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.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Year B - Pentecost +19 or Energy to Witness 19
October 4, 2015

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

“We do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)

Setting the whole subjugation argument aside, imagine the change in tone had the author rephrased this affirmation as: “We do see Jesus, our partner in flesh, radiating glory and honor in life and in death as he engaged and revealed the grace of G*D in the presence of and in connexion with everyone.”

In this way we might recast a creed of “pioneering wholeness through suffering”. Without discounting either the reality of wholeness or of suffering, we might more directly get to the end of the passage with a proclamation of praise that might sound a bit more like this section of The Saviors of God by Nikos Kazantzakis:

Profound and incommensurable is the worth of this flowing world: God clings to it and ascends, God feeds upon it and increases.
   My heart breaks open, my mind is flooded with light, and all at once this world's dread battlefield is revealed to me as an erotic arena.
   Two violent contrary winds, one masculine and the other feminine, met and clashed at a crossroads. For a moment they counterbalanced each other, thickened, and became visible.
   This crossroads is the Universe. This crossroads is my heart.
   This dance of the gigantic erotic collision is transmitted from the darkest particle of matter to the most spacious thought.
   The wife of my God is matter; they wrestle with each other, they laugh and weep, they cry out in the nuptial bed of flesh.
   They spawn and are dismembered. They fill sea, land, and air with species of plants, animals, men, and spirits. This primordial pair embraces, is dismembered, and multiplies in every living creature.
   All the concentrated agony of the Universe bursts out in every living thing. God is imperiled in the sweet ecstasy and bitterness of flesh.
   But he shakes himself free, he leaps out of brains and loins, then clings to new brains and new loins until the struggle for liberation again breaks out from the beginning.
   For the first time on this earth, from within our hearts and our minds, God gazes on his own struggle.
   Joy! Joy! I did not know that all this world is so much part of me, that we are all one army, that windflowers and stars struggle to right and left of me and do not know me; but I turn to them and hail them.
   The Universe is warm, beloved, familiar, and it smells like my own body. It is Love and War both, a raging restlessness, persistence and uncertainty.
   Uncertainty and terror. In a violent flash of lightning I discern on the highest peak of power the final, the most fearful pair embracing: Terror and Silence. And between them, a Flame.