In Sunday’s Psalm we read, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (30:11) The Psalmist is giving testimony from his past experiences to our need for faithful worship so that when despair occurs we will reside in faith. A residence where mourning ends and turns to joy; a joy commonly known as dancing in many Biblical stories. It is a joy that moves about within us and beyond our hearts; it is an uncontainable joy, one that must dance its way out of us to be shared with others. Can you anticipate sharing this kind of joy, or dance, with someone this week? Which dance is yours?
In the fantastic, action-packed story of Jesus stilling the storm in Mark 4:35-41, there is a verse that is easily overlooked. It’s the tiny sentence at the end verse 36: Other boats were with him.
I did an informal survey of art this week. Didn’t take long to conclude that in most artwork, only a single boat is drawn or painted: the one with Jesus in it. Were the other boats not also swamped, scared, and crying out? What did those passengers do or say? Did they also react with amazement when the calm seas descended? And what did those anonymous seafarers do afterward?
Verse 36 makes me realize that for all the hard times I may experience, there may well be other boats nearby…experiencing the same.
Calm and loving Lord, you calm the seas for me. And for others. For both truths, I am grateful. Amen.
Our reading from Ezekiel refers to the cedars of Lebanon. These cedar trees have long been a symbol of greatness, power, stability, and strength throughout the history of the Middle East. They have typically grown to heights of 80 feet having trunks 4 feet in diameter. Our reading states, “I myself (the Lord God) will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar. . . and plant it on a high and lofty mountain, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar.”
Those of you who know horticulture know that a cedar tree can be reproduced by this method of planting a sprig. But what is so interesting is that to encourage the growth of such a small sprig, they are better to be exposed to several harsh freezes and be subjected to stress. Horticulturists will intentionally “wound” the open end of the newly harvested sprig in order to encourage growth.
Has your faith ever been so stressed, frozen, or wounded?
Furthermore, God chooses to plant this sprig of the cedar high on top of the lofty mountains. I think of the times I have hiked in the Rocky Mountains to the tree line, the high and lofty spaces where growth is challenged by the elements. Does God intend that our faith be planted in such challenging places as the barren tops of rock laden, dry, sparse mountain tops?
Our faith is often faced with a freezing climate toward Christianity, it will be wounded by the world around us, it will have to be planted in dry soil…. But it will sprout and grow each day. . . we may not know how. . . but “I myself” (the Lord God) will make it happen for you.
My prayer is that all may know this promise in their most challenging times.
A couple in paradise want something even more than the everything they already have. Their insecurities preyed upon, and easily suckered, they grasp for the big time: to be like God. The consequences are swift, far-reaching and strangely universal: blame, shame, and separation.
Grasping power. Losing power. Who does power belong to?
These are questions of everyday life.
These are the questions we will explore together on Sunday, June 10 in worship. In the meantime, let us pray:
All-powerful God, you are above all and in all. Might there be room in our power struggles for your graceful ways? Amen.