Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Psalmic #Poetry - The 147th:

It feels so good to sing
praise songs to Him,
for He is grace-giving's
worth songs of praise.

My God:
established His Church;
gathers in the outcasts;
mends broken hearts;
nurses the wounded.
My God:
established the stars,
knowing each by name;
has power overflowing;
knows beyond our ken.
My God:
lifts the beaten-down;
beats down abusers;
likes thanking songs;
loves our heart music.
My God:
tucks us in with clouds;
rain-anoints the earth;
grass-mantles the hills;
feeds the crying young.
My God:
ignores our strengths;
overlooks our rushing;
loves righteous-livers;
loves those who hope.
(Psalm 147:1-11 & 20c; retold by tiwago)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Prophetic #Poetry – Isaiah’s Cosmic God:


Are you that ignorant? 
Haven’t you heard me?
Hasn’t it always been said?

Haven’t you understood?

Beyond Earth’s feeble gravity.
Above we crawling insects.
His universe lies before us.
Spread like a house’s roof.

Our royalty and politicians.
Scarcely they take root.
His breath upon them.
Withered and blown off.

Who is God’s equal? You?
Who created the cosmos?
Can you count the atoms?
Every being known by name!

He doesn’t really know you?
He isn’t being fair to you?
Are you really so ignorant?
Haven’t you heard Him?

He is eternal and infinite.
The source of everything.
Entropy doesn’t touch Him.
Knowledge beyond asking.

He gives power to the runts.
Strengthens the powerless.
Even the vigorous young,
Grow faint on their own.

Those who abide for kairos,
Shall be made strong again.
They shall soar like eagles.
They shall never tire or faint.

(Isaiah 40:21-31 retold by Tiwago)

Friday, January 27, 2012

A New Wineskin

Then they entered Capernaum. When the Sabbath arrived, Jesus lost no time in getting to the meeting place. He spent the day there teaching. They were surprised at his teaching—so forthright, so confident—not quibbling and quoting like the religion scholars.
Suddenly, while still in the meeting place, he was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed and yelling out, "What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you're up to! You're the Holy One of God, and you've come to destroy us!"
Jesus shut him up: "Quiet! Get out of him!" The afflicting spirit threw the man into spasms, protesting loudly—and got out.
Everyone there was incredulous, buzzing with curiosity. "What's going on here? A new teaching that does what it says? He shuts up defiling, demonic spirits and sends them packing!" News of this traveled fast and was soon all over Galilee.
(Mark 1:21-28; The Message)
In Mark, Jesus' first miracle sets the stage for his death. Here in Mark's first chapter,  few words tell much. Jesus does not want to waste time getting to it, but once he starts he is not impatient. Note that the healing is on the Sabbath, that his presence is disruptive, that he has authority over demons, and that word of his first public miracle travels quickly. I'm left with the feeling that new teachings are a threat to old teachers - now that Jesus is on their radar, the plotting has begun.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Legal Isn't Always Right:

Giotto di Bondone

I have heard this reading on meat sacrificed to idols (what is legal may not always be what is right) in conjunction with why some denominations use grape juice for communion - even though Jesus directed us to use wine:
Now concerning fermented fruits and grains - we know that we each possess what we believe is truth. Knowledge may swell our heads, but love broadens our shoulders. Love therefor takes precedence. We may think we know something, yet not have all the information that we need. Hence as to the drinking of alcohol, we know that there is but one God, that our idols are not real. Yet we also know that there are many things out there that people worship - things which control  them. God blessed us with the vine and Jesus with the wine of his blood. Yet like any blessing, there are those who abuse it. There are others for whom it is a curse rather than a blessing. What is sacred communion for me may be defilement for another.
Alcohol does not bring us closer to God. For many, we are no worse off if we do not drink it, and no better off while we do. But we must take care that this freedom does not trip up someone else. If someone who thinks of you as a leader or a role model sees you in a bar, might they not be tempted to drink themselves? Might they think you a hypocrite? So, if by our knowledge that alcohol is not a sin for us we cause someone for whom it is bad to drink, are we not sinning against them and the Body by causing them harm?
Therefore, since wine may be the cause of someone's falling, we use grape juice in communion.
(Retelling of 1 Corinthians 8:1-13)
I'm on board with the communion issue, but if we extend the meat/wine analogy: I can't go to a bar with friends? Did Jesus turn water into juice even though there'd been heavy drinking all day? Did Jesus avoid befriending prostitutes for fear of encouraging sex addicts? Did Jesus care what people thought? To me, it seems like a case-by-case decision and situational awareness.
But I sure could be wrong...

Monday, January 23, 2012


Marc Chagall

Our God will always raise up for His people from your midst prophets to whom you should listen - like you heard me, Moses. Isn't this is what you prayed for on the mountain and in the wilderness out of your fear that you would die if you came face-to-face with Him? He has heard you, and agreed: "I will give them home-grown prophets, and place My words on their tongues so that they speak to and for Me. Those who do not heed My words spoken through prophetic mouths will be held accountable by Me. Anyone who speaks as a "prophet" to anything else that you want to worship shall not be allowed to continue. Anyone with the nerve to claim to speak for Me whom I have not so commanded to do shall be no more. False prophets shall perish and their lies will go with them."
(Retelling of Deuteronomy 18:15-20)
Some words burn and some itch, while others are sweet and fall pleasantly upon our yearning ears. I often mis-hear, and it is not only aging. Sometimes I have selective hearing, and don't hear what I don't want to listen to. Other times, my mind adapts what I hear into what I want to hear. Often, I'm just not paying attention! 
When I preach, I wonder what others hear. I wonder if I'm saying what God wants to say through me, or if it is what I want Him to say. I wonder if I avoid needed burning or itching words in favor of sweet comforting words - or the reverse. Do I speak for God or for me?
I must trust God, and hope that the fact that I'm not dead yet is a good sign...

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Bare Bones Story-teller Gets to the Marrow:

Clementine Hunter

Mark 1:14-20) 
After John was arrested:
  • Jesus came to Galilee.
  • Preached the good news.
  • Time is ripe for harvest.
  • Kingdom of God is near.
  • Repent.
  • Believe.
  • Jesus came to the lake shore.
  • Saw Simon and Andrew fishing.
  • Follow me fishermen.
  • I'll make you fishers-of-men.
  • They did.
  • Saw James and John.
  • They did too.
Mark's narrative is often described as a primitive painting. If so, it is thereby all the more visceral!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Psalmic #Poetry - Perspective and #OWS :

Dorothea Lange

The poor and powerless are weightless.
The rich and powerful are just a delusion.
Together, they are lighter than a breath!
Don't put your trust into cheating others.
Don't steal the hopes of the hopeless.
Don't worship your wealth and standing.
                   (Retelling of Psalm 62:9-10)

Monday, January 16, 2012

From Whom Do I Withhold Forgiveness?

Jonah Preaching in Ninevah; Jakob Steinhardt 

God gave Jonah a second chance to perform his mission, and sent him to Ninevah, the capital of the Evil Empire, to preach the message God would lay on him. He drew great crowds when he told them that they had just forty more days on earth. 

They believed! 

They fasted! 

They mourned!
(Retelling of Jonah 3:1-5)

The end is near brothers and sisters! From now on: those who are married should pretend that they aren't; those who mourn or rejoice about life should do neither; those who are rich should act like those who are poor; and those who are worldly should leave the world to its own devises. The world as we know it will soon be gone.

(Retelling of 1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Seeing what they did, God changed His mind and no destruction came.
Jonah was thoroughly pissed off...
(Retelling of Jonah 3:10 - 4:1)

  • Jonah had been given a second chance, but was mad when God gave the Ninevites another chance. Is hypocrisy part of our human nature?
  • Do we believe that God can change His mind?
  • Do we try to bind God within the confines of scripture like it is a spell book?
  • Can we actively change our destiny?
  • Who is unforgivable?

Friday, January 13, 2012

How to Evangelize

Casa del Frutteto, Pompeii

Jesus left John the Baptist, and returned home to start his own ministry. He came upon a man named Phil. "Follow me," he said to Phil. Phil instantly went to his friend Nate under the big meeting fig tree in the village square. "We have found the Messiah, Yeshua bar Yosef the Nazarene!" "Nazareth?" snarked Nate, "Nothing good has ever come from those hillbillies!" Phil did not argue, he just gently asked his friend to come with him and see.
Jesus saw Nate coming, and said straight off: "Here is a true chosen one of an elect people who always speaks his truth!" Was Jesus snarking back? "Do we know each other?", asked Nate?
"I saw you trying to chill under your fig tree. I knew you long before one I chose chose you."
Nate bowed: "Teacher, you are the Son and my King."
With twinkling eyes, Jesus asked him: "So, do you all of a sudden believe because of a parlor trick with a fig tree? Wait 'til you see what I've got up my sleeves! But seriously, you will see the heavens ripped assunder and the Angels on Jacob's Ladder come to serve me."
(Retelling of John 1:43-51)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sure, It’s Legal, But…

Lithograph by Grandville

Just because something is “legal” doesn’t mean it’s right! I can be dominated by technically legal things just as mush as I can by sins. For example: God intended food to fill the stomach, and intended the stomach to digest food. So too then, the Body is meant for the Lord, and the Lord for the Body. God raised the Lord, and thus raises the Body.

Have you forgotten already that you’re members of Christ’s Body? Should I separate members from the Body and join them with the world instead? Never! Whoever joins with a whore becomes one with her, two made one - sleeping with whoever she or he slept with, becoming a prostitute to and of the flesh. But anyone who unites with the Lord instead, becomes one Spirit with him.

Shun random sex for money or immediate satisfaction. Sins committed outside of our bodies are bad enough, but sins against our bodies (and the bodies of our brothers and sisters) are against The Body, the body of Christ himself! Remember Jesus saying  that he was the rebuilt Temple?  Each individual body within the Body is  home to the Holy Spirit. Not our playthings!

You did not come cheap! Glorify God with your body and in the Body.
(Retelling of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

·        Paul seems to shift in and out of talking about our individual bodies, and the larger Body, almost as if the two are hard to tell apart.
·        Does the Body of the Church or a congregation do things in a fleshy manner when it comes to finances, organization, etc.?
·         Can a church prostitute itself for ‘growth” or other worldly measures of success?
·         Paul says we can either join with the flesh or the Spirit. How many of us try to do both?
·         Watch the news and popular entertainment – do we focus on what is right, or what is legal?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Twitching Ears

John Singleton Copley

The boy Sam was serving in God's Temple as a disciple of Eli. Now remember that back in those days the Word of the Lord was rarely heard and seldom seen. So much so as to be inexplicable and unexpected. Once, when Eli's sight was failing and he was sleeping in his room, Sam heard a voice: "Samuel! Samuel!" "Here I am Father Eli!" and he jumped up and ran to help Eli. But Eli said: "I didn't call you. Go back to bed!"
Again came the call "Samuel!", and again Eli told him to go back to sleep.
A third time Sam was called. A third time he awoke Eli. Only then did Eli figure it out - it was God calling his young student! "Return to your bed Sammy. If you hear His call again, say "I'm listening Lord." So the weary boy went back to his bed with trepidation.
Not only did God call him, but He even stood by his rumpled bed. "I'm listening Lord," the child whispered.
The Lord directed Samuel: "Watch. I will soon do something so shocking and unexpected that both ears of whoever hears about afterwards will twitch and tingle! The House of Eli's judgement will soon be fulfilled. Because he did not restrain the evil of his sons, the sins of his house will never be cleansed."
Poor Sam lay there the rest of the night trying to figure out how to tell the man he loved and respected that he and his family were doomed. Finally, Eli called for him. "Here I am Father."
"What did He tell you? Don't hide anything from me, or you will be cursed."
The boy reluctantly told Eli everything, watching the old man age further before his eyes. He did not know what to expect from him for delivering such a dire message.
Eli gave Samuel one last witness: "He's the Lord; it shall be as He wills."
The spirit was in Samuel as he grew - his words were fruitful, and all the people could see that he was a true prophet of old.
(Retelling of 1 Samuel 3:1-20)

What can we learn about people and society here? 
  • Eli had become secular like we today, loving family first, country second and God third. 
  • Rather than the children suffering for the sins of the father, here we have an example of the father suffering for the sins of his sons. 
  • Did power and authority corrupt the sons, or did it make corrupt men more open? 
  • Do greed and contempt go hand-in-hand? 
  • We often talk about the lesson of God's call when we read this, but what about Eli's grace and dignity?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany is Another Way to Spell Emanual!

He Qi

We have this ingrained need to make pomp and circumstances out of simple things.  We think that splurging shows respect! Does such an assumption reflect a wanting to be treated like kings and queens ourselves?

Arise! Shine! Your light has come; 
   the LORD’s glory has shone 
   upon you. 
Though darkness covers the earth
   and gloom the nations,
   the LORD will shine upon you;
   God’s glory will appear over you.
Nations will come to your light
   and kings to your dawning radiance.
 Lift up your eyes and look all around:
   they are all gathered;
   they have come to you.
Your sons will come from far away,
   and your daughters
   on caregivers’ hips.
Then you will see and be radiant;
   your heart will tremble
   and open wide,
   because the sea’s abundance
   will be turned over to you;
   the nations’ wealth will come to you.
Countless camels will cover your land,
   young camels
   from Midian and Ephah.
They will all come from Sheba,
   carrying gold and incense,
   proclaiming the LORD’s praises.
(Isaiah 60:1-6; Common English Bible)

In the midst of a story about honoring a king, there appears a warning of what a king can do. For the traveling scholars, the question was: to which king do we grant authority and to whom do we submit?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod's kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, "Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We're on pilgrimage to worship him."
When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, "Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?"
They told him, "Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:

   It's you, Bethlehem, in Judah's land,
      no longer bringing up the rear.
   From you will come the leader
      who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel."
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, "Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I'll join you at once in your worship."
Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.
(Matthew 2:1-12; The Message)

We try to explain and understand Jesus the King by placing a mantle of our understanding of royalty upon him, but what if we tried instead to view our earthly rulers as wearing his mantle?

Give your love of justice to the king, O God,
      and righteousness to the king’s son.
Help him judge your people in the right way;
      let the poor always be treated fairly.
May the mountains yield prosperity for all,
      and may the hills be fruitful.
Help him to defend the poor,
      to rescue the children of the needy,
      and to crush their oppressors.
May they fear you as long as the sun shines,
      as long as the moon remains in the sky.
      Yes, forever!

May the king’s rule be refreshing like spring rain on freshly cut grass,
      like the showers that water the earth.
May all the godly flourish during his reign.
      May there be abundant prosperity until the moon is no more.
May he reign from sea to sea,
      and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.
Desert nomads will bow before him;
      his enemies will fall before him in the dust.
The western kings of Tarshish and other distant lands
      will bring him tribute.
   The eastern kings of Sheba and Seba
      will bring him gifts.
All kings will bow before him,
      and all nations will serve him.
He will rescue the poor when they cry to him;
      he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.
He feels pity for the weak and the needy,
      and he will rescue them.
He will redeem them from oppression and violence,
      for their lives are precious to him.
(Psalm 72:1-14; New Living Translation)

If we want “kingdom on earth”, we will need to start having higher standards for ourselves, and those we put over ourselves.
Who is my king?
Do I have royal blood?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Baptism of Our Lord

He Qi

Crazy John appeared out of the wilderness, and taught a baptism that sought forgiveness through repentance. People from Jerusalem and all over Judea flocked to see him, and to be baptized by him in the dirty waters of the holy Jordan River. They put aside their pre-approved chosen-ness and admitted that they were sinners in need of forgiveness. Then, John taught them to hope: "The powerful One is coming. One whom I am not even worthy to take off his sandals to wash his feet. I have washed you all with water, heads and feet, but he will baptize you further and deeper. He will baptize you with the very Spirit of God, flowing over you and roaring through you. Changing you for ever"
Not much later, Jesus came down from his home in Galilee to see his cousin John, and to take up his own ministry. Jesus asked John to baptize him, to prepare him for his journey to Calvary. As he rose from his intinction, he saw the firmament rip asunder like the veils of the temple would later, and the Spirit of the Father flew down to him in the form of a dove as a voice rang out from heaven: "You are my beloved Son. I am your proud and happy Dad." 
(Retelling of Mark 1:4-11)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Am I All Wet?

Apollos was already preaching in Greece, so Paul headed to Turkey. He left the coastlands and came upon the community of Ephesus in the interior. There he found a forgotten group of disciples. He asked them: "When you became believers, did you accept the Holy Spirit?"
"Uhhhhhh... What's a 'Holy Spirit?'" 
"When you were baptized, what was it for?" he asked.
"We have been baptized by the followers of John. We have repented and purified in preparation for the day that God's Kingdom comes!"
"John also said to follow the One who would come after him, Jesus the Christ, who would baptize you in fire with the Holy Spirit of God." Paul replied. hearing this, they asked Paul to baptize them. As soon as he touched them, the Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Altogether, there was twelve of them.
(Retelling of Acts 19:1-7 and Matthew 3:11-12)

Christ's baptism added to John's, just as John's added onto those who came before him. John took a rite of purification, preparation and membership and made it an act of repentence and witnessing. With the resurrection of Christ, baptism also reflects our death to sin and rebirth through the work of the Spirit working on us and through us. Water washes away soiled exeriors and makes things look new, but fire burns away the impurities. Fire makes way for new growth in nature. But how many of us forget that we have been baptized in both water and fire? How many focus on the membership and cleansing aspects of water, and ignore the destructive and reconstructive aspects of fire? We think with a fleshy mind, and think fire and water to be incompatible. One or the other? 
John is called an Elijah. So before you decide which baptism you received, read 1 Kings 18:20-39.
Water? Fire? Both?

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Wisdom of the Mountains

Ansel Adams

A foolish woman once climbed a tall mountain. The trek to the base of the mountain was long and difficult; the actual climb itself exceeded her worst fears. She was on a quest for enlightenment - she had heard that a Wise-one lived on this sacred high-place. Step. Breathe. Step. Breathe. She labored to continue her ascent, fighting the thinning air and icy slopes. At last she reached the peak, but found herself alone with the visage of the world before her. Dispirited, exhausted and out of breath, she sat and rested before the climb down.
After a little while, she heard another climber approach. Once he reached her, he plopped down beside her and gasped: "Are you the Wise-one"? She had still not caught her breath and could not answer him. In fact, she was so tired that she kept nodding off, even though her eyes were frozen open. Seeing her nod, he asked the questions that he had lugged with him up the mountain in search of answers, prodded on by her nods and snorts. He soon left her. After a short while, she recovered and worked her way toward home - a failed pilgrim. But she did not give up, and she wanders the world still in search of wisdom.
In bars, hostels and base-camps through-out the range ever after was told the story of the Wise-woman of the mountains whose eyes bore into your soul, and who knew everything about your past, present and future. Many were the fools who lost their lives seeking her, instead of preparing for her to come by and be invited in.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year Meditation on Ecclesiastes 3:

The Same as the Old Year?

New Jerusalem by Sister Gertrude Morgan

From The Message:
There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
   A right time for birth and another for death,
   A right time to plant and another to reap,
   A right time to kill and another to heal,
   A right time to destroy and another to construct,
   A right time to cry and another to laugh,
   A right time to lament and another to cheer,
   A right time to make love and another to abstain,
   A right time to embrace and another to part,
   A right time to search and another to count your losses,
   A right time to hold on and another to let go,
   A right time to rip out and another to mend,
   A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
   A right time to love and another to hate,
   A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I've had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he's left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he's coming or going. I've decided that there's nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That's it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It's God's gift.
  • Is the writer being sarcastic or hyperbolic to make a point?
  • Is righteousness "busywork"?
  • Has God left us in the dark?
  • If eating, drinking and working are God's gifts, why do we praise work and frown on drinking?
  • What is this the right time for you to do? What do you resolve to do this year?
I've also concluded that whatever God does, that's the way it's going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God's done it and that's it. That's so we'll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.  
   Whatever was, is.
        Whatever will be, is.
             That's how it always is with God.
  • Does God want "que sera, sera" followers, or seekers?
  • Isn't it easier to follow blindly?
  • How many people in the Bible did what God told them to do without question?
I took another good look at what's going on: The very place of judgment— corrupt! The place of righteousness—corrupt! I said to myself, "God will judge righteous and wicked." There's a right time for every thing, every deed—and there's no getting around it. I said to myself regarding the human race, "God's testing the lot of us, showing us up as nothing but animals."
Humans and animals come to the same end—humans die, animals die. We all breathe the same air. So there's really no advantage in being human. None. Everything's smoke. We all end up in the same place—we all came from dust, we all end up as dust. Nobody knows for sure that the human spirit rises to heaven or that the animal spirit sinks into the earth. So I made up my mind that there's nothing better for us men and women than to have a good time in whatever we do—that's our lot. Who knows if there's anything else to life?
  • Don't we want easy answers from the Bible instead of hard questions?
  • Are we really just animals?
  • Why not then just do whatever we darn well want and be happy?
  • Is anything real, or is it all just smoke and mirrors?
  • What's the point of it all anyway? Is God wasting our time?