Thursday, May 28, 2015

Romans 8:12-17

Year B - Pentecost +1 (Trinity) or Energy to Witness 1 (Live Together)
May 31, 2015

Pray tell how you go out to tell of the Presence of G*D and value the Presence of Neighb*r if it is not according to the flesh? Right, you don’t. 

“Flesh” qua flesh is just ordinary life. When we get into doctrinaire judgments about flesh—this is good clean flesh and that is bad unclean flesh—we go down the road of disconnecting flesh from spirit as well as flesh from flesh and all manner of growth opportunities are lost.

Our growth takes place at the intersections of life. When we presume love is conditional, every condition is a control that takes us further and further from ourselves and one another. We are placed back in a locked room not of our own choosing.

Being born again from above is not about hating the flesh. It is a recognition that we be open to a reorientation and re-energizing. Together we move on to engage third parties. A trinity of father, son, and holy ghost is pretty ethereal without our flesh entering into to add a fourth stabilizing leg. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Psalm 113

Year B - Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth or Elizabeth and Mary Meet
May 31, 2015

This Psalm was chosen to reflect John’s prenatal gymnastics and Elizabeth’s status of mother. There are also echoes of Miriam and Hannah and premonitions of Mary here with matters of class justice.

Of interest today is practice in identifying possibilities of praise while they are so far off that we are either blind to them or fearful we have judgment, not praise, looming on the horizon.

If we can talk about premeditation of mercy, can we do the same with praise. We need to practice so we are always ready to be merciful. We need to practice so we are always ready to praise G*D and Neighb*r and everything not so far included.

A readiness to mercy or praise is never easy to achieve. We need to put down so much of our own privilege to do either, that it seems we are always living in a world mercy deprived and praise insufficiency. If we want to have deep conversations we need to be preemptively merciful and generous with praise. These precursors to community are possible to practice and every attempt to do so makes the next try that much easier.

Do you need to get kicked in your womb or equivalent before you will be thankful? Well, maybe, at first. Then will come a time we become a reminder to others that thanks is basic community building and justice making.

Psalm 29

Year B - Pentecost +1 (Trinity) or Energy to Witness 1 (Live Together)
May 31, 2015

Psalm 29

Rather than get caught up with a litany of examples of power, note how vibrational this list is. Thunder over water amplifies the thunder. You can feel the movement. When forests are stripped bare we hear the locomotive sound of a tornado bearing down upon us. When Lebanon skips we suspect an earthquake and its aftershocks are shaking things (seismic come from the Greek seismos shock, earthquake, from seiein to shake; probably akin to Avestan thwaēshō fear).

That which has a different vibrational nature scares us. This includes the way cultures and stages of life have vibrational/rhythmic differences.

With vibration comes a shift. We know that which we thought settled is not. This is part of the nature of G*D—an unsettler.

May we be given the power to shake things up. When we come to terms with this we do find a peaceful center but only after we have come through our own being shaken to our core. Finally centers and cores can communicate and be thankful. It will be worth the shaky parts of life to come to a deep heart’s core with a gentle lapping of the waters of the deep simply awaiting a next thunder, wind, and shake.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Year B - Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth or Elizabeth and Mary Meet
May 31, 2015

In sports this response by Hannah (and similar statements by nearly every character in the Bible and those in our life) would be penalized as taunting.


  1. Is it possible to win G*D’s favor without destroying a Neighb*r? 
  2. Do your best to restate this in non-taunting terms.
  3. Has your response to 1) above changed as you tried a restatement?
  4. Regardless of your first or second response to 1) above, how would you state your engagement with G*D, the current Economy, individuals and groups in need or with a surplus?

Isaiah 6:1-8

Year B - Pentecost +1 (Trinity) or Energy to Witness 1 (Live Together)
May 31, 2015

An ecstatic vision doesn’t always bring about great joy even if joy is being visioned. Here, Isaiah experiences his disaster. He is about to be undone. Woe! Woe!

Even as this is happening, Isaiah has no idea that it is worse than he thought. He knows he is about to die, so what could be worse.

Well, he is branded and commissioned to go forth to tell the impossible—this vision to a visionless world. There have been new and trendy products at every stage of our development. They take our breath away and our ability to think beyond goodies. Slave or Free, we want that one next step of improving our lot. Who has time for visions when such a practical matter as comfort and power have so captivated our mind and heart?

To be present in a dead world with a living vision is worse than death.

Hopefully this is your lot for this particular “worse than death” turns out to be the kind of purpose that is better than death and better than ordinary living. Our ecstasy is found in our challenges. May you be well challenged.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Luke 1:39-56

Year B - Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth or Elizabeth and Mary Meet
May 31, 2015

At the beginning of her pregnancy Mary is said to have traveled from Nazareth to Judea to see Elizabeth. This is roughly the same distance she will travel to Bethlehem at the end of her pregnancy. A young woman journeying alone in that culture seems very strange. Might Joseph have gone along to gather wisdom from Elizabeth that would show up in his dreams?

We are talking 3 days to week to make this trek of ±70 miles. A number of factors, including rain turning travel to mud, make this an indeterminate journey. Regardless of the travel time is the vision it took to even start on such a walk. Word may have just arrived regarding Elizabeth’s remarkable pregnancy. Something in that probably caught Mary’s ear. Turn your speculator on to imagine the possibilities.

Having made the trip and stayed for a considerable length of time, Mary would be returning home between her first and second trimesters. WebMD talks about the ending of morning sickness and fatigue but picking up backache, bleeding gums, breast enlargement, congestion and nosebleeds, frequent urination, headache, heartburn, constipation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and weight gain. Neither going nor returning seems all that pleasant (and we haven’t even gotten to going such a distance close to term).

Such a journey could bring connections to mind in addition to Mary’s expectation about a meeting with Elizabeth. Perhaps Mary’s namesake Miriam or a generic alter-ego like Hannah would find themselves entering her thoughts and beginning to shape later phrases.

At any rate, Mary traveled—even as far as Egypt. Every journey brings its perspective that reorients our engagement with life. Is it time for you to take a journey to sort out what is going on with you and how you will more deeply engage the reality of your situation? Aloha. Bon voyage. Nesi'a tova. Traveling mercies.

John 3:1-17

Year B - Pentecost +1 (Trinity or Energy to Witness 1 (Live Together)
May 31, 2015

We gather in the dark to tell scary stories to one another. We even go so far as to shine a flashlight from below our chin to distort our features. This goes on until who can tell what another really looks like. It goes even further until we don’t know what we look like.

How can anyone know whether they are coming or going from a previous stage of life? How do we make sense of the swirling experiences of life? If we can’t tell for sure about “now”, how will we ever know about “when”? Is there anything upon which we can find agreement as a starting point?

Wombs, winds, and expectations are all common experiences in life. Even so the line between what they denote and connote is dashed and very gray. We try living linear lives in a shifting universe and find only dismay. We are so easily blown off course and can only predict the worst scenarios without ever seeing predictable blessings.

We are so used to stopping with verse 16 and eternal life or verse 17 and salvation that we don’t go to the send of this section (verse 21) where we stop telling stories to one another and begin testing actions to see how they actually turn out. Here, in a land beyond speculation of where there be dragons, we find basic creativity and creation—what we do in partnership with one another and G*D. Stopping anywhere short of doing what we do “in G*D”, with one another and G*D, is to always set up a limiting and privileged judgment that creates winners and losers rather than a wholly-owned partnership.

Read to the end even though the temptation is to stop with the popular entertainment of simply saying “John 3:16” as though it answered something and wasn’t a rhetorical strategy to get your way.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Deep Sighs

Year B - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
May 24, 2015

     deep sighs 

the caustic nature of society
in which we reside
is concentrating

the greater the danger
the more we barricade
the more connections decline

no — not a new story
we lock one another away
to do a fetal position rock

for whatever un-reason
life returns — for a while
reconnecting severed connections

until we again forget
dreaming together
and dream alone

a lone dream is nightmarish
no one to wake us
dry isolation

bone separated from bone
out of breath
all fall down

a wind and a fire
join in conflagration

all is ash
until a rain
a new-green shoot

describe it
to all about
until we see together

a mercy unexpected
one size fits all
ahh, sigh, mmmm

Romans 8:22-27

Year B - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
May 24, 2015

Wind and Fire—apt descriptions of labor and of hope. 

I’d say more, but I’m tired. Are you able to pick up my labor and say something about these that might clarify a hope for a life based on responding to real-life situations and not giving in to fear?

Either way, Thanks.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Year B - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
May 24, 2015

Due seasons are easy when they come around regularly. Due seasons are not so easy when we are under duress or they have a multi-generational cycling. We can see ships shrink into the horizon and later expand. This we can understand. Leviathans that happen out of sight of land are more difficult to track.

We all enjoy the season of being filled with good things. We attribute it to all manner of experiences turned into ritual on the off-chance that it will keep the good times rolling.

We hate and despise it when nothing seems to go right. Here, too, we make up explanations and blame for what has gone wrong. We will hang on to our theories even after they are disproved for who can ever disprove a negative. We will keep putting money on our model ever thinking it will work this time, “Baby needs a new pair of shoes”.

With these long wave seasons we are pushed to evaluate where we are and what can be done about it. This psalm suggests that praise is the answer to all things, just like, later, Jesus will become the standard answer for all questions. Today the response that best fits is, “Nothing will make a difference.”

May this meditation be pleasing for I want the good season to return and last forever. Whoops, “meditation” here is really a medication for having fallen out of partnership with space and time.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Year B - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
May 24, 2015

When the day of Pentecost had come
the hand of the Lord came upon me
and suddenly from heaven there came a sound
like the rush of a violent wind
and I found myself in the middle of a valley filled with dry bones,
a room locked and filled with fear.
Can these bones live?
Can this fear abate?
Only G*D knows.
Only speaking to strangers will avail.

Such stories go on and on.
How will it turn out this time?
Dancing skeletons?
New community?

Open your maw,
receive mercy,

Acts 2:1-21

Year B - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
May 24, 2015

Jesus has a saying about new wine—it needs new wine skins. Those who used the “new wine” excuse to dismiss a new way of living with one another acknowledge the need for a structural reorganization that does more than keep an institution rolling along. There wasn’t a new institution yet, much less an old one.

This “new wine” is a powerful image that can be used to break open an institution that has lost its newness in the accretion of traditions bogging it down. At a meeting earlier this week I heard exciting news that the demonstrated from a business model that the United Methodist Church will be selling its assets by 2050 if there is not a turn-around started by 2030.

This would be even more exciting news if it wasn’t about a turn-around but new wine that moves it into yet uncharted water. A turn-around is exacting what the speaker warned us about and then fell back into. It would be even more exciting news if the speaker didn’t have a Plan to provide a structural fix that they warned us wouldn’t work.

We are such a bunch of contradictions and inconsistencies. All this good news that new wine is the way to go gets bollixed up with our plans and plottings to get our way. It is difficult for us to turn our prophetic word, visions and dreams applied to the current day, into action. But there is no reason to let difficulty sway us from living what we now know to be life-giving and to test it against the suspect wisdom of our day that has gotten us into such a tenuous place.

So here we go, speaking what we know to the best of our ability.

John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

Year B - Pentecost or Energy to Witness
May 24, 2015

When “the” Advocate comes you are to be an Advocate (witness/testifier). As part of our advocacy for LGBTQ people within a discriminating church is expressed with 3 “D” words: Disrupt, Divest, Disclose(t).

These are words that may have made Pentecost a reality strong enough to move into a world beyond their closed system.

These words connect with the work of this Advocate to “prove the world wrong” about sin and righteousness and judgment.

Institutional sin that shapes individual sin needs disrupting.

Privileged righteousness claims resources and divestment is a healing modality in a sick setting.

Easy judgment, blind to the complexities of life, needs disclosure of its effect of closeting people.

In each case “truth” is tested by disruption and divestment from business as usual and disclosing of uncomfortable realities.

Pentecost is not just about a positive witness to new life but a confronting of old life and lies. Without doing both we have not really moved us much forward beyond your particular biases.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Year B - Easter 7 or Assurance 7
May 17, 2015


so many schemers — so few resources
so many paths to prosperity — so little common wealth
so many anonymous commenters — so small the thoughts

delighted those who see abundance
rejoicing those who experience community
happily blessed those engaged in creativity

re-view an oasis
with ripened fruit
in desert-ed space

see yourself
choosing refreshing
hospitality anyway

storms blow up threatening every refugee
storms named after every variant of vice
storms denied by what shelter is given

gazelle or hyena
a food chain continues
without privileging one

denounced wicked
claimed righteous

a scent of something remembered

Year B - Ascension or Our Turn to Witness
May 14, 2015

a scent of something remembered

book 1
its all true
everyone's hopes
all down the line
are focused in my life
even if they never foresaw me
what I have done goes beyond imagining
and now you are witnesses
waiting for a moment
to act powerfully
blessings to you
so long

book 2
where did 40 days go so quickly
who was taking notes
well would you have
only one question was asked
and not answered
so why takes notes
in a cloud of promises of power
and future witnessing
after certification
off he goes Elijah style
stupefying would be Elishas
forgetting they were the return
already returned and at work
wearing an invisible mantle

Thursday, May 14, 2015

1 John 5:9-13

Year B - Easter 7 or Assurance 7
May 17, 2015

A distinction between “human testimony” and “the testimony of God” is tremendously difficult to make as the only G*D testimony we have is mediated through human language. Even a wonderfully profound personal experience of G*D is fraught or freighted with cultural overlays and personal desire.

Here we have the circular: those who believe have belief in their heart. The flip side of this heightens the power and control found in circular arguments: Those who do not believe have made God a liar. When we then tie eternal damnation into the picture, this becomes a very strong reason to be part of the believers, even going so far as to force baptize whole communities and giving the church the power of capital punishment which, ironically, was the martyrdom that raised Jesus’ sacrifice to the heavens.

1 John is lovely in many places, but here, particularly in an Easter season, rings false with its limitation on grace and requirement that all faith is mature faith. Don’t drink this kool-aid.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Year B - Ascension or Our Turn to Witness
May 14, 2015

Even before there was a church to canonize, there were “saints”. A wondering appears about whether that term was more inclusive than we realize—an equivalent of Neighb*r? Michael J. Gorman, writing in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible doesn’t go this far but hints in that direction, “Within the Christian tradition, there has sometimes developed both an elitism and a privatism in the use of terms like saint and holiness. The NT supports neither of these.”

If we reserve this terms for believers, even a whole community of believers, is there sufficient elitism to suspect that we have missed a larger import. Instead of a halo to represent a saint, might they simply have an asterisk floating above them to remind themselves and others that all they see here is not all there is.

What might happen if we spoke of everyone having the capability of being saintly rather than speaking of some degree of holiness as accomplished? Go ahead, speculate. Is there enough there to begin acting on it? If so, it is time to act. If not, good luck in staying within the saint-authorizing body and not testing yourself in the real world. This phrasing is not meant to be accusatory, but a bit challenging—like the challenge to not look at the sky but Neighb*r’s lives.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Psalm 1

Year B - Easter 7 or Assurance 7
May 17, 2015

Have you taken your ratio of wheat to weed lately? How are you doing? Up to speed with your love and forgiveness? Behind on your confession and repentance?

It is this sort of question that can lead to mistakenly thinking that there is some ratio that is perfect—a Golden Ratio from art and architecture now claimed by theology. If you are at this beauty spot all is well and you are in like Flynn. Miss the mark and you fail judgment and fall all the way to perishing forever.

All the meditation in the world doesn’t make it without some fruit being born. A question needs to be raised here about whether that fruit is praise (now and always) or love of Neighb*r (now and now again). Is that fruit a personal prospering in land of drought and limitations or is it a communal giving away because of abundance.

Wrestling with life is seldom as simple and straightforward as this happy Psalm. To be blessed leads to many an unblessed place.

Psalm 47 or Psalm 93

Year B - Ascension or Our Turn to Witness
May 14, 2015

These Psalms make it sound as if lifting up is noisy. Here shouts and trumpets and thundering waves give rhythm to praise music. They beat out a pulse for the rest of the praise. Elijah had his whirlwind so Jesus must have something even grander.

But we do need to be a bit careful. What is praise being given for if not for pride and privilege of place. Others are subdued and placed under our control. Our heritage is better than any other. Holiness rules and regulations are set.

Each instance is turned around by Jesus, so why would we think some ascension follows a pattern that must be noisy. Moses went so silently no one knows where he is buried. The grave Jesus was in is doubly silent—both a grave and empty.

For now understand that Ascension is as quiet as Pentecost will be noisy. This is time to reflect and be library quiet that we might plumb the depths of what in the world a resurrection leading to a leaving is about and where that leaves us.

Where the old spiritual Steal Away to Jesus sings about thundering trumpet sounds and a trumpet as sharp as lightning, someone might rewrite it for a Ascension song. Here’s a seed to start such a rewrite:

          Steal away, steal away, steal away O Jesus!
          Steal away, steal away home,
          We got awhile to stay here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Year B - Easter 7 or Assurance 7
May 17, 2015

A significant tension in every religious experience:
  • Is this the start of something?
  • Is this the culmination of something?

In the moment Scripture is opened to new interpretation—understanding. We can now see that something had been germinating there—in the dark. Under an ordinary sky—a new bloom. Where we had no way of fitting a new piece into an old puzzle—new room. Scripture has become a lens through which we see new possibilities.

As such a moment moves with us it becomes enfolded into a new darkness within Scripture that traps us in a prior interpretation and doctrine becomes knowing. Its claim upon us moves from bloom to sustenance and we feed on it even after it has been propped up with poisonous fertilizer and processes of genetic modification for an economy’s sake. From a hopeful bloom we see it emblazoned on a thousand shields and banners going forth to war to take all color out of the sky. There is not and cannot be any shade of gray for all has been decided and the greatest of mysteries has become mundane. Finally Scripture is not a lens but an eye-patch.

Is Matthias a needed piece to open an Indiana Jones quest one door deeper but insignificant in and of itself? Is Matthias a cypher standing for your name and mine inviting us to take Scripture yet another step beyond a previous blooming? I hope the latter. Keep wriggling. Your presence will be plenty enough surprising whenever a next blooming occurs.

Acts 1:1-11

Year B - Ascension or Our Turn to Witness
May 14, 2015

“Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom?”

Every season we desire to put our eggs in the basket of a person or a party that will restore a greatness that never was. Our blindness to the bloody tooth and claw of every generation, every power structure, keeps us raising a lantern and asking our greedy question. Jesus was asked this question, John was asked this question, and Herod and Ananias were asked this question. We show our intentional ignorance by repeating one variation or another of this old desire of being on top.

For fun you can go to lists of political slogans [Political Slogans or Presidential Campaign Slogans]. It can be just as revealing to listen for the “humble” slogans of those seeking religious power.

Slogans are always masks. Ascension is also a mask that is looking for control and if we are only looking for Jesus to return that is a great comfort to those currently in power and counter-productive to any spirit that would poke its head up, the slightest to look at the current state of affairs and say, “Be Clean”, “Rise and walk”, “She’s not dead”, “Love one another”.

A three-voiced summary:
  • Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom?
  • Wrong question. I’m outta here.
  • This Jesus will be present when you restore any dignity.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Luke 24:44-53

Year B - Ascension or Our Turn to Witness
May 14, 2015

It takes power to raise folks from the dead. The power we have to do that with one another is contained in the phrase “repentance and forgiveness” of sins.

It is too easy to have that devolve into “their” repentance and “my” forgiveness”. Broken apart in this fashion we lose the power generated by their interrelationship—my repentance triggers my forgiveness and forgiving energizes further repentance. The work here is almost Buddhist regarding suffering and a way to rise through it. So it might be humbly suggested that power here is the release of power or non-attachment to power. When we get too far away from this sort of mystery we find ourselves unable to do anything but turn this report into magic.

Here is a theological thought experiment: Does your blessing cause a withdrawal of yourself from that which is being blessed and draw you closer to a next stage and state of being?

If this turns out to have an attractiveness about it, does it change what might be meant by worshipping Jesus? Might it go so far as, “And they blessed one another, and, returned joyfully to Jerusalem, the source of power and death, to continually bless as their way of being in the cosmos, this beautiful world becoming ever more so"?

John 17:6-19

Year B - Easter 7 or Assurance 7
May 17, 2015

Hopefully the final proof of Wrestling Year C is on its way to be reviewed before being OKing it for publication. This seems like a time to get back to first drafts of comments.

Exegetes have the joy of cross-referencing and checking sources when declarations are made. Then comes the fun of working with what is found. In some ways we are investigative reporters. Unfortunately such reporters usually find their articles unpublished or creatively edited when what they turned up doesn’t fit with the publisher’s viewpoint. In a church setting, the personnel committee acts as a mediating editor who can threaten dismissal if the story isn’t rewritten to the current guidelines.

How does the model of “protection” work when folks who have been followers (Jesus’ own) become non-followers (Nones)? Were they or weren’t they Jesus’ own? Are they still?

What does it means to claim Jesus didn’t hold anything back and gave everything forward that he had been given? Everything but the authority to ask on our own for the gift and responsibility to receive the consequences of being a full-partner with G*D?

What can be done about circular causality that politicians and preachers employ?

Can we report this translation of verses 15–19 by Richard W. Swanson in Provoking the Gospel of John and expect to have it published in the congregation?

I do not ask
   that you lift them out of the beautiful world,
   but that you guard them against worthlessness.
Out of the beautiful world they are not
   exactly as I am not out of the beautiful world.
Make them holy in the truth;
   your ordered utterance is truth.
Exactly as you sent me into the beautiful world,
   so also I sent them into the beautiful world.
For I made myself holy
   in order that they should be
      (even they)
   holy in truth.

Can our readers understand “evil” as causing “worthlessness” in our Neighb*r? That Jesus “made” himself “holy” and this ability has been given to us as Jesus’ partners? And we are to be “holy in truth” not “holy in power within an exclusive community”? 

What will you report from this passage?