A Table Full of Stories

The Gospel reading for Sunday, July 31 includes the famous story of The Feeding of the 5,000.  But in fact, looking at the Bible as a whole, there are countless table stories, holy meals, and banquets in both the Old and New Testaments.  I have to believe that this is not just because we need to put calories into our bodies; but because meals are transformational times, a shorthand for fellowship, the backdrop for our community life.

This week, we are asking you to share a story in the comments of a meal that was–or is–important to you. What made it so special?  Who was present?  Why was that meal so meaningful?

Giving God, you multiply your goodness in common, everyday ways.  Bless our tables.  Bless our table stories.  Bless those at our tables.  And bless those who are not.  Amen.

He Spoke To Them in Parables, Saying…

This Sunday, July 24, we have six (seven if you count the very last thing about a new and old treasure) parables in rapid succession.  Matthew 13 is chock-full of these parables!  They’re everywhere!

What is a parable?  Well, the definition we give in Confirmation is:  a short story meant to teach, but it probably goes much deeper than that.  The word parable means two things laid side-by-side (a comparison).  More complex than a simple metaphor or an allegory,  a parable can have more than one interpretation.  Parables are designed to open imaginations and hearts, and to leave the listeners wondering.

So, with that in mind, reread the 6-7 parables we will hear this coming Sunday.  Which one captures your imagination?  Why, do you suppose, that is?  Are there any modern-day parables you would add to this list of what Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like?  Please add yours in the comments below.

God, you spoke in parables then.  Do you speak to us in parables now?  We wonder.  Amen.

 

It Wasn’t A Butterfly Bush After All

Several years ago my mom was having trouble keeping a butterfly bush from freezing in the winter.  Since she lives in IL, where the winters are much warmer than here, I said, “Mom, you must be getting bad plants or something. I’ll bring one down for you when we come to the family reunion.”  Ours grows like crazy, I told her, but we must have a different kind.  Still, the butterflies still love it, and maybe it’s the sunshine in that part of the flower bed.

So that spring we went out to our perennial garden to harvest some of that butterfly bush for my mom.  And when we went out there, we noticed that our butterfly bush was, well, kind of taking over the garden.  My husband, when he put the shovel in the ground and hit some very large, very woody roots, said, “Um, I don’t think this is butterfly bush.”

So we took it down to our local expert for diagnosis.

And you guessed it.  Although butterflies liked it, this plant was not “butterfly bush” per se.  It goes by another name.

Joe Pye Weed.

Go ahead, laugh.  We did.

joe pye weed. pretty, right?

Now, in our defense, it was a pretty plant.  And I am almost sure that the perennial sale we went to had this marked as butterfly bush.  Needless to say, the Joe Pye Weed did not travel to Illinois that year to invade mom’s garden.

This Sunday, as last week, we had a parable of agriculture.  Jesus tells a story about wheat, and about weeds.  And to those farm hands who are inexperienced, unable to tell the difference between good grain and weeds, there is only one thing to do.

No, not start pulling.

Wait and see.  All will be revealed.

The question is, can we wait that long?

Sowing God, we trust you to reveal what is good and what isn’t.  Amen.

Surfaces

“A sower went out to sow,” (Matt. 13:3) says Jesus. He continues with this parable saying that this sower sowed liberally – over the hard paths, onto rocky soil, and into the thorny patches…as well as onto the good rich soil.

We are also sowers of seed, and in our efforts to grow things we are quite careful to sow our precious seeds only onto the soil that has been carefully prepared, tilled, weeded and even fertilized so we can be assured our plants will grow.  This is also true when we sow our love and mercy through our gifts of time and money.  We are careful to scope out the causes to which we give.  When a solicitor calls on the phone, we want to know exactly where our money will go so we can at least think we are diligent in how we give away what we have.  Sometimes we even make judgments about the worthiness of the recipients; an example is how some folks get angered about “their” tax dollars going to people who don’t work or were not responsible enough to buy health insurance.   This writer will have to leave those decisions up to those who have both opinions and dollars enough to share.  : )

But, for me, I’m so glad that God does not feel this way about sowing his seeds of love, mercy, and grace around me.  Because I’m simply human, I could (at times) easily be tossed into any category called “heart…hard as pavement,” or “willingness to help anyone in need…often rocky,” or “thinking of others first…kinda thorny.”

As I look out my window I see green things growing up from the cracks in the sidewalk, I hope we can at least have some cracks in our hard exteriors, because God continues to sow His good seed onto whatever kind of surface we are.

Sower by Vincent Van Gogh 1889

When They Couldn’t Make Up Their Minds

The Gospel Reading for this Sunday, July 3, 2011 couldn’t have been more timely.  From Matthew 11:

16“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

Jesus is describing the kids in the public square, bickering with each other because they can’t make up their minds on which game to play that day.  Weddings?  Or funerals?  No one was satisfied!  Jesus then says something to the effect of:  “Well folks, you didn’t like John the Baptist, and you don’t like the Son of Man either.”  Nor can the adults make up their minds!

When things are entrenched, positions set, jaws clenched, and standoffs are in slow motion…people suffer.

Jesus’ answer is an invitation.  “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

When things are entrenched, positions set, jaws clenched, and standoffs are in slow motion…Jesus starts issuing invitations.  Invitations to easy (literally, kind) yokes.  Invitations to lighter burdens.  When they couldn’t make up their minds, Jesus just kept on inviting.  No wonder so many couldn’t stand him.

Inviting Lord, gentle and humble in heart: we are truly burdened.  Take our weariness.  Amen.

Minnesota Capitol, evening of June 30, 2011