Monday, July 28, 2014

Matthew 14:13-21

Year A - Pentecost +7 or Community Practice 7
July 27, 2014

One unrealistic expectation of a lectionary is that folks will know what comes before and after a particular passage. Having only a slice of the larger story leads us into a literalistic approach to the words selected. A pericope comes with an implied moral.

As we hear the transition words that begin this segment,“On hearing this. . . .”, we need to remember what has just gone on: Baptizer John has just been beheaded.

In the concluding action we can hear a reprise of Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism. With no bread around he was tempted to turn stones into bread and did his Jesus judo by saying we don’t live by bread alone and that he had “bread” unknown to others. Now, with “nothing” to eat for 5,013 men (no “women and children first” here) the disciples respond “we have but enough for ourselves”. 

It is not until we get down to not having enough for ourselves that we begin to trust an alternative reality. The Disciples hadn’t hit bottom yet, they were just on the fringes of wilderness, not immersed in it.

Can you hear Jesus saying a different blessing than the expected one, “The Body of John has been broken for us, let us break into a fast in remembrance of him.” And the five loaves and two fish were taken to all. And the people, one by one, remembered they had sustenance previously unknown. [Note: this does not speak to those amazing details of multiplication or eating or left-overs, only to a blessing beyond standard blessings that reframes where we are, who we are, and what might yet be possible.]

From here we can go on to a dry place with water all around and an invitation to “Courage” and a bidding to “Come”.




Thursday, July 24, 2014

Romans 8:26-39

Year A - Pentecost +7 or Community Practice 7
July 27, 2014

We plant weeds in our own prayer and life. No wonder we don’t know how to pray. We get all mixed up about what it means to work toward a larger common good.

Take a look at today. If today is what was predestined from a hundred years or generations ago, surely something has gone awry. It suggests that even a sighing Spirit has a spotty prayer record.

So what can be said about the parables of life? Not much. Discernment about which one to use when is still an important task. Nonetheless, we do put down markers that reflect what it is we trust or are convinced about. In our better times, we live up to the hope they imply.

What are you convinced about? Your value? Your part in larger pictures? Just showing up is nine-tenths of the job? You are not as lonely as our tendency to separate would lead us to believe? Love wins in the end, even if you die rejecting that premise? Mustard happens?


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Psalm 105:1-11, 45

Year A - Pentecost +7 or Community Practice 7
July 27, 2014


imagine praise of another 
as sowing a small 
mustard seed 
of encouragement 
into their life

in time 
will grow 
confidence 
to welcome strangers
from another realm

with them
comes fertilizer
to grow
into further
praise

each to the other
will cede
to the other
a new
inheritance


Genesis 29:15-28

Year A - Pentecost +7 or Community Practice 7
July 27, 2014

Jacob’s life is like Leah that Laban sowed in Jacob’s life.

The Presence of G*D is like expectation that rises whenever Rachel is thought of. Her grace and beauty leavens all of Jacob’s life.

Tomorrow’s Promise is found and hidden in Today, in Rachel. Jacob invests twice to be with his treasure. He would have done it a third time had that been necessary.

Our Goal is worth the circuitous search for it. When our “Rachel” is found, we gladly sell any time we have to have a moment.

Eventually  every Leah and Rachel enters our life. In their presence we recognize that both are part of our story and we cannot consign any part to a fiery dust-heap of a sanitized history. Everything will be made whole or well again.

Jacob and you and I are in training for Tomorrow. Our gift box of treasures is quite varied. Sometimes we pull out a cautionary tale and sometime one of great unimagined surprise.

Jacob’s life of new and old, tricks that push forward and hold back, rascal children and thoughtful, rolls on in his time and continues to invite us into the kind of intentional and happenstance experiences that make up a life.

Now, how would you identify a key moment in your life and have that be an example or parable of the Presence or Freedom of G*D?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Year A - Pentecost +7 or Community Practice 7
July 27, 2014

It was just a moment ago we heard that a sower sowed “good” seed and someone else sowed “weed” seed or invasive species. The wisdom of that moment was to let them both grow until harvest and to then separate them.

Here it seems a sower sowed mustard in their own wheat field. What sense does it make to sow mustard among the wheat?

Well, remember this is a parable and we only compare them to one another within the closing rubric of this pericope: we are to bring out of our treasured experiences that which is new and what is old according to the situation at hand. Attend to the situation to reduce the misapplication of a favorite saying. 

For now rejoice that even a weed can be a symbol of the presence of G*D. In some sense this story is a direct challenge and counter to the privilege of mighty cedar trees. Here a mustard holds birds just like a cedar. All flighty persons are welcome to settle. That is you and me and all.

The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible says the mustard in question is “almost certainly” Brasica nigra (the black mustard) with a seed about 0.1 inches in diameter that in ideal conditions can grow to 15 feet tall with a stem as thick as a human arm. Of course parables don’t need to deal with “almost” certainties to make a point. If they were it would have to be recognized that in usual circumstances, the plant’s tendency to go limp in the heat of the day wouldn’t be an ideal nesting place. The certainties would also get us into the sexuality of the plant wherein the flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs). The plant is self-fertile. This wouldn’t play well with the “one man, one woman” crowd but does opens up a whole new understanding of “heavenly realms”.

For the moment, imagine the presence of G*D portrayed as a humble garden herb instead of an imperial tree already mighty, high and lifted up. Here is an opportunity to add flavor to life, not to overpower it. May we go and do likewise.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Romans 8:12-25

Year A - Pentecost +6 or Community Practice 6
July 20, 2014

Yesterday there was to have been a meeting hosted by the leadership of The United Methodist Church’s Connectional Table and the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops that invited 3 groups advocating for a release of mission and ministry in The United Methodist Church by removing the fearful language that categorically discriminates against LGBTQ United Methodists and 3 groups attempting to maintain and strengthen the current restrictive legislation. Additionally there was 1 group invited that represents the 100 largest United Methodist congregations.

The result was that the only  the first 3 groups arrived (Love Prevails, Methodist Federation for Social Action, and Reconciling Ministries Network).

The agenda was pitiful and still was tried to be carried out when less than half of the invitees bothered to show up and they were all folks who had had to gird their loins to be present, one more time in the face of those who desire their exile and will go to any lengths to achieve purity at the expense of another’s very life.

If you want to focus on groaning currently going on, that can be done at quite a distance with news about shooting down a public airliner or a ground invasion of Gaza. For those in The United Methodist Church, it will be important to attend to your groaning sisters and brothers and a variety of gender identities lest your concern for those far away is undercut by your lack of concern for those near by. In other situations the undercutting would go the other way, but today, in The United Methodist Church, the delay in honoring our baptized LGBTQ siblings affects every part of the denomination.

Join the groaning that there is so much trickle-down fear and cowardice from church leadership and the need is so great for trickle-up courage from everyday folk. Attend to this video report after the above fiasco of a meeting where absence was yet another face and form of violence.


Then you might appreciate this reflection by on the video report by Jeanne Knepper, one of many LGBTQ saints, that speaks to a watchful and waiting hope: 

Trickle up, trickle through, trickle, trickle moves the water as it undercuts, as it undermines, as it overwhelms the dam, the damn dam. And when the water gushes through, when the Spirit flows, the dam believers will wonder, "Why didn't we see this coming??" Because, fearful friends, you were afraid to go near the water, the water of Life, offered so very freely, for so many years. Love Prevails.

  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24

Year A - Pentecost +6 or Community Practice 6
July 20, 2014

Given the parable of the wheat and weeds, does G*D search us to distinguish our various parts and judge one against another? To hem us in, fore and aft, would seem to be an attempt to de-weed us.

That question is one starting point to further question a deistic formulation of a divinely controlling busy-body. How easy does the gospel lesson lie with this psalm?

It would seem to be more comfortable in relationship to the ladder image in Genesis. The ascending and descending going on wherever the ladder might be planted is indicative of it being located at all points and we just periodically notice it.


https://www.osha.gov/FedReg_osha_gif/FED20100524img13.jpg

Are angels constrained by OSHA constraints on angles?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Genesis 28:10-19a

Year A - Pentecost +6 or Community Practice 6
July 20, 2014

Where the “ladder” is set is a place of wheat and tares, seed and weed. It can be meta-geographical location—a previous Garden of Eden, a present Garden of Your Life, or a next Revelational Garden. Wherever set, it gives shape to the ascending and descending aspects of life.

What do you image as the work of ascending or descending such a metaphoric ladder? A usual response might entail something about sin or prayer, but for the moment consider a simpler and more complex dynamic of an on-going creation larger than sin or prayer.

You are invited to take this ladder with you wherever you might go—“Know a creative process we shorthand as G*D is with you wherever you go. It will not leave, no matter how we try to escape our part in it, and will continue to trouble us with a word or a sign.”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-O5NoCyxg6c
Susan Werner - Did Trouble Me
Found on her CD: The Gospel Truth