Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ephesians 1:3-14

Year C - Christmas 2 or Blessed Body 2
January 3, 2015

Assignment: Name one “spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”.

Follow-up: How might you join with others (“us”) to see that just that one blessing take on solidity in this wobbly old world?

Follow-up2: What are you going to put down in order to see that just this one blessing be a living blessing in today’s difficulties?

Follow-up3: When?

Thank you for actually acting on this. Regardless of where you fall in time or rank regarding your hope for new birth coming from current decay, your only opportunity is this moment and the comrades-in-arms you conspire with. Your action will make a difference in the hearing and engagement with a Word of Life worth the journey. Don’t stop to praise anything. Let your praise be in your deeds on behalf of a larger mercy, a common good.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21

Year C - Christmas 2 or Blessed Body 2
January 3, 2015

In the midst of difficulty we not only need Hope to keep waking up another day but Wisdom to guide its implementation. Diffuse hope is of less assistance than focused hope. Not that either is more evident than the other, just that the work of employing expressions of hope in particular settings generates the needed energy to keep feeding hope.

Hope plus Wisdom allows teaching/learning to proceed through dark ages. Wisdom plus hope keeps adding experience to experience until a crack can be widened enough to broach.

A warning needs to keep being made in the midst of these passages about wisdom: a wisdom that delivers the oppressed to be oppressors is not a wisdom worth the striving for. If the “righteous/wise” plunder the “ungodly/unwise” we are simply set up for a next round of disasters, each larger than the last. Stop, consider wisdom in a larger context than victory, and live for that larger wisdom.

Psalm 147:12-20

Year C - Christmas 2 or Blessed Body 2
January 3, 2015

An ordinance by any other name is still an ordinance. An ordinance is an ordinance is an ordinance. If you seen one ordinance, you’ve see them all. Et cetera.

Praise for helpful ordinances that restrict harm, build good, and connect experiences.

Less praise for those ordinances past their time that continue harm, limit good, and divide into digital divides of race, orientation, class, or . . . .

Cold comes and goes according to latitude and elevation. Other examples vary according to their their qualities. How we deal with differences is of greater significance than how we engage or require similarities. Until we honor the differences between nations (in the broadest sense of that word) we will just scramble to be king of a very small hill. A good Word lives among each and all of us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sirach 24:1-12

Year C - Christmas 2 or Blessed Body 2
January 3, 2015

How much like Wisdom are you? Is everything you do justified and that done by others worthy of ignoring or blame? After all, your glory must shine.

There is much to rejoice in regarding a maturation in wisdom. One rejoicing is the locus of our wisdom being quite local. When we pay attention to our individual gifts and experience, we can be quite glad that we have something to share in the building up of a common good. We can see how our part can play with larger and larger circles of other gifts and experiences. So we are both bold to share and humble enough to listen. A wisdom that is both bold and humble is a wise wisdom indeed.

Now we can rejoice that wisdom coming after or beyond mine has a precedence to mine as it builds further than I was able to. While that was always before me, I was not able to access it, enter it. Now, as I further the wisdom of others I also honor those who further my current wisdom. This standing between past and next wisdom is a glorious place. The trick is to keep up enough to be able to move with that movement of past and next without unbalancing the inherent tension.

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Year C - Christmas 2 or Blessed Body 2
January 3, 2015

Oh, sure, rejoice now with a return after exile. G*D sent us away before and it won’t be but a few more pages before we are sent away again. Don’t forget to weep again then and to then rejoice again at the next turn.

This cycle is a difficult one to break, particularly since it has a several generation wave of weeping trough and rejoicing crest. Lessons from afar are problematic as they don’t seem closely enough connected to behaviors. Generations of eroding reasonable limits finally ends up with an exile. Generations of accommodating to exile brings a sudden release. Who knows where individual or communal decisions have been causal and where coincidental and where sporadically effective.

Weeping would be as in order at a return from exile as is rejoicing. We’re back without any more clue about right relationships. We still want what we want when we want it—now.

What Word will center folks as they are resettled that will keep them from exiling those who had filled the vacuum of their absence? What Word will ground folks in partnership and interdependence when independence and profit are the marketers dream situation?

What steadiness might you sing into being in place of this continual up and down, in and out, exile and return? It won’t be popular, but it might be satisfying. Please do sing it after you identify it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

John 1:10-18

Year C - Christmas 2 or Blessed Body 2
January 3, 2015

You are in the world! As such you are shaping the current world to become/receive a future world.

Your influence cannot be denied, even though we tend to deny it. [Exceptions can be made regarding those who deny their influence, but most folks are not being intentional about their influence and actual power.]

It is our experience in attempting to open the world to a next opportunity that this behavior is not well received. In fact it is not unusual for those closest to us to be our biggest discouragers. They know very well where our buttons are that will pull us back into line. Being the pleasers we are, second-guessing our self comes easily.

Nonetheless, a larger Word is among us, a Word opening us to living as though a better tomorrow were already present. That Word is yours to live, and mine, and ours. From the fullness of this Word, grace upon grace flows forth and multiplies as it encounters a Word from within another.

This passage is certainly as much about you as it is about Jesus. While that is easy to affirm about someone else (who is your favorite mentor, sage, saint these days?), it is more difficult to affirm about oneself. Since this is another Christmas season, you may want to remember a new birth is always taking place within you and not just someone else. As a beloved child of G*D you are as close as anyone to G*D’s heart and can make that known.

Whether received or not, continue being born.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Psalm 148

Year C - Christmas 1 or Blessed Body 1
December 27, 2015

Is imitation a high form of praise?

If this comes fairly close, you might want to being translating every occurrence of “praise” with the word “imitate” and see what happens in your life as you do this for a magical 21 days. At that point that which has been imitated sets in as being what was previous only imitated. We move from mirroring to partnering.

In this particular the Psalm moves from imitation to being:
(v. 1) Imitate G*D! 
(v. 14) ...G*D-being for all....
Imagine doing this imitating through 12 years of life-stages. Is it any surprise that a reflecting back and partnering come to the fore?

Psalm 98

Year C - Christmas Day or Blessed Body
December 25, 2015

Choice: Victory or Equity

Opt for victory and there is no getting out of dualism. Winner or loser? Heaven or hell? 

Opt for equity and there is no getting out of parsing the gray/grey. Did they do the best they could with what they had at the time? In what context would a lie be pardonable?

If both are needed then a progression from victory to equity is preferable to the other way around.

Have you been conditioned by the pervasive invasion of atonement theology to victory language or influenced by the more difficult theologies of grace, mercy, and creation? These will be evidenced by more ordinary words of victory and fairness.

Psalm 96

Year C - Christmas Eve or Blessed Body Eve
December 24, 2015

The NRSV uses the word “before” three times in translating this psalm. 
  • Honor and majesty are before G*D; strength and beauty are in G*D’s sanctuary.
  • Worship G*D in holy splendor; tremble before G*D, all the earth.
  • Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before G*D; for G*D is coming, for G*D is coming to judge the earth.

Ordinarily these are spacial references. Consider the word “before” in reference to time.

Honor, majesty, strength, and beauty begin to define one another in their parallel construct. These come before G*D. G*D waits to judge until these are in place, which preconditions a judgment toward mercy.

Trembling (seatbelt required worship) takes place before G*D can begin to be glimpsed. G*D’s patience in awaiting rather than orchestrating such experiences is a cause for trembling as we waver in our development of a cosmic patience.

All of creation is to sing G*D into being. The cooing of every babe and parent in anticipation of a babe and those with no desire, expectation, or decision to have a babe is prelude to living honor, majesty, strength, beauty, trembling, and a song worth the singing. Finally a judgment comes: Emmanuel. That’s it G*D comes among, amidst, and between these ways of living.

Christmas Eve is not so much about a coming as a before-ing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Year C - Christmas 1 or Blessed Body 1
December 27, 2015

This piece has been carved up to be able to connect an earlier Hebrew boy (Samuel) who grew in favor with G*D with a later Hebrew boy (Jesus) who grew in favor with G*D. If we stay with this selective process we might even get to the point where we can see about connecting today’s child (you/me) with growing in favor with G*D.

Favor here is directly linked to wisdom. As you proceed into and through your current stage of faith, may you map out the ways in which you are growing wiser. How does that manifest itself today. Have you practiced your forgiveness of others, self, and G*D today? Have you stretched your compassion a bit wider and exercised it a bit more so it becomes both more flexible and stronger? Have you set goals for yourself that by the end of each Sunday for the next quarter you will have recorded daily data that your fear-quotient has been reduced. Less fear leads directly to more compassion.

So, take a quiet breath and stand just a bit straighter as you ground your feet more firmly and lift your head higher that all between might relax into new energy. Wisdom is already available, we just need to make room and take advantage of being lost to ourselves and others.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Year C - Christmas Day or Blessed Body
December 25, 2015

What a beautiful moment when a voice of integrity lifts a word of peace: “Mercy!”

Such is always said in a moment, in a context, “G*D is present!”

So listen—for such a word, even with an exclamation point, is a quiet background to our noisy and unconscionably busy life.

The prophets, sentinels, sing “joy” even as they cry out “woe”. When the woe is heard it turns to song. Until it is heard it is but an irritant.

Do be a bit careful about connecting comfort with violence, even when mislabeled as redemptive. You might want to delete the last verse (10) when reading this pericope.

Isaiah 9:2-7

Year C - Christmas Eve or Blessed Body Eve
December 24, 2015

For people walking in darkness even a glimmering can be powerful. And so the lighting of a candle, literally and figuratively, can be a revolutionary act.

Try this pair from Howard Thurman on for size:

I will light candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.

Thanks to Laurie Haller in United Methodist Insight for bringing these back to mind

Luke 2-41-52

Year C - Christmas 1 or Blessed Body 1
December 27, 2015

From an opaque birth to pre-teen in one swift jump. It is worth remembering your own journey from birth to 12 years old. Draw it out on a sheet of paper. Yes, actually on paper, not just in your head!

Is this when you began asking life questions? If not, when did that time arrive for you? 

Note that Jesus is reported to have amazed folks at 12 and then the passage ends with him increasing in wisdom through his remaining years. It is all too easy to be satisfied with what we currently know. The key here is not any particular insight that you have come to, but that you continue open for more so you, too, can increase in wisdom beyond knowledge or data.

If you want to play more in the middle of this story, you might want to further investigate the transition from Jesus being lauded by the teachers of the Law and Mary’s response: “Why have you treated us in such a way that our anxieties pushed beyond their usual limits?” It is so easy to constrict the development of wisdom in others we are close to. Was this response something Mary treasured/pondered in days to come? What are you treasuring/pondering these days about the way you have poorly communicated your care for someone you care about? Not being able to take those words back, how have you used that time to grow in your own wisdom about repenting and establishing new habits through which you can respond differently to anxiety?

John 1-14

Year C - Christmas Day or Blessed Body
December 25, 2015

In the beginning was a Word, a significance, and that Word was as ethereal as G*D. This Word includes You and so You were in the beginning with G*D. All things come into being through You, and without You the Mercy of G*D is delayed. What has come into being in You is Mercy, a light to all You touch.

So what light shines and lingers in the darkness because of You? Can you substitute your Name for the name of John in this passage? Why or Why Not?

Can you then remove yourself from your humility that the Word that is yours to speak forth to add to the en=lightenmet of the world (not just to encase the light, but enlarge it)?

Your glory as a beloved child, a Word of G*D, begins with grace and truth and leads to mercy. Blessings on this journey, your journey.

Luke 1:1-20

Year C - Christmas Eve or Blessed Body Eve
December 24, 2015

In Luke, one verse is given to the actual birth of Jesus (7). Matthew speaks about before and after the birth, but not the birth itself. John etherealizes the birth with a comment about a Word that became flesh. Neither Mark nor Paul remark on the actual birth.

So why are we gathering this night? Well, we do like to get a jump on things to pretend like we have some control over the situation.

It might be helpful to split this passage into three sections. A decree (ahistorical) went out and Joseph and Mary end up in Bethlehem where Jesus was born somewhere (maybe a manger, maybe not); wrapped up; then laid in a manger for there was no vacancy in an Inn or Guest Room.

The mystery of how (vaginal, Cesarean, soon harvested from a tube), where (on the street, in a cab, at home, hospital, a midwifery), when (according to some due-date calculation, premature [much or a wee bit], or after expectations and false labors) we are born is given significance in family stories which influence how we are projected to be and continues in each of our lives.

This is a mysterious as any revelation (angelic or not). When and where they come is not in our control. We only know there is a choice that comes with a revelation—attend and begin following or don’t.

The story now shifts from Jesus’ birth to his encounters with folks and their opportunity to experience a rebirth of their own work. How do you shift from the routine of your everyday life to sharing your experience with others? As soon as you begin a sharing, the storyline morphs from your experience alone to a new shared experience that shifts your original choice to new choices.

How about this for a renewal project of a congregation. Have folks tell other people’s life story. It changes the teller as they see another in a larger perspective and the hearer as they ponder another’s telling of their life. With these changes come unexpected changes in the community as well.

Blessings on your “historical” data, your revelatory song, your telling/pondering of a revelation that includes you in.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hebrews 10:5-10

Year C - Advent 4 or Needed Change 4
December 20, 2015

Imagine that the fact of your body is sufficient proof of concept that you carry authority within and throughout your engagements with others so no certificate of sacrifice is needed to validate both your intention and action to live gracefully in the midst of a simply ordinary day.

You and I, with the gift of a body, join Jesus and prophets down through the years with the ability to use it without clinging to it. Brother Ass, as Francis and others have referred to their bodies, can be both stubborn and revelatory, which is why we need a communal setting in which our respective bodies might support and correct one another. It is this community that becomes revolutionary as it readjusts to new needs and resources within the body and will do so quite dramatically if injustice goes on long enough.

Enjoy pulling the powerful from their thrones and, in turn, being pulled from your privilege. It is going to happen eventually, so enjoying the process of setting things right as well as having yourself set right is a key element in a life that turns light to life and life to love/intention to action.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Psalm 80:1-7

Year C - Advent 4 or Needed Change 4
December 20, 2015

Restoration is one theme that runs through the lections for this week.

Another theme is that of embodiment, our physical presence in the midst of difficult days to find a thread that keeps us from riding off in all directions.

It would be helpful in these days of a recent environmental accord, small though it may be, to understand their pairing in something old coming alive again. To aid in this, the riven earth and anger of the gods need revisiting in such a way that we begin to rebalance our language and hope through images of Father Earth and Mother Sky.

Restoration from below needs all the authority that can be mustered. A face shining from above needs all the mercy available.

So, give ear. Claim your authority in creation to allow the needs of the plants and animals to have a primary say before opening your mouth to claim a profit here, a desire there.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Micah 5:1-5a

Year C - Advent 4 or Needed Change 4
December 20, 2015

Ahh, karma! 

     Recompense arrives.

Ahh, discontinuity!

     New life emerges from seemingly unlikely sources.

Ahh, peace!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

Year C - Advent 4 or Needed Change 4
December 20, 2015

 Information and energy crosses placental boundaries in both directions. This exchange is greater than just a one-to-one correspondence. Past pregnancies affect future pregnancies through a lingering feedback loop.

Elizabeth hears; proto-John leaps.
Fetus John jumps; Elizabeth blesses.

Now, if we can become as attuned to the environment around us such compromised decisions as those in Paris around climate wouldn’t be needed. For one reason and another (read, Profit) our hearing is deficient.

The powerful from their Boardrooms fall the furthest when we all fall and, having forgotten how to deal with just enough, raise the loudest cry. The rich find the slops most disgusting.

Here between Gaudete Sunday and Christmas it will be important to see how we can deal with the boundaries between joy and downfall. Can you find that place that surrounds a dark night with a joy of creation and new creation? If not yet fully, might there be a step you can take in that direction? Blessings on actually taking it.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Philippians 4:4-7

Year C - Advent 3 or Needed Change 3
December 13, 2015

Rejoicing and Thanksgiving as a way of life begin to show themselves in a sense of gentleness for self and others. Folks we meet on the outside and inside of our soul can be honored better when we are so full of thanks that we don’t have room for sorting them into whatever stereotypes we carry around with us. When rejoicing over the sheer gift of life we see how they add value to our life, even those for whom we can make no accounting.

It is this same rejoicing and thanksgiving that becomes a guard over our hearts when temptations come to give up on folks. In this way we can continue long enough to see connections and value below a first glance or impression, beyond a first betrayal.

“Holy Spirit and Fire” are not all that mysterious or alien. They do not require a theological degree. When rejoicing is present, so is Spirit. When thanksgiving is engaged, so is Fire. These allow new vision and kindness to enter our lives.

Yes the language of “Holy Spirit and Fire” is often of the harsh variety with winnowing forks and other images of a judgment leading to Hell.  But, no, Spirit teaches rejoicing in enough and Fire informs gentleness in relationships.

In these ways a great Mercy beyond understanding reveals itself in deeply appreciated Peace. 

= = = = = =

Somewhere in the midst of this posting the word “gaudy” kept wanting to sneak in. I finally looked it up and found Mirriam-Webster online indicates 2 definitions. The first is as an adjective describing something tastelessly ornamented with a first use in 1582 (no derivation given). The second is as a noun regarding a feast or entertainment dating only since 1651 and derived from the Latin, gaudium (joy). So how did that shift from negative to positive take place in a 70 period? What else today could use that sort of change and do you think it will it take as long or longer?

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Isaiah 12

Year C - Advent 3 or Needed Change 3
December 13, 2015

Though angry, that anger morphed from sin to comfort.

Here is a point of practice for the rest of the church year — turning our periodic angers into compassion.

A key component of this practice is going to be a giving of thanks. Behind our surface thanks lies a cascade of ever deep thanks. It is so easy to stop at a first level of thankfulness and never find those next layers that can actually address anger at the same level of energy. Anger carries much energy with it. A little thanks stands no chance against it. An ever deepening thanks can not only match the energy level of anger but begin to put it in such a context that it begins to shrivel all on its own.

Thanks will not destroy anger for that would be fighting fire with fire. Rather thanks reveals anger to itself for the pitiable little thing it is and it begins to straighten up to join in a better way; thanks be to thanks.

With joy we draw water from a well of refreshment sometimes limited by the word salvation.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Year C - Advent 3 or Needed Change 3
December 13, 2015

G*D is in our midst. 

That is enough without adding “warrior” imagery and “victory” claims. 

When this is enough we find that gladness is the result for we are renewed in love. This renewal both comes to us and flows from us in all directions.

Rather than being “taken away”, disaster is redefined. If disaster is not what we thought it was, we are open to the lame and outcasts entering a grand feast ahead of us. This will be easy for all concerned for being renewed in love is being restored to an honorable and honoring community.

So, sing aloud, sing with all your heart, sing! Judgment is passé when shame is not enforced. Again, offer thanks for an everyday life—a life with G*D and Neighb*r in the midst of your day.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Luke 3:7-18

Year C - Advent 3 or Needed Change 3
December 13, 2015

We are all too aware of our propensity to promise more than we can deliver. We give in all too easily to a temptation to say just a little more than we really know. Our best is seldom achieved.

No wonder that when instructed to bear fruits worthy of our intentions we moan, “What then should we do?”

If only our required actions came with a few more instructions that would be foolproof in their clarity. However every pre-recorded attempt to get Tab A into Slot B fails to account for one more context in which even that simple instruction can go astray.

So it is back to the basics of relationships rather than technology—Sharing, Enough, and Kindness.

This is more than salvation by some external sign. This gets at the inward dimension of life. This is a hint toward Spirit and Fire. Blessings on every practice of sharing, knowing enough, and expressing kindness. 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Philippians 1:3-11

Year C - Advent 2 or Needed Change 2
December 6, 2015

The next baptism you do, work this prayer from verses 9-11 into the action:
May your love overflow, more and more, with experience and wisdom to help you see a next best option of solidarity with mercy. Such abundance produces a harvest of community even as Jesus pointed to a partnership with creation and G*D. Amen.

Such a blessing aids us in thinking about our life and our lives together. It gives confidence that our journey well-begun in expressed goodness will continue lively past any of our current boundaries.

Advent 2: a study on an intentional way toward a preferred future.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Luke 1:68-79

Year C - Advent 2 or Needed Change 2
December 6, 2015

Try switching the language in verses 69-70: “G*D has raised up a mighty “prophet” for us in the house of David, as he spoke through the mouth of “saviors” from of old...”

How does that sit? Is it informing about our current role as Advent People?

Want to be engaged in mercy? Be a strong prophet! It is, and always has been, our leverage.

You, yes, you, will be called a prophet of G*D preparing another way to reveal a tender and strong mercy of forgiveness and forgiveness of mercy (be careful how you read that last phrase as it is all to easy to mis-take it).

Prophets give heart/light to those deathly afraid in the dark. Prophets paint in the dark with luminescent paint. Gentle your eyes to catch the glow of hope in the yet unseen.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Malachi 3:1-4

Year C - Advent 2 or Needed Change 2
December 6, 2015

A word to those currently occupying Temple Space: “Suddenly you are not alone. You who thought yourselves alone will no longer be able to stand. All that you hid away, will be revealed. This revealing will require great refining heat removing all the extra you had counted on.”

In place of contrived confessions will come quiet walks and talks, as if in a wild garden of chaotic strange attractors. The loves and lives exchanged there will be deeply pleasing, in contrast to our current competition designed for winners divided from losers. in former years everyone won and lost together—this is to say won through together.

Those who remember their past lives as messengers bringing to consciousness and action the professed, but not desired, desires of Temple Managers, are invited to continue their ancient arts in the present. By whatever means are available in this time, cast light into the latest formulations of contrived meaning. Show it for its lack of graceful abundance. This grace will prevail.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Luke 21:25-36

Year C - Advent 2 or Needed Change 2
December 6, 2015

It was definitely not the best of times when Tiberius modeled reigning for Pontius Pilate, Herod/Philip/Trachonitis/Lysanias, and Annas/Caiaphas. Into another of the worst times came a word to John Zechariahsen.

This word was an action, baptism. This action spoke of repentance and forgiveness. This, also, was another season for these to be brought to the fore. Prophet after prophet acted these out in various ways in various times.

Again it was ruler contesting against prophet. Later we will hear how the prophet again lost; and again won.

So we look at today’s rulers and today’s prophets. Listen to one of today’s prophets organizing in his way and time: The new fusion politics.

Friday, November 27, 2015

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Year C - Advent 1 or Needed Change 1
November 29, 2015

What joy! I get to restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

That seems like a strange construct but it is the context for the blessing with which this section ends.

May it be that any and every heart be strengthened in living meaningfully, even if that is done without my direct engagement with that meaning.

On this first Sunday of the modern 4-Sunday Advent we are alert (Luke) to fulfilled justice (Jeremiah) through humble and steadfast love (Psalm) that we might abound in love for one another (1 Thessalonians).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Psalm 25:1-10

Year C - Advent 1 or Needed Change 1
November 29, 2015

“Steadfast love” is paralleled with both ”mercy” and “faithfulness”. This parallelism brings mercy and faithfulness together as a reflective pair.

A basic question about the quality of steadfast love is clarified when we are heard to ask, “Do I trust mercy to be my basic response to the actions of others?” Like it is clarified by the question, “Do I trust I will be treated mercifully when I have gone astray?”

If both or either response is, “No”, there is more work to be done on loving G*D and loving Neighb*r as Y*urself.

If both responses are, “Yes”, there is more work to be done on loving G*D and loving Neighb*r as Y*urself.

These are paths never traveled once. Like establishing habits, we trace them again and again as we enter new territory. It might be said that we must trace them again and again if we are to enter new territory.

A part of the reason we need to retrace them is that we are walking in partnership with G*D and one another. This is different than establishing a new personal habit in 21 days. It means that each of us walking together on a path are walking together, not marching, and we need to find out again what steadfast love means in each new context.

No amount of warning or promise will see us through all the adjustments needed to walk together over the long haul. Behind both warning and promise is something deeper than surface behavior and morality. That something deeper is sometimes called “steadfast love” or “mercy” or “faithfulness”. These go way beyond accumulating stars for our golden crown or being scared straight. They exemplify a creative partnership working to be better together.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Year C - Advent 1 or Needed Change 1
November 29, 2015

All the evidence is that we are in the midst of a surly day.

We look for evidence that a day is surely coming when the promise of justice and righteousness will spread across the land.

Anyone holding their breath for a transition from surly to surely may be well advised to temper that action. Not knowing a kairotic time when we see it easily leads us to our base-line optimism or pessimism but not to an acceptance of our responsibility and accountability to partner with all would be about doing justice through the mechanism of mercy or moderating righteousness by way of universal assurance of belovedness, not a particular morality.

So far we have heard warning and promise. This is similar to what we all need to progress to a next plateau in our life’s journey—support and correction. It is easy to get trapped by either end of these paradoxical polarities.

Given this first Sunday of a new attempt to be more merciful, what needs to be put in place in the next 12 months that we will feel we have moved one step closer to our goal and so can build on that the first Sunday of Advent next year?

Luke 21:25-36

Year C - Advent 1 or Needed Change 1
November 29, 2015

The "powers of the heavens" is old speak for Trouble-In-Our-Time-and-Space. If you attend at all to today’s media you will see “news” as a form of advertising trying to push you toward a knee-jerk response. It doesn’t matter if the fear is underarm odor, Syrian immigrants (simply the latest in a long line), or passivity toward war—that which is passed off as common knowledge has an agenda.

The Scriptures can be read through the same advertising eye. Look, a fig tree means the end is nigh. Look, new immigrants means the end is nigh. Look, a new enemy (always a terrorist) means the end is nigh. Anywhere you look you can find a reason to absolutely know the end is nigh.

OK. So what is new. Those who recognize that every generation has its travail are better positioned to not have their hearts weighed down with the worries of the day and to be able to avoid the traps trying to trick us into giving up on the goodness of creation or subtly pushing us toward a next war and war after that.

As we come to the edge of a new year our desire is to stand, simply stand, in the most meaningful place we can. For followers of Jesus this will most likely be at the juncture of the 3 Abrahamic traditions—Mercy.

What would it mean to stand with those of the Jewish and Muslim traditions to proclaim 5 or 6 times a day (or constantly) that G*D is merciful and to honor G*D with our whole being is to honor our Neighb*rs with that same mercy?

Blessings on starting our next year with this question of standing (a judicial category) that we might be able to measure our movement toward Mercy by this time next year.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Revelation 1:4b-8

Year B - Reign of Christ or Evaluation Sunday
November 22, 2015

One redeeming phrase here is: “a kingdom of priests”. This is like Meister Eckhart stating that the lowest person is included in those acknowledged to be rulers. When everyone is a ruler or a priest all the old categories fly out the door.

Of course we will find some distinguishing mark whereby we can discriminate against someone else so we are not the lowest. Nonetheless, this kind of including everyone in can help us identify both our personal prejudice and our corporate discrimination.

Remember even those who did Jesus in by word or deed are able to see a new way coming and join in. Conversion is an ever-present possibility. Obversely, everyone will have something to lose when a new way of being with one another enters the scene. The joy of conversion and the wail of loss will be equally evident, someday.

Until then claim your priesthood and forgive freely. Until then weep that you have turned your back on your priestly comrades and withheld your forgiveness. May we be at a better place as we evaluate how far we have come by this time next year.

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Year B - Thanksgiving
November 22, 2015

We do like our orderliness. The Love Prevails group has even found that standing off to the side and holding a sign is seen by some as disorderly. Well, OK, the signs have disordered a mind or two as they call for change. But even the mildest of suggestions that things might be different will eventually upset the status quo.

This appeal to orderliness is particularly evident when a plea is made to pray for everyone and have that immediately followed by only one example: for kings that we might lead a quiet, peaceable life exemplified by surface godliness and dignity and their attendant passivity of no anger or argument.

This feels considerably different than an earlier appeal to strive for the presence of G*D (mercy). The status quo and mercy are much like oil and water, difficult to keep together without separating.

It is unfortunate that this is the beginning appeal (“First of all”). It really has nowhere to go from there. In particular, the only thanksgiving coming from this is for those already in power. A larger picture is needed for larger thanksgiving.

Psalm 132:1-12

Year B - Reign of Christ or Evaluation Sunday
November 22, 2015

On this last Sunday of the Church Year our goal is revealed as Kingship. Jesus becomes the latest king in the line of David. This David claimed to have labored unceasingly, no slumbering, to get a throne for G*D and (well, maybe a little) for himself. Kings, after all, can use any G*D available to solidify their grasp on the reins of power.

Against this background what are we to do with the continuing drop in the polls regarding the church and church leaders. Once upon a time it and they were near the top—now not so much (see:

At the least, if power/kingship is going to continue to be the goal for the church, Advent better start us on a whole new track as the old one isn’t making it

Psalm 126

Year B - Thanksgiving
November 22, 2015

Do we get more thanks out of a restored past or a breaking future?

Somehow we seem to be more thankful after a loss than with something unexpected and new. There is a longer lasting thankfulness to have a pain removed than with the latest toy soon outlasting its novelty.

Here, too, we have a model of weeping first; joy second. This sounds very much like sinner first; heaven last.

Do consider a concept of “enough” being our measuring spot for thanksgiving. In this way it is not just prayer that is to be constant, but thanksgiving. In fact it is helpful to move prayer out of petition and into thanks so you can’t say “prayer” without saying “thanks”.

Since we have been weeping as we sow seeds for the next generations, do begin shifting that into what you are thankful for—an opportunity to sow and weep. Waiting for actual sheaves and not already anticipating them (virtual sheaves) is a game not worth the playing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Joel 2:21-27

Year B - Thanksgiving
November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving casts out shame.

Basic dirt knows this much. Why do we keep forgetting?

Those claiming to be created from such dusty old dust might better remember this than we do. It seems we have to keep learning these things from brother and sister animal and sister and brother plant.

So, Lift up your head, O Gates; Thanksgiving enters. Lift up your head, O Gates; Shame leaves.

And, amazingly, when they meet in the Gate both are transformed. Thanksgiving is humbled; Shame is assured.

Be glad and rejoice when the proud do not stomp the vulnerable into the ground. Be glad and rejoice when the glutton does not explode over everyone else.

Give thanks that we have learned moderation even in moderation. Now we are getting somewhere.

2 Samuel 23:1-7

Year B - Reign of Christ or Evaluation Sunday
November 22, 2015

Justice is justice, whether seen as engaging a god or a G*D. When justice happens light breaks through and reflects off the water. Wear your sunglasses and put on your suntan lotion for double light will wear you out without them.

When we are worn out, light may appear just but just blinds us to basic common good for the next generation, much less seven down the way. Cultural discrimination masquerading as justice raises its poisonous head to bite our heel as we limp around attractive altars.

The strong light of justice is a harsh task-mistress as she asks questions of our actions and not just those of others. The Ash Rule applies here, You shall be consumed as you have consumed.

A last Sunday in Pentecost is a last chance to share wonders, not to enshrine them.

John 18:33-37

Year B - Reign of Christ or Evaluation Sunday
November 22, 2015

The Examiner strides into Headquarters and calls for Jesus Kafka. Gregor the Prisoner is asked his status and asks in return, “Where’d you get that question, I was just looking at another day in the Office of Healing.”

“What have you done?” leaves Jesus befuddled. “Am I to defend myself? Accuse myself? Come up with one more trick response? This must be a dream. I’m not from this crazy place.”

“Ah, so you do have Status! You have done!”

“If you say so. Testifying time! In the end, you don’t exist, Doorkeeper, but the Door does. Think I’ll walk through. See you on the other side if you have courage to follow.”

This is a day of evaluation. We’ve had a year since last Advent. Are we still at the same impasse? How would you apply your best learning from the year to this scene?

Matthew 6:24-34

Year B - Thanksgiving
November 22, 2015

There are ever so many worries, real and imagined, that crop up on a moment-to-moment basis. Horror movies are a perennial best seller. We love to scare ourselves and those around us.

It is difficult to keep a focus on the goodness of creation in the midst of so many pieces of the sky falling all about us. Well, at least they feel like sky. We have met Henny Penny and she be us.

On this last Sunday of the church year we could go the “Christ the King” route. The difficulty here is left over from last Advent. What have we learned through the course of the year? Is it our king trumps your king? Is is allegiance to some a priori truth? Is it division into those who hear the voice in my head and those who don’t?

My hope is that we have set our sights a bit higher, the Presence or the Freedom of G*D. In this all the rest finds its way. We can do with enough. We know our connection with the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.

How to wrap up the year? One less worry than last year at this time. Perhaps it is not much, but it is priceless.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hebrews 10:1-14, (15-18), 19-25

Year B - Pentecost +25 or Energy to Witness 25
November 15, 2015

“I sacrificed myself for the sins of others and am waiting for my enemies to be abased by my feet, abused by my followers.” Does this sound like Jesus?

If G*D is planning to forgive us, as images of G*D we are to forgive others and invite (provoke) them to love and good deeds. This critical middle section dare not be left out. Without it we move from the postulate that Jesus is qualitatively different than anyone else (not exactly human) to a self-centered group of the “sanctified” separate from the world (our sisters and brothers).

If we are going to be followers of one who removes sin from the table and guilt from our conversation we need to understand our renunciation of reveling in victory is not a technique of humbly being saved but deep, deep habits of encouraging current friend and foe alike and receiving their encouragement of us.

Here at the end of Pentecost we are tempted to find ourselves in another locked room. This time not out of fear that we will be done in but in rejoicing that others will become our footstool. This turn of events might be called an anti-Pentecost that comes back off the streets, having shared wonders, and waiting for all those out there to be blown to the babel-ing winds.

This seems a strange and bitter end to the hope, mercy, joy, and surprise of a first Pentecost.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Year B - Pentecost +25 or Energy to Witness 25
November 15, 2015

The lead-up to this passage is Hannah speaking out of her anxiety and vexation, her implied yelling at G*D that goes beyond the recorded plea and bargaining in Chapter 1. This is important as it gets carried through to a seeming resolution of her angst.

Being victorious seems to be all the sweeter if it can be pushed in an adversary’s face. Somehow we don’t count victories in anything other than war and triumphalist terms. So what might we learn from Hannah about what not to do when thankful for one mercy or another? Would Hannah be a leader in a Truth and Reconciliation process?

This song runs through Miriam, Psalms, and Mary as well as every apocalyptic vision. Hooray, I got mine! Too bad about you and you and you!

Next week is the final Sunday of this cycle of the lectionary. Remember again what you had in mind last Advent and through each of the seasons since. Is this what we have come to over a year of supposed growth toward deeper outward signs and inward grace? If so, no wonder some “Christ the King” Sunday rings hollow and no wonder another Advent is required on the great Theosis Wheel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

1 Samuel 1:4-20

Year B - Pentecost +25 or Energy to Witness 25
November 15, 2015

What would we finally hear if you spoke out of your “anxiety and vexation”?

Now that you have that clear, speak. After speaking, get down to “knowing”, doing the deed that leads to fulfillment.

What causes “the Lord” to remember? Is it in some plan that remembrance take place at some future time? Is it the intercession of an official priest? Is it how heart-felt your plea? Is it presenting yourself before “the Lord” before enough rules were in place to have direct contact with that “Lord” rather than work through your patri-arch who thinks he’s worth 10 of what you desire?

This is only one example of having to force a “Lord’s” hand. Are you still pining and waiting and resigned or exercised enough to push past any current revelation or remembered plan? Is partnership with G*D still an option for you?

Monday, November 09, 2015

Mark 12:13:1-8

Year B - Pentecost +25 or Energy to Witness 25
November 15, 2015

D: Look what large buildings they now have that will soon be ours!

J: Wrong perspective the buildings will be not be theirs or yours.

D: Well, then, when is that going to happen?—that these walls come tumbling down?

J: Oh no you don’t! Prediction is a fool’s game. Don’t be taken in by rumors, no matter how common-sensical they appear on the surface. Such speculation only gets you sound-and-fury. 


But you might find the beginning of wisdom in recognizing there is nothing new under the sun and there is no good reason why a creation birthed in “It is good” should have to come to an unruly end instead of a peaceful and satisfied sigh.

D: Is that orthodox? 

J: Of course it is. Those who have eyes will see such blessing in the midst of every confusion and pull back every tangled web woven to deceive you into thinking wars are real and mercy is not. Watch, attend, see, act, grow.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Hebrews 9:24-28

Year B - Pentecost +24 or Energy to Witness 24
November 8, 2015

Hebrews 9:24-28

Let's see, a high-priest model Jesus is unique. He only shows up once to take a picture of us back to G*D in heaven, a mere copy of our true image but what can be beamed up.

But he will come a second time, not to deal with sin that a Holy Spirit will redefine for us in such a way that we will see how wrong we were about sin. But Jesus will come to give assurance that those who have redefined sin are on a helpful tack.

What we don't hear about are all the other sightings that have been made along the way. Perhaps, even some that you have had.

This modeling doesn't square with our experience. Neither high priest or ascension stand up to the bodhisattva we have named Jesus.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Psalm 127

Year B - Pentecost +24 or Energy to Witness 24
November 8, 2015

Psalm 127

How many houses have come and gone? How many cities? Even the most fabled fall with some never to be found again. We might ask where the "Lord" has been.

Who among us hasn't questioned our getting up early and a lack of sleep? Again a question about where the "Lord" has been. Has the Sabbath been a Sabbath for the "Lord" and a day of rest has lasted as long as any metaphoric "Day" lasts in biblical apocalyptic language?

We finally get to our work of raising up power to overtake the power of others and establish our "heritage". Wombs are a work place for replicating soldiers all too soon gone. So we need a first quiver full of "arrows" and then a second and third. No wonder a poor womb begins to weep.

Widows without protection become all too common as those protectors are siphoned off into one quiver or another and the widow quivers in their loss.

Oh, yes, happy man; sad woman.

So, how do we redefine power and "quivers" and "arrows" other than how it affects wombs and widows?

Time for a new song.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

Year B - Pentecost +24 or Energy to Witness 24
November 8, 2015

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

David's ancestress, Ruth, seductress of Boaz, is alive and well in David's DNA (see Bathsheba).

Naomi plays the role of Snake-in-the-garden and Ruth is Eve with with Boaz getting second billing as Adam. Each played their part and we are where we are. Each of us continue playing our parts as we carry these same multiple personalities within us.

Blessings on breaking your play's fourth wall and carrying your role into the audience of reality, there to shift, modify, or re-write your part.

- - - - - - -

How is widow Naomi the same and different from the unnamed widow with a mite or two?

Monday, November 02, 2015

Mark 12:38-44

Year B - Pentecost +24 or Energy to Witness 24
November 8, 2015

After engaging antagonistic Sadducees and Pharisees and technocratic Scribes we come to a fourth story where the antagonist is all-of-the-others rolled into one--institutional religion using fear tactics to cow any unauthorized variant back into line. As a result, every part of the religious structure points to Rome, the Temple, or Fundamentalist teaching, depending on one's focus, but never to real lives of widows, orphans, or aliens.
For example, having just heard of a scribe's hearing a second commandment to the Shema--love your Neighb*r is contrasted with an actual neighborhood widow and comes up lacking when the institution requires her last two pennies.
Yes, Jesus' observation makes a dandy Pledge Drive periscope. Even though an impetus for giving is present, making a moral out of unequal examples puts a burden on the poor by getting mixed up about amounts instead of just access. As a result, those putting in much are categorizable as wicked devourers of widow's resources. It is as if they said, "Try matching this amount of giving. What, you've given your all and don't have anything left? Too bad, we still have our surplus with which to call the shots!"
How do you read this sequence of stories?
- - - - - -
Ahh, the honored
respectfully greeted
given third-row-center seating
unaware of the back of the balcony
able to ask non-questions
and baffled by real responses
freebie perks reveal
a fragile partnership

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hebrews 9:11-15

Year B - Pentecost +23 or Energy to Witness 23
November 1, 2015

So far there isn’t anything that isn’t of “this creation”. Multiverses are still of this creation or we wouldn’t know of them. So, no perfect tent, no perfect G*D, no perfect me (or you). Once-and-for-all is only a place of death.

Yes, may our conscience and consciousness be engaged, but for their own sake. If there is going to be any new covenant, it is going to take all of us to lift it out of its manger, change its diaper, and nurse it through any number of growing pains. Until we are able to promise one another some common good in the here-and-now, eternal “inheritance” will just have to wait.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Psalm 146

Year B - Pentecost +23 or Energy to Witness 23
November 1, 2015

It is satisfying to be thankful for a long vision.
All the usual power sources of politics, military, and economics eventually disappoint.
Pleased are those who know the limits of help and the depths of hope.
Then, whenever a taste of justice appears extravagant rejoicing can go on and on
   for an ability to breathe expands and strangers, orphans and widows can dance.
Those who would squash opportunities for others to extent their own benefit
   will find their graves danced upon.
Generation after generation the presence of constraint and sharing cycle through—
   call it G*D or Al or anything else, these abide to be chosen between.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ruth 1:1-18

Year B - Pentecost +23 or Energy to Witness 23
November 1, 2015

It is difficult to go back to a place where your place is known by everyone else and that place will become your limit. It is doubly difficult to go there with only best wishes that your well-wisher’s best will go with you.

This is the choice set before Ruth and Orpah—continue into a known future (with well-wishings) or continue into an unknown future (with a well-wisher).

I expect each of us have at times chosen Orpah’s choice. Other times we have chosen Ruth’s choice. We know one outcome and can only wonder about the unspoken Sophie’s choices that are engaged and influence which way we go. It would be interesting to listen in to the PTS reports of both Orpah and Ruth—any novelists out there needing a next challenge?

Blessings on you as you not only deal with loving G*D and Neighb*r but doing so knowing full well the realities of living in a setting not of your own making where limits not only chafe but are hurtful.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mark 12:38-44

Year B - Pentecost +23 or Energy to Witness 23
November 1, 2015

There is no primary. This gets us into chicken and egg conundrums. There are counter-balancing rhythms and relationships. 

The scribe concludes that loving G*D and Neighb*r are more important than temple sacrifices. Jesus does not say, “Then come; follow me.” He says, “You are not far from the presence of G*D.” Can the scribe go back to being a scribe that prescribes temple sacrifices? How long before good old cognitive dissonance sets in and he becomes a temple alumni? Does that mean that honest questions put one in the presence of G*D? 

No one may have asked Jesus additional questions beyond antagonistic questioning by Pharisees and Sadducees and sympathetic questioning by a scribe, but there are questions to be asked. In the next verses, Jesus takes up an antagonistic question back at temple leaders before ending with an ambivalent observation about a widow’s mite.

Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, widows. Around and around we go with paradigms, memes, experiences, and more. None of these define Jesus’ assurance, defiance, or growth in the intersection between religion and G*D. Each is a response to a context and a person. It might be helpful here to remember Matthew 13:52 where we are reminded that the head of a household (female?) brings old and new things forth from their treasure chest to deal with the particulars of the moment.

Who has modeled for you the bringing together of different pieces of information (our life) to apply to a present situation? They are a saint for us. May you so model for others.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hebrews 7:23-28

Year B - Pentecost +22 or Energy to Witness 22
October 25, 2015

There is a choice of reasons for seeing Jesus as a High Priest.

1) “Because he continues forever.” This puts projection before theology. Our desire to be eternally cared for becomes the justification for a Jesus eternal in the heavens, director of sin and repentance.

2) “He always lives to make intercession.” Even though the word “always” sounds as if this is closely related to 1), it needs an understanding that this purported living was in the past and should be noted as “lived”—he lived to make intercession. 

This, of course, leads to a question about intercession. It is all too easy to slide into some ideal that never intersects with entropy. The intercession here is not some Promethean intercession for humanity's benefit but a critical and intentional engagement with real people’s lives in present moments of the same. Another image that might be helpful here is that of a catalytic conversion—he lived to engage real people’s blockages, reveal them as interconnected with the rest of life (not unique), and carrying gifts after being embraced (it might be said that he lived to embrace and release).

The contingency of eternity is not a source of being honored, but the engagement within time is.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)

Year B - Pentecost +22 or Energy to Witness 22
October 25, 2015

Our particular moment(s) of conversion (vs 6) from perceived affliction or despair to meaning or happiness shifts our engagement with ourself and all within our context (as well as our context itself).

At base the resultant standing-place is in verse 19: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but G*D rescues them from them all.”

There are significant questions about some “live happily ever after” expectations of no more brokenness as well as no more condemnation and exile of the latest version of wickedness.

It is important to reflect on the concept or experience of “rescue”. This has an initial sense of passivity. Rescue is something that happens to me. I just need to find the right button (praise? lament? countervailing power?) and I’m rescued.

Try replacing “rescue” with “reorientation” or “responsibility”. When there is a reorientation we can accept our responsibility to participate with the mystery of universal rescue—our own, our enemies, our G*D's. This universal rescue is a precursor to a later series of reorientations toward a responsible love of G*D, self, neighbor, one another, and enemy.

Without reorienting “rescue” it remains a dualistic word that unnecessarily privileges rescuers and divides one aspect of creation from another.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Year B - Pentecost +22 or Energy to Witness 22
October 25, 2015

This passage cannot be understood without its middle section. With this returned to unity there are 3 points to be made.

1) Wherein does seeing G*D lead to the despising of self and repentance unto dust and ashes? How has an option for rejoicing at a new meeting and opportunity for partnership been siphoned off? When our eyes, ears, and other senses are enlivened we have a choice about our response. As “glory” beyond our imagining is engaged, questions need to be raised about the role of repentance as an initial action or one subsequent to thanks or gratitude and without ashes.
2) Job kept faith with G*D by anticipating justification (if not assurance or grace). Job’s “friends”, Eliphaz, bildad, and Zophar placed G*D in an independent relationship from when “smiting at will” is an enforcement tool.
     Hear clearly that Job’s “repentance” was not to stay in the ashes but to “pray” for his “enemies” and as a governor on G*D’s wrath.
     It is recorded that “Job’s prayer” was accepted by G*D and Job’s future well-being is directly related to his prayer for his “frenemies”.
     Was his prayer one of forgiveness of others, was it intercessory toward a particular change in them? Was it a prayer toward G*D to not do an eye-for-an-eye thing (after all this was all a test of Job and not a test for Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar).
3) After being “restored” to a state of abundance/prosperity, Job broke ranks with the economic tradition of male privilege—Job’s daughters inherit along with their brothers. It is this sort of openness that left Job “full of days” or “days of fullness”.

Now what will fill your days—”ashes” or “prayer”? May this question haunt you to a point of choice to change our culture’s limitation on a freedom of G*D and self to intentionally partner in the midst of this creation.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mark 10:46-52

Year B - Pentecost +22 or Energy to Witness 22
October 25, 2015

“What do you want me to do for you?” This question was asked last week of conniving disciples. This week it is asked of a blind man. 

This is a question we might begin asking one another in a congregation or community. This is a far different matter than the political season statement, “Here’s what I can do for you.”

There is a communal lectio divina process that reads a scripture passage a couple of times listening for different words or phrases or evocative images or sensual engagement or other non-verbal way of entering the land of story. Eventually what is listened for is a shift in one’s own life that is reported. At the end each person “Prays” for the intention to shift mentioned by the person on their right and has their own intention “Prayed” for by the person on their left. This honoring of an intention/vision other than one’s own opens the group to listen together more wholly for any question they might hold in common.

Now comes the question to each of us, “What do you want your religious/spiritual tradition to do for you?” It may be something quite doable. It may be something unattainable as it still has too narrow a focus. Either way there is a clarity available about what we might partner together to be about and what needs to be left for a season or another group to address. This clarity is a clearing away of what stands between our realities and our vision of them. So much can get in the way and block what might otherwise be seen: so much privilege, so many tapes, such a load of burdens, etc.

May you continue to call out for mercy and continue to respond to calls for mercy.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hebrews 5:1-10

Year B - Pentecost +21 or Energy to Witness 21
October 18, 2015

To be subject to “weakness” is one thing. To be aware of being so subject, is quite another.

To claim Jesus is improved or justified by being in some spiritual line of Melchizedek is but a poor repeat of James and John trying to get an endorsement of their special importance.

This line of argument may have swayed some in the past but each year it carries less and less persuasive weight. In and of itself, along with too many dollars for a cup of coffee, you can still get a cup of coffee.

The same holds true of our perfection being subject to someone else’s perfection. All in all, I still lean toward leaving Hebrews out of the lectionary.

If pushed to comment here, I would return to the weakness image to note that our experience does sensitize us to others who have had similar experiences. Empathy is a valued gift. None of us, though, can experience enough to be all things to all people and so the importance of interdependence rises.

Let me know what use you have for a sinless high priest.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Psalm 104:1-9,24, 35c

Year B - Pentecost +21 or Energy to Witness 21
October 18, 2015

“You stretch out the heavens like a tent.”

I have just begun a half-time position as pastor of a congregation that has been declining in numbers. Those left have a commitment to the community. For decades homeless people have slept under the large bushes in front of the building. This past summer the church became a bit more proactive and, with agreed upon rules, allowed tenting in their “Grace Space”. The tents go up at twilight and are down by 8 am.

As might be easily imagined a complaint made its way to the city authorities. Without talking with us they sent a letter to cease and desist, claiming we fell under their campground ordinance. Well, we are still talking without trying to further inflame the situation with a confrontation of moral vs legal arguments.

This has made me sensitive to the ancient tenting tradition of YHWH during and after the Exodus. Now, seeing the tent image used to include all of creation, it is important to again set boundaries that the indigent/homeless are not flooded out by polite society and made further invisible.

The county has a contract with a local crematorium and they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to contact us about doing memorial services for the homeless that they cremate. We have agreed and our first memorial service is tomorrow. Word has gone out through the homeless community and we wait to see what the response will be.

And so, a tent to cover all the creatures of the earth. Under this tent there is no lording it over others. Under this tent we take our moment and add it to the moments of others to honor those who have gone before and to pass on a healthy earth to those who follow after. Under this tent we live, and we move, and we share our being.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

Year B - Pentecost +21 or Energy to Witness 21
October 18, 2015

Then “The Lord” responded to Job from behind a curtain, “Demands for Justification fall on deaf ears for there is no excuse, read your Kafka again. What is available to you is a Presence of Assurance that you are, no matter what, dealing with real gifts, real loss, real life. Buck up kid, I had to come to this a long time ago and you are well on your way. Let’s talk soon so I can get past my present boasting and you can make it beyond yesterday. How about supper in the cool of this evening?”

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mark 10:35-45

Year B - Pentecost +21 or Energy to Witness 21
October 18, 2015

Jesus has been talking about heading to Jerusalem to die and rise up.

[Hmmm. How might we play this to our advantage?]

[Ahhh, yes, become Chief of Staff and Press Secretary for all the judging that will be going on!]

“Hey, Jesus, how about your loyalest Disciples helping out. I’m sure you have seen our effectiveness here on earth and, like you, will only improve in times to come.”

“I’m sure,” said Jesus, “that you will be just as wise then as your are now. Unfortunately for y’all, everyone, including me, has to serve somebody and that decision is above my pay grade.”

Jesus continued, “I do have an idea about how you might increase the possibility of your request. Remember our friend, Buddha, and his eight paths leading through attachment to fantasies? Well my version of that is ‘service’ or “giving of yourself” with a sense of joy in the doing without tying it to cause and effect.”

And James and John, like a rich guy before them, went sorrowing away to make amends with their fellow disciples and to practice what Jesus preached and lived. Having their vision refocused they could go on to tell a story of, present mercy, new sight, and their identification with Bartimaeus in a story for next week.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Hebrews 4:12-16

Year B - Pentecost +20 or Energy to Witness 20
October 11, 2015

To return to the temptation to privilege we have verse 16: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

This is quite the transaction. What happens to mercy and grace should we not approach some alien throne? Would they then be absent from our life? Well, no.

This whole understanding of a universalized grace and a solidarity in mercy casts doubt upon the whole preceding model of a duality causing sword and subsequent salving.

Try this: “Let us join together, whether boldly or shyly, to reveal mercy and grace in good times and ill.” If there is something here, the time to take a step toward another is now, not when some condition is met.

Rejoice! Enjoy! Every little thing is going to be alright (and already is).

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Psalm 22:1-15

Year B - Pentecost +20 or Energy to Witness 20
October 11, 2015

Psalm 22:1-15

Forsaken . . .
Yet . . .

This is the great poem of every age.

We search for answers only to find a response of silence. We yearn for rest so energetically that we miss present comforts.

There is no great moral here. Do your best to find this poem at work in your life this day:
Forsaken . . .
Yet . . .

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Year B - Pentecost +20 or Energy to Witness 20
October 11, 2015

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Our complaint is still a bitter one. We so desire to bring our life and circumstance to a resolution and there is no court available for us to do that. We can’t do it internally for we know we are just fooling ourselves one more time as evidenced by repeating the same old tapes. We can’t do it externally for everyone is trying to do the same and nowhere is there a place where our common desires and willingness to be judged can be matched up—always power is by definition unequal.

Our bitterness is a desire to be justified and not being able to see where a hearing could provide an outcome we could live with. All we can find is a continuation of I win/You lose and its complement of I lose/You win. This will never do.

If only there wasn’t a sense of dread about this eternally being the case. Where can the Gordian Knot of everyday life be undone without a cheating blade?

We cry out to banish a darkness that covers our face, clouds our countenance, and leaves us feeling for maze walls even if they lead no where. Something more amazing is needed. There is no escaping suffering through any judgment. Some semblance of assurance or a helpful path/way will assuage our angst for awhile, but even here darkness has a duration that outlasts our willingness to await. Pressure to be about regular life stirs us up to keep us from knowing there is no such thing as regular life, only this one precious chance never fully grounded and ever bubbling with future’s life.

We can all join in Job’s wail. May we also be able to find our search for meaning to not need a judgment call on the present.

[For extra credit imagine Job’s wail to be the equivalent of a bat’s sonar click. It actually does penetrate darkness and identifies amazing assurance that has been there all along.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Mark 10:17-31

Year B - Pentecost +20 or Energy to Witness 20
October 11, 2015

Mark 10:17-31

“Eternal life” is a general marker for what it is we most desire at the moment. We tie our desires to eternity and that ups the ante regarding our prayers (usually at least one step removed from actually being responsible for living well).

If we can name our “eternal life” picture it will help us remove it from a locus of obsession and return to everyday issues. Here the everyday is noted to be related to particular extensions of what we know as a Golden Rule variously expressed.

If there is still some sense of something lacking (assurance) it seems we need to spend more time in contemplative/meditative play until we can sense Jesus, G*D, some Beyond, looking at us and loving us through our compulsion to have it all. At stake here is an ability to recognize and give up our privileged view point.

Here the man who wants it all has to bump up against his desire to get what he wants without it costing anything. Here it is not so much a matter of his possessions but what it was that was possessing him. He is obviously invested in whatever level of privilege he has. This is not mere speculative privilege but what his community had drummed into his dear little ear as to where real life is lived—in possessions. It is then difficult to have an understanding that we all have to “serve somebody”.

Being rich is not an ultimate game-over. Moving ahead is possible, but it is not based on what you can or cannot do. There is a different measuring rod than simply possessing, whether that is little or much.

When the question is asked about “who can be saved?”, it is important to retranslate that to, “who can be generous?” Generosity is a natural antidote to the greed of privilege.

Even when translated thus, Peter speaks up for all of us to claim that Jesus owes us for everything transactional giving-up we have done in expectation of being rewarded for our sacrifice. This sense of being owed is 180° from living “good news”.

Since there is no way to finally say what a first/last koan might mean across the board, we will have to settle for having conversations about what we are still hanging on to that we are owed and expressing the good news we have experienced through a reception of deep assurance and bounteous generosity.

May you not sorrow away, joyfully receive the sisters and brothers of every stripe and color now available to you.