SPEECHLESS

Luke 9:28-36 — The Message

About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along. While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white. At once two men were there talking with him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah—and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over his exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Peter and those with him were slumped over in sleep. When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him. When Moses and Elijah had left, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking. While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God. Then there was a voice out of the cloud: “This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him.” When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless. And they continued speechless, said not one thing to anyone during those days of what they had seen.

Potentiality #18

SPEECHLESS

At first they mindlessly jabbered on.
Then, when reality
hit them they had nothing left to say.
Overwhelmed with wonder.
Blinded by the light.
Stunned into silence.
Gobsmacked.
Well,
if Jesus’ disciples thought that Jesus
was just a good pal
who said really cool things,
or maybe was just another
rabbi/guru
sporting some far out
pop psych
self-awareness aphorisms
that made folks feel really good
about themselves,
they found out differently.
I mean what would you do,
how would you react,
if the person
with whom you had just climbed
a mountain
turned out to be
someone who could
light up like an electric bulb,
and stand there
in front of you all
lit up like that and
speaking with
long-dead historical figures
who were
the major influences
of your faith?
I mean what would
you do
if you looked at your
wife,
husband,
child,
parent,
you know, someone
you think you really know,
only to discover that they were holy,
I mean holy
like God is holy,
like Jesus?
What would you do?
Really do?
We are for the most part an
unconscious people.
We are most of the time
blind to the realities of the sacred.
Really obtuse
when it comes to the
workings of God.
So look around you,
really see each other right now.
Could the faces around you
really be the faces of the sacred?
Could we each be the face of God?
If we have paid
attention to the teachings of Jesus
I believe this
is what he came to tell us:
“You are as holy as it gets,
act like it!”
“You are created to be the face
of God in the world,
Gods own self,
live into your creation!”
Today’s scripture challenges
us to recognize the reality
of ourselves
by recognizing the reality
of Jesus,
by finding that transfiguring
light within each other
and in our mirrors.
The chapter begins with
Jesus giving his power
and presence to
these disciples
then demanding to know
who they thought he was
so they could in turn
know themselves,
and by extension,
so we too
can know ourselves fully.
And who are we?
Who are we called to be?

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BE NICE

Luke 6:27-38 — The Message
“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift-wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

Lessons

Lessons

Be Nice

Be nice, be kind,
don’t hurt others,
you don’t get to have revenge
and you have to, yes,
have to,
forgive.
Many confuse piety
and self-righteousness
with what Jesus asks of us.
To my thinking
that is wrongheaded,
because this text is the
central theme
in Jesus’ ministry and teaching.
Some think they
can pretend Jesus
expects certain
holy poses
from us.
They construct rules about
what is non-Christian
behavior,
telling us how they think
Christians
should look
and act
and exist
and all the ways
they have
defined correct “Christian” comportment.
I think this text is clear —
be kind!
That’s it.
That’s all.
We are challenged to let
the cup of our hearts
be so full of God
that we will overflow
the joy of
forgiveness and kindness,
over all the
meanness and cynicism
of the world.
We are urged
to give back joy for anger,
light for the dark,
forgiveness for harm,
love for hate,
peace for dissension,
hope for despair.
I believe we
are asked
to listen to
and hear in
all of the negativity
with which we are confronted,
not a perceived
attack upon us,
but the cries of the
broken heart of the world,
the wounded cry
in all broken, frightened,
hearts we meet,
for a chance
to offer healing.

Luke 6:17-26 — The Message
Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:
You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding. You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal. You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning.
“Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens — skip like a lamb, if you like! — for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.
But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made. What you have is all you’ll ever get. And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself. Your self will not satisfy you for long. And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games. There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.
“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.

Blessed

Blessed

Being Blessed
Luke 6:17-26

What does it mean to be blessed?
How do we go about living
a life that is blessed?
I have come to believe that
it is when we live
and speak and think
in a manner
that enriches the
lives of others
we are living blessed lives,
because we are
actively blessing.
To many of us think
that we have the right,
privilege,
to enable
ourselves to look
better in our
own eyes by
always having some
“truth”
to speak,
(read that something
profoundly hurtful
to say about another
human being).
There is always
some dirt to dish,
some filthy pot to stir,
if we look for it,
but is that what
we truly want?
For every mean,
gossipy thing
that can be said
about someone else,
some “secret” just
found out that is spreadable,
there is one
that can come back
on us,
as well.
And for the one
who thinks they are
oh so cute
by making random
inflammatory statements —
political, racist, sexist, homophobic —
so as to rile people up,
“get their goats”,
“just kidding,”
how can they live
a life that is blessed
and keep this up?
In this scripture we
discover that
smugness
is a surefire way to fail
in the blessedness realm
because it cloaks truth
with a
kind of falseness
that is deadly to the soul.
And it may feel
momentarily good to
cause someone else
a ration of grief,
but it will,
indeed,
come back on us.
And how can we be
blessed by losing it all?
Because the word,
all,
here, implies our
hurt, fragile, wounded egos
that that many mistakenly
believe will be
healed by
tearing others down.
Speaking love
blesses and heals.
Spreading rumors
and gossip
— hurtful , incendiary,
troublemaking things —
in the end,
kills hearts.
Bless or violate
another human,
the choice
is ours to
make…

THE REALLY BAD NEWS

Luke 4:21-30 — The Message

He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
to set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”
All who were there, watching and listening, were surprised at how well he spoke. But they also said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son, the one we’ve known since he was a youngster?” He answered, “I suppose you’re going to quote the proverb, ‘Doctor, go heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.’ Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. Isn’t it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon? And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian.” That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, but he gave them the slip and was on his way.

When You See No Need to Escape

When You See No Need to Escape

The Really Bad News

According to this reading
Jesus did not come for us first
with the Good News —
he came for those who have nothing.
We already have what we need,
which is enough.
Maybe not everything we want,
but what we need.
I actually think that this is OK
because I do believe that the many
who have always been last,
who live at the bottom,
who seem to find themselves on the outside
of our social and
economic and
spiritual circles,
who,
because of their skin color,
nationality,
gender,
sexual orientation,
mental health,
intelligence,
their economic status,
or homelessness,
live in fear ̶
these are the ones to whom Jesus is referring in this text.
So let’s stop for just a bit
and check in with ourselves.
How do you feel
about hearing Jesus’
words and intentions?
How would you feel sitting in that synagogue
hearing Jesus make these statements of exclusion?
Think about it for a minute or two.
In Jesus’ time the expectations for the Messiah were generally political:
it was hoped he would be the one who would deliver
the occupied Jews out from under the thumb of the Roman Empire.
But then he goes off about not giving them the deliverance
they were expecting for themselves but
offering it to the down-and-outers,
the hopelessly helpless,
the very ones who
were not sitting in synagogue ̶
I can sort of understand those Jews
wanting to shove him off a cliff.
And yet in our own time
don’t we with access
and entitlement
get twisted up trying to co-opt
the pain of others?
In America
there is a ruling class,
and it is basically
white, male or male identified,
and rich,
wanting what it perceives
as its white pain
to be equal
to the pain of the blacks.
And yes,
for those who consider
their entitlement
and their
perceived success
as their right to
being first in line for
a front row ticket
to God’s kingdom,
this is indeed the really bad news.
Privileged men
don’t understand why women want
job opportunities and
pay equal to their own,
and are angered by
the concept that all
humans are humans
and all deserve
the promises Jesus makes here.
And we do deserve them,
and we will receive them,
but after the least of the least
have their needs met.
What I see as a truth
in this text
is that
when we truly
have a need
and pray for help
God answers us,
not because it is our right,
but because in
our asking
we become as the least
of the least.
If we never see ourselves as
least,
or as needing help
or salvation
neither
will be there for us.

JUBILEE: DISTRIBUTING THE LOVE

Luke 4:14-21 — Common English Bible

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”

transformation detail #22

Jubilee: Distributing the Love

The Jewish people had waited
for the coming of the year of Jubilee —
that special year promised by God.
It was a year
for which they would save up,
putting aside
enough supplies the prior year
so they could live
a full year without working.
Like the weekly Sabbath,
it was full of regulations
and rules, so the people of God
could concentrate on God
instead of hand-to-mouth survival.
Captives were also freed.
Debts were to be forgiven
and written off by the lender,
properties that had been
passed down by birthright
and lost to indebtedness
were to be returned
to the original families.
It was a year of economic leveling.
It was a year of reestablishing equity
and redistributing of wealth among the people.
It was a year of which to dream,
but to avoid in real life
because it meant not only getting stuff back,
but giving stuff up.
Some claim it was celebrated
until the 6th Century BCE
and that the year of Jubilee
had not actually occurred since.
Jesus’ claim here
is that it is in him that the Jubilee is reinstated.
This is why I have come to see
that Christianity itself
should be,
if it is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus
a system of leveling
of the economics of all societies.
I see Christianity as
distinct for Marxism and Socialism only
in that they are systems bereft of God,
or Jesus.
Functionally
and structurally there is not
a lot of difference in the systems.
Because Jesus IS the year of Jubilee
Christianity should be as well.
By extension,
as followers of Jesus,
WE are anointed
to be that year as well.
And as Jesus attempted,
we are to attempt
to free the captives and
forgive our debtors.
This is neither an abstract
concept nor is it a fiction,
it is our commission.
But you see,
it is easier to have our debts forgiven,
than to forgive a debt owed to us.
Redistribution of love,
of wealth,
of health,
of freedom,
of access and entitlement
becomes a messy endeavor
for many Christians
and is a concept
some think might
best left in the pages
of the Bible.
Nonetheless,
while we can’t do it all,
maybe even nothing at all,
we are called to try
to bring about
some part of this year
through the living of our lives.
To discover what part
of it we can do.
It is not just what
we are called to proclaim,
this is what we are asked
to attempt to
live out.

WATER TO WINE

John 2:1-11 — The Message

There was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus’ mother told him, “They’re just about out of wine.” Jesus said, “Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.” She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.” Six earthen water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, “Fill the pots with water.” And they filled them to the brim. “Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host,” Jesus said, and they did. When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!” This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

leaf & grape

John 2:1-11
Water to Wine

Water to wine.
From water to fine,
fine, wine.
This happens here in the
Alexander and Dry Creek valleys.
We get,
are getting,
rain—water,
and it is transformed
into fine wine.
Neither magic nor miracle,
but just how nature works.
The party-goers knew wine.
They could tell good
from incredible wine.
They knew what he did,
they didn’t know how he did it,
It was one of those WOW moments.
What are the WOW moments we have?
You know,
those moments
when something
we thought was not going to be fixable
got fixed,
and we are not sure how
it happened,
but there you are,
fixed.
Sometimes it is a secret
and broken
thing
deep within us,
that is hidden and obscure.
Something we never
allow to see the light of day,
lurking
in the shadows of
our subconscious.
A brokenness
and attendant shame
with which we
just seem to coexist.
And then,
healed,
gone
in a mysterious
way that can only be
attributed to God.
We are those earthen vessels
holding wash-water.
We hold that stale
water waiting
to be transformed.
Will we choose
to be transformed
into that incredible wine.
It means changed.
It means being different.
Have we been,
will we be,
do we dare be
transformed?

CLAIMING THE FUTURE

Luke 3:15-17— Christian Standard Bible

Now the people were waiting expectantly, and all of them were questioning in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I am is coming. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing shovel is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.” When all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized. As he was praying, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.”

waters of baptism

Luke 3:15-17
Claiming the Future

One step at a time
into a stream,
a lake, a tank,
feeling the wet of the water
as it soaks your clothing
drenches your skin,
lapping first at your ankles
and calves and hips and waist
— chest —
(sometimes not as an adult
and not remembered,
sometimes poured,
sometimes sprinkled),
but when remembered,
that fluttering
in your breast
as you realized the importance,
then flooding
your soul
with sacred wonder.
Baptism:
A Sacrament.
A choice.
A statement of hope.
A claim on membership.
A claim on God.
A claim by God.
A promise.
A last resort.
But a claim on your future
by you,
by God,
by the Church.
Water is just water
that we use,
until we remember
how holy and sacred it is,
and we walk in it
to be baptized.
And,
in the eyes of those around him,
Jesus walked into
the waters of the Jorden
just another young man
among others,
but he stepped out of those waters,
as do we,
called,
claimed,
affirmed as much, much more.
And what is it
you believe about your baptism?
And what is it
that you claim,
what changes have
those waters
of Baptism made in you?
Do they strengthen and nourish you?
Do they quench your thirst?
Do they affirm your life?
And what future
did your baptism claim for you?