Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pause Pressed

After that 50 day marathon of daily blogging, I've (as may be obvious) taken the last week off.

Someone watch me and if it looks like I'm even thinking about doing a 50 day run again, please do what you can to stop me. It was exhausting. (And let's be real---there were some real clunkers in there.)

But what it did was prove to me that I can do it, so there's that.

And this has encouraged me to see if I can set up a regular schedule (as all the "successful blogs" blogs say you should do). So, when I come back, I hope to have a day of the week set so people know when they can expect a new post.

(I'm open to suggestions for what day of the week works for you, gentle readers.)

So, I hope I'm saying goodbye to the haphazard "post when the mood hits me" way I've been treating this blog for the 7 years of it's existence.

Hello to regular Crumbs.

But not daily.

That was just nuts.

Stay tuned. I'll make a decision before too long here . . .

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Easter 50 Breath

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  [Acts 2:1-4]

And so the church begins and this year as I read the passage, I'm struck by how the coming of the Spirit signaled the ability to communicate.

There's a myriad of ways to look at this story, both as a literal text and as a symbolic text. But this time, I'm seeing how the coming of the Holy Spirit on these first Christians brings about a means to easier communication.

In a world where multiple languages were spoken across a relatively small part of the world, that would be an amazing barrier to take down.

In our present world, where I can travel miles and miles and trust that I'll be among people who speak my language, I also see how speaking the same language does not always facilitate our communication and certainly not our unity.

I could easily go into lament about the divisions in the world, in my country. They are disheartening and perhaps there will a be time to look at them.

Here, on the final day of the Easter season, the day we call Pentecost, a festival day to cap a festival season, I am turning to the promise of this story, that the Holy Spirit can come into a crowd of people with many differences and they will understand one another.

May the Breath that spoke the universe into being once again descend on us as flame and bring into existence the new thing, the hope for a way forward. May the Word, in whom there was light and life, be heard through the confusion of many voices.

Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth! Alleluia!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Easter 49 Watch

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,

in those days, I will pour out my spirit.  [Joel 2:28-32]

I'm having a quiet Saturday. I'm thinking about how, 50 days ago, we were keeping vigil and how, again, we keep watch again. 

I have often said that the first job of an artist is to look, to see. Perhaps, even, to watch. Artists show the world the commonplace by seeing it first and then by reflecting it, refracting it through an artist's lens, we see it all fresh again. Common, everyday, but anew. 

Inspiration. Expiration. Respiration. 

In this way, religion is an art. 

Today, again, we keep vigil. Watch.

We're waiting for the wind to stir. 

Alleluia, come Holy Spirit . . .

Friday, May 13, 2016

Easter 48 Silver

When I got off the bus Thursday evening, I saw a dark cloud to the west and the upper edges of it were glaring white. "The silver lining!" I said softly.

Sometimes, I look at things like this and think about the cliches associated with them and how people in a less wired world experienced them. The intensity of the white/silver line around the cloud must have surely generated more than one myth to explain it.

And, of course, we know it's simply the sun behind some rain clouds.

Which got me to wondering about the sun, mostly how long it's been shining, how much longer it will shine. So off to the Google.

NASA tells me that our best estimate is that the sun is about 4, 500,000,000 years old. Let me spell that out for you. That's four billion, five hundred million years. Also 4.5 billion. These are no exact numbers.

NASA also tells me that our sun has about 5,000,000,000 more years to go. Which is long enough to count as "forever" for our immediate purposes.

I feel the pull into something trite. I'm not interested in easy metaphors.

What I'm circling around with these facts and figures and images is that there's a lot of history and a lot of future and we're only around for a blip of it. In our brief blip of a life, we see death and sorrow and pain but we also bump into life and joy and pleasure.

In my worst moments, I wonder about the purpose of it all, if there is a purpose to it all, and how can my brief blip of a life matter in a cosmos where a sun that has burned for 4.5 billion years and still has, likely, another 5 billion to go?

Then I'm surprised by beauty, by awe, by pleasure.

If this isn't resurrection, it's close enough for today.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Easter 47 Human

"By trying to kill the human spirit . . . the answer of the human spirit is to revenge with beauty." [Osvaldo Golijov, composer]

Not to offend anyone, but one of my pet peeves is to hear someone say, "everything happens for a reason, it's all part of a bigger plan" or anything along those lines. In short, I simply don't believe it. I see that horrific things happen and I don't believe that people---or any part of creation---are crushed for some greater divine plan. Heck, I don't even hold that view of the cross!

What I do believe in, with great force and feeling, is redemption. I do not believe that awful things happen so that something good can come out of it, but I do believe that God is working---and we can work with or against God here---to bring about something good, to redeem the horror in whatever way horrific events might be redeemed.

A few weeks ago, a friend posted, on Facebook, the trailer to the movie, The Music of Strangers. In it, composer Osvaldo Goligov gives us the quote I posted above. "Revenge" would not be the word I'd use, but the sentiment is something I can endorse. The best part of us, which I would contend is the Imago Dei implanted in each of us, will meet violence with beauty, in whatever multi-faceted way we want to define beauty.

The fully human part of us is the fully divine part---these are not in opposition as is popularly believed---and out of this humanity, we are working with God to redeem all the ugliness with beauty.

It's a constant, ongoing process, but then so is the present and coming Reign of God, the completed and future resurrection.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Easter 46 Friends

"I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father." [John 15:15]

In the Reign of God finds us not just worshipers of God, but friends with God Incarnate. The community of saints is made intimate with the promise that Jesus calls us friends.

As an often socially awkward introvert, I don't always find this at the center of my gospel comfort, and yet there are ways that I know I crave it---just not always in the ways that you may picture intimate friends behaving. As I've often joked, we German Lutheran farm boys often have a more subtle warmth to offer.

Nonetheless, in these last days of the Easter celebration, I find myself thinking about friends, near and far, Christian and not, who sustain me in what is most certainly a foretaste of the feast to come. They are the Reign of God among us, come near, on the way to the fulfillment that we already experience.

I often say that on Sunday mornings, I go to see Jesus and some of his friends. Amen and alleluia for the friends Jesus brings together.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Easter 45 Work

Liturgical live, life in the body of the risen Christ, is not a part of the Christian's experience: it defines the shape and illuminates the meaning of his total experience. Since his whole life is a drama of death and resurrection, there is a constant interpenetration between our our everyday experience and the liturgical cycle. [Elizabeth Briere in "The resurrection in liturgical life in the Orthodox church" in If Christ be not risen . . . Essays in resurrection and survival, Collins, 1988]

"Liturgy" comes from a Greek word meaning "work of the people." In the communion liturgy we traditionally use the words, "It is indeed meet, right, and salutary that we should in all time and all places offer thanks you . . . " (I did that from memory---your memory may vary by a word or punctuation mark.)

It is the duty and work of the Christian to offer worship and praise. More than that, it is a way that we enter into the work of Jesus.

I think this is difficult to understand in our century. I think it is difficult for me to understand. (I realize those may be two different things.)

For some churches, we have pop/rock music that gets people feeling like they're hearing Jesus' greatest hits live and they get to sing along. Others have organs and centuries-old hymns. Others still may simply have spoken words. A lot of this is often looked at how we shape these experiences. What we often overlook is that the experience of worship is supposed to shape us, possibly more than the other way around.

There's no doubt that any liturgy is the work of human minds, hearts, and talents. Of course we shape the liturgy. I do wonder if we shape the liturgy so people "get something out of it" rather than so the liturgy gets into the people.

I think that's what Elizabeth Briere is getting at above. And there's all kinds of ways that this opens a can of words. I know, I had that class in seminary.

But when our "work" revolves around the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, we may accidentally find that Jesus begins to shape us. Whether we're led into a frenzy by electric guitars or centered in silence, the resurrection life is what shapes us, in whatever cultural trappings that resurrection story may have.

At least, that is the ideal. And I'm ready to opine that if the "work" we do on Sundays doesn't shape us to go out and treat one another with love, compassion, peace, and justice . . . perhaps we're doing the wrong work on Sunday.

Resurrection life happens in unexpected ways, there's no one way for God to bring it to us. Entering into the liturgical life of the church, however, seems to be one way we might be shaped for the Reign of God.