Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Psalmic #Poetry - The 22nd:

Photography by Tiwago

All the wise
Praise Him!
Jacob's kin
Glorify Him!
Israel's heirs
Stand in awe!
He is not offended
By the sins of sinners.
He didn't turn from me.
He felt my wet tears.
His Body lifts me up.
I will witness to them.
Empty stomachs
Shall become full.
The empty souls
Shall overflow.
May their hearts
Beat ever more.
From the four corners
All come back home.
Every one shall bow
Down before Him
As our sovereign
Lord and Father.
Even the dead
Bow before Him.
Even those in hell
Bow before Him.
While I still yet  live
I will live for Him.
My descendents
Will serve Him.
Our children will
Will know Him
And witness to
The yet unborn.
(Psalm 22:23-31 as told by Tiwago)

Monday, February 27, 2012

How Abe Became a Ham:

Adriaen van der Werff

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God showed up and said to him, "I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I'll make a covenant between us and I'll give you a huge family."

Overwhelmed, Abram fell flat on his face.

Then God said to him, "This is my covenant with you: You'll be the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham, meaning that 'I'm making you the father of many nations.' I'll make you a father of fathers—I'll make nations from you, kings will issue from you. I'm establishing my covenant between me and you, a covenant that includes your descendants, a covenant that goes on and on and on, a covenant that commits me to be your God and the God of your descendants. And I'm giving you and your descendants this land where you're now just camping, this whole country of Canaan, to own forever. And I'll be their God."

(Genesis 17:1-7; The Message)

That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God's decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed. If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That's not a holy promise; that's a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God's promise at that—you can't break it.

This is why the fulfillment of God's promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God's promise arrives as pure gift. That's the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that's reading the story backward. He is our faith father.
We call Abraham "father" not because he got God's attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn't that what we've always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, "I set you up as father of many peoples"? Abraham was first named "father" and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, "You're going to have a big family, Abraham!"

Abraham didn't focus on his own impotence and say, "It's hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child." Nor did he survey Sarah's decades of infertility and give up. He didn't tiptoe around God's promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That's why it is said, "Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right." But it's not just Abraham; it's also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.
(Romans 4:13-25: The Message)
  • Why are we so certain that we are heirs and can do what ever we want to creation, and yet still act as outsiders who have have to do "something" to merit salvation?
  • Do we interpret (manipulate) the covenant to favor our desires?
  • Is scripture looking back at Abram's faith in a rose colored mirror?
  • What happened in Genesis 16?
  • Do we create unrealistic expectations of "blind faith" by de-humanizing and perfecting Abram too early in his spiritual growth?
  • What is a "saint"?
  • Does God take the easy way and choose to "make something" only of those who have already made themselves something?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rainbow Jesus

Gretchen Baer
After 40 long days and dark nights:

Then God spoke to Noah and his sons: "I'm setting up my covenant with you including your children who will come after you, along with everything alive around you—birds, farm animals, wild animals—that came out of the ship with you. I'm setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth."

God continued, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I'm putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth." And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I've set up between me and everything living on the Earth."

(Genesis 9:8-17; The Message)

After 40 long days and dark nights:

About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.

After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

(Mark 1:9-15; Common English Bible)


The marathon of Holy Week is coming.

·       Forty days in the wilderness or at sea gives you plenty of time to grow strong and prepare for the mission  ahead. Remember the TV show Lost? Do we embrace or avoid wilderness?
·       We often think of trials as the test of character. Often though, success is the greater test: Jesus went from the wilderness to preach; Noah got drunk and naked...
·       One dove tells Noah that the earth has been reborn. Another dove tells the world that the earth has been reborn.
·       The Ark comes out of the water, and the sun comes out of the clouds. The Son comes out of the water, and the Spirit comes out of the clouds. How long has coming out represented a new start?
·       Jesus is the light, and a rainbow interprets light. How do I interpret Jesus through the Old Testament?
·       What am I using the 40 days of Lent to prepare for?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

"Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what's wrong with their lives,
   face my family Jacob with their sins!
They're busy, busy, busy at worship,
   and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people—
   law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?'
   and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
   'Why do we fast and you don't look our way?
   Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'

"Well, here's why:
   "The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit.
   You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
   You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
   won't get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after:
   a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
   and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
   a fast day that I, God, would like?

"This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
   to break the chains of injustice,
   get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
   free the oppressed,
   cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
   sharing your food with the hungry,
   inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
   putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
   being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
   and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
   The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
   You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'

"If you get rid of unfair practices,
   quit blaming victims,
   quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
   and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
   your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
   I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
   firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
   a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
   rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything,
   restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
   make the community livable again

(Isaiah 58:1-12; The Message)

·         What is the difference between “faith” and “religion”? How do people use "religion" to create an image for themselves?
·         What do we expect of God? Is He an on-call hotline?
·         What kind of fast does God want? Do we give up stuff or self during Lent?
·         Darkness takes, while light gives.  What is the light?
·         Am I a builder or a destroyer? A user or a giver? A consumer or a creator?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Psalmic #Poetry - The 25th:

Photography by Tiwago

Psalm 25:1-10:
To You Abba
I surrender
My soul
In You Abba
I entrust
My soul
Don't let me be shamed
Don't let my enemies crow
Don't let Your's be shamed
Let those who lie and cheat
Us willfully be ashamed
Show me how to
Get out of this mess
Teach me Your paths
Lead me and train me
God of my salvation
I wait for You to find me
Remember that
You're merciful
Remember that
You're loving
Remember Your
Eternal Self
Pretend to forget
My youthful sins
My line-crossing
My ongoing dance
With Your Truth
Remember me
With loving eyes
For goodness sake
For God's sake
For my sake
Amen, amen, amen
Straight and true is the Lord
He teaches sinners the straight Way
He leads the small and broken to Truth
All his paths lead you to Him
His paths are called
Love and Faith
His paths call His
Covenant Keepers
(Retold by Tiwago)

Monday, February 20, 2012

St. Pete's Creed:

Winslow Homer

We all know that the children suffer for the sins of the parent, but the Father also suffers for the sins of His children. The Righteous One died from (and  for) our unrighteousness. The Son was cruelly crucified by his brothers and sisters upon a Roman cross to bring the prodigals back to their Father. His flesh was sacrificed, but in the spirit he became really alive. In the spirit he visited the condemned and those lost in the fog of Sheol. He visited even those who drowned in the great flood, the flood in which God plucked only eight simple people from the water. Yes, the water killed almost all life on the planet, but the water also is what lifted the Ark and saved Creation. The flood that presaged our baptisms.
We are saved in the water of baptism, not because the water washes off sins and impure desires, but because it is a prayer to God for a clean conscience. We share the Christ's resurrection. Sitting at the right hand of his Father with full authority and power, he awaits our ascensions.
(Retelling of 1 Peter 3:18-22)

Friday, February 17, 2012

If You Love It, You Gotta Put a Plaque on It:

Howard David Johnson

Jesus took three of his trustees on a retreat. Suddenly he was lifted up and before their very eyes he shone from within! His dirty carpenter's overalls were whiter than any bottled bleach could ever dare advertise. And there talking with him were their greatest super-heroes, Moses and Elijah. Pete said: "Pastor, it sure is a good thing you brought us, isn't it? We'll build three churches, and dedicate one to each of you with wonderful bronze plaques!" When you can't grasp something, build something you can grasp - right?
It suddenly became tornado-weather greenish dark. From it came a voice: "This is My Son, the Beloved, with whom I'm quite pleased. He is the only memorial you shall ever need." After changing their soiled clothes, they looked around and couldn't see anyone other than Jesus. As they returned from their retreat, he told them not to go blabbing until after he had risen from the dead and they better understood what had happened.
They had no idea what he was talking about. Risen? Dead? They kept his secret close, and planned together how much bronze they'd need to buy...
(Retelling of Mark 9:2-10)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

#Lectionary - Second Letter to the Corinthian Church 4:3-6:

J. M. W. Turner

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

(WTF? The Good News is being hidden from those who need it most?)

If our Message is obscure to anyone, it's not because we're holding back in any way. No, it's because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won't have to bother believing a Truth they can't see. They're stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we'll ever get. Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we're proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
(The Message)

  • Is the Gospel a gnostic mystery?
  • Is Satan a god or an excuse?
  • Is spiritual blindness external or internal?
  • Is Paul using the royal "we", or does he mean all of us?
  • Were we lit to chase away our darkness or so as to be a light to others?
  • Is The Message paraphrase making a hard message more palatable, or is it clarifying Paul's stoic obtuseness?

Monday, February 13, 2012

On the Road to Heaven

Rueven Rubin

The Man of God, the Prophet Elijah, and his student Elisha have just left Gilgal...
     Elijah: Stay here, God is sending me all the way over to Bethel.
     Elisha: As our Lord lives and as you live, I will not desert you!
     Prophets of Bethel: Elisha, do you know that God is taking your master away from you today?
     Elisha: Yes, now hush.
     Elijah: Stay here, God is sending me all the way over to Jericho.
     Elisha: As our Lord lives and as you live, I will not desert you!
     Prophets of Jericho: Elisha, do you know that God is taking your master away from you today?
     Elisha: Yes, now hush.
     Elijah: Stay here, God is sending me all the way over to the River Jordan.
     Elisha: As our Lord lives and as you live, I will not desert you!
The Jordan...
As the Prophets of Jericho stand witness, Elijah removes his mantle of authority. After rolling it up, like Moses with his staff he strikes the river with it - the river parts and allows the two men to cross on dry ground.
The Far Side...
     Elijah: I will be gone soon - what can I give you before I go?
     Elisha: Let me receive the first-born son's double share of your spirit as an inheritance.
     Elijah: What you ask for my son will be hard upon you, but if God, it shall be yours. If he allows you to see my being taken, then you'll know.
A chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire conveys Elijah into heaven in a firestorm funnel. Elijah is left alone as he cries out to the man that had been a father to him, and he tore his clothes in sorrow.
(Retelling of 2 Kings 2:1-12)
Elisha refuses to deny his master three times and receives a double share of the Spirit.
Peter denies Jesus three times and receives a triple share of the Spirit ("Feed My lambs. Tend My sheep. Feed My sheep.")
Thank God that God is not "fair"...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Gibbons

The forest was lush and verdant; something wonderful to eat was always in season. The family of gibbons brachiated from behemoth tree to behemoth tree with joyous daredevil abandon.The couple were devoted to each other - always had been and always would be mutually faithful and supportive. On the rare occasion when they had a falling out with the neighbors, each family would sing their song at each other until it was settled.
Life was good!
One day at the edge of the forest, they saw rows and rows of trees. Being curious about what kind of fruit these new trees might have, they went exploring. The next thing they knew, they were caught up in a net and taken away from the forest. After days and days of fearful travel, they at last came to their new home - a zoo. Their neighbors were chimps. They were very rude and noisy. The gibbons tried to sing to them. The chimps threw poop at them.
Life was confusing.
We live each day yearning for the forest primeval and ducking poop missiles, but the song never dies.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Forgiven But Not Perfected:

Ron DiCianni
A beggar kneeled before Jesus: "If you wanted to, you could cleanse me of my sins and remove this stigma of leprosy!" Back in those days you see, we all believed that leprosy was a sign and punishment from God for sins! Jesus was moved by pity for the poor man's condition, reached down and touched the untouchable. "I want and I will. You are forgiven and clean again." Instantly, it was so.

Before sending him off, Jesus directed the beggar: "Make sure you don't tell anyone what happened here today. Obey the law by going directly to a priest and give the appropriate offering of thanksgiving as a witness to grace." But the man broke his word in his excitement and told everyone he saw. Jesus could no longer go into town without getting mobbed by paparazzi, the needy, the curious - he could no longer effectively pursue his ministry there  He moved his camp out into the country, where people had to come to him.
(Retelling of Mark 1:40-45)

Does evangelism sometimes get in the way of gratitude?

Psalmic #Poetry - The Thirtieth

Photography by Tiwago

I shall extol you.
You pulled me up.
My foes could not
dance on my grave.
I cried in pain.
Begged for help.
You have healed
my brokeness.
You drew me up
from Sheol's shade.
You restored me
into the bright light.
Sing of El-Shaddai!
Sing you faithful few!
Sing His holy names!
Sing your gratitude!
Azlan's anger is short.
His love is forever.
I may weep at night
but joy rides the dawn.
When all went well
I was Peter brave.
When You hid away
I was bereft and lost.
I cried out to my Abba!
Pled to God of my fathers!
Bargained with the Creator!
Challenged the one I AM!
What does it prove if I die?
Will my doom honor You?
Will my dust praise You?
Will it show You faithful?
My Shepherd, hear me.
Show me grace, Adonai.
Be with me Immanuel.
Be my Almighty strength.
You've turned my sorrow
into most joyous dancing.
You've lifted my mourning -
clothed me in bright colors.
My soul must sing out!
I can not keep it in!
Lord My God, accept
my eternal thanks.
(Psalm 30 Retold by Tiwago)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Gospel According to Athletes:

You all know that at a track event, all the runners compete - yet only one can win the medal. Run in such a way that allows you to be a winner! The best athletes are highly disciplined in training, diet, preparation, etc. Their bodies are highly tuned and well maintained machines. They do it for an ephemeral prize, but we run for an eternal one. I don't run around like a headless chicken, but towards the finish line. I don't get in the ring just to shadow-box! I put my body through hell so as to master it. What kind of example would I be if I were instead a slave to flesh's vain wants and desires?  ~ Paul
(Retelling of 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)


Monday, February 6, 2012

Expectations - My Sermon for 2.12.12:

Cody F. Miller

Naaman was general of the army under the king of Aram. He was important to his master, who held him in the highest esteem because it was by him that God had given victory to Aram: a truly great man, but afflicted with a grievous skin disease. It so happened that Aram, on one of its raiding expeditions against Israel, captured a young girl who became a maid to Naaman's wife. One day she said to her mistress, "Oh, if only my master could meet the prophet of Samaria, he would be healed of his skin disease."

Naaman went straight to his master and reported what the girl from Israel had said.

"Well then, go," said the king of Aram. "And I'll send a letter of introduction to the king of Israel."

So he went off, taking with him about 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothes.

Naaman delivered the letter to the king of Israel. The letter read, "When you get this letter, you'll know that I've personally sent my servant Naaman to you; heal him of his skin disease."

When the king of Israel read the letter, he was terribly upset, ripping his robe to pieces. He said, "Am I a god with the power to bring death or life that I get orders to heal this man from his disease? What's going on here? That king's trying to pick a fight, that's what!"

Elisha the man of God heard what had happened, that the king of Israel was so distressed that he'd ripped his robe to shreds. He sent word to the king, "Why are you so upset, ripping your robe like this? Send him to me so he'll learn that there's a prophet in Israel."

So Naaman with his horses and chariots arrived in style and stopped at Elisha's door.

Elisha sent out a servant to meet him with this message: "Go to the River Jordan and immerse yourself seven times. Your skin will be healed and you'll be as good as new."

Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, "I thought he'd personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I'd at least get clean." He stomped off, mad as a hornet.

But his servants caught up with him and said, "Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn't you have done it? So why not this simple 'wash and be clean'?"

So he did it. He went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, following the orders of the Holy Man. His skin was healed; it was like the skin of a little baby. He was as good as new.
(2 Kings 5:1-14; The Message)

My Theme:
1. Naaman is Everyman.
2. Elisha is the Father.
3. The servants are the Spirit.
  • Does Naaman act as expected for a leper at the time?
  • Do I expect to be treated special by man and God?
  • Do I expect pomp and pagentry and overlook or undervalue the small simple miracles?
  • Am I willing to listen and learn from unexpected places - people I think are "beneath me" or outsiders?
  • Do I expect God's immediate and direct attention? Why does God work through servants?
  • Did Elisha really expect Naaman to submit and comply?
  • Why did Elisha give Naaman such an unexpectedly simple task?
  • Is being healed ever what we expect?
  • What expectations did a master have of their slaves and servants at that time?
  • What expectations did the servants have in stepping forward and speaking out?
  • Who does God expect me to be?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Let's Go

The Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew's house, accompanied by James and John. Simon's mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them. That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn't let them say a word.
When it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, "Everybody's looking for you." Jesus said, "Let's go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I've come." He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.
(Mark 1:29-39; The Message)
  • Why the secrecy?
  • How do I start my day?
  • What was their expectation of Jesus?
  • Does Jesus see preaching and healing as the same thing?
  • Is this a message about parochialism?