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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Genesis 12 blog

This sure does ramble indeed, and has turned into something much more for me than for my readers, but this is my testimony blog, so here goes:

Genesis 12:1-10

1 Now the LORD had said to Abram:

"Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father's house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. 6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. [Alon Moreh] And the Canaanites were then in the land.

7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. 9 So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South [Negev].

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. NKJV

Blog Beginning

Today turned out to be another too-early (3:00 a.m.) morning (still far too many 4:00 a.m.'s lately, but these days I also can attest to quite a few proud 6:00 of-the-clock mornings!) For the past too many years I've been agonizing about my immediate and distant futures; Sunday and Monday consecutively two friends advised me to list my goals; then on Tuesday, a third friend told me to make what she calls a "Treasure Map," and showed me the one she'd put together about her own goals and desires. After all the needed and welcome advice, immediately I told myself I had to begin with the visual representation, since I'd long considered myself a visual person (but all those assessments and evaluations always place me as word person). Okay. This was an early morning, and the very first thought coming into my life and world was God's call to still-Abram: Go to a country I will show you--however could I not have noticed that before? I mean, this is one of the most familiar passages in the entire Bible! Look at the word, will: it encompasses both volition and a time in the future, meaning not exactly right now.

Abram and some God-Talk

I won't reprise the earlier portion of Abram's well-known story, except again to mention the Bible's asserting Abram was an Ivri, a Hebrew, meaning one from the other side--very parallel to God's position - geographically and attributively – in being from a place the other side of earth. God's call to leave settled nomadic living (at least "settled" in the sense of wandering from place to place being the lifestyle Abram had become comfortable with) almost definitely took Abram by surprise! Most likely Abram didn't consider himself particularly unique or religious, more moral or less determined to succeed in commerce, trading or bartering than anyone else around him. That's exactly the way it is between us and God: when we seek God's call to us within ourselves and look for something with the same shape and general outline as the experiences we've already known and lived, even those experiences God clearly has revealed to us and faithfully shepherded us through, most likely we will not hear God's voice at all, because God's call originates outside of us, in a place we dare not imagine ourselves worthy to enter; God's call begins, continues and holds us safely within God's mercy, grace and endless provision. That sounds pretty much theological, and that's the way I usually think, but, as I insisted in my opening disclaimer, I'm writing this blog for myself. Particularly when I visit my own theology blog, the scriptures and insights I've posted always amaze me, but when I leave the computer screen most of my awareness of my own thinking and writing evaporates in approximately a nanosecond.

Treasure Map

As I start thinking about the process of assembling my Treasure Map collage-montage, I need to remember and celebrate the many times I ventured out in trust without knowing where I was going - or at least not knowing more than a step or two - as in not having a particular destination, location or goal in mind because God had not revealed one to me. Am I going to claim I was younger and dumber those times? That's not really a valid reason to make an exception for today, when I'm older and smarter...well, older even than yesterday but not smart. Like Jane, my friend and neighbor who said Treasure Map at exactly the right time, I love color! Line, design, pattern, spot, contrast and all those other graphic and design elements are fun to play with, but color is central.

Verse 8: And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.

In standard Nomad Style, Abram pitched his tent, indicating this indeed was a temporary place where he'd find needed shelter and also near-instant mobility to quickly respond to God's next direction. Bethel, west, Ai and east also are heavy words, but I'm almost done blogging for this evening.

Verse 10: Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.

Because of a horrific food shortage, Abram left for the land of slavery--both those words, famine and Egypt, haul substantial literal and metaphoric freight.

Obedience

The Bible's witness to God's calling Abram and Abram's response is a through-the-ages renowned example of trusting faith, cited most appropriately in the New Covenant scriptures several times. Once again, there's no point in my recounting the entire Abram/Abraham narrative, since at least the people I know read this blog are biblically literate, but just as later on Israel became a named, essentially identified people as in trust they wandered without much of a map (you've heard of "constitutive experiences?" That's what you'd call the Exodus from slavery into freedom), in typical Hebrew style, God's Spirit literally re-constituted Abram into Abraham as a result of his obedience to God's Word (yes!) and also partly as a result of his dis-obedience in not trusting and consistently walking the straight line of faith, but in his ultimately learning from his mistakes?! Like us!?

I've called this section obedience. Most likely I've mentioned Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann's insistence on the Church, the community of faith, being obedient. In probably more than one place, WB (I've read enough of his writing I'll risk familiarity) insists the Church is the assembly that faithfully observes the commandments, the tithe, and the Sabbath. In addition, WB cites the example of that consummate Theologian of Grace, Martin Luther, beginning his Small Catechism - typical instruction and, in days of old, required memorization, before First Communion - with the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. WB essentially comments, "Make no mistake about it! It is the God of the Commandments with Whom we commune!" Except for the link to the English version of Luther's Der Kleine Catechismus, which I already knew was easy to find on UCC.org, I'm not compulsively linking this evening. However, when I was searching to find out if Catechismus was die or der, I found a Dutch version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which also includes the Ten Commandments; here it is:Westmunsterse Godgeleerden! This definitely is becoming a ramble, so I'm going to publish and log off for the evening. I'd like to apologize, but this blog's for me; in a day or so I'll write about the progress of my Treasure Map.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Come, the New Jerusalem

Let the River Run – Carly Simon, 1988 –
from film, Working Girl


We're coming to the edge, running on the water,
coming through the fog, your sons and daughters.

Let the river run, let all the dreamers wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise, the morning lights the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on with a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking. Oh, my heart is aching.

We're coming to the edge, running on the water,
coming through the fog, your sons and daughters.

We the great and small stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire through the darkening dawn.

It's asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
the sky is the color of blue
you've never even seen in the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge, running on the water,
coming through the fog, your sons and daughters.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge, running on the water,
coming through the fog, your sons and daughters.

Let the river run, let all the dreamers wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

sunday afternoon blog

This morning we heard a guest preacher, Pastor Danilo Morales; this morning I heard and need to believe some much-needed theology of glory, too! Here are portions of the texts (NIV):

Jeremiah 32:6-15; 24-27

8 "Then, just as the LORD had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, 'Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.'

"I knew that this was the word of the LORD; 9 so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver...

15 For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.'

...26 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 27 "I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

Matthew 20:1-16

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

13 "But he answered one of them ...14 I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Isaiah 42:1-4

1 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

A few quotes from Pastor Danilo and some comments from me:

As the preacher said near the start, "against all human logic!" Look at that l-word, logic - same linguistic and conceptual root as the L-word, Logos! Is anything impossible for God? Then he mentioned an "entire life demolished..." and I thought, yes, I know! That's what has happened to me! For me it's embarrassing, because it's not as if doing radical social and political activism had cost me—I simply had been trying to more than survive my own demons I'd actually lived with and thrived in spite of for a long, long time! Pastor Danilo said grace is "not a deserved gift," "beyond our own logic and understanding"; it does seem as if having a little too much control over outcomes is one our many too-human desires?! A while ago I read that being irresponsible is character disorder, while being over-responsible is neurosis, and I'll admit I tend toward over-responsibility (though neurosis and neurotic have no real currency these days). Although I am reasonably bright, often I'm not very intelligent, but I do know my control side is something God needs to work hard to break.

A little more from this morning: God's responds with mysterious grace—once again, beyond our logic, beyond our tameness and timidity. But when we live in Christ, God's logic/Logos/word/Word becomes ours, as our way of thinking and speaking turns reasonable human expectation inside out and upside down as we plan for and wait for the logically improbable and even impossible! The Word of Liberation seems impossible for me today, as does the Word of restoration and the Word of renewal. Pastor Morales' phrase: to redeem all that seems unrecoverable. To buy back—in another economic reality from the Bible. You know about the kinsperson-redeemer? Jeremiah's right to redeem it and possess it...like taking a cents-off or dollars-off coupon down to the store (though these days unless a coupon's worth at least $5.00 it does not seem at all worth my while to redeem it); like the right God assumes for each of us and for all creation in the Redeeming and Reconciling Christ Event.
  • Right/Righteous
  • Justice/The Just - Zeddakim (not sure the transliteration works, but there it is)
There's a story about theologian Joseph Sittler having his vehicle fixed in Israel: when he got his car back (hmmmm...another incident of redemption) with its engine perfectly tuned, he declared it zedaka—justified!

Isaiah 42 and bring forth justice—no self-restoration; no self-generation or self-regeneration and I'll add (please forget John Smith's theologically regrettable history) no self-baptism!

I feel totally stripped of my identity, but not in the good way God peals off unneeded (try adiaphoric) layers. In one of the Narnia books there's a wonderful account of the tightly paired pain and delight in Aslan's de-draggoning; since I don't have it right in my mind (no double meaning intended there) maybe I'll find and reference it later. Those non-essential layers of remembered experience and assumed self are not necessarily immoral or bad in any way, just interfering with the diaphoric essentials—sounds like a hint of the San Diego Presbytery's Essential Tenets, or as we always refer to them, Essential Tenants, as in those necessary lodgers who regularly get their rent in by due date.

I was a Daughter of the Church, daughter of the churches. Drowned, then raised to new life in the waters of baptism, sustained by the Word of Life and the Bread of Life. Here's a passage from one of my July blogs on Desert Spirit's Fire (and here's the entire post):
However, Israel became Israel, receiving the identifying name, not in the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey but in the desert of the trek toward that promised-landed freedom. In the desert's sparse economy, with surprising gifts like water from the rock and manna from the sky, Israel and Yahweh encountered each other into the kind of relationship that later would enable God's people to recognize God's paradoxical self-revelation in the preached Word and proffered sacraments...

Now and here, like Christ Jesus, face-to-face with the world, the church is the incarnation of the fullness of the time of salvation, the era of the Reign of Life; as persons of the ekklesia, of the church, our sacramental liturgies and lifestyles replay God's paradoxical self-revelation in the exodus desert, recognizing and celebrating God's sustaining presence in, with and under creation's commonest stuff, the utmost essentials for life produced from the heart of the earth.
The theological truth remains we are baptized into the vertical and horizontal life of the Church at the same time we are baptized into Jesus Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection. Part of my own truth remains I have no regrets whatsoever about not finishing seminary, despite frequent "what ifs" coupled with that occasional "if only" about not doing an academic theology degree. Literally no one who knew me more than slightly disagreed with me (yep, I do like having the final word but more than that I want to be right) that God had not called me to become a generic pastor. My call to serve in the inner city was so strong and so overwhelming...what now? Talking about truth?! I remain forever both God's daughter and still the Church's Daughter.

This morning I heard and need to believe some much-needed theology of glory: God's Logos-Word, Jesus Christ, is not always logical and rational like the human logos-word—but then again, sometimes it is! Above all God's Word is a faithful Word, as it graciously encompasses and redeems – as it buys back – our brokenness and unfaithfulness, not with pennies-off coupons but with more-than tokens, with realities of infinite value.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Service of Light

Here in San Diego it has been mega-warm and humid, and the blog I've been writing for desert spirit's fire just isn't ready yet. But to maintain reader interest, here's one of my favorite songs--I so wish I could include the music that goes with it.
To begin, a story:

When I planning to leave Boston for Salt Lake City, the Church was in the season of Advent. The senior pastor I served with suggested we needed to have a weeknight party for my "friends from ministerium and anyone else - like any of your classmates - who can't be here on Sunday." Then he asked what I wanted to do for the worship portion that'd happen before the food and drink fest, suggesting, "we can celebrate Eucharist and you can preach." I replied, "No, I want to lead vespers!" I particularly love the opening Service of Light, so here's Marty Haugen's version of the ancient liturgical text:

  1. Joyous light of heavenly glory, loving glow of God's own face,
    you who sing creation's story, shine on every land and race.
    Now as evening falls around us, we shall raise our songs to you,
    God of daybreak, God of shadows, come and light our hearts anew.


  2. In the stars that grace the darkness, in the blazing sun of dawn,
    of the light of peace and wisdom, we can hear your quiet song.
    Love that fills the night with wonder, love that warms the weary soul,
    Love that bursts all chains asunder, set us free and make us whole.


  3. You who made the heaven's splendor, every dancing star of night,
    make us shine with gentle justice, let us each reflect your light.
    Mighty God of all creation, gentle Christ who lights our way,
    Loving Spirit of salvation, lead us on to endless day.

© 1990 GIA Publications, Inc.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

prayer for the road

~~Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875-1926~~

I am praying again, Awesome One.

You hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward you in the wind.

I've been scattered in pieces,
torn by conflict,
mocked by laughter,
washed down in drink.

In alleyways I sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
With my half-mouth I stammer you,
who are eternal in your symmetry.
I lift to you my half-hands
in wordless beseeching, that I may find again
the eyes with which I once beheld you.

I am a house gutted by fire
where only the guilty sometimes sleep
before the punishment that devours them
hounds them out into the open.

I am a city by the sea
sinking in toxic tide.
I am strange to myself, as though some unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.

It's here in all the pieces of my shame
that I now find myself again.
I yearn to belong to something, to be contained
in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing.
I yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart--
oh let them take me now.
Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God--spend them however you want.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Rollin' Home

Eric Andersen | Deep Fork Music, Inc., ASCAP

From one of Eric Andersen's:

Truth, with all its far out schemes, lets time decide what it should mean;
It's not the time but just the dreams that die.
And sometimes when the room is still, time with so much truth to kill,
Leaves you by the window sill so tied
Without a wing, to take you high, without a clue to tell you why.

Now, I just want to keep my name, not bother anybody's game
Without ideas of gold or fame or insane heights...

Well, I see the ones who crawl like moles who for a front would trade their souls,
A broken mirror's the only hole for them;
And for you who'd exchange yourselves, just to be somebody else,
Pretending things you never felt or meant--
Hey, you don’t live what you defend; you can't give so you just bend.

There's nothing big I want to prove, no mountains that I need to move,
Or even claim what's right or true for you.
My sights, my songs are slightly charred, you might think they miss their mark,
But for me, I think they’ll do.

Well, I can see a king and queen, a beggar falling at my feet;
They all must see the same sad dreams at night;
Futility and senseless war, pit the rich against the poor,
While cause is buried long before the fight
For what was wrong, for what was right,
It's just the strong, who ever says what's right...

eric anderson dot com