Thursday, January 28, 2016

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Year C - Epiphany 4 or Guiding Gift 4
January 31, 2016

It is not “nothings” that upset others. It is those who claim “All means All!” when all about we slip and slide away from seeing beloved family members everywhere and continually working toward a next plateau of common good.

It is not “nothings” who exhibit patient kindness or refuse rudeness. It is not “nothings” who insist their way is the highway or resent those who “got their own”. It is not “nothings” who rejoice in truth and simply persist.

It takes a great deal of “I am somebody”-ness to sense there is more than our current measuring rods of success. These understand an unfolding of known-ness in their life and the lives of others. These know cycle of child to adult and value each turning of the infinite facets of this gem that sparkles in the sunshine and in the darkest of darkness.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Psalm 71:1-6

Year C - Epiphany 4 or Guiding Gift 4
January 31, 2016

With you, G*D, I claim sanctuary; 
     help me not allow shame to run my life.
With your presence dance me to the moon; 
     let’s whisper sweetness in each other’s ears until we are strong.
Our partnership grounds our common work;
     in turn we are a refuge for many.
Together we loose the grip of the greedy, and
     open the manacles of the mean.
This work brings further hope and trust
     out of tenuous beginnings and fragile ends.
From womb to tomb we push each other onward;
     in such is praise revealed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Year C - Epiphany 4 or Guiding Gift 4
January 31, 2016

Jeremiah is a good reminder of the ease with which we can escape the most meaningful of expenditures of time and energy. Excuse: “I’m but a wee lad.”

G*D, here, is a good reminder of an important quality in a partner—accountability: “Don’t try to wriggle away, I’ve got your back.”

A second important partner quality is that of resourcing one another. In this instance Jeremiah has opportunity and G*D has resources to meet them. In other instances, these roles change. In real time, this is simply a background story for our own easy excuses and partnership responsibilities.

Blessings where’er ye go. You go not alone.

Choose your prophets carefully. Some are false.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Luke 4:21-30

Year C - Epiphany 4 or Guiding Gift 4
January 31, 2016

Its not the fall that kills, but the stopping too quickly. (Well, from a high enough height it is the fall.)

References to the prophets is not what gets one in trouble, but the living their insight or calling others to a prophetic standard.

So it was in Jesus’ day. So it is in our day.

An appropriate song for the day is: Which Side Are You On?

May you continue clarifying the choices to be made without an expectation that you will walk through the midst of the guaranteed responses from those affronted at having their privilege poked or otherwise revealed.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Year C - Epiphany 3 or Guiding Gift 3
January 24, 2016

We periodically get confused about how to measure a presence of spirit. This confusion is satan work that we accede to all too easily.

Good news to the poor is a primary measure. That such good news is today’s news is its corollary.

This is confirmed when our outside words and inside meditations are aligned. At this point we not only affirm but experience as healing, “When one suffers, all suffer; when one rejoices, all are honored.”

Of course it is also very easy for us to claim all are equal but lay the groundwork for a hierarchy of roles that make everyone the poorer, no matter how we “honor” those lacking agreed-upon privilege.

It is critical to remember that either all are apostles or none are. Likewise with other categories of simply being a Partner of G*D and Neighb*r. There are varieties of apostles, prophets, teachers, miraclers, healers, assisters, leaders, and praisers. From time to time, we spend time as each of these. They are not intrinsically separate states of being, simply distinguishable. Rejoice when you appear apostolic. Express your joy when you act prophetically, Be satisfied with those moments when you teach. Enjoy the surprise of a miracle. Etc. Likewise Rejoice when others appear apostolic, Etc.

Meditate on this and then shed your understanding abroad.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Psalm 19

Year C - Epiphany 3 or Guiding Gift 3
January 24, 2016

Following the numerological significance of sevens, we jump in. After invoking the cosmos as a constant we come to verse 7.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; 
the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple.

Your pattern is perfection
It quiets the soul that knows it
And its eloquent expression
Makes everything clear
So that even the simple are wise
(Opening to You: Zen-Inspired translations of the Psalms, Norman Fischer)

Happy the soul who listens to the Lord
speaking to it deep within,
gathering from his lips
the Word of life and joy!
{The Imitation of Christ [3:1],  Thomas à Kempis)

the presence of G*D
binds health to bone
refreshing soul-hope
this freedom is trust-worthy
holding together serpents and doves
(Wesley White)

After placing a bet on some understood ordinance as a measuring rod to keep us safe from overt and covert error we are finally left with verse 14 as the riskiest and most joyful standing spot, giving life a whirl regardless of cost.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, 
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

May these words of my mouth
And these meditations of my heart
Be acceptable to you
My rock, my release
(Opening to You: Zen-Inspired translations of the Psalms, Norman Fischer)

While with my heart and tongue
I spread thy praise abroad,
Accept the worship and the song,
My Savior and my God.
(Isaac Watts)

mouth words and heart thoughts
atune life after life
to creation and all our kin
(Wesley White)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

Year C - Epiphany 3 or Guiding Gift 3
January 24, 2016

There are hooks aplenty here for the institution of institutional authority.

This authority brings weeping to many for it continually claims itself as the center of unity and any standing outside it are as good as exiled and therefore lost.

The antidote available is not more hearing, more interpretation, more praying, more bowing. An available antidote to unified literalism is shared joy. Write this above the doorposts of your life:

Eat! Drink! Be Merry!1
Share these with those hungry, thirsty, hopeless
for this is a wholesome day wherein joy is strength.
1Ecclesiastes 5:18

Monday, January 18, 2016

Luke 4:14-21

Year C - Epiphany 3 or Guiding Gift 3
January 24, 2016

In three big jumps we move from baptismal belovedness to mother-murmured miracle to transformative teaching.

“Father” blessing plus “Mother” instruction begets vocational insight and appropriation of the past for the sake of the future.

In the midst of what you consider “Home”, may you find your jumping off place for the sake of the rest of your life.

Join me in an affirmation narrow enough to contain your life and wide enough to be worth investing in.

spirit is with me
passing an anointing of my ancestors to me
to encourage my relatives and descendants
to claim release, recovery, and resurrection
this and every year

Repeating this until my head is clean and my heart filled, I return this greeting to the universe. I sit zazen. Gazing beyond today—I enter today.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Isaiah 62:1-5

Year C - Epiphany 2 or Guiding Gift 2
January 17, 2016

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.”

How wonderful this is for Zion/Jerusalem! Now, who are the outcasts today in your setting? In a global setting? For them we also need to raise an unceasing voice. Really? ISIS the forsaken can be a delight? A forsaken pedophile can be rejoiced over? Stupid violence (or any other kind) can shift from desecration to redeemed? (Not redemptive violence, but violence redeemed.)

Just how far can this passage be pushed before the marriage metaphor breaks through our resistance to it or breaks entirely?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

John 2:1-11

Year C - Epiphany 2 or Guiding Gift 2
January 17, 2016

Here, in Cana of Galilee of all places, “the heavens opened and the angels of G*D ascended and descended”. In the midst of a weary, empty world Jesus acts before his time and resurrects water into wine.

This raises questions of what we might do before our time has arrived in all completeness. Given our own resurrection/reincarnation, what will we resurrect or incarnate before we have arrived at either for our self?

It is not necessary to be enlightened before we can give light. What we are not yet can still encourage others to claim their place in a journey toward greater wholeness. So, around us is an absence of joy. So, what will we do to bring joy into play?

May you give thanks for those who have enjoyed you. May you stimulate the joy of others.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Psalm 29

Year C - Epiphany 1 or Beloved
January 10, 2016

What voice of G*D is able to speak through star-shine?

The same voice that cries out, “Come Forth!” and “Beloved!” and any number of other words and phrases worthy of an “!”.

For now compare this NRSV translation of verses 10 and 11:
     The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
          the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
     May the LORD give strength to his people!
          May the LORD bless his people with peace!

with this version from Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms by Norman Fischer:
     You sat unmoving in the flood time
     Your sitting is sovereign and constant
     And you reflect this strength in our inmost hearts
     So that we may be blessed with peace

The NRSV holds a traditional Christian vision of a static G*D made in a king’s image. The key action is that of giving or endowing humanity with power but it is G*D, not the people, who brings peace. If G*D doesn’t give this strength, there is nothing left for us regarding peace.

Fischer’s narrative is not a power over, but a loosing of a power within. Here is a constant stillness able to connect all the busy, moving parts vying for attention and recognition. This stillness becomes a strength within that attracts a desired peace. This internal approach to suffering, brings a connectedness with it that includes being partners in peace, regardless of the suffering.

You may want to sit with these two portrayals of G*D directing or reflecting. Which is most likely to help us hear, “Beloved!”, and begin acting like it?

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Year C - Epiphany or Guiding Gift
January 6, 2016

I have just been introduced to a new Psalm resource: Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms by Norman Fischer.

Thought you might like to hear the selected verses in this version. If intrigued, get the book.

     Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

     Let it embrace uprightness
     So that people can see uprightness before them
     And the downtrodden can be raised up in justice

     Let the mountains hold peace fast for people
     Let the hills reverberate with the movements of justice
     Give power eyes to see the needy
     So that it can serve them and their children
     Crushing what holds them down

     And all will respect you as long as the sun will shine
     As long as the moon will glow in the night sky
     For all the generations to come

          - - -

     The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring gifts
     The kings of Sheba and Seba will likewise arrive with offerings
     Even all the kings will bow before you
     And all the nations will recognize you

     For you respond to the needy when they cry out
     To the sufferer when there is no hope
     You care for the poor and the broken
     You soothe their souls
     Plucking out the barbs of crookedness and violence
     Their lifeblood is precious to you

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Isaiah 43:1-7

Year C - Epiphany 1 or Beloved
January 10, 2016

There is no dark night of the soul for those whom G*D calls by name. Ha!

This proposition is called into question with a very simple understanding that each part of creation is named and that name is “Good”. When it comes to verse 4 and G*D is willing to barter one people for another, we know something has gone awry. “Precious” here is very Gollum-like—in that G*D’s precious ones extend G*D’s life by generations.

As we get away from the redemptive violence found here and elsewhere in the scriptures, we find G*D fading toward the Death of G*D foretold by theologians of yore. It seems a redemptive process by whatever name is an extension of privilege and power. In this, a redemptive act turns out to be for the benefit of the redeemer, not the redeemed. Eventually this discount can no longer be disbelieved and a diminishment follows.

Still, I am flattered when called by name. And you?

Would I were equally pleased when others are called by their name. And you?

Isaiah 60:1-9

Year C - Epiphany or Guiding Gift
January 6, 2016

Lift up your eyes. How else are you going to hitch your life to a star?

Now that you are at least in a position to be hitched—Arise, Shine! [Be careful here, the “S” is but one row below a “W” and it is hard to shine while whining.]

To best see your star it will be important to not let false distinctions get in your way. References to Midian and Ephah, sons of a later wife of Abraham, and Kedar and Nebaioth, sons of Abraham’s son Ishmael, are ways of distancing oneself from lesser relatives. Such self-privilege is like a cataract fuzzing-up your star-sight.

Here is a reminder of how interconnected we are.

Can you turn your bizarre family into friends and loved ones? If so you’re hitched to a rising star.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Year C - Epiphany 1 or Beloved
January 10, 2016

When Preaching magazine was launched in 1985, their list of contributing editors gave them a sense of who would be listed among the most influential preachers in America. That original group included Stuart Briscoe, Maxie Dunnam, Jim Henry, David Allan Hubbard, John Huffman, D.E. King, James Earl Massey, Calvin Miller, Lloyd John Ogilvie, Stephen F. Olford, Haddon Robinson, J. Alfred Smith, John Wesley White and William Willimon, along with several more.

Twenty-five years later, in 2010, they again named their top preachers of the previous 25 years: Billy Graham, Charles Swindoll, Rick Warren, Gardner C. Taylor, John MacArthur, Adrian Rogers, Haddon Robinson, Andy Stanley, John R.W. Stott, W.A. Criswell, John Piper, Charles Stanley, Stephen F. Olford, William A. Jones, Bill Hybels, Fred Craddock, Mark Driscoll, Jack Hayford, William Willimon, E.K. Bailey, D. James Kennedy, Barbara Brown Taylor, Warren Wiersbe, Lloyd John Ogilvie, Tim Keller. Also mentioned were: Jerry Falwell, S.M. Lockridge, John Maxwell, Bruce Wilkinson, Lee Strobel, W. F. Kumuyi, Bro. Gbile Akanni, Pastor E. A. Adeboye, T.D. Jakes, Stuart Briscoe, Vance Havner, Ravi Zacharias, John Arnott, Erwin Lutzer.

Of course a different resource than Preaching would come up with some different names. Anyone you would nominate from the last 5 years?

Around each of these there was a group of people filled with expectation who wondered if they might be the answer to their questions of meaning. Surely if only everyone listened to “this” preacher all would be set right in the world!

Into a scene of a grand preach-off to identify and solidify around The Preacher comes a reversal to a silver-tongued Magi who not only gets the most most gold but absolute power to set the theological agenda for the world. It is not gold, frankincense, or myrrh that is highlighted now, but water, simple, everyday water.

After everyone has been baptized with plain old H2O, Jesus is also baptized. Note that where the others began to sense they were now on some right side, Jesus prays to hear deeper than victory or success. A prayer of listening brings, “Beloved!” A prayer of listening evokes a Spirit connecting Body, Mind, and Relationships.

This prayer of listening trades in mercy and joy, not eternally burning chaff. (Oh, there are moments recorded, but the overwhelming work is that of building a storehouse of compassion from which to take an unending supply to apply to the wounds of the day.)

Pray beyond asking, all the way to listening for Belovedness being loosed again in the land.

Matthew 2:1-12

Year C - Epiphany or Guiding Gift
January 6, 2016

Eden is probably far from the intent of this passage and yet there enough overtones to bring it back to mind.

The new Eden is Rome. What Rome calls into being is deemed right and good. Unfortunately light is not something Rome can generate, only extinguish through its power of death. Rome and every attempt at Empire is a greater disappointment than any Adam or Eve. A light rising from East of this New Eden comes shining to reveal the ultimate smallness of Herod and his backers. And so fear is revealed in the seeming solidity of power. No matter what the apparent wattage of a star, a candle, or a spotlight, it reveals the inconceivable—the little, the inconsequential, a hick town or an utterly dependent baby is at the center of a return to a creation-old partnership based on all differences reduced to joy, not competition (stand by for Ephesians and every “Gentile” group being sharers in the same promise).

With the Magi coming to pay homage to that which supersedes Rome, Eden is reestablished in the midst of an illusory New Eden. With the Magi comes the enacting of the Magnificat. With the Magi comes a calling out of the nakedness of the king, the emperor.

And so the New Eden responds in the old way of violence, whether state slaughtered children or an atonement theology slaughtered child.

The Magi help the mask of the New Eden to slip and slide away and be revealed for what it is, a great pretender.