Friday, July 27, 2012

Inconvenient Ministry

How do you read John 6:1-21? Is it a once-upon-a-time lesson, or is it living prophesy? This is what I hear when I read it:

Looking for some peace, Jesus and the Twelve crossed the lake, but when they got there they found a crowd of desperate people in need. Jesus and his students went up to a high point and took in the scene. Jesus asked: "Where are we going to come up with enough food for all these people?"

Philip said: "We barely have enough to feed ourselves, we can't possibly feed all the hungry!" Andrew said that he had seen a boy with a couple of fish and five loaves of bread, but asked: "How can we help all who are in need with so little?"

Jesus directed them to first make the people comfortable. Then he broke the bread and thanked God for what they had, and then he served everyone all the bread and fish that they could eat. When the meal was done, Jesus directed that the left-overs be collected so it wouldn't go to waste. When the people saw that more was collected than was started with, they called Jesus a prophet and wanted him to lead a revolt against Rome. When Jesus saw this, he went up into the mountains alone.

Meanwhile, his disciples got into their boat and started across the lake without him, but part way the wind and waves rose. The experienced sailors did all they knew to keep the boat upright and moving forward but things were getting worse. In the distance, they saw something walking across the lake towards them! They were terrified that it was the ghost of one lost at sea or some kind of sea-monster. But then they heard their Master's reassuring voice: "Fear not; it's me." Their un-asked prayers were answered! They forgot the storm, brought Jesus on board and made it safely to shore.


Do we worry more about our future hunger than the present hunger of others?

Does the world's great need overwhelm us?

Do we try to define Jesus in our own terms?

Do we sometimes leave Jesus behind?

Do we forget to pray for help?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Psalmic Poetry - The Fearsome Fourteenth:

Only fools are sure:
There ain't no God!
Human cancer cells,
Doing evil to others!
No one does good?

God examines man.
Are there wise ones
Seeking for more?
No, they are all lost!
They are all perverts!
No one does good!
Not even one? NONE!

They are all ignorant,
All those that devour
My people like bread
And ignore their God.
They live within fear -
Trying to be secure,
But a greater terror
Will come upon them.

God's with the good!
You make and keep
God's children poor?
You forget that they
Dwell in His heart!

Deliver us O God
From the powerful!
Restore us Lord
To our prosperity.
Give wings to hope
And joy to our lives.


(as retold by Tiwago)

Monday, July 23, 2012

David Un-Kingly

It was the season for war, and all the regulars and the militias were out fighting the Ammonites. The King stayed behind in the strangely still City.

One day, he was looking out across his Jerusalem from his tall roof top. He saw a beautiful woman on another roof undressed and bathing. David became aroused and sent one of his servants to get her name. She was Bathsheba, the wife of one of the King's Heroes, Uriah, who was off at the front-lines. She was brought to the King who then raped her. She did not tell her husband, but months later sent a message to the King: "I'm pregnant!"

David panicked! He sent a messenger to his Field Marshal Joab: "Send Uriah to me." When Uriah kneeled before him, David asked for a report of the war as a pretext for calling for him. "Thank you brave Uriah. Go, be with your wife tonight before you go back to the battle in the morning." Uriah left, but slept with David's house troops. David found out and sent for him in the morning: "Why didn't you go home? Don't you miss your wife?"

Uriah answered: "How can I sleep in luxury in the arms of my loving wife while my fellow soldiers are dying in battle? What kind of man would I be?" David later tried to get Uriah drunk, hoping that he would forget his discipline and go home to sleep with his wife. David was getting desperate to hide his crime. Uriah did not go home, so the next morning David sent him back to the war with a note for Joab: "Place this man in the front of the next charge on the fortifications, but at the last moment draw back and leave him to fight alone."

Uriah died alone for an unworthy leader.

(2 Samuel 11:1-15 retold)

Artwork: Batsheba Bathing by Igor Khunteyev

Friday, July 20, 2012

Finding a Deserted Island in a Shark Filled Ocean

The twelve returned from their mission trip and gathered around Jesus for their debriefing. After he had listened to their reports, he said to them: "Come. Let's go away on a retreat and recharge." It was a mad-house there, and they couldn't even find time to eat - so they jumped in a boat and went on vacation.

But someone must have figured out where they were going because there was a crowd there waiting for them. Even though he knew his students were bone-tired, Jesus took pity on the people because they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off! So he calmed them by teaching them. Afterwards, still in search of peace and quiet, they crossed the lake.

As soon as they set foot on dry land they were recognized. People rushed from neighboring villages and all the countryside to bring the sick to wherever he was expected to be next. Everywhere he and his students went, the markets were full of the sick and dying begging to be able to merely touch his clothes as he went by. All who dared to touch him were healed and made whole!

(Retelling of Mark 6:30-34 and 53-56)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"They" Are Not Like You - They ARE You!

Remember when when you were "The Others" and "Those People"? No more! We have a tradition, a reconciling covenant - a beast is slaughtered and split in half, each party carries half; the blood on their hands remind them that they are meant to be one and whole. Jesus allowed himself to be that beast for us! In his blood of the new covenant we are reconciled to God through each other as one body before God.

The cross ended all divisions between "us" and "them". He came and called us to him from far and wide in distance and in theology to live as one. All have equal access to the Father because one Spirit lives in all of us. No more strangers or aliens, only fellow citizens and room-mates.

Together, we are the Church, built upon a foundation of prophets and apostles before us, and built around the anchoring corner-stone - Christ. It is in Christ that that the Church is joined and held together, and grows into a holy temple and house for God.

(Retelling of Ephesians 2:11-22)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pimp My House - Church Building and God's Priorities

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar? ”’
“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.

(2 Samuel 7:1-14a, NIV)

What are the benefits of a permanent church building?
What are the draw-backs?
Why does God say that they're not ready for a church building yet, but will be?
Before we build God a house, He will build us one made of freedom and community (7:10), and justice and peace (7:11). God puts us first! Do we neglect the upkeep on the house that God built to build, remodel and bling-out fancy houses that we build on spec for Him?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Who Is This Jesus Guy?

Puppet King Herod didn't like what he was hearing: Jesus; Jesus; Jesus! Who was this guy? Some said he was Headless John the Baptizer, while others thought he was Elijah back from his heavenly vacation. The less imaginative said he was a Prophet like in days of yore. But once Herod heard John's name, his ears shut: "I didn't mean to cut off his head. Now he's back to haunt me!"

Herod had had John arrested, shackled, and tossed into his dungeon because of his big mouth. Herod had done away with his brother Philip to get to the throne. John spoke up when Herod soon then married his widowed sister-in-law, Herodias. Herodias didn't like people dissing her, so she asked Herod to off him. But Herod was scared of John, anybody that crazy must be God-touched! So he protected John from Herodias' hit men. Herod couldn't follow John's preaching a lot of the time, but he sure put on a good show! Herod loved a show.

Herod was impressing business contacts with a rave party one night. Herodias sent in her young daughter to do a belly-dance for the revellers. Herod and his buds were so impressed (and/or drunk), that he quite seriously offered her anything he had as a reward - even half his kingdom! She talked it over with mother dearest. Both being myopic, they decided against ruling half a kingdom and asked for the head of John.

So the girl shimmied and swayed her way back to Herod's ear and whispered softly: "I want the head of John served to me on a platter." The King sobered up real quick and started to regret his drunken hyperbole, but he was more afraid of his wife's fury and of looking like a wishy-washy numb-nut in front of his associates than he was of John, the people, or even God. "Off with his head" he bellowed, and off it came. It was served up steaming hot to the girl who daintily dashed off to give it to mum for her den.

When John's students heard this sudden change of events, they rushed to the palace and claimed the body for a proper (if headless) burial.

(Mark 6:14-29 retold)

Painting by Bernardino Luini.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Psalmic Poetry: The Twenty-Fourth

The Earth's God's
Every wee atom
Every living thing
Up from the sea
Beside the rivers

Who can be holy
And tread holy soil?
The clean handed
The pure hearted
The honest souled

They're God-blessed
They're grace-saved
They're kith and kin
They're the seekers
Who see His face

Open yourself
Let the King in
What King?
The God of glory
God of our trials

Open yourself
Let the King in
What King?
The God of glory
God of heaven

(Retold by Tiwago)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dirty Dancing

David and his 30,000 went out to bring the Ark of the Covenant home, to his new capitol city of Jerusalem. They were all excited to have the Lord dwell among them again in His own tabernacle, so they danced behind the marching band as the parade progressed along its route.

David wore priestly raiment as he danced his heart out to God, and every six steps he would stop and make a sacrifice of thanksgiving. The trumpets sounded and the people shouted as the Ark entered the city gate. David's wife Michal saw him making a fool of himself leaping and prancing - as a Queen and a Princess before that (raised in the royal household of a real king) she was appalled by this lack of dignified decorum! In her heart, she began to despise this low-born interloper.

The Ark was placed in its tent, a reminder of impermanence, freedom and their journey together. David made offering before the Lord, and then blessed the people on the Lord's behalf. Then he gave bread, meat and a dessert to the entire multitude. Then they all went home satiated in body and uplifted in spirit.

(Retelling of 2 Samuel 6:1-5 and 12b-19)

Art is "Jazz Funeral" by Jon Guillame.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Homecoming Dance

Jesus and his roadies returned home to Nazareth after a successful Galilean Tour. On the Sabbath, he taught at the village's synagogue. The home-folk asked each other: "Where does he come up with this stuff?"; "What makes him so smart all of a sudden?"; "Where does he get off doing the things he does?"

The more they thought on it, the more offended they became. "He's not a Rabbi - he's just a small town builder! His poor widowed mother, her four younger boys and her daughters all still live here; they didn't think they were too big for us, unlike some people!"

Jesus spoke to them: "Prophets are honored least by those who think they know them the most." Never-the-less, he was amazed at the depth of their un-belief! They accepted very few miracles. So he shook off the dust of his home town from his sandals, and taught in other villages. There were many other towns out there hungry for good news!

They had to split up to cover the region. He sent out his top twelve students in pairs. He gave them authority, even over demons. He told them to take only their staffs, to leave behind food, luggage and even their wallets. Crazy Peter stripped naked: "OK, I'm ready!" Jesus tried not to laugh at his eagerness: "Um, you'd better wear some shoes and clothes. Just don't cheat and try to get away with wearing a whole month's worth of outfits as layers! That would be missing the whole point of this training exercise."

"Find a home with people who will have you, and make that your base camp for the duration. If any village rejects you and refuses to listen, testify your disdain by shaking their dust off your feet and splitting."

So they spread out and preached like John before them: "Repent! the Kingdom is nigh." But unlike John, they also healed the sick and made whole the broken.

(Retelling of Mark 6:1-13)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Apostolic Poetry - Boastfulness:

I know a another Christian
Who fourteen years past
Was carried to Paradise.
Was it heaven in the flesh,
Or a spectral-plane visit?
I Paul don't know for sure;
Only He knows such things.

And I know that this person
(Whether it was bodily or not,
Only my God knows for sure)
Who was carried to Paradise,
Heard sacred unspeakables -
Holies beyond living tongues.
Such a one I can brag upon!

But as to me, I can not boast.
Unless I praise my weakness?
But if I did do some boasting
I'd have plenty to crow about!
But I will humble myself to you
So that you'll think better of me
Than my preceding reputation;

No matter how wonderful the
The revelation I bring to you!
To keep my ego from puffery
I was graced with an affliction;
Satan's bur under my saddle -
Lest I'd be too comfortable,
Rich, hard and self-righteous.

Three times I asked my God
To take this burden from me,
But my God He answered me:
"My grace is always sufficient!
Weakness perfects all power.
You must be weak enough to
Stop fighting Christ within you."

So now I am content with life.
My failures, fears and follies;
All your insults - your assaults;
Their rumors and the bullying;
All are unintended blessings!
With "strength" out of the way,
Real power can be perfected.

(2 Corinthians 12:2-10 retold by Tiwago)

Painting of Paul by Rubens.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Keeping a Man

This is from today's reading on my YouVersion Bible app.What do we do in hopes of being loved?

When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was unable to have children. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben because she said, "The LORD saw my harsh treatment, and now my husband will love me." She became pregnant again and gave birth to a son. She said, "The LORD heard that I was unloved, so he gave me this son too," and she named him Simeon. She became pregnant again and gave birth to a son. She said, "Now, this time my husband will embrace me, since I have given birth to three sons for him." So she named him Levi. She became pregnant again and gave birth to a son. She said, "This time I will praise the LORD." So she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing children. (Genesis 29:31-35 CEB)

Notice that when Judah was born, Leah finally put her hope in God instead of her loveless marriage.