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i went. i washed. i see.

This week’s installment of the MAV – John 9:1-12…I want to stay with the former blind man, splashing my toes translation_4in the pool….

And as Jesus made good his escape from those encircling fists clenching stones, he paused upon seeing a blind man among many begging along the road – it became clear that this man had never seen a thing his whole life.

Realizing this, the disciples saw the opportunity to see Jesus solve an old theological puzzle, so they asked him, “Okay, Rabbi, whose sin is responsible for this man’s blindness? His own or his parents? Is this an inherited condition, or one he’s responsible for?”

But Jesus saw more than an opportunity to solve a riddle.

Not taking his eyes off the blind man for a moment, he told them,
“You’re missing the point. Neither. Not this one, and not them either. You’re asking the wrong questions. The question is how can the wonder-works of God be seen in such a man’s blindness? We’re not here to speculate or conjecture over such a man’s condition, we’re here to do something about it – we’re here to be workers of God-wonders – to do what the Great Sending God would have us do while there’s still light in which to do it. Night comes all too soon, and such wonder-working opportunities will slip right through our idle fingers and then we can’t do anything about it. But as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of the world –
and watch me shine…”

And with that he suddenly spat on the ground,
and then stooping down,
this time he didn’t doodle in the dirt,
he played with it,
making his own little mud pie with his own spit.

Then, scooping up the mud pie, he shared a fresh anointing with the unsuspecting blind man: he anointed his eyes with his muddy mixture, rubbing it into his eyes to the now loud protests of the blind man.

When Jesus had finished his muddy work, he told the protesting blind man, “Okay, go and wash out your eyes then. Rinse them in the pool of Siloam (footnote: Siloam = Mission Springs or Water With a Purpose).

So the man went. And then he washed all the mud out of his eyes. And then he came back, unaided. Seeing. (Jesus, of course, was nowhere to be seen.)

His fellow beggars and panhandlers couldn’t believe their eyes – or his!

Everyone who laid eyes on this now former blind beggar keep muttering to each other, “This isn’t the man who sat here and begged day in and day out, is it? It can’t be!” Others, dumbfounded, began blurting out, “Wait a minute, this is him!” Others retorted, “No way! This guy just looks like him!”

Amidst all of their rapidly escalating debate the blind man just stood there saying, incredulously, “No it is me! I am that guy!”

Then they started their own little inquiry: “How is that possible? How were your eyes opened? How do you now see!?” Still not believing what had just happened, the now former blind man slowed himself down and told the simple tale:“This guy named Jesus made mud, smeared it all over these eyes of mine, and then said to me, simply, ‘Go to Mission Springs. Rinse.’ And that’s what I did. I went, I washed, I watched.”

Everyone standing around him asked him, “So where is this guy?”

And he said he didn’t have a clue.

He’d never laid eyes on him yet.

translation_1

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in MAV

 

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whose your daddy?

This week’s MAV installment…John 8.31-59…I affectionately call it “Whose your daddy?”translation_4

Wanting to prod these local Judeans further, deeper in this turn towards trust in him many were experiencing, Jesus issued this challenge:

“It takes more than nodding your head and crossing your heart to make you one of my followers; you have to settle deep into my Message and make it your home. Then you’ll be a bona-fide follower – and then you’ll finally and fully begin to grasp the Big Picture of all Reality, and step into true freedom.”

The word “freedom” triggered some of them in the crowd politically and they bristled, “How dare you imply we need freedom! We are Abraham’s offspring, for crying out loud! We are free, our heads always held high – how can you say we will step into true freedom when that’s what we already are!?”

Jesus responded patiently,
“I’m going to say this twice and mean it: you’re hearing ‘political status’ and I’m talking ‘moral condition’ – and anyone stuck in endless repetitions of the same immoral ruts is clearly chained like a slave to those habits of heart and life. There’s no home and heritage there – only the exiled existence of a slave who’s here today and gone tomorrow; but a son has lasting roots in the family that only grow deeper over time. And if such a Son unshackles you from your own destructive ruts, then we’re talking real freedom, not just slogans about it slapped on your bumpers.”

“Let’s face facts. Yes, you are Abraham’s offspring – yet you seek to do me in because you can’t stomach what I have to say to you. And why not? I’m only feeding you what Abba is dishing up – so if you can’t stomach my words, it’s clear that you have another father who’s been touching your palate and shaping your appetite.”

Once again they bristled. “Abraham is the only father we have known or need!”

Jesus was unrelenting.

“If that were so, if you really were Abraham’s children, then we wouldn’t have a problem here because then you’d walk, talk, and look like Abraham. But that’s not Abraham’s face I see – contorted with murderous rage towards someone who has simply told you the Truth he has heard from God himself. No, that’s not Abraham’s way at all. You’re mimicking another parent altogether.”

Bristling to the breaking point, they howled, “We’re not illegitimate children (unlike someone else we could mention); our one true father is God himself!”

Jesus retorted,
“If that were so, you’d be embracing me with open arms and inviting me in because your Abba – God – is my Abba; you’d see and own that he’s the one behind my being here and we’d be on the same family page; I’m not some upstart Johnny-come-lately pretender. The God you lay claim to is the very one who sent me here to your doorstep. Why can’t you follow my drift? Simple.You don’t have the capacity to listen to what I have to say for the simple reason we don’t share the same Abba at all. We’re speaking different languages. Let me give it to you straight: Your father is the devil himself and it’s his agenda that you’re wedded to. He has been anti-life from the get-go, a real killer, with no grasp of Truth because there’s no room for truth in him. That’s not his game. Lying is his game. Whenever he opens his mouth, out pops another lie. Falsehood is his native tongue – and he’s the author of the language. Now I show up speaking the Truth, and you won’t believe or put up with it for a moment. ‘Does not compute!’ you shout. Well, show me where I’ve miscalculated! Show me where I’m wrong. And if you can’t pinpoint my error, then why can’t you embrace my answer – embrace me? God’s kids listen when God speaks. Which makes this all rather academic: you won’t have it – have me – because you don’t have God.

End of story.”

The opposition had had it. They snapped, “Aren’t we exactly right when we say that you are no better than a Samaritan half-breed and demon-possessed to boot?!”

Jesus stayed cool.
“I don’t have a demon. I honor God, and all you can do is dis me. I’m not tooting my own horn, promoting myself. Someone Else makes that call and does the promoting. So, again, I’ll say it twice and mean it, ‘If anyone goes beyond merely playing with my words to actually carrying out their full meaning and intent, no death for him! Not now. Not ever.”

The Judean in-crowd didn’t miss a beat. “That settles it. You have ‘satanic’ written all over you. Abraham is dead. The prophets are all dead – and yet you have the gall to say that if anyone who carries out the full meaning and import of your words won’t have to deal with death, not now, not ever! Who do you think you are? Greater than Abraham? Greater than the prophets? Handing out life while all they ultimately experienced was death? Who are you making yourself out to be?”

Jesus, not flinching in the least, told them,
“If I’m fashioning my own persona, it’s a PR campaign that will fall flat. There’s nothing to it! But God is my great Promoter – the One of whom you shout the claim, ‘He’s our God!’ The truth is, you don’t have a clue who he is. But I know him. And if I said that I didn’t know him to be more acceptable to all of you, then I’d be just as big a liar as you are. Oh, but I do know him – and I carefully carry out the meaning and import of what he says. You say Abraham is your father, right? Guess what? Abraham was doing cartwheels of joy at the prospect of seeing me, seeing my day come. And see it he did. And then he did his own little happy dance.”

The opposition couldn’t believe the nerve of this guy.
They scoffed at him,
“You’re not even fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen father Abraham. Right!”

Finishing the conversation he started, Jesus put it out there plain:
“I’ll say this twice and mean it: Before Abraham ever even existed, I AM, I was, I will be.”

That tore it.
They got his meaning.
Exactly.
They picked up stones to stone him to death for such arrogant irreverence.

But Jesus slipped right through their fingers – they looked up after picking up a rock to hurl at him, and he was gone, out of the temple and on his way.

translation_1

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in MAV

 

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we can enjoy the sun or spend the day arguing about where it came from…

This week’s installment of my finderpainting in the MAV…John 8:12-30…entitled, well, you just read the title, didn’t you…

And so once again, amid the endless speculation and controversy, bathed in the light of the huge lamp stand turn on the lightmenorahs in the temple courtyard as the Tentmaker celebration finished winding down, Jesus spoke up:

“I am the light of the world! The one who tracks with me through thick and thin will never, ever find himself stumbling around in the dark – no, they’ll be beaming with the light of life on their faces! (Move over, veiled Moses from the mount!)”

The Pharisees were quick with their comeback: “A lot of loud talk from your own big mouth proves nothing! Your self-testimonial is all hot air and no substance!”

Jesus was ready with his own comeback:

“Even if it is just my big mouth giving my own testimonial, it’s still bona-fide, solid truth – because I know full well where I’ve come from and I know exactly where I’m going.

But you, you don’t have a clue about either.

got a light?

got a light?

You are constantly trafficking in superficial judgments on everyone and everything; and I’m happy to leave it to you – I’m staying out of the judging business altogether. But, you know, if I do pass judgment on anything, it’s right on the mark because it’s not just me lowering the gavel – the gavel is in my Abba’s hand, and he’s the one who sent me here in the first place.

And doesn’t it say somewhere in that law of yours, you experts, that when it’s two people standing up to testify, now you have a solid, credible case? Well let’s count. I’m saying what’s what about myself, and my Abba who sent me adds his voice to mine. Sounds like two witnesses to me!”

Leaning in, the experts goaded him, “Where is this ‘Abba’ of yours?”

Jesus leaned in as well, “You have no clue who I am, and so it’s no wonder you’re in the dark about my Abba.
If you had the capacity to really get me, you’d wouldn’t be lost as to who my Abba is – you’d see him in my face.”

And he said this right there, on their turf, in the courtyard by the treasury of all places! making himself right at home teaching in the temple. And not one of them laid a finger on him – because that would be worked out on his own timetable.

Fast forward.
But just a little.
Still in the temple, now over towards Solomon’s Portico.
Still teaching.
Jesus picks up the dangling thread and finishes this verbal testimony tapestry:

“I’m leaving and you’ll look for me, but your search will lead you nowhere but to the dead end cul de sac of your

sitting down is progress

sitting down is progress

own stubborn rebellion, and there you’ll die. The end. Fin. You simply can’t go where I’m heading.”

The local religious trolls snarked to each other, “What? Is he going to kill himself and wake up in hell? Is that what he means by ‘You can’t go where I’m heading’?”

Jesus then spoke clearly through their snickering guffaws, “If anyone here is from the nether regions, it’s you. I’m from above. You’re right at home here in this world of yours, but not me. This world of yours is not my home. Which is why I told you, ‘you’re headed to the dead end cul de sac of your own stubborn rebellion and there you will die.’ Yes, if you can’t see and trust who I AM, you will shrivel and die, right there in the sins of your stubborn defiance.”

They shot back, “Why don’t you just tell us right now in plain Aramaic WHO ARE YOU???”

He shot right back, “What from the start I have been saying! Oy! So much I could say about you, so many judgments I could pass on you if that were my game! But what does it matter? The One who sent me is true through and through, and what passes from his mouth to my ear is what I will speak to you and to this world of yours.”

And yes, they were clueless. No idea what or who he was talking about – his Abba.

So Jesus, again, picking up the thread, wove a new picture for them:

that'll work

that’ll work

“Whenever you lift up the Son of Man – the ultimate Human Being – then you’ll finally get who I AM, and realize that I’m not the one calling the shots, carrying out my own game plan, but that I’m only carrying out and speaking out what my Abba gives me to say and do. And the One who sent me is with me, and he’s with me to stay, because what I do always meets with his big ‘thumbs up.’ Way up. Always.”

And while many were snarkily shaking their heads as he said all this, many began to experience a turn in themselves.

 

A turn towards faith.
A turn towards trust.
In him.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Gospel of John, MAV

 

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religious ruckus

This week’s installment of the MAV…John 7:53-8:11…a religious ruckus involving a disreputable woman in a disputed passage...

Meanwhile, Jesus made his way to the Mount of Olives outside the city.

But not for long.

Early the next morning he was right back at it in the temple. All the crowd flocked to him looking for more, and he obliged them. Having taken his seat, he began teaching them – until a major religious ruckus broke out, Scripture pundits and strict sect types showing up, a woman in tow, a woman caught red-handed in the act of adultery.

They sought no private audience with Jesus, they pushed her right into the center where Jesus was teaching, challenging him,

“Rabbi, this woman was caught red-handed in the very act of adultery! We know what Moses in the law says must be done to such a woman – death by stoning. But what do you say?”

And in case you hadn’t figured it out, this whole thing was a set up; they were just looking for ammunition to nail writingindirtJesus to the wall.

But Jesus didn’t bite or budge.

He just stooped down and started doodling in the dirt with his finger.

The religious lynch mob didn’t budge either.
They stood there and kept prodding him with their own pointed fingers of accusation.

Jesus finally looked up at them and said,

“The only one with a rock in his hand is the one with no sin in his heart.”

And then he was back to finger doodling in the dirt.

Stunned by what they heard, they began to clear out, one by one, from the oldest to the youngest of them, until she was left
all
alone –
just the woman,
right there in the center.

Looking up again, Jesus spoke to her.

“Woman, where did they all go?
What, no judge and jury to condemn you?”

She said, sheepishly, “Lord, none at all.”

“Well then, you won’t hear any condemnation from me either.
On your way – only, from now on,
how about avoiding the ruts of sin
and aiming higher.”

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Gospel of John, MAV, Mercy, Religion

 

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everybody’s talkin’ at me and I just want to buy them a drink

Mike’s Authorized Version…or Amplified Version. Translation finger-painting. I do it every week in whatever text translation_4the church is studying, just a way of processing text I’ve been living with for over three decades in English and Greek or Hebrew. It’s scattered through each daily reflection on my devotional blog

Funny, I often come to the end of the week, look at this wordhavering blog and think, “Gosh, I need to write something for this” when in reality I’m pouring my writer’s soul into the MAV and the reflections springing from it week after week. And sometimes I really like the result.

So perhaps I’ll start a weekly post here, bringing those scattered weekly readings together in one place.

Just because I can…

This is what ran this past week. John 7:25-53. I would call this one “Everybody’s talkin’ at me and I just want to buy them a drink”

Drink up me hearties…

Some of the local crowd now sat up and took notice.

“Hold on a minute! Isn’t this the guy they’re after, the one with the death warrant? And here he is openly speaking his mind in public with no one saying or doing anything about it. The authorities haven’t pegged him as the Messiah after all, have they? But how can that be? We know where this guy is from – no mystery there; but the Messiah – no one will see him coming…”

Hearing all this speculation, in the midst of his teaching session in the temple Jesus hollered,

“THAT’S RIGHT, YOU KNOW ME! And you know my humble point of origin! But none of this was my idea carried out on my own initiative. I’ve been sent! And the One who sent me is true through and through, and of His identity you have not a clue! Oh, but I know him. My very being is intimately connected with His, and He’s the one who commissioned me.”

Some of those in the crowd – from the authorities, no doubt – were chomping at the bit to confine, contain and control him on the spot, but no one laid a finger on him; it wasn’t time for that.

Yet.

Meanwhile many others in the crowd were totally sold on him. “Whenever the Messiah shows,” they would say over and over to each other, “will he have a more impressive resume of signs and wonders than this fellow does?”

When members of the strict sect heard the crowd muttering such things about him, they mustered their courage, priestly authority and strict sect types alike (they didn’t usually get along too well, but now they made an exception), and together sent underlings to set upon him and put a stop to this.

Seeing their maneuverings, Jesus said it plain:

“The clock is ticking, my time with you is just about up, and then I’m off to the one who Sent me to start with. Oh how you’ll look for me then – and you won’t be able to find a trace of me – you’ll never be able to track me to this destination!”

The local crowd of Judeans were puzzled. They asked each other (having no idea how much they were saying), “Just where does he think he’s going that we can’t find him? What? He’s not off to the scattered remnants of our people among the Greeks, is he? – and outsider Greeks won’t be his pupils, will they? What’s he talking about? ‘You’ll look for me, but you won’t be able to find a trace of me,’ and ‘you’ll never be able to track me to this destination’???”

Then it came.

The last day of the Tentmaker feast.

The grand finale closing ceremonies everyone was waiting for. During a pause in the water pouring ceremony, Jesus stood up and cried out at the top of his lungs, “If anyone is thirsty, come to me, and let every one who puts their trust in me drink up! Just as the old books have said all along: ‘Rivers! Rivers from deep internal reservoirs within him will gush and cascade – refreshing, living water!’”

Pause.

A heads up for those of you who are wondering. All this living water talk? It was all about the Spirit which those who put their trust in him were going to receive. Down the road, of course. All of this was yet future.

No Spirit.
No water.
Not yet.
It all awaited the glorious consummation of his mission.

Some of the crowd – obviously not the locals! – when they heard him cry this out with such passion, kept saying, “No doubt about it! This is the one, the Prophet!”

Others among them kept saying, the excitement building, “Prophet? This is the MESSIAH!”

But others chimed in, “Not so fast! The Messiah doesn’t spring from backwater Galilee, does he? No way! The old books clearly call it, don’t they? The Messiah isn’t some Galilean, but a Bethlehemite, in the family tree of David, from David’s home town.”

So the listening crowd was pretty well split all over the place about him. Some were still chomping at the bit to seize him, but no one laid a finger on him.

The underlings from the priestly and strict sect types returned – empty handed and speechless.

“Well, why didn’t you bring him?”

They stammered blankly, “None.Ever.Talked.Like.This. Ever.”

The strict sect party howled, “You haven’t been duped too, have you? Nobody who’s anybody believes a word of this – and certainly none of our highly educated members. Damned, ignorant, clueless, crowds! They’ll believe anything – and anyone!”

Nicodemus, one of their own, shoots back at them – knowing a thing or two more about this Jesus than they did, having just had his private interview with Jesus –

“Hold on here, this isn’t biblical, is it? This isn’t what the Law would have us do – judge and condemn someone without hearing firsthand from him what he has to say for himself and seeing just exactly what it is he’s doing – is it?

Nicodemus wasn’t scoring any points.

They shot right back at him, “What? Are you some ignorant Galilean too!? Check it out! You should know this! A prophet? Arising from the muck of Galilee? Preposterous! Never!”

And that was that.
Meeting adjourned.

Everyone went home.

translation_1

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2014 in Gospel of John, MAV

 

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shade

Memorizing Mark. Savoring parables. And the savoring keeps issuing in what some might call poetry…

The Teacher sits in the boat
the tide gently laps
the crowd waits
for a word.

Then the smile almost
teasing.

“What is the kingdom of Godmustard seed
like?
what word picture
parable
could possibly capture
something of its
wonder?”

Our imagination would revisit Babel’s
towering tower
majestic
unmistakeable
massive
masculine
religious
ego
impressing all complete
with exclusive
posh and plush
penthouse
perches.

Or perhaps Thor’s hammer
pounding earth
felling trees
bending knees
bowing souls.

But the Master turns and holds out the
invisible:
the smallest of
seeds basking in unprepossessing
frame.

But when planted
it grows.

No puny shrub this
but also no towering redwood or oak.
A large bush with branches extending
outward
grasping at sky,
swaying
breezy
of no use
whatsoever
to human handmustard_seed
no wood for fire
no fodder for
construction
or craft
but birds
hunted by many
nuisance to most
of divers wing,
shape,
and call
in its shade

find home.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Poetry

 

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Oh the incessant need to classify, to quantify, to sort

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”  (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:19-28 ESV)

Starting into the Gospel of John yesterday, I read this paragraph – more familiar turf, but a sudden point of recognition.

Not exactly a spectacular epiphany. Really just a reminder.

So here are these priests and Levites from Jerusalem sent by Pharisees – which is an interesting collaboration there to begin with since Pharisees and priestly types weren’t exactly hand-holders with one another. It’s always a good indication of just how riled up people are when you see people who normally wouldn’t be seen together in the same huddle. John being from a priestly family, perhaps the Pharisees thought some priests and Levites might just loosen his tongue a bit and give them something useful as they evaluated his theological threat level to the current system.

Not likely.

I never really noticed before just how frustratingly evasive and “circular” and nebulous John the Baptist must have sounded to them. It’s a simple question. “Who are you?” John directly eliminates the first category he knew was lurking in their mind (highest threat level). “I am not the Christ.” Okay, so far so good. Now let’s work through the other categories in descending order. “Elijah”? I am not. “The prophet?” No. John really isn’t giving them a thing. I can see them, looking at each other, waiting for him to say something. Please give us something! Which is finally what they literally say to him, blowing any cover they might have had. And John says…

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.'”

You know, it reminds me of that interview with Rob Bell on MSNBC (wasn’t it?) when reporter functioned more like religious inquisitor. I’m not sure who was frustrated – the reporter asking his questions, Rob Bell trying to answer, or me trying to watch. But watching that exchange and reading this one in John it suddenly dawned on me that Bell’s greatest crime may simply be that he’s spent too much time in John. Reading on through John 5 yesterday only confirmed this feeling from John’s interview with priests – Jesus seldom in the Gospel of John gives what we would consider a straight answer!

“Who are you?” they ask. “I am a voice,” John answers.

They don’t even try to follow John through that answer back into the messianic guts of Isaiah 40 and beyond. They just go right back over their categories again.

Not the Christ. Not Elijah. Not the prophet. Right…then what are you doing here in the river?

“I baptize with water, but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, whose strap I am not worthy to untie.”

Well that clears everything up. End of interview.

I found myself admiring John’s pluck – and reading on through the early pages of the Gospel Jesus’ similar refusal to allow himself to be categorized by religious sorters. And I am struck by that innate, deep driving need we seem to have to categorize and sort and file each other – a need that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be transformed by religion but fed by it. So natural for us to categorize, are you this or you are that. So hard, so truly divine, to actually take the time to see and hear each other as we are, and to receive the unique and often unexpected thing God might have for us to receive from that person we were just about to file away.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Gospel of John, New Testament

 

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