Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pneuma: the Wind, the Breath, and the Spirit

I like to think of myself as a "thinking" person; well educated and scientifically disciplined. This self-image is a major reason that I embraced my understanding of Methodism.

Global Climate Stewardship

We acknowledge the global impact of humanity’s disregard for God’s creation. Rampant industrialization and the corresponding increase in the use of fossil fuels have led to a buildup of pollutants in the earth’s atmosphere. These “greenhouse gas” emissions threaten to alter dramatically the earth’s climate for generations to come with severe environmental, economic, and social implications. The adverse impacts of global climate change disproportionately affect individuals and nations least responsible for the emissions. We therefore support efforts of all governments to require mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and call on individuals, congregations, businesses, industries, and communities to reduce their emissions. 
(Social Principles of The UMC; 2017)
I do not agree with everything our Social Principles ask us to prayerfully consider; but in this case, I strongly do. Why?

Scripture informs me, as a disciple and lay-speaker, that humanity has been called to a service of Stewardship to Creation, and that I must witness to others as to this mission as its evangelist.

As an ex urban-planner and conservationist, I studied (and participated in) the long tradition in society of debating the intrinsic versus the utilitarian value of nature. While a Religious Studies minor, I studied the long tradition of devout sisters and brothers who viewed nature as a source of wonder and inspiration, rather than as a source of personal power and corporate profit.

By reason, I find it difficult to believe that human (historic and ongoing) impacts to the composition of our atmosphere wouldn't alter its life-sustaining characteristics in some manner.

My experience as a retired archaeologist and preservationist (and as an old man)  have shown me the environmental and cultural impacts of prehistoric and historic unsustainable natural resource over-consumption and exploitation.

(photography by tiwago)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Everybody Loves a Parade!

Lately, I've found myself thinking about parades. My village just had its annual Irish-Fest parade wherein we communally celebrate the Irish Diaspora with a stately progression of firetruck Banshees. And in the news, as May approaches, we hear more and more about military-parade envy by the world's 'leaders'...

A crowd had gathered to see Jesus' and Lazarus' walk from Bethany and their entry into Jerusalem. I know these people: elderly ones like myself, emplacing lawn-chairs well in advance to save a spot; excited children dancing in nervous anticipation of the coming rain of candy; inebriated celebrants ready to tussle for tossed strands of beads. Everybody loves a parade.

What did law-enforcement and other authorities think about this disruption - this disturbance of the peace? Had a permit been filled out? How would this impact traffic? Was this an act of civil-disobedience, a protest-march: a mocking parody of Pilate's annual triumphal military parade into Jerusalem to exhibit the might of the Empire and to keep the Pax Romana during Passover? Was it a reminder to an oppressed people of the triumphal march of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 13:51)? Remember, in John's Gospel, Jesus had at this point already cleansed the Temple - is this a reminder of another time the Temple was cleansed (2 Maccabees 10:6-7)?

"After this I looked, and there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice: 'Victory belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'" (Revelation 7:9&10 CEB)
Paving the Roman-built road with palm-fronds, with royal palms waving, a psalm could be heard (was it shouted or sung I wonder?):
This is the Lord’s gate;
    those who are righteous enter through it.
I thank you because you answered me,
    because you were my saving help.
The stone rejected by the builders
    is now the main foundation stone!
This has happened because of the Lord;
    it is astounding in our sight!
This is the day the Lord acted;
    we will rejoice and celebrate in it!
Lord, please save us!
    Lord, please let us succeed!
The one who enters in the Lord’s name is blessed;
    we bless all of you from the Lord’s house.
The Lord is God!
    He has shined a light on us!
So lead the festival offering with ropes
    all the way to the horns of the altar.

(Psalm 118:19-27 CEB)
There he came, riding on a donkey as the crowd rejoiced and sang.
"Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion. Sing aloud, Daughter Jerusalem. Look, your king will come to you. He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the offspring of a donkey." (CEB) It seems to me that they might have secretly had in mind verses 8, and 10 to 17 of Zechariah as well.
No one understood right then, not even his own students, for the veil placed over their hearts and minds had not yet been sundered. But, later:
"Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures." (Luke 24:45 CEB); 
"I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15 CEB)

Palm-reading photographs by Tiwago

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Psalm 51:1-12 NRSV

I am, just barely, holding on...

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

(photography by tiwago)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Take. Eat. This Is My Body.

Word now within;
Scripture tattooed
On heart-muscles.
I AM your Abba -
You're my babies.

No more secondhand learning;
Nor asking/challenging others:
"Tell me, do you KNOW God?"
You might as well ask them all: 
"Do you breath air in and out?"

From the least significant,
From the least influential;
To the most important,
To the most powerful -
From poorest to richest:

     I forgave what you did!
     I forgot what you did!
     I AM here, within you.

(Jeremiah 31:33-34)

(poetry and photography by tiwago)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Life & Death

dead to
others and the world
dead to
the Other - my Lord
dead in an
undead way

death by trespasses
boundaries violated
i tried to slip through
strands of barbed-wire
leaving a ragged piece
of my denim soul

dying of myself
instead of from myself 
following many whispers
internal and external
following figureheads
strongmen and powers
while the spirit worked
all the while on me

just like everyone else
i live a passion of flesh
following hormonal urges
lost child of hot wrath
lusting for deadly fruit


the mothering father
merciful beyond boundaries
from the depths of true love
stray children such as i
- foully reeking of the tomb -
 are dearly beloved treasures

brought to
life with and within Christ
brought to
life by undeserved grace
raised from death's clutches

seated at the family-table
forever is too short a time
to measure the sea of grace
yet long enough to linger
bathing in its warm embrace

by the grace of faith
by my faith in grace
i who am of no real value
am unknowingly priceless

none of us may brag on it
for we did not do it
we're but what we were made for
created in Christ as goodly tools
meet for the day and the way
a righteous purpose to pursue

living dead?
zombie or lazarus?

                         ~ tiwago

Ephesians 2:1-10

(photography by tiwago)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.
Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
(Psalm 107:17-22; KJV)

The Long Walk was not linear -
In the human manner of things;
Time/space folded in upon itself.
The people became impatient -
In the human manner of things;
Bitter thoughts and bitter words:
"Did you bring us out here to die?"
"We do not have any food to eat;
We do not have any water to drink;
And our boring food tastes horrible!"
Dear Lord, I'm not hungry - please forgive my hunger.

His Serpents bit them, and they died,
As they said they would die out there.
The frightened survivors turned to
Moses, whom they had rejected.
"We've sinned against God, and
We've sinned against you: with
Bitter thoughts and bitter words;
By abandoning faith, hope, trust.
Lord, take Your Serpents back!"

Moses, whom they had rejected,
Spoke to God about their plight.
Their God, whom they'd rejected,
Gave his friend these directions:
"Hammer bronze into a Serpent;
And  place it on a pole up high;
Hang it from a tree - nail it to a cross.
Have the bitten look thereon -
Upon the sign of their sinfulness,
The image of their sinfilledness;
And they shall become restored."

Moses did as the Lord told him -
The people were restored to God;
Just as the Lord had promised him.

~ Tiwago
(From Numbers 21:4-9)

I read today from the Apostle John's scroll (John 3:14-17), and this is what I heard: "As Moses lifted high the Serpent in the Wilderness, Pilate lifted the Christ on the trash-heap of Golgotha - to be seen by all. That those who let themselves believe may be restored from the poisons within them. For God so loved all of Creation that He gave up His only Son for it - NOT to condemn it, but to save it!" 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Notes for My Sermon

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:13-22)

Giandomenico Tiepolo

In the three synoptic gospels, Jesus' ministry ends in public protest. In John, it commences so. Two ways of signifying significance?
"Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover." (Luke 2:41)
Imagine, that you came in to church this morning and climbed the stairs, and in the narthex before you came in to the sanctuary there were three card tables set up by people selling candles. Imagine also that that I had made a rule that you had to light a candle as a devotion - if you didn't, you'd go to Hell. You could not bring your own candles however. Imagine further that I received a cut from the profits of each candle sold. Imagine that!
"Narthex." What an interesting word! A narthex is an antechamber - the space that lies before the main space. The word "narthex" I'm told is Greek, and means a scourge (a whip). In the Middle Ages, penitents might flagellate themselves in the antechamber in preparation. Still longing for the good old days?
So. Jesus whipped together a whip - a narthex to drive the livestock from the narthex. Interesting word.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
Den of Thieves? Den of Robbers? Hiding place for criminals?
Scripture in shorthand: "Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 7:11)
Yeah? So what?
“Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, 'We are safe'—safe to do all these detestable things?" (Jeremiah 7:8-10)
Place of business. Marketplace!
Disciples can speak shorthand too: "Lord, the Lord Almighty, may those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me; God of Israel, may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me. For I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face. I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate mock me, and I am the song of the drunkards." (Psalm 69:6-12)
This is personal!
The final sacrifice symbolically blocks the day's sacrifices. He who will be whipped, whips.
The prophet Zechariah prophesied about the end of time and the Kingdom of God that there would no longer be any merchants in the house of the Lord.
"This" Temple. John Wesley thought that maybe Jesus pointed at himself when he said it. But they still did not understand.
"But they did not understand what he was saying to them." (Luke 2:50)
On the third day:
     Moses received the Law from God;
     Jonah was vomited up;
     God provided a substitute to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac;
     Jesus died, was buried, and was born again.
Three days!   
Later, his words were recalled: "But his mother treasured all these things in her heart." (Luke 2:51)  
Both the Church and the Market are gathering places and gatherings of people. Market can be a verb: promoting or selling a product. A Market is a pool of consumers. A Supermarket tries to be all things to all people. The Stock Market is feared based gambling on the future, where sometimes when the economic indices improve for people, others panic and sell. We are NOT a business! Are we?
If not a business, what are we? "This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message: Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord! If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever." (Jeremiah 7:1-7)
This is NOT our house - this is our Father's house.
This is NOT our world - this is our Father's world.
Let us pray for the Church Universal, for something greater than "business as usual".
Let us pray for our congregation, that the pastor may lead our attention beyond the narthex toward things above.

(all scripture from the NIV)

Pneuma: the Wind, the Breath, and the Spirit

I like to think of myself as a "thinking" person; well educated and scientifically disciplined. This self-image is a major reason ...