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Living the Lectionary

A starting point from week to week in my Journey from A-C

Month

July 2014

When It’s All Been Said and Done.

I’ve titled this blog entry after the Robin Mark song.  It’s about how the only real thing that matters in life is living in the truth of God’s love.  There’s a part in the song that goes like this:

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love’s rewards
Will stand the test of time

Love.  It’s the best word to describe what the Christian faith is really supposed to be all about.  Love is at the core of every last thing that Jesus ever did period.  I see it in the story of the feeding of the 5000 recorded in Matthew 14:13-21.

I think I have always read the story as simply a miracle, something that proves Jesus is who we say he is.  Maybe that’s part of it, but I think it’s way more that just a miracle.  There is a lot more going on than just bread and fish being multiplied.

Jesus has just been informed that his family member John (the baptiser), someone who has played a significant role in his life has been murdered.  In his grief he decides to head off to be alone, who wouldn’t want to just get away with news like that?  Jesus can’t get away though because the crowds follow him.  Either they haven’t heard that Jesus has just lost someone, or they don’t care.

That’s when it happens, right at the point where I would be telling the crowd to show some respect, to quit thinking about themselves and their own needs, to get lost and just leave me alone; Jesus turns around and has compassion on the crowd.

Compassion: He felt the needs of the people gathered there around him in the very depth of his being and so he began to cure their sick.  Why would anyone do this except for deep, relentless, unfathomable love?

The story moves on and after the disciples try to convince him to send the people away to get something to eat, he tells them that they are going to feed the people.  This is where the “miracle” occurs, and sure it is a miracle that a little bit of food became a lot.  I think the true miracle is in the love of Jesus for his people, the fact that he meets their need.  He didn’t make them line up and declare their faith, he didn’t ask them to sign anything saying they would follow.  He just saw the need as it was and chose to feed them, and he calls us to do the same even in the times where maybe we don’t want to.

As I was thinking about that this morning, I allowed myself to really picture what the kingdom of God might look like if it was always based on love.  I had a vision of a table filled with many people, the table was long and stretched out as far as I could see, yet at the same time there was no one at that table that was very far from Jesus.  Everyone was being fed.  At the table were all kinds of people, people who one might expect to see gathered, but also people that we might not expect, or even want were seated right next to each other.

The eyes are the window to the soul, you can tell if someone really loves through their eyes.  And as I saw the people gathered around their eyes showed nothing but love for Jesus and for each other.  My heart of stone has been ripped from my being this morning, and replaced with a heart of flesh, as it has been in the past and I suspect it will need to be in the future.  That’s what the story of the feeding of the 5000 as Matthew tells it, has done for me today.

It lead me to worship:

 

 

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On Giant Hogweed and the Danger of Protecting Myself

Photo Credit: Rbk_dolde2 Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Rbk_dolde2
Wikimedia Commons

I have an irrational fear of Giant Hogweed.  I call it an irrational fear, because I have never seen a plant, and never experienced its effects.

I am afraid of it only because I know it grows in my province.  See irrational.

I first heard about Giant Hogweed last summer in the news. I heard about how it is spreading and what types of environment and how it can really harm you if you touch its sap.

The problem is, I had only seen bits and pieces of pictures of the weed and it’s flowers look much like another common, but harmless plant called Queen Anne’s Lace, which there is plenty of right in my back yard.

It just so happens that last summer I had my cat out in the back yard.  He’s an indoor cat and I don’t allow him to roam free, but I do let him outside if I am around to watch him.  He’s a pretty cautious cat, he’ll dart a few feet in front of me and then look back and wait for me to follow before running a few more feet.  But on this particular day, he decided to run out a few feet further and was headed toward the area behind the shed that leads to the bank that runs down into the Harbour.

And that’s when I saw it.  There was a plant that looked to me exactly like the pictures I had seen of Giant Hogweed.  I shouted and ran for the cat and managed to get him safely in the house away from the threat of the Hogweed.

Turns out it wasn’t Hogweed at all, it was just another plant that looks like it, but is much smaller.  Luckily enough for me, I figured out that it wasn’t and have learned a bit more about Giant Hogweed since, because had I not learned that it wasn’t almost immediately I would have been down in that bank digging up everything that even remotely looked like Giant Hogweed, and that would have been dangerous.  You can’t just dig the plant up, in fact you  need protective gear and everything.  It’s dangerous to just cut Hogweed down.

So if I ever really do come across Giant Hogweed, my best bet is going to be calling in the proper “authority” and letting them deal with the problem.  Until then, I live in the uncomfortable knowledge, that I can’t really tell the difference between good plants and many different types of weeds that grow right together.

So as I think of Jesus parable of the wheat and the weed in Matthew 13:24-30, and  36-43, I am reminded that just as I can’t tell the difference between literal weeds and would be likely to pull up even good plants, I’m even less likely to be able to judge the proverbial plants that Jesus is talking about.  I would try to pull out the weeds but wind up spoiling the whole harvest because I’d be digging up and throwing out the good stuff too, and in trying to protect myself I’d be causing more damage than good.

So for me, even though it seems unnatural to not work at getting rid of the weeds, allowing them to grow with the “good stuff” I have to admit that I don’t really know anything about it and trust the one who does.

I’m Not The Same: A reflection on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Our church choir used to sing an upbeat song called I’ve been Changed.  It’s a fun song to sing actually I can’t remember many of the words.  I do remember the chorus though, it says.

I’ve been changed,
I’ve been newborn,
all my life has been rearranged.
What a difference it made,
when the Lord came and stayed,
in my heart, oh yes I’ve been changed.

The focus of the song is on that moment when someone chooses a “personal relationship” with Jesus and how that has changed their life.  Whether or not you are a Christian who believes that personal relationship is important or not, I think we can all agree that following Jesus does make a difference, or a change in our lives.

The thing for me is though, that I don’t focus on one specific occasion where my life was changed.  Yes there was a day, when I made a decision to follow Jesus…but that’s not been the only time my life has changed.  It can’t be for any of us, our lives constantly change as we grow and develop as human beings and as we gain new information over time.

So while I have been changed, I am also changing.

I used to read the parable of the sower as an evangelical text, where we are the sower scattering the seed around.  I used to think it was Jesus way of preparing his followers for the fact that not everyone is going to hear and understand the message of salvation.  That may be true, but I have come to recognize that I am not the sower, God is.

I also used to read the text as though it applies to others only.  I used to read that since I have accepted Jesus that I am the good soil, those who have not are the bad soil.

Isn’t it the truth though, that at different points during my walk of faith that I am all the different kinds of soil?

There are times when I am an example of the seed thrown on the path.  There have been times when I have not fully understood the word of God and therefore it has sometimes been snatched away.  Like a time where I have an opportunity to show God’s grace and love to someone and missed it because I was not in tune with what God was trying to teach me.

Then there are other times when my life reflects the seed thrown on the rocky path, where I have immediately received the word but then lost my excitement.  Camps, congresses, retreats, conferences, discussions…they’ve all happened in my life and at some of them I’ve become so excited about the gospel of Jesus Christ that I can’t wait to get my hands dirty when I get home.  Then I get home and wake up the next day, and feel like I have more of a hangover than the excitement I felt.

Still other times my life reflects the seed thrown among the thorns, where my desire for material possession or even my focus on the world and living comfortably in it, trump what God has called me to do.

And thankfully, sometimes my life also reflects the seed thrown on the good soil.  The times where I “get” it and live it out.

I share this with you because I think we’re all like that, the parable is about US, not about THEM.  We’re all like each of the places the seed is scatters, and thankfully for us…the sower keeps on sowing.

 

 

Religion, Culture, and Rest: A Reflection

As of late I have been more observant of the Christian culture wars through social media (especially twitter) but just as quickly as I watched, I have become weary.  I recognize that this is more of an issue for our neighbors to the south than it is in Canada, but trust me I’ve seen the evidence of the damage that is being done by the war here.

I think that part of my weariness is that I don’t really fit on either side (what some would label progressive or conservative).  Don’t get me wrong it’s not that I am sitting on the fence on the issues facing Christianity today, I have strong convictions on many issues.  It seems to me however that in order to fit with any group in the church, one must readily adopt all the views of a certain group or it is considered that you accept none.

The issues at the heart of the culture wars are important, they are things that need to be examined, understood and even debated.  But in our searching, we have started the war.  We’ve become content to tear one another down, judge, and damn in the name of defending our point.  All the while we forget that despite our differing opinions we serve the same Jesus, or at least I think we do after all the scriptures highlight only one.

We, on both sides of the issues, are failing to relieve the burdens of those around us, we are creating casualties on all sides.

We’re too busy trying to fit Jesus into our agenda that we become disillusioned when he does not dance to our tune.

“It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  (Matt 11:16b-19a).

Have we missed the point in all of this?  I think so, and many have chosen to leave “religion” behind as a result.

While I am often found shaking my head at the way we treat each other in the name of religion and the fact that I can never really live up to the expectations of either side, I am also encouraged because despite it all Jesus is still inviting each of us to lay our burdens down, even if we don’t have it all figured out.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-29)

Isn’t this something that we can all share in the name of Jesus?

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