Saturday, October 29, 2011

#Poetry - Life Sucks Part 12; The Finale: May Their Life Suck Worse Than Mine!

From the bottom of a deep pit, I called You once more.
You did not cover Your ears, but heard my faint pleas!
You came down next to me in the pit and soothed me.

You have taken up my cause and redeemed my life.
You have seen the injustice and judged me mercifully.
You have seen the hate, and pulled me out of its pit.

You have heard them make fun of me and tease me.
Their gossip. Their ganging up. Their sharp-edged lies.
What ever I do, I'm the object of their campaign of hate!

Pay them back!

     Make them hurt!

          Wipe them out!

(Lamentations 3: 55-66)

#Quote - Getting Rid of Jesus:

"Jesus has been so zealously worshipped, his deity so vehemently affirmed, his halo so brightly illumined, and his cross so beautifully polished that in the minds of many he no longer exists as a man. By thus glorifying him we more effectively rid ourselves of him than did those who tried to do so by so crudely crucifying him."

~ Clarence Jordan

Life Sucks! Part 11:

You're wrapped up in Your anger and kill us without pity!
You're wrapped up in Your anger and can not hear us cry!
Your chosen people are seen as just filth and garbage!
All speak against us, and we react in blind panic and fall.
We are being devastated and our land is being ruined.
I cry rivers of tears for how low my people have fallen.
My tears will flow and flow - I will not stop crying out loud.
Not until our God opens His eyes and sees us once more.
My eyes become raw as I weep for the raped and abused.
Those who hate me without due cause stalk me without mercy!
They've thrown me alive into a pit and stoned me in Your name!
They pour water over my head in an evil anointing 'til I despair!
(Lamentations 3:43-54)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pedestal Pastors; Lingering With The Lectionary:

Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. "The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law. You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer.

"Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.'

"Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them - Christ.

"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

(Matthew 23:1-13; The Message)

  • When I tell my children "Do as I say and not as I do" what does that do to the authority of my witness?
  • Should we have professional ordained clergy?
  • How do we balance the biological imperitive to stand out with the herding instinct to blend in?
  • Rather than telling us to be humble, The Message tells us to be ourselves. Is there a difference, or is that what being humble truly is?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bible Thumping Goats:

"It is perverse that some Christians make such a fuss about the bound text of God's Word, carrying it processionally, holding it with reverence, never allowing it to touch the ground, but have never considered seriously this text of Matthew 25, in the light of which we would always catch God's Needy before they hit the ground."

(Thomas Cahill; Desire of the Everlasting Hills)

Life Sucks! Part 10:

Jeremiah by Rembrandt

When all the prisoners are tortured or neglected,
When human rights are perverted in front of You,
When one is denied justice - do You not see it?
Who can make it so if You do not allow it to be?
Does not all good and bad come from Your lips?
What rights do we have before Your punishment?
Allow us to reconsider our ways and to repent!
Let us worship You again in love instead of fear!
You won't forget that we've sinned and revolted!
(Lamentations 3:34-42)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Life Sucks? Part 9:

The Lord is good to those who abide and seek.
It is good to wait for Him with silent meditations.
It is good for youths to learn discipline.
It is good to be still and calm in Him.
It is good to lie in the dust with hope.
It is good to turn the other cheek.
For He will not reject you forever.
His steadfast love has abundant compassion.
He afflicted you unwillingly.
(Lamentations 3:25-33)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Life Sucks? Part 8:

My Lord's love is eternal and His mercy is infinite!
I'm born anew each morn by His faith - not mine!
My soul is filled by Him so in Him will lie my hope.
(Lamentations 3:22-24)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Life Sucks. Part 7:

The thought of my sickness and homelessness is bilious.
It erodes away my soul and it stoops me under its weight.
Then a memory rises to the surface, and I relearn hope.
(Lamentations 3:19-21)


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Life Sucks. Part 6:

He grinds my teeth with rocky gruel and clothes me in ashes.
My soul knows no peace, and happiness is a forgotten dream.
My glory has wasted away and my hopes of God are all gone.
(Lamentations 3:16-18)

Friday, October 21, 2011

PSYCH! - Lingering With The Lectionary; Deuteronomy 34:1-12:

James Tissot
Then Moses hiked up from the Moabite plains to Mount Nebo, the peak of the Pisgah slope, which faces Jericho. The LORD showed him the whole land: the Gilead region as far as Dan’s territory; all the parts belonging to Naphtali along with the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, as well as the entirety of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea; also the arid southern plain, and the plain - including the Jericho Valley, Palm City - as far as Zoar.

Then the LORD said to Moses: “This is the land that I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I promised: ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have shown it to you with your own eyes; however, you will not cross over into it.”

Then Moses, the LORD’s servant, died—right there in the land of Moab, according to the LORD’s command.  The Lord buried him in a valley in Moabite country across from Beth-peor. Even now, no one knows where Moses’ grave is.

Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eyesight wasn’t impaired, and his vigor hadn’t diminished a bit.

Back down in the Moabite plains, the Israelites mourned Moses’ death for thirty days. At that point, the time for weeping and for mourning Moses was over.

Joshua, Nun’s son, was filled with wisdom because Moses had placed his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to Joshua, and they did exactly what the LORD commanded Moses.

No prophet like Moses has yet emerged in Israel; Moses knew the LORD face-to-face! That’s not even to mention all those signs and wonders that the LORD sent Moses to do in Egypt - to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to his entire land -  as well as all the extraordinary power that Moses displayed before Israel’s own eyes!

(Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Common English Bible)

  • Does the fact that we mourn that Moses was denied the Promised Land more than we celebrate the fact that he was blessed with the Mountain Top say something about us?
  • Do we pass the mantle and empower others when it is time, or do we try to take God's glory to the grave?
  • Do signs and wonders take second place to a personal relationship with God?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life Sucks! Part 5:

I am mortally gut-shot by His bolt.
People bully me and harass me.
I am bitter and eaten away inside.
(Lamentations 3:13-15)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life Sucks! Part 4:

He's a bear waiting to maul me - a lurking lion waiting to pounce.
He lured me off of the safe path and rended me limb from limb.
His bow is taut and I stand naked before the arrow's cruel point.
(Lamentations 3:10-12)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Life Sucks! Part 3:

He has bricked me in and weighed me down with my chains.
Though I beg and beg Him for mercy, He rejects my prayers.
He throughs up barricades and makes all my paths torturous.

(Lamentations 3: 7-9)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Quote for the #OccupyChicago and #OccupyWallStreet Occupiers:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
Frederick Douglas

Life Sucks! Part 2:

He has withered and broken my body.
I'm surrounded by misery and suffering.
He's forced me to bide in dark Sheol.
(Lamentations 3:4-6)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Life Sucks! Part 1:


I'm the one who's suffered under the Whip of Wrath!
He has driven me out of the light into the dark abyss!
He raises His hand against me alone over and over...
(Lamentations 3:1-3)

How'd You Turn Our Posse? Lingering With The Lectionary; Matthew 22:15-22:

The Pharisee Party met in conclave, and after much debate decided to give the false rabbi Jesus enough rope to hang himself. So they sent their best students (along with some rabble from the Herodian Party to serve as muscle and false witnesses) to try to entrap the heretical carpenter.

"Rabbi. We know that you are free of hypocrisy and deceit, that your teachings are true, and that you show no favoritism toward any Party or people. Tell us then: is it lawful then for us to pay taxes to the Emperor?"

The ears of the Roman troops in the square perked up, and they strained to overhear. Meanwhile, Matthew's face grew a small knowing smile.

Jesus spoke softly to the assemblage of Pharasaic students and Herod's thugs: "Why do you test me you hypocrites?"

Louder he said to the crowd: "Does anyone have a coin for taxes?"

After being handed a coin, he held it up for all to see and continued teaching: "Tell me, whose face is on this coin? Whose title is stamped into it?"

"The Emperor's!" they all replied.

So he said: "Then give the Emperor what is his, and give the Lord what is His."

Matthew the tax-collector's smile grew even larger, the Herodians were confused, and the soldiers chuckled. The students were amazed by the simplicity and authority of his teaching. They thoughtfully slipped away into the crowd.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What Paul Was Really Thinking:

A recently discovered fragment of an early draft of one of Paul's lost letters to his wayward church in Corinth gives us a better idea of Paul's frustration as a pastor. This portion seems to have been refined and reused in a later letter that we now call 1 Corinthians; particularly Chapters 11 and 12:
"You all think you're so special, don't you? With your speaking in tongues, and healings and what-not? You all talk a big talk about being 'One Body', but the rich get the best seats in church and when you have a party the leaders eat all the food and drink all the wine before the regular people even get off of work - what's with that? You're special are you? What part of the body is the most special anyway? What part do most men think with? What part is so special that you mutilate it to show people that you belong to God, and then do everything you can to keep people from seeing it? Yep, that's what you are, you're very special body parts all right - you're all dickheads..."

In many ways, it sounds more like one of the fishermen than Paul, but most experts attribute it to him. It bears his mark of carrying an analogy one comparison too far.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remember When People Used To Write Epistles? Lingering With The Lectionary; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10:


From Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.

To the Thessalonians’ church that is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to all of you.

We always thank God for all of you when we mention you constantly in our prayers. This is because we remember your work that comes from faith, your effort that comes from love, and your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father. Brothers and sisters, you are loved by God, and we know that he has chosen you. We know this because our good news didn’t come to you just in speech but also with power and the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know as well as we do what kind of people we were when we were with you, which was for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering. As a result you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The message about the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place. The news about your faithfulness to God has spread so that we don’t even need to mention it. People tell us about what sort of welcome we had from you and how you turned to God from idols. As a result, you are serving the living and true God, and you are waiting for his Son from heaven. His Son is Jesus, who is the one he raised from the dead and who is the one who will rescue us from the coming wrath.

(Common English Bible)

  • How do I encourage other believers?
  • Why is it important to remember our faith stories?
  • By starting a conversation off with praise, will the hearer be more or less inclined to listen to any suggestions we may then have?
  • What is the importance of serving as an example?
  • What are you an example of?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Psalm 4:

David and Absalom, Marc Chagall

Why don't You answer me?!

In my distress, I find sacred space in You.

Show me grace by listening to my prayers.

How long must I endure
The venom of  the people
I lead through hard times?

How long will they lust
For simple platitudes and
Seek groundless praise?

Know that the Lord has
Anointed His own and
Hears me when I call!

Don't sin in your anger
Study and deliberate
Shut up, stop whining!

Lie on the altar's horns
Sacrifice idols and isms
Trust in God for once!

Many pray for goodness
That Your light might
Shine upon Your people.

You put joy in my heart
More than when stocks
Fill my treasure house.

I can now lie and sleep in Your shalom.

Only in You Lord can I find safe peace.

You make me lie down in green pastures.

Monday, October 10, 2011

You Shall See My Holy Backside - Lingering With The Lectionary; Exodus 33:12-23:

Moshe: "So you told me to shepherd Your flock but You were a little weak on the details. Who's going to help me? You say that You know me, yet You don't know I hate being kept in the dark? You say You like me, but then You treat me so? If You care for me, let me understand You! How can I get You to like me if I don't know what You like? And did You forget that all these people with me are YOUR people?"

G-d: "I'll be with you the whole way. Just chill Moshe. It'll be fine."

Moshe: "That's easy for You to say! Don't mess with me G-darnit! If You're not going to be with us every step then just let us stay here. Unless the people and our enemies can see that You are with us, how will they know that we are Your people and under Your protection? Everyone else carries their little gods along as idols, we would be the only people in the world to be carried along by their God - think of the imagery!"

G-d: "Yes, Moshe, I know you well. I know what you need right now. Trust Me. I AM always with you."

Moshe: "Then let me see Your face so I can know You!"

G-d: "I will let you see My Spirit and let you hear My unknowable unspeakable name. You will know who I AM - I AM full of grace for those who I wish to grace; I AM merciful to those who I want to be merciful to. But I will not let you see My face, because no one survives that. I will place you in this crevice and I will shelter and shield you with My hand as I go by. I will then remove My hand so that you may catch a glimpse of My back."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Many Are Called, But Few Hear - Lingering With The Lectionary; Matthew 22:1-14:

Jan Breughel the Elder; The Wedding Banquet

We like amusing parables - specially parables at someone else's expense. Often, we think the parable is about someone else, until a Nathan comes along and tells us we're the ones who killed the sheep. Here's a hard one to avoid:

There was to be a royal wedding. The King invited many important people; but no one RSVPed. So the King sent out Messengers to make sure that everyone got their invitation to the reception to a sumptuous banquet at the King's expense. No one believed that the King would be so generous, and believed that there must be some hidden cost or motive. Some were afraid, so they killed the Messengers. The King was so upset, that he directed his troops to destroy the cities of those who had mistreated his Messengers.

The King said: "The feast is ready, but those who I first invited are not worthy of dining with the Prince and I. Go out into the streets and the dark alleys - invite everyone you see!" Many people came to the feast, the bad along with the good. The King was pleased to see that his hall was full! But while he was mingling with the guests, he noticed one person who must have come in just for the free food and drink. Everyone else wore their best go-to-wedding finery in honor of the Prince and his bride; but this guy did not. "Throw him out!" said the king, "This feast is wasted on him. Many I have called, but few answered me. Some have answered me, but not all are chosen."

In hind-sight, we spend a lot of time saying that "the Jews" or the religious authorities/scholars were the ones who rejected the first invitation. We then talk about the prevening grace that invites us riff-raff to come in off the street. But then we forget to apply it to our own lives. Note that both the good AND the bad were allowed in and partied with the family! Many who would say that the banquet represents the Kingdom of Heaven will also tell you that only "the good" get into heaven! Yet the one who Jesus tells us is rejected is the one who only pays lip service to the invitation, who comes out of obligation and for its associated benefits to him, but who has no intent to joyously celebrate with the wedding party.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mad Cow Disease - Lingering With The Lectionary

Exchanging Glory for Cud

 1 Praise the LORD!
   Give thanks to the LORD
   because he is good,
   because his faithful love
   endures forever.
2 Who could possibly repeat
all of the LORD’s mighty acts
   or publicly recount all his praise?
3 The people who uphold justice,
   who always do what is right,
   are truly happy!
4 Remember me, LORD, with the favor
you show your people.
   Visit me with your saving help
    5 so I can experience the good things your chosen ones experience,
      so I can rejoice
      in the joy of your nation,
      so I can praise along
      with your possession.

 6 We have sinned—
right along with our ancestors.
   We’ve done what is wrong.
   We’ve acted wickedly

. 19 They made a calf at Horeb,
   bowing down to a metal idol.
20 They traded their glorious God
   for an image of a bull that eats grass.
21 They forgot the God who saved them—
   the one who had done
   great things in Egypt,
 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
   awesome deeds at the Reed Sea.
23 So God determined that he would destroy them—
   except for the fact that Moses,
   his chosen one,
   stood in the way, right in front of him,
   and turned God’s destructive anger away.

(Psalm 106: 1-6, 19-23; Common English Bible)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sacred Cows - Lingering With the Lectionary for October 9, 2011; Exodus 32:1-14:

Emil Nolde
Their leader was away, seeking guidance and discernment for their great undertaking. He had been gone for a while, and the people started to grumble: "Every time there is a problem, he runs off to pray and think on it! We want a man of action to lead us! We need someone with greater accountability. How dare he leave us in our moment of need?"

So they went to the second in command. "Make us a giant powerful Bull. One that is trampling a bear. Put a Bible on its back. Make one of its horns a cross, and from the other waves our flag. Make it out of gold - lots and lots of precious gold!"

He was afraid for his life, so he did what they asked. He charged them all a steep sin-tax, hoping it would change their minds, but it didn't. When he finished, he unveiled it before the people: "Behold! Here are your gods that freed you from bondage." But the sarcasm was wasted on the literalistic minds of the mob who repeated it as a mantra.

The next day was declared a feast day; what started out as a day of sacrifice and thanksgiving for sufficiency soon became a day of gluttony, and drinking in celebration of affluence.

Meanwhile, up in the mountains, the leader was consulting with God. Clearly, something was bothering Yahweh: "Get back down there to YOUR people. The people YOU freed are a bunch of pervs! As soon as your back was turned they thumbed their noses at Us and invented a godinabox which they worship and sacrifice to! This people - they're a bunch of bull-headed self-righteous... You'd better get out of here; I am really pissed. I feel a smiting coming on! No, wait!  Instead of going back to those losers, go some place safe. Once I've gone all omnipotent on their asses I'll make a new people out of you!"

Instead of hiding though, he pled for his people; "Yes they're idiots, but they're Your idiots! Why are You so ticked? You knew what they were like when You came and got them. Do you want their former abusers to laugh at the trick You played on Your people - freeing them from slavery only to wipe them out as a people? Please, turn away your justifiable anger. Change Your mind and do not doom Your people. Remember all Your faithful servants from within the people over the years? Remember Your bargain You struck with them? Children like stars in the universe? The promise of land to sink roots into? The inheritance?

And the Lord changed His mind.