Monday, March 28, 2016

John 20:19-31

Year C - Easter2 or Assured2
April 3, 2016

This chapter began with a similar reference to “the first day of the week”. We have moved from the early morning crying of Mary to the evening doubting of Thomas (passing on the way da guys who came, saw artifacts, and went away believing without any questions).

This gives Peter and whichever of the other disciples was known as one Jesus loved (because no one else could or would?) a second chance at not being typical males with their boxes of categories that never touch one another. Of course they blew it. They knew what they knew and were sure as sure about it regardless if they were anywhere near correct or not.

“I/We’ve seen the LORD” is not an easy affirmation to make or witness to share. Depending on which Gospel story being referenced, folks don’t exactly know what they’ve seen when they’ve seen something and, if they finally figure something out, aren’t believed.

Which is to say, the offering of opportunities that might open self and others to experience for themselves is a precious gift to offer. Eventually this gift will come back to haunt as they can now return the favor to you to grow beyond your current understanding. Isn’t that a wonderful sort of karma to participate in—mutual encouragement!

Happy are those who see a larger trust-venue through their own experience without discounting the experience of others. In many ways this actually starts the other way around: First, no discounting of others; Second, no discounting of self. This is a helpful corollary to “love your neighbor as you love yourself”.

Keep truck’n Peter, Thomas and others caught in knowledge-based experience, you may yet follow the trail blazed by cry’n Mary M. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

John 20:1-18

Year C - Easter or Assured
March 27, 2016

Continuing the theme of loving partners and Judas as a beloved disciple, isn’t it some form of poetic justice that the greatest doubter, Judas, finally trusted the process Jesus had followed in sharing a better tomorrow in the context of not-so-hot today?

Make of Mary what you will, a physical experiencer of some resurrection, or of a beloved disciple, an experiencer of artifacts of some resurrection, what have you experienced and announced?

When it comes to our participation in the movement from the past to the present to place a claim of not simply repeating what has been and in the movement of the future into the present to plant a seed of a new beginning not fated to remain as it is, a key element is our sense of assurance that a greater inclusion and expansion is currently available to ourself and all. So great is this assurance that it resurrects us into completer and forerunner at one and the same time. Journey well and tell that story.

John 18:1-19:42

Year C - Good Friday or Annihilation Friday
March 25, 2016

The chief priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and teaching. Here is a better reason for Jesus’ death than any bloody atonement theory. Who Jesus associated with and what Jesus said, and did on earth are far simpler explanations for his death than a “strict father in heaven”.

Anyone you’ve associated with or anything you’ve said or done that would bring a calculated dismissal of you—whether shaming, shunning, imprisonment, or death?

Whatever your response, the question becomes sharper regarding the questions you receive. Can you call a false question false and live with the consequences? In today’s political climate we don’t seem to be able to address either subtle or over-the-top lies.

Whatever your response, the question becomes sharper regarding the responses you make when challenged. Can you hold out when equivalent cries of “Crucify” come or will you just wash your hands (even if you have to change stories to do it)?

Whatever your response, the question becomes sharper regarding your catalytic action of binding parther to partner. Looking back on a life, is there an equivalent experience of binding people into a new family?

- - - - - - -

Speaking of a disciple beloved by Jesus, imagine that it is Judas that is still at the cross, to see Jesus die (all the others have run?). What strange business if Judas is the disciple Jesus has had the most love for (being the neediest of it) and is now bound to Mary. Since John doesn’t tell of Judas’ demise can you think that it finally sank in to the disciples that Jesus last “command” was to love one another and that included Judas who was forgiven even Jesus’ death and remained beloved to the end?

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Year C - Maundy Thursday or Courage Thursday
March 24, 2016

Jesus has already given four “love” commandments (presuming that love can be commanded).
     Love G*D with all ya got,
     Love your Neighb*r as you
     Love your Self, and
     Love your Enemy (meaning they are no longer your enemy though you may be their enemy)

In some sense this is a sequence that moves from easier to harder and it may be important to move through the list in the opposite direction.

Here we come to the most difficult of the love commands: Love each other.

This is the way others will know we are partners with Jesus’ partners as well as with Jesus. It is not that this is unique to Jesus, but that this is the visible evidence of a community of partners. The other four commands tend toward individual behaviors.

This becomes clearer as the evening and next day come around. Folks run. Solidarity crumbles. Creation quakes.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Philippians 2:5-13

Year C - Lent6 or Conviction6
March 20, 2016

False Dawn Sunday and/or Premature Fear Sunday

We went to see a Stage to Screen performance of the British National Theatre production of the ancient morality play, Everyman this past Sunday. It is death, ready or not, who reveals who we are and gives opportunity for us to prepare a reckoning for our life.

I’m not sure about the cause and effect approach here. At any moment any of us might be obedient even to death, remember intentional and unintentional martyrs. If that is all it takes to have a name above all names, some imagined heaven might be a Latino community with lots of Jesus’ running around.

We might ask about how humble it is to intentionally mock a war-horse parade by getting the smallest donkey to ride.

If we were to engage this passage with our own tongue, we might not just proclaim Jesus as a king or entrust our lives to G*D. We might go so far as to honor each one we meet by honoring G*D within them. How would you phrase a “Christian” Namaste? We tend to project a blessing toward others (keeping control) rather than receive one from simply another’s presence (unmerited grace).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 and/or Psalm 31:9-16

Year C - Lent6 or Conviction6
March 20, 2016

False Dawn Sunday

Premature Fear Sunday

In thanks and in lament there is a tendency to reduce both to a simplistic response of, “G*D”. G*D does it all or needs to be talked into doing a particular something. Either way we are caught in an eternity of Palm Sunday expectation of glory upon glory or a Passion Sunday acknowledgment that worse can only be followed by still worse.

Well, Hooray when events go smoothly and Boo when there are difficulties too large for our grasp. Both these can find their appropriate place when the focus is on their last line: “faithful love”. Here we return to the mystery of life at all and life in its particular expression that includes us. Love larger than praise; Love larger than grief. Who can explain it, who can tell us why? Reason is foolish here. Wisdom knows to stay out of the way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Isaiah 59:4-9a

Year C - Lent6 or Conviction6
March 20, 2016

False Dawn Sunday and/or Premature Fear Sunday

Have you kept learning through all your time? If so you have a larger library of experience and compassion on which to draw to awaken the weary to travel further. We are wearied when we stop growing and settle for entertainment instead of education. We are enlivened when we don’t hide from a life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” where insult and spittle are expected responses to a well-lived life.

We can be brave when claiming a deus ex machina will come to save. We can be braver still when we know that to not be the case but to live unashamed is still a virtue.

May you not be unbalanced by either extreme praise or prejudice. Both are temptations moving us from a still point of innocence beyond naïveté.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Luke 19:28-40 or Luke 23:1-49

Year C - Lent6 or Conviction6
March 20, 2016

False Dawn Sunday

Premature Fear Sunday

There is simply too much asked of this Sunday to bridge whatever process has been followed during Lent and a next week. Whatever theme or program has been followed, it was far too weak to bear the burden and joy of a next week.

Our own bias is to drop the Passion/Premature Fear approach. At worst it inoculates people from walking whatever lonesome valley they are in the midst of. There isn’t a best.

Note the story Jesus tells just before this pericope—those who are faithful in a little or a lot, will be satisfied with enough; those fearful in any amount, will never know enough. With this final tale we can come to the beginning of the end of the journey.

Here in Luke the story is not a Palm story, but a Clothes story—a story of the wrapping and unwrapping of our lives. It is this acknowledgement of having been wrapped round in belovedness and a willingness to unwrap our life to follow a meaning beyond what we can but dimly imagine but feel deeply within.

This unwrapping takes us back to unity with all of creation, every stoney part of it, where we join a hopeful, “It is good!” with a refrain, “Good enough!”

So here we have a wrapping up of our Lenten Journey: Dust is enough; Sing a song of treading a stoney path out from a gloomy past, standing at last in the gleam of a bright star from our “native land”, a home of heaven here on earth. (see “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson).

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Philippians 3:4b-14

Year C - Lent5 or Conviction5
March 13, 2016

Each of us could put our experience and interpretation of life up against anyone else. The competitive gene is alive and well in each culture. Even in “cooperative” relationships we have those who cooperate better than others.

To set up Christ as a commodity that imbues us with some “righteousness” external to ourselves is to revert to the easy out of one atonement theory after another. There is a lack of creation-based theology in this approach.

The nard of life we have with us. How we proceed to use it is the question at hand. This is far simpler than some grand goal of a prize of some “heavenly” “call” that comes through Jesus who had quite enough to do with his own call. We might use this simpler approach to affirm, “The Nard is with you!”; use it.

For some this seeming reduction in the function of Jesus betrays their experience of an outside reality. For some this same process will affirm their inner experience. Blessings on both engaging the differences of others. This blessings is a goal worth pressing for.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Psalm 126

Year C - Lent5 or Conviction5
March 13, 2016

Continuing with Norman Fischer’s Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms

I am struck with the pattern:

           Great happenings
           Have happened to them
           The ones who have struggled
           Long with the questions


           Great things would have happened to us
           And we would be dizzy with the joy of them

One implication is that we don’t stick with our important questions long enough for them to come to a time of resolution. Likewise we don’t stick with our important sufferings long enough. Had we been able to sustain our questions and refused to short-circuit our sufferings, Joy would shine through.

Always we are distracted. Always we are in the midst of confusion. While looking for a way through we keep dropping the very keys that would bring us from our enclosures, our habits, to live as laughing and singing dreamers. These keys are questions and suffering where “Our tears our joy’s seed” are planted and we honor them all they way through to a bountiful harvest.

This is all too pretty and naive in a hard world of haves and have-nots and distraction and entertainment are the bread and circuses of our time. Yet, thus has it ever been so. So shift and don’t give up too soon.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Isaiah 43:16-21

Year C - Lent5 or Conviction5
March 13, 2016

I rely on one pair of glasses for my engagement with life. Sometimes I clip on a sunglass. Periodically I clean them. Still, it is one pair of glasses.

I am sometimes aware that a new set of lenses are needed. No not just for physical seeing, but envisioning a better way of living. A new way of living (new thing) is sensed springing forth just beyond my current ability to see it. This is a sense beyond a yearning. There are little signs all around and they are just under my new-lifedar. The lenses needed won’t simply make use of a different band of energy spectra, but will see the connections between this small sign today with its larger cousin found in tomorrow.

Do note it is OK to stop this reading with the 20th verse. Here ends the descriptive and leaves off the purpose of common good being for G*D-praise. That praise may well arise, but it is not the primary goal. Here we are looking for a better way through the current wilderness of imperialism to find the refreshment of simple water in a very dry time (yes, a climate change rise in oceans will increase the lament of water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink).

Monday, March 07, 2016

John 12:1-8

Year C - Lent5 or Conviction5
March 13, 2016

Mary’s pound of nard is later outdone by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus when they are recorded to have brought 100 pounds  of myrrh and aloes, other spices for internment of a body.

Mary’s pound of nard is later reduced by Jesus as he washes his disciples’ feet with simple water.

If Judas was upset at the money available from Mary, wouldn’t he have regretted not being able to tap into the buying power of Joseph and Nicodemus. There was and is a huge cash cow in institutionalized religion if only Judas could have stopped going for a quick buck. This short-term view is still bedeviling churches as they nickel and dime their budgets. Of course naming the fiscally conservative money gates keepers in a church as Judases is not good for church membership.

On the other hand, if Judas could see how Jesus dismisses pricey nard for his foot-washing scene, Judas would certainly have justification for getting at least 30 pieces of silver while he could, before Jesus gave it all away.

When you have a horse in a religious race it makes it easy to dismiss all evidence except the short-term result—sell nard, get silver, off both Lazarus and Jesus.

Where is the second-thought, the longer vision, that arises in this passage in your specific setting?

Thursday, March 03, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Year C - Lent4 or Conviction4
March 6, 2016

The division between viewing anything from a human or G*D centric point of view is a basic misunderstanding of reality. No humans, no G*D. No G*D, no humans (well, this is more a trust issue).

Being a new creation, someone set on a new path for whatever reason, is not unique to a religious perspective. One can know they are in a bad spot on the basis of hunger and positing hunger as an act of G*D is not much different than the joke about Sunday School where every answer has to be “Jesus”.

If every reconciliation is of G*D, this passage is going to run afoul of another division between sin and righteousness. These are always in relationship to one another or they make no sense. There may be a larger or smaller shared portion of a Venn Diagram, but they are related. Should one cover the area we end up with psychopathology that has no social connection or one that forces everything into one way.

This is not to say that reconciliation is not an important consideration in any relationship as we are forever making mistakes and having shortcomings. This is the case whether the relationship is between humans or a human and G*D. Reconciliation for the purpose of judging trespasses or sinlessness is ultimately a losing proposition as this relies on a snapshot in time.

Go ahead and regard everything from a human point of view. Regard it also from a snail’s point of view as well as an eagles' (reread The Once and Future King). Get real human and attend to the glorious variety of humans. The more fully human your view, the more clearly you will be able to see any one human and whatever can be known of G*D. Now you can invest in the worst and wait for the best in each one.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Psalm 32

Year C - Lent4 or Conviction4
March 6, 2016

Verses 5-6 are at the center of this psalm. They are worth focusing on, even to the exclusion of the rest. Hear them in this translation by Norman Fischer in Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms

But then I turned toward my mistakes and shortcomings
Knew my unworthiness, did not cover it up
I said, “I will confess all this, since it is so”
And you forgave me for what I am 
Therefore let all the faithful
When they find their confusion find you
And pray that the waters of self-delusion
Won’t crest to crush them in their time

This is better than sin language so encrusted with anti-holiness that it can’t really be acknowledged for it is so deadly. We all are able to know how “unworthy” our actions are in relation to our intentions. “Since it is so”, confession is made the easier. What just is can be faced. It is the fears and the falseness that keeps us trapped.

What a relief to be forgiven so deeply that it goes well past forgiveness of an instance and goes to the core of who I am. This kind of forgiveness is a life-giving relief that sets us on a new journey.

And so a prayer for those who are still so confused about what is true in their life. As they affirm their confusion, may they find a deep forgiveness of who they are and now work their way back to any particulars that need attending to. If this prayer is not effective in their life, it will be, as we found in our own life, that self-delusion eventually crushes itself out of existence.

Don’t turn toward home without first facing grinding and grounding realities of how you got lost in the first place by covering up what was simply “so”.

Joshua 5:9-12

Year C - Lent4 or Conviction4
March 6, 2016

Do you have a Gilgal place, a rolling-away place, a transition place from basics to abundance?

This pivot point turns us from lost to found. It is a stone-circle decision place to take responsibility for the future.

It is at Gilgal that we return to Adam’s work of tilling the land and watching over the crops and environment within which the crops grow. There will be sun and no sun, rain and too much rain, drought and even more drought, bugs and crop-eating animals that will fertilize and take their portion. This time and place is also a Gilgal place where we are called to take responsibility for the well-being of today's commons.

As you listen to political ravings loosed from any grounding in facts, know that there are many who still think we will again be bailed out by manna. But it has stopped. We either take note of the work ahead of us or we will simply fail again—this time being our own worst enemy as our own little fascists use unfettered mammon/capital and ungrounded freedom to so divide us that we will no longer be able to stand.

Today’s political dangers bring back to mind Saul, a first king that G*D says will be your downfall. Saul was confirmed as king at Gilgal and also rejected there. [Here is a "rolling-stone" article about a possible equivalency.]

Gilgal stands not simply as a place of celebration, but of great prophetic warning. Try setting up a circle of twelve stones (more or less) and place yourself within that circle. May it be your listening place where you are able to cut through all the utter nonsense of an electoral season to hear where the commons needs repair, gather your courage, and hie ye hence to bring what healing you can.