Monday, May 30, 2011

God the King




My Lord is my King
With sweet threads
And kick-ass armor

He is the High King
The most awesomest
Hear my joyous song

He made us a world
He gave us a heritage
He gives us a future

Sing His praise!
     Sing to your King!
           Sing, sing, sing!

His throne is older than time
He is of infinite eternalness
He shades us with His shield

The mighty flood worships Him
The raging flood praises His deeds
The roaring flood shouts His name

More majestic than the mighty Mississippi
More majestic than surging tidal waves
Most majestic is our God and His kingdom

(Mash-up of Psalms 47 and 93)

Friday, May 27, 2011

You Will Be Derided for Who You Are

Rembrandt

Not many will harm you if you fight for justice and goodness. Even if you do suffer at the hands of evil for your righteousness, you are still blessed! If you fear what they fear, you become them - do not be intimidated. Enthrone Christ in your heart as Lord. Their strategy is to mock you to belittle your message; they will try to intimidate you or devalue you by demanding that you justify yourself over and over again.  Do so with gentle respect. When they lie and berate you, your goodness will shame them in the eyes of the world. You're going to suffer in this world no matter what! You can choose to decrease or increase the amount of suffering in the world; you can suffer for lessening the suffering of others, or suffer for making others suffer. Do the math.

Christ suffered so that we in our unrighteousness could be brought to God. His flesh died but His Spirit lives, not just for those of us not yet judged, but even for those already condemned. Even those who were so evil that God sent a world-flood to wipe them off the face of Creation!

Noah and his family were saved by water, as are we through baptism. We are not thereby purified as in a cleansing, but rather as an appeal to God - recognition that we can not cleanse ourselves. We can only become clean through rebirth. Re-creation, not through remolding ourselves, but through sharing the bloody grace and the resurrection of the suffering Christ. A Christ triumphant not over pain, failure and loss, but through it.

(Retelling of 1 Peter 3:13-22)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Flowers by Tiwago

Tears in Her Tresses

The Bishop

The Red Queen's Guard

Faded Friends

Mardi Gras

Calling Bird

the dove calls my name
the world eased into action
the anti-rooster




Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Flower Trap Haiku

death lies calmly still
balanced on beauty's hard edge
briefly shines the day


 
 
 

Monday, May 23, 2011

In an Open Space

Leonard Porter

 
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. "It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I'm here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you're dealing with.

"The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn't live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn't take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don't make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him! One of your poets said it well: 'We're the God-created.' Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn't make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?

"God overlooks it as long as you don't know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he's calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead."

(Acts 17:22-32; The Message)


I can picture Paul standing on the National Mall surrounded by the nation's museum, library, memorials and government. Paul would have felt at home in Athens. He grew up in a center for the Stoic school of philosophy. He had rabbinical and Pharisaic training. He could convolute a run on sentence with the best of them! So there he is, standing on an orator's stand. The learned crowd waiting to hear another frontier bumpkin deride them, mock them, or fall flat trying to emulate them.

What Paul does instead, is to become a pattern throughout the Church's early history. Instead of telling them that they are vile pre-judged pagans on a one way trip to hell, he tells them that both he and they worship the same God! Paul and the other vagabond preachers saw God at work in the world through all people; expanding the definition of chosen.

In a time when we can see the entire globe at once, have we lost this global perspective?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bouncer Jesus?



‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’  5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
(John 14:1-14; NRSV)


This is a rather infamous section of the Bible. Many of us use verse 6 as a limiting condition for others: "No one comes to the Father except through me." Isolating this verse out of context however makes Jesus a lesser being than God - a mere Heimdall at the gate of Asgard controlling who enters Odin's house Valhalla! But Jesus is God. John's Jesus says here (11) that we can either believe he is God via faith, or we can believe in him by his good works via reason. So, is there more than one "right" way to believe? To me, this implies God's judgment is based upon other factors than just our belief in Jesus' divinity. So...

 Maybe God saves whoever He darn well pleases?  

Regardless, we can't save ourselves. But there is plenty of work ahead for us towards perfection. While we frequently cherry-pick the privilege part of this section, we  too often forget the kicker:

·        "the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and,
·        in fact, will do greater works than these."

When we fail to live out our salvation by not taking up Jesus' work, we show that we do not really know him, the knowable part of God. By doing so, do we:

1.      Lose our salvation; or
2.      Prove that we weren't really saved to begin with?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stones

Be like newborn babies who are thirsty for the pure spiritual milk that will help you grow and be saved. You have already found out how good the Lord really is.

Come to Jesus Christ. He is the living stone that people have rejected, but which God has chosen and highly honored. And now you are living stones that are being used to build a spiritual house. You are also a group of holy priests, and with the help of Jesus Christ you will offer sacrifices that please God. It is just as God says in the Scriptures (Isaiah 28:16):

   "Look! I am placing in Zion
   a choice and precious
   cornerstone.

   No one who has faith
   in that One
   will be disappointed."

You are followers of the Lord, and that stone is precious to you. But it isn't precious to those who refuse to follow him. They are the builders who tossed aside the stone that turned out to be the most important one of all. They disobeyed the message and stumbled and fell over that stone, because they were doomed.

But you are God's chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done. The Scriptures say (Isaiah 8:14):
   
  "Once you were nobody.
   Now you are God's people.
   At one time no one  had pity on you.
   Now God has treated you with kindness".
(1 Peter 2:2-10; CEV)





Peter speaks in the collective you. None of us have reached a state of perfection, we are still growing babes in need of spiritual milk. With this milk Peter says, we will grow into salvation; he describes salvation here a process rather than an event. We are to yearn for its taste, for it is the taste of God.

Stones are thrown and saints and sinners die. Stones are struck and living water gushes forth, and saints and sinners live. "Turn stones into bread if you're God" the devil coos. "The very stones will shout that I AM" the Savior promises.

We are these stones. Each stone a keystone - each one vital to the whole. Each stone has a place where it fits best - a place the Master Mason knows. Assembled, rocks become strong and firm. Petra/Peter. But it is hard to let another place us. It is hard to love our place, our niche, our selves. Alone we tumble in streams and tempests; smooth polished shiny things eroding into oblivion.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bad News, Good News

Richard Serrin

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed - he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, "Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God's side!"

Yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks. The ringleaders took off their coats and asked a young man named Saul to watch them.

As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, "Master Jesus, take my life." Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, "Master, don't blame them for this sin" - his last words. Then he died.
(Acts 7:55-60; The Message)



Meditations:
·        Have I ever been so filled with the Spirit that I felt separated from the physical world?
·        How do I react to news I don't want to hear?
·        What was Stephen's fatal heresy?
·        How did this event shape Paul's life?
·        Stephen is considered the first martyr of the faith. How does his death compare to Jesus?
·        Is it easier to forgive someone when you know you are dying?  If so, why?
·        Have I forgiven those who sinned against me following the Way and the Light, or do I follow the dark road of vengeance?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Voice

Hi Qi

"At night, the sheep are brought in to a stable in a cave to protect them from jackals, lions, rustlers and other predators. The night watchers allow only their Shepherd through the pen's gate. The watchmen open the gate before him. The flock hears him talking to the guards and perk up their ears. They know that voice - it is the voice of green pastures and still streams! He calls them to him, each one by name, and leads them out into the dawning day. Once he has gathered his flock together outside in the sun, he goes on before them - always talking to them in crooning soothing tones. Sheep are easily spooked. They would not follow a voice they did not know. But they know this voice and follow it gladly."

Jesus told this parable to the Pharisees who just had excommunicated a man for allowing Jesus to heal his blindness on a Sabbath. They took their role as the guardians of the Law very seriously. But they could not see how it related to the situation. So he tried again.

"I am the gate in this story. People have tried to go around me to get to the Shepherd's flock. Con-men who steal the Shepherd's ID in order to steel and slaughter his flock. But the sheep do not listen to them - like a lamb searching for its mother, they know the right voice from the wrong ones. I am the gate. All who go openly through the entryway belongs. They will come and go between home and pasture. But, those who try to sneak in through legal loop-holes do not belong. They come only to bring death and destruction. I come to bring abundant life."

(Retelling of John 10:1-10)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ecclesia


    42And they steadfastly persevered, devoting themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship of the apostles, to the breaking of bread [including the Lord's Supper] and prayers.
    43And a sense of awe (reverential fear) came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were performed through the apostles (the special messengers).
    44And all who believed (who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ) were united and [together] they had everything in common;
    45And they sold their possessions (both their landed property and their movable goods) and distributed the price among all, according as any had need.
    46And day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord's Supper]. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts,
    47Constantly praising God and being in favor and goodwill with all the people; and the Lord kept adding [to their number] daily those who were being saved [from spiritual death].

(Acts 2:42-47; The Amplified Bible)

Meditation:

·        Sometimes, it takes natural disasters to remind us that church is not a building but a people. Webster's defines ecclesia as: " A body of Christians organized for worship and religious work." It also refers to ecclesia as a Greek legislative assembly where all participate.

·        Ecclesia - verse 42: instruction; fellowship; breaking bread together; and prayer.

·        Signs of ecclesia - verses 43 to 46: awe; unity; generosity; freedom; common purpose; gladness; simplicity; and love.

·        Fruit of ecclesia - verse 47: worship; goodwill of those outside of ecclesia; and harvest is multiplied.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Value of Pain


You who are servants, be good servants to your masters - not just to good masters, but also to bad ones. What counts is that you put up with it for God's sake when you're treated badly for no good reason. There's no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you're treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God.

This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. 

   He never did one thing wrong,
   Not once said anything amiss.


They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you're named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.


(1 Peter 2:19-25; The Message)

Meditation:
  • When I was a child, I could ameliorate parental  punishment by pre-emptive confession and submission to the paddle. Is their no virtue in this?
  • Governmental employees are marginalized and devalued by the public and elected officials. It is really hard to see the value of service in such an environment. What can we do to help servants?
  • When we ignore Christ's humanity, do we lessen the value of his example that it can be done?
  • What does it mean to be "named"? Does it mean that some are chosen/rejected in advanced? Does it mean that the Maker knows our true names and accepts our true selves - rather than the names others chose for us or the masks we chose for ourselves?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Psalm 23 for the Unsheepish




Ceiling Cat iz mai sheprd
     (which is funni if u knowz teh joek about herdin catz LOL.)
He givz me evrithin I need.
He letz me sleeps in teh sunni spot
    an haz liek nice waterz r ovar thar.
He makez mai soul happi
    an maeks sure I go teh riet wai for him.
Liek thru teh cat flap insted of out teh opin windo LOL.
I iz in teh valli of dogz, fearin no pooch,
    bcz Ceiling Cat iz besied me rubbin' mah ears, an it maek me so kumfy.
He letz me sit at teh taebl evn when peepl who duzint liek me iz watchn.
He givz me a flea baff an so much gooshy fud it runz out of mai bowl LOL.
Niec things an luck wil chase me evrydai
    an I wil liv in teh Ceiling Cats houz forevr.




This takes a little work to read (like Chaucer). How does working through it help us see this familiar psalm anew?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Visible Essence of Being

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That same day two of Jesus' followers were going to a town named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking about everything that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and began walking with them, but they were kept from recognizing him. Then he said, "What are these things you are talking about while you walk?"

The two followers stopped, looking very sad. The one named Cleopas answered, "Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who does not know what just happened there?"

Jesus said to them, "What are you talking about?"

They said, "About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet who said and did many powerful things before God and all the people. Our leaders and the leading priests handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. But we were hoping that he would free Israel. Besides this, it is now the third day since this happened. And today some women among us amazed us. Early this morning they went to the tomb, but they did not find his body there. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels who said that Jesus was alive! So some of our group went to the tomb, too. They found it just as the women said, but they did not see Jesus."

Then Jesus said to them, "You are foolish and slow to believe everything the prophets said. They said that the Christ must suffer these things before he enters his glory." Then starting with what Moses and all the prophets had said about him, Jesus began to explain everything that had been written about himself in the Scriptures.

They came near the town of Emmaus, and Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they begged him, "Stay with us, because it is late; it is almost night." So he went in to stay with them.

When Jesus was at the table with them, he took some bread, gave thanks, divided it, and gave it to them. And then, they were allowed to recognize Jesus. But when they saw who he was, he disappeared. They said to each other, "It felt like a fire burning in us when Jesus talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us."

So the two followers got up at once and went back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven apostles and others gathered. They were saying, "The Lord really has risen from the dead! He showed himself to Simon."

Then the two followers told what had happened on the road and how they recognized Jesus when he divided the bread.

(Luke 24:13-35; New Century Version)



As a story teller, this is one of my favorite scriptures. To these men struggling with the events of the time on a long dusty road, Jesus is just another traveler; his identity was cloaked from them. They share the latest news, and learn that their new friend is a learned man - maybe a Rabbi. Like many of the best tales in folklore and in life, they offer hospitality to a stranger. It was the simple act of breaking bread with them that was too great for any disguise to cover up; he was revealed by his essence. We too are called to be recognizable by our acts rather than our appearances.

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, and we pray that all unity may one day be restored: And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand, we will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand, and together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land: And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
We will work with each other, we will work side by side, we will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride: And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
All praise to the Father, from whom all things come, and all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son, and all praise to the Spirit, who makes us one: And they’ll know we are Christians by our love; Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
(They'll Know We Are Christian By Our Love; Peter Scholtes)

Have you ever asked yourself: what am I known by?