Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Christ the King Sunday

The last Sunday of the Church's year.
The Sunday before Advent.

As a convert (2003), I had always assumed that Christ the King Sunday was some ancient tradition, but I was wrong. It started in 1925 as a protest against the government of Mexico which had demanded that Christian's "ultimate" allegiance be to their country, rather than to God. Most churches that follow the Revised Common Lectionary celebrate Christ the King Sunday.


My congregation is coming to the end of its read-the-Bible-in-a-year, and one of the readings for this weekend was Ezekiel 34:11-24. At the same time, one of the readings for Christ the King Sunday is Ezekiel 34:11-16, and 20-24! Coincidences happen - but they usually nudge me.

Ezekiel was a Priest and a Prophet around 580 BC during the Babylonian invasion and exile. He preached that his country had lost its way, had become weak and vulnerable, due to bad leadership in the Government and the Temple by selfish and short-sighted "shepherds" who worshipped power, money, and safety instead of God.

"The officials in her are like wolves ripping up prey. They shed blood and destroy lives for unjust riches. Her prophets have whitewashed everything for them, seeing false visions and making wrong predictions for them, saying, 'This is what the Lord God says,' when the Lord hasn’t spoken. The important people of the land have practiced extortion and have committed robbery. They’ve oppressed the poor and mistreated the immigrant. They’ve oppressed and denied justice." (Ezekiel 22:27-29; CEB)

What do we learn about good leaders from today's reading from Ezekiel 34?

1. Good leaders are Uniters: "The Lord God proclaims: I myself will search for my flock and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out the flock when some in the flock have been scattered, so will I seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered during the time of clouds and thick darkness. I will gather and lead them out from the countries and peoples, and I will bring them to their own fertile land." (v. 11-13)

2. Good leaders are Care-takers:"I will feed them on Israel’s highlands, along the riverbeds, and in all the inhabited places. I will feed them in good pasture, and their sheepfold will be there, on Israel’s lofty highlands. On Israel’s highlands, they will lie down in a secure fold and feed on green pastures. I myself will feed my flock and make them lie down. This is what the Lord God says." (v. 14-15)

3. Good leaders are Servant-Leaders: "I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak. But the fat and the strong I will destroy, because I will tend my sheep with justice." (v. 16) 

4. Good leaders are Just: "So the Lord God proclaims to them: I will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. You shove with shoulder and flank, and with your horns you ram all the weak sheep until you’ve scattered them outside. But I will rescue my flock so that they will never again be prey. I will even judge between the sheep!' (v. 20-22; see also our other reading for today Matthew 25:31-46) 

5. Good leaders are Empathetic"What you did for my people, you did for me." (Matthew 25:31-46)

On the other hand, bad leaders are self-centered:"As for you, my flock, the Lord God proclaims: I will judge between the rams and the bucks among the sheep and the goats. Is feeding in good pasture or drinking clear water such a trivial thing that you should trample and muddy what is left with your feet? But now my flock must feed on what your feet have trampled and drink water that your feet have muddied." (v. 17-19)

Things looked pretty hopeless for Israel in those days. I must admit, that some days I feel pretty hopeless in our present situation. But finally, in the thirty-fourth chapter, Ezekiel offers hope:"I will appoint for them a single shepherd, and he will feed them. My servant David will feed them. He will be their shepherd. I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be their prince. I, the Lord, have spoken." (v. 23-24)

The King came,and will come.Always here,Always approaching.Final Sunday 
leads to First Sunday.





Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Along the Way


Not all obstacles
Slow you down -
Some make your feet
Faster than your head.

             ~ Tiwago

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Jesus Wept


Jesus wept...

I don't want to leave you in the dark,
Nor leave you alone and confused -
You need not so grievously grieve,
As do those who live without hope.

But still,
Jesus wept...

He died and we die;
And yet he lived beyond,
And we shall live as well.

And yet,
Jesus wept...

He wept for a friend who died
Thinking that it was the end.
He wept for women he loved,
Who thought their brother 
Dead beyond hope of life.

And so,
Jesus wept:
For sorrow; 
For joy;
For them;
For us all.

First we die to self,
Then we die to earth,
Then we truly live,
Within his fullness.

Jesus wept
That we may know true love.
Let us encourage each other -
A baptism of cleansing tears.


~ Tiwago

Monday, November 6, 2017

Parable of the Coffeeless


My Kingdom is like this:

Ten people got in line outside the Apple store the day before, waiting to get ahold of the new iPhone X as soon as it came out. Five of them were foolish, and five were smart.

The foolish had coffee in paper-cups, but the wise had large thermoses full of coffee. It was cold and damp - a long and unpleasant ordeal. At midnight, there was a faceless shout: "Is that a Genius moving about in the store?" Awakened, the people who had come prepared poured themselves more revitalizing coffee for they needed a lift. But the fools had already drank all their coffee. "Please." they begged the five smarter friends, "Let us have some of your coffee." "No." they were told, "If we do that, then none of us will have enough to stay awake the rest of the night. There's an all-night coffee-shop down the street. If you hurry, maybe you can be back in time."

While they were gone on their java-run though, the store-doors opened. Only as many people were allowed in as there were phones available, and the doors started to close. Coffee in hand, the foolish five ran up to the door: "Let us in! Let us in!! We've been in line all night, and were just gone for a moment!!! Don't you remember us?" But the Genius replied, "No, I don't."

Stay woke therefore, for the day and the hour are shrouded in mystery.

Matthew 25:1-13

Thursday, November 2, 2017

For My Yoke Is Light

Jesus spoke to those who followed him, and to those who were just curious: "The religious authorities are Biblical experts. Listen to what they say - but do not emulate them, for they are dead-weight. They make life harsh and burdensome for people, but they don't lift even a finger to help them, comfort them, care for them! They make a big public show about their devotion to God and to the Law to appear "holy". They lust after, and are addicted to, fame, power, and status. 

But you - you are not to be like them. Jesus is your Master; not the Bible or the interpreters of the Bible. God is your Father/Mother; not a religious "brand". Live your life as a small-group facilitator rather than as an "expert".

The "important" people - the politicians, the celebrities, the religious leaders - are YOUR servants; not the way we have it now. All who praise themselves shall be humbled, while those who are humble shall be praised.

(Taken from Matthew 23:1-12)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Micah: Who's REALLY Like God?


God has something to say to leaders who lead people astray - leaders who cry for peace and obedience when things are going their way, but who call for war and rebellion when things don't: "It shall all be darkness to you because you are without true vision; your day is coming to an end."

Their perversions and corruption will lead to their public disgrace. Their fear-mongering and dire predictions of "social evils"shall be seen as small-minded self-centered lies. They will finally all just shut-up, and quit claiming to be God's chosen judges and messengers!

But I can't be quiet; for I am filled with the Spirit, the Justice, and the Power of the Lord - lightning in a bottle! I am DRIVEN to show my nation how it has fallen. Listen up governmental officials who abhor Justice and Equality, who built the nation on blood and lies. Hear me you corrupt leaders and profit-driven "prophets". Pay attention all you who claim manifest destiny, special providence, exceptionalism... You aren't warning us of the nation's collapse, you are causing it!

(Taken from Micah 3:5-12)


Saturday, October 28, 2017

It Is Cold Tonight


The Dark-night of the Soul,
Is a still and quiet cocoon -
If, I let it be...

~ Tiwago


(photography by tiwago)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Nature's Eyes

Do you ever feel that someone is watching you?


Some judge
     The Creator by
          The creation -

     I feel Creation
Judging us...

Tiwago


(photography by tiwago)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Food and Marriage

Dear Tim:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
1 Timothy 4:1-6

Illustration from Treasures of the Bible by Henry Davenport Northrop, 1894.

What does it mean that marriage and food restrictions are shown to be wrong in the same sentence? That both are referred to as God-made (godly) and given to us as a gift?
What godly things do we spurn because of dogma, misinterpretation, false-teaching, refusal to accept change, or ignorance?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sin Is Bad Awareness Day


October 19th: Spirit Day and Domestic Violence Awareness Day.

What does this say about us? What does it say, that we have to have a day to draw attention to the fact that women are abused, harassed, violated, raped, and treated like objects? What does it tells us about what we have become that we have to have a day to tell people that it is wrong to bully others? What does it say that we wear purple in public so that people will know that we oppose violence? What does it say?

How has the Church contributed to the need for such days? How have our elected officials 
contributed to the need for such days? How have I contributed to the need for such days? Days such as these, for times such as this. 

Whom have I murdered?

Monday, October 16, 2017

I Asked a Flower



I was hiking
Beneath a hot
September sun -
I was sweating,
And meditating;
When lo I came
Upon a brightly
Burning bush! So,
I sat down there,
Within her aura,
To have a talk.

Her name was Sophia;
She was a Cardinal.
Hence, I assumed that
She was wise in the ways
Of rooted things, and of
Flying things, and also
The mysteries of Church.

So I asked my new Teacher
About the secret of Life -
And after a flowing moment,
She gifted me her answer:

"Growth."

Tiwago


(photography by tiwago)



Saturday, October 14, 2017

Just As I Am


Tho I am
sharp 
and
prickly
and 
sparse
and 
withered
-
still
I bloom

Just as 
I am;
I AM.

Tiwago



(photography by tiwago)





Thursday, October 12, 2017

If You Threw a Party and Nobody Came


Just then, Jesus told another mystical tale:

A powerful person
Gave a fancy wedding
For their beloved child.
We were all invited,
But nobody went.
Again, invitations
Were sent to all:
"All is now ready!
Please come and
Celebrate with us"

Some of us
Laughed it off;
Some of us
Were too busy;
Some of us 
Mugged the Messenger;
Some of us
Killed the Mail-carrier;
None of those invited
Were worthy to attend.

On the third day,
People went out
Into the streets
Of the City, and
Everyone was
Invited to the party:
Good people;
Bad people;
Random people.
The wedding hall
Was at capacity!

It would be easiest to end the story here. It makes perfect sense to me, seems fair, and touches me as a random powerless person. But the parable continues! Why?

The Father saw someone 
Who hadn't dressed up:
"Friend, who let you in,
Dressed in blue-jeans?"
The man was confused -
He had an Invitation!
"Throw this man out!
Many are invited,
But few are let in."

How am I to understand the ending, unless someone explains it to me?

(Matthew 22:1-14)


(photography by tiwago)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How Does One Rejoice?



Exult in the Lord. I repeat, exult in the Lord! But, you say your life sucks right now? I know what you mean - the world is messed-up! It's hard to laugh and cry at the same time. What do you do?

1. Let your vulnerable gentleness show so that people will know that the Lord is near.

2. Instead of useless worry, be in active prayer and proactive thanksgiving - let God know what you are worried about and why. The indescribable tranquility of God will tend your thoughts and emotions, and keep you from making things even worse.

3. Lastly:

  • Whatever is True;
  • Whatever has Honor;
  • Whatever brings Justice;
  • Whatever is Uncontaminated;
  • Whatever is Calm and Beautiful;
  • Whatever is Useful and Beneficial;
  • Whatever is Perfect and Praiseworthy;

Focus on Goodness. Strive for it for yourself and for others. Let shalom flow through you.

(A meditation on Philippians 4:4-9)




(photography by tiwago)


Friday, October 6, 2017

Gold



The Lord of all the Cosmos
Created two forms of Gold.

One's the sweat of alien Suns;
The other's imbued with Breath.

One is matter of great Value;
The other is a hunk of Metal.

                        Tiwago


(photography by tiwago)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Parable for New Canaan



Listen:

There was a fair and fruitful land where lived a prosperous people. They had violently moved aside and subjugated the original inhabitants of the land to make more room for themselves. Unlike the first people, these new people did not know or acknowledge that they were but tenants and stewards of the land. They grew fat and comfortable.

Then, the Lord sent to them new immigrants to share the rich bounty of the land and the Lord's providence - but the people refused to share the fruit of the land, and denied space and dignity to those the Lord had sent them. Wave after wave the Lord sent; people fleeing hate, and war, and hunger, and worse. More and more were these servants and messengers of the Lord excluded, rejected, and vilified.

Finally, the Lord sent Their only Son to knock down the walls and to open hearts. The people saw this, and so they slew him.

What should be done to these wicked greedy people?

(Matthew 21:33-46)


(photography by tiwago)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Jesus Weeps.



We idolize the vile tools and icons of Death;
Lusting after unrighteous and unholy power.
Life is a cheap commodity bought and stolen
For profits, votes, and perverted deviance - 
...and Jesus weeps.

Leaders of state and church glib-speak 
With their serpentine silver-tongues,
As their wild-eyed prophets of Hate 
Shout with tongues of fire and lead -
...and Jesus weeps.

We laugh at Jesus 
(Mock him yet again)
For his un-manliness;
For his soft weakness -
...because Jesus weeps.

Tiwago


(photography by tiwago)





Thursday, September 28, 2017

Authority


"Who authorized the bee to pollinate the flowers?" ~ Tiwago 

Leaders: 
"By whose authority do you act against us? Who gave you authority to break the law and attack private property and businesses?"

(By which they meant: "We lost money when you led a violent protest against the money-changers!")

The One: 
"There were two families. One family told everyone 'We do not worship your God!', but never-the-less they were good and did good to others. The second family told the world 'We worship The God!', but they were bad and did nothing good for others. Tell me, which of these families faithfully did the will of God?" 

Matthew 21:23-31


(photography by tiwago)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My Soul Is Buggy


Inside me, there is a garden -
It is heavy on the ornamentals,
The ephemeral, annual variety.

There are also a few showy 
Pumpkins and fancy gourds, 
And even healthy vegetables.

There's no Fruit at all, unless
You consider the tomatoes -
Since I'm from Illinois, I do.

Where there are no flowers;
Where vegetables and fruit
Will not, or cannot, grow;
Where there is bad soil;
Where there is no light;
Where there is no water...

Weeds flourish in my messy garden.

Grasshoppers with gnashing jaws!
Devilish Horn Worms in the dark!
Nasty bugs sapping the sap of life!

But also... There are Butterflies,
Bees, Ladybugs, and fat Spiders;
Blessings of joy and protection!

Abba walks in this Garden...


Tiwago




(photography by tiwago)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dear Church:


"The Light makes many flowers One." ~ Tiwago 

If then you can still find:
ANY comfort within Christ;
ANY consolation within Love; 
ANY fellowship in the Spirit;
ANY compassion for others -
Then perfect, and complete
My joy and my pride in you.

Be:
Of one intent and purpose together;
Of one desire joined in mutual love;
Of one Body, yoked in the one Spirit.

Do:
Nothing from selfishness;
Nothing from arrogance;
Everything in humility.

Regard others as more important than yourself!
Do not worry about your own fears and needs!
Fight for the oppressed, the powerless, the poor!
Be of one intent and purpose with Christ Jesus!

Though he was of God,
He didn't take advantage 
Of this great advantage:
He emptied himself
Of his divinity;
He became our
Lowly servant;
He was born in
Blood and water;
He was in the flesh
And of the Spirit.

He humbled himself.
He walked his path.
He submitted to us
As we tortured him,
As we executed him;
A criminal against
The State.

From this, God exalted him on high,
And bestowed his name with power.
Before whom, all would bow down:
All in Heaven; all on Earth; all in Hell.
Then every tongue would sing out loud,
That Jesus the Christ is the Lord of all; 
That he is the revelation of the Father.

So my beloved Church, hear me,
You who've always listened to me
To my face, and behind my back -
I can't bring about your salvation for you.
You must work to cultivate it into fruition.
For it is not me working, nor is it you working,
It is God who's at work in you; in full-on labor!

It is God who 
Is remaking you 
Into an instrument.

Tiwago

Philippians 2:1-13




(photography by tiwago)





Friday, September 22, 2017

Justice Among the Laborers


An old man owned an apple-orchard. He hired his children and other relatives to climb the ladders to pick the choice apples from the top of the trees. He paid them well for this dangerous work, and they were quite happy. They did this all day long and enjoyed the satisfaction of a job well done.

Later in the day, he saw that he needed more help to pick the lower safer branches. So he hired friends and neighbors to give a hand. His family was glad because they needed the extra hands if they were going to get done before dark.

After a while, as the sun moved closer to the horizon, it became clear that no one was going to be able to get to the fallen apples on the ground for making cider. So he found some migrants to do this back-breaking work. His family, friends, and neighbors were all pleased to avoid all that stooping and heavy lifting. 

Everyone was happy. Until...

At the end of the day, when the harvest was done, he had the workers line up so that he could pay them. First were his children and other young relatives. He paid each one $20, and they were happy. Then came the friends and neighbors who had worked a shorter amount of time and who had a less dangerous job. He paid each one of them $20, and they were all very happy. But...

His children and relatives saw this, and they became less happy. Finally, immigrant workers came forward. Would you believe it, each one of them also made $20! When the friends and neighbors who had helped out saw this they suddenly became less happy, and when the family learned of it they became seriously unhappy!

Why would someone doing less skilled common grunt work make the same as them? They weren't there originally; they were there just a short time. It wasn't fair!

The old man said to his children and their cousins: "Why are you so upset? Didn't you get what you were promised? What is it to you if these others also make a living wage? What they receive does not lessen what you have - why are you jealous of these others?"

It is said: "The least shall be first, and the greatest shall be last."

Matthew 20:1-16



(photography by tiwago)


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Win/Win


I've had a bad case of the grumpity-grumps lately. Monday, I blogged about Jonah repeatedly saying that he'd be better off dead. Thankfully, that doesn't quite describe my current gloom. If Jonah and Job had a child... that's kind of how I feel. The world is seriously out of my control! Does it matter in the larger scheme of things if I live or if I die?

Paul writes to the congregation in Philippi, Macedonia:

I can't lose! Living is winning - dying is winning. If I am alive on Earth, I can be fruitful on Earth. If I die, I can be closer to God. I can't decide which is better. But, I know that being alive is the more needed state of being right now.

So, that being the case, I will continue this joyful walk to perfection with you all. Walk the walk in a way worthy of the Gospel of God's Love through Jesus. People will see you living together in harmony, sharing the yoke of Christ's mission. The world will see that you are not intimidated by its "survival of the fittest" mentality. They will see their own destruction in all that you build together. 

This is not my doing, nor is it even your doing - it is God's doing! By Their grace and mercy, the Lord has granted you the privileges of heirs: true trust and faith in Christ; and self-sacrificing service.


Philippians 1:21-29



(photography by tiwago)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Jonah's Whale of a Tantrum (Warning: "Adult" Language)

When the Renewing God of Ongoing Creation saw that the lost sheep (Nineveh, Rome, Germany, Japan, _______?) had turned from the path of corruption, They rejoiced and changed Their mind - the impending doom I was promised was canceled. This was very upsetting to me, and my anger grew.

"Lord, this is exactly what I was afraid of! I knew You were too merciful and loving to do what needed to be done! You drug me through storms and whale-vomit all the way out here for no good reason! Wrath of God my ass! I don't want to live in a world where people like them are allowed to exist unpunished; kill me right now!"

God asked me: "Is it right that you are so irrationally mad at me?"

That just pissed me off even more - They were totally ignoring my righteous anger! So I went off in a huff. I put up a blanket for some shade, and sat there in the desert watching Sin City; waiting for God to come to Their senses and do the right thing - for I still had faith, even in my despair at Their softness!

The blanket was not big enough, and the damn sun kept moving; heat-stroke was setting in. God "appointed" a bush, and tasked it to give my hot head more shade. Obviously, God was on my side after all, why else would They care for my comfort? I was very happy knowing that God was going to strike the heathens down soon, and slept well that night.

In the morning, God "appointed" a caterpillar (a hungry, HUNGRY caterpillar) to devour MY bush - its branches were soon bare. WTF, God?! The unrelenting sun beat mercilessly down upon my head, and I became faint and distressed. "Please Lord, this migraine is killing me; let me die already!"

But instead, They asked me: "Is it right that you are so irrationally mad at the bush?" Tired of God ignoring my pleas I answered: "It sure the hell is! I have EVERY right to feel the way I feel! I'm mad enough I could die!" (OY! Do I always sound so whiny? And what's with all that "I wish I were dead" crap? I didn't realize I was such a drama Queen.)

Then the Lord my God said: "You are so worried about the death of a bush, of my Creation; aren't the people in the City also my Creation?" I said nothing more.

Jonah 3:10-4:11


(photography by tiwago)


Friday, September 15, 2017

Forgive Us Our Debts As We Forgive Our Debtors


Jesus told this story about people we all know to teach us about forgiveness:

A bank was getting their affairs in order for an upcoming audit. The Manager met with a man who owed her bank $10,000 on a mortgage and was behind on his payments. She told him that he had to pay off the remainder of his loan right away, or the bank would foreclose, and his family would be evicted. He begged for for his family so passionately that she took pity on them, and got the bank to forgive the debt. Imagine that!

The man went right out, and went to a guy who owed him $100. He grabbed him by the collar: "Give me the money you owe me or I'll break you legs!" The poor man fell down there in the street groveling, begging for more time; but the thug refused and left him in the gutter, a beaten and bloody mess. "You still owe me! I'll be back."

Word got back to the bank Manager. She called the man back to her office: "You a$$hole! I got the bank to forgive your huge debt because you pleaded with me. Why didn't you extend that same mercy to the person who owed you a little money?" So she turned the loan-shark over to the police, and in prison he met a lot of not-so-nice people who owed him money, and even some whom he owed...

This Abba will also do to you, if you do not forgive your sisters and your brothers.

Matthew 18:21-35

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Does God Only Love Those You Love?

Is Paul being unitarian, ecumenical, encouraging inter-faith cooperation, or just trying to get people to quit acting like jerks?


Paul writes:

Interact with those whose beliefs are different than yours; to be hospitable, not to try to beat them into submission! We are ALL different - some people chow down on snack-food, while others will only eat locally produced organic produce. Those who drink beer must not look down on those who abstain, as those who refuse bacon must not hold it against those who love it. We are all a little odd; yet God welcomes all of our quirks into the Fellowship of the One.

Who are you that you think you can pass judgement on those who follow someone or something else than you do? Who died and made you God? Each will be measured by how well they followed their own Way - but at the same time, the Lord-of-All will stand with them.

Some determine that one day is holier than another day, but aren't all days meant to be sacred? We will be judged on how well we keep our own holy days sanctified, not how many we force to worship on the "right" day. Observe a day to give thanks to your Lord, and eat (or not) so as to mark the day as being special to you.

We are not alive to serve ourselves; nor do we die for ourselves. Since we live and die for that which we worship, we then belong to who or what we worship.

So, here is what I believe: Christ was born, died, and lived again to confirm that he is the Lord of both - the quick AND the dead. 

But, why do you judge your sisters and brothers who believe differently? Why do you hate your brothers and sisters of different beliefs? Though we will all be judged differently, we will all be judged together! Our scripture tells us that all will come to honor the Lord (at some point in each person's life or death, or at some point in the history of humanity?) - so we are not then all equally accountable?

Romans 14:1-12


Christ the King Sunday

The last Sunday of the Church's year. The Sunday before Advent. As a convert (2003), I had always assumed that Christ the King Su...