Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Exodus 33:12-23

Pentecost +19 or Community Practice 19
October 19, 2014

Show me your coin. Show me your face.

What we show defines us. What has been staring us in the face all along is the face on the coin. Our imaginations are so limited. Coin of the realm will go to the realm. If not given willingly, no matter how grudgingly, it will be confiscated. So we play along with the figment that church and state are so intertwined that one is used as a trap for the other.

What has also been staring us in the face all along is the lack of a single face for G*D. Everywhere we look a different face appears. No wonder that, when push comes to shove, G*D pushes and shoves Moses into a crack so a face can't be claimed. Even as a chosen people there is an unknownness as to whether we can pick out whether we have one or more of G*D's features. A faceless G*D is the trade off of partnership and neighborliness. In this facelessness we can be partners and not just privileged heirs. In this facelessness everyone is Neighb*r.

Biblical koan alert:
Here is the sign that you are favored: You are not favored above all others.

Everyone can see where G*D has been. No one can predict or prophecy where G*D will next be seen. Try as we might, our best laid trap to capture G*D has been foiled again.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Matthew 22:15-22

Year A - Pentecost +19 or Community Practice 19
October 19, 2014

Political dirty tricks begin with religious dirty dirty tricks. Politicians have learned from the best, people adept at turning their religion into a theocracy long after their G*D has moved on. In other words, from each and every established religion.

This acknowledgment of religious dirty tricks is not to denigrate religion to the point of irrelevancy, but to recognize an eternal tension within every religion between its ideals and implementation. This tension affects every other part of our common lives.

In today’s world, as always, not taking the bait of responding too large to a too large question gives a bit of an edge. When we don’t say more than can be known we participate in clarifying where lies trickery and realism.

Blessings to you in not claiming too much, staying in touch with what you know, and knowing the value of small affirmations. These are all difficult to stay with in the face of big questions and a medium-sized ego, but their value has been shown down through the years.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Philippians 4:1-9

Year A - Pentecost +18 or Community Practice 18
September 28, 2014

Definition of being of “one mind”: Let your gentleness be known.

Definition of “the Lord is near” (with you/within you/partnered with you): Do not worry.

Definition of “excellence”: Keep doing what you have learned from your experience. (Unfortunately we can be excellent in doing harm as well as doing good.)

How might you practice gentleness in your context? Remember, gentleness here is a way of standing firm; it is not as floppy as milk toast.

How might you practice not worrying in your context? Or, perhaps, worry a bit less? Again, remembering that standing firm means, in part, not letting worry have the last word even if it is a first word.

These words of instruction are grounded in practice. We hear the encouragement and now we are called to practice. Such practice takes place most effectively in a community where we identify how it is with our soul and are accountable to practice deepening or changing what we have found out about our condition. Practice is going to look differently in different locales and stages. These details are not worked out for us, but we do have three overviews that help us put a practice plan into effect. It is alright if we even only work on practicing one of the three as they are all interconnected and we will still engage them as a matter of course.

Finally, beloved, just do it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Year A - Pentecost +18 or Community Practice 18
September 28, 2014

Did you know you, too, are a “chosen” one. From before a big bang the conditions have been put in place for you to be who and where you are. With your experiences and location you can stand in the breach between the silliness of today and the hope of tomorrow, protecting the seed in expectation of a flowering and fruiting and more seed.

What king and what G*D do you need to stand before and say, “This far and no further”. Isn’t it wonderful irony to be able to use G*D’s words to Job on G*D.

Let’s move it out of a question about chosenness. Now that you see yourself as chosen as a protector of the seed of tomorrow, where are you choosing to stand? Is is a large or small breach that threatens to do in all that has come along so far? Actually, size doesn’t make any difference. Large or small, stand sturdy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Exodus 32:1-14

Year A - Pentecost +18 or Community Practice 18
September 28, 2014

When the cat is away, the mice will play. This is one of the difficulties of authority—it leads folks to be afraid and see themselves as prey. A helpful use of authority is that of teaching folks how to think and learn on their own. Imagine if Moses had assisted folks to engage YHWH and YHWH to engage the people beyond a hierarchical relationship.

This is one way of evaluating pastoral leadership at any time in history. Is it empowering better thinking and deeper relationships? If so, good energy will continue to flow. If not, there will ultimately be abuse of power from either the congregation or the pastor as they tussle for being at the right hand of G*D.

About the best thing going here is that wonderfully freeing line about G*D changing G*D’s mind about planning disaster. Enough disaster is going to happen without planning more. Can you imagine a king or an image of heaven that takes change into account regarding a king’s actions or heaven’s exclusivity? If so, we can yet grow further. If not, well, who will still stand for long?

Monday, October 06, 2014

Matthew 22:1-14

Year A - Pentecost +18 or Community Practice 18
September 28, 2014

Always with the intermediaries. Why send “slaves” to do a final ask? 

Who would dare to ignore a king to their face or to try to imprison them? It is so easy for us to fall into judging where we are going to spend our time and energy. Convenience is a major issue here. Also at stake are judgments about survival and whether attending a wedding will detract from the needed commerce to continue growing personal wealth. Both of these remind us of the eternal tension between our social contracts and our personal judgments.

Here the kingly prerogative is to make the king’s judgments preeminent and so all citizens need to drop everything to attend to wherever the king ends up on a particular decision. Why would a wedding banquet be expected to be of the same import and value to everyone? Is this but the latest in a series of vanities of kingship that is weakening the interrelationships of the community or is it a key turning point in the way the citizens are recommitted to one another? The mere fact of a banquet doesn’t tell us much about where it fits into larger pictures.

The only consistent things here is the hair-trigger recompense a king is able to wreak upon their subjects. Many are slaughtered and single outliers are bound and tortured.

Where would you rank this particular parable in light of other parables. Is this on the same par as a mustard seed?

What aspect of heaven does this convey that another parable about a field pearl doesn’t or can’t? And, is this a constituent part of heaven or another of our interpretations based on kingly privilege?

Not being able to take a parable at face-value, how might we use this to reveal a misconception about heaven (defined by hell rather than itself) or an integral part of its nature (exclusive, decisional)?

Imagine for a moment a moral that is a bit less privileged. What would it be like to follow Chapter 21’s insight that many regarded Jesus as a prophet? Might that push us to reconsider the telling of this parable in favor of one that is more prophetically merciful than kingly/priestly judgment and end with “Many are called, and many welcomed.”

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Philippians 2:1-13

Year A - Pentecost +16 or Community Practice 16
September 28, 2014

In the game of Jenga, blocks are removed from a tower and placed on top of the remaining structure. The result is a progressively more unstable structure. Even with the strongest base of communal values:


these are not sufficient for a tower to reach to the heavens. We see our very own construction teetering and our hand shaking the more with each move.

Our imagination also teeters in stressful situations. We have accepted the limitations of our rules. Eventually our tower of life comes tumbling down. Our neighbor’s hand or our own falters. But even if we were to build until only one piece was still in its original place, the simple settling out of dust from the air will destabilize the structure and down it will come. Things fall apart, is not just the name of a great book by Chinua Achebe but our constant reality.

We attempt to corral life by hedging it in with rules as though Jenga were but a physics problem to be worked out with what we know at any given time. All we need to do is set initial boundaries of behavior and somehow we will be able to take that final piece from the bottom and successfully place it on the top so we can marvel at the space now available between tower and table. Higher and higher we go with increasing amounts of nothing below.

Our communal stability relies on common consent

     same mind
     same love
     same purpose
     same heart

only to find tensions

     ambition – humility
     self interest – other interest

in the middle of love and purpose that are as intractable as gravity in everyday life. An ideal game will never be played, even by robots. Something there is that doesn’t like pat answers to messy questions. And so someone usually knocks it over with intentional unintentionally or out of simply meanness or revenge—anything to move on to a different game or get away from those present.

Therefore, beloveds, your fear and trembling work is


to not turn our various games of life into some fantasy of winning.

Now for the Zen of gaming. We watch with bated breath as our neighbor successfully completes their turn. And there is celebration. We are watched with bated breath as we successfully complete our turn. And there is celebration. We watch our neighbor fail. And there is mourning. We are watched as we fail. And there is mourning. Together, our celebrations and our mournings reveal G*D among us. Together, we rebuild a tower, all the fallen pieces become integral to a next opportunity to play together as we will and work for the pleasure of one another’s company.