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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas 2005, Tucson AZ

Sunday, December 25, 2005--I'm posting this predated, though right now it's actually the afternoon of December 31, a.k.a. New Year's Eve, and I'm back in San Diego.
Another Christmas in the Sonoran desert, another remembering the old plus more new occasions of God's paradoxical Self-revelation, hidden yet now and again surprisingly discovered in, with and under the most mundane, the most common stuff of creation! Martin Luther, theologian of grace - and of the cross - so loved Christmas: he insisted that to see the fullness of God's Self-revelation we need to look to the Bethlehem manger and to the cross of Calvary. According to Luther, the humanly always-popular theology of glory amounts to lies and untruth, while theology of the cross is about the cutting-edge of Divine grace, mercy and truth. Uncovering the Divine in the desert's crazily beautiful bleakness is akin to finding the depth of God's sovereignty in subtleties rather than in sensations.

With at least a moderate flight of ideas, this is becoming as close to pure blog as I ever get, so I'll tell my readers my Advent email signature includes the second stanza of Philipp Nicolai's, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"; since it first published in a 1599 collection, it's later than Luther, but how he would love "the strong in grace, in truth victorious!"
Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her Star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, Thou blessed One, God’s own beloved Son:
Alleluia! We follow till the halls we see
Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee.
It seems as if I've spent too much of the past baker's dozen years (yes, it has been that long) attempting to rebuild some kind of life. But for the past few days I've been contemplating and working on my sermon for New Year's day, 2006, and as usual, I'm mainly preaching about realities I need to hear! The RCL-designated pericope from Revelation 21:1-6 includes the spectacular vision of a new heaven and a new earth--a New Creation--the New Jerusalem, the new City of God:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. ...Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem...
The text includes the extravagant promise only God can ratify,
Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."
I started this blog by including what continues as disappointing news to me (actually more like olds than news), that still my life has not rebuilt and renewed in even the remotest sense of again being full of the meaningful service for which I prepared and schooled. Seriously (am I ever much other than serious? Well, yes, often I'm casual or informal and almost never stand on ceremony), but I feel I've been existing on the boundaries of reality rather than living in the center! A while ago I took part in more than one discussion about center, heart, and periphery. The poet, prophet and theologian speak most authentically from the margins--have I not mentioned that almost too often lately? Sometimes I come close to angry at God for knowing I always think theologically and for giving me so many opportunities to be the theologian I hadn't seriously intended to become, but when life happened to me a little more intensely than I'd anticipated, I gave in and started doing lots more formal theology than planned (planned by me, that is). But I am incredibly looking forward to preaching death and resurrection on New Year's day, 2006, even though liturgically it's not Easter Sunday!

Continuing the Nativity facet of this article: Friday evening, December 23, I came into Tucson a few hours later than my usual flight into the southwestern sunset; night had descended, and despite Tucson's dark sky agreement, city lights shone and stars radiated clear in the cloudless desert cold. The following day, on Christmas Eve, at the start of 11 pm worship at St. Francis in the Foothills UMC, the pastor announced a theologian from HDS was visiting (that was me, believe it or not!). But back to the New Year's Day text from Revelation: And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the dwelling-place of God is with humanity, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people." Next Sunday I'll be preaching death and resurrection; on a closely related note, I'm also planning to quote from this song written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry, which, by the way, was one of the many wonderful musical offerings on Christmas Eve:

Mary, Did You Know?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered will soon deliver you?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy you've kissed the face of God?

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM?

...the dead will live again, because this baby boy is the great I AM, the Word of Life that created us, redeems us, and continues sanctifying us, making us holy to stand before the Throne of Grace! Amen!

Monday, December 05, 2005

weeds and other ideas

~~from a Peanuts strip, date unknown, but it was a long time ago.~~
Weeds have a wide tolerance for environmental conditions and the rare ability to exploit recently disturbed territory.
I don't recall the characters involved, but one asked the other, "What does that mean?" The reply: "You can roll with the punches!"

A couple of other favorites—a funky sometime-1970's era mag ad plus a Dutch return to reality:
Have you ever had a BAD time in Levi's®? (Remember the once-Ebonics idiomatic BAD that went mainstream?)

Geen vogel vliegt weer hoog of hij moet zijn kost op de aarde zoeken! Werkelijk!!!
Weeds, Peacemaking...
Bible verse of the Day from Augsburg Fortress for Friday, November 11, 2005: Matthew 5:9:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
I am not sure how adequate this link is, but when I lived in Salt Lake City I served on the board and (needless to say?) did some writing for Interfaith Peacemaking/IPRCU. IPRCU wasn't very interfaith at all: a bunch of protestants and a unique New Ager whose biz card read, "Palmistry and Hypnotherapy"!

Readers of this blog likely have figured out I've been trying to work through some life stuff theologically (the only way I know how!); at times I can be extremely codependent to the point of near self-negation—in the past my (sometimes) over-concern for others coupled with (sometimes) disregard for my own needs has gotten me a lot of compliments from people who perceive me as relatively selfless, but ultimately it has cost me. Ages ago someone said of me, "overdeveloped skills in reconciliation, accommodation and peacemaking!" I'm reading God's Politics by Jim Wallis (here's my blog about it,) and Wallis reminds us Jesus calls us not simply to love peace but to make peace. Only Jesus of Nazareth did absolutely everything right all of the time, but it is one thing to determine other people's words and actions aren't going to wag you, and it's something else altogether to persist in remaining in settings that have no benefit whatsoever for you (for me, that is) because you don't want to give people power over your life! And, of course, by doing that, a person does give others power...you know!

"You can roll with the punches!" Indeed I can, probably too easily compared to many people, meaning I can survive in situations that might flatten the average, more-coddled person. But ability to keep on keeping on in some sense does not quite equate with thriving, does it?

Peacemaking, making shalom

Biblical shalom means not a passive absence of conflict, not a feel-good surge of endorphins or serotonin, but fullness of life for everyone because of each person and every community having enough, possessing sufficient for their needs but not excess of anything. Those needs would include food, water, shelter, meaningful work, friends, community, recreation, ethical government and worship; it would include someplace (at least one place) they could be truly at home, as well as absence of armed conflict. Looks as if I'm remembering my Thanksgiving Eve blog and the Daily Bread taxonomy from Luther's Small Catechism, where Luther tells us Daily Bread includes Peace. To wish someone shalom - as a person-to-person greeting or in a more formal liturgical setting - means to desire they live in the fullness of life that bestows "enough" on everyone.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

vintage

In my Adobe Illustrator class, we got to discussing the recent upsurge of vintage clothing (and vintage furniture, linens, tableware, ephemera, signage, whatever...) and their invariable, sometimes carefully computer-generated(!) imperfections amidst the formerly ubiquitous computer-produced graphic and photographic design with its exceptional preciseness. Increasingly I like wearing softer, more natural colors and textures, though I still enjoy America Classic denim jeans, shorts, skirts and shirts; unless they're brand new, denims are relatively soft and imperfect, too. At first it surprised me--now I expect it: over just the past couple of years (something about increasing chronology, too?) I keep finding myself hankering after softer, less defined colors, designs and styles in almost everything. "Almost everything" includes clothes, household textiles, furnishings and gear of all kinds (hmmm, except definitely not food and cuisine)--a sea change from those years of clean, crisp, angular Scandinavian and German design. However, my current habitat does not lack brightness and intensity, it likely never will, and I cannot envision living anywhere that would!

Regarding Denim, in times past, if you were wearing jeans or other denim to a high-end event, it always would be bright blue and new; these days it's rare to see denim matching that description much of anywhere, and when anyone dresses up in denim, to be remotely correct it absolutely always must be a vintage wash, with a vintage-variety shirt or blouse or jacket or vest or maybe more than one of those arranged in layers.

A few interesting notes I'd saved in one of my Commonplace Books:
  • the word denim came from serge de Nimes, from the textile center of Nimes, France;

  • dungaree after the east Indian city of Dhunga;

  • jeans from working-class wear in Genoa, Italy.

  • Levi's® evolved into a generic term from unsuccessful California gold-rusher Bavarian Levi Strauss' more-than-simply-successful denim pants endeavor.

  • Here's an excellent brief history of denim and indigo.

retro nostalgia.

I so love true vintage (hey, close to antique) Jessica's Gunnies's Gunnesax; for contemporary, 21st century vintage styling that's far away from the modest prices of the originals, check out free people. Of course I keep on grooving to polo shirts, these days usually considered emo...there's a very comfort in dressing like times past, whether semi-hippie or hippy or emo or modified preppy--no tartans, please. This paragraph heading reads retro nostalgia, and as these days I'm feeling ultra-stressed, I'm finding it fun to look through old ads, magazine clippings, postcards (didn't I already mention ephemera?) and revisiting aspects of the (Egypts, maybe) past. Tired of this blog, too--time to do some more formal theology!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Resurrection

God, you know how it goes
You've promised it; we've seen it
We believe it!
"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!"

sleeping desert.
3 days and 3 nights
in the heart of the earth!

sounding over again I cannot stop hearing,
"In Jesus Christ's death and resurrection you can bury your need
to prove yourself."

dead and buried:
then, 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth.
awaiting new birth?

Buried into darkness
Waiting for dawn

Dead and Buried
then dawnwalking!

My need to prove myself?
Lord, send a Fish and a resurrection:
1. We sail a ship with a man named Jonah...
     early in the morning.
2. Fall on your knees, for the sea is raging
3. Who is the guilty one among us?
4. Cast the lot, and the number's Jonah
5. Row, men, row to save this Jonah!
6. O Lord God, we've got to drown him.
7. Done, and the sea has ceased its raging.
8. Lord, send a fish and a resurrection.
9. What shall we do when the world is drowning?
10. Lord, send a fish and a resurrection...

Chorus:

Lord, our God, have mercy on us
early in the morning