLaren’s book, Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

Year A - 5th Sunday of Easter or Assured 5
May 18, 2014

Where I do not get where the consequences raining down on me have come from, bring clarity.

Wherein I am reaping the results of my own privilege, remind me about steadfast love.

Wherein I am caught in other events, may G*D and I apply that steadfast love until it overflows those so empty of it that they bring hurt elsewhere.

The refuge looked for is a mobile one. Instead of a rock anchoring us away from a storm, may we image a worry stone comforting us enough to again sense the steadfast love that we have lost sight of in the particulars of our desires.

There is no net laid for us beyond the web of steadfast love. To see a malevolent web is to recognize we have taken our eye off a larger arc of the universe. This is not a time of complaint and looking for self-protection, but a re-engagement with what we hope and trust beyond any evidence to the contrary.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Acts 7:55-60

Year A - 5th Sunday of Easter or Assured 5
May 18, 2014

Stephen, “Look, tomorrow dawns!”

Church and Culture, “We won’t hear of it!”

And so Cain again slays Abel.

Go back to that story in Genesis 4.

Abel’s last words (not recorded but present and echoing anyway) are repeated by Jesus and Stephen. And so Cain is treated mercifully; no death penalty for murder. And so Saul is treated mercifully; conversion for a guilty bystander.

In question is whether we will carry on this tradition of being larger than privileged revenge.

Hold not sin; it burns the hand as well as the soul.

Hold not sin; this absence marks the hand as well as the soul. Hands are restrained and souls enlarged.

Monday, May 12, 2014

John 14:1-14

Year A - 5th Sunday of Easter or Assured 5
May 18, 2014

Formulations aside, we might distill this passage into the following outline:

1) Troubled? Locate your arena of trust.

2) A future is open beyond our current understanding. You are engaged with that future as well as with your past and present. If you can trust your past really is your past, you can trust your future even as it incrementally becomes part of your past.

3) The way into this future is through a way of anticipation and/or experience. Jesus way is both anticipatory and experiential, “My way of engaging the present, incarnating the future today, is a universal way advocated long before me." This way, truth, and life are fancy ways of talking about the mundane processes known to all prophets and cannot be reduced to the particulars of one technical way, revelational truth, or eternal life.

4) We are forever speaking more wisdom than we know and acting more effectively than we expect. Attending to this by listening in and observing the effect of our presence gives evidence that we are already in the presence of whatever form of G*D that holds meaning for us.

[Note: the last two verses (13-14) need so much conditionality that they do more harm than they are worth. It is best to leave it with verse 12 — Trust tomorrow enough to do what needs doing today. In so doing we will follow forward in a long train of generations that emulate Mama Today bearing much fruit with Father Tomorrow.]

Sunday, May 11, 2014

1 Peter 2:19-25

Year A - 4th Sunday of Easter or Assured 4
May 11, 2014

To be aware of G*D puts you on a track beyond the structures of today. This is a dangerous position to be in. Today desires to continue eternally into tomorrow while tomorrow has a different set of boundaries. This interface is a dangerous place for those who are biased toward today and those anxious to move into tomorrow.

Today folks need to realize this is not the best of all possible worlds and repentance will be in order for the way we have been treating one another and creation. Tomorrow folks recognize all too well the cost of moving beyond the power structures of today. These are both pains; but different pains.

This text primarily affects those who are already listening in on tomorrow. Basically you can stop reading after verse 20. From there it gets into an unhelpful image of suffering on behalf of others.

If we are going to live in the manner of Jesus (this is not a following, but a moving on) we will be living to experience the heaven of a better tomorrow on earth today even when that interface brings imposed pain from the powers of today for so living.

May we continue sharing our various creation-honoring visions as we urge one another on another step. Jesus has been with us all along the way, whispering from tomorrow, and we listen and move forward, not to return to yesteryear. There is no guarding ourselves from this interface, only an assurance that it is important to ourselves and to others not yet able to appreciate a new day dawned.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Psalm 23

Year A - 4th Sunday of Easter or Assured 4
May 11, 2014

I am willing to be led out
from my thieving fear
for getting things
is never over

wants want more
and more and more
until want wants more than more
and we lie exhausted

even in a green pasture
we are too tired to eat or drink
and so we rest and fast
until we want no more

now restored
all those wants are seen
as a darker than dark valley
able to be faced and answered

this new vision
is a great comfort
upon which I can rest
rod and staff

from grabbing what I want
I notice an overflowing table
with forks and spoons and knives
to dine gracefully slow

there is time for thanks
there is time for greeting
there is time for leading
there is time for time

my heart’s cup overflows
goodness and mercy for all
in each house
may it be

and how did this happen again
slow abundance
generous hearts
who knew

these shepherd my greed
guard my wanting
through each night
into this day

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Acts 2:42-47

Year A - 4th Sunday of Easter or Assured 4
May 11, 2014

We come and go, learn and enact, commune and pray.

These simple acts of devotion (following through on a promise; living out a vow) lead to acts larger than expected.

Such as these lead to a new community based on the abundance available when each shares according to their resources (gifts). This new community can be contrasted with our old way of doing things on the basis of our greeds to avoid needing. Glad and generous living does have a karmic payoff in the present ground, not in some distant sky.

As these simple acts are learned and enacted, they continue a transformation begun eons ago to bring creation out of chaos and all the stored fruitfulness contained therein. To commune in homes is to then open the doors of the home (even to thieves) and model “Goodwill to all, and to all a new day.”

John 10:1-10

Year A - 4th Sunday of Easter or Assured 4
May 11, 2014

Verse 1 - those who don’t enter by a gate are thieves.
Verse 2 - those who enter by a gate are shepherds.
Verse 3 - the gate of the shepherd is opened by a thief.
Verse 4 - the sheep/thieves are called back out.
Verse 5 - not every call is to be followed.

Verse 6 - got it? Nope

Verse 7 - I am a gateway.
Verse 8 - the call I give has not been heard before.
Verse 9 - those who have gone out come in again, go out again, and again
Verse 10 - abundant life is rhythmic.
                 Thief, sheep, thief again, sheep again.
                 Sanctuary, witness, sanctuary again, witness again.
                 Scarcity, abundance, scarcity again, abundance again.

Back to the first part of the story. We do what we can to enter easily. We steal our way in for learning to be a shepherd is too hard. Amazingly, once unfairly in, we are led out again to pasture to learn to come back in and in the process to learn to be a shepherd. The first verse is key. We are in the middle of a larger story. Never doubt the resurrection of thieves. 

Saturday, May 03, 2014

1 Peter 1:17-23

Year A - 3rd Sunday of Easter or Assured 3
May 4, 2014

What do you trust and how have you come to that trust?

One model is that of having had a mentor, a model, a pioneer to follow, a cultural tradition born into or adopted. One is to have some articulatable god to obey or partnering G*D to engage. One is to catch a larger vision such as impartiality in an entitled world.

Even here in an Easter season there are echoes of an Absent Saturday, a stone-closed and stone-cold tomb. You are still in a time of exile. We are not yet living a paradise into existence but waiting for some kingdom to descend upon us with all its weight and burden.

If in the midst of an exile of partiality, what would it be to invoke a G*D of impartiality? Is this to leave a playing field tilted toward the wealthy and powerful? That is one form of impartiality—to allow some disembodied hand of the market to prevail at every turn in denial of every person disadvantaged or environment reduced to a corporate profit. Might this impartiality be an intentional tilting of relationships through a last-resort Jubilee mechanism or an anticipatory participation in right relationships?

As we deal with our limits and fears, lift your eyes again to the impartiality needed to love one another deeply from the heart. Impartiality is not devoid of heart, but lives deeply therein. 

To accomplish this it will be necessary to also strip all passages such as this of their covering language of separation regarding ransom (not impartial) or defect-free (not impartial) or purity through obedience (not impartial) or truth (not impartial) or imperishability (not impartial).

While in exile from earthly paradise, hold to an impartial view of trusting relationships based on loving deeply from the heart. All the religious language in the world can’t cover this.

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Year A - 3rd Sunday of Easter or Assured 3
May 4, 2014

There are appropriate and inappropriate complaints. Some of us have a very low tolerance for anything that doesn’t go our way (from bewailing not finding a parking place close to our destination to dying if a significant other dies). Here we have an affirmation that a complaint was voiced and resolved to the psalmist’s satisfaction.

A next question is how to respond to such a blessing (as distinct from responding to a blessing present in an unrequited complaint).

The psalmist in verse 9 (elided) admits that they were so fixated in getting a positive outcome that they responded, “Liar!”, to any who would suggest acceptance of their experienced plight. It might be said that an affliction makes one unaware of their inflicting their affliction on others.

At any rate, now that a resolution has been achieved, how does one respond?

Look again at 16b, “You have loosed my bonds.”

On one level this is a recognition that a complaint has been successfully negotiated and the knot it had caused has been cut.

In a community there is no response that can only be individualized. This loosening has also set free a community that has had the complaint imposed upon it, one they would have otherwise been ignorant of. A community has also been freed.

A thanksgiving is in order, but there is also a need to re-establish relationships for all the “Liar!” type responses that had been given along the way.

Can we respond to our bonds being loosed by loosing our bonds of entitlement and privilege that our cares are to be attended to before those of others. Easter frees us from the being bound by a stone sitting on top of us. In our joy of having a stone rolled off us, a knot cut, a light re-lit, we express our thanks by assisting others to have their constraint lifted. If our praise does not re-purpose prayer from words to actions, we have not been loosed yet. If praise does not bring repentance we simply await a next testing of this supernaturally attuned-to-me “Lord” and the complaint/loosening cycle rolls back over us.