Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37

Year A - Pentecost +21 or Community Practice 21
November 2, 2014

G*D’s steadfast love is much needed. 

Those who cause desert wastes for others to wander in are forever popping up to dismay land, water, and air. They project such wonders as eternal job creation and never-ending resources and only return wasteland for fracked fields.

Knowing how much we continue to try to hike ourselves up by our boot straps, the wanderers became desperate enough to add G*D to their escape their plight. When they finally find their way to an oasis, their rejoicing is G*D oriented. In this action they set themselves up for their next human-created disaster.

It isn’t long before the redeemed are again ripe for the plucking by earth rapers. Not being able to save ourselves, we call G*D to the the rescue one more time. At question is how many cycles of this the land can stand?

If even the Pope is going to finally acknowledge an evolutionary process, we are pushed to evaluate the effect our actions have on the on-going life on and of this planet. No more can we afford to excuse bad environmental policy in thrall to popularized economics and pseudoscience.

Steadfast love does not keep death at bay. When relied upon when our own action is needed it is like a counter-productive fix for an addict. May we rejoice at steadfast love and engage our own.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Joshua 3:7-17

Year A - Pentecost +21 or Community Practice 21
November 2, 2014

So Jesus says to a crowd and his disciples, “Be humble to be exalted.” The Lord says to Joshua, “I exalt you, so walk humbly into flowing rivers.”

As for me and my house, we are pleased that you are the ones walking into the river with only a promise. We’ve seen too many promises delayed and changed to be willing to act on one more. 

It is surprising when we who are not exalted turn out to be exalted (make it to the other shore with a dry sandal).

Blessings on your exaltedness and your humility. They go hand-in-hand and hand-to-hand.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Matthew 23:1-12

Year A - Pentecost +21 or Community Practice 21
November 2, 2014

Who would you substitute for “Pharisees” in this passage? This is a dangerous exercise because of the way the passage is set up. Almost any substitution will bring more disfavor on the Pharisees than they probably deserve and misrepresent whomever is being compared to them.

With this caveat in place, might Fundamentalist (of any stripe) work here? 

Jesus could have also come to the same conclusion about humility if he had used his own Disciples as an example. That may cut a bit close for many of us as it suggests that it is not some other stereotyped or scapegoated group that needs a refresher course, but me.

As you come to this passage one more time, you may want to consider your own renaming of what this intended to be ordinary time following Pentecost might be? Here we are using “Community Practice”. One practice is the development of refrigerator magnet check-lists. What parts of this pericope lend themselves to a daily checklist to see how you are doing with your humility for its own sake, not to get an A+ on a test and become exalted? Design a checklist for yourself to guide you into next steps of growth. If you pay attention you’ll find out more in the defining of parts related to your life than reading any 3 devotional books.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Exodus 33:12-23

Pentecost +19 or Community Practice 19
October 19, 2014

Show me your coin. Show me your face.

What we show defines us. What has been staring us in the face all along is the face on the coin. Our imaginations are so limited. Coin of the realm will go to the realm. If not given willingly, no matter how grudgingly, it will be confiscated. So we play along with the figment that church and state are so intertwined that one is used as a trap for the other.

What has also been staring us in the face all along is the lack of a single face for G*D. Everywhere we look a different face appears. No wonder that, when push comes to shove, G*D pushes and shoves Moses into a crack so a face can't be claimed. Even as a chosen people there is an unknownness as to whether we can pick out whether we have one or more of G*D's features. A faceless G*D is the trade off of partnership and neighborliness. In this facelessness we can be partners and not just privileged heirs. In this facelessness everyone is Neighb*r.

Biblical koan alert:
Here is the sign that you are favored: You are not favored above all others.

Everyone can see where G*D has been. No one can predict or prophecy where G*D will next be seen. Try as we might, our best laid trap to capture G*D has been foiled again.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Matthew 22:15-22

Year A - Pentecost +19 or Community Practice 19
October 19, 2014

Political dirty tricks begin with religious dirty dirty tricks. Politicians have learned from the best, people adept at turning their religion into a theocracy long after their G*D has moved on. In other words, from each and every established religion.

This acknowledgment of religious dirty tricks is not to denigrate religion to the point of irrelevancy, but to recognize an eternal tension within every religion between its ideals and implementation. This tension affects every other part of our common lives.

In today’s world, as always, not taking the bait of responding too large to a too large question gives a bit of an edge. When we don’t say more than can be known we participate in clarifying where lies trickery and realism.

Blessings to you in not claiming too much, staying in touch with what you know, and knowing the value of small affirmations. These are all difficult to stay with in the face of big questions and a medium-sized ego, but their value has been shown down through the years.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Philippians 4:1-9

Year A - Pentecost +18 or Community Practice 18
September 28, 2014

Definition of being of “one mind”: Let your gentleness be known.

Definition of “the Lord is near” (with you/within you/partnered with you): Do not worry.

Definition of “excellence”: Keep doing what you have learned from your experience. (Unfortunately we can be excellent in doing harm as well as doing good.)

How might you practice gentleness in your context? Remember, gentleness here is a way of standing firm; it is not as floppy as milk toast.

How might you practice not worrying in your context? Or, perhaps, worry a bit less? Again, remembering that standing firm means, in part, not letting worry have the last word even if it is a first word.

These words of instruction are grounded in practice. We hear the encouragement and now we are called to practice. Such practice takes place most effectively in a community where we identify how it is with our soul and are accountable to practice deepening or changing what we have found out about our condition. Practice is going to look differently in different locales and stages. These details are not worked out for us, but we do have three overviews that help us put a practice plan into effect. It is alright if we even only work on practicing one of the three as they are all interconnected and we will still engage them as a matter of course.

Finally, beloved, just do it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Year A - Pentecost +18 or Community Practice 18
September 28, 2014

Did you know you, too, are a “chosen” one. From before a big bang the conditions have been put in place for you to be who and where you are. With your experiences and location you can stand in the breach between the silliness of today and the hope of tomorrow, protecting the seed in expectation of a flowering and fruiting and more seed.

What king and what G*D do you need to stand before and say, “This far and no further”. Isn’t it wonderful irony to be able to use G*D’s words to Job on G*D.

Let’s move it out of a question about chosenness. Now that you see yourself as chosen as a protector of the seed of tomorrow, where are you choosing to stand? Is is a large or small breach that threatens to do in all that has come along so far? Actually, size doesn’t make any difference. Large or small, stand sturdy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Exodus 32:1-14

Year A - Pentecost +18 or Community Practice 18
September 28, 2014

When the cat is away, the mice will play. This is one of the difficulties of authority—it leads folks to be afraid and see themselves as prey. A helpful use of authority is that of teaching folks how to think and learn on their own. Imagine if Moses had assisted folks to engage YHWH and YHWH to engage the people beyond a hierarchical relationship.

This is one way of evaluating pastoral leadership at any time in history. Is it empowering better thinking and deeper relationships? If so, good energy will continue to flow. If not, there will ultimately be abuse of power from either the congregation or the pastor as they tussle for being at the right hand of G*D.

About the best thing going here is that wonderfully freeing line about G*D changing G*D’s mind about planning disaster. Enough disaster is going to happen without planning more. Can you imagine a king or an image of heaven that takes change into account regarding a king’s actions or heaven’s exclusivity? If so, we can yet grow further. If not, well, who will still stand for long?

Monday, October 06, 2014

Matthew 22:1-14

Year A - Pentecost +18 or Community Practice 18
September 28, 2014

Always with the intermediaries. Why send “slaves” to do a final ask? 

Who would dare to ignore a king to their face or to try to imprison them? It is so easy for us to fall into judging where we are going to spend our time and energy. Convenience is a major issue here. Also at stake are judgments about survival and whether attending a wedding will detract from the needed commerce to continue growing personal wealth. Both of these remind us of the eternal tension between our social contracts and our personal judgments.

Here the kingly prerogative is to make the king’s judgments preeminent and so all citizens need to drop everything to attend to wherever the king ends up on a particular decision. Why would a wedding banquet be expected to be of the same import and value to everyone? Is this but the latest in a series of vanities of kingship that is weakening the interrelationships of the community or is it a key turning point in the way the citizens are recommitted to one another? The mere fact of a banquet doesn’t tell us much about where it fits into larger pictures.

The only consistent things here is the hair-trigger recompense a king is able to wreak upon their subjects. Many are slaughtered and single outliers are bound and tortured.

Where would you rank this particular parable in light of other parables. Is this on the same par as a mustard seed?

What aspect of heaven does this convey that another parable about a field pearl doesn’t or can’t? And, is this a constituent part of heaven or another of our interpretations based on kingly privilege?

Not being able to take a parable at face-value, how might we use this to reveal a misconception about heaven (defined by hell rather than itself) or an integral part of its nature (exclusive, decisional)?

Imagine for a moment a moral that is a bit less privileged. What would it be like to follow Chapter 21’s insight that many regarded Jesus as a prophet? Might that push us to reconsider the telling of this parable in favor of one that is more prophetically merciful than kingly/priestly judgment and end with “Many are called, and many welcomed.”