Sunday, June 25, 2017

June 25 reflections

June 25-Sunday-Ps.13 ( I flipped Sundays) is the standard form of the lament prayer.Some consider these whiny prayers, but I remind us that Jesus quoted one, Ps. 22, at the cross. Soem of us need to be able to pour out our complaints,  and God always hears our cries. Consider using this as a model prayer and adapt it to your own needs.

Monday-The soul sharpened on the stone of sacred texts finds the timeless in the time... it knows beyond any doubt that all humanity stands before God troubled by their own limitations and failings whatever side of whatever issue they may stand on. Such soul whetting does not happen quickly but only gradually over a lifetime. Psalms prayed daily become a part of who we are only over the course of long years...wisdom acquired through the irony of Ecclesiastes or the Sermon on the Mount does not yield to quick acquisition. The Epistles of the New Testament provide a chorus that is as stirring in their frequent dissonance as in their harmonies, and superficial readings will not reveal meaning within either.The soul text-sharpened is ready for the moment in which God places us. Michael Jinkins

Tuesday- “Help" is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn't matter how you pray--with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing. Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors. Years ago I wrote an essay that began, "Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom.” ― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith


Thursday-David Moe-Burmese saying-seek education while you are young, seek money while you are adults, seek God while you are elders, (this third one implies that spiritual journey of growth and connecting with God continues)

Friday-“The process of art-making or prayer becomes a journey of discovery, where we open ourselves to what is being revealed moment by moment, rather than what we hope or expect to see.” --- Christine Valters Paintner

Saturday-from Hannah Coulter novel-The room of love is another world. You go there wearing no watch, watching no clock. It is the world without end, so small that two people can hold it in their arms, and yet it is bigger than worlds on worlds, for it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together. You come together to the day's end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms, it goes away and there you are where giving and taking are the same, and you live a little while entirely in a gift. The words have all been said, all permissions given, and you are free in the place that is the two of you together



Sermon Notes June 25 Gen. 21, Rom. 6. Ps. 86, Mt. 10

June 25-Gen.21, sometimes what we yearn for happens, but we figure out a way to ruin paradise.Hagar and Ishmael brilliant that she is Egyptian and the tables will be turned in not too distant a future. A people who remembered being enslaved recall that they had slaves and of all people, an Egyptian. Ishmaelites  can the circle of laughter expand? Laughter can have some different meanings-laugh at -laugh with-Sarah cannot bear the Ishmael can laugh or play, or even imitate her son. Hagar is sent out (lots of wordplay here ) see also Janzen-God hears the lad, as he name has the sense of God hearing.
This has to have some relevance in the chilling next story of the near sacrifice of Isaac..This is the second time Hagar is cast out, and the second time her eyes are opened to the precious presence of water in the wilderness. In the spacious generous  love of God, Abraham will be the father of many, as well as having the special miracle child Isaac/laughter. Already the promise to Abraham in Gen. 12 is being played out.Is this a continuation of the sacrifice then of Isaac?
Polygamy cannot be easy-Lincoln book and Joseph smith-succession crisis

This is the second time she has been cast out; she wanders about.She weeps. and the second time she has a divine visitation.for Hagar and ishmael plenty of blessing to go around.Hagar cannot bear to hear her son’s pitiful cries, so she gets out of earshot but not out of sight.she had received the same promise as Abraham that her progeny would form a people, but now its chance lay dying of thirst.
Rom. 6, baptism ( water in Gen. as well) Sacramental eyes see the water as much more than     the physical necessity it surely is.  It is not only a ritual rebirth; it is a ritual death of the old self.   It too has the water of spiritual life.   To keep it here the promises made in baptism take a lifetime. No matter how we are treated r or how we treat others, god sees each one of us as of infinite worth. May w ehave eyes open to the water of life, just as hagar’s were opened to a well of water, just as she earlier spied a spring when first cast out. .god’s circle is wider than Sarah’s, wider than Hagar’s.


Mt. 10:24-39 Hagar ( may be related to flight) and Ishmael of of much value to god. Some of us have felt banished like Hagar. Some of us have been unwanted children. Most of us are the products of family squabbles that turn serious and long lasting. IN the midst of her anguish, God opens her eyes to what she needed, right in front of her.Sadly, most of us have been Sarah at a time, pushing someone out of our orbit.She lives out her name as a vengeful queen. Maybe she is trying to get back a a world h who blamed her for infertility. We may be Abraham going along with the energy of the resentful one and not putting up much opposition.We are taken aback when God’s long view coincides with Sarah’s view, or that God doesn't see it as decisive for the life of either Isaac or Ishmael. In the end, Ishmael reappears with Isaac to help bury their father Abraham.God works through some of the worst things human beings do and seeks some redemptive option within them.Some seemingly small matters can have enormous consequence. After all, both Arabs and j Israelis are children of Abraham, as President Carter reminded us..

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Trinity column

  I was sorely tempted to write on President Trump, but need to consider the Comey testimony properly, as it seems we are reliving Watergate. Since this is Trinity Sunday, I thought it better to consider a crucial dogma as a pastor, instead of my former role as a teacher of American government. Of course it is daunting to speak of Trinity. After all, we are trying to come to grips with God.
Most Christians are Trinitarians. The reason is obvious. If we hold to the great claim: hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one, we run into a logical issue when we speak of Jesus as divine. Critics of the doctrine are correct that it is not spelled out in Scripture, but Scripture certainly provides the raw material for it. This Sunday we will read Paul’s blessing, for instance 2 Cor. 13:11-13). Celtic Christianity will call God the One, or the Three. God provides a template for us to grasp both unity and diversity.
Kalistos Ware- “ God is openness, exchange, solidarity, self-giving. The same is true of the human person when living in a Trinitarian mode according to the divine image.”
One major difficulty in our frail grasp is in the hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy and its phrase, God in three persons, blessed Trinity.  Thomas Jefferson saw this as utterly fanciful, as he found it ludicrous to say one is three and three one. It stems from a translation difficulty; Person comes from an ancient word, a mask, a role, in theater. So, one actor can have a variety of parts in a production. Some see Scripture as giving us three basic aspects of the divine, not three utterly distinct, separate entities, but a communion of three shared scenes, three connected modalities, in the divine drama.
Paul Fiddes-“When the early Church Fathers developed the doctrine of the Trinity, they were not painting by numbers; they were finding concepts to express an experience.”
The Old Testament readings this week center on God and creation. We have more understanding of the history of creation than any human beings ever. We now take it as a given that our instruments will reveal more wonders in the farthest reaches of space. John 1:14 sees God’s own logic and order (logos) inherent in Jesus Christ. We would never be able to discover patterns in nature, if it were chaotic. It is a tragedy, or better, a sin, that we have permitted the faith to try to drive a wedge between science and faith, by claiming precedence for a particular, poor reading of Scripture. The truth about the god of the heavens cannot be threatened by the truth of the handiwork of God.
Trinitarian doctrine says that in spite of the vast reaches of the universe, God knows us and redeems us, by name. On the cosmic scale, what are we, as Ps. 8:4 would ask. In Jesus, we have an answer. God sees us as infinitely valuable, so much as to become not only with us, but one of us.

The late William Placher puts it this way: A kind of space lies within the triune God - a space potentially inclusive of the space of sinners and doubters - and yet this space is no desert but a spiritual garden of mutual love and glorification. In the incarnation, the three show that there is always within God a space large enough for the whole world, and even all its sin: The Word's distance from the one he calls Father is so great that no one falls outside it, and the Spirit fills all that space with love.” In other words, God’s love needs plenty of room.

Week of June 11 Reflections

Sunday-Ps. 8 is a hymn for the gift of creation. We are different than secular environmentalists, in that we do not worship nature itself, but the God of its creation. Recently one of our confirmands  was struck by holding science and faith together. He is learning to see the world in stereo, through an eye of science and an eye of creation as god’s gift. How do you view creation?

The flame is not diminished in its sharing; the light grows as the fire is spread amongst the people and across the land."--- Christine Valters Paintner,

Monday-François Fénelon-It is false humility to believe ourselves unworthy of God’s goodness and to not dare to look to him with trust. True humility lies in seeing our own unworthiness and giving ourselves up to God, never doubting that he can work out the greatest results for and in us


Tuesday-Anna Mow-No one is ever useless to God. No one who can pray is ever useless. There are many people to perform the needed activities, but too few to take the time for prayer. I suppose the hardest thing about being an invalid, about being “useless,” is that it is much harder to receive help than to give it. It is much harder to be still than to be active. That is why it is important to learn how to be a gracious receiver as well as a gracious giver.

Wednesday-"What is serious to men is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as 'play' is perhaps what He Himself takes most seriously. At any rate the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance.’" ~ Thomas Merton,

Thursday-Every transition has the potential of tapping flecks of gold in your life. Some transitions happen smoothly and naturally; some shake you with a sudden jolt... others seem long and rough--always your life journey is different forever from what it was before. Often we go through a "neutral zone,"* when things fall apart. Question: How is it some persons are transformed?--while others simply go on blindly and miss the flecks of gold? *William Bridges,

Friday-In his Rule, St. Benedict wisely writes that ‘always we begin again.’  I have found these four simple words to be of endless comfort in my own journey, a gentle reminder that I am called to recommit myself to the spiritual path again and again.”-- Christine Valters Paintner,



Saturday-The flame is not diminished in its sharing; the light grows as the fire is spread amongst the people and across the land."--- Christine Valters Paintner,

Trinity Sunday Sermon Notes

Some time ago, our lovely youngest daughter told me that at my advanced age, i needed to start checking things off the bucket list. I took it seriously and noticed that national parks dominated my bucket list. I went Yosemite. I merely wanted to see the original 4 mile trail, one that has now been adjusted to five miles,. The ranger asked, you’re not planning to try that trail are you?Facing trinity sunday, to even inquire into the depth of god brings that old question to the surface.
In the two basic creeds we use do not try to explain the Trinity as much as report on activity within     God toward us.On Pentecost we acknowledge the continuing presence and labor of the spirit. In the deep recesses of our faith, we try to come to grips with the God of all time and space and God’s relationship to us. We try to get a peek at the inner life of god on Trinity sunday.When I was young we started speaking of an environmental movement. In church we speak of creation. Gen. 1-this is in most of our memory banks. We have other creation accounts and allusions in the bible, but this stately evocation of creation is the introduction to scripture.see William brown- orderly progression-linear leaps god involved in creation still-culminates in Sabbath-, Shack movie-all inhabit different dimensions of the same god-(By the way the Wisdom figure in Scripture is female)Most of us have little   trouble with God the creator and Sustainer, and with Jesus Christ of course, but the Holy Spirit  is more elusive.I think it is always a mistake to take the ancient bile and try to shoehorn it into contemporary science. It does give us a perspective on our scientific pursuits and observations. It may be helpful to be reminded that this account may well have been a direct counter to the reigning religion of babylon in the exile. Babylon’s story of creation was a bloody battle between the gods. The religious figures of the exile would not hold to that. They saw God working through non-violent movements in succession.
A name and more than a name.The same god is the creator and redeemer.
Gen. 1 is a hymn to orderly movement. The issue of randomness in nature comes into play then.this is a god who makes space for others. (Alvin Plantinga award)Wild is in the midst of the order and interlocking progression-sea monsters-
God of time
What god is not through jesus Christ-not vindictive-not violent-not controlling-healing-

Ps 8, cassini spacecraft-Rudolph Otto on the holy religious ecstasy captured by a special moment overwhelming-powerful-awe-inspiring-dreadful-eerie, uncanny, god as wholly other,but Incarnation
dominion/caretaking image? Not exploit, but farm if you will. A caretaker of a property
William C. Placher's book, "The Triune God," and every year it offers a new nugget pointing to the importance of the triune nature of our God. This time around I came across this, "In the incarnation, the three show that there is always within God a space large enough for the whole world, and even all its sin: the Word's distance from the one he calls Father is so great that no one falls outside it, and the Spirit fills that space with love. The Spirit maintains ... the space that Christ opens up 'at our disposal, as a new, open space.'" We can use that new, open,free,  love-filled space. The Trinity tells us that god is wide and limitless, in other words, god. That same god makes room for all of creation.that same god not only makes room for us but calls us ever more fully into the divine life.


Juneteenth Column

Juneteenth was celebrated on Saturday in Upper Alton’s Salu Park. The celebration is said to have begun when Texas slaves were told of their freedom at the end of the Civil War. In some locales, the Emancipation Proclamation is read and includes theses words:  “I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; …And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”
The slaves did not know of their proclaimed freedom, as Texas was on the outskirts of the war, and slaveholders had flocked there from Louisiana and other states. To be proclaimed free and to not know of it would be an wound. Not long before the last declaration of freedom, the 13th Amendment, written by Lyman Trumbull, who lived in Alton for some time, passed the Congress.Later the same year, the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery would be ratified.
History is a prized possession. I am delighted that Juneteenth provides a way for people to engage in local links to national events. It  provides examples of a people downtrodden who could rise through dint of character, aspiration, education, and perseverance, then and now. What a mixture of elation and confusion, celebration and anxiety must have greeted the news of emancipation.I did not realize that many former slaves changed their names to one that they selected, “because that is what a free person can do.” Here’s an excerpt from the Federal Writers Project collection of narratives of former slaves during the Depression:And I ain’t goin’ to get whipped any more. I got my ticket, Leavin’ the thicket, And I’m a-headin’ for the Golden Shore!” ... Everyone was a-singin. We was all walkin’ on golden clouds. Hallejujah! “Union forever, Hurrah, boys, hurrah Although I may be poor, Shoutin’ the battle cry of freedom!” Everybody went wild. We all felt like heroes and nobody had made us that way but ourselves. We was free. Just like that, we was free...right off colored folks started on the move. They seemed to want to get closer to freedom, as they’d know what it was ⎯ like it was a place or a city. . . . We knowed freedom was on us, but we didn’t know what was to come with it. We thought we was goin’ to git rich like the white folks. We thought we was goin’ to be richer than the white folks, ’cause we was stronger and knowed how to work, and the whites didn’t and they didn’t have us to work for them anymore. But it didn’t turn out that way. We soon found out that freedom could make folks proud but it didn’t make them rich. FELIX HAYWOOD, enslaved in Texas, interviewed in Texas, ca. 1937 „
The summer solstice sits around the celebration. Freedom’s light beckoned.  In my lifetime, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 transformed us by stopping state-imposed discrimination. Stubbornly, so many measures of equality elude us, in terms of economic security, educational opportunity.Early last week, we had the opportunity to hear Old Crow Medicine Show (Wagon Wheel) perform Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. One of their final songs was his  Blowin’ In the Wind.”Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist/ Before they're allowed to be free/Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head/And pretend that he just doesn't see.” The road to freedom is a long one, sometimes unseen and it requires much light.

Reflections for Week of June 18

Sunday June 18 -Ps.116 is a song of answered prayer. At the same, it sees the response to that as more prayer, including ones of thanksgiving.What is your best prayer of thanksgiving?

Monday-“ the poet Rilke writes: 'Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back into the earth; for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.' The next time you are amongst the trees, see if you might imagine laying your heavy burden down and let the mountains or seas carry them. This is what gets us in our own way, the endless burdens we carry, the stories we tell ourselves that pull us away from the divine creatures we have been created to be.”--- Christine Valters Paintner

Tuesday-Stanley Hauerwas,:why there is suffering, “What I have learned over the years as a Christian theologian is that none of us should try to answer such questions. Our humanity demands that we ask them, but if we are wise we should then remain silent. . .When Christianity is assumed to be an ‘answer’ that makes the world intelligible, it reflects an accommodated church committed to assuring Christians that the way things are is the way things have to be. Such ‘answers’ cannot help but turn Christianity into an explanation. . . .Faith is but a name for learning how to go on without knowing the answers.”

Wednesday-Merton writes: “Forest and field, sun and wind and sky, earth and water, all speak the same silent language, reminding the monk that he is here to develop like the things that grow all around him.”... I am reminded here of the poet Rilke’s line “no forcing and no holding back.” Merton would find in creation the very source of his prayer, describing that as he seeks silence and solitude he discovers that everything he touches is turned into prayer: “where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is in all.” Practice awakens us to this reality slowly and allows love to seize us, rather than fear or worry.

Thursday-The Quest of the Historical Jesus: He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those who knew him not. He speaks to us the same word: "Follow thou me!" and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time.... And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts and the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an [awesome] mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.

Friday-You have traveled too fast over false ground;Now your soul has come, to take you back.Take refuge in your senses, open up To all the small miracles you rushed through.Become inclined to watch the way of rain When it falls slow and free.Imitate the habit of twilight, Taking time to open the well of color That fostered the brightness of day. Draw alongside the silence of stone Until its calmness can claim you. John O'Donohue

Saturday-When we love, we are tapping into that mighty rushing stream of God's essential being, that same power that created all things and holds all things in being, that same love which seeks to draw us into loving relationship with one another.Whenever we respond to God in prayer - listening to God, opening our hearts to God - we stand in the face of a tsunami of God's love. Whenever we attend to one another, forgetting ourselves in the act of listening to someone else open their hearts, we are giving ourselves over to the outgoing tide of God's love. Jinkins