Wednesday, November 7, 2012

With God There is No Lack

This has been my mantra lately. On the surface, it appears to be just another religious maxim in the same sickly sweet category as "Just believe, and Jesus will fix all your problems".

But this is actually a political protest. It strikes at the root of all fear driven political selling points. Not enough! This is the cry of every candidate. Not enough jobs, not enough money, not enough security. (And this trickles down to family life. Don't waste your food! Not enough hours in a day. Not enough sleep. Too many bills! Not enough energy!)  I tell you, this is a managed scarcity! Look at any neglected roadside ditch. Any unmown field. Life is bursting forth, converting solar energy, which is free and abundant, into biomass, sequestering carbon just by being left alone. Indeed, we mete out fossil fuels, which is simply sequestered solar energy from long ago, as if they were the only thing keeping the world going. Wars are fought over them, economies driven by them, the planet slowly destroyed by them, so that first world consumers can gripe over pump prices.

Carbon is part of a cycle that all life depends on. It can be well managed, or poorly managed, and either enhance life or destroy it. We have been releasing it at dangerous rates. We have placed it in the category of a commodity that must be marketed as a scarce resource. Profits are made, not from abundance, but from managed scarcities. And scarcities lead to addictions. We become dependent upon those "hard to come by" things that offer a quick fix. But consider the weeds of the field. They neither toil nor spin, yet Solomon in all his glory cannot compare to how God clothes them. And they just grow there, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere into biomass. Why do we think we are worth less to God that we must rely on human economic and political structures to mete out sunshine?

There is a story in the Gospels of a woman who was a Foreigner. Foreigners were not part of God's special people of Israel. They were morally corrupt and idolators. They were not born into Abraham's family. But this woman loved her daughter and begged Jesus to heal her. And Jesus asked her a hard question. Why should the children's bread be tossed to the dogs?

 Every single person on this planet is like this woman. As Paul pointed out in Romans, Jew and Gentile (Foreigner) alike are all under sin. We are all under the fear of death, which is the fear of scarcity. It drives us to anxiety, and then acts of sin against our neighbors. It drives us to seek after idols that promise security from scarcity. We are not the Chosen. We are the Outsiders. All of us. We should read each and every scripture from this perspective. We are not Jacob, but Esau, whom God hated, we are the Canaanites, we are the eunuchs of 2nd Isaiah, we are Hosea's harlot wife. We are those predestined for destruction that God bore with patience so that mercy be shown to all. Because God will have mercy on anyone whom God so chooses. This was written to those who thought it their duty to restrict and regulate God's mercy, as if God's mercy was scarce. It was not written to establish a doctrine about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell in the afterlife. That changes the message dramatically when this is considered.

The Foreign woman knows about scarcity. Yet she also has faith that with God, there is no such thing. So she says, "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table."

At face value, it would seem that she is merely accepting her un-Chosen status. And that Jesus praises her for this humility and heals her daughter. Really?

But crumbs, with God, are not subject to scarcity. Remember, five thousand of Abraham's children were fed from just five loaves and two fishes. And after everyone had stuffed themselves, the crumbs were gathered and they filled twelve baskets! So with God, the leftovers make a hundredfold increase from the original meal. The crumbs from the table outdo the original spread, just as the wine changed from water outdid the best wine served at the wedding.

At Pentecost, Moses' wish came true, that all the people could govern themselves by the Spirit dispensed to all of them. The ultimate power was made available to all through the flood broken loose that day. Political power is no less common than is sunshine. Manna just needs to be gathered. And children still dream dreams and prophesy.

He Is RIsen from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Friday, April 13, 2012


There is a lot of political jargon being touted in the name of family values. Secularism, it is feared, is undermining the institution of the family.

The family.

Why do we refer to it as, "the family"? To many, "the family" conjures up a picture of a mom, a dad, and kids. This, it is claimed, is the pattern for the most basic of human social relations. It rests upon an oath of sexual fidelity and the responsibility that comes with the offspring of this sexual relationship. It most often begins with a sexual attraction, proceeded by a courtship to determine personal compatibility beyond the sexual to the intellectual and spiritual and non sexual physical aspects of personhood. The relationship then becomes an embrace of the entire person: the hopes, dreams, aspirations, talents, as well as the faults, weaknesses and challenges of the other. The ideal family is a community that nurtures and helps each member achieve their fullest potential in every area of their personhood, and in every area of society and the world. But it also must be outwardly focused, willing to bring strangers and those who look and act very different from its biological members into the midst of familial embrace, or it will breed self centered, fearful and socially awkward youth.

The family is, to many Christians, the central social entity. It is conceived as a unit of both the church and the national community. But I'd like to push back a little on this notion. Does God define family within the framework of this biological relation? Is this the central focus of Christian social identity? Is it possible to enlarge our definition and shift our emphasis without neglecting the lesser, biological relationship?

Merazhofen Pfarrkirche Josephsaltar Altarblatt Pfingstwunder

Abraham was given the promise that he would be the father of many nations. Yet the apostle Paul revealed that the promise was fulfilled by the faithfulness of Jesus, and is extended to all peoples through adoption into God's family through faith in Jesus. In order to give the most glory to God, the promise was fulfilled outside of human fertility, man's virility or decision, male power or ego, so that no one could boast. This was also the fulfillment of the protoevangelion, that the Seed of the Woman would crush the serpent's head. It was foreshadowed in the miraculous births of barren women: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Samson's mother, and Elizabeth, with the Virgin Mary being the archetype. The antitype was reached when the creative Spirit was poured out onto all flesh, making "...children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." As it is written in the prophets, "Sing, O barren woman....because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband." And "let not any eunuch complain, 'I am only a dry tree.' For this is what the Lord says: 'To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters...". And, "I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'You are my people; and they will say, 'You are my God.'"

And this prophetic theme John the Baptist continues in the Gospels, "I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham." And Jesus,"Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." And, "Do not call anyone on earth 'father', for you have one Father and he is in heaven." More radically, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters- yes, even his own life- he cannot be my disciple."

This revolution is continued in the apostles' exhortations, "From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in this present form is passing away."

I believe this strong language is to drive home the radical restructuring of the whole cosmos with the risen Christ at it's center, holding all things together by the word of his mouth, manifested in the witness of his people. When we are baptized, we cross over to this new way of being human, not defined with the way we look when we are first born, not defined by the usual way the world defines us, sexes us, categorizes us. This second birth supplants the old identity, redefining all existence in a way that relates to and is defined by Jesus. "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers."

With this new, eternal identity, then, we must approach our biological, transient relationships as of secondary importance, but bringing the energy of the risen Christ to bear upon them. They are not meaningless, but are infused with new meaning, as we take every opportunity to model the love of Jesus to one another. But at the fringes is where new creation takes place, prodding us to reassess where our true identity lies, pushing us to embrace the 'other', enabling us to be surprised when new things take place that we could never have thought possible. It is a place where we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that we will, each one of us for our own selves, give an account for everything said and done. Let our politics as God's family be worthy of this gospel.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Christ bifrons Issenheim
Photo by Rosart Maurice (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

you were killed outside the camp
with the Unclean:
lepers with rotting flesh, bleeding vaginas openly shamed, penises that oozed, anuses that discharged, the burning gehenna of community waste and blood drained sacrifices, the half formed Quasimodos, the eunuchs, the monsters, the dry bones, the goats with the sins of the people pressed into their heads
the ones even God first hated...but loved afterwards

Is this the far, far better thing you go to
fed to starving crowds
who thirsted for blood and ripped your flesh like bread
who proclaimed their superior cleanness loudly in the streets
their family values and social values and spiritual values and national values
systems, parties, processes, ideologies, orders, powers, laws
gods that are no-gods, lines drawn in imaginations between mine and yours, things that are no-things, yet possessed with unreal reality?

What happened to the good news,
the fulfillment of hope, of rescue
of crumbs falling from tables that vastly outnumbered the original loaves in quantity
of the newest wine from stale water that vastly outdid the old wine in quality?
(Moses brought water from a rock, and that was enough. You brought wine from water, because enough would not do. It was the time for extravagant feasting.)
Messiah had come!
but was not recognized
the way of peace not known, not wanted
mountains did not bow, nor were valleys lifted
the paths were not made level and the lame were made to trip and fall and not be healed.
as you cried out with the godforsaken
you became a thing that good people turned away from in disgust
and wrinkled noses in contempt

Thursday, April 5, 2012


It was said long ago that there was a king named Melchizedek. "Without father or mother, without genealogy..."(Hebrrews 7:3). Hence "Mel" became my father's favorite name for the stray dogs he adopted, which were of uncertain parentage. And Melchizedek represented a holy order for those priests born outside of the ordinary way. As Isaiah wrote once, "Sing, O barren woman....because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband." And John writes of "...children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." So Abraham becomes the father of many nations in a very unexpected way. By the Spirit, not the flesh. The whole ancient patriarchal system was overturned. And life could once again spring from outside the pre-programmed systems of control, where destinies were determined by a look at the genitals: circumcised, or not; male, or not.

Today I exercised my own "high priesthood" in my home and farm, as my housemates and farmmates often do towards me. Today I buried Braveheart. This kitten, probably predestined by some defect to die, which the mother could tell, though she and I and my daughters worked together restore it, struggled for two days to hang on to life. I held the newborn creature in my hands, warming it, and was awed by the inner strength. Here was life! It was brief, and yet, so full. We had to try. Watching, feeding it a drop at a time, cleaning it.

"You are a priest forever". I say to Braveheart's grave. A sacrament of the Creator's eternal gift of life that shows us the way to love. And I go about my life, and try to remember to carry on this priesthood of foundlings, we who have been brought into the glorious basileia of God by the second Adam, but first born back from among the dead. We bury the dead- the dogs, chickens and cats- and bless the profane, making it holy. Even shit is holy, composted and returned to earth to bless the trees and flowering herbs, the grains and vines, the making of bread and wine for the Lord's own table, where it is again blessed and made holy in the unending continuum of priesthoodness. So holy, that children skip and run after receiving. And babies babble the Gospel anew to bereaved widows.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On What Grounds: Thoughts Regarding the Death Penalty

You are not big enough to accuse the whole age effectively, but let us say you are in dissent. You are in no position to issue commands, but you can speak words of hope. Shall this be the substance of your message? Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God. You agree? Good. Then go with my blessing. But I warn you, do not expect to make many friends...
--Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable

Fr Holtzbad Chapelle Saint-Ulrich Abel fresco

See page for author [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

On What Grounds: Thoughts Regarding the Death Penalty

Firstly, I must be clear that my position is very much influenced by my background. I come from a Protestant tradition, and although I may personally have disagreements with my tradition, it is nevertheless mine, and I am largely shaped by it's influences, good and bad, upon history.

I would venture to suggest, that, although there are manifold divisions within Protestantism, we agree on one thing, and that is that the authority of Scripture is greater than the authority of any human. And since we know that a book, even this Book, cannot act authoritatively, we acknowledge that the words of this Book imbue every believer with the authority to hear and to do, regardless of status, class, education, gender, nationality, or any physical state. To quote Martin Luther, who catapulted this movement on October 31, 1517, when he nailed his 95 challenges to absolute papal authority upon the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, "A simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest Pope without it."

I will be the first to acknowledge the irony that the one thing we agree upon is also the very thing we fight and divide over. But we have chosen this freedom over an imposed unity, and hold out hope that the Spirit will bring our struggles to fruition, that unity to our Lord's divided Body will be restored through the transformation of ourselves from within.

And so it will be from this point of agreement, from the Scriptures themselves, that I will present my arguments.

The argument for the death penalty within dominant Protestant traditions, while differing in degree, rests on the assumption that God demands the life of everyone guilty of taking the life of a human. This originates from Genesis 9, when God brings Noah and his family onto dry ground after the great flood, and gives them the flesh of beasts, birds and fish to eat along with the green plants previously given at the original creation (Genesis 1:29). And then God says, But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man." (9:4,5) This is followed by a poem, or saying. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." (9:6)

I would like to point out a few things that I believe have been overlooked by the sterile interpretation that this is the Biblical mandate for using the death penalty within human society. First of all, this is not written as a commandment, but as a consequence. If we look back to the first murder, when Cain kills his brother Abel, God's punishment upon him was banishment. But when Cain complains that anyone who finds him will kill him, God replies, "Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over."(Genesis 4:15) God then places a protective mark on Cain so that no one would kill him. Perhaps, then, we can conclude that after the flood, God would no longer provide this protection. It was precisely because God grieved over the violence of humanity that the flood was sent, so this fits the story. God removes the restraint upon those seeking revenge for murder. What we see is a merciful God who is slow to anger, allowing humans to have their way until they go too far, and a gradual progression of constraints are implemented. Upon this continuum, then, we can easily place the Law of Moses, and later the condemnations of the prophets, finally resulting in exile for God's covenant people. But working along with this is the calling out of a people to be the vehicle of redemption for the whole world. It was all part of the plan playing out through the free actions of human wills.

Secondly, I would like to highlight that the context of the reason for God's stated consequence, that humans are made in God's image, male and female, is full of blood language. Abel's blood first cried out from the ground. Blood was so sacred that that of animals was not to be eaten. This dietary regulation was even recognized by the first Church in Jerusalem as the standard for all the Churches, including Gentile ones (Acts 15:21 and note that sexual immorality was also placed in this context, which relates as it also involves bodily fluid, reminders of human weakness and mortality). This connection shows how closely combined was the moral with the ceremonial in Biblical consciousness. Proponents of a modern theocracy based upon the Law of Moses often argue that Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial bit, but left the moral bit to remain as the standard for civil society. However, it is not at all clear that the two can be so easily separated. Throughout the Scriptures, both are intimately linked. And the form of the Law, received by Moses, contains no such divisions. I believe this division, therefore, must be recognized as an attempt to add to the Scriptures that which they do not say for themselves.

Maybe, then, the connection that animal blood and human bloodshed has to human image bearing, is that this image bearing was to be sacramental in nature. Humans were to be the sacred bridge between God and the rest of creation, the Incarnation of God's love and goodness and life toward the world. When humans kill each other, or exploit the nonhuman creation, this chain is broken, and the whole creation is subjected to brokenness and death. As we follow the story onward, in this progression, we see that as God closes in with more and more judgment upon humanity, the gulf of brokenness gets wider and wider. As the Apostle Paul writes, "The law was added so that the trespass might increase."(Romans 5:20) And "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:18-23)

We can note that the Law of Moses had a particular role to play within the whole story of redemption, and this redemption is cosmic in proportion. The hope in the resurrection of the physical human body, for Paul, is the link that restores the glory of the image of God through humanity to the rest of creation. The way for this to be accomplished in us was opened by the faithfulness of Jesus, who was born under the law, was made human flesh and subject to its weakness, atoned for Israel's covenant breaking, took the death penalty upon himself, bore the curse of thorns, whose blood cries a better word than that of Abel, and whose body did not see decay. Every facet, every layer of the progression of sin, death, law and judgment has been fulfilled in the body of Jesus. And we are his Body. And the bread we break is his body, around which redeemed human society gathers as one.

As Christians, this is our entire being. It is an identity that comes from the other side of the river of baptism, beyond the violence of human killing, human law making, human nation building, human politics. We are his Body, and our calling is to reflect this divine image to the rest of creation. This is the ministry of reconciliation. To never stop offering forgiveness to the guilty, never stop laying down our lives to protect the victims of injustice. Bridging this gap is what the Incarnation is all about. This is where God is most perfectly imaged, that dreadful, dark limbo where justice meets mercy, where even angels fear to tread. The God who condemns sin is the God who forgives us, and raised Jesus from the dead. This is our God!

At the same time, we cannot expect those who do not have the Spirit, and the Law of God inscribed on their hearts, to not act out revenge when they have been wronged. But as we are instructed to honor and submit to their customs and institutions, we also seek to Incarnate Christ's reconciliation, suffering willingly for doing good, and living as sojourners in the world (I Peter 2:11-4:11, cf Romans 12, 13)) The end of all things is near, the forms of this world are passing away. But the beloved community of freed slaves is forever.

Thus, I oppose the death penalty not from the cursed ground from which Abel's blood cried out, but from the ground made clean by the sanctifying blood that speaks a better word, in hope beyond human possibility, that both victim and victimizer might be reconciled, and the world healed.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lent of the Farmer

The Grim Reaper - - 522625Trish Steel [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Lent of the Farmer

sister worm,
sprung from earth (as I),
sprung from Spirit (as I),
bring breath to roots,
transform earth to soil,
that in health my children may live
and in my death your children may live,
turning dead flesh to earth and earth to soil.

While we wait.

And Hope is the vision
that death and life and death and life and death
will one day give birth to only Life.

for Flesh (from woman and Spirit sprung)
was, once, not left to decompose.

but Hell broke forth.
killing and more killing to claim undeath.
and Death chuckled and rolled in pornographic glee
as folly and ego tricked all into subserviance
to the Lord of the Scythe
who, at last, makes all creatures equal,
sharing the commons they tried to own
with the worms.

yet blood soaked earth and Spirit sprung children still weep
and groan in blinding pain, and choke in the smoke
of automobiles and factories and exploded mountains.


smoldering, a broken reed.
will prison gates be broken?
the Occupation of phallic, metal, atomic rupture neutralized?
will graves break open
and children spring to undying Life?
and, Sister Worm, will you join the Song?


but wait.
first, the forty days must finish.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Tree of Intimate Acqaintance

Also called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But knowing, here, I suspect, is more than a cognitive recognition of these entities.

It was so named because this tree was a meeting place. It was where Good and Evil would hold tryst in a cosmic drama- a place of Intimate Acquaintance between the two.

The serpent tempted them somewhat prophetically. Eat and you shall become intimately acquainted with Good and Evil. Like God.

Yes, God was acquainted with the serpent. But not nearly as intimately as was to come.

And they ate. Hungrily. Their hunger was appeased, but it was an eating and receiving outside of the giving of the good God. The eating and receiving by the giving of the good God was to be had everywhere. But not at this tree. This was the only place to eat by the Self taking, rather than receiving by the giving of the good God.

And they looked at themselves. Their vulnerable, soft, creature skin. And they looked at the tree. It's tough, sharp, barky skin. They chose to eat by Self Taking. Could they live in soft skin surrounded by fangs, claws, sharpness and splinters? If they were to eat by Self Taking they must also hide their softness from sharpness.

Fig leaves. As futile as eating by Self Taking. And when the good God sought, their softness stung and quivered and shrank in dread because there was no eating nor safety for their softness apart from the good Giver they had betrayed.

And so they betrayed him with a kiss. And his softness was pierced. Again and again and again and again. The bitter fruit was pressed into his mouth from another giver, because his arms were pinned to the tree.

The good Giver was broken into food and drink himself. The lie was that they would be like God in eating by Self Taking. The truth was that God became like them, giving self for their eating.

Good knew Evil here. They had met before. They were intimately acquainted. As close as fangs to heel and heel to head.

Then the old skin that had been slashed open, pierced with holes and out-spilled was made new with new wine put into it that could never, ever be spoiled or despoiled again.

The Tree of Intimate Acquaintance has come to be the Tree of Life.