Friday, September 30, 2005

BEaCh HoUsE bLoG

Friday in September day 30 thousand-five
Very Dry Day bringing shoreline dreams alive
Santa Ana winds racing somewhat north of here again
Natural Energies, with Beach House taunts arcane
Get your shovels ready and turn up the heat!
Bring along a Vintage willow Cottage Shabby Chic

vanilla ice cream   orange sherbet 2   chocolate chip

Couple it with several pairs of Country Bear ice cream Sets
DoUble FaultS, seashore, sunshine over Shiloh gets
Claim NEW 3 NEW claim 5, let's
Listening Garden Rooms four Nautical transform
Black Church's Cadence song preaching up a storm...!

Turn on the AC 'cuz it's gonna be a blizzard?
Only rhyme I know for that is rainbow-painted lizard
Blogging more for Desert Fire, theology, remember?
this list-blog growing longer just by citing one from earlier...
Wondering where I got my quotes, here's twenty-ninth of June
Posted on that day's time not quite yet afternoon
2 Peter day dawns
this far by faith's Theology Rap
Coupled with Transfiguration Dawning Day on tap
Streams in the deserts restoring us to life
Impelled by the Spirit reclaiming our strife
Cityside America safari from the past
Tennessee Walkers strolling totally grassed
Cannabis sativa? I believe so not
Simply something different from our usually plot

wellesley park porch

Bread sent from heaven and fruit of the vine
Community's nurturing right down the line
Shenandoah prairieland's burritos really fine
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

with his spirit he sought us

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
Holy Spirit's Seasons moving forth to Reformation!
Church's Pentecostal witness blazing with elation!

Somewhat strained my verses are whatever though they thrive
Off again tomorrow's morning hope will raise us back alive
The End for Now, Amen. Amen. And amen again!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mainline churches USA and ethnic congregations, part two

Second Part

American Protestants and their Homeland Identities

For starters, check out this recipe for Shipwreck, for a "hot dish" definitely reminiscent of very Middle America.

American Protestants, Homeland Identities just might begin with the Puritans – purifiers of – and Pilgrims – separatists from – the established Anglican Church, with each group having a different take on their Anglican origins in terms of liturgy, polity, and theology. I'll risk saying a little more about my topic from Part One:

Beginning in the American colonies and continuing through and beyond the technical birth of the United State of America, each of today's church bodies started out as a church of, by, and for immigrants, configured (theologically, liturgically, socially, and culturally) at least to some extent like the churches the people had left behind in their countries of origin. With so many aspects of their lives become so strange, those immigrants to what for them was an outland needed their churches and their food to have the same familiarness as the ones they'd left behind. For all of us, religion and food come laden with profound cultural meanings way beyond our essential spirituality and basic nutrition, meanings which truly point to any and/or all of our national, ethnic, and individual identities (inherited or adopted), to the very roots that ground us. Remember "you are what you eat" from a couple decades ago? You and I do become what we eat; I'll expand that into "you are what you worship," since every god creates and keeps recreating you in its own image—an ongoing activity not at all unique to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of the prophets, God of Jesus Christ!

In part one I wrote about: continental European non-English speaking Lutheran and Reformed plus Italian Roman Catholics; very English-speaking (but with different accents and dialects) Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists; I also mentioned more newly-arrived Asian and Hispanic, African, and Caribbean Christians—they've come to this country arrayed as Protestant and Catholic, but not exactly the same varieties of those Great Christian traditions we've become accustomed to! In addition to different and differing style of worship and evangelism, those newer churches of immigrants bring with them their unique dietary and feasting habits and customs.

Regarding inherited or adopted identities referred to supra, a personal aside: I'm looking to winning really big again at Presbyterian(!) bingo, though I'm not sure when the next inning will be. Having lived in, served in, and gone to school in Irish Catholic Boston, where bingo at church is absolutely huge, I'm not sure I'd ever imagined such a thing as "Presbyterian Bingo!" However, for a long time now, the Reformed Church has been my home, and if they're going for bingo with material objects for prizes, I can adopt that as an occasional habit?!

I want to get something onto this blog and as interested as I am in this subject, I have a bunch of other things I need to work on, so I'm posting it this evening, way, way unfinished, but anticipating a probable eventual Mainline churches USA and ethnic congregations, part three.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Katrina again

Hurricane Katrina, Biloxi

Last Saturday I posted Boundless Community intertwined with some thoughts on Katrina; here are some reflections about a couple of the RCL texts from last Sunday—a sabbath-day majorly in Katrina's wake:
Matthew 18:15-20

15 "And if your brother sins against you, go and reprove him, just between the two of you. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' [Deuteronomy 19:15] 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses to hear even the church, let him be to you like a gentile and a tax collector.

18 "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you abolish on earth will have been abolished in heaven.

19 "Again truly I say to you, if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them."

Romans 13:8-14

8 Owe no one anything else except to love one another, for anyone who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not covet," [Exodus 20:13-15, 17; Deuteronomy 5:17-19, 21] and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." [Leviticus 19:18] 10 Love does no evil to a neighbor; therefore love fulfills the law.

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and give no thoughts to gratifying the aimless desires of your flesh.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ! From Paul himself we know our baptismal clothing is Jesus' death and Christ's resurrection, leading to the demise of our false, unconnected selves and subsequent living in the reconciled community that in Christ Jesus is born, lives, breathes and keeps on dying and rising for the life of others—both in our own nearby communities (church, neighborhood, family, school, workplace) and those others geographically distant and/or culturally faraway from wherever we are, others we've never met and possibly never will meet. Paul insists we owe, we "ought" the love of Christ to every one another; the extravagantly unbounded love for us God demonstrated in Christ Jesus obliges us to return that love to every person we encounter and to all creation. Within the church community and in our imagined more-private interactions, love becomes the energetic power flowing through our community and keeping us joined together in the Spirit—maybe especially in times of discord and disagreement.

Paul compares love for others to a debt - an ought that we owe them - and summarizes all the commandments into one single directive: Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. To understand the obligatory nature of a debt and the ensuing fallout when we don't attend to repaying that obligation, a person does not need to have reached anything resembling chronological maturity. In the Bible's economy and worldview, sin and debt essentially are synonymous.

Via Matthew, God calls upon us (the church, yep, we are the church!) carefully to care for one another radically and graciously, even vis-à-vis—especially in the face of—sin, offense or disagreement; Matthew tells us, the church, to begin by privately addressing the person with whom they are in conflict, next to seek impartial mediators [probably members of the church's governing board] to help resolve the situation, and then, it sounds as if the entire congregation needs to intervene. Matthew quotes Jesus' pledge that his gracious, loving presence will be the power reconciling and uniting the two, the three - or the many - gathered together. The Matthean text disparagingly mentions "gentiles and tax collectors," but that reference probably did not come from Jesus of Nazareth; most likely it's Matthew the former tax-collector's gloss regarding interactions and conflicts within his own local church. By the way, Matthew is the only gospel-writer who uses the term "church," or ecclesia!

Both of these passages are about maintaining the fragile-appearing web of connectivity among church members, and I'd definitely carry it through to the entire world (right now in particular I'm thinking of New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama and the entire Gulf Coast region), since our Father-God, Christ Jesus the Son and our brother, in the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit connect, reconcile and enable our interresponsibility for one another and for all creation. But for us - particularly in the churches of the Reformation, who tend to live as intellectual people of the Enlightenment, too often acting and thinking as "individuals" more than we do as members of community - what about the inevitable strain between perceived individual rights and necessary local and global community solidarity?

The dialogue partners in The Gospel in Solentiname, my favorite gospel commentary, propose regarding this text,
  • "The publicans or tax collectors were the ones who collaborated with the Roman occupation, and the religious Jews considered them excluded from the Jewish community just like the pagans. But here Jesus isn't concerned with religious questions. He's saying that if somebody does evil and doesn't reform he ought to be excommunicated from the community. The unjust person (and not the person of another religion), that's the one that ought to be considered by us as 'pagan' or 'publican.'"
  • "Which is like saying the oppressor or the collaborator of the oppressor. ...He has removed himself from the community. He's outside, but we have to fight to get him back in."
  • "For Christ the ones who don't believe in God are the ones who don't love their neighbor, the ones who don't want to live in harmony with their companions."
  • ..."You mustn't accuse anyone to the police judge in San Carlos. It's the community that must judge."
I tell you the truth; what you tie in this world will be tied also in heaven, and what you untie in this world will be untied in heaven."
  • "This means that everything the community decides will be ratified by God. ...all of us here are in agreement, God's also in agreement with us. ... You could almost say they're like the three Divine Persons. And the three Divine Persons are like a single true God. And the three persons who are in agreement would be three who are united with God." ...

    "The people's verdict is the verdict of God, says Christ."

    "...And Christ is there with them even though they don't realize it."
Because wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
  • " the language of the Bible 'name' doesn't mean the name of a person but the person himself, or also what we now call the character of a person. When Christ speaks of gathering in his name he doesn't mean that they're going to be mentioning his name but that they'll be gathered in his spirit, in agreement with his teachings and his message. That community will have such great power because he will be in the midst of them."
  • from The Gospel in Solentiname, volume 3, pages 152-158
Back to Katrina for a moment: within our own local churches, sometimes the air is so thick with irresolution and conflict, newcomers and visitors actually can feel the tension, so they drop out very quickly. The last section in the post I linked to at the beginning of this one includes:
God mightily acts to overcome the division between our old, solitary, disconnected existence and our new lives in the fullness of community. Baptism obliterates the boundaries and the unimportant distinctions between us and God and between us and every other facet of creation, human and not.

...because of our irrevocably entwined lives, Katrina's wounded and broken are all of us, and the responsibility of every one of us, but especially those of us who live in Jesus Christ as The Church, who every day live aware we are the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. God calls us, and in the Spirit God empowers us, to be a crucified and resurrected presence among all people and all creation. As the Church and the churches, may we be, live and act as God calls us and the Spirit enables us: to be his presence, to live in trust and to act in compassion!
Long, long ago, I read, reread and then read over again, I and Thou by Martin Buber. I don't know if the words are from that book, or maybe they were on a poster I once owned or noticed in a gallery, but the quote is from Buber:

Love is the responsibility of an I for a thou.

Speaking of posters, maybe some of my readers know about the Benedictine Conception Abbey's Printery House? At once point in time I owned a bunch of them, but most poignantly a couple remain stuck in my memory: the first, with a quote from Harvey Cox, "Not to decide is to decide"—that one hung on the wall in my kitchen in Boston's North End, and when a mini-flood trickled down the wall from the kitchen above mine, it kind of like soaked the poster, which I decided wasn't in sufficiently optimal condition to take with me to my next sojourn in time and space. I have no clue what happened to the other, which featured a train whirring through the night on its way to wherever; that one read, "Life is a journey, not a destination." So much for asides!

Continuing about Katrina: I cannot say more than endlessly to reiterate that all of us form a single created and redeemed community and to wonder at the non-humanness of the Federal government's leadership and also wonder if part of it is not sheer ignorance? When I heard folks locally and on TV ask why the literally left-behind in the city - transformed from site of civilization into situation of devastation - by Katrina's wrath did not heed counsel to get out of town, I had to believe the people who asked that question were by no means uncompassionate or generally ignorant but they did not realize that too many Americans cannot jump into their SUV or related trophy vehicle, gas up and flee from the path of whatever physical or metaphorical storm that's about to hurtle into their territory because they lack the financial, psychological or whatever resources to do so.

Love is the responsibility of an I for a thou.

This blog began about last Sunday's lectionary can it be possible for any of us to bear and live out our responsibilities for each- and one-another? For all of us to live in community, thriving as citizens of a planet increasingly interconnected but also more and more fragmented in close to every imaginable way, we all must learn to perceive others' situations and needs as they really are. Is it possible for any of us to move beyond stereotypes and assumptions? You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Boundless Community... Katrina

Hurricane Katrina, Slidell, LA

Boundless Community intertwined with some thoughts on Katrina


A few weeks ago I reposted my old blogs with titles so the recent posts code I added to the template actually would work throughout the blog, and in the process of doing so I came across one of many of my felicitous phrases: boundless community! As I do so often, I was writing about baptism when I wrote boundless community. As I do so routinely, I grabbed onto some words and began writing about them.

One of my excuses to myself for not finishing this earlier was the unusually hot and sultry weather here in paradise San Diego, and again we're having a lot of humidity, making the weather feel like Summers in the City I experienced living in Boston... in the course of not developing "Boundless Community" into publishable form I wrote some others for this far by faith, my testimony blog and I've left a couple things here on Desert Spirit's Fire, but since today is Saturday, September 3, it's more than high time I finished what I began on Sunday evening, July 24.

But first, I want to mention that this weblog, Desert Spirit's Fire, is aging! Here's my kick-off, Welcome from way back three summers and more than three dozen moons ago, July 16, 2002. Since then I've done close to a ton of customizing to the template (it fits the content well, so I probably won't switch to another one any time soon) in order to align it with most of the niceties most present-day blog templates come with by default.

Paradoxical Presence: Sacraments and Church

As closely as it relates to this blog I won't repost it here, but for more of what I've written about the Boundless baptismal/eucharistic Community, check this out from April 7, 2004: Sovereignty, Eucharist and Ascendancy. Okay, I will cite a bit of what I wrote, though it's extreme theological shorthand (almost to the point of crudeness!) with a hint of Luther and a scrap of Zwingli:
...the person presiding at eucharist holds the totality, entirety and completeness of the redeemed and restored cosmos in her or his hands in the person of the risen, ascended One Who also is now descended, once again "incarnate," among and within the gathered and transformed Eucharistic community...
However, it seems well-nigh providential that I returned to this blog for maybe the dozenth time since beginning it, because when today I consider Boundless Community, I cannot help but agonize over the devastating toll hurricane Katrina has been taking in the excruciating suffering of all God's sentient beings - 2-legged, 4-legged and multi-legged - as well as the cost to the terrain and the waterways (far beyond the technical confines of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mighty Mississipp) and to the total infrastructure. Katrina has been a substantial jolt out of the surreality in which we amble and drift far too much of the time, and if repair, rebuilding, revitalization and the life-giving essential of the renewal of hope gets left to merely human devices and human power, possibly the damage and destruction will be beyond repair?

This past Wednesday evening I posted some Katrina-related scripture: "Who is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him!" from Mark 4, followed by the Pantocratur ascription from Revelation 11:17, and concluding with Revelation 21's New Heaven, New Earth, New Jerusalem-City of God, proclaiming to all:
"Now God pitches his tent and lives among all humanity, and God will travel alongside all the people wherever they may go. They will be God's people, and God himself will dwell with them and be their God. And God will wipe their tears from their eyes. No more will they know death or grief or sorrow or pain, because the old order of things has gone away."
I pulled the passages out of my head (well, out of my experiences and theology) and left them without even minimal commentary or exegesis, because when I ponder the responsibility God gives us, the Church and the churches--the responsibility of being his presence, specifically the Presence of the crucified and risen Christ in the world, the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world, it is scary awe-full and also reassuring, because God believes in us that much, God trusts that in the power of the Holy Spirit we can be his ambassadors and envoys, his healing, hope-restoring, life-renewing, transforming, mysterious, humanly illogical Eastered power!

Recognizing the Risen One

Boundless Community: didn't Paul insist we discern the body, recognizing and acknowledging the Risen Christ's hidden presence in the church and in the world—discerning the body particularly as we prepare to partake of the eschatological feast of the eucharist? ...although we need that admonition absolutely everywhere, all the time. The Body of the Risen Christ, also known as The Church and the churches supremely are a single body, one common community, eternally linked vertically and horizontally; admitting and living with those dimensions can make a person very uncomfortable! Boundaries of any kind are time-limited and space-demarked human constructions, but because God knows and understands our human condition and its accompanying propensities so thoroughly, in Jesus of Nazareth God became one of us and lived a fully human life, in order to wipe out all of the barriers between earth and heaven, because in God's Sovereignty no such limitations can exist. Since Jesus Christ' birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension obliterated them forever by reconciling us to one another and to God, why do we still live and act as if this were the old order of the reign of death rather than the new order of the dominion of life?

Once more I need to recall the beginning of the First Lesson from Advent 1 in lectionary year B: Isaiah 64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence...That's about a permanent breaking, a truly irreparable ripping apart and keeping apart forever of the obstacles and obstructions between heaven and earth. ...I've blogged on that text at least twice in this site, and since this coming-up Advent 2005 we'll begin RCL year B again, I'll probably theologize about it again.

In God's Sovereignty there are no limitations of time or space, of person, culture or creed, no distinctions of young, old, class or race, education or ethnicity. Today, Paul of Tarsus still tells us to discern the body, and Martin Luther's theology of the ubiquity of the Risen and Ascended Christ insists the Risen Christ is everywhere, not solely in the formally configured and institutionally recognized and authorized entity known as church.

Newness of Life

We teach and proclaim resurrection (is our central kerygma God's Self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth or, indeed, is resurrection our primary hermeneutic?), but too much of the time we exist between death and life in a kind of no-person's land that's neither God's nor the devil's realm: we stay stuck in the three days and three nights in the Belly of the Great Fish, also known as three days and three nights in the Heart of the Earth. Nonetheless, with its nurturing, nutrient-rich, cushioning, fluid environment the Great Fish's Gut becomes a womb-like ambiance of safety and preparation for (re)-birth; the Earth's Heart reminds us of our origins in dust coupled with assurance of our ultimate return not to the dust but to a new re-borning to the fullness of resurrection. Whether Belly of the Great Fish or Heart of the Earth, it's still about baptism, endlessly about baptism, meaning wherever we are and however we are (primarily to remind myself, it's fact, not feeling), it's about community and about our unbreakable connectedness to one another and to all creation, past, present and future. God mightily acts to overcome the division between our old, solitary, disconnected existence and our new lives in the fullness of community. Baptism obliterates the boundaries and the unimportant distinctions between us and God and between us and every other facet of creation, human and not.

Katrina the Hurricane's destruction affects each of us individually and each of our communities, whether church, neighborhood, city or any other group; because of our irrevocably entwined lives, Katrina's wounded and broken are all of us, and the responsibility of every one of us, but especially those of us who live in Jesus Christ as The Church, who every day live aware we are the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. God calls us, and in the Spirit God empowers us, to be a crucified and resurrected presence among all people and all creation. As the Church and the churches, may we be, live and act as God calls us and the Spirit enables us: to be his presence, to live in trust and to act in compassion!