Monday, November 17, 2014

God's love stories: links that bring life

These are stories that made me think this past month.

From Oprah's site

Something to try this Advent (starting November 30): Anglicans invited to 'celebrate Advent using their phones' from the Episcopal Digital Network.

And last but not least, the rather brilliant feminist twist on quotes from "The Princess Bride" (found on BuzzFeed).



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Answering the Call (Blogging the Lectionary)

(just so there's a picture)

Gospel this Sunday:
 Matthew 25:14-30

Diana Butler Bass posted yesterday on Facebook that she has been preaching on these Matthean parables as she visits churches and speaks at conferences and that that has really transformed her understanding of them.

And after I asked her if she would consider releasing those sermons, I thought: "wait a minute, haven't I been doing the same thing?"

I went back and looked at my posts on these "the kingdom is like" parables. I found I didn't like a single one of them, that they didn't fit my theology, that I had to dig deeper.

I identify with the third slave who buried the money he's been given. I don't like the whole judgeyness.

Again.

And I've realized that what I've had to dig deeper past is my theology, that I am so quick to believe that God is Judgemental and Mean, even though I profess to believe in a God of love. Remnants of a theology that was somehow a part of the formation of my character. That has sent me into a tailspin of darkness if I even think I've done wrong. I have a better handle on the latter these days, but it's still there.

I am quick to believe that this landowner equals God and he is cruel and gathers where he does not sow and yet, this is the same God who sows love indiscriminately on all kinds of ground. This same God whose love I have experienced.

And I'm like, crap, how did I forget that?

I have to dig past my baggage, beyond this false theology and false-self-ology, to find truths in these parables.

A talent of gold, I have learned in my reading, is about 15 years of poverty-level earnings. That's a lot of coin. In other words, it took some serious effort for the third slave to move and bury what he has been given.

It's a conscious act of rebellion. Like the no-wedding-robe guy in the wedding banquet parable, the third slave refuses what is offered and is even too afraid to keep the abundant coin for himself.

Perception is everything. Presumably, the other two slaves did not think of their master in the same way, for if the man was harsh and cruel, with the amount of money they were given, they could have run away and made new lives for themselves. Easy.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth is life without the God of love. The third slave is already there, along with the no-wedding-robe guy not just because they refuse God, but they cannot see that God is love.

I have days like that, don't you? When I don't even think to call out to God in thanksgiving, or in need and instead I suffer in a darkness of my own making (like the foolish bridesmaids who forgot their oil). I forget about God.

These kingdom parables are a call to that life-giving love of God and the kingdom that is near-here. Answering that call is a step toward transformation, resurrection, and finding our place in helping make the kingdom of God fully present.


Amen.

Friday, November 14, 2014

be still, a poem (Pin God First challenge)

After missing one day on the Pin God First challenge, Thursday I got back into it but the NRSV of Psalm 37:7 didn't resonate even a little bit. So I went to the next verse and this poem/reflection resulted.



be still
the psalm says

I try
and end up itchy --
antsy --
a mind-racing failure 

be still
the psalm says

like a forested pond
smooth glass

life teems hidden
skims the surface
is that really still?

A trout crashes upward,
Pirouettes a response
To an unseen call

Step down to the shore
Taste flowing waters,
Life-giving

Being still
Is not becoming stone.
To soften, give, respond,
Some movement
Is required

Yeah, I don't have forested ponds where I live. I've seen them back east though...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Heart and Guts (Ping God First, Day 11)

Romans 2:29:
"Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God."

During lectio divina, the phrase that resonated was "a matter of the heart".

One is usually passionate about a matter of the heart. The phrase also evokes emotional responses. 

I did wonder if the Greek had been mistranslated, as so often "heart" is substituted for "gut". 

A matter of the gut, where instinct and intuition dwells. Today we talk about having a gut feeling. It's kind of primal, visceral. 

If gut is what is really meant, the "real circumcision" Paul talks of is that the Way of God has taken residence deep in our being, within our cells.

It means we respond to the world instinctively with God's love and compassion rather than with the mind working out the law.

And yes, I'm aware of the irony that I just used my brain to figure that out!

I am continuing to find it difficult to stop the brain chatter and listen for God during these lectio divina sessions. I am more likely to wander off down a mental pathway, whether it's a song or a work issue.

But I keep at it because just this time spent in the presence of God is worth it.


And maybe one day I'll get out of my head and into my gut/heart.

I should really take a photo of my candlelit angels at night, rather than morning.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lights, Waiting, Blogging the Lectionary

(BTW, the Pin God First challenge is still on track.)

The gospel for this Sunday is Matthew 25:1-13. This parable is of the foolish and wise bridesmaids seems to preach an exclusion that I don't care for (aka doesn't fit my theology).

What to do then? How to reconcile the ending of unprepared foolish bridesmaids being left outside, strangers to the kingdom of heaven?

Commentators (I read a bunch this week) pontificated on the audience that the author of Matthew was writing for, apparently struggling not only to distinguish themselves from what was becoming rabbinic Judaism, but from those who truly waited for Christ's coming and those who said they did, but didn't mean it and recanted when persecution came their way.

Fine. But this theory is why the historical Jesus Seminar says this isn't really a Jesus saying.

And while that may be true, that seems like an excuse.

Sorry.

This isn't the first time in the Bible that there has been a call to be reAdy for the kingdom. God has called us to return to Him time and again since the first humans were asked to leave the Garden of Eden. Again and again, through leaders and prophets and reformers, God calls us back into right relationship with God. "Right" being nonabusive, reconciliation, responding in love. It's often called  salvation history by theologians. 

God doesn't give up on us. (Ok, except for the Flood, but even then...)

Every Sunday (at least until we change the Eucharistic service), we declare the mystery of faith;

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

I am most emphatic on that last part, every time I say it. I am waiting for an hour that I know will come even though I have no idea what it will look like.

We wait for the kingdom of heaven like the bridesmaids wait for the bridegroom, like the servant waits for the master's return.

And what will the kingdom of heaven be like? This parable is embedded among others about the kingdom to come with varying degrees of judgement.

The kingdom that is here-near-not-quite-here.

For me, God's kingdom is not a kingdom of the dead (although I like to think there's a huge party going on in some other sphere while waiting for God's kingdom to be fully realized).

God's kingdom is of the living. Where the hungry are fed and there will be "no more crying or pain". Where God is seen in the least of these and is fed and cared for and loved.

The waiting is not passive. We move toward this, individually, communally, with God's help. 

Right now, my church is in a time of transition, while we wait for a new rector to be called to lead us.

It is not a passive time. We mourn the departure of our two clergy (who have gone with our blessing to start answer God's call elsewhere -- blessed, but they are missed). It's nearly a yearlong process: we discern who we are now as a congregation, putting it into words before we even start looking at resumes and interviewing etc. We pray that we will find the one God has called to join us in our faith journeys. Meantime, we get on with the business of being the church.

Waiting is prayer-filled and co-creative, bringing the kingdom of heaven into realization one tiny bit at a time.

One little tiny bit of light at a time. Like the light of a lamp of a bridesmaid, showing the way to the kingdom of heaven.

That's what one commentator said about marriage in Jesus' time and land. The bridegroom comes home with his bride and the bridesmaids light his way home when darkness has fallen.

If the wise had shared with the foolish there would not have been enough  light to last for the groom's journey home.

Without that light, can we see the way? Or do we stumble, get distracted from the waiting?

With that light, we can see Christ in the one who approaches, whether he looks like a bridegroom or a beggar.

With that light, we act in kindness, we feed, we clothe, we heal, we shelter, we mentor, we love.

With that light, we get the kingdom party started.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pinging God

This morning I lit candles, having added some to my home altar space, quietly chanting in my mind and settled down to the day's lectio divina, which took about 15 minutes. 


On the 2nd, the Scripture selection was 1 Thessalonians 1:4 and the phrase that resonated was "please God". Not to gain favor with God, but as a response to God.

Yesterday, it was Matthew 5:11, a verse from the Beatitudes, which I'd heard as part of Sunday's readings for All Saints. The phrase that resonated "Blessed are you". Explored that as gratitude and then got sidetracked by thoughts of work. (Just in case you thought this was easy for me.)

Lectio completed, I set a timer and pulled out Feasting on the Word and the Jewish Annotated New Testament, thinking to write a belated "blogging the lectionary" post.


Maybe tomorrow. I've asked for some Hebrew assistance, so I'll get back to you on that. Maybe.

The effect of pinning God first thing resonated throughout my morning yesterday. I felt unrushed as I headed off to work and during the work morning. Unrushed, calm. Probably annoyingly so. It lasted until mid-afternoon which surprised me.

I had hopes that restorative effect kept happening, but this morning, I got sidetracked into a work-stress (technically trying to apply the phrase "I came not to judge the world but to save the world" from John 14:42-50 to my life) and then I needed to email something this morning and got caught up in more anxiety via email.


Maybe that peaceful feeling came from not reading my email as opposed to soaking in and studying Scripture. Hmm.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Find Your Life, Day 1 of the Pin God First challenge


Pin God 1st - from Jennifer Dukes Lee's site
The first piece of Scripture for the Pin God First challenge is Matthew 10:39:
Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
The phrase which came to me was "find your life" (and that's not even correct, it's "find their life"). I delved into the context, as this is toward the end of Jesus talking about loving God first above all else, even family, taking up the cross and leaving all behind.

Last night, my hubby and I went to see "The Good Lie" which has Reese Witherspoon in the supporting cast. It's about the lost children of Sudan and their long journey to America. It broke my heart twice -- because it's a recent release I won't reveal the spoilers -- so let's just say it was an incredibly unjust moment and a beautiful heart/soul moment.

Tears kept welling up on the way home and this movie disturbed me. Disturbed me in my inaction. How could I know about these things and not help? How could these stories of survival cause admiration and not the conviction that I had done nothing to help?

In the dark of morning I knew I had to do something.

Find your life.

What if the two halves of this scripture are not bad/good, or negative/positive but both point to the Way. The psalms use this structure frequently: saying the same thing twice but differently. (Pretty sure there's a technical name for this, as its poetry, but I've forgotten it.)

What if "Those who find their life shall lose it" means that one has found the point of living, that is, in Christ, and what we lose is the rest of the world's ideas about what life should be like: big houses, disposable items, many possessions, a concept of human beauty that never matches reality, the distractions and numbingness of entertainment news (aka all news), reality shows, and TV dramas.

Thus, the life we have is living the way of Christ and the world thinks that what has happened is that we have lost our lives. But in following the Way, we have found the true life.

After the movie, I couldn't rest, I still can't, I wanted to be "all in". Go to West Africa and be love to the children orphaned by Ebola. Do something.

And this is me: I am "all in" until I reflect on my life circumstances: husband, dog, job, fighting my own fears in "catching something", whether or not this is even in my wheel-house/skill-set...

I am going to look for ways I can be part of the body of Christ to the lost children. Maybe instead of Liberia or the Sudan, it'll be Burundi or right here where I live.

I will find my life.

PS. In the sitting in silence part of lectio divina, I listen to God, but today I heard nothing. I am woefully out of practice of listening to Him, but perhaps he came through in my ruminating as I'd always seen this scripture as either/or before. I thought I would mention this in case you thought that somehow lectio divina means you always hear from God.

There are also little activities for each day. Today was buy flowers for yourself