Sunday, December 30, 2018

Oracle At The Border

You think because there is no knife
With jewel encrusted handle,
Because there is no stone altar
With strange runes carved in the sides,
That this is not human sacrifice
To the gods of racism and nationalism?
You think because
The water pipes of Flint
Are not an iron image of Molech
With fires stoked within

That the poisoning of that water
Dos not "pass our children thru the fire"?
O blind, deaf nation
Learn to do good
Provide clean water in your cities
And medical care
for the small pilgrims escaping violence
Care for the hungry among you
shut not your hearts or your borders
to those in need of refuge.
Lest the day come
When the voice crying out in Ramah,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Is your own

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Word Of The Lord Came To Me...I Think

The Word of the Lord came to me.....
At least I think it was the Word of the Lord
God knows I don't think I could come up with this shit on my own.
Maybe I need to stop reading all those dark prophets
with their predictions of destruction
And their promises of Grace added on
like the tacked on tail from the children's game of "Pin The Tail On The Donkey."
I certainly feel like the donkey.
Braying my warning in the midst of Christmas lights
it feels like I'm peeing on Santa's boots.

The Word of the Lord came to me
and said (if it really was the Word of the Lord)
Cry Woe! Hoy!
to these people
who see no further than next week at the most
and the 24 hour news cycle at the least
Who forget what they've heard
and change the station to avoid what they don't want to see
Who believe if it doesn't happen immediately
it will not happen.

Remind this people that it was over a 100 years
the warning of Micah
"Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the temple mount will be given over to the
beasts of the forest."
100 years until Lamentations cried out,
"Mt. Zion lies desolate; jackals prowl over it."

Do not forget your history.

O God, I cry in anguish, we have a history
like a drunken frat boy
at a Christian college.
We have claimed to believe one thing
Drunk on power
we have committed horrors
that shame us and
profane Your Holy Name.
In my lifetime O Lord,
and I have not reached three score and ten
We have waterboarded our enemies
and lynched our citizens
Just as long as they were darker than us.
Let privileged white rapists walk free
lest their "mistake" "ruin their lives"
While denying their victims
a legal right to end the pregnancy
resulting from that rape.
We've locked children in cages
Poisoned entire cities
Shot children dead on picnic tables
And watched torch bearing hate
March through the street
Watched evil drive cars into crowds
Then claim they were in fear for their life.
Our wounds are deep O God
And they fester and stink.
Yet we cover them with a band-aid
and drive to the mall to shop
While the pipes in music
plays O Little Town of Bethlehem.
The Walking Dead got nothing on us.

I cannot escape my fear that the truth is this:
This nation will go into exile.
I do not know what shape it will take.
The day may come 
When they park their Christmas SUVs on the road
for lack of fuel
and fight to use them as housing.
Like the child in the Donkey game, I am blindfolded
I cannot see what the Donkey looks like
Yet I reach out to try to pin some word of Grace
To the horror I know is coming.

The Word of the Lord came to me
it is not a Word I want.
I grasp at Grace like a drowning man
My only Hope this Advent
is in the Truth of Incarnation
That somewhere
perhaps birthed in an abandoned vehicle
and laid to rest 
on blankets folded in a Best Buy box
God will be present with us
When our exile comes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Joy On The Threshing Floor

I have been reading From Hurt To Healing by Andrew Sung Park, a Korean theologian.  He uses a word that has become very important to me.  That word is han.  Here is his definition:

Han is the collapsed anguish of the heart due to psychosomatic, social, economic, political, and cultural repression and oppression.  When internal and external forces cause our suffering to reach a critical point, it collapses to a singularity of agony.  The collapsed sadness, bitterness, rage and hopelessness become the vortex of our agony, overwhelming our conscious and unconscious modes of thinking.  In other words, han is a physical, mental, and spiritual response to a terrible wrong done to a person.  It elicits a warped depth of pain, a visceral physical response, an intense rending of the soul, and a sense of helplessness.

I do not know what the limit of the human heart is in it's capacity to survive anguish.  My best guess is that it varies from person to person based upon an individual's history and their support systems.  I have seen, in my lifetime, people who withstood what I would consider great anguish and others who seemed crushed by what I would have thought were small things.  But the good news there is that I'm not the one who judges...I have neither the right, nor the capacity to judge another's pain.

So what has this got to do with a threshing floor?  And much less, what has this got to do with joy?

In the Gospel of Luke 3:7-20 we get a sample of the preaching of John the Baptist. Folks are really impressed and ask him if he is the Messiah.  John the Baptist responds, "I baptize you with water; but one who more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

The way this image works is that a threshing floor is a flat surface where grain (often in scripture the grain is wheat) is either walked on by animals or people, or beaten with a flail.  Then, it is scooped up in a shovel-like tool called a winnowing fork and tossed in the air.  The wind takes the dusty, now crushed, light shell and blows it away.  The kernels of wheat fall back to the threshing floor where they are swept up and gathered for storage.

It paints a picture of John basically saying to the crowd, "You think I might be the Messiah because I preach a tough sermon?  You ain't heard nothing yet!  I'm not near tough as the guy who's coming.  When he gets here, you're in for it for sure."

Now for a very long time I have heard (in fact nearly all my life) that this clearing was the separating of the godly from the ungodly; a reference back to Psalm 1 which proclaims, after describing the godly as "like a tree planted by the rivers of water," that the ungodly "are like the chaff which the wind blows away."  This is certainly one way to look at this passage.  You can put it with the parable of the "wheat and the tares" from Matthew 13:24-30 and you have a picture of the lives of persons being sorted out by this threshing/winnowing process.

Wonderfully, however, parables are like jewels that can be turned this way and that in the light to produce a variety of different, though not contradictory, meanings.  The rabbis have always known this about scripture as the history of midrash demonstrates.

So I offer this Advent, 3rd Sunday, focused on Joy, interpretation of John's speech. Many of the lives in our world are filled with anguish; and anguish that it takes a word like han to describe.  Migrants in South America and Myanmar, abused children and the poor and marginalized all over the world....these are but a few examples.  And each of us knows people whose lives have been so battered that the image of being stomped on by oxen is a mild one.

What if the image of Jesus with his winnowing fork is one of the Messiah separating out the agonizing han from the attempts made (however small and pitiful they might be) to be loving and caring?  What if the fire that we will be baptized with is a refining fire that forever will remove the suffering and pain?

Can you imagine a life lived in the agony of abuse from birth, twisted by violence, broken by resentment and shaped by all the dark things it takes to survive in a wasteland most of us can't even imagine.  No imagine that in that life, some small kernel of hope or love...perhaps a pet...or sunsets...something that kept the humanity of that life from winking out like a candle.  That crushed life, along with thousands of others, Jesus scoops up in His winnowing fork and tosses into the winds of the Holy Spirit.  All of that shell is blown away and that tiny bit of made-in-the-image-of-Godness falls back to the threshing floor.  There, Jesus lovingly scoops it up and says, "You are mine.  Welcome home.  You belong to Me."

I do not believe that this is an Either/Or situation, but a Both/And.  Our lives must most surely bear fruit that is worthy of repentance.  But it is claiming that there is a Grace that sees beyond what the world might see...that "knows that we are dust."  That understands our han at a level that only God on a cross could understand.

Nor do I think that this is a "there, there" approach to sin.  What it does is acknowledge that the sins of others might cause such woundedness in an individual that only God might be able to see the Image of God's Self still alive in them....and that Christ Jesus the Messiah comes to heal those wounds as well as to forgive sins.  This might truly be tidings of Comfort and Joy.