Palimpsest: Led by God

Led by God

Jeremiah 2:4-13

In Jeremiah 2:6, 8 we are told what Israel did wrong. “They did not say…” The recital of Yahweh’s story was no longer on their lips. They disregarded their shaping memory. Where the story of Yahweh is forgotten, Israel disregards its peculiar convenantal way in the world, and soon loses its reason for being. Verses 6-7 recite the credo that they “did not say,” that has been forgotten. That credo is dominated by the word “land”: land of Egypt, land of deserts and pits, land of drought and darkness, land that none passes through, plentiful land, defiled land, heritage. Israel’s whole life is about land. Yahweh’s primal gift is land. Jeremiah is concerned with the sure-coming destruction, exile, and land loss. This passage suggests that where the story of the land is lost, the loss of the land itself will soon follow.  - Walter Brueggemann, To Pluck Up, To Tear Down

On this journey or adventure, they (heroes on a journey) in fact find their real problem! They are almost always “wounded” in some way and encounter a major dilemma, and the whole story largely pivots around the resolution of the trials that result. There is always a wounding: and the great epiphany is that the wounded becomes the secret key, even “sacred,” a wound that changes them dramatically, which, by the way, is the precise meaning of the wounds of Jesus! Their world is opened up, the screen becomes much larger, and they do too.
— Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality of the Two Halves of Life

In my life, I have lost my way more times than I can count. I have set out to be married and ended up divorced. I have set out to be healthy and ended up sick. I have set out to live in New England and ended up in Georgia. When I was thirty, I set out to be a parish priest, planning to spend the rest of my life caring for souls in any congregation that would have me. Almost thirty years later, I teach school. The last time I tried to iron one of my old black cotton clergy shirts, the rotted fabric gave way beneath my fingers. While none of these displacements was pleasant at first, I would not give a single one of them back. I have found things while I was lost that I might never have discovered if I had stayed on the path...Take Abraham and Sarah, for instance, the first parents of the Hebrew people. The Bible gives no reason for God’s choice of Abraham and Sarah except their willingness to get lost. They were not young. They were not spiritual giants. All they really had going for them was their willingness to set off on a divinely inspired trip without a map, equipped with nothing but God’s promise to be with them.—Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

But your loss brought you here to walk
under one name and one name only,
and to find the guise under which all loss can live;
remember, you were given that name every day
along the way, remember, you were greeted as such,
and you needed no other name, other people
seemed to know you even before you gave up
being a shadow on the road and came into the light,
even before you sat down with them,
broke bread and drank wine,
wiped the wind-tears from your eyes:
pilgrim they called you again. Pilgrim.
-  David Whyte, from “Camino”

· When have you been lost yet found your way to where you should be? What stories do you tell about that experience?

· How have you experienced God’s leading and God’s bounty in this congregation? What stories do you tell about that?



I was ordained at Christ Chapel at Gustavus Adolphus 23 years ago this summer. I haven't been back for more than two decades, but just moved about ten minutes south, so today went with my camera. The heat was heavy but the Chapel cool and quiet. Most of the sculpture is Paul Granlund's work.

As I walked in I noticed the solitary candle, lit.

And the baptismal font, dripping water on one side, and dove alighting on the other.

And this is about the spot where I was first ordained (back when the UMC ordained us twice.) The Chapel survived the tornado thirteen years ago. And I've survived all these years in the church.


Palimpsest: Forecast

Luke 12:49-56


In the early days of the U.S. Weather Bureau,when forecasts were provided to local communities either by mail or by telegraph, a system of flag signals was used to post the details for local residents. A designated person, maybe the postmaster, local weather observer, sheriff, banker, or train station manager, would receive the Weather Bureau forecast and display the appropriate flag or flags, plain white for fair weather, blue for precipitation, and various combinations of squares, triangles, and colors for other conditions. Even as late as the 1960s and 1970s, a Minneapolis bank building displayed a colored ball (the fondly remembered Weatherball) to indicate the expected weather. – Mark W. Seeley, Minnesota Weather Almanac

They said to him, “Tell us who you are so that we may believe in you.” He (Jesus) said to them, “You examine the face of heaven and earth, but you have not come to know the one who is in your presence, and you do not know how to examine the present moment. – The Gospel of Thomas, paragraph 91

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She turned the radio back on and listened. It wasn’t music now; it was the names of counties being repeated over and over. They’d gone to full-time emergency mode, listing counties, all of which she knew well. Franklin, Zebulon. The eye of the storm was here. She flipped the radio over and eviscerated it, slipping the batteries into her pocket. Better to save them for her flashlight. She would have laughed at herself if she could. If ever there was a piece of news she did not need a radio to receive, this was it. The eye of the storm was here. – Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

· How do you get your weather news? How often do you check it? Do you make plans depending on the forecast?

· How do you get your news about what God is doing in our world? How often do you check it? Does it change your plans for the future?


8-11-13 Palimpsest "Dressed for Action"

Luke 12:32-40


      Shanna Hanson, a captain at Minneapolis Fire Station 14, captivated the national media…Hanson, 36, was off duty Wednesday when the bridge collapsed. She grabbed her life jacket and soon was in the water beneath a pier, which was leaning from the weight of the sunken multi-ton roadway above it. Tethered to a yellow life rope, she swam to three submerged cars to search for survivors. It was there that the cameras captured her, fighting a current that hid broken glass and twisted metal.
– www.startribune.com, August 2007

Translation: Let your loins be girded. A rather literal rendering sometimes conveys the required meaning, e.g. 'tighten your belt' (Kapauku), 'tighten the belt about your loins' (lokele).
Elsewhere the  term for a similar act has the same metaphorical meaning, e.g. 'have-(it)-tucked-in' (Balinese), 'have (it)-rolled-up' (South Toradja, similarly Yao), 'have your clothing tucked up' (Shona 1966), i.e. make ready for work at hand, by pulling up the long skirt-like garment between the legs and tucking it into the belt at the back, or by rolling or pulling it up around the waist.

But in several languages only a non-figurative, functional rendering is acceptable, e.g. 'be ready always' (Tzeltal), 'be prepared" (Gio), 'prepare yourselves', or a combination of a functional rendering of this (and the next) phrase with a literal one, e.g. "be ready for action, with belts fastened and lamps alight" (NEB, cp also TEV, Rieu).
-A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Luke

      The blessings offered are known most fully by those who are no longer afraid of potential danger, darkness, and death...The less we want to have, the less we need to have. This fact is itself one of the blessings God offers, with compound interest. The less we need to have, the less we need to fear. The less we need to fear, the more we know that a life of giving allows us always to live, not on the brink of destruction, but on the brink of blessing, where we can more readily hear the promise that the “Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour,” desiring not to punish but to bless.
-Audrey West, Feasting on the Word, Proper 14 Year C

After an optimistic explosion that we call hope, and an ensuing sense of deep safety, comes an experience of deep rest. It’s the verb, I’m told, that is most used by the mystics of all religions: some kind of “resting in God.” All of our striving and our need to perform, climb, and achieve becomes, on some very real level, unnecessary. The gift, the presence, the fullness is already here, now. I can stop all this overproduction and over-proving of myself...Even when we “achieve” something with a good day of “performing,” as I often do myself as a type A personality, it is never enough, because it is inherently self-advancing and therefore self-defeating. 
-Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations: “Rest from Achievement”

· What clothes are required for being dressed for action in your everyday life?
· How are you ready for God to be in your life? What helps you be alert?
· Are you ready for God to serve, love, and bless you?  Why or why not?