Thursday, March 29, 2012

Psalmic #Poetry - Paranoia and the Gracious God:

Maria Burd

Be free with Your grace God!
I'm in deep despair and pain.
The wells of my eyes are dry,
My body and soul are wasted.
My time has been just sorrow,
My years filled with moaning.
Misery has stolen my strength,
My bones are turning to dust.
I am everyone's village fool,
The bane of my neighborhood,
An object of pity to my friends,
Children and puppies run away!
I'm as invisible as the departed.
I'm as useful as a broken vase.
I have heard Legion's whispers.
I am surrounded by demon-kind.
They are all plotting against me!
They all want to steal my breath!

But I will put my life in Your hands.
I will pronounce You my Lord God.
My life is nestled in Your hands.
Save me from claws and fangs.
Let me see You smile upon me.
Save me for, and by, Your love.
Psalm 31:9-16 retold by Tiwago

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Real" Christians?

Are you "real"?
Real Chrisitians think like Christ and act like Christ. The incarnate Son of God did not try to take advantage of being one with the Father. The Messiah who rode an ass instead of a warhorse was a communion cup who emptied himself as a slave born of humanity. Vulnerable, he made himself lowly and obescient - even in torture and execution. So the Father exalted he who had been meek, Word above every word, that all the proud and powerful of earth, hell and heaven would bow before him and confess him as their Lord - all to the glory of the Father.

 (Retelling of Phillipians 2:5-11)

  • How far do we take our pride in being Christians? 
  • If every knee bows, do we bow better? 
  • If Christ did not use his status and birthright to take advantage of others, why do we?

(The art is by my favorite artist, He Qi.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Prophetic #Poetry - The Wise Do Not Cower:

Lord God has gifted me
With a teacher's tongue,
So as to restore the tired.
Dawn by dawn He wakes -
He wakes my closed ears;
Gifting me - student's ears.
Lord God has opened my
Ears, my heart and mind.
I didn't fight new knowledge.
I didn't try to turn back time.
I turned away from abusers.
I turned my cheek to bullies.
I did not hide in shame when
The shameful spat upon me.
Lord God's my soft shoulder,
So people can't dishonor me.
I put on my neutral poker face
So I can't be made their fool.
My Champion is ever with me.
Who are these weaklings that
Would try to knock me down?
Let the victims stand together!
And where are our victimizers?
Let them see our lifted faces!
Lord God is my rock.
Dare you judge me?
(Isaiah 50:4-9a retold by Tiwago)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Throw It Away!

From the crowd came some came gentile seekers. They approached Phillip and asked to be introduced to Jesus. He in turn went to Andrew, who went with him to see the Rabbi. They expected him to be pleased and excited, but instead he said: "It is too late. The time has come. remember all the times I've talked to your about farming - if you try to save a seed for some future need, it will die. But if you throw it away, if throw it into a field or a garden or even a midden, it will become a multitude of seeds. And if you in turn plant those seeds... Whoever tries to save their own life will be dead and barren. But whoever are willing to throw their lives away and follow me will be alive and fruitful. If you say you serve me, then you must throw it all away. Whoever throws everything away will receive more than everything from the Father. "
"My soul is troubled by its dark night. But what can I say? Should I pray to the Father to be rescued from this moment? I can't. It was for this moment that I am with you. Father, make your name exalted through what comes to me!"
The heavens shook the earth's foundations: "I have already been exalted through your life, and will be exalted again through your death. Abide in peace."
The crowd had heard and felt the sound. Many thought that it was just thunder, but some said that he conversed with angels. Hearing their debate, Jesus told them: "The Father spoke out loud so that all may hear. The judgement of the world is here, and your cruel master is being driven from it. When I return to heaven, I will draw everyone to me like a mother hen."
But no one understood...

until afterwards.
(Retelling of John 12:20-33)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Forever Priest

Nicholas Markell
The Christ extolled himself not
To become the High Priest, but
He was anointed by the One who
Could say "you are my child", who
Could say "today I've begotten you"
Could say "you're my eternal priest"
Could say "you're my Melchizedek"
In short days incarnate and finite
Jesus made himself a supplicant
Crying out and weeping for us all
To he who could take away the cup
To he who didn't take away the cup
To he who made sweet all the cups
He set aside his rights as the heir
And learned to submit by serving
Through the living and the suffering
And by death's embrace perfected
He became our unexpected eternity
Having been appointed by his Abba
As the High Priest of forever more
(Hebrews 5:5-10 retold by Tiwago)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Renewing Vows:

The Lord spoke: "Time'll come when there's a new pledge between My people and I. It won't be a hard-copy like the one I (your bond-mate) wrote for you before. The one that you broke over and over while you abused Me! No, the new vows that we'll share won't have my laws as sworn oaths, but as  sonnets written upon your hearts. I'll always be your Abba, and you'll remember that you'll always be My children. No more scary teachers of the law. No more going around asking strangers if they 'know' God. No more evangelists. No more missionaries. They'll be no one left for you to even witness to: for everyone from the most powerful to the most disenfranchised will already know Me; for I will have already freed them from their sins; for I will have already forgotten their transgressions."
(Retelling of Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Representin' - How Do Church-Goers Behave?

 Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.
Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,

   God is there, ready to help;
   I’m fearless no matter what.
   Who or what can get to me?
Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.
Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.
The altar from which God gives us the gift of himself is not for exploitation by insiders who grab and loot. In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp. The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice for sin. It’s the same with Jesus. He was crucified outside the city gates—that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God’s altar to cleanse his people.
So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name.
Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.
Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?
Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God. Pray that we may be together soon.
   May God, who puts all things together,
      makes all things whole,
   Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
      the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
   Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
      up and alive from the dead,
   Now put you together, provide you
      with everything you need to please him,
   Make us into what gives him most pleasure,
      by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
   All glory to Jesus forever and always!
      Oh, yes, yes, yes.
Friends, please take what I’ve written most seriously. I’ve kept this as brief as possible; I haven’t piled on a lot of extras. You’ll be glad to know that Timothy has been let out of prison. If he leaves soon, I’ll come with him and get to see you myself.
Say hello to your pastoral leaders and all the congregations. Everyone here in Italy wants to be remembered to you.
Grace be with you, every one.
 (Hebrews 13, The Message)

  • Am I on “good terms” with every other member of my congregation? Why not? 
  • Is my congregation one of want, or one of abundance?
  • How has the world commercialized Christ?
  • Am I a consumer or a producer within my congregation?
  • Where can I find sacred space – inside or outside the confines of my congregation’s building?
  • How do I make things harder for my pastor? How do I make things easier?
  • Do I tear others down by praying "for" them in church?

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Serpent in the Tree:

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

The Tribes left Aaron’s Mount along the arid sea-way to bypass the populated red-lands; but the people soon became impatient with the round-about route. So their mutters grew louder and louder as they mean-mouthed not only their leader Moses, but God Himself as well: “Why did you drag us away from our homes to die in this forsaken desert? There is no food! There is zero water! We’ve had it up to here with this disgusting manna crap!” So God sent them a plague of poisonous snakes; many of the Hebrews died from bites. The people came before Moses: “We have broken two of our new laws by not honoring you our patriarch, and by taking the Lord’s name in vain. Please intervene on our behalf. Ask God lift his plague from us.” So Moses prayed hard for his hard-headed people. God gave directions to his friend: “Moshe. I will not remove evil from the world, but I will offer hope and healing. Make a serpent. Set it on a wooden pole. All who are bitten are to look upon it and be saved.” With his brother Aaron gone, Moses himself cast a serpent of bronze. Then he nailed it to a pole. When ever someone was bitten, they gazed upon it and lived. (Retelling of Numbers 21:4-9)

And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

(John 3:14-21, NIV)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stagnate Water or Living Water?

It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
(Ephesians 2:1-10; The Message)
  • What part of my life was a stagnant swamp, sucking me in?
  • The world does a whole lot of living it up. What does Brother Paul mean by saying that it doesn't know anything about living?
  • Isn't it OK if "everyone else does it"?
  • How long can I hold my breath?
  • Is Paul saying that we are ascended beings?
  • Is Paul saying that Christ's sacrifice bought God time to work on us?
  • What is the significance of "work" appearing at the end of this passage rather than at the first?

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Den of Consumerism

Jacob Jordaens

The holy day celebrating the Angel of Death's passing over the houses of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt was drawing nigh. Jesus and thousands upon thousands of other pilgrims collected in the Holy City. When he went to Temple to give his offering, he found it full of people selling animals for sacrifice and exchanging secular money for Temple tokens at unfair rates - making a profit by taking advantage of the poor and the faithful foreigners and other travellers. He became irate and occupied the Temple, driving the livestock, the profiteers and the usurers out with a scourge he made of cords. He knocked over the tables with their ill-gotten gains. He was particularly upset with the dove sellers. Doves were set aside as offerings for the poor, like Mary and Joseph. What kind of person would steal from the destitute?
His students stood back and watched the rampage. Was this the start of the revolution? Then they remembered the scripture: "Zeal for Your House will consume me." They became afraid that his fire would burn out and leave them nothing but ashes.
The Temple leadership demanded to see a sign that proved he had authority to cause such havoc. The merchants and bankers were the greatest contributors to their coffers! Jesus turned, and looked them each in the eye: "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
The religious authorities scoffed at this. Building had been going on for forty-six years already, and still it wasn't completed. He was going to rebuild it in just three days? Ridiculous! What a fool!
But Jesus spoke not of an earthly tabernacle, but rather of the Church of the Body. His Body.
Later, only after the dark days and his resurrection, did his disciples understand the scriptures and the teachings of their Lord and Rabbi.
(Retelling of John 2:13-22)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Where's My Fool's Cap?

When we share what we call the good news about a criminal's cruel torture rack makes absolutely no sense to the lost! Yet to the saved it reverberates with the very power of Lord God the Creator. Remember in scripture where it says: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and take away the discernment of the discerning."
Where are your great theologians? Where are your legalists? Where are your appologists? Hasn't God turned our ephemeral worldy wisdom upside down? Since the world did not save itself by its wisdom, God in His wisdom decided to save the world through its very foolishness! To save the poor fools that believe all this foolishness.
The religious demand prescribed signs and miracles. The atheists demand logic and proof. We preach and witness to the power of a shameful execution, and trip up those who demand neatness and sense. But yet, there are those called from among the religious and from the unbelievers for whom the Christ is the incarnate Word of God, full of power and wisdom.
God's foolishness is wise far beyond our grasping definition of wisdom. His weakness is strength far beyond our mightiest armies.
(Retelling of 1 Corinthians 1:18-25)
Reflection: How many congregations and denominations use business models in church leadership and decision making?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Psalmic Poetry - The Nineteenth:


The universe is telling you
all about God's glory.
The stars over your head
announce His artistry.
The daylight speaks to us.
The nighttime teaches us.
They do not speak in words.
We do not hear them speak.
Yet their voices resound
throughout the whole earth.
He has raised a tent above.
The sun, like a bridegroom
from his wedding canopy
runs toward the future in joy.
Orbiting in time and space
he shares his heat with all.
His laws are perfecting -
they give us new life.
His decrees, trustworthy -
turning fools to sages.
His precepts are right
and make hearts light.
His commands are clear -
light in the darkness.
His awesomeness, pure -
eternal and consistent.
His ordinances are true -
leading to righteousness.
More desirable than gold,
more than tall piles of gold.
Sweeter than amber honey,
dripping straight from comb.
By them servants guided.
By them servants rewarded.
But who can see their errors?
Save me from hidden faults.
Hold me back my Lord.
Keep me away from the
insulting and controlling.
Let neither their bile, nor
my hatred control me.
Then I shall be without blame,
innocent of what I want to do.
Let the mutterings of my mouth
and the searching of my heart
be an acceptable sacrifice.
My Lord.
My strength.
My rescuer.
(Psalm 19 as retold by Tiwago)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Top Ten Count-down:

10) Stop lusting over what ain't yours, and imagining that their grass is so much greener than the grass I gave you.
9) Stop lying, gossiping, snarking, sniping and sabotaging others - stepping on their reputations to make yourself look taller.
8) Stop taking what ain't yours to have.
7) Stop sleeping with those who ain't yours to sleep with.
6) Stop taking lives that ain't yours to have.
5) Start respecting your parents and elders; pray that you too may live long and fruitfully and serve as My witnesses as saints on earth.
4) Start respecting My day. You've had six days to get all your busy business out of the way. This one is special - for us to spend some time together.
3) Stop trying to put words into My mouth, or condemn others in My name. Don't use My name in your petty little interpersonal trust games; your name-dropping games; your self-promotion games. My name is special - not magic.
2) You may love My creations and your own, but stop worshipping the created over the Creator. I AM yours, and you are Mine. If you cheat on me, four generations will suffer from it, but if you are faithful to me I will be faithful to 1,000 generations.
1) Stop treating Me like I'm just one other thing in your lives. I'm not an option, fall-back or supplement - I AM.
(Retelling of Exodus 20:1-17)

Friday, March 2, 2012

End Game:

Jheronimus Bosch

The time was nigh, and the Pastor started to prepare his flock. He forewarned them that he would be tortured, that he would be rejected by the bishops and the lay leaders of the Church, that he would be murdered by the government, and that he would arise from the grave three days later. He said this out-loud in front of every one, so the chairperson of his Church Council pulled him aside and started to dress him down: "What are you doing? How do you expect us to grow in numbers with a such a depressing message? Who's going to tithe to a doomed cause?"
The Pastor turned and spoke to all his Trustees: "Get out of my way, Satan! Instead of focusing on the divine, you're worrying about the flesh."
He called to the whole crowd to come close: "If any of you want to follow me, reject your body's needs and wants. Take up what you fear most and just follow. Anyone who is so concerned about death is already dead. But, those who embrace death for the sake of living and giving the good news of my gospel here and now shall live on with me forever! What profit is there for you to buy the whole world and yet lose your immortal soul? Think about it: what in the world do you own that is so valuable that you can buy eternal peace with it? Those of you who are ashamed of me and are embarrassed by my teachings of love, faith and hope will find that I will be ashamed to say I knew you when your time comes."
(Retelling of Mark 8:31-38)