Sunday, April 20, 2014

Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

Why is it my fear and loneliness place me in a land of my enemies rather than my friends who will care for such? Do thoughts actually matter, materialize? Has my response to death brought me to be counted as one dead and powerless?

Is this all because I have discounted all the different Marys along the way? So many male prophets that if you say prophet you mean male and we have a special category for a prophetess. We have so identified G*D and Jesus as of course being male that we attribute to them also war and judgment and death eternal.

Here we hear of “her”. Wisdom living among us, unknown, a provisional gift. Even though portrayed as "the book of the commandments" of an understood to be male G*D, she is more.

Isaiah 12:2-6 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

Ah, finally, what will I trust? Of what will I not be afraid?

Am I more fearful of being lost or afraid of not having a loss? Both separate me from well water where lovers meet and secrets are shared. My one story keeps me from all of my experience and tradition. My one story holds new possibilities at bay that don’t fit nicely into allotted slots.

Is it “surely” that G*D is my health and healing? If G*D had not forsaken our hope before, this would be much easier. I am being asked to re-enter old territory of forsakenness and stake out where to drill for a new well while bankrupt.

Praise be for temptations. Praise be for enemies. Praise be for unpeaceful tears. Praise be for loneliness. Praise be for pain and parting. Praise be for death. Praise be for emptiness.

At this point I’ll take the question mark off those and leave them with periods, but I am not ready to give them exclamation points.

Are you still vigiling or have you dozed off like I have, several times?

Isaiah 55:1-11 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.”

“Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink.”

In the midst of a vigil, strange visions come—water of creation, water of destruction, water on which to ride it out, water teaming with leviathans, water releasing doves of belovedness, water of bitterness, and water living.

Trying to stay awake mixes us up. Is it that our thoughts don’t contain mercy naturally and so we need to beg for it and set up rules to enforce mercy artificially? Was that part of our creation not in G*D’s image? Or is our mercy as high as G*D’s ways and thought—sometimes flowing freely and sometimes withdrawn from consideration as hearts are hardened?

Between Saturday and Sunday we waver, drawn in both directions before riding off in all directions. Wait out our loss? Cut our losses and move on?

This vigil business is not easy as we continue our fear and can’t force a new morning of hope.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

We will dance in the morning, wherever we may be. Wherever we look we see Resurrection needed; Resurrection in process; Resurrection acknowledged. Particularly we see this when we consider our own life and those we walk with.

We are our own best example of the multiplicity of new life. An empty grave is no more than one more example. It is next to impossible to make things static. There is an impulse that won’t stop dancing to its own beat. What would be miraculous is for life to freeze in place, immobilized between fear and flight.

Right now we are caught between Absent Saturday and Assured Sunday. Our vigil is urging us onward while we are still afraid and morose. There is something about absence that makes us want to hang on to it all the harder. Yet, we find our grip loosening. Blessings at this in-between place—half-way across. Even as Breathe—3 is working we are anxious and wanting to speed up to the point of hyperventilating. Then we remember the breath over the deep and see it as a gentle call, a lullaby, a soothing of the dark water and pace ourselves to breathe with the rhythm of the wind.

In your caughtness between yesterday and tomorrow, patience. One breath at a time.

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

Another creation story that moves through the deep of chaos. While the wind and spirit of G*D once moved over the face of the deep, it has now penetrated to the bowels of the deep.

Fear rising from behind us, from all the accumulated yesterday, makes every situation ultimate. Here we are, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea (or marshy reed sea). We can only look back and all our mistakes are hot on our tail. We are about reap the consequences of each past misstep or return to a slavery that at least was known.

Our fear fixates us on our fear. We can only look back over our shoulder and thus walk in circles. Our fear keeps us from looking ahead, even if it is dangerous. We can yet do something about tomorrow by what we do today.

Resurrection comes as we put our past behind us for the moment and look onward. “Look, there, something is happening. Everyone, breathe in and on the count of 3, blow. 3. Did you see? Again, breathe; blow. Again.”

And the dark waters, breath-by-breath, part. The waters part just enough.

When finally across, we look back at our fear. “Look. Again, breathe. 3. And we move. One, two, three, four, we glide across the floor. Onward.” 

Genesis 22:1-8-18 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

Creation stories come in a variety of guises. There are those that build and those that transition. Here is a creation story in reverse.

A chaotic deep is not a given. Here chaos comes as a deliberate test, not a state of affairs. Promises have been given. Life is moving along.

Then come G*D, like Mary Poppins, with chaos in her wake. Delete your promise. Kill your son, your gateway to a multitude of descendants (forgetting Ishmael, of course). This command bring dissonance, chaotic and a way to madness.

Who is resurrected here? G*D? Abraham? Isaac? It would be easy to see this as a new beginning for Isaac. We can even see it for Abraham (except for those tales that have Sarah giving him the silent treatment because of what he was willing to do)? Can you see this as a resurrection of G*D who had forgotten showing steadfast love and, instead, demanding it of another.

Finally G*D comes around. G*D also plays an excuse game saying they can see that Abraham intended to kill and that was good enough. Sometimes a resurrection is simply to get back to square one.

Psalm 46 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

We are often gotten by nothing. Our sense of loss turns that into Nothing. We will hang on to bereftness as long as we can. Absent Saturday can continue on for quite some time.

Here in Vigil Time we are to find Nothing melted back into nothing that runs through our fingers like time in a sieve. We look back at all the desolations that have occured to find that there are gaps in our story. Desolation...desolation...desolation....

Litle by little we are drawn through our sense of nothing-left-to-lose to those nothing places. The closer we look, the more we see they are not empty places but filled with decisions to be made about how to live. Choices have been made, time after time, to fall back into a next desolation, but there were choices to be made.

Be still, know that there is a choice to be made, even here. This choice becomes our refuge.

Whether it takes a short or a long time to come to terms with the choices we have, our sense of nothingness begins to fade and color intensity returns. You may need to vigil through Easter Day and the whole Easter Season for this become visceral for you. Don’t give up on a vigil just because it is announced to be over for someone else or for some other purpose. See it through until you can see through it.

Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

After looking at a first creation story we skip several more and land on Noah (Yes, take a look at the recent movie).

Here is is not a chaotic deep but broken relationships that start a story which is resolved by a return of a chaotic deep. It is not light that breaks upon the dark, but a frail vessel that rides the waves.

We are vigiling over another chaotic deep, that of death. This time it is not light or a ship, but “nothing” that becomes a sign of a new beginning. Let there be light; let there be an ark; let there be nothing.

We are vigiling to again see nothing and that means everything we thought impossible is being blocked only by our having turned a nothing into a fear to try. To embrace this nothing is to see the face of G*D.

Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

A vigil based on thanks pushes us in the direction of anticipating a new great thing that will be visible to us and all in just a moment or two. It is out of our thanks that a new world is born.

There is still a sense of difficulty in the present that we are trying to cover up with a patina of thanks. We can positive-think our way through—just focus on the good G*D who gets us out of trouble, not that other G*D who holds us to account and responsibility so intentionally bad things happen to us otherwise good people.

This Psalm reprises a Genesis creation story and places us into its natural continuation. G*D started everything and wants everything to continue, so focus on G*D’s steadfast love, not our current sense of loss. Eventually we will be able to see our current loss as but a moment of forgetfulness which is not real.

Genesis 1:1–2:4 (Vigil)

Year A - Easter Vigil or Hopeless Hope Vigil
April 19/20, 2014

A Vigil is a religious ritual prior to a special event and/or a watchfulness in place of sleep.

So how much can be presumed in an Easter Vigil?

Do we already know the outcome and so are trying to heighten an experience through sleep deprivation, a variant to drug use? This can lower the liminal threshold to move us toward extraordinary significance that sets our 2014 experience above even a first Mary-at-the-grave experience.

Do we continue Absent Saturday and deepen that with a time to officially recognize our hopeless condition? This can raise the bar of surprise so we will attend to a new way forward for our life and our life together.

Liturgically Easter Vigil is a spoiler alert for Easter Day. It is the beginning of the Easter season, sort of a reverse Ash Wednesday.

And so we begin with a creation story here at what is supposed to be a new creation through resurrection rather than a Word.

Try retelling Easter as a creation story. In the beginning when G*D was resurrecting Jesus the grave was formless void and darkness covered the deeps of Sheol, Hades, and Hell while light was gently breaking from within a stone-cold tomb . . . . (Your turn to take it further—you might try this with a group doing a progressive story where one person starts and the next carries the story one step further and around it goes.)

1 Peter 4:1-8 (Saturday)

Year A - Holy Saturday or Absent Saturday
April 19, 2014

Oh sure, deny the denials of life. You can no more give up your human desires than you can escape a gravity field of G*D. To deny your supposed negative passions will also deny your hoped for positive passions. You don’t need to express them, but they cannot be denied. To deny them is to not give an accurate account of your life.

This day is an opportunity to discipline ourselves regarding hope. Without hope that it will make a whit of difference, we commit to love one another, nonetheless.

That which we had counted on, steadfastly, proved to be quite frail. Death came all too easily (which is not to say it was faked), no legs were broken to hasten suffocation. What we wanted to be a loud cry wrecking the world and setting it right turned out to be a last gasp for a last breath and then no more. Not a hoped for bang, but a whimper.

And now a stone-rolled dark tomb. We are reduced from grunt to silence. Only motions are left. We will be gentle and kind with one another. It is the most we can to. Perhaps, in time, more will come; our desires, in both kinds, will return. There is no explaining our reliance upon our memory of a last command. Was it real or not? Whatever. That word, for whatever reason, continues to echo within. And so we do our best to love one another even when love is lost. And Simeon’s blessing comes around; with a sword in our soul we pull out our beads and recite:
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

We will love one another until our death.


Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 (Saturday)

Year A - Holy Saturday or Absent Saturday
April 19, 2014

“Save me in your steadfast love.”

When life gets desperate, we pull out our last gasp. Beyond our ability to hope any longer is some even deeper understanding beyond our understanding that a cosmos-wide force of love will find an unexpected encounter with our life, even as does that of the elusive neutrino.

Finally, without expectation, we simply ask to have our grief observed. Not even acknowledged, just impassively, peripherally glimpsed.

Today is an opportunity to practice absence to such a degree that we will be filled with an assurance of being beloved, anyway. Whenever a smidgeon of hope arises, let it be as any distraction, momentarily present and set aside. To get distracted by hope before encountering steadfast love will weaken our resolve to live steadfastly, no matter what.

In some ways this pericope is the exception to the sense of absence needed in this day. Don’t let that distract you, tempt you out of absence too soon. Your dark day of the soul is needed, even as it is a trial.

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24 (Saturday)

Year A - Holy Saturday or Absent Saturday
April 19, 2014

In G*D’s forsaking Jesus, we are forsaken. A never-ending story of Nothing, of darkness devoid of light, turns our knees to jelly, our strength to the shakes. There is only past, no present and definitely no future. Prayer is simply irrelevant. Our paths were illusion and we are well and truly lost, homeless.

Perhaps in some far distant reincarnation we will find hope still lives within us, even if unrecognized in this moment. Perhaps this is all part of a larger mercy that will become evident to our great-grandchildren. For now there is no morning; even our faith in physics fails, the sun is stuck on hold under our feet never to rise again.

It is possible to go here and survive. (Read your Stephen R. Donaldson.) Our culture, our habits, our time constraints, our fear of its truth all keep the depth of this lamentation at bay. It becomes something to read about, but not to experience. If there is no dark of day, there is no light in the dark.

Job 14:1-14 (Saturday)

Year A - Holy Saturday or Absent Saturday
April 19, 2014

Time to get out paper and pencil (or fountain pen—my latest is an inexpensive Hero from China though I usually use a Blue Lamy Safari 1.1 italic nib with Noodler’s English Rose with Black Swan ink).

Down an edge of the paper write the following understandings with enough space to allow for a couple of sentences between.
a flower grows only to die
in the dark shadows are absent
dirt is dirt
we die; we expire
there is no awakening the dead

Now the tough part that should take at least 15 minutes. Reflect and write where you are experiencing these realities. Does the same response show up as a refrain in each setting? Is there a different experience for each? Where do you have several examples clamoring for attention? Where is there only silence?

Attend to your losses, your silences, until you can only sit numb. To do less is to say this Paschal Triduum is fluff, of no consequence, was maybe helpful to someone a long time ago, but not worth attending to today. No numbing loss; no surprise for you at hope’s return.

Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42 (Saturday)

Year A - Holy Saturday or Absent Saturday
April 19, 2014

As usual with two accounts, there are similarities and differences between the tellings. The major difference is the Matthean addition about guarding the tomb for fear that the disciples would be as duplicitous as were the Chief Priest and paid-for mob. Knowing the power of lies they were concerned that a big one could counter their big one and people would remember only the last lie they heard (“the last deception would be worse [for us] than the first”).

The only thing the fearful ones forgot was that you can roll lies over truth for a while, but “at the length truth will out”. The only alternative is to keep building the lie bigger and bigger over time. Even here it will eventually fall of its own weight.

A second difference is that Nicodemus, who only appears in John, in John reappears with an affirmation of Jesus with a boat-load of expensive spices instead of questions or a voice of reason/moderation.

The similarity is testimony that Jesus is dead. Dead and gone. Gone as far as effectively being in Sheol or Hades or Hell. There will be no Nicodemus-like reprise. Jesus is erased from this world. The guards of Matthew and our experience will both confirm that dead is dead.

The loss of Friday is shock. The loss of Saturday is resignation, not awe.

Though it is day, it is as dark as a sealed tomb where not even hope tiptoes.

Spoiler alert—Note well that without resignation there is no resurrection. This makes it very difficult for us today to experience Mary Magdalene and another Mary simply sitting across from the tomb. If they are too numb to do anything but sit and sense movement across the way and we are not numb about the crucifixions going on in our own context with trafficking, intentional denial of health care to the poorest, continued discrimination of LGBTQ people and immigrants without papers, increased gap of purchasing power, blocked decision-making, increased weather events, and so much more, we won’t be able to finally return to life to witness to changes necessary for our common life to rebound and flourish. Eventually Mary will come back to life and be a source of life for many. May we know how bad it is, there is no rescue on the horizon, we are alone.

Only when this Saturday is real will we take our part. Blessings on those who have lost all, who have nothing left to lose, for they are free to change and bring change.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 (Friday)

Year A - Good Friday or Annihilation Friday
April 18, 2014

What is our confession, our affirmation? It is not that we have a High Priest who will make such for us.

Jesus did not presume upon his privilege to escape travail (a three-stake implement of torture). It is too easy to interpret non-presumption as obedience. This sort of decision is not just an act of obedience. It takes a mature person able to enter into the decision to not escape and to make it their own.

Note that in our day we also see that participatory maturity can be seen, instead, as fanaticism—the difference is between how wonderful we are in our maturity and how dastardly they are in their terrorism. While not wanting to equate these two, our major use of this sort of language is to privilege ourselves with the moral high ground of good obedience, not bad obedience.

Obedience learned through suffering is provisional or foxhole obedience. When the trauma is over, so is the obedience. It turns to unquestioning rote or the relief of disobedience. This type of obedience really can’t be healthily passed on. It establishes a do-as-I-say-because-I-say-it relationship.

Perhaps it is enough to simply say, the one we follow as partner is one who can sympathize with weakness even as they can lead us to love beyond our limits. These two actions complement one another and set the ground for transformation.

Hebrews 10:16-25 (Friday)

Year A - Good Friday or Annihilation Friday
April 18, 2014

Where there is forgiveness, there is no longer any offering for sin. The life of Jesus, and those he mentored, is merciful, forgiving. This is not just a momentary accomplishment, but a life-time achievement.

If you are not going to claim the power of forgiveness as a key key to the presence of G*D, there is nothing that Jesus’ death does that will substitute it for your responsibility to forgive.

Even here in the midst of a temptation to idolize crucifixion, we hear these strange and powerful words: “Let us provoke one another to love and good deeds.”

Jesus shows we can make it to and past the consequences of loving good deeds in the midst of a greedy and privileged culture. To claim any given moment of a nation to be the pinnacle of morality is an exercise in futility. Only a brief moment in time will reveal that the official history is but a cover for extending the current power structure one day more. The alternative history (read your Howard Zinn) always reveals a liberation rising from the grassroots to break through the cement (thank you Malvina Reynolds). We arrive at a better tomorrow by a whole series of sequential or persistent actions, not by protecting wealth and privilege with guns and armies.

Indeed, let us meet together in all our confusing and contradictory ways. Only in this time of meeting can we each provoke one another to love and good deeds. When we lose this connection, we lose our basic mission that has come at such a cost to so many. 

Today reflect on this image I found in Korea. I’m told the dress is of a scholar and the cross is a backpack I saw farmers in the community using for their chores. Scholars and workers are crucified for the wealth and power of a few. Listen to both saying, “We can do better.” This provocation to love and good deeds is the call we need to hear. Mourn death, yes, but do better.

Psalm 22 (Friday)

Year A - Good Friday or Annihilation Friday
April 18, 2014

One might almost think that a goodly portion of the Paschal Triduum is based on Hebrew Scripture quotes, repurposed with a twist, to make Jesus a G*D. Quoting the Psalms might make us want to take a look at them in their own right, but with these quotes it is more likely the Gospel writers were redefining the Psalms rather than honoring them.

At best we can play along with Nikos Kazantzakis’ Last Temptation of Christ and remember the first temptations after Jesus’ baptism were all responded to with quotes from the scriptures of Jesus’ time. The quotes drive us back to the originals. Note the Jewish tradition to read this Psalm on Purim, a celebration of the saving of a later exiled community. Thus Psalm 22 is a communal psalm, not an individual one; it is a psalm of community restoration, not about a Messiah.

For this year, re-view the last verses,
In such a time as this, so live today that a people yet unborn will have echoes of steadfast love and affirmations that new life is already present if they are willing to risk their personal life for the benefit of all.

Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 (Friday)

Year A - Good Friday or Annihilation Friday
April 18, 2014

How do you play with “bearing sin” and “revealing love”?

Our language is made even more difficult than usual for communicating when we say one thing to mean another.

If all we hear upon growing up is sin talk, it is difficult to later hear its derivation. There is nothing that can not grow from an initial impulse to love/create/release. Even sin is a subset of love—its absence or being redirected by some entitlement desire.

Note that no matter how despised and rejected, oppressed and afflicted, this beloved one might be, they are still a beloved. Even if ground into the ground the amazing reality of their presence cannot be reduced beyond belovedness. Their steadfastness, even to death, only reveals a larger love before which the hardest head and coldest heart will be seen.

Bearing sin here is not the bearing of sin of others, taking responsibility for the sin of others, but to recognize that it is the sins of others that brought about this perversion of justice. This can be heard in a comment from the Jewish Study Bible regarding verse 53:4-6:
Either the servant suffered on behalf of the speakers (i.e., the guilty were not punished at all), or he suffered along with the guilty, even though he himself did not share in the guilt of his fellow Israelites. The former idea (i.e., the notion of vicarious suffering) would be unusual for the Bible; the latter idea (the idea of corporate guilt) is not.

Again, how do you play with “bearing sin” and “revealing love”? Which is vicarious, a substitute for real life? Which is prophetic, a demonstration of how far we have gone astray together?

John 18:1 – 19:42 (Friday)

Year A - Good Friday or Annihilation Friday
April 18, 2014

Prelude to all the crucifixion business is a context often overlooked. “I will continue to reveal the love with which I have been loved is also in others.” (John 17:26)

Without this grounding the beginning and rest of this pericope loses focus. “When Jesus had finished speaking/praying . . . .” (John 18:1)

This pushes us again in a direction against ancient atonement theories. All that follows here is not about some sacrifice to set things right, but a continuing revelation that life is already right if we would attend to its blessing of automatic belovedness. We come pre-blessed.

Look again at the actions:
  • Jesus steps forward to initiate contact with his confronters
  • Jesus admonishes violence, even that of his “protectors”
  • Jesus drinks the cup of consequence for loving even enemies
  • Jesus deals with accusations by sticking to facts in the open
  • Jesus refutes an appeal to power with silence
  • Jesus bears the consequence of revealing love in a retributive world
  • Jesus binds together a new family
  • Jesus continues to thirst for mercy for himself and all
  • Jesus offers back his spirit of love instead of rising as a spirit of judgment

May we learn to reveal the love with which we have been loved is already present in others. This day reveals prevenient grace, not the cheap grace of my benefiting from the loss of another.

An Easter Stone (Easter)

Year A - Easter or Assured
April 20, 2014

An Easter Stone

tell us again about the stone
how an earthquake came
and an angel spoke
giving directions to follow

tell us again about the stone
how it was already rolled away
and an angel waited with a word of “Peace”
that did not dissipate fear

tell us again about the stone
how it was already rolled away
and two angels snuck up
leaving us wondering

tell us again about the stone
how it was already rolled away
providing such a wonderful mystery
let’s explore this more

tell us again about the stone
each way of telling it surprises
our resigned ears
and excusing tears

tell us again about the stone
cast aside to be forgotten
and became a cornerstone of remembrance
how steadfast love remains

tell us again about the stone
as silent witness to death’s death
and not so silent rock-and-roll
celebrant of none-the-less

tell us again about the stone
when we forget about the stone
we roll it over and throw it at
those we are to love

tell us again about the stone
yes about the stone
for we keep forgetting
about the stone

Thursday, April 17, 2014

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (Thursday)

Year A - Maundy Thursday or Courage Thursday
April 17, 2014

Renewed verse:

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, remember you are strengthened to practice the Lord's last “command” until he comes: “Love one another, even betrayers as well as strangers, and widows and children.”

Note: This is another opportunity to remember that Maundy Thursday is about Foot Washing and Loving One Another, not Communion/Eucharist. We get distracted by tradition (ritual) as much as we might learn from it (service).

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 (Thursday)

Year A - Maundy Thursday or Courage Thursday
April 17, 2014

What vow is payable to a G*D of steadfast love?

Is it not the practice of steadfast love for others?


Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 (Thursday)

Year A - Maundy Thursday or Courage Thursday
April 17, 2014

Passover anticipates Exodus. Crucifixion anticipates Easter. What are you anticipating?

Blood has been and continues to be a sign of release. Blood brothers and sisters take a step deeper into a relationship. Blood is a part of birth. Spilling our heart’s blood in passionate prophecy symbolizes the depth of a call. Blood is memorable. Where blood is visible new life can take place.

This can all be contrasted with hidden blood of others to prop up our privilege. All manner of coerced blood of other’s bodies for my profit brings eventual destruction.

For now simply remember that the lamb was to be divided in proportion to those feasting. If This day of being commanded to love one another means nothing else, it means we are to share proportionally. If you know nothing other than Capital desires to mimic humans by way of a command to Multiply, to Profit, you know that, in human terms, proportionality then takes a back seat to accumulation. This day is a lesson in basic communal economics. Listen and learn. We only make it together, together.

John 13:1-17, 31b-35 (Thursday)

Year A - Maundy Thursday or Courage Thursday
April 17, 2014

Goal: to love deeply, to the end of time.

Love through dismissal as crazy or irrelevant. Love through threat and abuse. Love through success and pain. Love through betrayal by self and others.

Knowing we are beloved is a starting place for knowing others are beloved. Belovedness takes off its power tie and carries a traveling towel to freshen sweaty brows and soothe tired feet. Whether understood or not, we wash clean both reluctant saint and aggressive betrayer.

Actually living out our goal brings us to a moment of separation. We are all on different stages of journey and model for others how to journey. Everyone will have a different path and so we are not in lockstep, but each following their way to a common goal. We can actually end up at the same place, but our various ways there may make it seem to be unique.

At any rate, the bottom line for disciples is the same as for their mentor, to love deeply, to the end of time. Given the variety of paths, this is all we have in common. By this we and others will know we are all part of a larger project whose nature and name is love. It is enough.

Acts 10:34-43 (Easter)

Year A - Easter or Assured
April 20, 2014

If Easter does not lead to a vision of “no partiality”, “no respecter of privilege”, “treating all alike”, “not playing favorites”, “not considering some to be better than others”, “treal everyone on the same basis”, then it is not Easter.

If Easter is only about “Heaven, later” or “Triumph, now”, we are among people most to be pitied; we will have taken a crack in the cosmic egg and used it for our immediate ends.

10:36 — Jesus preaches a radical peace that grows from repentance and humility.

10:38 — This comes from an interpretation of Baptizer John that focuses on going about doing good.

10:43 — We can join “this” parade by “believing” (that is, actually doing good). 

What will be the practical effect of Easter? Ritual bonnets or reform from our various discriminations that keep us from doing good because of who “they” are?

Colossians 3:1-4 (Easter)

Year A - Easter or Assured
April 20, 2014

If to be raised with Christ is to be born with Christ, we are, above all, to seek the well-being of earth and neighbor—“Peace on Earth, Good Will to all” and all that.

At best this is a reflexive admonition—set your mind on things that are above for that will drive your right back to setting your mind here.

So be an anonymous Christian (read your Rahner) in the same way that Jesus was an anonymous G*D—born in a manger, growing quietly, engaging an intentional mission in and for creation and people.

This is not about some end-of-time scenario, but what are you revealing right now about what constitutes common good for earth and others. If this is not attended to, any other speculation about later simply will fail to apply.

Claim your place as G*D’s right-hand person and affirm all that comes with that responsibility.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hebrews 12:1-3 (Wednesday)

Year A - Holy Week Wednesday or Clarification Week Wednesday
April 16, 2014

Many have had a difficult time, but, of course, our situation is worse than anyone else’s because we are such a special person. That others are stumbling should be encouraging to us, but, as noted, our trouble is worse.

It might be helpful to remember our own previous rocks and hard place, but even here, our current problem makes all the previous ones pale in comparison.

Nonetheless, we might as well do our best to put some perspective on our disastrous setting since nothing else has helped.

To do this honestly is hard work. Excuses to keep on being overcome abound. We dismiss one and there is an infinite number waiting to take its place. Perhaps all we can do is to practice meditating. As our distracting excuses come up we need to simply acknowledge them, let them know they will be dealt with a bit later, allow them to leave, and continue with a soft breath.

Usually we will find betrayal betrayed by its own limitations. It has been asking the wrong questions and come up with betrayal as a solution. Now we can ask a better question, set a larger context. Ahh, relief.

Psalm 70 (Wednesday)

Year A - Holy Week Wednesday or Clarification Week Wednesday
April 16, 2014

Here we find another way to glorification, that of the via negativa. 
I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O G*D!
You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!
My G*D, my G*D, why have you forsaken me?
Then Jesus cried out again and gave up his spirit.
Be destroyed to the uttermost, be deeply shamed and confused—still claim your center, your glory, your belovedness, your simply unlikely birth. It is from this center that we proceed, anyway. As generations before us have affirmed in one way or another, “Called or not, G*D is present.” 

- - - - - - -

If you would like to play a bit this mid-point day, you might browse the Harvard Review to find variations on this last quote such as “cold or not, ...” or “culled or not, ....”— click here.

Isaiah 50:4-9a (Wednesday)

Year A - Holy Week Wednesday or Clarification Week Wednesday
April 16, 2014

On Hump Day we need a word about sustentation in the midst of weariness. Carrying on the excitement of a Palm Parade is as difficult as remembering any parade. Subsequent days bring their agendas and the parade fades. Likewise, keeping the passion of dread fresh and alive is wearing.

The same process sustains a teacher and learner of an encouraging word—attending, day by day, to the echo and witness of the cosmos. Its explosive expansion simply carries on, eon by eon. We hear of this steadfastness and we share what we hear. It sustains a first hearing and each subsequent hearing. All can be born and borne.

For today is it enough. Hump Day becomes Dayenu Day and we can breathe again with thanks for where we have been and affirmation of what yet lies ahead.

John 13:21-32 (Wednesday)

Year A - Holy Week Wednesday or Clarification Week Wednesday
April 16, 2014

The sadness here is not about betrayal as such. Its result triggers Jesus’ expected end-point of arriving in Jerusalem. This same result could have come directly from the Romans or those Jewish leaders afraid of the failure of another rebellion. In this results-driven world we continue to be after end-points that aren’t dependent upon one process as they are easier to achieve—if at first you don’t achieve by losing, you can try and try again.

In John, it is Jesus who betrays Judas Iscariot. Jesus doesn’t raise a question or tell a parable, he gives permission by way of bread and thereby encourages Judas’ action.

Being the optimistic folks they are being trained to be, the disciples miss all this with their overactive speculations.

Note here that Jesus claims glorification at this time of betrayal. How much earlier might Jesus have claimed this “glorification”? Does it go back to the glory-hallelujah of angels in Bethlehem? Since we are in John, as far back as “in the beginning”? Perhaps his experience in Jerusalem as a lad? Surely as far back as Baptismal Belovedness? One or more of the healings or other miracles?

Why would Jesus claim glorification, resurrection, or vindication at this point?

Since it is the last Wednesday of Lent, remember the ashes of the first Wednesday—from dust you have come; to dust you shall return. Did you claim glorification, resurrection, new life weeks ago? If not, perhaps next year. Or, perhaps yet today? Will you wait for Sunday to make glory officially yours?

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (Easter)

Year A - Easter or Assured
April 20, 2014

Originally the "gates of righteousness" alluded to the gates of the Temple which were entered after a victory. This is a very physical, architectural image.

Traditions added to Easter shift these gates to a tomb entered before a victory is achieved. There is also a shift from a communal procession to an individual dividing line.

At play here is a door stranger than those in Monsters, Inc. These shifts call for a door that can magically sift a person’s life and determine their righteousness. The righteous find a triumph beyond these gates while the unrighteous find punishment. The state of your being is only decided here (hooray for death-bed conversions?).

See how this one-ups a common response by turning it on its head as much as does a rejected stone becoming a key stone?

What was once a day that put a stamp of approval, “resurrection”, victory, or mission accomplished is now only a prelude to a resurrection to be claimed. These gates are no longer those to which provisions/sacrifice is brought but a provisional gate.

Yes, it can be argued that Jesus has accomplished a victory over a boasting grave and that his followers approach their death and tomb in the light of his resurrection, sure and certain of their own. This atonement approach misses the existential realities that are taught and catch us between Sunday School bunnies, doctrines of original sin, and limits of interplay between hope and doubt.

Oh, never mind, “Happy Easter”.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (Tuesday)

Year A - Holy Week Tuesday or Clarification Week Tuesday
April 15, 2014

Relying on an argument that our foolishness reveals G*D’s wisdom—our weakness, G*D’s strength—has long-term problems. It eventually shows up as today’s reliance upon opinion rather than fact.

While appreciating the energy that can be generated by recognizing the shaming power of the underdog as they mobilize their victimhood to garner political strength, a know-nothing approach has no staying power.

This is not to say that foolish and intentional ignorance isn’t a perennial temptation. It works all too well in the short-run and keeps showing up like crab grass. It is to say that it is exactly this dynamic that crucifies people, while ironically claiming that crucifixion’s power is that of trumping foolishness with foolishness (sympathetic magic/homeopathic pharmaceutical approach to every issue).

This rhetorical playing with words needs a great deal of care when trying to build anything upon it because the results of unintended consequences are quite strong and wise people will honor these potentials.

Psalm 71:1-14 (Tuesday)

Year A - Holy Week Tuesday or Clarification Week Tuesday
April 15, 2014

We are full of conditional love—only take care of me and I’ll look after you.

When our hope and praise are dependent upon our own well-being we need to be in conversation with Job.

Blessings to you in the midst of dangers continual. Your task is to take responsibility for your own hope. May you always be able to see beyond whatever threat you are sensing.

Isaiah 49:1-7 (Tuesday)

Year A - Holy Week Tuesday or Clarification Week Tuesday
April 15, 2014

Early promises can bind us to Sunday School responses we carry with us into situations where they become frozen and too small. Even if an early promise is huge, such as descendants too numerous to count or a promised land that become idolized, there is much to be worked out every day and every generation.

Note how G*D is upping the ante. You thought you were here for a plan and now the plan shifts to no plan or a different plan. Everything is back on the table and G*D says we’ve thought too small. The plan is no longer personal or tribal, but global. It is no longer what is in it for you and yours, but universal salvation and health of which yours is but a part.

Oh my!

To move in this direction is literally to end our youth and childhood. We are to expand our image of steadfast love to enemies, strangers, and the just weird. It will take the death of the Sunday School part of us to set free an adult relationship and partnership with G*D. Stand by. The game is afoot.

John 12:20-36 (Tuesday)

Year A - Holy Week Tuesday or Clarification Week Tuesday
April 15, 2014

What sign would tell you that you have come into your prime? Is it an internal sign that would look responsive to an external event? Is is dependent upon some criterion being met that would give permission to play your end game?

Attend to the voice that has come for your sake and yet is not interpretable by you. Some said it thunder and some said it was for Jesus. None saw it relating directly to themself.

It doesn’t help that Jesus continues to talk past people. They ask and Jesus goes off on a tangent. Jesus claims and then hides his claim away.

If you think you get what this is about it is probably time to take a 40 day retreat. Consider again what an absent Messiah might mean. Isn’t there an implication that this particular Messiah is Emmanuel, G*D with us, and now is no where to be found?  How are we to trust absent light?

Over time we have adjusted to this question and done a lot of contortions to make sense of Jesus’ hiding from us. This is a most important question early on and remains such if we are willing to give it a try.

Jeremiah 31:1-6 (Easter)

Year A - Easter or Assured
April 20, 2014

There is a great consolation for those who have struggled just to stay alive until this day of restoration from exile. It will be so for those (LGBTQ and allies) who have been exiled from full participation in The United Methodist Church when that denomination’s restrictive legislation is removed from its Book of Discipline. An internal exile or shunning is as destructive as a foreign exile, crusade, or inquisition.

Not mentioned is an equally great sorrow for those who were not able to be sustained during the generations long exile.

These disjunctures in process seem to be as natural as evolutionary development. We go through them as a cycle, seeming not to learn that repeated rebuilding is not as healthy as learning not to repeat from our previous discriminations. In recent decades this same United Methodist Church has had services of repentance for the way it has treated Women, Blacks, and Native Americans. It won’t be long before it goes on to repent for the way it is currently treating Sexual Orientation and Immigration. After these human identity realities based on one characteristic or another, the only one left will be in the mind. Next will come rules to restrict doctrine to one, true, statement. Not being willing to go on to discrimination against privilege of class and wealth, where else can non-learning from this sort of exiling tendency go than to loyalty oaths?

Hooray for restoration, but only if something has been learned from the exile. Otherwise we will simply repeat this exile/restore cycle with different particulars. If you are interested in a Jeremiah like prophecy regarding today you probably can’t do better than Chris Hedges. Listen in to Hedges here.

Easter is more than restoration or bloody Friday atonement.

Acts 10:34-43 (Easter)

Year A - Easter or Assured
April 20, 2014

Talk about your resurrectional vision, Peter’s vision that precedes this speech is a good example of an everyday Easter experience. Its equivalent in science is that of the thought experiment or sudden insight that changes the way we see the world around us. The same sort of breakthrough happens in every arena of life from the relational to manufacturing to music.

At moments in our own life there comes a new understanding equivalent to, “I truly understand that G*D shows no partiality.” These are as unconscious as learning to walk and as intentional as evaluating a vocational choice.

At those wonderful in-between moments where we can see our gifts contributing to the common good by staying where we are and also by moving on to another arena we see G*D’s impartiality. Both are good and our partnership in discernment is needed. (This is different than just climbing the ladder to grasp as a better-for-me than wrestling with a better-for-us or sticking to a first call through thick and thin or innocently pursuing each new opportunity.)

This week has been a week of choices. Did we do Palm or Passion Sunday? Were we sensitized to injustice with plots by the strong, rigged trials, false claims of impartiality or innocence dramatized with washed hands, capital punishment for stealers of class-driven capital, centurion revelations, intentional betrayal and scared, passive betrayal? Did our walk through the week change us so we are different than last Easter?

Each choice carries the potential of being an Easter choice. Is this really an impartial choice? We usually act as though it were as we choose to stay with what we know rather than risk learning something new.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hebrews 9:11-15 (Monday)

Year A - Holy Week Monday or Clarification Week Monday
April 14, 2014

In the John passage for this day we are warned of the Chief Priests, the gatekeepers in any religion or other institution. They will go to any extreme in the present to keep whatever power they perceive that they have.

This is exactly the danger when we set Jesus as a High Priest. He becomes the setter of a next litmus test. Did you say, “All I need is Christ Jesus” and click your heels three times? Did you do the right thing without thinking about its rightness and get a free pass to heaven, without passing hell, and collect 200 Salvation Points? Did you profess the correct creed out of the hundreds and thousands proposed and serially enforced? Did you remember it is a formal covenant and not a relational connexion that makes all the difference (well it is something beyond a former understanding even if less than a next understanding).

So how do you play the High Priest card? Is it not just as silly and dangerous as wanting a king even after G*D described the perils to and through Samuel? Yesterday’s parade aside, Monday brings more questions than answers. This work week is different than yesterday’s recreational Game of Palms (Thrones).

Psalm 36:5-11 (Monday)

Year A - Holy Week Monday or Clarification Week Monday
April 14, 2014

Yes, we are going to find the limits of the arrogant privileged as we expand circles of relationship. It doesn’t take long to be schooled in the rules of society. Each culture in its own way limits options for some for the benefit of others.

These are the easy temptations, the obvious ones, that can distract and discourage us. The more difficult ones are much more subtle. Revisiting past successes (Lazarus) or accepting a tad of adulation (Mary) or trusting our innate goodness and connection to G*D to see us through (Jesus/Chief Priests).

Regardless of how we engage the pressure points of life, it is helpful to periodically remember verse 1 (how vertically extensive), verse 2 (how horizontally broad), and verse 3 (how universally present “all” is). In each dimension steadfast love is an even more encompassing feast than we are ready for. And so our way is lit. We will always be able to see and return to a path of healthy living no matter the distractions that come our way.

Isaiah 42:1-9 (Monday)

Year A - Holy Week Monday or Clarification Week Monday
April 14, 2014

The goal of justice is approached
     Bruised, not broken
     Flickering, not extinguished
through persistence.

It is all too easy to be discouraged. A stubbed toe becomes a broken foot keeping us from taking a next needed step. A teaspoon of cold water on an idea is all it takes to have us retract it and store it away forever.

It is not at all easy to open our own eyes before those of another. We know all too well, sometimes, the splinter that is in our own eye and close our eyes to the log that is in another’s eye. The discomfort we have of the innocent imprisoned puts us in our own prison of not seeing.

A key to being presently persistent is to recognize one former thing has led to another former thing—and to yet another and another. The same process is still going on and today will soon be three former-things ago. Consider what yet needs to spring forth. Let’s tell of these new things to one another that your encouragement will call me forward and my encouragement will call to you. These mutual calls are to fulfill the spirit within and without, ahead and behind, and all around that partners with us to bring forth justice for all; don’t forget that it will be mercy that is most just.

John 12:1-11 (Monday)

Year A - Holy Week Monday or Clarification Week Monday
April 14, 2014

As a pre-Last Supper we find the guys at the table and the women waiting upon them. Read this into eucharist. Takes away some of the beauty, huh? Ritual is always culture bound.

As a pre-Burial (ironic with raised Lazarus there remembering his own anointing and the smell of it after the grave clothes were unwrapped) we find a first anointing by a woman (too often unfairly associated with sinner/prostitute) and at the official grave it is two guys who get the credit, who have the right credentials as morticians.

As a pre-Betrayal we find money at the heart of the breaking of relationships. You can’t serve G*D and Mammon continues to ring true. Western Capitalism has no replacement on the horizon and so a great crash is expected before a new economic paradigm can be implemented. Imagine the cost of the perfume to have been 30 pieces of silver to balance the story-telling.

As a pre-Crucifixion we remember the end of the previous chapter with a plot to kill Jesus and Lazarus (again). Finding the right chargeable offenses wasn’t easy to pull off, it took effort to set Jesus and the Roman up (depending on how anti-Semitic you want to be).

We are not at a pre-Resurrection as that can’t be anticipated.

A part of the work we need to do is post-Last Supper, post-Burial, post-Betrayal, and post-Crucifixion. In each case we have work to do, responsibility to change our interactions and express G*D-on-our-side by loving our Neighb*r.

There is news about pay equity as this note is being written. Progress has been made, but so much is yet to do. This has Eucharistic implications about how much food can be put on the table and shared. In addition to pay there is a job status gap with men still getting the credit for spicing Jesus’ burial as prelude to resurrection (Mary’s anointing gets misinterpreted and dismissed). We are all part of a system based on wealth and privilege that skews our values and are fearful of losing any part of our present and potential resources and scheming to get more at any cost. And who among us has not been part of a plot to do in one group or another (either passively or actively—both equally efficient at removing others)?

A heavy beginning to a heavy week.

Matthew 28:1-10 (Easter)

Year A - Easter or Assured
April 20, 2014

It is not bad enough that we have seen crucifixion after crucifixion and now the crucifixion of our beloved. It is not bad enough that we have not attended to his body or had to finally come to grips with his absence. Now an earthquake like we have never experienced before and a vision in the midst of the shaking. Stones rolled. Fear paralyzed.

As quickly as that, another story for this time begins. Journey back to the beginning to see it again for the first time. Return to Galilee! Start to live what you have seen lived. [Note: I am leaving out the whole worship Jesus thing: Reference The Five Gospels and other sources that suggest this is a story-telling technique as opposed to quotable material.]

This living beyond ourselves is a task beyond what can be done on one’s own. Gather a community. As we learn later in verses 16 ff., what we live together becomes a witness to others. So, don’t ignore living yourself into trustful action and only consider believing or talking yourself into changed living. Attend to your experience.

John 20:1-18 (Easter)

Year A - Easter or Assured
April 20, 2014

Oh, how dark is a Sunday morning after a Saturday of having Friday sink in.

Oh, how dark is a open tomb. It beckons, “Next”.

Oh, how dark when physical absence becomes psychic absence.

Run, yes, run! Help, yes, “Help!”

All that’s left is some form of belief beyond understanding.

Oh, and returning to the usual we left for with no room for understanding. There are only earlier tapes to turn to.

It is so hard to wait for clarity. We make up beliefs to cover our lack of understanding and go as merrily as we can.

Without belief Mary weeps and waits; waits and weeps. A small sparkle in tear-dimmed eyes begins to see reality anew. This is not empty nothing to be covered over by frail belief.

Stating her reality: “Taken away”, “I do not know”, Mary presses for understanding. “Where?”

As quickly as Newton’s apple falling on him, Mary hears her name, her belovedness.

“Do not hold on to belief alone for it stops ascension, growing, more.

And Mary went on to affirm what she now knows of a process of life and more life, not to simply believe and retreat.

And it was dark and it was day, a new day.

A busy Week

Each day this week has 4 lections of its own plus 1 or 2 in preparation for Sunday.

The day will be indicated along with the pericope.

Good luck.

Read what you can and let the rest go.