Monday, June 30, 2014

Matthew 11:16-30

Year A - Pentecost +4 or Community Practice 4
July 6, 2014

To what shall we compare our usual systems and structures? A narcissist? Processes that want what they want and that right now.

How shall we talk about a longer-term way; wide where wideness helps and narrow where such assists our way together. A yoke is the image used here.

A yoke can be like that of oxen. Stick your neck here and be yoked to Jesus. What Jesus would do, you will do. Gee. Haw.

A better image of a yoke is that which can be placed across your shoulders to assist you to balance and carry more than you thought you could; more than arms alone could support for any distance. 

Here life is a bit more exciting. Depending on the load and the destination things will be spread out or brought in. Though ancient in design it is modernly ergonomic. A single weight can be distributed. The weight of a whole spiritual life can be divided into acts of piety with G*D on one side and acts of mercy with Neighb*r on the other. Together, balance.

Having difficulty balancing your life? Here, take my yoke. No, no joke. I can make another. Make it your own—use it according to your load, not mine. See, the ease of work. Let there be ... —now where does that fit and what will have to change because of this new word become present?

Got a heavy burden? Who doesn’t? Remember the yoke. It is not a cross to bear; it is a community that carries one another, weeping as well as laughing. It is with this yoke that all is brought in, even the heaviest of burdens such as Tyre and Sidon (well, beside you and me). Carry and be carried—a wonderfully recursive fractal (well, not really as I don’t know what I’m talking about here, but it sounded good). Perhaps someone can give a better mathematical model for a meaning schema. Put that on your yoke and carry it!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Romans 6:12-23

Year A - Pentecost +3 or Community Practice 3
June 29, 2014

Sin — Righteousness
Death — Eternal Life

And for those of us who continually find ourselves between stops, backsliding from one and frontsliding from the other?

A significant problem I’ve not been able to get around is how to know beforehand the results of an action. There are so many surprises that have come along. Wonderful plans have large and small blowbacks. Intentional meanness clarifies needed changes.

That which is deemed morally righteous in one generation turns 180 degrees and can no longer be abided. Consider a new resource: Bisexuality: Making Visible the Invisible in Faith Communities.

As we move from one new learning to a next (sometimes going back and sometimes further) it is tempting to move from one codification to a next (shifting G*D’s if you will) rather than to learn how to live on the move.

It may be that the wages of surety are death and those of graceful learning are life (eternal or not). Prophets or Priest are the most dangerous to themselves and others when they are too cocky about projecting the present into the future. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Psalm 13

Year A - Pentecost +3 or Community Practice 3
June 29, 2014

Are you feeling forgotten? Your cause delayed and betrayed? Your source of authority dismissed? Your social capital steadily reduced and ignored?

Well? One day more?

Enough of those and it is too much. We’ll be dead before seeing satisfaction (as though that were the most valuable of all results).

Shaken to our core we have lost our joy. What we thought was steadfast, isn’t anymore. Perimeters fail before our centers cease to hold.

This is all so real, so everyday. All that is left is that wonderfully contrarian view of hope when hope has been lost. Who knew it was still present? Well, not us, that’s for sure.

And, then, a spark is all it takes to set us aflame yet one more time. May we be that spark for one another for the journey is long and we each have our time of dark where others hold a light for us and we later return the favor.

Priest or Prophet or Poor, all are in need of a cup of water, a spark of hope, a beautiful moment. Pick your gift and apply it wherever possible as we sing together as morning stars still do.

Genesis 22:1-14

Year A - Pentecost +3 or Community Practice 3
June 29, 2014

For PETAites, the sacrifice of a ram is not any more desirable than the sacrifice of a human. When a creator demands the sacrifice of a portion of the creation, there are questions to be raised about what is going on. Who has lost faith with whom?

When is a test regarding human relationships ethical. This is not to say it doesn’t regularly go on, but when pausing to think about it how much pain are we willing to expose another to while we are at a distance? Is a false shock to an actor any more or less questionable than a real shock to an innocent? What does it do to both? Well, true, that can’t be measured because we are able to shift what an event means to us. We may even be able to shift our perceptions pharmaceutically with some new PTS medications.

Is this about compartmentalism? Abraham puts G*D in one box that trumps all others? Might it be about breaking compartmentalism? Abraham is willing to concede his initial plan and substitute? Is this the great learning of Abraham as after this we hear of Sarah’s death, Isaac’s marriage, and Abraham’s death?

The Abraham story eventually boils down to learning to not be rigid, even rigid in waiting. It begins with leaving a physical home and ends with leaving a spiritual home that a next generation might have its journey. What remains is the Well of Lahai-roi (25:11). Let us all gather around such a well as we are brought together, separate, rejoin, and are sustained into a next stage of life, a next generation.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Matthew 10:40-42

Year A - Pentecost +3 or Community Practice 3
June 29, 2014
Matthew 10:40-42

We are in life together. We hold more than six degrees of connection within us. Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me and those I know and those who know them. Basically, we don't welcome one other without welcoming all others. We can talk all we want about all-being-all, but if it is not lived out in the welcome of particular people we have not been welcoming and so are not welcome in parts of the cosmos.

As we are still working out of Pentecost, welcome is wider than our temporary divisions of culture, language, or wedge-issue. Without getting into a reward/punishment mode of interacting, imagine the phrase, "None will lose". What might this mean for your level of courage to engage. Might that have been a phrase that blew through a locked room whispering in each ear. No wonder they arose and went into the streets. They were so poor they had nothing to lose. They had already lost all they had, except for their fear. Now with this vision, the fear could be set aside and, lo and behold, they were again a part of everything.

Even a day in Carolina couldn't be finer than this—"None will lose". Remember. Proclaim. Remember again.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Romans 6:1b-11

Year A - Pentecost +2 or Community Practice 2
June 22, 2014

The value of the cross is not that Jesus died on one in order to save you or anyone, but that it might indicate for us the investment in life we are called to, baptized into—a fullness of life that does not swerve for fear of death. The image of a cross here is not limited to Jesus, but beckons each of us to face death, decide it doesn’t make all that much difference, and proceed to make a larger difference than first imagined.

In this way the cross is not some token of atonement, but a sign of grace.

It is always a little iffy to try to follow Paul’s legal mind too closely. He goes around enough barns to confuse us into a smaller than larger picture of life. Suffice it to say here that grace does abound, regardless of any sin measurement. Asking about this or that kind of sin is simply beside the point. Asking about bounding grace leaping through the various gates of life will be quite sufficient for a vocation or hobby.

I’m not sure where this line came from, but it is worth passing on:
From the church of perpetual astonishment...we shall not cease to be amused. 

Use it in good health.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

Year A - Pentecost +2 or Community Practice 2
June 22, 2014

While this Psalm is seemingly chosen to reflect on Jeremiah’s difficult experiences as a prophet. And yet, Jeremiah’s fierce cry that the “Lord is with me” doesn’t quite ring true to a call for redemption. 

Jeremiah seems not to have applied for the job of prophet. There is a component of being called that keeps us from claiming the right to some answer or the privilege of being exempted from any distress. There is no calling out for rescue, there is only proceeding.

Embedded in verse 13 (yes, easily left out) comes a choice:

  • “At an acceptable time, O G*D, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.”

  • “With or without an organizing “answer”, this is an acceptable time to simply proceed in the experience of abundant, steadfast love.”

Our work today is to not work at our call, but to let it loose and follow as best we can.

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17

Year A - Pentecost +2 or Community Practice 2
June 22, 2014

We seem to bounce back and forth between our privileged assertions and our discouraged whines. 

When it seems all is right with the world, i.e., I’m getting mine, there is not much room for consideration of the plight of others and we need to be importuned by those our privilege negatively affects.

When one too many strikes against us has happened, i.e., we are feeling worm-low, there is only one thing left for us to do and that to importune some hoped for universal possibility to re-balance the scales.

This is another of the many Psalms that calls out for our sense of privilege, of all being right, to be established or reestablished more securely than ever.

How does it suit you today? 

- - -

Presuming verses 16-17 being a reference to Hagar, might we extend the personal plea at the end to also be a plea from Hagar against Sarah? How does that suit you? Would you hope for more from Hagar? From yourself?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jeremiah 20:7-13

Year A - Pentecost +2 or Community Practice 2
June 22, 2014

An interesting distinction between Pentecostalists (original?) speaking across languages and cultures to find a common spot of wonder regarding G*D and Prophets (original?) speaking within a language/culture/religion to note where we have lost our commonness, “Violence and destruction!”

Prophets recognize when we have again shut ourselves up in dark rooms filled with fear of the loss of “our” life and the needed antidote of advocating for the life of “others”. It is at the point of the other that we can “Sing praise”.

Whether with the ancient prophets, a later Pentecost, or today’s experience of wonder and other, we move from fear to flame and wind to word.

Singing praise today?

Genesis 21:8-21

Year A - Pentecost +2 or Community Practice 2
June 22, 2014

Imagine Pentecost as a weaning. It was a great feast.

Having remembered, we need to also remember that it wasn’t all that long before our appreciation of wonder able to overcome differences became prey of privilege and the development of creeds to weed out those who are different.

Whether we talk about Sarah and Hagar or any religion, we seem unable to hold our initial wonder but begin to wonder about one another and if they are really as true as they ought to be. In Iraq we hear about Sunni and Shiite. In United Methodism there is talk about an “amicable” separation. How many Catholic orders are there?

Each of these have heard their sense of distress turned to a blessing—“I will make a greatness of them.”

Soon enough there will need to be yet another Pentecost within and between all the various expressions of wonder. How long it will last is a live question. Until then: listen to the experience of others; in turn, tell your own experience; let these experiences wrestle with one another until further clarity grows from each loneliness and we can once again encourage each other in our differences. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Matthew 10:24-39

Year A - Pentecost +2 or Community Practice 2
June 22, 2014

You have heard it said that a disciple is not above their teacher, nor a slave above their owner.

But I say to you: disciple and teacher, slave and owner, are both within each.

Don’t fear those who set one above and one below. Fear, rather, that which separates one from the other as though they were so foreordained.

I simply say, we are connected, you and me. I have come to keep our tensions honest that we might better share with one another. Sons are not fathers, nor mothers, daughters. Even when roles are reversed for one reason or another, they are not equivalents. All are free to choose, whether appreciated for their choice or not.

Whoever does not pick up a connecting point between all things and yet distinguish them, is not yet alive. Regardless of a history more and more limited to death, a cross is but a crude mechanism of both connection and distinguishment.

In this intersecting process of keeping connections and identity related to one another, find the humility to be merciful and so live deeper connections and connexions (Pentecostal witness).

Sunday, June 15, 2014

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Year A - Trinity Sunday or Live Together Sunday
June 15, 2014

Finally, “Farewell”.

All our provisional understandings of life, the universe, and everything finally come to, “Farewell”.

All our attempts at order finally cease.

All our mutual appeals, agreements, and living arrangements take their place within the presence of a G*D of love and peace larger than its attendant parts.

Finally, all the variants of life find themselves put into perspective by whatever it means for a larger vision containing all saints’ (everyone’s) collective gifts to embrace us and all. It is this sense of universalism that sets a perspective for all the little theories we travel with for a moment and lay down to travel even further.

Finally, faring well comes to grace, love, and communion. And the greatest of these are the others.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Psalm 8

Year A - Trinity Sunday or Live Together Sunday
June 15, 2014

From the Bottom Up

9 - O G*D, partner, Wow!

8 - Birds above and fish below sail their course,

7 - beasts near and far continue their way.

6 - We engage all that sets our context

5 - and revel in our connection—

4 - bringing to mind how care-full we are.

3 - Under every light, we open again

2 - to hear a new word beckon a new picture—

1 - tomorrow and today together.

Genesis 1:1–2:4a

Year A - Trinity Sunday or Live Together Sunday
June 15, 2014

Pentecost +1

mighty wind
swept through
chaotic fear
light flickers
in its wake
within and beyond

a seventh day
on-going processes
within and beyond
one creation
and a next
in this day
bless windy light

Monday, June 09, 2014

Matthew 28:16-20

Year A - Trinity Sunday or Live Together Sunday
June 15, 2014

Note that one can worship and doubt at the same time. We are strangely made to be various. Our experiences conflict with one another. One part of our body has one need and another has yet another and so there is the wonderful picture of snacking while sitting on a toilet. Our relationships shape our demeanor while in the presence of different people which is always interesting when our various relationships are in the same space together. Yes, worship and doubt are no strangers to one another.

If an antidote to doubt is trust, how might it best be established. Here a declaration of authority is used. That didn’t seem to work when Jesus was with the disciples as they continued to argue among themselves as well as with Jesus. Authority doesn’t hold up very well when there is distance between an authoritative pronouncement and the consequences of not jumping on the bandwagon announced. Pretty soon we are in a case of distributed authority where what Jesus says is overlaid with theories, doctrines, and competing authorities of interpretation.

Jesus did leave us with a pretty clear trinitarian starting point for evaluating our gifts and call. It is the old: Love G*D, Love Self, Love Neighb*r. It wasn’t long before Jesus added Love One Another to Self and Love Your Enemies to Neighb*r. We sometimes add Love the Bible, One Doctrine or Another, and Jesus to Love G*D.

The original is an ancient way to extend the dynamic of Original Blessing, Original Insight, and Original Service/Gratitude/Humility.

If talk this day about a doctrine of trinity doesn’t include how it is we live with all our various parts and how we live together with competing, doubt raising, derivations and variations, then it will soon enough fade, unable to even raise a faint doubt.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

Year A - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
June 8, 2014

Folks in a Pentecostal room went out to talk about the “power/presence of G*D” and now, a generation plus later, we find what is being talked about is a talking with one another about a literalized title. All talk of how “Lord” is a challenge to the contemporary political/power talk of the Roman Emperor being Lord, is of less import here than the requirement to have a shibboleth and talk to one another instead of those of another language or life-experience group.

Our recommendation is to delete the partial verse of 3b and begin with the Spirit reality that there are varieties of gifts and services and activities that can all work together whether they can agree on “Lord” terminology or not.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with our appreciation of Jesus—our expression of relationship with Jesus will be many and also one. If we cannot honor both the variety and the interconnections, we are most to be pitied and will soon enough become a caricature of what it means to be partnered with Jesus.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Year A - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
June 8, 2014

So, what have you experienced?

So, what do you desire to experience?

Between these two is where Pentecostal messages appear. They remind us of how we have experienced G*D and Neighb*r. They remind us of expectations of better experiences with G*D and Neighb*r.

This Psalm might be a base model for you to call to mind your own past and hopes. Where this psalm uses nature images, you can use pictures of your experience.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Numbers 11:24-30

Year A - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
June 8, 2014

Prophecy and power travel together. Prophecy can be passed on as Spirit is distributed among the gathered. It can also have tricks played through technical means, as Eldad and Medad had happen to them. They were registered but not at the gathering and prophesied beyond the once-and-done prophesying by the other 68 (numbering in Numbers can get to be tricky).

In another 5 chapters we will have what is referred to as the rebellion of Korah, which might be thought of as a counter-prophesying against Moses. Eldad and Medad are in some sense forerunners of Korah, even though here they are permitted (what are just 2 to get worried about) but when it gets to be 250 an earthquake is called to swallow them.

We are all in the happy time of everyone being able to prophesy. In theory Pentecostal prophesying has a unifying feature to keep everyone on the same page. This doesn’t seem to be true anymore as folks claim the prophet role from every perspective. Now we are back to the interesting time of discerning true prophets from false—those who see connections between today and tomorrow most clearly and those who would cover tomorrow up with today to keep current power inequalities alive and well.

Pentecost doesn’t just take place in a vacuum of Jesus, but in a context of Judaism. How do you play with these?

Acts 2:1-21

Year A - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
June 8, 2014

Shavuot, Seven Weeks from Passover, plus a day, brings us to 50-cost (no not 50 Cent) or Pentecost. Jesus people are together in a room. Jewish people are together in Jerusalem to celebrate the cloud and flame on Mt. Sinai during the reception of the 10 Words.

The 10 Commandments define a community. Here is what we are and what we are not. On this day of remembrance we hear an additional emphasis upon community. The play here is from words coming to the people to the people go forth with a word.

There is joy and danger in this democratization of the hierarchical Moses story. A joy comes in claiming the power of G*D deeds, to put them in our own mouths. A danger comes in losing the particulars and making them into an individual's claim of authority. While it can feel good to claim a part in G*D’s deeds by naming them, it is easy to have this go to our heads, to become drunk on assumed power—to claim dominion.

Pentecost doesn’t just take place in a closed room or between people, it occurs in the context of a larger history. From one perspective it is a continued usurpation of the Jewish experience of G*D with cherry-picked and oh so subtle modification of the Hebrew scriptures. It is no coincidence that a 50-day variant on Jubilee and challenge to Moses happened when it did. Consider how “deeds of power” trump specific communal behaviors. It is a similar process to what Fox News does in todays’ media with their emphasis upon individual rights and losing touch with communal responsibility.

Monday, June 02, 2014

John 7:37-39

Year A - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
June 8, 2014

Pentecost is not parochial. It is all too easy to think that our people have a lock on Spirit.

There seemed to a be certain willy-nilliness about the witnessing that went on as a direct result of tongues of fire stimulating human tongues. This is an implicit working out of, “Let anyone who is thirsty come.”

Of course there is the kicker of subsequent language about believing to be dealt with. It is certainly understandable why the church would want the “believer” language added. It means larger coffers and a control factor over new believers.

This believer talk takes place in the context of early church struggles. We know this from the asides regarding spirit and glorification. Bottom-line is that Jesus is inclusive and the church is exclusive. 

This is not a new phenomenon. A more recent one is the way in which we covered up Nelson Mandela’s revolutionary inclusiveness to talk mostly about how wonderful that he was released and then did so much. We have done the same with every prophet along the way, moving digitally from “Revile them” to “Venerate them” with no transition or recognition of a wholeness and the messiness of their humanity, virtues and flaws. 

For now a question of where on a continuum you take your stand.

Inclusive Pentecost - (1) - - - (2) - - - (3) - - - (4) - - - (5) - Exclusive Pentecost

John 20:19-23

Year A - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
June 8, 2014

We so enjoy the story of Thomas à Doubter because we imagine that we would never be so slow. We would have been in the first wave of disciples who, while fearful of the authorities, were so quick to be joyful after seeing the marks of death. Thomas, reasonably, wanted to see such marks for himself.

If we stop the story before Thomas it is very much a proto-Pentecost passage—a closed room, a fearful people, a word of peace/a filling of Spirit, a breath/a wind, a sending, a forgiveness/a building new relationships across old divides of language.

This raises a question, “What today is a proto-tomorrow?” 

“Well, if you want to look at it that way!” - - “Today.”

So this day anticipates a fuller life? Hmm? So, invest more today? Yeah, I guess. Well, invest more forgiveness? OK, “Yes.”

And you?