Showing posts from March, 2019

Stories About God

This is the homily I preached this morning in church. The texts were 
Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.
I read somewhere, a long time ago, that the most important reason we go to church is to tell stories about God to one another. I believe that’s true. When I was thinking about standing up here and telling you a story about God, I suddenly felt the urge to describe to you a way I have of imagining that the Bible is reading me instead of me reading it. I believe that this way of reading or listening to Scripture has the power to change our perspective. The Celtic peoples, who were great storytellers and poets, called certain places “thin places.” They were trying to describe places where the veil between heaven and earth is worn thin; places where the holy and the ordinary brush up against each other. When I visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, many years ago, I felt something like this as I looked through the window of my room at the inn. This is …

Let's Wake Up!

Jeremiah 11:1-8; Jeremiah 11:14-20
I’m back on my soapbox about censoring the Bible. We only do it to the Old Testament, and it’s usually the result of squeamishness about the way the ancient Hebrews characterized natural consequences as punishments from God. I still get annoyed by it (the censoring, I mean). The O.T. reading leaves out verses 9-13 in Jeremiah 11. I’m fairly convinced of the futility of complaining about it. Still, it fits in with the logical error I noticed relative to the other two readings, so I’ll include my thoughts about it anyway.
Jeremiah is a Prophet. He believes that he was given the courage to speak the truth of God for a reason. (You see, I don’t think a prophet is a person who hears God’s voice, because I think we all hear God’s voice. No, a prophet is simply someone with the courage to speak up and say the things that no-one wants to hear. It doesn’t mean they are always right, but it does mean that they are willing to be unpopular.)
Anyway, here are the mi…

My Tree

Do kids still climb trees? I never see kids in trees these days. Maybe kids never climbed trees all that much, even when I was a kid. I climbed trees all the time, though. It was my passion. I could climb the hard ones, too. My Dad would never help me get up into a tree when I was little; he’d say it wouldn’t be safe for me to climb it until I could do it all by myself. So I suffered in jealousy watching him up in a tree; and me down below, salivating and imagining the feel of the bark under my hands, the high wind cooling the sweaty roots of my hair, the wedged balance of the swaying view below me. Of course, now I think of it, most kids’ Dads didn’t torture them by climbing trees in front of them and refusing to help them up, either. Anyway, I was an expert by age eight in technical tree climbing. Freestyle, of course. I was a bookworm, too. I know, because I was told so repeatedly by my mother and my grandmother. So, to me there was an obvious and immediate synchrony between trees a…

My Creed

Long ago I took a four year course of study called Education for Ministry.
One of the assignments was for each student to write a personal creed. Here is mine, which has continued to be updated over the years.

Creed (by way of the Holy Island Lindisfarne)
I am trusting three times in One God:
My first trusting is in the One Who is the Breath still singing time into being; Who is the Hands still making the world; Who is the Seed still begetting love.
My second trusting is in the One Who is the Way still going beyond; Who is the Truth still baffling death; Who is the Life still opening in the wastelands.
My third trusting is in the One Who is the Heart still lifting up the sky; Who is the Wings still wheeling over the darkness. Who is the Wind still blowing from nowhere.
I am also trusting in a Holy House that was and is and will be—
Here is dancing, and here is mourning; Here is shouting, and here is stilling; Here is keeping, and here is wasting; Here is giving, and here is getting; Here is pleading, and…

Not My Own

“My teaching is not my own, it comes from the One who sent me. If anyone wants to do his will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or I speak on my own. A person who speaks on his own is trying to win praise for himself; but a person who tries to win praise for the one who sent him is honest, there is nothing false about him.” “…we know where this man comes from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he comes from.” “Where is this man about to go, that we won’t find him?...” “…And when he says, ‘You will look for me and not find me; indeed, where I am, you cannot come’ — what does he mean?”
What’s the point of praising God? Is it because God is vain, and likes to be flattered? Many people seem to think that. —"Butter God up and we’ll get lots of goodies!”— Do we really want to go there? There is a built-in litmus test in this text: “If anyone wants to do (God’s) will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or I speak on my own.” Why on earth would that make …

Trust & Hypocrites

(all translations are from The Complete Jewish Bible)
Jeremiah 5:20-31
25 Your crimes have overturned nature’s rules,
your sins have kept back good from you.’
26 “For among my people there are wicked men,
who, like fowlers, lie in wait and set traps
to catch their fellow human beings.
27 Their houses are as full of fraud
as a cage full of birds.
They grow rich and great, 28 sleek and bloated;
they excel in acts of wickedness
but do not plead on behalf of the orphan,
thus enabling his cause to succeed;
nor do they judge in favor of the poor.

“Your crimes have overturned nature’s rules”……!
“Their houses are as full of fraud as a cage full of birds.”
Wow! Can we say, “Climate change”?
I also got this vivid image: a cage with tinsel bars; with dust and ashes in the feeders; with mounds of single-use plastic stuck to the filthy bottom of the overcrowded cage; with flapping, twittering, raucous, crazy-eyed, disheveled, frantic pet birds trying to beat their way out between the bars in a cloud of d…

On Observing

About the value of observing:

Once you notice that your mind can be in two places at once—
wound-up in some thought process, and,
at the same time, watching itself
being wound-up-in-whatever-thought-process-it-is—
well, that makes you blink.
Then, suddenly, the universe blinks back at you!

In that moment it all makes sense.

Then it stops making sense,
and you go back to working away at paying attention.
The only difference is
that you now have an impression in your mind
of that millisecond when it all made sense.
That impression lends you the conviction
that paying attention is all that is necessary.
And so, you go on paying attention,

and that's all there is to it.

Only One Sin

I just read a good article by a pastor who refused a request to quote a Bible verse to support his belief that being gay is not a sin. He refused because he said that no matter how many verses he quoted, opponents of his views would find twice as many verses to support the opposing belief.
It reminded me of the story in the synoptic Gospels about Jesus being tempted in the desert by the Adversary. The Devil quotes Scripture at Jesus, and Jesus quotes it right back at him.
I’ve been thinking about these Gospel stories in the context of the homosexuality debate for a very long time now… but just this morning it occurred to me that it’s quite possible that the implications of these stories of the conversation between Jesus and Satan go much deeper than I ever expected.
I think that Jesus, in the same way that he always does, is making a demonstration— a real, concrete, practical demonstration— of why it is useless and faintly ridiculous to try and use Scripture as a justification for any op…

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Jeremiah 1:11-19
17But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you.
17 “But you, dress for action; stand up and tell them everything I order you to say. (CJB)
The Hebrew says: “belt up your waist,” which is traditionally translated as “gird up your loins.” The phrase refers to tucking up the skirt of a robe until the hem is up around the knees. The long robe would be gathered up in front and pulled between the legs to the back, separated into two tails, brought back to the front of the waist, tied, and belted to hold it in place. It turned the skirt of the robe into something like a baggy pair of shorts.
What’s the point of this bit of trivia? It’s necessary to explain why I want to translate the phrase "gird up your loins" as, “Roll up your sleeves.” We don’t wear long robes anymore, so when we want to show that we are going to get down to work, we “roll up our sleeves.” I’m saying that’s what this passage from Jeremiah is all about— Getti…