Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Winter & February 2023

February Peach Blossoms
• Peach Blossoms header! Last spring I blogged peaches from the same trees. I love how well a Photoshop dry brush filter captured the seasonal mood.

December 2022 Highlights

January 2023 Highlights

Urban Wilderness / City Paradise for February

P22 LionKing of Los Angeles
• Free tickets for the Saturday February 4th Celebration of Life for Los Angeles' Lion King P-22 "sold out" almost instantly, so I watched online. As always, the energy of the live event would have been wonderful, but participating virtually gave me far better visuals. Sound may have been superior, as well.

from KTLA:
In tribal communities, mountain lions are regarded as relatives and teachers. Alan Salazar, a tribal member of the FernandeƱo Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and a descendent of the Chumash tribe said his death should be honored appropriately.

"We want to bury him like he's a 'wot,' like a 'tomier,'" Salazar said, "which are two of the words for chief or leader in the Chumash and Tataviam languages, respectively. "Because that’s what he was."

Los Angeles and Mumbai are the world's only major cities where large cats live—mountain lions in one, leopards in the other.
February Snow moon
• The Full Snow Moon on Sunday February 5th was a micromoon. February's full moon sometimes is called Storm Moon or Hunger Moon.

strawberry whipped cream cake
• A surprise Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake on Monday February 6th!

February 2023 valentine's day with watercolor background
• Here's one of my all time fave illustrations for Valentine's Day that was on its traditional February 14th. Tuesday this year.

cross with bokeh backgrund and superimposed leaf
• As always, Ash Wednesday was a moveable observation because the date of Easter depends on the spring equinox and the full moon. This year it was on February 22nd.

two fresh lemons
• This month's yellow California picture is a fresh lemon duet.

living local 2023

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Assume

five minute friday assume header with spattered background
Five Minute Friday :: Assume Linkup

Such a good prompt! This week I'll begin on almost the same page as our FMF host Kate.

We automatically assume countless things about other people. We make uninformed assumptions about strangers. We assume a lot about people we otherwise know fairly well, interact with regularly, and sometimes share long histories. We assume about ourselves: our abilities; our futures; what other people think about us or maybe are saying about us. Because something happened a certain way in the past, that's the way it always will be? No, not really. We study history and sometimes delve into our own life stories in order to see predictable patterns and also to learn about the power of change and the surprise of resurrection from the dead.

Since I first heard it, I've loved the reminder "everyone you meet is fighting an often invisible battle." Be kind. And don't assume anything about their background, intentions, abilities, or all those whatevers.

Besides assuming (literally taking upon ourselves) "stuff" about others and about ourselves, we assume a lot about God. Even people who've studied scripture and have solid backgrounds in theology often assume the God of the bible, God of history, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of Jesus the Christ is like all those other gods. Those other gods are distant and far away. They sometimes get belligerent and punish. They require beseeching, sacrifices, groveling, and other perverse actions if they'll ever decide to act in creation's favor. In short, they've been invented by humans who assume a god would be similar to the typical human.

It's so very providential scripture and Jesus Christ … put aside? No, scripture and Jesus of Nazareth shatter human assumptions to reveal God close at hand and nearby. A God who becomes angry because of God's merciful love. God who requires obedience that favors community and creation, God who longs for conversation that communicates and assumes loving, life-giving response. A God not invented by human assumptions, but God who creates humanity in the image of God of justice, mercy, love, and compassion.

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five minute friday assume with lilacs
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Friday, February 17, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Many

bread and cup 1 corinthians 12:12
Even as the body is one and yet has many members,
and all the members of the body,
though they are many,
are one body, so also is Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12

Five Minute Friday :: Many Linkup

12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. … 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 1 Corinthians 12

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3

I've thought a lot – had many thoughts – about the role, calling, function, and interrelatedness of each individual member of the body of Christ related to the whole. I've pondered each one's own sense of purpose and call that admittedly changes, expands, and at times even contracts for a while. Related to the whole means the local called-out, gathered-in assembly as well as the global church with its many many traditions, styles, denominations, disagreements, and convergences.

In scripture, the Pauline and especially the deutero-Pauline movement is not from a solitary, isolated atomized individual into an undifferentiated [blob?!] Body of Christ; it's from solitary, disconnected individuality to uniqueness and particularity within the local church, the wider council or judicatory, the global Church.

As individuals who interrelate as the one body in the Spirit with many discrete members, each of us assumes and ministers in one of many positions appropriate to our gifts and experience. It's a lively and life-giving process that often happens with some planning, that many times occurs organically without planning.

Whatever we wear, wherever we reside, whatever our age or education, whatever our culinary and entertainment preferences, we respond to God's grace-filled call and invitation as we bring practical, spiritual, intellectual, creative, and many other gifts.

What are some of your many gifts? How have you participated in the past? What are your dreams for your future, for the church's future?

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Fice Minute Friday Many
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Friday, February 10, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Access

five minute friday access outside door with key in lock
Five Minute friday :: Access Linkup

How do you access it? With a key? Is there an access code with letters and/or numbers? What do you mean by "access?" Unlock? Go inside? Learn the secret? Is this access one-sided or reciprocal? So many questions. Speaking of codes and accessing, the proper code helps you access and engage apps, pages, and related.

And then… there's the debate about accessible places, opportunities, and "other," mostly related to public spaces, employment, and the digital world.

Sound bytes from the Youngbloods' classic hippie anthem "Get Together" have been getting airplay. The song's from an idealistic era of love don't hate, include don't exclude, accept don't reject, but isn't that idealism lived out exactly what we need in this fragmented world where hatred, exclusion, rejection, and refusal to listen and try to understand threaten to send civil society and the proclamation of the gospel into oblivion?

Love is the currency of the gospeled community:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35

"Get Together" reminds us we have the key, the access code that unlocks both fear (how many times does scripture counsel us do not fear?) and love.

Love is but a song we sing
Fear's the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand, listen
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It's there at your command

Come on, people now
Smile on each other
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now

Songwriters: Chet Powers
Get Together lyrics © Ivan Mogull Music Corp., Irving Music Inc.
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five minute friday access
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Friday, February 03, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Ignore

There's something you can do about it. Meet somebody halfway. To communicate is the beginning of understanding.
There's something you can do about it.
Meet somebody halfway.
To communicate is the beginning of understanding.

Five Minute Friday :: Ignore Linkup

Ignore reminded me of a group of old AT&T ads I've previously mentioned in blogs and also illustrated. My header design is one of my interpretations, recolored because I wanted the words to be gentle, easy, and inviting.

It's easy to ignore… someone who annoys you. A person who has wronged you. A project you need to finish as soon as possible (super relevant to me as a freelancer). To ignore that friend you need to forgive or maybe ask for forgiveness.

Though it happens everywhere, here in Los Angeles as twenty-first century urban cliff dwellers it has become more than the line of least resistance for us to ignore people around us. With the realistic fear the recent cascade of public violence has caused, with stay 2 meters-6 feet apart remaining wise counsel because #CovidIsAirborne and #CovidIsNotOver despite no longer qualifying as a pandemic, ignoring our neighbors to the extent of literal no-contact-zero communication may protect me, my family, and my interests.

But what happens if you don't ignore? What happens if you reach out, connect, make a new friend, reconcile with an old friend? (What happens if you settle down and finish that project so you can get paid?)

Here's a partial list from the AT&T ads:

• At least talk to each other!
• Divisions evolve from the barriers we construct
• Out of a sense of self, a sense of the other
• Reach out for someone

I can't know myself other than as I relate to another. I cannot ignore you. Side by side or face to face, I need to meet you. When you are not there I have no mirror. I have no choice but to be attentive, because God formed me for community, has called me into communities of humans, of creation and of the church. God charges me to live as other to my other. Ignorant is the adjective that comes from the verb ignore. "Out of a sense of self, a sense of the other."

Pastor James Howell, whose blog I follow to help prepare for my weekly scripture reflection recently observed about Joseph's reunion with his family:

I cannot imagine why a preacher would forego the Old Testament lection for this Sunday – ever, but especially now, given the severe splintering we're experiencing in society, and in the church. Genesis 45 is the theological high water mark of the Old Testament, and is a peer of even the best the New Testament has to offer. Reconciliation should be the fixed point in all our thinking, imagination, labor, and prayers.

Reconciliation should be the fixed point in all our thinking, imagination, labor, and prayers. Please don't be ignorant! Please don't ignore me!
five minute friday ignore
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Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Sermon for 29 January

shalom word across gradient background

These days I preach from notes, so typically I can't easily fill in the spaces and blog. Besides, a homily really is for a specific day and place, for "those people" in the best sense of the word. However, for 29 January I typed out a lot before making notes (church pastor requests guest preachers to send her some content beforehand—a good idea in many ways), and from the compliments plus my own perception I believe it went well, so here you go. Not surprisingly, the real life sermon was a few minutes longer than it blogs. Scripture was Matthew 6:7-14. During the autumn through spring academic year they follow the Narrative Lectionary that emphasizes the larger story of God and God's people. This year the NL twins with the Revised Common Lectionary with Matthew as the featured gospel.

Matthew Background

Today we continue in Matthew's gospel. Each of the four gospels has a distinctive personality, flavor, and style. Along with Mark and Luke, Matthew is one of the gospels that views Jesus' life and ministry in a similar way. In fact, all three contain a lot of the exact same content. Scholars believe authors of Luke and Matthew had a copy of Mark, so they literally copied and pasted big chunks.

This is Matthew's year in both of the lectionaries that suggest scriptures to read and study, so we'll spend a lot of time on Matthew to learn more about the Jesus Matthew presents, more about the way Jesus teaches us to live.

Matthew starts out as the story of a new creation, biblios geneseos—the same word as Genesis, the very first book of the bible. According to Matthew, Jesus of Nazareth's birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension initiates this new creation, new genesis. According to Jesus, our lives and ministries continue the new creation, the new genesis.

As Matthew's gospel progresses, Jesus provides formal instruction in the Sermon on the Mount and offers parables about the reign of heaven. We see Jesus healing diseases and confronting economic, religious, and governmental powers that be.

Sermon on the Mount

Today we continue with the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus' sermon on the mount has five sections that parallel the five books of Moses in the Torah or Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus…

Through Moses God gave the people ten words or commandments at Mount Sinai. Jesus brings us words of life in the Sermon on the Mount on another hill or high ground, with a different style from the commands God gave us through Moses, yet like the ten words/decalogue, Jesus is all about our flourishing together in safe, healthy, productive community. Jesus' entire ministry shows us how to live and love together in service, how to be church together.

Jesus was a rabbi or teacher who moved around a lot. For Matthew, Jesus is the ultimate teacher who wants his followers to be the best learners ever. As Pastor MAH mentioned, it's interesting that Matthew is the only gospel that uses the word church or ecclesia; we mostly know the word "church" from the letters or epistles. This called out assembly (us) is the Roman City Council, the Los Angeles City Council, the New England Town Meeting that gathers together, deliberates together, and in our case, prays and worships together.

Starting with the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' entire ministry shows us how to live and love together in service, how to be church together. Rabbi Jesus wants us to be the best learners ever. Jesus' ministry leads to healthy community. When we follow Jesus, our ministries lead to good community.

Jesus' Model Prayer / What is Prayer?

Today we're considering the model prayer Jesus taught his followers. We call it the Lord's Prayer, and almost all worship services include it in traditional or contemporary language.

But first, what is prayer? Prayer is communication with God. Prayer takes many forms. Sometimes we read prayers the church has treasured for a long time, such as from the liturgy and devotional books. Sometimes we speak words from our heart. Scripture includes many prayers. The book of Psalms was the prayer book and the hymnal of the synagogue; Christian hymnals include many songs based on psalms. There's silent prayer when you sit, stand, or maybe lie down to bask in God's presence. The apostle Paul told us to "pray always," which is an attitude of openness to God. You may have heard we usually become closest to those we talk with the most.

Prayer is communication with God. As we pray, God also communicates with us.

Let's look at this particular prayer Jesus taught his followers. Jesus outlined this prayer not necessarily for us to repeat the exact words as we do every week in worship, but to follow its general content.

Lord's Prayer/ Our Father

It starts out with addressing God and requesting God's name be holy or set apart. In that culture, a name reflected or described the essence of a person. A few months ago Pastor MH preached a sermon about Names of God. That could make an excellent study or journal entry for us to continue.

"May your kingdom come, your will be done" asks God to make the world heaven on earth.

Daily bread or bread for tomorrow? Food is essential! We can't keep on with other endeavors without food, water, sleep… In his Small Catechism Martin Luther explains "daily bread" is shorthand for everything we need. That would include solid housing and safe streets, streets and roads to get us from here to there, good government, functional families. Daily bread may include high-speed internet, too.

What else is essential for all of us? What is essential for you and your family? What would your "daily bread" list of essentials include? Is there anything you might leave off your list?

Forgive us our debts or sins

"Forgive us our debts or sins" is a huge one for everyone. Some versions of Jesus' prayer ask forgiveness for trespasses, which sounds like entering someone else's property without permission (in many senses, it is). In Jesus' world sin and debt essentially were the same thing. Tenant farmers, people who fished the sea, and those who sold goods and wares often found themselves owing their soul to landlords and to the government.

In this year 2023, the world is full of financial debt and obligation. Many people are in serious credit card debt from trying to stay afloat during Covid. However, this prayer also asks to forgive (the opposite of to give) all those ways we've offended people (friends, relatives, acquaintances, etc.) close at hand and on the other side of the planet, our lack of justice to creation, everything we've done to hinder our own well-being as individuals.

Forgive is far from saying and acting as if those sins and offenses are ok and didn't do harm. Forgiveness admits and acknowledges the serious wrong someone else or we ourselves have caused.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with tolerating sin. Forgiveness is not about minimizing or denying sin.

When I forgive I've turned the wrongdoing over to God so that sin no longer is a debt or burden to me or to my community. Literally giving the sin to God means the sin or offense becomes a debt to God. Forgiving a person releases them from our lives and turns the person and the offense over to God. And sometimes it's necessary to physically release a person from our lives, as well.


We've taken a short look at the prayer Jesus taught his first followers, the prayer scripture gives us to learn from Jesus.

Last week Pastor MH talked about shalom, the peace that's more than absence of conflict. The Lord's Prayer or Our Father prays, begs, and pleads for the reign or rule of heaven on earth.

Heaven on earth is the fulness of shalom. It begins with eliminating obvious physical, emotional, and interest conflicts, but shalom goes beyond that. Shalom is enough of everything we need to live healthy lives. As Martin Luther explained, actual daily bread or food (water, shelter, etc.) is only one part of our request in the Lord's Prayer. Shalom is integrity and honesty with each other here in community and with everyone we meet outside. Shalom is the Good News of the gospel fully lived out every day, everywhere we go.

Jesus the master teacher or rabbi teaches us how to be church together. Jesus wants all of us to be the best learners ever who pray, hope, and act to bring this world the new creation Matthew's gospel is about. We beg God to bring heaven to earth. We pray for the reign of shalom. We act in ways that welcome shalom.

Table of Grace

Again today Jesus invites us to the table of grace. This feast of life is about heaven on earth—the reign of life right here and right now. The Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, brings shalom into the world. All are forgiven. All is healed. All is whole. Everyone has enough. In the Lord's Supper we experience the new creation, if only for a fleeting moment.

Come, let us eat, for lo, the bread is spread!
Come, let us drink, for lo, the cup is poured!

You are welcome.
I am welcome.
We are welcome.

Amen? Amen!

To God alone be glory! Amen!