The Present and Hidden Kingdom

By Johnny Tuttle

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

I am a sucker for the universality – the “catholicity”[1] –  of this string of parables. They seem concerned, not simply with identifying the Kingdom of God, but the universal reach of its presence.

Certainly, the mustard seed is a speck in the field. Yet, as the parable announces, it grows into “the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” I suppose you could debate whether the mustard seed is indeed the smallest seed, or whether it is the greatest of shrubs when it is grown; I’ll pass on that debate. It seems the point, rather, is that the entirety of this “sprawling” plant – one large enough to house the birds of the air in its branches – is contained by the seemingly insignificant seed. Read more

Waiting With Eager Longing

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 28:10-19a and Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 

Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 or Isaiah 44:6-8 and Psalm 86:11-17

Romans 8:12-25

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

What a strange and interesting time we live in! It has been fascinating to observe the reactions of people in my networks as they grapple with feeling trapped at home, with having to teach or simply appease frustrated, restless kids, and with the fears of the impact of the virus (real and imagined) on communities, on families, and ultimately (you knew this was coming) on themselves individually. In other words, what about ME? Read more

Birth at Mount Gilboa

Third Sunday of Advent

 

 

 

Isaiah 35:1-10

Psalm 146:5-10

Luke 1:46b-55

James 5:7-10

Matthew 11:2-11

Have you ever smelled a railroad tie burning?  Picture hot asphalt, Marlboro Reds, and a touch of polecat rolled up together and you’ll just about have it. It’s one thing to get a whiff of, passing by with your windows down in July. It’s another thing altogether to have to breathe it day in and day out on your back porch under a thickened December sky.

Companies that want to produce energy on the cheap and make a good profit by doing it realize that it’s in their best interest to build their plants way out where “those rednecks” don’t have the infrastructure or capital to resist them. At the far edge of a big open field about a mile from where my husband pastors in Colbert, Georgia, an outsized box glows and pumps smoke 300 feet in the sky. Last year this biomass power plant quietly switched over from burning wood chips to creosote soaked railroad ties. At a similar plant right up the road, the creosote was only a gateway drug before burning used motor oil. And it’s not just the air here that’s a commodity. The chicken factories have started leasing land from ex-farmers to bury their beaks and byproducts six inches out of sight but not near deep enough to hide the stench they give off. Read more

The Art of Discernment

Acts 5:27-32
John 20:19-31
This season, when we boldly proclaim our Lord’s resurrection, doesn’t seem like prime discernment time. Surely, that’s for the anticipatory seasons of Advent, and maybe Lent? Surely, in the face of something as amazing as the resurrection, we are no longer at the point of careful discernment but rather at the point of charging ahead! Yet I suggest that this week’s readings speak to us of the importance of discernment and of careful reflection, even and especially in the midst of the excitement of the resurrection. Perhaps this is all the more important in our contemporary, fast-paced, efficient culture! Read more

With Us to the End of the Age

Trinity Sunday
Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Talk about God’s authority over all things can make people uneasy. “Authority” sounds like it might be a threat to our freedom, as when, in the movie “The Truman Show,” the director of the reality show that is Truman’s life controls every circumstance in his world. He finally speaks to Truman from the fake clouds in the set’s fake sky: “In my world, you have nothing to fear. I know you better than you know yourself….I’ve been watching you your whole life.” We cheer to see Truman refuse to live as a slave.

That kind of domination is what happens when humans try to be God, to control each other. Read more