31 March 2012

Ode to the Holarchy

One of my favorite book titles: "The Exuberant Years" about working with Junior High kids. The song below reminds me of that book. Driving rhythm guitar screams: "Energy! Life!! Now!." Lots of energy. The sound is consistent with the lyrics which are also on the Junior High level. Heh. We can't expect each thing to be everything. Each song will not contain a holon of the entire universe. Yet, paradoxically, each song does. Even this one. And so does each person. Even you. You, too, are a crucial aspect of the holoarchy. Rejoice, be glad, and sing.

Jon B.

21 March 2012

SERMON: Snake-bit by the Gospel:
How to Fall in Love with the World

Above is a video of the sermon and below is the sermon outline, sermon texts, and a quote.

John 3:14-21     And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
Numbers 21:4-9     From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lordsaid to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

 Gari Hatch "Watch Our Birds" 04-13-2008 8" x 10" (sold)
Richard Rohr was helpful in thinking about this material. In particular, I resonate with this quote about the importance of faith and trust from his book Falling Upward.
Falling upward is a “secret” of the soul, known not by thinking about it or proving it but only by risking it—at least once. And by allowing yourself to be led—at least once. Those who have allowed it know it is true, but only after the fact. This is probably why Jesus praised faith and trust even more than love. It takes a foundational trust to fall or to fail—and not to fall apart. Faith alone holds you while you stand waiting and hoping and trusting. Then, and only then, will deeper love happen. It's no surprise at all that in English (and I am told in other languages as well) we speak of “falling” in love. I think it is the only way to get there. None would go freely, if we knew ahead of time what love is going to ask of us. Very human faith lays the utterly needed foundation for the ongoing discovery of love. Have no doubt, though: great love is always a discovery, a revelation, a wonderful surprise, a falling into “something” much bigger and deeper that is literally beyond us and larger than us. Jesus tells the disciples as they descend from the mountain of transfiguration, “Do not talk about these things until the Human One is risen from the dead” (by which he means until you are on the other side of loss and renewal). If you try to assert wisdom before people have themselves walked it, be prepared for much resistance, denial, push-back, and verbal debate. As the text in Mark continues, “the disciples continued to discuss among themselves what ‘rising from the dead’ might even mean” (Mark 9:9–10). You cannot imagine a new space fully until you have been taken there. I make this point strongly to help you understand why almost all spiritual teachers tell you to “believe” or “trust” or “hold on.” They are not just telling you to believe silly or irrational things. They are telling you to hold on until you can go on the further journey for yourself, and they are telling you that the whole spiritual journey is, in fact, for real—which you cannot possibly know yet. Rohr, Richard (2011-04-01). Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life . John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition. 
Here's hoping you get snake-bit by the gospel and fall in love with the world.

Jon B.

15 March 2012

SERMON - God's Temple: Not for Sale

The sermon moves from Jesus anger at the money changers in the temple to Paul's observation that YOUR BODY is the temple of God and then wonders what we can do about those would use the bodies of other humans as a cash machine as is the case with human trafficking. You may listen to an audio version of the sermon here and see how well I followed the sermon outline below.

The sermon text is taken from John 2:13-22, which reads as follows:
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (New Revised Standard Version)
This outline above is from the March 11, 2012 sermon I preached at St. John's Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas. 

14 March 2012


When I sang in the Belhaven College choir back in the day, we ended every concert with an Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your faceand the rains fall soft upon your fields.Until we meet again, until we meet again,may God hold you in the palm of His hand.May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I have a recording of us singing that song if you'd like to hear it.

Here is an older Celtic blessing on a home from the 6-8th century:

The Sacred Three, my fortress be encircling me, Come and be round my hearth, my home.     
Fend Thou my kin and every sleeping thing within from scare, from sin. 
Thy care our peace, through mid of night to light's release.

Blessing goes back to the very earliest times. In the morning of Creation, on the completion of each day's work, God blessed the living creatures that came from God's hands, bidding them increase and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1-2). 

God blesses. That is what God does. God invites you and me to be blessed by God and be a blessing to others. May you and those you love be blessed and be a blessing today. 

10 March 2012

Human Slaves in Houston

Solitude by Gari Hatch. Used by permission.

The startling truth is there are more human slaves alive today than ever in history. Houston, Texas, where I live, is a hub for human trafficking. Here are a few sobering bullet points:

  • There are over 6,000 runaways in Houston and 1 of 3 children who run away is lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home.

  • The Texas border is North America’s number one supply site for young children used in sex and labor trafficking.

  • Texas houses the I-10 corridor, which the Department of Justice designated as the number one route for human trafficking.

Unfortunately, few victims escape alive, but recently I heard about one such girl. You can see her video interview on Fox News Houston. Here is an excerpt from that source.

FoxHouston Reports:
In Mexico there aren't many opportunities for girls like Maria except the promise of love.

"A man made me fall in love with him in Mexico. I was in love with him. I loved him very much because he was my first boyfriend," she said through a translator.

Three years ago that boyfriend, a man twice her age, smuggled the then 16-year-old from Mexico to a home in Houston. He told her dreams come true here. But in Houston her nightmare began.

"I would cry out of desperation," she said.Maria's so called boyfriend put her to work almost immediately as a sex slave at apartment complexes and inside cantinas. It happened she says:

"Everyday, six to seven days a week. Depending on the day I'd have sex with seven to ten men a night during the week and on weekends 20 to 30 men a night."Maria earned up to $5,000 a week.

She says she got to keep nothing.

"It used to be a daily routine. When I woke up he was always there. He would take me to work in the afternoon, and he would pick me up from work. It was always the same. The day I was off I would spend it with him."

At night Maria dreamt of running away, but the climate of fear was enough to keep her mentally tied down.

"He used to tell me he was going to beat me up if I would talk including that I could not call Mexico because he was always there checking up on me, and sometimes he really beat me up."

Three months later, with help, Maria was able to reach out to family who contacted law enforcement. She was rescued.

Thank God this girl was saved. Her story fills my heart with anger and shame. I am glad she was rescued but why did she have to endure such crimes against God and humanity. The more pertinent question is what can we do? The first thing we can do is pray. I say that with all seriousness. I know prayer is counter intuitive in this instance. This problem is so huge, so entrenched, and so lucrative for the perpetrators that it seems impossible to solve. That is why I say prayer is the first step. Out of serious and sustained prayer we may be given a direction to take. Doing nothing is not right. We must start somewhere. I say start with prayer on our knees. After we get good at that we will begin to pray with our feet. That means we will take action. You tell me what that strategy looks like. I'm listening. 

08 March 2012

Are We Headed for a Cashless Society?

Used by permission

Are We Headed for a Cashless Economy?
The Wired Word for March 11, 2012

In the News

One word in the news recently caught our attention: “unbanked.” Perhaps it’s because we’re used to hearing the term “unchurched” to refer to people who do not belong to or participate in a church, but we knew immediately that unbanked referred to those who don’t have bank accounts and don’t participate in the banking system. The word caused us to playfully wonder if those who used to have a bank account could be the “debanked” and former church attendees could be the “dechurched.” Then, if they return, are they the “rebanked” and the “rechurched” respectively?

Carrying the analogy in a more serious direction, we noted that as church people ourselves, we often consider the unchurched to be missing out on something important. Should we think about the unbanked as missing out on something important as well, or are there some advantages to not using a financial institution?

The word “unbanked” appeared in a couple of news stories about the trend of society toward becoming “cashless,” meaning that instead of transacting purchases with actual paper currency and metal coins, we would all use some form of electronic transaction, even for such minor purchases as a candy bar or a subway token, with there being no option for paying with cash.

Obviously, with credit and debit cards as well as checks, many of us are already participating in cashless transactions, but the projection is that using technology known as near-field communications (NFC), even your local morning coffee vendor would have a payment device at which you would simply wave your enabled card or smartphone to pay for small-value purchases, which wouldn’t require even the inputting of a PIN or signature.

Even loans to friends will be able to be made using your smartphone. (“There’s an app for that!”)

What’s more, many of us are already used to using “virtual currencies” which require no hand-to-hand exchange, such as frequent-flyer miles, rewards points, Bitcoins, Ithaca Hours and Facebook Credits.

Among the benefits of a cashless economy are the big savings to governments (which no longer have to print bills and mint coins), the elimination of currency counterfeiting (but likely replaced by computer-currency counterfeiting), the removal of the risk of carrying large sums of cash (replaced by the risk of account theft or theft of the currency card or app or whatnot), and the speeding up of checkout lines where consumers no longer have to enter PINs or sign invoices and where clerks no longer have to make change.

The technology to go cashless already exists, but the unbanked could have difficulty in such an economy. The unbanked include older people who survived the Great Depression and have a deep distrust of all financial institutions and therefore do not use them, young people who may not have established financial practices, those who have declared bankruptcy and are trying to live without credit, low-wage earners who may not be able to maintain the necessary minimum balance to keep a bank account active, the extremely poor who have no need for the banking system as they try to survive their day-to-day lives, illegal immigrants who don’t have the proper identification to open a bank account and criminals who avoid using financial institutions because law enforcement officials can track their actions through their accounts. (We don’t need to accommodate the latter group; they will no doubt find other ways to hide their earnings.)

A fully cashless economy may be coming, but if it is to work, ways will need to be established to include every consumer.

Of course, all of this presumes a government monopoly on currency, which may or may not continue, and could become less of a factor as virtual currencies multiply.

More on this story can be found at these links:
Is Cash Really Going to Disappear? FoxBusiness
The Allure of a Cashless Society. CGAP
What If Cash Sales for Houses Were Banned? Carpe Diem
The Crypto-Currency. The New Yorker (the full article is behind a subscription wall, but this link will take you to the abstract, which is available to all and gives the gist of the article)
Ithaca Hours. Wikipedia

The above comes from Wired Word which is a cool curriculum used by a class I teach on Sunday mornings at 9 am at St. John's Presbyterian Church, 5020 West Bellfort Ave, Houston, TX 77096. You are invited to drop in this Sunday for this interesting conversation. 

In the meantime, let me know what you think about these questions. 

  • Is a cashless society a good thing for you? 
  • Is it a good thing for everyone? 
  • Who are the winners in a cashless society? 
  • Who are the losers? 
  • Does it matter who the winners and losers may be?

07 March 2012

Hold me in the light


Think of someone you love today. In your mind, hold them in the light. That act is a type of prayer Christians call intercessory prayer. That is the foundation and heart of our relationships in Christ. Hold me in the light today and I will hold you there.

06 March 2012

Look at your blind spot

Blind Bartamaeus demanded Jesus have mercy on him and heal his blindness. Bystanders were embarrassed at Bartemaeus' insistence. He REALLY wanted to see so Jesus healed him. Read the story for yourself at Mark 10:46-52.

What is your blind spot? Take some time right now to ponder that question. Do you really want to change your perspective. As the Fleetwood Mac song puts it, "You'll see things in a different way." Is that REALLY what you want?

My blind spot is focusing on the negative people and perspectives in my life. I am going to repent of that by changing my perspective. I am going to turn and focus my attention on the new life God is creating all around me. No longer will I be called Blind Burnhamaues. From henceforth I shall be known simply as Jon, which in the Hebrew means "beloved of God."

04 March 2012

SERMON VIDEO: "How to Carry a Cross"

Sermon text: Mark 8:31-38
Sermon title: How to Carry a Cross

The cross is a plus sign. Notice how the beams intersect just like a plus sign. The only difference in the cross and the plus sign is that the cross is longer below than it is above the intersection. Why? Perhaps the longer below the middle section cross teaches a spiritual truth. What you now know could be considered as what you see above the arm beam of the cross. What you will know is the longer beam below the center beam. Growth occurs beneath the surface. Growth down below is something you can't see. The same principle applies in our spiritual lives as applies for a flower. The flower's growth occurs most significantly long before you ever see evidence that it is even alive. This is how spiritual growth occurs within you. You do not even notice it is happening. You may not see much evidence of the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, self control) in your life. Yet these spiritual fruits may be growing roots underneath the surface of your life.

01 March 2012

Learn, unlearn, and relearn

Add caption

Painting by Gari Hatch

used by permission.

The future has arrived and those who are illiterate in the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ~Alvin Toffler

You see, reading and writing won't cut it any more. They are not enough. Nowadays you have to know how to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Knowing how to unlearn and relearn is more important than what you think you know. 

Jack Uldrich in his book Higher Unlearning, offers this definition: 

unlearn: v. [the act of unlearning; verbal n, to unlearn]      

1. the act of releasing old knowledge      

2. to see the world not as one would like to see it, but as it really is      

3. to be un-uninformed      

4. to acquire wisdom either by replacing old information that has been supplanted by new knowledge, or alternatively, by relinquishing known falsehoods

Uldrich, Jack (2011-07-28). Higher Unlearning: 39 Post-Requisite Lessons for Achieving a Successful Future (Kindle Locations 205-212). Beaver's Pond press. Kindle Edition. 

For example, you need to know how to use Google to do research. This video is one little nugget on the way to learning how to learn online. 

For more about "unlearning education," see this excellent blog post and to find out more about unlearning, and why it’s so important, visit schoolofunlearning.com.

Your learning, unlearning and relearning friend,
Jon B.

A digusted Jesus heals a leper

What makes Jesus so disgusted he wants to throw up and so mad he starts shaking? The answer has something to do with praying with your feet.



In the story of Jesus healing a leper Jesus wants to throw up. What makes him so disgusted he wants to throw up? Was it the awful way the leper looked or was it something deeper? Later in the story he is raging mad. Is he angry at the leper or the way the leper was treated? Why is Jesus acting out? This sermon from Mark 1:40-45 shows us a Jesus who is disgusted and angry. Listen and hear why he felt that way and what it means for you and me.

The original Greek version of this story shows a much more passionate side of Jesus than is portrayed in the English translation shown here from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible. 
Mark 1:40-45
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
This is a bland rendering of the original text as explained in the sermon above.