Sunday, August 31, 2008

Love, Lectionary, and the Call of Others

On Sundays, I like to meditate on the weekly lectionary. Today, I am reading at my Spokane Valley church, Holy Trinity Church, so I have read the passages before actually hearing them at church.

The theme in all of the reading is about the nature of Love. Love, Romans 12:9-21 says, comes from how we relate to others. By answering our engagement with others with love, we proclaim love. Now, this seems to be at the heart of the Gospel, God's Love. It also shows how strong of a Christian I am. Through the passages is, to quote the Beatles, all you need is love. Love your friends, love your family, love your neighbors, love people of lower socioeconomic status, love your enemies and think other better than yourself. Here the Gospel reveals itself as counter-culture. We are taught to love ourselves first and think of ourselves as the ground to love others. For Christians, the ground is God's love, of our love.

If I am honest with myself, then I understand the weakness of my love. I love until I am hurt, judge, or ignore the other. The Gospel reminds me of this and makes me give up my hurt, judgment, or unawareness and love those that I would reject.

Faith meets real life when I am forced to do something I would normally not do. Most of the time, we construe faith as propositions to say yes to. Yet, Faith that is only agreement, reduces to simple opinion. When I work at homeless shelter, and I see someone who stinks from being on the street, who has made choices that landed him without a home, my natural inclination is to shake me head for a distance. God calls me to give him my presences, and engage him with my whole being in the moment. I remember hearing his story and sharing with him the story about the woman at the well in John 4. Sharing my own experiences as a Christian and he sharing bond us under God. I understood faith as pushing myself beyond my own pettiness
.

Todays poem is about my own faith journey:


I stop within the dangers of memory not to find God, but
for my times as a boy at the old cathedral of Juarez. I find memories of little
boys—not me—belonging to another congregation—living a life not
mine. The candlelight highlights the brown skin against their white garments.
I remember the Christmases and Easters when I went to church
on the high holy days companying my Uncle Chacho. I recall the strange
feeling of seeing those alter boys and having no part to play—coming to church
after seeing my stepfather angry with alcohol—hearing my stepfather ridicule
God who abandoned the little boy he was in Nazi oppressed Poland.

I sought a home among those boys who spoke in Spanish, my first language
Which I have trouble speaking Yet, they seemed not to notice my eyes, (one blind and cross-
eyed, the other weak) or my life. The Christ figurine hung naked on the cross
remains in my imagination—carved in the dark hard wood, his head down
and the red paint. Its shadow tangoed in the sepia lights.
I remember being tried being up late in the night.
My Uncle had shaken me awake earlier, as not to be late for the mid-
night mass. The weight of my clumsiness feared the evil of my being, and my eyes.
The eyes of the boys in white averted not to see my deformity,
which made my sight look fractious and ugly. The Church’s low light beauty filled
my head, as did the smells, those tasteless wafers, and the knelling bells.
With no place to understand the service, I followed my Uncle when he rose,
when he sat, and when he knelt. The liturgy without a context left me
isolated. Sermon, wine, music, bells would greet the new day. We return home to sleep.

Later in the morning, as we would eat brunch, or open gifts, I was uneasy.
Playing with loud beeping plastic of freshly open presents, I, and the other
children of my family created a soundtrack to the beer, the glasses of wine,
and the shots of tequila—Chacho’s home becoming a place of faith I did not have
a map for. The geography of God was uncharted and as strange
as those group prayers aping across my ears, as strange as stepping
over my stepfather’s drunk body plopped in another epoch across the threshold
of Uncle’s library. Books, books, books I left unread. Grace tricks
my memory. Today, I cannot fully trace back from the wood-carvings of Christ hanging
on the cathedral’s walls to my classes at Fuller Seminary. I now belong
but with a history Ashamed of crimes not mine, God finds me
in a Lutheran Church. My crimes incorporate into another time
of Easter, into the eternal birth of Christmas. Nothing simple—finding the crosses
of my current church empty, I find I still need,
at times, those other filled wood crosses of the little boy I was
in another age. The lights of Sunday morning worship are now bright,. I unearth
the beauty in the dusk-like lighting of that old cathedral in Juarez, Mexico.
I remember those times with my Uncle as a child—the dower bells,
and those wooden pieces showing the suffering of Jesus, the God
incarnate—fleshing out my future. The brickless place of worship becoming
my rock support propping up a enigmatic atlas of life. After a Sunday service, I breathe
n the air and feed my skin. The constant wind blows around me as it did in childhood.
Leafs make noise. It blows over the waters of my memories. The peace
That comes from finding God sweals within me.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Theology and Pregnancy

When we ponder the miracle of incarnation, we usually focus in the birth. Christmas comes and we think of the vulnerability of God as a baby. Yet, God chose the process of pregnancy before. Did Mary have morning sickness. As the Jesus grew inside her, did she bond, and fear for what was to come. God chose vulnerability before the birth. It seems that love begins with the risk of vulnerability. God chooses to come and live among us. Lace once got down to play with her niece Mary, when Mary was still a baby. Lace took on vulnerability to enter Mary's world and enter love. Here is the poem I wrote:

Aunt Lace teaches Mary
Lace

You play and I find a window
into your life. Your new niece,
yet to celebrate her first birthday,
loves you as you teach her to crawl.
Your sister. Beth, annoyed at your attempt,
Asks “Will you be the one

to chase her as she runs about the house?”
The doors into the rest if the house,
As the sisters talk, are open.
Mary learns to say book. The questions
about the Bible come. Our people
know your transformation. New birth of Mary
fills the house with promises. Future fades
in the present crying of a little girl. Lace,

the baby you were shines through as you crawl,
teaching Mary. Life exploded into the world
with love. Carefully you hold her, and a year
will become years, and our children will come.
Mary looks at into an eternity,
and we see the miracle of weakness.

Pregnancy posts

Friday, August 29, 2008

Life and Poetry

Just wanted to post another poem. Thinking about my wife and my child makes my soul sing. Yes, I can follow the rules and form for a sonnet.


Choosing Food
To My Wife

Suddenly, I am free. Love, your vibrating
joy at eating French chocolate, laughing
at the our conversation’s ingredients, shaking
at my slow humor, keeps us migrating

toward a new future. We cook stir-fry to-
gether. We eat bread together. We look
for God together. With our plates, we do
fill our needs to be known, and the book

of life breaks our old fears. We eat on your floor,
drinking our memories, digesting our story,
building fiber of our love. Finding a summery
to all of the present instant, we discover more

solid base. The eternal treasure encountersus in the image of God, creating love’s contours

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Theology of Pregnancy

Lace and I are expecting. The date we are due, April 11, looms like Christmas to kid. This is our first. I remember hearing a excellent presentation of bring in the Cross into your marriage. More on that later. What made me think is how do we bring in theology into our time of pregnancy? How does the Life, Cross and Resurrection of Jesus shade this important time for my wife and me? I know the Bible views babies as a blessing and they are. I keep think of the incarnation that Jesus came first in the form of a baby, and also went through the process of pregnancy. Jesus chose to enter the world through this process, and then the questions of vulnerability pop up for me. Jesus trusted Mary and Joseph even though the times were uncertain. The world was in upheaval, politically, economically and internationally, much like today. Our baby to come fills us with joy, possibility, fear and love. I end with a poem I wrote for Easter last year.

For the Times They Are a Changing

In the seventh year of the presidency of George W Bush,
as Nancy Pelosi was preparing to take over
the Chairmanship of the House of Representatives,
and the war in Iraq was in its fifth year,
When Vladimir Putin ruled in Russia, during the reign
of Pope Benedict XVI and Franklin Graham was leading
his father’s ministry, the word of the Lord
spoken by John son of Zechariah came back to us
in our wilderness. He spoke from scripture
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness
of sins, as we have read before:

"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God's salvation.' "

We indeed have seen this salvation,
and we are at the crossroads.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Faith and poetry

More on poetry and faith-Faith has been constructed out of proposial truth since the Decarte and any other truth has been devalued. Faith has to find a way into someones daily life or it is not faith but aggreement. Is Jesus Lord? To say yes and then operate as if the answer was irrelevant really becomes a no. I have always love the sory of the woman at the well in John 4. For her, faith began as conversation with a stranger, Jesus. She then contiued the converstaion with her nieghbors. Faith starts with Jesus and moves into our lives as we share what he begun in us. Another Poem:

The Importance of Blessing a Meal
A variation on a theme of Denise Levertov’s Primary Wonders

The power of attention is in the mystery of soft
chocolate ice cream. I will share with you
my day. Brightening to the strong light
of the restaurant, my eyes imagine the child
you were. Imagining Jesus might
come to us today, I find I have
forgotten for days on end
the power of love. I failed
to give careful study. God,
I now hear as a parent
of a newborn—awaking
at the smallest sound.
The Holy
meets me, calling me
to listen to you.
Love,
I am funneling down
to the source
of life—
going
into
the …

wonder

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Through poets eyes

I have always look at the Gospel through the eyes of a poet. Meaning that the gospel of Jesus comes to me in the beauty of truth and not simply propositional truth to agree with. I remember a friend, Dr. John Goldingay, and Old Testament scholar, ribbing for being a poet. I reminded him that most of the Old Testament was written in Verse, ( around 70%) and the New Testament had a high degree of poetry. God must love poetry since God's word uses some much poetry. A poem:


What Keeps Me Up in Night
Being Confident of this very thing, that He who has began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1.6


In thorny work of Christ’s blessing in us, we find
the pain of our cross. Forging love out our failings,
we stand naked, abused by our long story. Our ferocity
recognized makes me thirsty for a new way, yet hesitant

to broaden. We must trust your prompting Spirit
to push beyond our weakness. We need only you,
God. The Incarnate weakness becomes our risen
strength. Ahead of what we can do, you know

us as our boundaries, and you nevertheless love us.
Calling us to violence no more, knowing we must
lean on your liaison to intensify life. For we and others
have the bridge to the presence of being, and you ask us

to cross. Into love, we pick up what you given us.
Lord your quiet voice is a loud request. Waiting …

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Faith and Life

Recently, NPR produced a piece on an Atheist Camp. What I found interesting was first the making Science and Faith opposite poles, rather than occupying different spheres of human endeavors. The second and more important for me was the binding faith as an answer to death. Christian have ourselves to blame making Jesus about the world to come. For Jesus the gospel was not an answer for death, but an answer for life. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus interest are in life.