Air Hunger

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21

Psalm 104:24-34

1 Corinthians 12:3-13

John 20:19-23

 

Then the LORD God formed man from the dust

of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the

breath of life; and the man became a living being.

                                       Genesis 2:7

 

When he had said this, he breathed on them and

said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

                                     John 20:22

 

You who pour mercy into hell, sole authority in the

highest and lowest worlds, let your anger disperse

the mist in this aimless place, where even my sins

fall short of the mark… Arouse my heart again with

the limitless breath you breathe into me, arouse the

secret from obscurity.

                                    Leonard Cohen,  The Book of Mercy

 

Pentecost, with its attention to the life-giving breath of God, seems especially poignant this year, with the world immersed in a pandemic caused by a virus that takes away breath and, tragically often, life.  In spite of assurances that the worst may be over, many of us continue to live day-to-day with simmering anxiety that threatens periodically to boil over into full-blown dread, that we or someone we love will become sick and perhaps even die. One of the most fearsome things about the virus is the way it attacks the respiratory system, making it difficult for the lungs to oxygenate blood. Inadequate blood oxygen causes faster and deeper breathing, which causes changes in blood chemistry that lead, among other things, to panic. The name for this response and the terror it causes is “air hunger,” and anyone who has had a serious asthma attack has experienced at least a measure of it. It is a dreadful thing to watch, much less experience.

It’s small wonder, then, that we are so anxious, for breath is essential to life. This is as much a theological claim as a physiological one; Creation is animated by the breath of God, and the breath that sustains the life of every creature has God as its first cause. Just so, the lectionary for this Pentecost reminds us that God’s ultimate intention, both for us and for the rest of God’s beloved Creation, is not sickness and death but healing and wholeness, given freely in the limitlessly merciful and limitlessly powerful breath of God. Read more

Watersheds and Salvation

Third Sunday in Advent

 

 

Exodus 17:1-7

Psalm 95

Romans 5:1-11

John 4:5-32

 

The river is as far as I can move

from the world of numbers…

            –Jim Harrison,“The Theory and Practice of Rivers”

 

In the introduction to Watershed Discipleship (Cascade, 2016), Ched Myers asserts that “Since the time of Constantine, a functional docetism has numbed Christians to the escalating horrors of both social and ecological violence, because spiritual or doctrinal matters always trump terrestrial or somatic ones. If it is assumed that salvation happens outside or beyond creation, it will be pillaged accordingly.” It’s abundantly clear that the pillaging Myers writes about has inflicted extensive, irreparable damage to the earth, and equally clear that we Christians have been as culpable as anyone in this inflicting, and not incidentally because of the pervasive bad theology to which Myers alludes. Read more

Which Side?

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 5:1-7 or Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 80 or Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

They say in Harlan County
there are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?
Florence Reece, “Which Side Are You On?”

Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.
1 Corinthians 11:19

Much has been written lately about the uncivil disintegration of contemporary American society, and for good reason; each day occasions new, often vicious spoken and written attacks calling into question the veracity, integrity, and intentions of those holding views different from the speaker or writer. Christians haven’t opted out of all the name calling, and have penned missives – some against their brothers and sisters – every bit as strident as those of our secular neighbors. I recently read part of such an exchange, which left me, as the news these days tends to do, despondent. And then I read the lectionary texts for this week, which offered a bit of perspective, if not consolation. Read more

What Are We Doing Here?

Second Sunday after Pentecost

1 Kings 19:1-15 or Isaiah 65:1-9

Psalms 42 & 43 or Psalm 22:19-28

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 8:26-39

Whose image haunts the mirror? And why
are you still here? What exactly do you hope

to become? When will you begin?

Scott Cairns, from

“Bad Theology: A Quiz”

Looking for signs of God’s reign can get pretty frustrating these days, especially if your looking is restricted to what you see and hear in mass and social media. That’s not to say that there’s no god-talk in the news; there are plenty of people who are not simply talking about God, but who also presume to speak on God’s behalf, loudly and at length to anyone who’ll listen. It’s not clear, though, that the god these folks are talking about is the God who was present to the world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who came preaching “good news to the poor… release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,” which is to say, liberation to those suffering the yoke of every kind of oppression (Luke 4:18).

Read more

Covenants Have Legs

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Ruth 1:1-18 (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)
Psalm 146 (Psalm 119:1-8)
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been thinking some about the notion covenant lately, or perhaps it’s because it’s simply obvious, but when I read the lectionary for this week, I couldn’t help but notice that both the primary and alternate texts presuppose or allude to God’s Covenant with Israel. Among the root senses of the Hebrew word for covenant, b’rith, is the act of binding oneself to another. God binds Godself to Israel, and asks Israel likewise to bind itself to God and become God’s partner in the ongoing work of lovingly restoring the original peace of our broken Creation. That God invites a people – Israel, and by extension, the Church – to be part of this work suggests that the Covenant “has legs.” Read more