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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Theology Rap and Transfiguration: Until the Day Dawns

Theology Rap

Streams in the deserts restoring us to life
Impelled by the Spirit reclaiming our strife
Bread sent from heaven and fruit of the vine
Community's nurturing right down the line
Sitting in the courtyard feeling sort of fine
Wondering what to do with no crystal-clear sign
Making lemonade and squeezing more limes
Parsing out daze but expecting few rhymes
Art world church world blog-style sites
Funky seafood burritos kiwi cranberry lights
Preachers teachers shopkeepers into God's rules
Multiplicitous musics sun-basking pools
Reading into history expectations and hope
One more time knowing now I gotta cope
Charge into the world make another new try
Instead of just settling reaching for the sky
Challenging this planet to listen now and hear
Everything I offer it experience held dear
Truro Massachusetts hazy morning in July
San Diego still is Paradise and this is no lie
I'm giving my sorrow and all of my pain
To God the Almighty, Lover not vain
Expecting just mercy and grace in the rain
Falling from heaven embracing the earth
God's glory incarnate declaring our worth

Over on Desert Spirit's Fire, my theology blog, my February 6, 2005 post, Transfiguration: Until the Day Dawns, relates so well to the rap I just wrote, I'm posting it here verbatim. In the ideal world I long for I'd definitely edit it some, but at the moment I have more urgent stuff to do, so here it is:

Texts – nkjv

Matthew 17:1-9

1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

... 9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

2 Peter 1:16-19

16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, ...but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

19 We also have the more sure prophetic word, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts...

Until the Day Dawns
Son of the Excellent Glory, Whose birth and life among us sanctifies all creation, Creator of the Cosmic Dance and Hope Everlasting: as we celebrate another spectacular vision of your Sonship, may we relentlessly live as signs of the reconciliation of heaven and earth, in service to one another and the world. Amen!
“Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man – the Human One – is risen from the dead!”

Also in some of Jesus’ words recorded by the gospel-writer Matthew, we hear: [12:40] An evil and perverse generation seeks signs, but no sign will be given it except the Sign of Jonah: for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Human One – the Son of Man – be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth!

In the Good News according to Luke: [11:29] And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, Jesus began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.”

The Sign of Jonah—Death and Resurrection! For two thousand years, theologians and faith communities have struggled to learn and discern what Jesus means to them. We know Jesus as teacher and Jesus as political prophet; doubtless many of us consider Jesus a social activist, too. Jesus as a healer? Probably. But Jesus, the man of Nazareth, who died outside the city on a cross of shame as the Christ of God? At the very heart of the story of Jesus of Nazareth stands the seven days we call Passion Week: a crucified man – but – then an empty grave, a narrative with no easy answers or clear-cut implications, a series of events so far outside the normally credible many of us would like to dismiss it as legend. But today’s lections are not about death and resurrection but about something else altogether—they’re about a spectacular manifestation of God’s Glory on yet another mountaintop.

“We were eyewitness. We saw...with our own eyes.” There on the mountain of the event called Transfiguration were Moses and Elijah and there was that voice...and there were Peter, James and John who saw, who eye-witnessed the meeting of earth and heaven, the holiness of everything created. Within Judaism, clouds, mountains and other expressions of nature were traditional signs of God’s presence—you remember the cloud that went before Israel as a sign of God’s presence in the Exodus story, and the mountain Moses climbed to receive the law, the Sinai Covenant? In telling about the Transfiguration, Matthew, the gospel writer and Peter, the author of the epistle describe a meeting between heaven and earth, of the reconciliation of life, spelling God-with-us—of course, then there’s the reciprocal of God’s presence to us: our presence to God! Heaven comes down to earth countless times throughout the biblical witness, just as heaven and earth meet countless times in this world in which we live.

Jesus cautioned the Mount of Transfiguration Trio – Peter, James and John – to tell no one about the experience with Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, until he, the Son of Man, the Human One, had been raised from death. Tell no one until Easter! “Just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish...”

Another Jonah, Simon bar Jonah, son of Jonah – the fisher of men renamed Peter or “Rocky” by Jesus himself – experienced the vision of Jesus transfigured and for Peter, we know the later reality of resurrection could not remain forgotten or untold! Over and over in the book of Acts and then in the later letter called 2 Peter we keep hearing Peter proclaiming the Risen Christ! Often we recount stories about gutless Peter, almost rejoicing because he and we are similar in too many ways, but after the events of Easter and Pentecost, when preaching Christ even meant risking life itself, Peter could not help but do so. Because of the stories of Peter’s sometimes reluctance during the time he spent ministering alongside Jesus in the years prior to the crucifixion – especially the triple betrayal – I think if Peter had his human preference, he would rather not have stood up before those institutional religious leaders and assorted “others.” But the word of the Risen One was not a philosophical theoretical idea out there but rather it was a word within Peter’s heart, from his real-life experience walking and living with a friend who unconditionally loved him even in his weakest moments of total failure, that One he had seen crucified...

“We were eyewitnesses...with our eyes.” The eye is the most sensitive part of the body; to be an eyewitness suggests vision and perception. On the Mount of Transfiguration Peter saw Jesus, Elijah and Moses; later Peter eyewitnessed Christ crucified; then he saw and experienced Christ Risen! In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter witnessed the love of God, and how could Peter be silent? Everything his teacher and companion Jesus spoke about had happened, everything – including death and resurrection, the fabled Sign of Jonah – and those events birthed hope in Rocky-Peter, so he began believing, living and proclaiming the hope of resurrection to the world.

Tell the vision to no one until the Human One is risen from the dead. A long time has passed since Jesus, James, John and Peter stood with Moses and Elijah on the Mountain of Transfiguration; a long time has passed since Peter told about seeing with his own eyes the transfigured Man of Nazareth and the glory of the Crucified and Risen Christ. In the centuries since then, far too much other than the boundless and unqualified love of God has been connected with Jesus and laid on the name of Jesus; Peter didn’t need to explain slave ships from Africa, or the Crusades, or the Salem witch trials or the decimation of villages in South America and Central America by unjust church politics; in those days of the nascent church, people hadn’t yet suffered under the illegitimate authority of over-formed ecclesiastical clout.

So these days and in our own communities we can hear voices asking why we still proclaim the Crucified and Risen Lord of All!? Still today?! Like Peter? Because we too have witnessed Christ crucified in every life that falls at the hand of hatred, every heart broken by betrayal, every community brutalized by the powerful, every person left for dead; in those situations and far too many like them our eyes have witnessed Christ crucified. And though many times we may run away like Simon bar Jonah also called “Peter,” in the wake of the Day of Crucifixion we have seen and met the Risen One on Resurrection morn! Jesus promises us the Sign of Jonah—death and resurrection; Jesus charges us to “Tell no one until the Human One is risen from the dead!”

Just as the Spirit sent Peter, James and John to the Transfiguration site, the Holy Spirit takes us to places where God meets us, the contemporary people of God; the Spirit send us to places where we witness meetings between heaven and earth and see evidence of God’s life-restoring and reconciling presence to us, while the Spirit enables us to be present to God, living in full response to the power of Easter within our once-devastated lives. Together with Peter, we have been eyewitnesses of Christ’s crucifixion but we also know the experience of the paradoxical power of new life born from death; those events birth hope in us—how can we be silent? Now we can believe, live and proclaim the hope of resurrection to the world! As we prepare to enter the coming weeks of Lent, let us continue living as signs of the meeting of heaven and earth, people ready for Good Friday and eyewitness of Easter Sunday’s glorious dawn!

The Word of Life,
Amen!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

this far by faith june 2005


For once I’m simply going to write and not include the typical plethora of outbound links my readers likely aren’t interested in or could seek out for themselves. Every now and then in my assiduously shaped language and cadence I catch a glimpse of the (maybe) mildly manic creator, designer and wordsmith; although separating out ideas from each other can be labor-intensive, I need to communicate, so here’s one more! And please note: it’s late evening, and rather than wait until tomorrow morning when I might decide all of this reveals too, too much, I’m publishing it now.

This summer solstice evening as I continue my faith narrative, again I need to acknowledge the overwhelming abundance of the gracious, merciful and loving Rain of Heaven that keeps persisting in spite of me and in spite of everyone else, too!

Assessing where I am at the moment:

Since early February I’ve been participating in a weekly CoDA [Codependents Anonymous] meeting; the codependent characteristics I most recognize in myself are my (owning it!) tendency to minimize, alter and deny how I really feel as well as deny my own needs—those behaviors have gotten me into big-time trouble again.

Historically – yes, for a long, long time – I’ve been extremely determined, sometimes too disciplined (but hey, I had my eyes on the prize of a lifetime of service and when I’d eventually find myself living in that prize, I could let up on the controlled discipline, which I have to a degree, even though currently I’m not vaguely living my dream), and intermittently driven. However, I’ve never, ever been remotely competitive. During my undergrad years at Boston University’s exceedingly high-end School for the Arts (now renamed College of Fine Arts, which to me sounds exactly like a fly-by-night trade school), although I took ample advantage of every opportunity imaginable to perform, it always was about being my best and never outstripping, outshining or contending with anyone else. During those earlier years and throughout more recent years, consistently I trusted the best was yet to come, as in every area of interest and endeavor I strove for a level of expertise that would bring me a multitude of opportunities. Once again, rejection and bad press say far more about the speaker than the spoken-about, but in whatever way I deconstruct, reconstruct, scrutinize or agonize over much of what has been happening, the fact still remains I’ve experienced a long – and ultimately highly erosive – series of question marks and little resolution.

Hmmm...a few days ago on this blog I wrote about truth-telling, primarily referring to my own life and experience. To update, there’s no such entity as one-sided truth—that’s only facts; you need to discern and declare the facts on all sides in order to have truth.

When I was living in Salt Lake City, someone essentially remarked to me, “With your energy and optimism, you must be a very effective leader.” I responded that I do have some leadership ability and I’ve developed some skills, but leadership in the classic (corporate?) model isn’t one of my strong suits, since I’m far more into helping others get their dues in terms of developing their own gifts and finding occasions to use their abilities than I am in placing myself front and center, having my opinions heard or getting my plans completed. Relating to my passion for enabling others, these days almost constantly resounding in my ears are some of the words to me from one of the pastors with whom I served. He observed, “With your abilities you can afford to be generous; most people aren’t in your situation.” He also once noted, “You’re very modest when you talk about your abilities—and then people see you in action!!!!!” I’m not modest in the least, but I am matter-of-fact; nevertheless, I’m well aware of my gifts and abilities and make a major point of not intimidating anyone as well as making a concentrated effort not to convey the impression I’d ever imagine taking over anyone else’s position. From the good manners angle and from sensitivity to others’ needs, I’ll never invade or insinuate myself into any setting or anyone else’s space; since childhood I’ve given folks a whole lot of time and a reasonable amount of space so they can feel comfortable with me and know my intentions for them are the best, hopefully eventually welcoming me on their terms rather than upon my insistence. However, because I do enjoy being in charge and having things my way, possibly I’ve overcompensated in the opposite direction?! A tangent: in high school I was intending to become a social worker; that in itself means I’ve always been people-addicted!

Sophia is one of my middle names; Sophia is a wisdom archetype! Long, long ago, when I was far too young to expect to hear those words applied to me, someone cited what he considered my, “wisdom, maturity and insight.” Amazing! More recently, another person told me I was a good self-observer, which in general is true. For the past few months I’ve been journaling as well as revisiting a lot of my past behaviors and trying to look at myself from the outside—at least as much as anyone can do. The best of classic Leah was just as I described in the paragraphs above: drawing out people and their gifts, hearing their story, not making assumptions about them or about my potential place in their space, but watching, waiting and hoping! However, not long ago, I realized once again I’d waited far too long and been much too patient, again seeing but not acknowledging evidence there was no real potential there for me (remember, I’m always reminding myself of the verity the world does not revolve around me and that others need to participate, too), and despite a few lagniappes thrown my way, I’m wondering when I’ll be able to claim something, anything, to replace the loss I’ve experienced?

Over on my theology blog I asked, “Isn’t homecoming the ultimate redemption?” I’m waiting, hoping and longing for a community somewhere to buy me and my gifts (read: “my life”) back into their grace, fully and beyond any doubt. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll try to finish and post the piece I’ve been writing for my theology blog. Good night and a grace-filled dawn!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Telling Truth Living True

More cries, questions and anticipations!
In not a single economy, system or scheme does any quantity of minuses add up to a plus, nor in any location does even a huge accumulation of wrongs ever remotely begin to equal a right. In addition, acknowledging and forgiving (rather then explaining and excusing) is central to the balance God insists we keep. Closely related to that fact, God’s people are truth-tellers, truth-doers and live truthfully. I remember how I enjoyed learning how to develop solid arguments in my ethics classes in seminary, but of late my logic has become atrociously misaligned, askew and plain out-of-true. Catch my drift here?

Via John the evangelist’s chapter 8, Jesus says the truth will set us free:

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
NKJV
In this passage John’s free - eleutheria - is the same word (this particular blog template doesn’t support Greek) Paul uses in Romans 8:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the offspring of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. NKJV

In order to survive, every so often we humans actually need to be in denial for a while about some things, and we humans typically need some understanding of people’s behaviors before we can began forgiving, but denials and lies keep us captive-bound and immobile, so these days, besides revisiting so much of my past behavior as if I’d been on the outside looking in, I’m telling some truths. Therefore:

  • yes, I am exceedingly grateful the way my world and life unfolded within that specific time-frame;

  • no, people’s exclusionary behavior toward me and my own hateful behavior toward myself (typical and regular examples included, “I don’t need community”; “I don’t need to be treated well”; “I don’t really need volunteer opportunities”; “although this setting is agonizingly painful, I must be ultra-sensitive because no one would treat another person this way”) did not therefore become healthy and loving they became ingredients in the amazingly complex and unanticipated chain of events leading to some grace-filled situations;

  • However I may deconstruct or reconstruct everything, and whatever my role and/or others’ roles have been, the truth remains my behavior toward myself has been abysmal;

  • Another truth: it has hurt a lot and it still perplexes me.

  • Then, there’s been a not unrecent overage of déjà vu...umm...vujà dé...

  • As part of my truth I need to have mercy on myself, and as again (I cannot count the number of new beginnings I’ve made, and eventually I stopped telling myself “statistically it can’t happen again”) I move forward toward what I still feel God is calling me to do, I need to realize the same traits, impulses, tendencies (and gifts!) that got me into this di-lemma also have helped sustain me!

  • My prayer for myself is that my toughness and resilience will remain and at last I will become free. Amen!!!!!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Here In This Place!

theological commentary from Marty Haugen, one of my favorite contemporary hymn-writers:

Gather Us In!

  1. Here in this place new light is streaming; now is the darkness vanished away;
    see in this space our fears and our dreamings, brought here to you in the light of this day.
    Gather us in, the lost and forsaken; gather us in, the blind and the lame;
    call to us now, and we shall awaken; we shall arise at the sound of our name


  2. We are the young, our lives are a mystery; we are the old who yearn for your face;
    we have been sung throughout all of history, called to be light to the whole human race.
    Gather us in, the rich and the haughty; gather us in, the proud and the strong;
    give us a heart, so meek and so lowly; give us the courage to enter the song!


  3. Here we will take the wine and the water; here we will take the bread of new birth,
    here you shall call your sons and your daughters, call us anew to be salt for the earth.
    Give us to drink the wine of compassion; give us to eat the bread that is you;
    nourish us well, and teach us to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.


  4. Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven, light years away--
    here in this place the new light is shining; now is the kingdom and now is the day!
    Gather us in and hold us forever; gather us in and make us your own;
    gather us in, all peoples together, fire of love in our flesh and our bone!

Marty Haugen, Here in This Place, © 1982
GIA Publications, Inc.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

It’s still About Summer; it’s still about Life!

Today is June 1st, so technically it's not quite summer.

rock-strewn roads

In the shadows my former self watches this current person, every so often wondering if my assumption God would use me to transform people and society arrogant! Was it arrogant? Not in the least! That’s exactly why people do authorized ministry, credentialed teaching, (sometimes) law and related jobs. Recently on my theology blog I wrote, the desert’s precariousness, life-giving and transformative austerity; I’ve been living in a series of phenomenological deserts as well as metaphorical ones, and the true devastation has been the wasted gifts and education and my resulting sense of worthlessness, loss and betrayal.

these days as I’m in discernment...

It’s not about the what of my call but rather about the how. Sometimes I visually recite a series of images of locales where I’ve lived and served; here’s part of my places list, which also is a partial list of my qualifications for multicultural ministry:
  • Inner-city Boston during the years of school desegregation, racial strife and violence, block-busting, white flight, redlining, residential and commercial conflagrations.

  • Boston’s North End; though the neighborhood had a few students and working yuppies, culturally it was mostly Italian and Italian-American.

  • San Diego North County, which for me was like anthropology field work as well as being the time of the greatest professional, spiritual and personal growth imaginable.

  • Back to Massachusetts, to Dorchester (and admittedly the only time I’ve spent in exactly the setting I’d been preparing for); it was multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic, multi-economic and multigenerational.

  • Massachusetts also meant Cambridge and Harvard Divinity School!

  • High Desert City; post-Semi-Affluent Suburban UCC, I got close to an insider look at the Latter-day Saints church and also had awesome experiences playing the piano, eating and partying with the Tongan United Methodists.

  • Back to the East Coast, I spent some unclear time with the ELCA, where I began learning Caribbean culture and food. Part of my excitement about possibly returning to Boston from San Diego and getting involved there as worship specialist was about drawing on the knowledge, experience and expertise I already had and exploring a new culture.
how did I envision my life and work if I wasn’t doing professional ministry? To support myself, most likely I’d do something that didn’t take an immense emotional investment, since in my non-paid employment time I expected to:
  1. Possibly write some grant proposals and do some correlated recreational or educational program development for friends’ or colleagues’ churches;
  2. Probably be a frequent guest organist;
  3. Play a dozen or so solo organ or piano recitals each year; regularly accompany vocal recitals;
  4. Other things I haven’t even imagined.
what has helped sustain me? My constant awareness coupled with frequent unexpected and definitely unanticipated evidence of my being tethered to the Spirit...of the Holy Spirit keeping me tethered! My increasingly sacramental theology recently Most of my life - but particularly since Salt Lake City - I've done everything imaginable always to put the best construction on everything everyone does, to consider where they might be coming from, to give them more than the benefit of any doubts. In one sense I haven’t taken any incident personally, though in another sense I’ve taken almost everything very, very personally. Yes, yes so true everything says far more about the speaker than the spoken about, but more-recent interactions and events have been highly incongruous with my previous life, and I’ve only been able to begin wondering how on earth I ever ended up in such a situation. Almost whereverI am, I feel a profound sense of loss of self and I feel plain lost in space! How I ever ended up? I’m not that powerful or remotely that much in control! sense of call and history of call From day one, it was about doing parish ministry in tandem with doing theology; from the beginning I did everything in order to get “more skills for ministry” including a degree in social work and a 2nd bachelors degree. Never, ever would I have done that if professional ministry would be the only place for me to use those skills. The first day I walked into the plasma center in Salt Lake City in yet another attempt to get just a few $$$ I’d entered a parallel universe that didn’t often touch the worlds in which I’d previously lived. But of course I said, “Wow!!!!! Yet another awesome qualification for inner-city ministry.” The Community Economic Development program at San Diego State University had seemed like a culmination to my previous experiences and aspirations--I’d be doing a radically justice-oriented ministry! more skills! Earlier on, way prior to Salt Lake City, I’d intended to take some time away from professional ministry in order to do some activist stuff and to gain more skills in areas in which I felt lacking. Besides, I’d been spending far too much time in and in the near vicinity of the church building, too much time formally “in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ!” But for me, church was my family, my creative, intellectual, social and professional life—it was all I knew! Parish ministry was my heartbeat, and my greatest joy had been using my gifts for the community, particularly the community of faith. When the months and then the years started whizzing by I knew I needed to begin talking about my perplexity, but I discovered most people either were judgmental or didn’t at all get what I was trying to say. earlier
  • A pastor colleague from a different denom: “You’re not going to be popular: you’re too passionate, you see too clearly; you need to stay in the inner city, where people have no time for anything but the truth.”
  • The same guy again: “A person can live with only so much irresolution and you’re really pushing the limits.”
  • However, it’s almost like a human hierarchy: bright, accomplished people seem to think I’ve cool and accomplished, while others don’t exactly think so at all.
A surprising validation On one of The Apprentice episodes I watched, The Donald fired an extremely bright and independent woman. The next day Stacie was on the Today Show and essentially commented, “The usual ploy of the weak getting rid of the strong.” In many ways she reminded me of myself... from previous shows, it’s true Stacie had done a bunch of non-team things, but it’s also true the other women (at first I’d written girls--interesting!) were, as she described them, “Sorority Types,” and though definitely bright and coming-uppers, their style was far tamer and less...well, less whatever. here’s my theology site: Desert Spirit’s Fire!