Response #38 The Cross

Mysterious Theologian: Chase Foreman

Suffering and Dying God, finally I pray to you after hours at the foot of your cross thinking about you and me… me and you… me and sin… you and death… me and death… you and love… me and love… me and you and other people plus death and sin and love and you again and… blah blah blah… It has felt, for me, like looking through a magnifying glass, then a microscope, then a stronger microscope, ever deeper into the grain of the wood of the cross, then the cells of the wood, and then deeper into each cell where I find a monastery filled with little monks that look like me writing prayers and arguing about various things. I’m sure you were there too, trying to teach me something, but you know, I was busy talking to my selfs. In any case, thanks for listening. Thanks for coming with me. And thanks for leading me here, to where you need me to be tonight. It is time for me to pray for someone other than me. Lord let me pray. Crucify and kill the many voices of me and let me pray. It is not for my own sake that I pray, but for yours and for the sake of your children. So, lord let me pray.

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Rebellious God, yours is a cross of suffering! And your final act is one of obedience! How can this be! This is not how you lived-out the love you were preaching about! What’s with this poisonous obedience! Where is it all coming from?! Have you forgotten yourself and who you are?!”

“Duh mom, I was in my father’s house, where’d you expect me to be…” “I’m sorry Jesus, what did you just say to me?!”

“Yeah, I’m healing this guy… Nope, doesn’t matter what words I use. Let me ask you this though… what’s gonna annoy you the most if I say it and then he is healed?… ‘Cuz that’s definitely what I’m gonna say.”

“Go ahead, throw some stones if you want… but first gentlemen, let’s not be hasty and haphazard about this. Let’s get organized… Okay, I got it… Whoever wants to get stoned next gets first toss!”

“Hey, who wants to go flip some tables in the temple?”

“Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?” “I’m not gonna tell you who I am…”

“Yep, no problem Rabbuni, I’ve got it right here, let me read it back to you… Okay, here’s what I have so far: lunch with prostitutes, a sit down with a demoniac, then healing various romans and lepers, followed by an argument with some pharisees, and finally dinner with a tax collector and various other rapscallions… did I miss anything?”

You lived a life of rebellious and revolutionary love. And yet, the lasting image of your love-driven life is one that is easily twisted by us into a message of obsequiousness! Tonight I pray that you will suck out the poison that we have let creep up and soak into the grain of your cross and release those who, through their good and loving natures have been subjected to the vile natures of others and have been deceived into the chains of obeisance, abuse, and humiliated servitude. Break the bonds of your oppressed and abused children tonight. Teach them suffering for not a moment longer!

Amen!

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Response #36 Dust Bunnies

Mysterious Theologian: Chase
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Dusty God, you tangle yourself up with us. You twist yourself between our skin cells and strands of hair. We have vacuumed you up and packed you tightly away in the Bible, but you are persistent and every baby born is a child of yours shedding stories of you with them. Help us to look closely at each other and ourselves without cleaning up so much. And when we look that closely reveal yourself there between the hairs and skin. Help us gather around the Bible, burst its tightly packed pages open on the floor. Let its holy stories mix and mingle with our own so that we may see you more fully in our dustiness and not just flail around in the refuse of our own frail and crumbling bodies of sin.

Amen.

Response #34 Grease

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Mysterious Theologian: Chase

Greasy God, you stain my fingers when I’m working hard… whether I am sealing toilets, repairing bikes, or lubricating skid steers and backhoes. You got your hands dirty when you created me. You got your hands dirty when you saved me. You get your hands dirty when you love me. I give thanks for you, Greasy God, and ask that you stick with me and stain me. I ask that you continue to form me and shape me and as often as is necessary stain my fingers and remind me that though these may be my hand they were meant to do God’s greasy, grimy, good work.

Amen.

Response #33 More Cow Pies!

Mysterious Theologian: Rev. Cassie Sauter

cows

I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Minnesota. As a child, I spent the late afternoons of summer running through the pasture, going out to bring the cows home. God, it seems, can be revealed even in the most gross and unexpected places… like a cow pie.

God of the unexpected, You show up and surprise me again and again. When I look at the path set before me and see tall, scratchy, overwhelming thistles- I wonder if this is a way I can go. The path is narrow and uncomfortable and I’d really rather not, but I decide there’s no other choice (the cows need to come home and they’re at the end of this thistled path). So I walk, expecting a solitary journey and then you show up, squishing underfoot. You stop me in my tracks. It’s impossible to keep going as I had originally intended, once my foot comes in contact with you. And it isn’t just on those thistle guarded paths that your presence alters my course.

Whenever you meet me, things change. The squish & the slip, the mess & the smell, make it impossible to pretend this encounter didn’t happen I try to wipe you off and continue on, but the attempt is so very futile. Your very being gets entangled and enmeshed to the treads of my shoes, spreading out and finding even the smallest spaces to fill. Your smell lingers in my nostrils, days after our encounter. I ask my mom to smell my hair, can she smell your presence there? (if so, I’m going to need to try to wash it out- I shouldn’t go to school like that).

You linger in my nostrils and in the cracks of the soles of my shoes. You’re inescapable & surprising, messy & sometimes kind of overwhelming. I give thanks you’re woven into my memories and if I breathe slow and deep, I think I smell you, yet again (that or I need to wash my hair).

Amen.

Response #32 Cow Pie

Mysterious Theologian: Nathan Strong

CowPie

That’s not a mud pie or mud puddle. That comes right from back end of a bovine. Yes, this is a cow pie. As green vegetation enters into one end of the animal, this comes out the other. And it smells just as bad as it looks. Just one cow pie has an aroma and presence that will make you notice so you will want to go in the opposite direction. Yet, these cow pies are scattered throughout a pasture in which cattle roam and live out their days.

However, these stinky piles of manure become fertilizer or food for the plants that the animals once ate. Yes, God takes this stinking pile of remnants and makes it food for the life, growth and beauty of the world. From this fertilizer comes the food that helps feed the life within the whole world, not only the plants but also the animals that eat the plants including you and I. So then from all of this food, we give thanks to a God who from some of the stinkiest parts of our own lives, we bear witness to some of the beauty and joyful things within our own life.

As we stop and bear witness to the messy times in our own life, we will also bear witness to the moments in which God breaks into our lives and reminds us that we are cared for, we have hope and we have love. As we journey closer to Jerusalem and to Holy Week, we begin to be tired and only focus on the long journey, the piles of remnants that surround us, and we begin to long and hope for the arrival of the Messiah.

Dear God, as we long for the arrival of the Chosen One of God, the Messiah. We hope for the future blessing that you will bestow upon your people. We also stop and realize the ways in which you have already blessed us, in friends, family, good health and the love that we share with all who we encounter. Help us on our journey of faith and sharing the love that you have given to all. Amen.

Response #31 Shower Scum

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Mysterious Theologian: Chase

Scummy God, I often wonder where you are, where you’ve been, and when you’re gonna get here and do something about all this! Today you have been revealed to me in shower scum, soap scum, and hard water residue. Thank you God, for being so sticky, grimy, and cruddy. I feel your presence in the cup from my first communion and in the Bibles I have collected over the years. I feel you stuck to me and my life through the pictures of friends and family that come, with their blessings and burdens, along with me from house, to apartment, to house, to… When I consider these things I am comforted and bemused, because everywhere I go there is scummy residue in the sinks, and everywhere I go you come too. Thank you God.

Amen.

Response #28 Slugs

The Slug Challenge

The Challengers: Paul Arensmeyer and Mayor Sandy Roumagoux

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Grimy God has been fun, so far, but its been woefully east-coast centric, I think. Out here in the west, our dirt may not be as dirty, and our smog might be fog, but God has shared gross and grimy gifts with us as well. So, while I’ve got the baton, I’d liketo celebrate God’s presence (presents) in the damp and moldy underworld of the Pacific Northwest. After consulting with kindred spirit Sandy Roumagoux, artist, Mayor of Newport, Oregon, and good old rabble-rousing Lutheran, we challenge Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke to find God in an Oregon icon: the Slug. No, wait, we’re going straight for the “double dog dare” and challenging Dave to find God in the slug  in a beer trap.

The Slug Response

Mysterious Theologian: Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke

“Shouldn’t someone say a prayer or something?”

“Move over, I can’t get any.”

“Hey, show some respect, will ya? I mean, she just down off the mountain. Died in 100% Full Sail Premium.”

“What a way to go!”

“This is the Feast, of victory for our God . . .”

“Can it, Carl!”

“You mean “Bottle it” don’t you?! Ha ha haaaaaaa.”

“No, really. She’s gone. Somebody should say a prayer.”

“Sally’s headed up the pot. She’ll say something.”

“Ahem. Dear God. We are gathered here today to remember our sister Gertrude. She just got down from skiing at Hoodoo and now she lays dead in a puddle of Full Sail …”

“Hey, did anybody notice that there are, like, 12 of us here? Sort of like the Last Supper or something!”

“Ooo, Ooo. Can I be Simon Peter?

“Shut it, Frank!”

“As I was saying. Dear God, you made us slugs which is sort of a one down position in the whole web of creation, food chain thing. That wasn’t cool. And we’re only mentioned in the Bible once, Psalm 58:8. Really, we dissolve into slug slime as we go along? That’s the best you could do?! At least somebody invented Snowboards for us because the whole skiing thing wasn’t working out too well otherwise. I mean, we’ve only got one foot. Again. That’s the best you could do? Everybody else got at least two, or four or something. And you wonder why we hang out at the pub so much.

But anyway. Gertrude went skiing today and now she’s gone. You could have told us we die in beer. Nobody else has that issue. Well, actually, a lot of people do. But still, it isn’t fair.”

“She looks so peaceful though, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know . . .”

“Hey!!”

“So, God, we commit Gertrude to the deep. . .”

“Hops to hops, barley in batches.”

“Knock it off you guys!”

“So, we commit Gertrude into your loving care, O God. She was just a regular slug like the rest of us. We give thanks that she was doing what she loved right up until the end. We thank you that she had leaves to climb, and was never short of lichen, fungi and the occasional earthworm to eat. (And come to think of it, earthworms don’t have any feet at all, so …)

Also Lord, talking about body parts, being a hermaphrodite really isn’t as exciting as it sounds. It’s kind of hard to know what you were actually thinking when you made us.

But here we are, Lord – gathered at your table once again. Life goes on, and with you all things have their meat and meaning. We ask not why, but only when. Yes Lord, we ask not why, but only when.”

“Amen”

“Amen.”

“Amen, Amen . . . Amen.”

Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke
Oregon Synod – ELCA

Response #25 Cat Litter Box

Mysterious Theologian: Evan Kingston, an author and a gentleman.

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God, I thank you for making my soul small, like a studio apartment; there’s never enough room to forget that you are in here with me. As much as I would like to ignore the ugliness of my life, as tempting as it is to pretend that stubbornness doesn’t daily calcify my heart full of heavy clumps, as easy as it feels to let those moments of waste stay hidden in a pile at the back corner of my soul, you never let me forget my obligations to you, myself, and my neighbors for too long. Just as a litter box in a cozy apartment gives off gentle reminders it needs tending—a smattering of tracked-out clay, the faint whiff of urine in a draft: disgusting, yes, but nowhere near as horrific as hidden hardness they hint at—I am constantly reminded of that hardheartedness in myself which I would rather forget. As small as my soul is, I find myself slightly annoyed when I’d ought to be grateful, or frustrated when I know I should be forgiving, and I am reminded of those deeper errors I keep hidden. If I did not feel cramped in here with you, Lord, I could let these ugly errors pile up until cleaning them felt impossible, until there was little left of the clay of my soul that didn’t feel hard and soiled, until I became so used to the disgusting stench I lived in it crept under the door and warned everyone away from my life. As it is, you remind me to confront myself daily, remind me that I can be fresh and free, remind me that I can let people in and share in your joy with them, as long as I do the tough work of shoveling through my soul for those clumps that need changing.

Amen

Remember dearest and grimiest reader, if you want to join the fun and respond to a challenge or submit a challenge you can! Here’s the challenging image Evan suggested:

mystery meat

Mystery Meat!

I’m lucky enough to work at a lovely grocery store with lots of great cuts of the finest meat. There’s a whole system for tracking where the animals were raised, what they were fed, and how they were treated. But when my wallet and belly are especially empty, I head across the street for a fast food lunch, where you can get a sandwich of twice the size for half the price. Seems like a great idea while I’m ordering, but I always feel extra grimy afterwards, as a bubbling in my gut forces me to ask: what was in that mysterious coldcut, and if it was once living, how was it treated, to make it so cheap?

Response #24 Vomit, Morning, Post Patty’s Day

Mysterious Theologian: Rev. Eric Hoffer
Let us pray. Gracious God, when we encounter the spoils of a whole city’s night of debauchery, do not let us dash our foot against the vomit. Do not let our furry companion have a breakfast of barf. Do not let us stumble on the slip and slide of sick. Instead, when we gaze upon the pukey mess, we are reminded of your abundance. Just like a party-goer drunk on green beer, you fill us with grace, forgiveness, and love until we can no longer contain it. Your abundance of goodness and mercy overflow out of us like a slurry of Guinness and colcannon. Unlike the vomit of last night, let your abundance, Lord, bless the sidewalks, our communities, and our world. And so, we give thanks for St. Patrick, in whom we imbue beloved folklore, compelling myth, and an excuse to binge drink, for faithfully proclaiming to us the fullness of your love for us and for the world—it can never be contained—even when it gets messy sometimes. AMEN.
 
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My challenge to Evan: After a long, hard day at work, my cat is always there to welcome me home with a cuddly face…and a box full of poop. The litter box is a curious thing–we literally keep a container of feces in our home, and then we squat over it, our faces dangerously close to, well, everything, and clean it. Only to do it all over again soon. Ugh.

Response #23 Celebrity Reality Shows

Mysterious Theologian: Chase!

Mirror Mirror On The Wall…

God you put the weakness and innocence of cute little puppies in my arms and in so doing reveal your caring and compassionate nature that lives in me. Thank you for revealing your spirit in me. But when I look at the celebrities on the TV on my wall with their “reality” shows I see their brokenness and ridiculous peccadilloes and I don’t feel the same way. These people reveal the tyrant in me, the pharisee who prays out loud thanking you for not making me like them. They reveal the weakness of King David in me, looking down on Uriah’s wife and seeing with the impervious eyes of imperial privilege that see no one but themselves with empathy. Compassionate God fill me with your image and your spirit so that there is no space left over for the tyrant inside. Let me look with compassion on all my brothers and sisters.

Amen 

Challenge #24 comes from Stephanie Bliese, independent grimy theologian. She challenges Rev. Eric Hoffer with this grimy and oddly religious image.

Consider Eric, finding God in the vomit you find right in the middle of the sidewalk the morning after St. Patty’s day. There is nothing more disgusting than taking your dog out first thing in the morning, to then discover a minefield in the front of your building. Have fun!