Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2 Samuel 11:26–12:13a

Year B - Pentecost +10 or Energy to Witness 10
August 2, 2015

The story of the rich and poor is one that has held true since the beginning. This is a story of power and privilege, a tale of prince and pauper. For the sake of living by a communal norm (hospitality) without inconvenience or participation, we break another communal norm (care for family) by stealing from someone else.

In our day this dynamic is most evident by corporations regarding profits and labor. For the sake of one constituency (shareholders) we diminish another constituency (community laborers).

When we have so much, where is the continuing drive for that one desire too far? Whatever the mechanism, an unsheathed sword or unregulated profit, that which allows our gain will become our stumbling stone. From within our own house or justification scheme will arise a force and rebellion against us.

Monday, July 27, 2015

John 6:23-35

Year B - Pentecost +10 or Energy to Witness 10
August 2, 2015

     From time to time we have a sense that our current center is missing in action—we are becalmed against our will. Having a need to be met and a lack of focus about how to proceed leaves us agitated (looking for relief) and depressed (unable to move). We try to search. We give up. We do both at the same time.
     Where will you look? As far as across a sea?
     When we are reunited we ask unimportant questions that are all translatable into "Feed me; fill my need."
     And we hear back, "Look beyond; set a larger context."
     Finally we are able to ask the question we've been yearning to ask, "What must we do to perform the works of G*D?
     Wow, what a question!
     Of course our questions precede our ability to hear a response and we presently confuse our past feeding with a future filling. We hear Jesus' response here in terms of him, not us.

     What we hear here in translation might have gone:
     "How do we move from dying of hunger to milk and honey resources?"
     "Trust in who your G*D Partner has set loose in creation."
     "No, silly, you."
     "We remember you feeding us and manna before that."
     "The bread of G*D is that which comes to give life and meaning to the world. Remember this: from Eve and Adam, you are the bread of life."
     "How can we remember this when our rituals separate us from G*D and turn us from Partners to dependents?"
     "Repeat after me: 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever is in community with me will never be thirsty.' Remember: Partner with Neighb*rs and G*D and all manner of things will be well. Now, go. Feed one another as I have fed you, not as I have fed you."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Psalm 89:20-37

Year B - Pentecost +8 or Energy to Witness 8
July 19, 2015

Where is David’s throne today?

Wherever love is shown (even if not steadfast, for we see where that got David’s descendants)?

Wherever trust is found true?

Wherever competing covenants make things better rather than worse by setting one absolutely, forever, unalterably against another?

Wherever we find our context to be that of a larger creation we die back into?

So, how do you respond to the question of where David’s throne is today? Yes, this is important to wrestle with for awhile and to engage others with you in considering this question. It is all too easy to pass over how we are positively and negatively passed over.

2 Samuel 7:1-14a

Year B - Pentecost +8 or Energy to Witness 8
July 19, 2015

We begin with “the Lord” taking care of David’s enemies. This also a continuation of G*D settling in to a people and now a place (a false Eden?).

The promise here is the lovely one of the Israelites being beyond disturbances. They can settle back free from external enemies (forgotten here are the internal ones of someone seeking power and basic greed setting person against person).

We end with that dreamed of promise  that G*D will, like a parent, always look out for us so we don’t have to.

If we were to make it all the way to the end of verse 14 we would find this ominous word that proves to be all too needed: “When you commit iniquity, I will punish you with violence from others now contained.”

When the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Dependency’s dark side is not safety and security, but punishment. This is another reason the image needed is partnership (with all its attendant frustrations) not parenting.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Year B - Pentecost +8 or Energy to Witness 8
July 19, 2015

The way people recognize Jesus, you might almost imagine that there was a Wanted poster for him posted at the local meeting place in every city gate. Then and now, here and there, it is difficult to imagine what a generic Messiah looks like. Probably more like a “terrorist” than a member of the inner circle of power. In our here and now we would be playing the profiling card of Muslim, even though such a stereotype is far less than helpful.

Whatever the mechanism, Jesus was recognized. As Jim Post has sung referring to post-recognition hagiography or iconography and a halo, “No one else wears a hat like that.”

Without even getting a prayer break found in the elided section, Jesus recognized a need for R&R only to find there is no respite if your celebrity status is high enough. Desiring a deserted place—he was recognized and compassion kicked back in. After working hard to get away (unsuccessfully) and working hard to get back Jesus is again recognized. No rest for the compassionate (another reason it is not a top five Family Feud response to a next incident).

So, how is it with you and your compassion fatigue? What have you unsuccessfully tried? Is there anything besides prayer that works for you (remember that missing section where a little prayer break gave Jesus wonder water-walking power?). If there is something other than prayer, is is just because you haven’t seen prayer in a large enough context?

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Ephesians 1:3-14

Year B - Pentecost +7 or Energy to Witness 7
July 12, 2015

After wading through all the perks of being claimed by G*D (regardless of the mechanism/religious tradition) there comes a kicker at the end. Remember that in the Greek that this is one long sentence with all manner of subordinate clauses.

In the end we are pledged to a future that is larger than the present. The down payment the spirit has made in our lives is to bring the delivery of a wider appreciation of those beyond us also destined to be our sisters and brothers that we have yet to acknowledge and affirm as “redeemed” as ourselves.

This must be read as poetry, not prose. It is not literally an unbridled confirmation that we are specially elected beyond anyone else. Providential energy that incorporates us does not stop with us but is oriented toward finally bringing all things created together. We are still pushing onward toward common-wealth through mutual mercy some now call Christ and some know through other designations.

The New Interpreter’s Bible helpfully concludes, “Ephesians sees redemption as the purpose that God has embedded in creation as a whole. Though Ephesians recognizes the human need for redemption from sin, its imagery suggests that God would have brought all things together in Christ even if Adam had not sinned.”

Blessings to you as you move beyond awe and praise into living well, basic discipleship.

Psalm 24

Year B - Pentecost +7 or Energy to Witness 7
July 12, 2015

It is good to see the Lectionary Committee has a sense of humor. John loses his head. It is not recorded how G*D murdered Uzzah so we can posit a beheading worthy of the denouement (literal untying of Indiana and Marion) of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And now we hear, “Lift up your heads!”

Clean hands and pure hearts are wonderful theories that don’t take into account the stages and states and experiences of living people. Yes, surely they will receive a blessing. Just as surely will the gate be open to all to receive their blessing in soiled hands and abused hearts.

A “King of Glory” without mercy is hardly a king to be glorified. This Psalm begins well with creation and then narrows all of creation down to our particulars. It is as if our particulars are now to define creation rather that creation continuing to set our context. Blessings on your hands and heart, no matter what they have been through.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

2 Samuel 6:1-19

Year B - Pentecost +7 or Energy to Witness 7
July 12, 2015

“Off with their heads!” are words uttered topologic novels, king to challenger, and G*D to people. We do this within friendships and families. We are willing to do away with much more quickly than we are to spend a moment to reflect on long-term consequences or even one alternative.

Red Queen to Alice, King Herod to Baptizer John, G*D to Uzzah, you to _______. The tradition lives on, “Do to others, simply do them in” and rationalize it later. It expands to military folks destroying a village to save it, to economic titans finding every last profit to be made no matter the human or environmental cost, education leaving more and more behind because a test is what is important, and examples go on.

No wonder that David was afraid that he would be on the other end of the ark or history and initially refused the gift. When it proved to be as profitable as it was dangerous, David finally placed his bet and retrieved it (as much to spite Obed-edom as to reap the bounty?).

From here everyone returns home. The breaking Friday-after-deadline is lost as everyone returns home for the weekend. So, violence continues mostly out-of-sight. Stand-by, folks can only avoid issues so long, stay at home so long, before consequences come due. Long or short, comeuppance arrives.

See if you can last at least as long as David without an "Ark O'Don't Touch". How long can you go without physical or some other form of violence for someone trespassing your Red Queen habit, King Herod pride, or G*D ultimate rule? An hour? Half-a-day? Day? Week? (Don't forget to include a dismissive glance or silence.)

Monday, July 06, 2015

Mark 6:14-29

Year B - Pentecost +7 or Energy to Witness 7
July 12, 2015

This may be the genesis of tales of Sleepy Hollow and a headless horseman? I believe this is an example of gallows humor. When there is nothing else to say—for the situation is sickeningly gruesome—laugh. Or, alternatively, whistle in the dark.

Additionally, we might image Herod as Lady McBeth and her motif, “Out, out, damned spot.” Everywhere Herod looks, there is John haunting his memory that he was more willing to grieve the death of a “righteous and holy man” die than to let a chink appear in his power. It would be helpful to read about “weeping executioners”  who who express concern for the oppressed, but will not leave their place in the hierarchy of oppression.

Such a sad tale on nearly every level. Sadder still is that we are still playing the same power games to get elected and stay there that Herod did. Position yourself to always be right, if not righteous (particularly if not trustworthy).

Remember how Herod can see a headless John around every corner. Remember how difficult it is for the disciples, male and female, to recognize Jesus even with a headful of Warner Sallman locks.

There is more than enough to be guilty about. May your guilt adjust your behavior and not just lead to a generalized sense of guilt.

There is plenty of room in which to become more aware of a pervasive goodness to creation. May what you know about mystery open you to progressively more wonderful possibilities.