SOLVING THE RIDDLE

Psalm 49:1-4 — New Revised Standard Version

Hear this, all you peoples;
give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
both low and high,
rich and poor together.
My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.

SOLVING RIDDLES

Solving the Riddle

I like this idea of solving riddles to the
music of the harp.
It’s kind of like the Blues musician’s
claim that “the blues will get us through.”
Music,
like the sound of the harp, piano, guitar, bass,
in a 12-bar loop that should be predictable,
but is not,
and is littered with
surprising accents and riffs
and soul
— lots of soul —
and a warm sense of home.
And the music does not
have to be the blues
to do this,
it just needs to be music:
arias, country, symphonies, folk —
whatever touches the riddles
and quandaries
and entanglements of our
own hearts
with healing and comfort.
Music does this:
takes us to a place of healing,
of remembrance,
of deep knowing.
Sometimes the music we hear is
carried on the night wind
from a far-a-way radio,
sometimes it is the wind itself.
Or, the rustle of a leaf,
or, a lover’s sigh,
or, a baby’s laugh,
or, the beautiful music
of our own hearts
as they beat the rhythm of our lives
or, or, or…
sometimes, for me,
the deepest music I hear
is the silence between
two notes in the middle of a
sweeping guitar arpeggio.
What is the music you hear?
In the Guitars for Vets Program
where I have been a volunteer instructor
for four years,
the motto is:
“If we can get a guitar in the hands of a vet
it will be hard for that vet
to get a gun in their mouth.”
Solving the riddle to the
music of the harp.
What are your riddles?
What riddles do you hear voiced
in your communities
in the news you read and hear
in the voices that speak to you?

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?

THE WAY OF LOVE

Ruth 1:1-19 — The Message
Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there. Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband. One day she got herself together, she and her two daughters-in-law, to leave the country of Moab and set out for home; she had heard that God had been pleased to visit his people and give them food. And so she started out from the place she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law with her, on the road back to the land of Judah. After a short while on the road, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, “Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!” She kissed them and they cried openly. They said, “No, we’re going on with you to your people.” But Naomi was firm: “Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I’m too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, ‘There’s still hope!’ and this very night got a man and had sons, can you imagine being satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow.” Again they cried openly. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye; but Ruth embraced her and held on. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her.” But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was soon buzzing: “Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time!”

Labyrinth #1a

The Way of Love

THE WAY OF LOVE
I like the story of Ruth and Naomi
because it shows me
a model of profound
love and commitment
of one to another.
Many do this:
give up our lives to follow another.
That is love.
I know many couples
who take turns following the other
as they take jobs—
a leapfrog-sharing of
leading and following.
We choose
following,
leading,
staying,
standing,
trading,
supporting,
growing with,
holding to
each other
as we share
our lives and families and communities
in steadfast love and companionship.
Still, for me,
this story is one
that is more subjunctive
than
prescriptive or descriptive.
It is a what-could-be
story,
a how-love-could-be
story.
We will find out in later chapters
that it is also an etiological story,
or a story that explains
how something else
came to be.
It is also a story
about how I make my choices.
Do I make them out of love?
Do I make them out of convenience?
Do I make them out of habit?
Who will I,
who will you,
follow
like Ruth followed Naomi?
For me,
Naomi is a kind of god-like individual,
because the commitment
Ruth had to her
is akin
to the commitment I have,
or try to have,
to God.
It is a story that is echoed thousands
of years later by Peter
when, in John 6:68, he said to Jesus,
“Lord, to whom can we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and know
that you are the Holy One of God.”
Words of true love
are always words
of eternal life.
I will listen for them.
And so like
Ruth with Naomi
or
Peter with Jesus,
I turn to God
and echo the same thought—
I have heard your words of love,
God,
I will follow,
where else can I go?

AND WHAT WILL THEY SAY ABOUT YOU?

Looking Back with a Nod to Church

Looking Back with a Nod to Church

Ezekiel 2-2-5
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

My job/role/mandate/commission
as an ordained minister
is to first, be prophetic;
second, be pastoral;
third, be human and try and have a life.
Sometimes they seem to be in conflict,
but they aren’t, really.
Sometimes I have to say, “No,”
and speak out of a prophetic voice
and proclaim how what God expects
does not fit with our actions.
Sometimes I need to be present
in a way that models
the comfort of a loving, caring,
God in the midst of loss, grief, suffering and pain.
So when I read this scripture I start to understand,
sort of,
how so many ministers can get stuck off track,
becoming hard-nosed prophets
and lose touch
with what I believe is God’s
message to us through Jesus.
This text was written by an old-testament,
old-school,
hard-line,
fundamentalistic prophet
who cut no slack
for the perceived wrongs
of a group
he has made into a dire enemy of God.
What do we know about this prophet?
We know that no matter that
these were his own people,
no matter that
they were as broken and as scared and as crushed
as was he,
they were not fulfilling
his
notion of the nature
of a godly nation and so
he hears
his God
bring down the hammer on them
in a diatribe of poisonous vitriol.
I do not see being this kind of prophet
as useful to mine,
or anyone’s
pastoral role.
I understand my role
as one that offers possibilities
for openings to God’s love.
Let me turn around this scripture:

We are not a defiant bunch. We want to know that a prophet’s been here, but we don’t want to be afraid of either our God or God’s prophet. We don’t want living with God or this prophet to be like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in our beds. AND, I do not want to be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. We are not a bunch of rebels, or hardened rebels, we are a broken people who need to be spoken to with kindness and love and shown how to heal.

And how do we want to be remembered as a people of God?
What will they say of us in later years?
I should say that
I am not only referring to
the conservative bigots and mean-speakers,
but also to the liberal bigots and mean-speakers.
Understand that
both sides will see themselves as so
self-righteously right
that they each will understand
this writing as irrelevant to themselves
and their own hyperbole.
We are all broken and in need of healing.
Our spite,
our vicious words,
our mean-spirited bitterness
toward the other side of our various arguments,
is our fear which
EMANATES FROM OUR BROKENNESS
AND ARE OUR OWN CRIES FOR HEALING.
So for both the proclaimers of
Right-wing and Left-wing hate,
the time has come for love.
I am trying to find ways
to point out the wrongness of
bigotry and hate,
cruelty and injustice,
greed and arrogance,
entitlement and bad theology
while opening doors to
healing and grace and liberation.
AND, if I am to be remembered,
I want it to be for being one who
built bridges,
tore down walls,
enabled love,
facilitated hope and
negotiated freedom
for the prisoners of despair.
In truth isn’t what we all
really
want to be known for?

A DIALECT OF THANKSGIVING

135=72 -- Sun & Sky on Tree #1 --- A Dialect of Praise

135=72 — Sun & Sky on Tree #1 — A Dialect of Praise

Ephesians 5:3-4
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

A vocabulary
dialect
of Thanksgiving…
This text reminds us
of just how far
many of us have gotten
away from the core
values of our
holy and sacred
existence.
To have a dialect
of thanksgiving
means that while we may have a
language
that is common to our national heritage,
we, nonetheless,
speak out of a
sub-culture of thanksgiving.
We know
and understand
the language of
grump, carp, complaint and dissatisfaction,
but in our region,
over here where we live,
in this appellation,
thanksgiving is spoken.
Jeremiah 31:29 says:
“In those days they shall no longer say:
“The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
And again Jeremiah 31:30 states,
“But all shall die for their own sins;
the teeth of everyone
who eats sour grapes
shall be set on edge.”
Which is to say
we are responsible for our own
emotional and spiritual well-being.
Us not them.
We choose,
move to,
the appellation in which we live,
and the dialect we speak.
We always get to choose.

PASSIONATE DENIAL

Fires of Betrayal --- Berkeley Hills 1991

Fires of Betrayal — Berkeley Hills 1991

Mark 11:8-14 & Mark 14:66-68
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

The pageant of Passion Sunday
in sixteen verses,
or three lines:
Praise him we love him;
I don’t remember him;
never saw him before…
The Easter Sequence
is not so much about what happened to Jesus,
but about our culpability in the betrayal.
Sure we weren’t there,
but we don’t need to have been to understand
the depth of the denial and
and the pain felt from the betrayal.
This has happened to us—
by a friend or loved one;
we have done this—
to a friend or loved one.
The stories about Jesus may
have occurred centuries ago,
but they are always about right now.
We have betrayed;
we are betrayed
by others,
by our political leaders,
by our churches,
by friends,
by lovers,
by ourselves.
The time has come for love.
In accepting just who we are
and only in accepting just who we are
can God’s love be truly real.
And who are we that we are to accept?
In the eyes of God we are a people of love,
not a people of anger and bitterness,
denial and betrayal—
For God’s sake,
for our sakes
let us live into this…

STRANGERS AND FRIENDS?

Strangers and Friends

Strangers and Friends

Strangers and Friends?
Matthew 5:47
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

I like my friends.
Most of the time I like them a lot.
Strangers are a different thing altogether.
I can be vulnerable around my friends, usually…
I must be on guard around strangers, mostly…
So what is the big deal about the stranger?
Why is it so important to greet strangers
as if they were friends?
Why should I reach outside of my inner circle of comrades,
my safety net of confidantes
and extent greetings to those unknown to me?
Why?
Well, because at one time we all were
unknown to each other—strangers,
and the friends we have now were strangers to us.
Many times we think of those within our own group
as if they have always been known to us,
and those outside of our group
as if they are truly strangers
and therefore never will be known.
But even if we are known to many, now,
we once were truly alone as we walked toward eternity—
except, that is, for the one
who called us out of our own aloneness
and into holy camaraderie with the God of all.
Most important is that one time we did not know
God’s grace, and we were strangers to it,
but we now we have been included in it,
and because of that inclusion of ourselves,
we are expected to include the stranger,
who is not really a stranger
but really ourselves,
for as we include, we are included…