Thursday, November 29, 2007

God among Us discussion 02

Advent 1: Historical Witness – Creation and Prophets

Advent 2: Historical Witness – Jesus Christ

Advent 3: Liturgy, Word, Sacrament

Advent 4: Contemporary Witness – us and our neighbors


Abram/Abraham was an Ivri, a Hebrew, one from the other side. In Jesus we meet the God from the very other side. Abraham, Jesus, us—from the other side of the dominant social and economic culture of consumerism, exorbitant consumption and self-aggrandizement (among other things)?!

2 Samuel 7:5-6 "I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling."

John 1:14 And the word became flesh and tabernacled, pitched a tent among us...

Revised Common Lectionary, Christ the King year C: Luke 22:23-27 …the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. …I am among you as one who serves.

RCL year C, Christ the King: Jeremiah 23:1-6 …the days are surely coming…a righteous branch, justice and righteousness…


During the darkest, shortest days of the year, we anticipate the God of justice, mercy, compassion and common-wealth arriving incarnate in our midst in Jesus of Nazareth, to continue reshaping and renewing us into the divine image. Consider: what changes to the world and to us does God's incarnation in Jesus bring? Consider: Jesus' journey from the Bethlehem manger to the Calvary cross to Easter to reigning over all creation. Consider: God loves and saves us freely by grace and without reservation, so what's all the talk about works and deeds and doings, especially in the Christmas texts? Consider: How we can become mangers? Martin Luther refers to the bible as "the cradle in which Christ is laid" – a container to keep the free and elusive Word safe?

The liturgical color for Advent has changed from penitential purple to blue, a color that symbolizes hope. How about the talk of repentance and judgment? Penitence or hope?

Acts 1:1-8 …they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" He replied… "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

RCL Advent 2A: Isaiah 11:1-10 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him…with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth…

RCL Advent 2A: Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. …May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

RCL Advent 2A: Matthew 3:1-12 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

Advent 3 – Gaudete—rejoice! the introit began with Philippians 4:4-6

Advent 3 continues announcing and anticipating God arriving into our midst with a subversive (in terms of the status quo) rule of justice for all creation, a reign of shalom. Yet this ruler first appears on earth in the vulnerability and humility of the Bethlehem manger. Countercultural? Consider: the King who reigns from a cross. Opulence and glory? Advent 3 features Mary’s Magnificat and also emphasizes the redemption, wholeness and integrity of all creation.

Check out these parallels:
1 Samuel 1: 24 When she had weaned him …[Hannah] brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh…

Luke 2: 22-27 Mary presents Jesus to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem.

1 Samuel 2:1-10 Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the Lord…Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil."

Luke 1:46-55 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior … He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty."

Cool stuff: Luke includes four canticles in his gospel: Mary's Magnificat in 1:47-55; Zechariah's Benedictus in 1: 67-79; the angels’ Gloria in Excelsis in 2: 13-14; and Simeon's Nunc Dimittis in 2:28-32. Similar in form and content to the Hallel Psalms, they reverberate with Israel’s salvation history as they celebrate God's life-transforming reversals in the lives of Mary and her contemporaries—and now in our lives and world. Luke-Acts' particular emphasis, focus and passion?! Advent's persistent theme?

RCL Advent 3A: Isaiah 35:1-10 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom… Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened… waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert…

RCL Advent 3A: Psalm 146:5-10 whose hope is in the Lord their God …who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free…watches over the strangers...(this is the appointed psalm, but the church typically uses the Magnificat for the 2nd reading.)

RCL Advent 3A: Matthew 11:2-11 "Are you the one who is to come?" "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk...and the poor have good news brought to them..."

Christmas texts

Christmas Eve: Titus 2:11-14 Grace has appeared… to redeem us as a people -zealous for good deeds!

Christmas Dawn: Titus 3:4-7 Goodness and loving kindness of God appeared... justified by his grace…not because of works, despite redeeming us as people zealous for good deeds!

Christmas Eve: Luke 2:1-14 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered ... And she gave birth to her firstborn son and...laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Christmas Eve and Dawn: Luke 2:8-20 In that region; night; angel = messenger, "Be not afraid!" sign: child in the manger. The Lord has made known to us – revelation...

© leah chang 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reign of Christ: Pack Up Your Sorrows

Today we celebrate the last Sunday of the liturgical year—the King Who Reigns from a Cross! The late Richard Farina wrote this song about a Christ-figure, a not unfamiliar topic in the world of music. Think about James Taylor singing 'Handyman,' 'You've Got a Friend,' 'Shower the People You Love'—and? Can't think just now, but it's interesting that JT didn't write those songs. How about 'Up on the Roof,' which I know is from Carol King & Gerry Goffin?! I'll add more when I think of more.

Pack Up Your Sorrows | Richard Farina

No use crying, talking to a stranger,
Naming the sorrows you've seen.
Too many sad times, too many bad times,
And nobody knows what you mean.
Ah, but if somehow you could pack up your sorrows,
And give them all to me,
You would lose them, I know how to use them,
Give them all to me.
No use rambling, walking in the shadows,
Trailing a wandering star.
No one beside you, no one to hide you,
Nobody knows where you are.


No use gambling, running in the darkness,
Looking for a spirit that's free.
Too many wrong times, too many long times,
Nobody knows what you see.


No use roaming, lying by the roadside,
Seeking a satisfied mind.
Too many highways, too many byways,
And nobody's walking behind.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

psalm 150:6

for Thanksgiving Day late afternoon—
A Word of Life.

Praise the Lord | Psalm 150:6

Let everything that moves
And everything that breathes
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

From the rising of the sun
'Til the time that it goes down,
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

Everybody, let's prai-ai-ai-ai-aise the Lord!
Come on, let's prai-ai-ai-ai-aise the Lord.
Let everything that lives
Sing praises to the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

Let everything that walks
And everything that runs
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

No matter where you are,
No matter where you've been,
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

Everybody, let's prai-ai-ai-ai-aise the Lord!
Come on, let's prai-ai-ai-ai-aise the Lord.
Let everything that lives
Sing praises to the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

Everybody, let's prai-ai-ai-ai-aise the Lord!
Come on, let's prai-ai-ai-ai-aise the Lord.
Let everything that lives
Sing praises to the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

Let everything that lives
Sing praises to the Lord.
Praise the Lord!


by Jay Stocker. © 2005 Group Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 19, 2007

God Among Us discussion 01

Here's the link to the basic course description and outline; since my first class will be this coming Sunday, Reign of Christ, due to the short week I actually finished my handout this morning and I'm blogging it now before it gets away from me. Because there will be interested people at both churches (4 Sundays at one; 3 Wednesdays at the other) who won't be able to attend the discussions, I've tried to be fairly comprehensive, though these all are biblically literate folks! The study is for Advent as we anticipate God coming into our midst in a unique way, so I'm drawing some of the Reign of Christ and Advent pericopes from the RCL. This time I've imported my MS Word doc into google docs rather than going back into word to change the smart quotes into straight ones as I usually try to do; these days it seems as if the internet handles curly quotes and diacriticals far better than in the former days. BTW, my series title comes from «Dieu parmi nous» in Olivier Messiaen's La Nativit√© suite for organ. Except for John 1:14, all scriptures are NRSV.
Advent 1: Historical Witness – Creation and Prophets

Advent 2: Historical Witness – Jesus Christ

Advent 3: Liturgy, Word, Sacrament

Advent 4: Contemporary Witness – us and our neighbors


Before Jesus came onto the scene, throughout the earlier witness of the Bible, God partially revealed himself in ways humans could see, touch, hear and feel, giving people some idea of a God close to creation rather than far-away and distant. In our own lives, word, sacrament and liturgy are audible, tangible signs of the presence of the Divine and are some of the ways we remember God’s past saving deeds and find living hope for a free and surprising future.

Isaiah 64:1-5 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence...

2 Samuel 7:5-6 “Go and tell my servant David, “This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.’”

John 1:14 And the word became flesh and tabernacled, pitched a tent among us...The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. [MSG] In the Exodus desert and supremely in Jesus, God pitched a tent—traveling alongside us. How about us? Tent-toting, tent-pitching alongside each other and our neighbors?! Think about it; pray about it! Dream about it!


Creation is a product of God’s word and will.

Revised Common Lectionary year C – Christ the King: Colossians 1:11-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…in him all things in heaven and on earth were created…

Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 God creates everything, and also provides for the healthy environment all creation needs to live faithfully and fully. God creates humanity in a multifaceted Image of the Divine; God’s attributes and our attributes include holiness, justice, righteousness, servanthood and creativity.

RCL, year C, Christ the King: Luke 22:23-27 …the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. ... I am among you as one who serves.

Genesis 2, 3 Do not eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, in the center. We find the real Tree of Life, the cross of Jesus Christ, on the edge, on the margins, outside the political, social and religious establishment, and in Jesus we partake of the real Tree of Life. You shall be as gods? In Jesus Christ we fully participate in the divine nature as servants, co-creators and stewards of creation.

From these early Yahwist texts in Genesis to the end of the bible:

Revelation 21:1-4; 22:1-6 The new Jerusalem, City of God with the River of life flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, from the cross.

Genesis 6:1 - 9:17 God freely and persistently approaches us, draws us into covenant. “But I will establish my covenant with you ...and with every living creature… this is the sign of the covenant ...when the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember…”

Genesis 11:27…through Genesis 25 Abram/Abraham was an Ivri, a Hebrew, one from the other side. In Jesus we meet the God from the very other side, yet paradoxically contained within human flesh. Abraham, Jesus, us – from the other side of culture, the other side of the world, from our neighbors’ other sides? Think about it!

RCL year C – Christ the King: Psalm 46 God is in the midst of the city; the Lord of hosts is with us…

Stewardship of Creation

Creation: “Into the land” is the deuteronomic historian’s (Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) constant refrain, and clearly shows God’s Jubilee passion for the vital and complete needs of creation.

Deuteronomy 4:32-40 Keep his statutes and his commandments, which I am commanding you today for your own well-being and that of your descendants after you, so that you may long remain in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.

Leviticus 19:1-18 “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” This section includes the Ten Commandments.

Leviticus 25:1-12 is the Jubilee text and points to Jesus’ establishing the fullness of Jubilee.


Prophet: spokesperson for God, speaking against the conventional political, social and religious establishments, against injustice and exploitation, and laying out alternatives that will lead to justice, righteousness and faithful stewardship of all life, to a true common-wealth. Back to the Deuteronomy and Leviticus texts, especially Leviticus 25.

The prophets came into a setting in which the adjacent cultures had place and fertility gods that existed within cyclical time, with the endless recurrence of the same thing; Yahweh’s people, Israel, wanted a god like the other people’s gods, a god housed in a fixed stone structure and location. Yahweh self-reveals as the God who forms ever-changing, surprising and endlessly permeable history, with a presence often hidden from sight, always free, most typically elusive and never subject to human control. One of the revolutionary things about Yahweh as opposed and contrasted with the other Ancient Near Eastern deities, was that Yahweh didn’t require beseeching, entreating, sacrifices or other extraordinary displays of loyalty; Yahweh’s specialty was constant, unmediated presence with creation. How about us?

Amos 5:18-24 I hate, I loathe, I despise your festivals; I am not appeased by and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. ...But let justice well up like water, and righteousness like an unfailing ever-flowing stream.

Micah 6:8 ...And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?

Isaiah 58:6-8 Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to set the broken free, and to shatter every subjugation? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry...the glory of the Lord shall be your safety and security.

RCL year A – Advent 1: Psalm 122 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

RCL year C – Christ the King: Jeremiah 23:1-6 Woe to the Shepherds...the days are surely coming...a righteous branch, justice and righteousness...

RCL year A – Advent 1: Romans 13:8-14 Owe no one anything, except to love one another...

© Leah Chang 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

water, towel, servant: deacon!

In her Diakonia! post last May, T explained,
Diakonia means service. In my call to Diaconal ministry, I am called to pick up my basin and towel; to serve God in Word and service; bridging the gap between the church and the world.
sea sky surfTara of Praying on the Prairie is a Diaconal Minister of Word and Service in the ELCA, succinctly summed up as "Towel and Basin Ministry." Lately I've been thinking a lot about some implications of service (=ministry) in general, and about possible meanings of basins, bounded containers for water that in turn becomes an agent of cleansing, refreshing, renewal and—baptism; I've been considering the usefulness of towels, too. Here in this part of the world, in Paradise, we possess an extreme Surfing Culture. The Towel is an essential part of a surfer's equipment. Functional? Oh, yes, very! As a changing booth, because sometimes you need to get into that wetsuit and there's no nearby fixed shelter, so in that situation, your towel needs to be big enough to hide behind; surfer towel uses include drying off, of course; wiping away sand and seaweed; loaning to a friend in need, who maybe lacks a towel or only has a completely soaked towel. To use in place of the sweater or jacket you somehow forget to bring along with you, because by late afternoon the days get cool and clouds can appear out of nowhere at almost any time.

In the past few years I've bought several inexpensive and wonderfully colored towels made in Bangladesh and Pakistan, in every case expecting superior absorbency and drying power, probably because cotton from geographically not too far away Turkey has such a great reputation. As much as I detest stereotypes and do whatever I can to dispel them, I believe in Turkish cotton's reputation for drying well, and I have at least a half-dozen Indian [from the same sub-continent as Bangladesh and Pakistan] cotton shirts that are comfortable and soak up the sweat however hot the weather gets. Although the aforementioned towels definitely get the basic drying done, I'd discovered that more expensive domestic cotton that's been given extra treatment dries more thoroughly and effectively.

As we read the book of Acts, we discover the nascent church first ordained not ministers of word and sacrament, not elders for formal (bureaucratic) leadership, but deacons, bearers of towel and basin, helping grow the early church into a body of servants in the image of the servant God, who self-revealed in Jesus of Nazareth as "one who serves."
1 Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2 And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4 while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word." 5 What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. [Acts 6]
In the Church, the stole, actually a kind of towel, forms a visible, symbolic yoke of service worn by people ordained to Ministry of Word and Sacrament. And especially in recent years, a lot of us have discussed the ordinance of foot-washing as sacrament or sacramental—after all, it mostly fits the protestant criteria for sacrament: earthly matter and direct command of Jesus (at his last earthly meal with his disciples the church celebrates in its Maundy Thursday liturgy):
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. [John 13:3-5]
but it doesn't include accompanying words, beyond Jesus' reply to Peter's objection to his Lord washing his feet, in that culture typically the task of the lowliest servant:
Peter said to Jesus, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean." [John 13:8-10] humility both serving and being served; giving a gift and receiving a gift. I'm blogging this partly as response to T and partly because of concerns of my heart, and I'll mention there are all kinds of deacons and diaconates; almost every church body or denomination has a deacon equivalent serving primarily to assist with more temporal, physical needs (food, rides to appointments, etc.) within the congregation, and the ELCA has a slew of people in a bunch of professional diaconal roles and callings. But it's interesting that despite the fact 21st century deacons usually limit their service to within a particular local church, historically the deacon has been called to serve not the church but the surrounding community, and historically deacons have been consecrated (or in some cases, ordained) by the bishop or overseer of the judicatory. Seems as if lately the needs within the congregation get attended to before those outside. Sad, because ministering to the world around us can become such a powerful way of incarnating Jesus Christ, the definitive revelation of the servant God. Please read all of John 13; thanks!

Thursday, November 01, 2007


For safekeeping and possibly future reference and use, I'm posting the essence of a couple of my comments on a theology thread from a while ago.

I believe the Font/Table connection is important and worthy of continued discussion, *even* around this modest table. But as the comments suggest, some kind of starting point needs to clarify if baptism and holy communion are sacraments or simple ordinances and if we perceive them as means of grace, effective signs of grace, or signs of grace. In the end, God may smile at our deliberations, but is God's smile not at least as much pleasure that we're interested and concerned as it is amusement that we think we can figure this out after millennia of theologizing?

...and I do agree it would be the height of fallen humanity to refuse to commune anyone who approached the Table with pleading hands. And I so agree about "seed planted!" One of the years I taught confirmation I expressed surprise to the senior pastor that a certain teenager was getting confirmed. He replied, "she thinks she's given her life to the Lord," and then added,"ultimately, I'm okay with it because she's also being baptized – receiving a sacrament – on that day." In other words, God's Word, God's Work, God's Thing, not primarily ours, but done for us and in us.