Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ephesians 4:1-16

Year B - Pentecost +10 or Energy to Witness 10
August 2, 2015

Don’t forget to drop verses 8, 9, and 10 from any reading aloud of this psalm. They make it all too easy to lose the hearer as they interrupt the flow from verse 7 to 11 — each is given grace according to Christ’s abundance. This grace appears as gifts as unique as we are and are to be engaged for building our common good.

All that ascending and descending talk is beside the point here. It is as if the writer had a brain-burp in the middle of their thought about comm-unity and somehow thought they should throw in a touch of creedalism to bolster their argument about building one another up in the image of G*D—a whole family of gods and images of gods (stars and plants and animals and immeasurably more).

Deleting verses 8-10 adds value to this passage. Try it, you’ll like it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Psalm 51:1-12

Year B - Pentecost +10 or Energy to Witness 10
August 2, 2015

It continues to amaze how we model ourselves as wrong from the start. If we were not begun in joy how can we be restored to it?

There is great heaviness here.

Without dismissing the reality of straying from blessedness, it does not require that we demean G*D’s creative impetus and conclusion of, “My, how wonderful.” There is no requirement that we jump to the extreme of original sinfulness continually in need of one atoning redemption or several others.

There is no face-hiding necessary, just facing the reality of an evolving universe requiring constant adjustment and finding some adjustments are more helpful than others which are hurtful.

For a moment begin with an affirmation where this section of a psalm pauses with a hopeful anticipation.
my heart is fresh
my spirit is as G*D’s
ever new and knowing
never will I be cast away
a joy moving to wholeness
bubbles up again and again
so I re-engage a spirit energy
to rebind all that once sundered
Of course we could try to fool ourselves and mouth these words as a magical token, but they will turn sour if we do and the common good that ultimately sustains us will suffer.

The risks of this affirmation are far less damaging than going the eternal sinner route and getting caught between redemptions.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2 Samuel 11:26–12:13a

Year B - Pentecost +10 or Energy to Witness 10
August 2, 2015

The story of the rich and poor is one that has held true since the beginning. This is a story of power and privilege, a tale of prince and pauper. For the sake of living by a communal norm (hospitality) without inconvenience or participation, we break another communal norm (care for family) by stealing from someone else.

In our day this dynamic is most evident by corporations regarding profits and labor. For the sake of one constituency (shareholders) we diminish another constituency (community laborers).

When we have so much, where is the continuing drive for that one desire too far? Whatever the mechanism, an unsheathed sword or unregulated profit, that which allows our gain will become our stumbling stone. From within our own house or justification scheme will arise a force and rebellion against us.

Monday, July 27, 2015

John 6:23-35

Year B - Pentecost +10 or Energy to Witness 10
August 2, 2015

     From time to time we have a sense that our current center is missing in action—we are becalmed against our will. Having a need to be met and a lack of focus about how to proceed leaves us agitated (looking for relief) and depressed (unable to move). We try to search. We give up. We do both at the same time.
     Where will you look? As far as across a sea?
     When we are reunited we ask unimportant questions that are all translatable into "Feed me; fill my need."
     And we hear back, "Look beyond; set a larger context."
     Finally we are able to ask the question we've been yearning to ask, "What must we do to perform the works of G*D?
     Wow, what a question!
     Of course our questions precede our ability to hear a response and we presently confuse our past feeding with a future filling. We hear Jesus' response here in terms of him, not us.

     What we hear here in translation might have gone:
     "How do we move from dying of hunger to milk and honey resources?"
     "Trust in who your G*D Partner has set loose in creation."
     "No, silly, you."
     "We remember you feeding us and manna before that."
     "The bread of G*D is that which comes to give life and meaning to the world. Remember this: from Eve and Adam, you are the bread of life."
     "How can we remember this when our rituals separate us from G*D and turn us from Partners to dependents?"
     "Repeat after me: 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever is in community with me will never be thirsty.' Remember: Partner with Neighb*rs and G*D and all manner of things will be well. Now, go. Feed one another as I have fed you, not as I have fed you."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Psalm 89:20-37

Year B - Pentecost +8 or Energy to Witness 8
July 19, 2015

Where is David’s throne today?

Wherever love is shown (even if not steadfast, for we see where that got David’s descendants)?

Wherever trust is found true?

Wherever competing covenants make things better rather than worse by setting one absolutely, forever, unalterably against another?

Wherever we find our context to be that of a larger creation we die back into?

So, how do you respond to the question of where David’s throne is today? Yes, this is important to wrestle with for awhile and to engage others with you in considering this question. It is all too easy to pass over how we are positively and negatively passed over.

2 Samuel 7:1-14a

Year B - Pentecost +8 or Energy to Witness 8
July 19, 2015

We begin with “the Lord” taking care of David’s enemies. This also a continuation of G*D settling in to a people and now a place (a false Eden?).

The promise here is the lovely one of the Israelites being beyond disturbances. They can settle back free from external enemies (forgotten here are the internal ones of someone seeking power and basic greed setting person against person).

We end with that dreamed of promise  that G*D will, like a parent, always look out for us so we don’t have to.

If we were to make it all the way to the end of verse 14 we would find this ominous word that proves to be all too needed: “When you commit iniquity, I will punish you with violence from others now contained.”

When the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Dependency’s dark side is not safety and security, but punishment. This is another reason the image needed is partnership (with all its attendant frustrations) not parenting.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Year B - Pentecost +8 or Energy to Witness 8
July 19, 2015

The way people recognize Jesus, you might almost imagine that there was a Wanted poster for him posted at the local meeting place in every city gate. Then and now, here and there, it is difficult to imagine what a generic Messiah looks like. Probably more like a “terrorist” than a member of the inner circle of power. In our here and now we would be playing the profiling card of Muslim, even though such a stereotype is far less than helpful.

Whatever the mechanism, Jesus was recognized. As Jim Post has sung referring to post-recognition hagiography or iconography and a halo, “No one else wears a hat like that.”

Without even getting a prayer break found in the elided section, Jesus recognized a need for R&R only to find there is no respite if your celebrity status is high enough. Desiring a deserted place—he was recognized and compassion kicked back in. After working hard to get away (unsuccessfully) and working hard to get back Jesus is again recognized. No rest for the compassionate (another reason it is not a top five Family Feud response to a next incident).

So, how is it with you and your compassion fatigue? What have you unsuccessfully tried? Is there anything besides prayer that works for you (remember that missing section where a little prayer break gave Jesus wonder water-walking power?). If there is something other than prayer, is is just because you haven’t seen prayer in a large enough context?

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Ephesians 1:3-14

Year B - Pentecost +7 or Energy to Witness 7
July 12, 2015

After wading through all the perks of being claimed by G*D (regardless of the mechanism/religious tradition) there comes a kicker at the end. Remember that in the Greek that this is one long sentence with all manner of subordinate clauses.

In the end we are pledged to a future that is larger than the present. The down payment the spirit has made in our lives is to bring the delivery of a wider appreciation of those beyond us also destined to be our sisters and brothers that we have yet to acknowledge and affirm as “redeemed” as ourselves.

This must be read as poetry, not prose. It is not literally an unbridled confirmation that we are specially elected beyond anyone else. Providential energy that incorporates us does not stop with us but is oriented toward finally bringing all things created together. We are still pushing onward toward common-wealth through mutual mercy some now call Christ and some know through other designations.

The New Interpreter’s Bible helpfully concludes, “Ephesians sees redemption as the purpose that God has embedded in creation as a whole. Though Ephesians recognizes the human need for redemption from sin, its imagery suggests that God would have brought all things together in Christ even if Adam had not sinned.”

Blessings to you as you move beyond awe and praise into living well, basic discipleship.

Psalm 24

Year B - Pentecost +7 or Energy to Witness 7
July 12, 2015

It is good to see the Lectionary Committee has a sense of humor. John loses his head. It is not recorded how G*D murdered Uzzah so we can posit a beheading worthy of the denouement (literal untying of Indiana and Marion) of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And now we hear, “Lift up your heads!”

Clean hands and pure hearts are wonderful theories that don’t take into account the stages and states and experiences of living people. Yes, surely they will receive a blessing. Just as surely will the gate be open to all to receive their blessing in soiled hands and abused hearts.

A “King of Glory” without mercy is hardly a king to be glorified. This Psalm begins well with creation and then narrows all of creation down to our particulars. It is as if our particulars are now to define creation rather that creation continuing to set our context. Blessings on your hands and heart, no matter what they have been through.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

2 Samuel 6:1-19

Year B - Pentecost +7 or Energy to Witness 7
July 12, 2015

“Off with their heads!” are words uttered topologic novels, king to challenger, and G*D to people. We do this within friendships and families. We are willing to do away with much more quickly than we are to spend a moment to reflect on long-term consequences or even one alternative.

Red Queen to Alice, King Herod to Baptizer John, G*D to Uzzah, you to _______. The tradition lives on, “Do to others, simply do them in” and rationalize it later. It expands to military folks destroying a village to save it, to economic titans finding every last profit to be made no matter the human or environmental cost, education leaving more and more behind because a test is what is important, and examples go on.

No wonder that David was afraid that he would be on the other end of the ark or history and initially refused the gift. When it proved to be as profitable as it was dangerous, David finally placed his bet and retrieved it (as much to spite Obed-edom as to reap the bounty?).

From here everyone returns home. The breaking Friday-after-deadline is lost as everyone returns home for the weekend. So, violence continues mostly out-of-sight. Stand-by, folks can only avoid issues so long, stay at home so long, before consequences come due. Long or short, comeuppance arrives.

See if you can last at least as long as David without an "Ark O'Don't Touch". How long can you go without physical or some other form of violence for someone trespassing your Red Queen habit, King Herod pride, or G*D ultimate rule? An hour? Half-a-day? Day? Week? (Don't forget to include a dismissive glance or silence.)

Monday, July 06, 2015

Mark 6:14-29

Year B - Pentecost +7 or Energy to Witness 7
July 12, 2015

This may be the genesis of tales of Sleepy Hollow and a headless horseman? I believe this is an example of gallows humor. When there is nothing else to say—for the situation is sickeningly gruesome—laugh. Or, alternatively, whistle in the dark.

Additionally, we might image Herod as Lady McBeth and her motif, “Out, out, damned spot.” Everywhere Herod looks, there is John haunting his memory that he was more willing to grieve the death of a “righteous and holy man” die than to let a chink appear in his power. It would be helpful to read about “weeping executioners”  who who express concern for the oppressed, but will not leave their place in the hierarchy of oppression.

Such a sad tale on nearly every level. Sadder still is that we are still playing the same power games to get elected and stay there that Herod did. Position yourself to always be right, if not righteous (particularly if not trustworthy).

Remember how Herod can see a headless John around every corner. Remember how difficult it is for the disciples, male and female, to recognize Jesus even with a headful of Warner Sallman locks.

There is more than enough to be guilty about. May your guilt adjust your behavior and not just lead to a generalized sense of guilt.

There is plenty of room in which to become more aware of a pervasive goodness to creation. May what you know about mystery open you to progressively more wonderful possibilities.

Friday, July 03, 2015

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Year B - Pentecost +6 or Energy to Witness 6
July 5, 2015

Can you imagine the “thorn” of Paul. Many have done so. Can you now imagine the “thorn” of Jesus that kept him weak in Nazareth?

How do you think Jesus would speak about his experience in the face of “unbelief”. This might give a hint to those of us who keep getting caught in places of conflicting covenant to personal mission and community stability/traditions.

We all have a revelation that informs us and is untranslatable to anyone else. This sets up a tension between how we understand we are acting and how others see us. What is seen in us or heard from us is not univalent. And so we get caught between in a three-sided press of vision, internal-thorn, and external-insult. The pushes and pulls here are enough to anneal or break us.

May you continue to disclose your vision/mission in what you do and say even as thorns and insults attempt to block the way of healing. May you go forth to announce mercy beyond both any impending or present disaster and repentance of that which led to such. In this mercy we learn about “enough” available in place of any power that can only eventually lead to disaster.

Psalm 48

Year B - Pentecost +6 or Energy to Witness 6
July 5, 2015

Let’s play with three words/phrases.

Verse   3 — defense, refuge, (power)
Verse   9 — mercy, steadfast love (power)
Verse 14 — completed, forever and ever (power)

Living from these positions gives the kind of non-violent presence/force/power (satyagraha) needed to deal with realities of resistance. This is particularly important in places where we are too well known or known well enough to be dismissed.

It is time to check your memory of Pentecost and to do a quick check regarding your sense of these six words/phrases. If you have sufficient, rejoice. If you are still in the closet, wind and fire can still find you. Either way, awareness of your sense of defense, mercy, completion, refuge steadfast love, and forever will lead you a next step today or enhance your anticipation to be ready to act tomorrow. Either way, be a satyagraha to be reckoned with.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

Year B - Pentecost +6 or Energy to Witness 6
July 5, 2015

The first appeal to David is as a tribal member (bone and flesh) and practical effectiveness (you’ve been leading). In this paradigm we don’t just have “servant leaders” but “servant rulers”.

At Hebron it was not G*D and Samuel doing the anointing to shepherding a larger flock but it was the tribal leaders (presumably doing G*D’s work?) that finally disclosed their support of David—something they were not able to do for fear of Saul. In some way this parallels people finally, and safely, disclosing their support of same-sex marriages or disapproval of an out-dated flag—after a period of fear of religious and cultural literalists (today’s Sauls).

Do note that David did not get full pension credit for his work life. At the Hebron “G*D Outlet” the pension was based on full-years completed. As a result David’s seven years and six months only count for seven years. Even so has management nickel and dimed labor to this day.

Attend to what happens when a City of Peace is named for a person or people (City of David). It becomes a focus of division, ruination, and captivity. What seems so close (David) displaces perennial work (Peace). Even before David’s death, intrique sets in. It is not enough to cover life over with pious sayings such as, “the Lord, the God of hosts, was with David.” Such perspective unconsciously and/or unwittingly lead to—When David falls, this Lord is diminished.