Monday, July 31, 2006

Jesus must have been on the Bazaar committee

OK, so I'm stuck on this food kick. It's not my fault: it's there in scripture. Two weeks ago, we were slaking our thirst with Jesus' water of life. Last week, 5 barley loaves and 2 fish were feeding 5,000+. This week, Jesus is bread. Good, tasty bread--after eating it, we will hunger no more. (John 6:24-35)

Which is party of what makes me think Jesus must have been on the annual Bazaar committee. We're talking the Bake Sale of all time...

AND, then, to take it further, Paul gives us knitting lessons. (Ephesians 4:1-16)

OK, so the passage is not about knitting potholders (useful though they be), but about the church--the BODY OF CHRIST--being "knit together" by all us people with our varied gifts.

Which is why I have an affection for church bazaars--they seem to have space for all of the strange and wonderful creative gifts folks have. (I did not, you'll note, call our gifts "bizarre," which has entirely different root origins that the "bazaar...")

I treasure that church is a place where we come together with folks who are different from ourselves--folks we'd likely never choose to hang out with. And, we're asked to knit ourselves into an image of Christ's body. We're asked to see Christ in each other, and to work together to share Christ with the world. Bizarre, indeed...

Today, reading the paper, I was reminded yet again of how desperately our culture needs to hear Christian voices that look more like our bizarre bazaar. Two things seems especially beautiful about this week's scripture: Jesus' bread seems to come with no risk that it'll run out--this is salvation abundant enough for everyone. And, this work we're called to will take all of us--so there's no sense wasting our time figuring out who is best or most right. Rather, we should let Christ build us up together.

What do you think that would look like?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Are you drinkin' what I'm pourin'?

I think this week's scripture passages ask us about what we've been feeding ourselves.

(Maybe I'm still just stuck with that image we used last Sunday, of Jesus at the well, needing water and offering the water of life... Or maybe food really matters to more people than just me...)

In any case, the food is obvious in John 6:1-21--Jesus takes the meager offerings of one little boy (five loaves and two fish) and uses it to feed a skeptical and hungry crowd. With abundance, I might add.

The food is a bit less obvious in Ephesians 3:14-21, unless you think like a tree--Paul prays that Christ will dwell in our hearts as we are being "rooted and grounded in love." Roots are a part of the eating-and-drinking work of plants. We're nourished in love, and that's how we get to embody Christ-ness.

The food is even more obscure in the Psalms, except that other Psalms tell us that God's wisdom is sweeter than honey: looking at the corruption of the world, God wonders if there are any who are wise enough to seek after God.

So my question is: what do you spend your time seeking after? (And is it good food--the kind that will allow Christ to dwell in your heart, and love to be shown to neighbors?)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

at the water, part 2 (after)

Thanks for coming to the water!

Monday, July 17, 2006

at the water

This week, we're going to worship AT THE WATER'S EDGE. In Mission Bay, at DeAnza Cove. Gather at 9:30 for songs; we'll worship at 10. We'll remember our baptisms, and share in holy communion. And picnic afterwards!

(Bring something to share and something to drink and plates to use; we'll have hot dogs.)

So my blog question of the week is: what is the most life-giving (fun, beautiful, treasured) memory you have of being in or near water?

Our scripture for the week will be Isaiah 55 and John 4:1-15.

difficult passages, part 2 (or, salome as hero)

Inspired by our worship yesterday (and, perhaps, by the heat), I've come up with a new option for interpreting the story of the death of John the Baptist. (My thanks to Karen and Marty for pushing me this way during talk-back time.)

What if Salome is using her request as a subversive way to expose and embarrass her mother and Herod?

Sure, Herodias (the mother) wanted JohnB dead, but surely she didn't want his severed head to appear at the party. That's over-the-top.

Mark doesn't tell us what happens to the party after the head is presented. It only says that Herodias asked her daughter to request JohnB's head, and that her daughter asked Herod for JohnB's head "on a platter." Then, they go immediately kill him, and present the head to the daughter, who gives it to her mother.

Perhaps Herodias was hoping she could carry out this vengeful plot of stage. But her daughter (who we call Salome, thanks to the historian, Josephus's record) forces it on-stage. She says, "Fine. Have your vengeance. But it's gonna be in your face, and in front of your friends."

I wonder what this would have done--at the party--to the other guests. I mean, it's fine to play along, but then, as if all of a sudden, there are severed heads on platters. This party has gone too far, and this host is clearly sick.

And Herod was clearly worried about what other people thought--Mark tells us that the reason he went ahead with his daughter's request is that he had made the offer (to give her anything she wanted) in front of everyone, and he didn't want to fail on his oath. Perhaps he didn't really want to see the implications of his actions, either...

The image is just so jarring--a head on a platter.

(Martha would NOT say that this is a good thing.)

As I said, this option came to me on a very hot day, with no scholarly evidence, but I think it sounds exciting. (Subversion in the Gospels is almost always a good thing..)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

difficult passages

This week's gospel lesson, from Mark, is not the kind of story whose picture you'd hang in your living room or, certainly, your nursery.

Which is not to say it's the kind of story that no one make pictures of--lots of artists have been inspired by the story of the death of John the Baptist. King Herod's wife Herodias's daughter (who we've come to call Salome, thanks to details supplied by an early historian) dances for the King, and he's so pleased he offers her anything she wants. She asks for instruction from her mom, who tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. On a platter.

Now, I'm not sure if it's that I've grown accustomed to the image of crucifixion, and so it doesn't seem to unsettling, or what.... But this image of a severed head on a platter turns my stomach in much more visceral ways. Perhaps it seems too much like violence I've seen lately in Iraq. Perhaps it's because it's stems from a personal quest for revenge--Herodias remembered how John the Baptist had preached out against the morality of her marriage to Herod.

In any case, it's an uncomfortable text.

Made more so because it's one of the few (only?) stories of dancing women we get in the gospel. And I'm all for dancing. Specifically for women dancing. That it's not a disgraceful or immoral thing. We have bodies, and we can use and enjoy them in beautiful ways--even praise God with them.

The Psalm for this week is all-for dancing, too. (Well, okay, it doesn't SPECIFICALLY say "dancing," but it does use this image of the temple, which both lifts its head and has gates. I read it to be a metaphor that easily stands for our bodies. And I don't know how to lift up my head as a might gate without a little bit of dancing...)

So, I guess one of my questions for this week is: what divides the dances of the Psalm and Salome?

Check it out and see what you think. (Psalm 24 and Mark 6:14-29)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

strength and weakness

In this week's text, 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Paul talks about "boasting" of his weakness.

"For whenever I am weak, then I am strong," he says.

Weakness keeps me from thinking it's me, alone, doing great things.

God can use even fools like us.

I think this may be why we have family, too--to keep us from getting big heads and thinking we're "all that." People who live with us know better.

I have fears about what would happen if I were suddenly incapacitated--someone would come through my office and see all the things I've done not as well as I should, and discover all the things I've left in a mess (literally and figuratively). Someone would find the disasters I've procrastinated at home. Someone would uncover the reality that I don't really have my act together.

And then Paul tells me how he "boasts" of his own "thorn in the flesh"--the thing that keeps him in the reality that he's got, as we would say, "issues."

So my puzzle of the moment is how to accept Paul's invitation to accept--and even celebrate--our own issues and inadequacies. Without becoming complacent about our shortcomings, or sloppy about how we strive to allow God's will to be done, here on earth as in heaven.