Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21

Christmas 2 – Year B

Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21

When we look back with 20/20 hindsight, it is easy to discern a Wise presence. What wasn't understood at the time as wise (remember the fear that continues throughout the Exodus) can later be attributed to some good plan. This connects wisdom with thanksgiving.

When we look around us for wisdom to make difficult choices, we find ourselves caught between focal lengths – attempting to apply an appropriate learning from history that we don't just repeat and repeat and peering into a dim unknown for a new learning not already in our grab-bag. This connects wisdom with mystery.

When we do thought experiments regarding the future, we find our prejudices coming to the fore. Our assumptions and speculations rev themselves into red-line danger. This connects wisdom with foolishness.

Remember with thanksgiving that G*D has revealed things to the foolish, not the wise? Well what are we to do with Sister Wisdom who is all over the map? Sit back and enjoy the ride? Winnow the results with yet a fifth criterion to measure reality?

Perhaps the best we can do here is to raise our sensitivity to the mute and those struggling to put their reality into communicable language. Who are you listening to and how engaged are you willing to be to wrest meaning from inarticulate groans of creation?

Resolution 3: To listen to Wisdom bubbling from below consciousness and to join in the groans of birthing a new year from an old by at least boiling water.
 

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sirach 24:1-12

Christmas 2 – Year B

Sirach 24:1-12

In this passage not often heard in today's church there is a sense of the drilling down of wisdom from the general of creation to the specific of geography known as here, from time immemorial to this present moment. Where and when should wisdom alight? Well, why not here and now! Can you sense wisdom alighting in your honored life? Hooray!

From the book Where Shall Wisdom Be Found: Wisdom In The Bible, The Church And The Contemporary World, the end of the article "Sirach and Wisdom's Dwelling Place" by C.T.R. Hayward:
     "Disaster befell Sirach's beloved Temple when, in the year 70 CE, the Romans put it to the torch. Yet Sirach's Greek translation of his grandfather's book was not forgotten. It was included in the Greek Old Testament and was thus available for Gentile Christians to ponder. For them, the work proved so popular that it was regularly read in worship, and in course of time came to be called Ecclesiasticus, a 'church book' of great distinction. No doubt this process was encouraged because St. Paul, the earliest Christian writer, had dubbed Christ 'the wisdom of God' (1 Cor 1.24, 30; cf. Col 2.3), and because the evangelists had, in their several ways, used Temple imagery to speak of Christ's body (Jn. 2:20-22; Mt 26:61; Mk 14:58). Sirach proved to be a rich quarry from which the Church's teachers could unearth almost inexhaustible theological resources in their explorations of Christ's relationship to God. And since Wisdom, both in Hebrew and Greek, is personified as a woman, the way was open for them to develop their thinking on the role of the Blessed Virgin in the Christian economy of salvation. Reflection on Mary as Wisdom and Mother of God, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, is discernible already in the writing of St. Ambrose (De Spiritu Sancto 2.51, PL 16.753), and was destined to bear abundant and nourishing fruit in the liturgies of the Eastern and Western Churches alike."

The Three Wise Guys may be profitably transfigured into Gals. If this, even transfigured into your life. After Henry Van Dyke we can move beyond a fourth Magi to a fifth and further on down the line to you as a receiver and sharer of G*D's Wisdom. As said on Out in Scripture: An honest encounter between LGBT lives and the Bible, "Not only is Jesus Wisdom’s Child, but through God’s Word/Wisdom so are we. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender believers bear witness that it is not the church who says whether or not we are God’s children, nor our sexuality, not even our theology or orthodoxy – but it is our welcome of this one sent from God. The Logos/Sophia does not discriminate based on race, class, gender or sexual orientation."

Resolution 2: To acknowledge the distillation of wisdom found in the set of experiences known as mine – to be one more branch from the root of an honored people.
 

Monday, December 29, 2008

John 1:1-18

Christmas 2 – Year B

John 1:1-18

From the Girardian Lectionary site James Allison is quoted:
     "In the light of the resurrection it gradually becomes possible to see that it was not that God was previously violent, now blessing now cursing (see Deut. 32:39), but had now brought all that ambivalence to an end. Rather, it became possible to see that that was all a human violence, with various degrees of projection onto God. God had been from the beginning, always, immutably, love, and that this love was made manifest in sending his Son into the midst of the violent humans, even into the midst of their persecutory projections of God, so that they might treat him as a human victim, and thus reveal the depth of the love of God, who was prepared to be a human victim simultaneously to show the depth of his love for humanity, and to reveal humanity as having been locked into the realm of the Father of lies."

John's version of a Song of Songs lifts love out of a competition with violence or Platonic philosophy to an exclusive view of life. There is no wrestling between paradigms here, there is only the action of giving light to life and the lie to separation and lording it over. A test for ourselves is to ask what song we find ourselves singing these days? Is it fear of not having enough? Is it joy at being able to share what we do have? What lyric do you hear when your routine is interrupted?

Resolution 1: To anticipate a new light, a new path, by gratefully receiving a glimpse of graceful resurrection in this present situation.
 

Friday, December 26, 2008

more to come

Christmas 1 – Year B

more to come

good ol' Simeon
limit bound

glimpse receiver
ready to move on

departing in peace
has never attracted me

too curious by far
beyond a mere beginning

what's next I ask
messiah's a good start

but o this drama
is no one-act play

I'll wait
denouement

with such a surprise start
imagine twists to come

and project them
dum spiro spero

who would want to
miss what's next

come on Simeon
let's go some more
 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Galatians 4:4-7

Christmas 1 – Year B

Galatians 4:4-7

On Christmas Day we are looking at a scripture to help us take a next first step to living Christmas on an on-going basis.

The time has arrived, as it always does and is, for redemption to begin and be completed, all in one swell foop (the spoonerism reminds us that this redemption is in a good way not fell/foul).

Perhaps the best we can do is two-fold: One, following Peterson, those of us who have been "kidnapped by the law" can now, two, live not as slave, but an inheritor of expansive, generative, adoptive kindness.

This is something that is good today and tomorrow – free to follow a new and renewed heritage of receiving and passing on blessing, a gift otherwise spelled kindness.
 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Psalm 148

Christmas 1 – Year B

Psalm 148

Compare verses 14:

NRSV – He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!

The MESSAGE – . . . he's built a monument—his very own people! Praise from all who love God! Israel's children, intimate friends of God. Hallelujah!

Two quickies:

Are you being done unto (NRSV) or are you among the doers?

Are you close to God (NRSV) or an intimate friend thereof?

I've not delved into the Greek enough here but I do have a preference for the latter perspective. An Active Intimate Friend of God and Neighbor – there's meaning to be found here.
 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3

Christmas 1 – Year B

Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3

Whether intentionally, as a celebrant cares for their appearance, or unintentionally, as nature fecunds away, we are to be engaged in actions that will later be recognized as "righteous" – just.

To join intentionality and unintentionality together not only takes energy, but supplies it as well. There is a wearing down if we are only intentional and a dissipation when oriented on the waiting for some right thing at a right time to occur. Here is a gift – to proceed with intention and yet to be open to making the most of the unintentional that happens along.

So a receiving and carrying of new life and a laying it down in a manger which is no crib are paired and release an energy to be reckoned with.

Can you remember times in your own life when these have come together? Did you recognize it in time to rejoice? Are you still living off that energy? Did you learn to practice recognizing their confluence and even to provoke them?

There will still be additional energies and practices needed, but we rejoice at each of these birthing moments where the steel of intentionality and the flint of unintentionality strike Christmas fire.
 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Luke 2:22-40

Christmas 1 – Year B

Luke 2:22-40

The wholeness of salvation is this – light for all – not revelation qua revelation or glory for glory's sake (there's entirely too much of that going around – it gets us to react from the gut and receive blowback).

This wholeness is for more than one's own. It is for "them" as well. It is for the devout and for the prophet, for Gentile and Jew, for those passed by and those not yet.

This wholeness is also in process – there is more growing to do – and so this wholeness is not yet whole. Salvation is never as finished as any ritual of purification might be after all is said and done according to law.

Hooray for Simeon and Anna, for a willingness to be guided and alert to a disturbance in the force for status quo. Hooray for any who can see beyond ritual fulfillment to a fullness of life ready to grow and grow.
 

Friday, December 19, 2008

angel talk

Advent 4 – Year B

angel talk

hey there
hi there
ho there

a thing of beauty ye be
a joy ferever
ferever favored

god be with ye
in ye
thru ye

fear? not!
fear not
favored

now imagine
now conceive
now multiply

you've been named
you are to name
name well

imagine tomorrow
today born
today whole

the impossible
a dozen today
two tomorrow

let it be
enough
pass it on
 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Romans 16:25-27

Advent 4 – Year B

Romans 16:25-27

Prophetic writings are at the heart of G*D revealed.

Prophetic writings clarify a faith-direction, a path toward a better way.

Prophetic writings push us to connect past and future in this present moment – to fulfill a past hope and to establish a future reality.

Prophetic writings are our birthright.
Prophetic writings are our m├ętier.
Prophetic writings make a difference.

Do you see what you are doing as prophetic?
This perception does make a difference.
Now do you see your life and work as prophetic in your time and setting?
 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Luke 1:46-55

Advent 4 – Year B

Luke 1:46-55

Here is a bit of a translation by Richard W. Swanson in Provoking the Gospel of Luke: A Storyteller's Commentary --

And Mariam said:
    It extols, my life does,
        haShem.
    It rejoices, my breath does,
        at Elohim my deliverer.
. . .
    For look: from now on they will call me godlike in happiness, . . . .

- - - - - - -

The cadence makes us pause.
My life, my breath - - - extols, rejoices.
Happiness, as the rest of the poem points, is godlike, is merciful, is just.

How would you fill in the blank for today?

It __________, my life does.
It __________, my breath does.

How would you fill in the blank for tomorrow?
It __________, my life does.
It __________, my breath does.

Are they the same? different (in degree or quality)?

How connected are your life and breath with happiness, mercy, and justice?
 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Advent 4 – Year B

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

David, safe from his enemies around him, but unsafe from enemies within – both his past and his offspring – belatedly recognizes his ego has taken precedence over his "altar-ego". Of course he tries to make up for that error in prioritizing. It comes to no avail.

Yet altar-ego G*D sets up a throne in perpetuity. In today's world of scandal one wonders what sort of bribe that took.

Were David's family, kingdom, and throne permanently secure? If you say, "yes", what scale of measurement are you using?

When this is overlaid generations later on Jesus, what is it that is being carried forward?

If you were so convinced that your own family, accomplishments and place were permanently secure, what change would that make in your relationships (old and new)? Is this conviction a power that corrupts or sets free?

There is a sense in which David's peace was external to the political and power arrangements of the day? Sealed off in a specimen jar, David's peace turned out to be a passing thing. Even before he was dead, cracks in his family, kingdom, and throne were becoming evident and would eventually break apart. This leaves us with the difficult lesson of engagement with current realities and to work through all the pains and confusions of incarnation, joys of healings, disappointments of betrayal, and uncertainties of death and resurrection before claiming a satisfied mind. Our usual process is to make the claim first, proclaim eternity for this moment, and always see that fall away all too soon. In Advent we need to look at our realities, not just our warm fuzzy Santa wishes.
 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Luke 1:26-38

Advent 4 – Year B

Luke 1:26-38

So did the angelic messenger get it wrong? What's with the pronouncement regarding a coming Jesus getting a throne abolished generations before? What's with the language of "reign" or "rule"? And a never-ending "kingdom"?

I suppose we could say that nothing is impossible with God, but does that cut it in terms of the way Jesus will deny a kingdom in this world, dismiss blood family ties, and focus on prophetic acts of mercy, healing, and teaching?

It will take some fancy spinning to have the angelic message end up anywhere near the experience we have of Jesus. While there are many who would set up institutions to rule in Jesus' name, that seems to end up being heretical to the life lived by Jesus.

Here, as we near the focus of Advent – Christmas, it would be well to pay attention to what is and isn't being said. It is all too easy to toss institutional metaphors around as though they were literal.

If we buy into this initial proposition put to Mary we will be able see how her heart will be pierced later – it's hard to put an expectation down. May you watch your story-telling for saying too much. It is easy to use acceptable images, but they have a way of coming around to bite. Think again, speak slowly, don't over-promise. Learn from an angel's over-stated sales pitch and stick to what you know – "Mary, here's a surprise big enough to take your breath away, but G*D will be with you to continue breathing new spirit into you. Relax and enjoy the ride of your life."
 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

Advent 3 – Year B

Who are you? Who are you in relation to Christmas, to signs and symbols of new life? Are you a consumer of religious and political power? Are you a prophet of something larger than profit and ease.

In today's culture, this and other questions are often raised through a video. In keeping with this key language of the present we redirect you to:

Advent Conspiracy.

[Note: Click on the video.]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Advent 3 – Year B

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Rejoicing is more than mouth music.

Rejoicing acts. Rejoicing acts by testing everything. No presumptions, assumptions, desumptions, resumptions or other sumptuous speculations. Allow the Spirit to roam beyond your current habits of body, mind, spirit, relations. This is the will of G*D – testing and deciding.

Rejoicing discerns. Rejoicing discerns by choosing better, saying "no" to status quo. This is sanctification, mutual love. In the current popularized language of the traditional United Methodist General Rules: Do no harm; do good; stay in love with God.

Rejoicing rejoices. Rejoicing welcomes joy again - body, mind, spirit, and relations. This gladness is the Peace of G*D. In peace we are opened to testing, choosing, welcoming, acting, discerning, rejoicing – living in G*D's image: faithfully. Pursuing happiness? Follow peace.

[Silly Note: Regarding speculation, you may be interested in the lyrics of a Lou and Peter Berryman song, The Speculator (this is something you have to read aloud to get). Click and scroll most of the way down to Disk 2, Track 11. Their accordion/guitar music adds much to the enjoyment of the lyrics, buy the CD.]
 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Psalm 126

Advent 3 – Year B

Psalm 126

There are comedic dreams and tragic dreams. Here is an example of the comedic. No matter what the difficulty or intensity of a nightmare, things come 'round right. Restoration after disaster brings laughter.

The prayer of the glass-half-full psalmist is that others who are tearful will find a way to see joy eventuating from their exile into dryness. There is a presumption of life being a comedy, not just because of the importance of timing (and what is Advent about but timing), but because difficulties are wonderfully resolved.

A question we are left with - what to do with a comedic dream in the presence of wide-awake tragedy? Do we step back from our disaster and trust a sweet by-and-by? Do we use the dream as motivation when there is not yet an armload of blessed sheaves to bring home? Do we dismiss the dream as "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato"?

What dream is holding you in the midst of economic uncertainty, political conspiracy, or on-going genocide? Might it hold something as unimaginable in daylight as a manger or a Baptizer John – both of which portend beyond current powers and processes?
 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Isaiah 61:1-11

Advent 3 – Year B

Isaiah 61:1-11

Hey you! Ya, you! Righteous Oak! Whatcha doin?

Rebuilding.

How you doin that?

Seeing grace. Talking grace. Living grace.

How you doin that?

Comforting them what mourn. Hey, now you got me talking that way. But, you're OK, so I guess I'm OK to talk your language. Also paying attention to fair dealing whether dealt with fairly or not. And, giving roses to people while they live.

That sound fun.

Yep. Is. New life is springing up even before Spring. This is fun – it's rejoicing time. Even with a lousy economy, lost jobs, and larger class divisions they can't keep Rejoicing from me. In fact, I usually spell meta… G*D but it may also be spelled or named "Rejoicing". Come on in, join me in anointing and being anointed with good news that releases Rejoicing from Exile. Plant the acorn in you for oaks in a grove dance together.

Hey, look at me, I'm a stump shoot – didn't need no acorn. This is fun!
 

Monday, December 08, 2008

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Advent 3 – Year B

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Thunder in the desert, even lightning, can happen with there being no resultant rain. The clouds on the horizon never seem to actually arrive. Crying in the wilderness often bears similar results – lots of sound and fury….

We are waiting for the rain, for the streams to flow again. All this straightening of roads and leveling hills is fine for job-creation, but loses something in regard to bringing forth a revival. A Baptist needs water for their work and to get sidetracked into construction work doesn't seem like the best use of resources.

At best there is value in the development of disciplines in times of dryness. But it would be helpful if there were a connection between a discipline and a desired outcome.

Rephrasing, John might be seen as a storm cloud that fulfills a promise that needed refreshment will actually arrive, that showers of blessing will revive our perspective. This then raises questions about the work we are called to not being slavish thong tying, but cloud seeding.

Perhaps we might shift job descriptions from being a sunbeam or a narrow-way maker to being a rain seed. Is that worthy enough for us, or still too humble, too esoteric, too elitist.
 

Friday, December 05, 2008

Another Crier Out Done Gone

Advent 2 – Year B

One of our blessed Criers Out has left us – Odetta died this past week. In her voice is John the Baptist, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr, and yourself. Listen and reclaim your prophet. Her Voice of Ages will ground your hope, widen your faith, and energize your love.

Here are a couple of places to catch a glimpse of Odetta:

Last Word (a worthwhile 20 minutes) [Note: the link is to the New York Times. If you don't want to do a free sign up with them, a lesser quality and shorter version of the same material is found on Youtube. This elision does miss some good stuff.]

Satyagraha (from "Satyagraha: Gandhi's 'Truth Force' in the Age of Climate Change" event sponsored by The Garrison Institute)

Keep on moving it on (from last TV interview – of course on PBS)

Hymn (helping on a song – hum and sing along all the way home)
 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Advent 2 – Year B

2 Peter 3:8-15a

It's about time!

This is an aha moment. Here is an example of that in the realm of teaching.

This is a gotcha moment. Felt trapped with one day feeling like a thousand? You must be related to Sarah Palin. Such things are not of G*D, but it must be someone else's fault! There'll be hell to pay.

Between these two lie a multitude of other moments that reveal how we are doing on scales of holiness and godliness that we might better look at as a scale of revelation regarding heaven on earth that is already and not yet here (a variation on a once and future life).

Enjoy your time as the two of you roll along in synch and out.
 

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Advent 2 – Year B

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Elijah, Baptizer John, Jesus of Nazareth are forerunners. They exemplify faithfulness, righteousness, forgiveness.

We are forerunners. May your exemplification be a blessing to you and all.

Run well, salvation wholeness is at hand and in yours. Hold it lightly, lest it be squoze to death.
 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Isaiah 40:1-11

Advent 2 – Year B

Isaiah 40:1-11

Comfort, tenderness, release. This is quite a trio of qualities that define our relationships with one another as we find ourselves in various exiles. Sometimes these will be offered to me by you and sometimes by me to you.

It seems as though living this way is not an easy thing for us to do for one another. Therefore the discipline of preparation. If you are interested in the result of preparing for a Presence of G*D refer back to the three characteristics that began this note – comfort, tenderness, release. If we can see where we are going it makes it a bit easier to stick to the discipline of preparation.

In some sense this is quite natural to us. After all, what we do now leads to what comes after. We know about cause and effect and intention. But sometimes we get confused and participate in some magical thinking that better will just happen regardless of how I am engaged in life.

Finally, an image of a discipline of strength is that of feeding, gathering, and gently leading. The end of the passage can be seen in parallel with the beginning.

Whether focusing on a discipline of preparation (waiting) for use of strength or a discipline of strength (stepping out) as preparation for larger living, may your advent disciplines be a gift to you and through you to others.
 

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mark 1:1-8

Advent 2 – Year B

Mark 1:1-8

A changing of one's ways based on forgiveness would seem to be pretty strong stuff. And yet there is even more change on the way!

The Isaiah passage can certainly apply to John in relation to Jesus.

Imagine, though, how it might apply to Jesus in relation to you.

Isaiah, John, Jesus, and more have prepared a way for you. It has been smoothed and opened – for you.

Hmmm. What could that mean? Only you know.

Following this line, if John brings Water (perhaps changing folks from the outside in) and Jesus brings a Holy Spirit (perhaps changing folks from the inside out) what do you bring?

Advent is not just waiting, but a taking of that next step toward a larger life. A way is open so – on your mark, get set, Step.