Monday, February 29, 2016

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Year C - Lent4 or Conviction4
March 6, 2016

If Lent is a time of dealing with temptation, we have here a temptation to separation. It shows up in American politics all too readily these days. It doesn’t make much difference if the venue of this kind of politics is in the family, the church, the community, or the nation.

If I have a grumble then someone ought to do something to feed my emptiness.

This separation theme begins early with the grumbling that Jesus is welcoming and eating with “them”. It seems that “them” is always a setting in which there is a missed opportunity for celebrating. As long as it is “them” we are seeing, there is never a connection necessary for gratitude for someone else, no loving of enemy, much less neighbor.

This temptation keeps the separation game going. As soon as there is one resolution, another division becomes evident. One lost son returning leads to another lost son. And around we go.

Where do you see it possible to break this cycle of separation in a time when any attempt to diffuse the situation becomes a capital offense? You will be exiled from the party and that means loss of financial resources and in a capitalist system that means death.

Whatever you might identify as a way of intervening in the boom-and-bust temptation of separation, is a vocation for you—should you choose to accept it. It is a mission impossible to stand and wait here as well as to jump in and remind folks of a larger common good that will benefit all, not just the rich and want-to-be rich. And what other kind of mission is there?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Psalm 63:1-13

Year C - Lent3 or Conviction3
February 23, 2016

If the mouth of liars will be shut, how do you evaluate the truth-telling of this psalm?

Is this an accurate accounting of the reality of the world? Not all that much.

Try rewriting this Psalm to find how difficult it is to have this satisfy our longing for meaning. There doesn’t seem to be be a way to paraphrase this without finding a different paradigm.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Isaiah 55:1-9

Year C - Lent3 or Conviction3
February 23, 2016

Seek G*D while G*D is present is a wonderful teaching moment. When is G*D not present? A monotheistic G*D is always on duty and never distracted by the antics of other Gods. So G*D’s presence is always present and available for engaging.

Here the impetus for attending to G*D is that of getting in line as G*D leads a bunny-hop dance. Just forsake your wicked ways then show you have repented by getting in line.

This attempt at getting us all to think greater thoughts by simply mimicking a larger thinker ahead of us has never been knows to work. Our first response is to deny a new larger thought for it is “inconceivable” to us. At best we can mimic an action and come to experience what it means. But asking folks to repent because they aren’t in line is like asking a gardner to cut down a plant before it has been given enough nutrients to have the energy to fruit.

(Oh, for you political junkies out there, we are already far down the line of selling our water to profit-making companies through the usual political shenanigans of denying it has ever crossed their mind and then passing a last-minute legislative act and signing it outside the usual news-cycle. No prior consideration and no subsequent feedback loop—a guarantee of near-future disaster just far enough away to claim plausible deniability of the consequences. If it hasn’t happened where you are yet, watch for this process coming to a legislature where you drink.)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Luke 13:1-9

Year C - Lent3 or Conviction3
February 23, 2016

Following the trail of temptations we have moved from the first three (Comfort, Power, Privilege) to a fourth last week (Fear the doing of public good). This week we have a temptation to Miscategorize and thus control memes and judgment.

Do you think that those who were killed for political purposes or as part of natural law such as gravity were less able to resist temptation and were thus caught out? Isn’t it easier to see things in terms of sin rather than temptation. It makes it so much easier to make snap judgments.

Regarding the fig tree, we have the wrong glasses on if we are so caught up with profit that we lose a sense of timing. Isn’t it easier to be tempted to pare things down to one one principle (profit) rather than see the complex pattern of life that connects water and nutrients with sun and time to produce seed to propagate the plant (fruit’s use by us is a byproduct, not its primary function). This is the same temptation we have to monoculture produce and lose track of the heritage seeds that had learned to live with “pests”.

It is worth a week’s work to reflect on judgments and to imagine other ways of responding than the lowest common denominator of cultural norms. This has the possibility of opening our eyes again to a time before the stories of Jesus temptations—a time of seeing belovedness even before it is revealed in action.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Year C - Lent2 or Conviction2
February 21, 2016

Where do you see your “citizenship”. Where we locate ourselves shapes what we will be persistent in. The values of the “nation” to which we belong shape our expectations and engagement with difficult matters.

Therefore, sisters and brothers, clarify your values and those with whom you are working. This clarity will help you stand firm and evaluate when standing firm is actually a slipping backward in your commitment for life does change and standing firm is a terrible decision when movement is needed to keep abreast of applying values in an evolving setting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Psalm 27

Year C - Lent2 or Conviction2
February 21, 2016

Listen to verse 2 by Norman Fischer in his recent book, Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms
When the narrow ones gather their strength to devour me
   It is they who stumble and fall

Contrast this with other translations that run: “When evildoers come at me trying to devour my flesh—it’s they, my foes and my enemies, who stumble and fall!”

To do evil, the focus needs to always narrow to a bright line that cannot be crossed. Now, what I do is good and what you do is reprehensible.  Now, “evildoers” can claim all they do is done to defeat EVIL. No one appears more upright than evildoers who defend one narrow value over all others.

The imagery of “narrowness” inexorably leads to toppling over from a lack of a firm foundation, a wide base. Here the “Narrow Way” is not a helpful way for narrow is the way of Herod; wide is the way of Jesus. Remember this when you hear Matthew make a claim that narrow is the way that leads to life or Luke speaks of a narrow gate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Year C - Lent2 or Conviction2
February 21, 2016

“Do not be afraid, your integrity is your shield; your reward will be an assurance of meaning.”

We are social being and so, of course, we get scared when we are left alone with our source of meaning. We do so like affirmation from our peers or other systems that will support us. We do get skittery when a deep darkness descends upon us and we are alone in what we experience as a grave—ours.

As per usual, it is only after the sun goes down that we are able to see a flaming torch illuminating an extension of our current understanding (moving from an individual child to a whole nation of people). Of course we need to move even further in another dark age (death) to move to simply people beyond tribe/nation/state.

Remember your shield and move ahead.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Luke 13:31-35

Year C - Lent2 or Conviction2
February 21, 2016

At the very time Jesus was wandering the countryside with teachings such as, “Those now first will be last and those now last will be first”, some (2, 14, 42, more?) Pharisees warned him off.

Whether they were protecting one of their own, a Jew by birth, training, and in death, or trying to rid themselves of a difficulty regarding their own religious practice, the response would have been the same. Taking information at its most basic level, Jesus recruited them to his own cause or did a spiritual jujitsu on them to have them reveal their resistance.

Jesus’ word to himself is that he will continue his healing even as he understands it will have consequences—it will mean his death.

His word to the others is that he will lie low enough to enter Jerusalem to these words, “Beloved is the one who comes in the name of G*D.”

Yes, we have just equated blessing with belovedness. To be a beloved before, during, and after such a temptation to cut-and-run is to be a blessing to all those encountered between the warning/tempting and a next opportune time to meet when the warning/tempting will be reversed and the Pharisees will have to decide about their closeness to Jesus in Jerusalem rather than out in the wilderness.

Do you read this as a temptation story following last week’s reading? Is it a call to double down on tasks and responsibility? Are we seeing a foreshadowing of a later encounter not recorded by Luke? Is this Luke’s response to a threat from Herod that is different from Matthew’s (a standing ground instead of high-tailing it to Egypt) and is it only age that makes the difference? Your decision will make a difference in how your read this in public. Decide ahead of time so you don’t get caught starting down one path only to start stuttering as a second and third option surface.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Romans 10:8b-13

Year C - Lent1 or Conviction1
February 14, 2016

No, this passage is not about dogma, evangelistic tracts, or any other mechanism that will divide what we trust in the depths of our bones and how we live that out day-by-day.

The language of “belief”, “confess”, and “salvation” are headtrips that have us avoid the hard work of walking our talk.

No matter what religion or culture is encountered, there is the capacity and capability of growing toward health.

Lent is an opportunity to look beyond and behind your own experiences to those of others in order to understand each more fully and connect more deeply. Blessings on an intersecting Lent.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:20 - 6:10

Year C - Ash Wednesday or Self-Recognition Day
February 10, 2016

If we are going to posit that G*D is making an appeal to others through us, it is incumbent to ask how appealing we are.

There is some junk stuff here about sin. Simply delete those phrases/sentences. This will help focus on grace as grace rather than grace being bounded by sin. If we don’t attend to this work, our work will be vain and in vain.

It will be helpful to come to grips with questions about an “acceptable time”. At a minimum there will have to be wrestling with acceptable space and energy, as well. These matters find their specifics in Paul’s life and in yours. Do find examples of Paul’s examples in your own life. If you don’t have an experience that can translate into Paul’s categories, don’t use that part of this passage until it comes to consciousness or your reading will ring hollow.

Rejoice that you are alive, can ring true, and clear obstacles between sisters and brothers.

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Year C - Lent1 or Conviction1
February 14, 2016

You who live in the shelter of meaning,
   who abide in name of Beloved,
will say, “My refuge and my trustworthy partners
   are G*D and Neighb*r.”

Because you have made this commitment
   your place of engagement with everything else,
you will be able to hold steady 
   in the face of confusion.
These relationships will guard your journey
   through every stage of life.
You will be lifted through every sorrow
   and lift in return.
You will walk trustingly amid danger and
   honor each adversity as a teacher.
Your basic partnership will grow and grow,
   inviting new friends, even current enemies.
When pain comes visiting, your friends will gather round
   and send it on its way one more time.
In this way life will be deep, whether long or short;
   health will expand throughout.

- - - 

Hear echoes of this Psalm in Pete Seeger’s song, Old Devil Time:
     Pete Seeger

Psalm 51:1-17

Year C - Ash Wednesday or Self-Recognition Day
February 10, 2016

Some phrases from Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms by Norman Fischer can help us see the interior work suggested by this Psalm. These will help keep a healthy and partnered relationship between G*D and yourself, not a one-up/one-down hierarchy of roles.

     “... of my twistedness I’m painfully aware
     My weakness is before my eyes all day long”

     “Let the light of your eye in mine
     Clarify my tangles and snarls
     So they do not pull nor strangle
     And my heart becomes clear
     And my spirit new”

Pairing weakness and clarity is a helpful way to listen in to your internal conversation. 

     What keeps you weak? What happens as clarity begins? 

     What assists your clarity? What happens when weakness returns?

Such inquiries as these reveal where our treasure is. With weakness our treasure is some deus ex machina rescue. With clarity our treasure is humility.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Year C - Lent1 or Conviction1
February 14, 2016

When you destroy those alien to you in their land and settle it for yourself, there is a ritual asked that bears within itself a most interesting insight.

First, bring the first fruits (which probably won’t be the best fruit to come, but is to be representative of the rest of the harvest) to the Priest/Levite in the place designated as G*D’s locus (again, all too easy to read literally as uniquely G*D’s place and setting up a false distinction between sacred and profane).

Second, rehearse your received tradition of how you left slavery to enslave the land and lives of others.

Third, a three-fold celebration is to go on between yourself, the Levite/Priest, and those now alien in their own land.

What is this business of “the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty G*D has give you and your house”?

How might these aliens celebrate? Will they imagine that as your boat rises, so will theirs? This is an age-old lie used to keep labor under control. Will they have a bit of time to themselves when you are off celebrating that little relief is worth celebrating? Will they be truly joyful that you have gotten yours and they are at least still alive?

Where is the temptation in this passage? Is it removed?

Joel 2:1-1, 12-17

Year C - Ash Wednesday or Self-Recognition Day
February 10, 2016

Isn’t it amazing how we are so willing to live out of fear. Somehow a creative spirit we are partnered with and who travels with us beyond an innocence of Eden is turned into an engine of despair and terror. What we project onto G*D says much more about our disappointment in losing privilege than it does with a partnering G*D.

When G*D comes near, darkness, not light, is the predominant image? Really?

A G*D large enough to create and share with us is now imaged as a counter of beans and one who requires groveling before welcoming? Really?

This G*D has to be bribed with a threat that G*D will be mocked if we don’t get to set the terms of renewal of relationship? Really?

For such as these, we need to repent what we have done to our relationship. Lies such as these don’t bridge our felt gap. Really!

Monday, February 08, 2016

Luke 4:1-13

Year C - Lent1 or Conviction1
February 14, 2016

No good deed goes unpunished. No blessing goes without challenge.

Are you a “Beloved”? Well, here is a test for you: prove it!

 - - -

You’re right, you can’t prove it, only live it.

But, my, don’t we try anyway!

So don’t go too deeply into this passage by parsing out temptations for the whole story is over in the first verse: Full of Spirit is to be led by that same Spirit into and in Wilderness.

No matter what your temptations have been, are, or will be, such tests are always over before they begin. Then, when taking this for granted, we find ourselves at a right and ripe time and place to presume our Belovedness will bring us prosperity or keep us safe from temptation—Oops.

Fortunately failing a temptation to avoid belovedness is not the end of being a beloved (read the Velveteen Rabbit again as you begin a Lent that will leave you threadbare). Here’s a Valentine tradition for you—read the VR every year to yourself or with another or others (there is no upper limit).

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Year C - Ash Wednesday or Self-Recognition Day
February 10, 2016

The error of practicing piety publicly is a lesson to both piety practitioners and mercy providers. Watch your motivations for they are tricky rascals that mask the heart from the heart.

Of course being overly careful of right action keeps one from it just as much as slipping into idolatry from a piety end or hubris from an action decision. In the end these are so similar as to be nearly indistinguishable in ordinary life.

There is no storing up of treasure or giving away of same that will measure our life. Even to think of heart and treasure in the same breath is tantamount to heading in a crooked direction that will eventually build a crooked little house.

In these kinds of no-win situations we might as well beware of being wary about either our engagement with G*D or Neighb*r. Peek behind the scene by lifting the veil on the elided portion of today’s reading. Forgiveness of others is the antidote to our own hypocrisy and horn-tooting. Since we are going to go astray with both our acts of piety and acts of mercy, we might as well go to the big treasure and store up forgiveness by giving it away.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Year C - Epiphany5/Transfiguration Sunday or Guiding Gift4/Mountain Top to Valley
February 7, 2016

Ya got boldness? What then is your hope?

Got hope? What then is your boldness?

Whether folks are scared of you or have made you invisible to them, you still have agency, freedom, and intentionality to persist in your own growth and gifts.

Finally it is mercy that energizes hope and boldness. A mercy we hope for. A mercy we won’t let go of.

Mercy, even more than truth, guides us into partnership with consciousness and conscience. Give thanks for any and every act of mercy that has come your way. Give thanks for any and every choice you have made to extend mercy beyond yourself. Do you want to define G*D? Ya, ya, you can’t, but, if you could, mercy would come as close as anything can.

Beloved folks are merciful folks for they see belovedness where’er they gaze. May you be boldly hopeful, this and every day, as you receive and extend mercy.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Psalm 99

Year C - Epiphany5/Transfiguration Sunday or Guiding Gift4/Mountain Top to Valley
February 7, 2016

Greatness is measured by the ability to make others quake in their boots?

So have we measured history from one war to the next, each temblor larger than the last.

Justice is something to execute?

Forgiveness is something to follow with vengeance for wrongdoing?

So have we measured religion from one reformer to the next schismatic.

When the pillar of cloud moves on, what is left but decrees and statutes?

When a mountain is deemed holy, how can anything in its view be good in its place?

When a Psalm is so extravagant in praise, how do we return to everyday life?

So have we littered our lives with a revelation here and “should” there.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Exodus 34:29-35

Year C - Epiphany5/Transfiguration Sunday or Guiding Gift4/Mountain Top to Valley
February 7, 2016

O to be a conduit of relationship between G*D and Others. Imagine your face-to-face with G*D is no different than your face-to-face with all you meet. Is that enough of a proposition to chew on for now and probably tomorrow?

     Going to see G*D, let your face shine.
     Going to see Family and Friends, let your face shine.
     Going to meet an Enemy, let your face shine.
     Going to meet Yourself, let your face shine.

If you should see a shiny face, don’t presume a first order of business is to powder it (unless you are using a clown-sized powder puff). Such a face-full-of-shine might rather open our own.

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)

Year C - Epiphany 5/Transfiguration Sunday or Guiding Gift 4/Mountain Top to Valley
February 7, 2016

About 8 days after engaging others with comments such as, “There is no privilege guaranteed to people who strive after or gain the whole world for themselves. Won’t they simply perish or lose their lives?”, Jesus, Peter, John, and James go up a mountain to pray.

It is recorded that an inner light increased during the praying. This light was bright enough to bring the past (Moses and Elijah) into clear view. This light was bright enough to stop Peter mid-thought as it illumined both a dark cloud and a way forward—the belovedness of Jesus and all.

Prayer enlightens.

The second-half of the passage moves from mountain top to valley. Other tellings of this scene end with a reference to prayer as a source for healing.

Prayer heals.

Those who are in a mode of prayer that mixes praise, confession, and request may need to pause for a time of waiting or engage in a time of action. Prayer is tricky here. What aspect of G*D are you opening yourself to or engaging as a partner? This will affect what is meant by prayer and how it is expressed.

A Prayer of Light wraps up Epiphany and raises for us a question about our participating in a gift of prayer that is our equivalent of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Returning to a broken world in need of healing reminds us to be ready for Wednesday and, “From dust you have come; to dust you shall return; be beloved dust throughout your moment of life.” Will the dark cloud on your forehead announce a universal belovedness?