shrub

The Greatest of All Shrubs

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

What a time in the life of the American church to read this brief parable of Jesus: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of …shrubs.” A shrub. Not a towering redwood, not a spreading chestnut, nor a big oak, and not even a nice fruit tree. Just a shrub. At least Ezekiel thought the kingdom of God would be a cedar, about as big a tree as existed in the ancient Middle East. But a shrub? What’s going on here, Jesus?” Read more

Path_to_the_Church_House_-_geograph.org.uk_-_789784

Trusting the Way

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

Gathered together in an upper room with Jesus, the disciples give Jesus their full attention. They’ve just shared this meal with him and watched him kneel and wash everyone’s feet. They’re shocked to hear that one of them is a betrayer and they’re highly aware that outside the doors of their small room, the powers are organizing to put a stop to their small movement that only a few days before looked like it might become a successful revolution. Now, things look dire. To top it all, Jesus tells them that he is leaving them and they can’t go with him. So when Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” it is because their hearts are troubled. Read more

broken glass

Break in the Cup

Third Sunday in Lent

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

David Wilcox calls “Break in the Cup” the “anti-love song,” his protest against the romantic mythology that says all we have to do is find that one person who will make us forever happy, and how hard could that possibly be?

The couple in the song have the dreamy-eyed notion that the nectar of their love should slake every possible thirst. As a result, they drive each other crazy because they fail to recognize that there is “a break in the cup that holds love inside us all.”

I sometimes wonder if by overstressing “personal relationship” in the vocabulary of our faith, we fall prey to a similar kind of romantic mythology, substituting Jesus for that one person who will make us happy. Of course the blessed fellowship of the Trinity overflows instead of leaks out, but such an emphasis on the relationship that always fulfills can make us forget that there is still a break in our cup. Read more

rope

Bonds Unbroken

Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Matthew 5:38-48

At the start of an interview with America magazine last year, Pope Francis was asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” The Pope paused a moment before saying, “I am a sinner,” and then went on to clarify: “…but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”

Perhaps you, like me, take heart at these words, which sound like the fruit of hard experience, not the stale repetition of some pretty formula. Perhaps you, like me, know the wounds – many of them meticulously concealed – of broken relationships, the compounded result of a willful and persistent alienation from God and God’s Creation. Yet the maker of the Universe regards Francis, me, and you, and mercifully refuses to let our “no” be the final word. Though we’ve devoted much time and energy to severing our bonds of connection, God has not, does not, will not. Read more

Jesus and John the Baptist

Again!

Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

1.
I’ve learned from spending time with little kids that they are universally into repetition. How many times in a row have you played the “so-big” game? Read a book straight through only to be met with demands for an immediate encore…or three? Or watched a favorite TV episode or movie on loop?

There’s good reason – repetition helps kids learn and facilitates brain development. Repetition and routine also provide comfort and stability, bonding children with parents, teachers and other adults who love and care for them.

2.
After spending time with the epistle lesson, I’ve also come to see repetition as a means of grace. Reminders about “the reason for the season” are sorely needed when things like blackfridaydeathcount.com have cause to exist. Read more