Saturday, July 14, 2018

Authoritarianism


Suddenly, from out of nowhere, rumors of a man called Jesus were everywhere. King Herod's attorneys and advisors had all sorts of ideas about who he really was - he couldn't have just spontaneously sprung forth over night! But Herod knew who he was...

"This is John, here to haunt me; here to get his head back! Didn't I send agents to arrest him for speaking against me? Didn't I have him handcuffed for opposing my private activities? Didn't I have him put in prison for speaking against my wife Herodias: sister of Herods; divorced from her uncle Herod; my sexy show-wife; the mother of my daughter Herodias*? For the good of the nation, I had to do something about his public protests, about his open incivility, about his disrespect of my high office. You don't see any other religious leaders complaining about me do you? Only John spread fake news about me!" 

Later, Herod held an event to celebrate himself on his birthday. In his White Palace, he held a state-dinner with his cabinet, his generals, and with leaders of the Herodian party. His chief advisor was his daughter; to entertain the King and his guests, she danced and slowly removed her clothes - greatly arousing her father.

"Daughter, whatever you desire, I will give you! I swear before all these people, I will give you whatever you ask for; even power over half the country." She excused herself to consult with her mother; what should she ask for?

She hurried back to her father before he changed his mind. "I want John's head."

Herod then realized his stupidity in speaking without thinking, but he couldn't show weakness in front of those he had gathered. So, he sent one of his men to the prison, and the man came back with John's head. Herod gave it to his daughter, who in turn, gave it to her mother. He let John's students have the headless body. 


(From Mark 6:14-29)




*Google finds the genealogy of the Herods confusing. Mark may be similarly confused (or not) - Matthew, and some newer versions of Mark, just refer to the 'daughter of Herodias'; Josephus spoke of Salome the daughter of Salome... whoever is related to who, this is some pretty creepy stuff!)




(photography by tiwago)


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Property Rights


Everything.
Every thing.
Every created thing.
Every living thing.
Every living creature.
Every human creature.
Planet Earth is not mine.
Life on Earth is not mine.

For, the Lord...
For, the Lord made there be Water...
For, the Lord founded Life upon the Oceans...
For, the Lord established it within and along Rivers...

Adam and Eve, can you stand with the Lord in the Garden?
Job, can you stand with the Lord on the brink of Creation?
Yet, Moses summited the great holy Mountain of the Lord!
Yet, Moses stood before the Lord barefoot upon sacred Soil!

Who can stand?
Who has standing?
Those with innocent hands.
Those with worthy motives.
Those who do not worship
Self, or money, or power...
Those who don't falsely claim
To follow God, to be righteous...

Those who are good to:
Everything;
Every thing;
Every created thing;
Every living thing;
Every living creature;
Every human creature.

For, Planet Earth is not mine.
For, Life on Earth is not mine.

~ Tiwago
(From Psalm 24)



(photography by tiwago)


Monday, July 9, 2018

The Dancing King

Friday night and the lights are low
Looking out for the place to go
Where they play the right music, getting in the swing
You come in to look for a King
Anybody could be that guy
Night is young and the music's high
With a bit of rock music, everything is fine
You're in the mood for a dance
And when you get the chance...

You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen
Dancing Queen, feel the beat from the tambourine
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life
See that girl, watch that scene, digging the Dancing Queen


(Dancing Queen; ABBA)


King David loves the Lord his God with ALL his heart, and with ALL his soul, and with ALL his strength, with ALL his mind - and he could not hide the feeling:

Happy feet! I've got those hap-hap-happy feet!
Give them a low-down beat
And they begin dancing!
I've got those ten little tip-tap-tapping toes,
When they hear a tune
I can't control the dancing, dear,
To save my soul!
Those weary blues can't get into my shoes,
Because my shoes refuse
To ever grow weary.
I keep cheerful on an earful
Of music sweet;
Just got those hap-hap-happy feet!
(Ager and Yellen)

So, here he comes, out of control, childishly undignified, dancing with the ark, in the street, for all of us to see:
All we need is music, sweet music.
There'll be music everywhere.
There'll be swinging and swaying and records playing,
Dancing in the street.
Oh, it doesn't matter what you wear,
Just as long as you are there.
So come on, every guy, grab a girl.
Everywhere around the world
They'll be dancing.
They're dancing in the street.
(John Frederick Young, et al.)

And his wife was disgusted at his behavior. Too flamboyant! Too emotional! Too charismatic! Too passionate! Too pentecostal! Too Spiritual! Too crazy! But, you can not stop happy feet:
I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth:
At Bethlehem I had my birth.
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the dance, said he.
I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
But they would not dance and they wouldn't follow me;
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
They came with me and the dance went on:
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the dance, said he.
I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame:
The holy people said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me on high,
And they left me there on a cross to die:
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the dance, said he.
I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black;
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back.
They buried my body and they thought I'd gone;
But I am the dance, and I still go on:
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the dance, said he.
They cut me down and I leapt up high;
I am the life that'll never, never die.
I'll live in you if you'll live in me:
I am the Lord of the dance, said he.
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the dance, said he.

(Sydney Carter)



Thursday, July 5, 2018

Servant Leadership


"Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools,
but you claim to be so wise in Christ!
We are weak, but you are so powerful!
You are honored, but we are ridiculed.
Even now we go hungry and thirsty,
and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm.
We are often beaten and have no home.

We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living.
We bless those who curse us.
We are patient with those who abuse us."
  
(1 Corinthians 4:10-12; NLT)



  • How do congregations view the roll of their minister? What is expected?
  • How well do laity and clergy work together as Body-parts?
  • How does the general public feel about priests and preachers?
  • Do I prefer a manager or a leader? What is servant-leadership?
  • Do I imagine that my pastor could ever feel frustration? What is expected of me?
  • Shepherds, what do you want your flock to know about you?
  • How much profit can a prophet make before it is profiteering?
  • Do I view my shepherd in a similar manner as the Good Shepherd?
  • Do I expect too much or not enough? As a church member? As a pastor?

(Sometimes, I think Chapter 4 should be read aloud in every church, each time it gets a new pastor! What if our church councils did a Bible study with our pastors on it? )

"Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge. It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I’m not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn’t mean much. The Master makes that judgment. So don’t get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will any one of us get to hear the “Well done!” of God. All I’m doing right now, friends, is showing how these things pertain to Apollos and me so that you will learn restraint and not rush into making judgments without knowing all the facts. It’s important to look at things from God’s point of view. I would rather not see you inflating or deflating reputations based on mere hearsay. 

For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. Without bringing either Apollos or me into it, you’re sitting on top of the world—at least God’s world—and we’re right there, sitting alongside you! 

It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better. 

I’m not writing all this as a neighborhood scold just to make you feel rotten. I’m writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled. There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God’s Message to you that I became your father. I’m not, you know, asking you to do anything I’m not already doing myself. 

This is why I sent Timothy to you earlier. He is also my dear son, and true to the Master. He will refresh your memory on the instructions I regularly give all the churches on the way of Christ. I know there are some among you who are so full of themselves they never listen to anyone, let alone me. They don’t think I’ll ever show up in person. But I’ll be there sooner than you think, God willing, and then we’ll see if they’re full of anything but hot air. God’s Way is not a matter of mere talk; it’s an empowered life.

So how should I prepare to come to you? As a severe disciplinarian who makes you toe the mark? Or as a good friend and counselor who wants to share heart-to-heart with you? You decide."

(1 Corinthians 4; The Message)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Beatitude Attitude

"There is a wideness in God's mercy like the wideness of the sea;
There's a kindness in God's Justice, which is more than Liberty."
                                                                      (Frederick W. Faber)


“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America)

What is Justice? Can we understand true Justice without glimpsing the heart of God? Can we understand anything of God’s heart, without at least trying to know Jesus (God incarnate)? We can’t even begin to understand Christ Emanuel without first listening to his words to us. Blessed Spirit within and around us, give us ears and an open mind to hear!

A preamble is not just a mere introduction, a preface, a table of contents - it contains the guiding principles which shape the following document, and all subsequent amendments. The Blessings, what we often refer to as the “Beatitudes”, form the preamble of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

This is the longest recorded sermon of our Lord and Master that has been handed down to us by our Church Mothers and Fathers. Although it is the most famous collection of his teachings left to us, few of us these days are intimately familiar with either his preamble or the rest of the Sermon, and most of us do not have them imprinted on our hearts, our minds, and our souls. As I was working on this sermon, my wife mentioned to me that as a youth, she had memorized the Beatitudes! Do our youth know them that well? I know I don’t!

Ronald Stone said in John Wesley’s Life & Ethics, “The clearest detailed statement of the divine will is for Wesley in the sermon on the Mount.” John Wesley preached from the Sermon on the Mount at least 100 times! Clearly, Jesus’ message on living the life God intended for us here on Earth was transformative in his thoughts and theology, and critical in his molding of a Methodist movement; becoming for us a blueprint for the Church, and a new set of commandments today. 

Let’s look then at Matthew’s Beatitudes from the NRSV together:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew the Tax Collector’s version tells us about those of us who are “poor in spirit” - spiritually destitute, experiencing a dark night of the soul, who have hit rock-bottom. The physician Luke in his lesser known second hand version of the Beatitudes refers to those who are financially poor. You may have noticed that the Common English Bible says “happy are” rather than “blessed are”. Wesley in his notes on these verses frequently used that phrase too.

From Wesley’s notes on Chapter 5, Verse 3,  we see that he described the “poor in spirit” as; “They who are unfeignedly penitent, they who are truly convinced of sin; who see and feel the state they are in by nature, being deeply sensible of their sinfulness, guiltiness, helplessness.”

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Those who mourn, said Wesley “Either for their own sins, or for other men’s, and are steadily and habitually serious.”

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Wesley wrote: “They that hold their passions and affections evenly balanced. They shall have all things really necessary for life and godliness. They shall enjoy whatever portion God hath given them here, and shall hereafter posses the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Again, Luke being a physician, refers to physical hunger of the flesh-and-blood body, while Matthew looks at the spiritual side of the equation. The word translated in most Bibles as “righteousness” is “dikaiosyne”: a condition acceptable to God; Justice.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

Wesley described the merciful as “The tenderhearted: they who love all men as themselves.” Or as we say today: “bleeding-hearts.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

In his notes on Verse 8, Wesley spoke of “The sanctified: they who love God with all their hearts. They shall see God in all things here.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Not the peaceful, but the peace-MAKERS. To Wesley, peacemakers would be “They that out of love to God and man do all possible good to all men.”

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

To Wesley, the “righteous” live out the Beatitudes in their daily lives in the present, not as some perfected future saints in heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Wesley warned people that there would be resistance by some to Methodists having a Beatitude Attitude, out there for everyone to see: people will revile you to your face; and speak evil of you behind your back!

I can understand this. While I have not been reviled to my face, I have been criticized online. I have been called: a bleeding-heart liberal; a “libtard"; a lefty, a socialist, or a communist; a snowflake; and probably worse things. Some have said that I write and prophesy too much about the Love, and the Grace, and the Mercy of our awesome God Jehovah as revealed to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, and not enough about the coming Day of Judgment. I so confess. Others have told me that I preach and teach too much from the Prophets and the Son, and not enough from the Patriarchs and Moses the Lawgiver. Again, I so confess.

I have been challenged for not condemning homosexuality, or those who’ve had an abortion, or people of other religions. In my defense, I also do not condemn those who: are divorced; play the lottery; have piercings and tattoos; wear blended-fabrics; or eat cheeseburgers - and I certainly don’t condemn those who partake of bacon! I have been rightfully accused of being both not judgmental enough, and of being too judgmental.

I’ve been told by well-meaning “advisors” on social-media that I need to boldly share the unadulterated “Word” of God (which they probably mean as the Bible, but which I understand to be Jesus). I need to warn people of the coming Wrath like John the Baptist they say, so people may repent. What I need to do, if I call myself a preacher, I’ve been told, is to roll up my sleeves, and smack people upside the head with the Gospel truth…

Let me then bring to your attention Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. In his preamble in Chapter 6, Verses 24 - 26, not only does he have “blessed-ares”, but also “woe-tos”. They say people need to hear more about God’s heavy-hand than about His/Her bleeding-heart during scary times such as these? Well then, buckle-up, here we go…

Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your treasure.

Woe to you who are fat and comfortable now, for you will be hungry and afraid.

Woe to you who are laughing at others now, for you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when everyone praises you for your religiousness, for that is what our ancestors did to the false prophets.

In our society these days, aren’t we like the Prodigal Son; more worried about getting what’s ours as soon as possible? If I’m happy now, what do I care about tomorrow; tomorrow may never come - YOLO y’all! If I use up all the Earth’s resources, at least I had a good time while it lasted! If others lack because of my prosperity, why should I be punished for being more successful than they are? Let’s ask ourselves, what would happen if a large number of people in any nation think this way?

Many Bible versions refer to the Parable of the Sheep and Goats as the “Judgment of the Nations”. Christ warns all the nations of the world of the consequences of not having a Beatitude Attitude: “Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:44-46; NRSV)

Seriously? We will be punished for things we didn’t even do? Is that fair? No, but it is just. What more does God expect from us? As we consider the Messiah’s New Commandments for the New Life of the New Testament, I unapologetically have to go back to one of my beloved Prophets for a summary: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8; NRSV)  

Jesus’ sermon ends with a discussion of engineering: “‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’ Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:24-29; NRSV)

As we worship together this morning, here in God’s House, do we worry about underlying sediment? Or, have we built our Church on the Rock of the Mount?

Yes… our human nature urges us all to be Prodigal Daughters and Prodigal Sons. The Good News of the Gospel therefor, is that we have a Prodigal Father! Can I have an amen?


"All worldly joys are less than 
that one joy of doing kindness." 
                          (John Wesley)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Chill


A great storm churns here within my soul.
A great storm churns deep in my Church.
And a great storm churns apart my Nation.
I strain, to hear his words above the wind:

Peace
Be
Still

Suddenly, the wind dies down.
Only now can my great storm 
Cease to churn within me;
Cease to churn from me.

                                                   ~ Tiwago


(From Mark 4:35-41)





(photography by tiwago)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Memorial


quietly, beneath a manicured imitation of nature
lie our fallen; some forgotten, some remembered.
below these lawns of the dead slumber our heroes:
here a yard of graves with our family and friends;
there a field of cold tombs of allies and partners;
there a green pasture for our foes and enemies -
returning to their earth and becoming one with it,
becoming one with each other in an organic unity,
sharing a fellowship of shalom in a common bed...


from out of this, life raises high its proud banner!


(poetry and photography by tiwago)

Authoritarianism

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, rumors of a man called Jesus were everywhere. King Herod's attorneys and advisors had all sorts of ide...