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.