Friday, March 23, 2018

Week of March 25 Reflections

Sunday-Ps. 31 is one of the possible readings for today.Jesus quotes v. 5 at the cross. For me v. 12 has special poignance as I grow older, and this is often the product of old age. Yet even there, God is with us (v. 16).
Monday-“We have to take a long hard look at ourselves. Why we are so eager to condemn others and somehow think that our own condemnation is exempt. How we are so willing to withhold forgiveness and to what extent that means we ourselves are in desperate need of it. How we are so willing to peripherize reconciliation when it necessitates a resolution with our own demons.”"Dear Working Preacher" for the Fourth Sunday in Lent
Tuesday-John S. Mogabgab-Gratitude is the gesture of a heart opened to receive God How do we remain alert for the signs of God’s entrance into our lives and the life of our time? What can keep us awake in the drowsy atmosphere of habit that cozily blankets our days? According to Paul, the answer is gratitude. To the Colossians he writes, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). Paul is here pointing to the profound relation between spiritual alertness and the act of offering thanks. Gratitude gathers us into that double helix of grace descending and praise ascending that forms the basic design of life with God. Gratitude is the gesture of a heart opened to receive God, a heart acquainted with the shape of things to come, a heart alert to the tremors of a new creation in the birthing.
Wednesday-“Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.” ― Neil Postman

Thursday-Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being "other." Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at "those other persons" as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God's heart. Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.

Friday-Paradox-Here is a secret, a beautiful little every impossibly broken thing there is still an impossibly strong and enduring wholeness. What feels broken apart, might be the place a circumstance, or our spirits break open, expanding and deepening instead of contracting our lives and world. I know this is a paradox, but I read somewhere that paradox is just a truth standing on it's head to get our attention. There are still enduringly strong forces at work. All is not lost, you are not alone, each day we can tap into this not so secret secret.Carrie Newcomer

Saturday-O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.From the desire of being esteemed,Deliver me, Jesus.From the desire of being loved ...From the desire of being extolled ...From the desire of being honored ...From the desire of being praised ..From the desire of being preferred to others ...From the desire of being consulted ...From the desire of being approved ...From the fear of being humiliated ...From the fear of being despised ...From the fear of suffering rebukes ...From the fear of being calumniated ...From the fear of being forgotten ...From the fear of being ridiculed ...From the fear of being wronged ...From the fear of being suspected ...That others may be loved more than I,Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.--Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March 18 sermon notes, Jer. 31, Heb. 5, John 12

March 18-We would see Jesus. That was emblazoned on many pulpits over the years.March 18-Jer 31,The heart was a way of speaking of the center of one’s life, not only emotions or sentiment. It is clear to when we say the heart of the matter. It is an inner shift, where we would not need an external discipline; god’s way becomes part of us.It is not being forced to do something, but to wish to do it,
When God will write God’s law upon the hearts of the people, their hearts will embody and empower the true relationship they share with God and one another.  it unites and renews the community as God’s people. In her book, The Body, Lisa Blackman …the body is not bounded by the skin, where we understand the skin to be a kind of container for the self, but rather our bodies always extend and connect to other bodies,.
Heb.5:5 Heen-“Perfection,” in Hebrews, then, was not simply given to Jesus nor is it a “moral” category. Jesus became “perfect” only because he continued to trust in the goodness and mercy of God while suffering the full power and depth of evil. This way of salvation fulfilled by Jesus had, however, been prepared by the Word of God. “... Scripture had revealed that God is the God of life and wellness. The heroes of the faith (Chapter 11) had exhibited elements of a faith that was “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).We do well to maintain our stunning faith cliam :in Jesus Christ we encounter god as a human,with a witness to the vulnerability of the man Jesus, who suffered a difficult life and a painful death. These two elements o (divine/human) set side-by-side, remain in paradoxical tension.. The vulnerability of Jesus “in the days of his flesh” reveals a gracious God. As Hebrews states: “Having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey [or trust] him, We would see Jesus within. In the deep of the self,beyond measurement, beyond fathoming is a potential that emerges at times but often goes unexplored.

John 12:20 Salmon-The seeking Greeks wish to see Jesus.  John makes clear that the body of Jesus will be lifted up on the cross and in resurrection. We will see Jesus in our lives, our very human lives.
The ability to see what is not accessible to ordinary sight is a theme in John. Also, it is not necessary to see in the literal sense in order to believe. This gospel concludes with Jesus' words to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe" (20:29).  Perhaps the seeking Greeks represent those of us for whom this gospel is written. They do not receive a personal audience with Jesus, but the truth is revealed to them, along with us, in Jesus' speech foretelling the meaning of his death.To see whole-truly-fully I keep going back to Mother Teresa seeing the body of /christ in the desperately poor she attended. It is my fervent belief that all American adults deserve hell to pay for our treatment of the mentally ill for a generation. What if we saw them as extensions of Christ? Would the violence we inflict on each other be so constant? Would the everyday incivilities and put downs be so apparent, especially in churches? That becomes the magnetic attraction of Jesus. From the hear tof our being, we are drawn to Jeus and the paths set before us that lead to him.

Column on March Madness and Ethics

March Madness is my favorite sporting event. I love the David v. Goliath upsets, the tight games, of rooting for a team I am barely aware of. I can recapture in memory the thrill of NC State and Villanova in the eighties over great teams. I lived to see Maryland win a men’s national basketball championship. (Somewhere, I bet I still have the Sports Illustrated cover of their victory). I still miss Gus Johnson calling games, and the mysterious Gus aura that led many of the game she called to be good close ones.

This year, I am watching with a bit of a burden of guilt. That beloved sport is clearly corrupt. It is so corrupt that the FBI has a large scale investigation, with the arrest of coaches in major programs.

The system is apparently corrupt into the high school ranks, as the shoe companies finance all sorts of summer leagues to gain the attention of college recruiters. Apparently this is an open secret, but it was not one of which I was aware in perusing the sports page or listening to sports radio.

I suppose the age of amateurism is over. If the Olympics have gone to a professionalized model, I should not be surprised that the student athlete in the big two major sports will go that way as well. I will miss the connection to a college by way of an athletic scholarship as gateway to college. I don’t know if my loyalty will extend as easily to a minor league system for the pros, under the banner of college sports.

It has long troubled me that coaches at big time athletic state colleges are the highest paid state officials, even if their salaries do not come from taxpayer money but donations. On the other hand, the billions that flow into big time college sports pay for the athletic program scholarships of many sports.

With this sea of corruption engulfing big time college sports, the NCAA seems to focus on trivial violations of amateur roles. This failure will be used in the future as a classic example of goal displacement, where the goal of organizing a level playing field became transmuted into a checklist of minor infractions as doing their job.

Most of the athletes playing college basketball will not go pro. I have no idea what sort of “salary” is proper for them, the ones who will not be approached for endorsement deals. Maybe a professionalized minor league system will lessen the bribes being paid to athletes to join a college squad. I understand that it seems inequitable that the players are getting but a tiny slice of the billions that flows into college football and basketball.

Part of me thinks that those young men should get endorsement deals and have the money placed in a trust fund. Part of me is disappointed that so many small pleasures get linked to big money and commerce. I could watch Division III which is much less corrupt or NAIA, so that the old amateur image still shines more brightly there.

I suppose that a good ethical solution would be to consider a system that seems less likely to be corrupt. As much as it pains me to say, a more professionalized system promises. If we have a draft system into college ranks, like the professional leagues, it could lessen recruitment violations and even lead to a more level paying field for Division One colleges.

I will set this aside and enjoy the thrills of the tournament again this year. It may well be one of the last tournaments that make a bow toward the old vision of amateurism, of playing for the sheer love of the game.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Devotional Pts. for Week of March 18

Sunday-Ps. 51 is the classic psalm of praying with penitence for forgiveness. Few prayers reach its depth of feeling. Many of us lack the sense of guilt assumed by this prayer. Nonetheless, it can be a good guide for self-reflection, especially at this penitential time of year.

Monday-Kythe is a Celtic verb meaning "to appear or be present or close to," as folks may say, "they're kith and kin." Kything prayer means visualizing another as though present, holding them with love. picture the face of a person you want to pray for in the Light: imagine their face with light around it or in it; hold the face in your mind's eye... (perhaps picture yourself in some context with that person)... imagine the person with their countenance uplifted......... Now gently place your arms & hands across your chest in an X shape... "holding the person in your heart" (Philippians 1:7). After a few minutes, exhale... open your hands... release your loved one to the arms of Love, letting go**--the hardest job parents or caregivers have! Ira Kent Groff

Tuesday-M. Basil Pennington-Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self – the false self – and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves. This is the great value of silence. It is the pathway to all we truly want.

Wednesday-Holy Ground-John S. Mogabgab-Holy ground is the place of life-giving rootedness in something larger than our own lives.Holy ground is the stable place of clarity and confidence in a turbulent human landscape of shifting values, crumbling hopes, frayed trusts, uncertain commitments. Holy ground is the place of life-giving rootedness in something larger than our own lives, something deep enough and enduring enough to keep us anchored and oriented in the storm. Holy ground is the place at once attractive and fearsome, where God speaks and we listen; the place of empowerment, transformation, and sending forth to live victoriously in a world too often disfigured by the defeat of justice, peace, and human dignity; the place where the gracious rule of God is known and the new creation becomes visible; the place where faith can move mountains (Matt. 17:20).
Thursday-Thomas a Kempis-Many will follow him as far as the breaking of bread, but few will remain to drink from his passion. Many are awed by his miracles, few accept the shame of his cross. Many love Christ as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless him as long as they receive some comfort from him.
Friday-Alan Thames-If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. Keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don't get musty and murky. Keep your life as well-lighted as your best-lighted room."
Saturday-Discernment can provide deep knowing, can see through the denial of others, and exercise careful discernment. Through this energy we have the power to name what is happening, there is a kind of intuitive vision where we see beyond the surface. We can see through illusions to the core of things."-- Christine Valters Paintner, PhD

Sunday, March 11, 2018

2018 St Patrick's column and Celtic Spirituality

Last week, I touched on my maternal side. My father was killed in a seafaring accident before I was three, so I carry his name but not that much about his Irish background. I do know that my grandfather was a relatively late immigrant to the country, in the 1880s. It has been said that to be Irish is to know that the world will break your heart. With that sense of doom, it helps to have a sense of humor, as a tool against the gloom.

It makes some twisted sort of sense for a patron saint of Ireland to have his feast day become an excuse for all sorts of celebration that is often centered on drinking. It is sort of a continuing wake, as March 17 is said to be the date of his death. Given the Irish love of story and legend, a number have touched on Patrick. One that tells a cute story is that Patrick would visit his parents in Britain and preach when he could. He carried a walking stick of ash wood, the wood for some baseball bats. He would plunge his stick into the ground. Once he preached so long that the stick grew roots and turned into an ash tree, so the area became known as aspatria, the ash of Patrick.

While I don’t place much stock in the legends surrounding St Patrick, I do find myself drawn to the movement of what is called Celtic spirituality. It includes a sense of the communion of saints both in the world beyond and this world. It speaks of the soul friend, the anam chara. The sense is that a companion, a guide, perhaps accompanies us in our journey and can often read us well without judgment but acceptance as a friend. John O’Donahue describes it as: “a person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life.”

In a sacrament the ordinary becomes a vehicle for the extraordinary, the divine. The physical is the gateway to the spiritual. Celtic spirituality takes this principle and seeks to integrate everyday life with religious significance, so that the most basic of acts, say making coffee, is accompanied by a brief prayer. Esther De Waal puts it well; ‘The Celtic approach to God opens up a world in which nothing is too common to be exalted and nothing is so exalted that it cannot be made common.’ 

This then extends into seeing the natural world as providing insight in God’s creation and a gateway for contemplation.  It fits an ecologically minded age, as it is rooted in the natural world of god’s creation instead of the more airy and abstract world of other spiritual focus. Here’s a prayer attributed to Patrick: “At Tara today in this fateful hour I place all Heaven with its power, and the sun with its brightness, and the snow with its whiteness, and fire with all the strength it hath, and lightning with its rapid wrath, and the winds with their swiftness along their path, and the sea with its deepness, and the rocks with their steepness, and the earth with its starkness– all these I place, by God’s almighty help and grace, between myself and the powers of darkness.”

Finally, they honor time, not as the frenzied rush of filling every minute with activity or worship of the phone screen, but to be enjoyed as part of a natural rhythm. They know of special threshold moments. Basically, time is a crucible where we can offer hospitality to another and that includes making time for God. In the midst of St Patrick celebrations, I hope we can touch on some of these aspects of the faith to honor the legend.

3/11 Sermon Notes Jon 3:14-21, Num 21, Ps. 107, Eph. 2:1-10

March 11-Num. 21-sympathetic magic, controlling an adversary through manipulation of a replication. ...Deliverance comes, not in being removed from the wilderness, but in the very presence of the enemy. The movement from death to life occurs within the very experience of godforsakenness. The death-dealing forces of chaos are nailed to the pole.Terence E. Fretheim  But the serpents do not go away, nor do they stop biting. Instead, God instructs Moses on how to heal the people who are bitten; they are still bitten, but they live. Deliverance does not come in the way that they expect.But then the pole of life is carried to Jerusalem and ensconced in the Temple. ..And so one day the pole must reappear in another godforsaken place, high on a hill, overlooking the holy city. God himself has taken to the pole! Once for all. So that all those who know they are dying in the wilderness can be healed. Look up to him and live... in the wilderness. Howard- Moses’ serpent-on-a-pole shows up again in the Old Testament, at 2 Kings 18:4: “[Hezekiah] removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole. He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it; it was called Nehushtan.” and they focused instead on a bronzed, domesticated, manufactured idol that they could see and understand. Perhaps it is the task of preaching to break up our bronzed serpents and to turn our attention instead to the God of the wilderness: dangerous, maybe, and unpredictable for sure, but always present, always faithful.Ps 107:17-22

John 3:14-square one- so loved the world/cosmos-not condemn it- Light.John’s poetic nature, why his is symbolized as the eagle, why called a spiritual gospel sees the image of another poison, the cross as instrument of execution, as a healing image. It takes the poison out of lives. It provides an antidote, an antivenom if you will.Think of the healing symbol of the snake in the pharmacy.(That is a mistake as it confuses this symbol with the healing of Asclepius as well).James Kay speaks of the cross drawing the venom from us, as we lift high the cross, that most downhearted destructive image.In the Buddhist culture, there is a tale about a woman whose child has died. In her agony, she went to the local guru and begged him to give her her child back. “Of course,” he replied – with a challenge. “Just bring me back ONE grain of rice from a household that has escaped the pain of grief.” She ran to the cottage next door, and to the one next to that, and to all the cottages in the village, she learned that life,  is struggle, with suffering its frequent cost, and death its final price.
Eph. 2 WP How do we live in a venom-filled world, with snakes in the grass and often ready to strike? We’re not saved just from our bad individual choices or what we “follow.” God delivers us from an entire mode of existence -- indeed transfers us from one sphere to another -- not just from the inability to make enough of the “right” choices.-according to “the course of this world” (NRSV; ESV); “the ways of this world” (NIV).The word translated “ways” or “course” is aeon. Scholars debate whether it should be best understood as a force in a temporal sense “the age of this world.” Since the early 2nd century B.C.E., people personified Aeon, and it referred to a deity of sorts. Something to which certainly some people could be captive from Paul's perspective..

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Week of 3/11 Devotional Pts

Sunday-3/11-Ps.107 (selected verses) V20 says that God sent a word to heal them and saved them from the grave. What words have you found healing? When has a word saved you from the grave?
Monday-"Confronting our own mortality . . . puts life into a different kind of relief. Concern about image and achievements begin to fall away. We may begin to ask what our lives are truly about and begin to make serious choices about where to commit our time and energy.
-- Christine Valters Paintner, PhD
Tuesday-e e cummings-I thank You God for most this amazing/day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees/and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything/which is natural which is infinite which is yes/(i who have died am alive again today,and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birthday of life and love and wings and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any-lifted from the no/of all nothing-human merely being doubt unimaginable You?/(now the ears of my ears awake and/now the eyes of my eyes are opened
Wednesday-“Fasting isn’t just for its own sake. When we fast from food, we are called to become keenly aware of our relationship to food and to pay attention to our own hungers. When we fast from the comforts of our lives, the invitation is to stretch ourselves and become present to what happens when we don’t have our usual securities to rely upon.”-- Christine Valters Paintner, PhD
Thursday-Philip Berrigan-I don’t gather that God wants us to pretend our fear doesn’t exist, to deny it, or eviscerate it. Fear is a reminder that we are creatures – fragile, vulnerable, totally dependent on God. But fear shouldn’t dominate or control or define us.
Friday-"In the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina, the desert monks, and later the Benedictines, believed that the texts of the scriptures were alive and shimmering with words God speaks to each of us directly in this moment of our lives. The underlying assumption of lectio is that the whole world is, in fact, a 'text' of sacred revelation. All experience has the potential to be revelatory and God is singing one unending song seducing each of our hearts. And so the call is to listen; the practice is to attune myself to the words God utters into the world."-- Christine Valters Paintner, PhD
Saturday-Ignatius-You are stones for the Father’s temple, prepared for the house-building of God the Father..Love is the path that leads up to God. You are all traveling companions, God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holy things, in everything adorned with the words of Jesus Christ.