Living the Lectionary

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


November 2014

Ready or Not

I grew some potatoes this summer.

Actually I didn’t do anything, a man from my congregation set them for me in a garden box that he made for me. All I had to do is wait for them to grow, and watch for the signs that they were ready.  It began first with the shoots appearing over the dirt.  I knew this was a sign that they were growing, but I knew when the small leaves began to appear that they were not ready to be picked.

These are my growing potatoes
These are my growing potatoes

Later in the summer though, as the leaves began to get bigger and bigger I kept asking, when do I know that they are ready to be picked?  Can I pick them out now?  The key is waiting until the right time to pick them, so that you have some good potatoes.

So I waited and waited, until the stalks began to wilt a bit, and then I knew (because I had been told the sign) that they were ready to pick.

I got out my gloves, got up on the little hill and began to dig and pick the potatoes from the ground.  I cooked some up that night and they were delicious.  I was glad I had waited until the right time to pick up the potatoes.

I was glad that someone told me the signs to watch for, or all of the potatoes would have been very small.  Although I did not have to do much with the potatoes once they had been planted, I had to keep watch on them to make sure the soil did not get too dry in the hot summer heat.  I had to watch to see when they were ready.

The finished product
The finished product

Advent is actually all about the wait.  As we prepare to celebrate Christmas we also recognize that we are waiting for the return of Christ.  In Mark 13 Jesus tells his followers about the signs, and he charges his followers to keep alert because they won’t know the time.

So keep watch, live in the now.  Don’t be consumed wondering is this going to be the day, or is that going to be the day?  The truth is none of us knows, they key is to live like today is the day.

Keep awake.


The Reign of Christ the King

I just saw a meme on Facebook that reads,

If you want to keep Christ in Christmas
Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty
welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies
and do unto others as you would have done unto you.

I shared it immediately to my own wall.

This Sunday is known as ‘The Reign of Christ the King’.  That phrase alone will get at least an amen from Jesus followers in many churches, and so it should because we recognize and celebrate the reign of Christ.  The thing about the phrase is that as we celebrate this Sunday, we recognize that Christ already reigns.  Jesus doesn’t need his followers to put him on the throne, he is already there.

We get caught up in the battles just the same.  We go to war about whether or not we should say ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Merry Christmas’.  I can remember a time not so long ago when I myself went to war, over a public event that was held by my own denomination where the name of Jesus was not mentioned. I still feel fairly torn about it but I also feel at that time, maybe I missed the point. We are offended that prayer is no longer allowed in our schools, and any time something bad in the world happens we are quick to connect it with the missing prayer. We can no longer hold church services outside in public places. Christianity is long gone from the public sector, and many Christians feel threatened.  It’s almost as though we think that if we don’t react swiftly and strongly that Christ is in some way going to fall off of his throne.

Let me point again to a fact that should relieve that burden, Jesus Christ reigns, and always will.  His reign is not dependent on people.

Christianity is not a weapon to be used, but a way to live.  We can see that in the passage that is chosen this year for this Sunday.

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus is recorded as telling about the separation of the sheep from the goats when the Son of Man comes in his glory. In this passage, Jesus is clear as to who is in and who is out.  Sheep win and goats lose.  The thing to note about this passage every time is that neither group knew why they fell into the category they did, because their action or inaction is simply part of who they are as people, it is part of how they live their lives.

Those who are counted among the ‘sheep’ have no clue as to what it is that they have done. They might think that they were never really big into evangelism, they never stood in a picket line or signed a petition and they wonder what it is that they did for the kingdom. They have simply lived their lives in a way that cares for other people above themselves. Not because they are trying to earn brownie points, or get the best seat in heaven but simply because it’s the right thing to do.

While the goats might wonder how it was that they were not invested in the kingdom.  They were the ones maybe, who fought to keep Jesus in school, and to say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. Perhaps those are valid things to pursue, but maybe in getting caught up in all of that is what causes those who find themselves labelled the goats to miss the real need of their neighbour.

If I sit down and think about it, I think I often fall into the goat category. I’m often fighting for a cause instead of just living out the life of faith, allowing love and generosity to be so a part of me that I can do nothing else but to share it with others without even realizing I am doing it.  So this week as I contemplate the reign of Christ and the coming advent season my prayer needs to be like this verse from the song Hosanna:

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Let’s really keep Christ in Christmas, shall we?


Always Be Prepared

William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This weeks gospel reading (Matt 25:1-13) brings us to the parable of the 10 bridesmaids.  5 are wise, and 5 are foolish.  I know a lot of people who are like the wise bridesmaids.  They seem to always ready with whatever is needed and never find themselves unprepared, they even seem to have extra.  They carry those things around with them “because you never know”.

Those are the kind of people I like to have around, the kind I can ask for a Tylenol, or Tums, or a pair of scissors….whatever I might find myself needing in the moment they will have ready.  Because as much as I want to identify with the wise bridesmaids being prepared in any situation, I often find myself more like the foolish bridesmaid who isn’t quite prepared enough.

An example comes to mind as I recently wrote a mid-term exam for a course I am taking.  Though it took me a long time, and though I often find myself behind where I would like to be (there is no actual set schedule, it’s distance education), I did all the readings that I was to do and listened to all of the lectures through the school website. I took notes of things that I thought were important and spent the last week and a half making sure I memorized all unfamiliar terms, or concepts of the subject matter.  I was as prepared as I have ever been for an exam (despite popular belief about my study habits).

The thing about it though is no matter how prepared I was there were still questions on the exam for which I was not prepared.  I passed the exam well enough, but I did not get 100%.

There are often times in life where I have prepared for something, yet there will be that little thing that I have forgotten, that piece that takes me by complete surprise even though I did my best to be ready.  So I feel for the foolish bridesmaids who are shut out of the party, because if I am honest, I would be in that group.

I think our tendency can be when we read this parable, to scorn the foolish bridesmaids, after all they were unprepared and they are simply getting what they deserved.

The thing about it is, however, that if we read the story carefully we see that all of the bridesmaids, wise and foolish, fell asleep as they awaited the bridegroom, moreover, these foolish bridesmaids were indeed prepared for the wedding they just weren’t prepared for the delay.  Yet they seem to be treated mercilessly because they were not over prepared.

So what to make of this?  Personally, I’m not overly sure to be honest. Some will focus on the apocalyptic tones of the text, but in doing so we have to remember the context of the Matthean readers.  They were expecting Jesus return just about any day at first and as time went on I imagine that it got hard to wait.  Now over 2000 years later we are still waiting and waiting is sometimes hard.

Maybe the text means that while we wait we make the most of life here, live it to the full and be prepared in every circumstance to welcome the bridegroom.  He will come.

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