Sunday, June 28, 2015

Faith in Jesus (Rather than Faith in Faith)

The question isn’t so much, “How much faith do I have?”
The question is, On whom does my faith rest?”

RCL • Year B • Proper 8 • Track 2

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist • June 24th

I like to bring color, beauty, and word together, and so I like to create bulletins for feast days and saint days when we are celebrating them at a special Eucharist.

I am making my files available. Feel free to use them as is or modify them to your own needs.
    • PDF
    • Word

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Frog and Toad and the Kingdom of God

Doing Our Part and Letting God Do God’s Part

RCL • Year B • Proper 6 • Track 2
Ezekiel 17:22-24 • Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17
Mark 4:(21-25)26-34

The Kingdom of God is Like…

Today’s gospel lesson comes from the fourth chapter of Mark. Up to this point in the narrative, Jesus has been announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom, “Repent,” he would say, “for the kingdom of God has come near.” In other words, “Take notice, God’s kingdom is taking over this broken world; and God demands your allegiance. This is good news.” And Jesus demonstrated the presence of God’s kingdom with powerful words and powerful deeds. He preached with an authority that astounded the crowds; he expelled demons with just a word; and he healed the sick with just a touch. People were amazed. But not everyone saw these things as evidence of God’s kingdom at work. As we heard last week, Jesus’ own family thought he was mental unstable and the scribes claimed he was possessed by Satan.

So Jesus began to be more careful; he began to operate more covertly. For example, instead of speaking about God’s kingdom in plain language, he began to cloak the gospel in little stories that we call parables. Jesus hid the kingdom from plain view so that it might have a better chance to get behind people’s natural defenses. In other words, Jesus used parables as a way to smuggled the gospel behind enemy lines. He hid the kingdom, so that the kingdom might be revealed. As he himself said, “There is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light” (4:22). He hid the kingdom to reveal the kingdom. This may sound absurd, but this is exactly what every farmer and gardener does. This is what we do. We hide seeds in the earth precisely so that they will come to light. If we didn’t hide seeds in this way, we would never experience harvest.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells two parables about seeds and sowers to reveal something about the kingdom of God. Note that in both parables, someone plants a seed, and then what happens with the seed is completely out of their control. For example, in the first parable, a farmer plants a seed, and then he goes about his normal life. And despite his lack of attention and effort, the seed grows. 

Frog and Toad, “The Garden”

This reminds me of a story that I read as a kid and that I like to read to my kids now. It is a story about Frog and Toad. Have you ever heard these stories. If you haven’t, Frog and Toad are good friends, very good friends. And if you read their stories, you soon discover that Frog is the sensible one, and Toad, not so much. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Neighbor's Shifty Son... a tale from China

A few years ago I was in my neighborhood library, when I came across Peace Tales: World Folktales to Talk About by Margaret Reed MacDonald. I rechecked it out recently in large part because of the following story about the way in which suspicion can color the way in which we see the world.

The Neighbor’s Shifty Son

A farmer once lost his axe. 

He felt certain that his neighbor had stolen the axe. 
He watched that neighbor with suspicion. 
He noticed that the neighbor’s son seemed as shifty as his father. That boy looked just like a thief. 
The farmer knew he could not trust either of them.

One day when he visited a distant field where he sometimes worked, the farmer discovered his axe. 
He had left it behind the last time he worked the field. 
When the farmer returned home he noticed his neighbor’s son at play. 
The boy looked absolutely normal now.
There seemed nothing shifty or suspicious about him at all.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

How Can They Give Us Their Blessing, If We Don’t Seek Them Out?

In the late 1990s, the late Henri Nouwen gave a series of sermons at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. The title of the series of talks was, “The Life of the Beloved.” (By the way, they are available on YouTube. Search for “The Life of the Beloved (Henri Nouwen, 2011)”.) Nouwen suggests that the voice of God that addressed Jesus at his baptism, saying, “You are my beloved. I’m very pleased with you,” also addresses us. Unfortunately, we live in a very busy and noisy world. We are so preoccupied that we lose touch with who we are, and the chaos within and without drowns out the voice of God. Spiritual disciplines are designed, in part, to help us tune out the world and tune into what God is speaking to our hearts and minds.

Nouwen says that spiritual disciplines are the human effort to create some open space in our lives so that we can hear the voice of God telling us who we truly are, his beloved, treasured, and valued sons and daughters. Nouwen then speaks of three disciplines that help us create this space for God’s voice in our lives. They are communion, community, and ministry.

In communion, we spend a little bit of our time every day, sitting with God in silence, or spending time with God by prayerfully reading the Scriptures. And in this discipline of communion, we hear the voice of God calling us the beloved.

Then, in community, we are gathered together in worship and in fellowship. In that community of faith, we hear the voice of God speaking to us through one another. And isn’t it amazing how God’s voice becomes amplified when it comes to us as the voice of another human being. One would have thought that it would be enough for us to hear God’s voice directly. But it appears that God has so designed human beings that we need to hear God’s word of love and blessing being spoken by a friend, a family member, or a brother and sister in Christ. “You are God’s beloved.”

Finally, in ministry, the people of God are sent out into the world to proclaim the good news of God’s love. And listen to what Nouwen says about the discipline of ministry:

Jesus went to the poor, the sick, the dying, to the little ones. And dear friends, I cannot tell you enough how the final voice that calls you the beloved comes from those you care for. That’s a great mystery I want to tell you…. [Those whom we serve], they are the ones who God has chosen to speak his word of love to us.
        Do you remember in the Beatitudes, do you remember what it says? “Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the mourning.” It does not say, “Blessed are those who care for the poor.” It does not say, “Blessed are those who console the mourning.” No, no. The blessing is located in the poor. In these people that we want to help, we will find that they carry the blessing in their heart for us, for us to live. They give us life, they give us a sense of God’s presence. And I want to tell you that they whom we go to minister to are the ones who carry in themselves the blessing. And the blessing is the voice of God, saying, “You are my Beloved. On you my favor rests.” We hear that blessing come to us through those who are weak, through those who are poor. And they will lead us closer and closer to the heart of Love.
        That is the great joy I want to announce to you and for you to trust because once you are in deep communion with the poor, you will be able to discover your own poverty, your own weakness, your own brokenness, and not be afraid of it. You will discover, “Yes I am poor too.” When we work with the poor we will become so aware of our own limitations, but the voice of God is saying, “Don’t be afraid because I love you right there where you are poor too.” And so, we become in a way, a fellowship of the weak where the power of God’s grace can manifest itself.
        So keep some space for God’s voice. Some space by praying alone. Some space by forming community. Space by going out and going to those people in your own family, your own friends, and in your own city who need you. They don’t just need you because they are needy, they also need you to give to you their blessing.

So, if there is any truth to this. If the poor have a blessing for us, then how can we find ways—individually and as a community—to enter into relationship with them? Because how can they give us their blessing, which is from God, if we don’t seek them out?