Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Wings

• 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
on Matthew 13:10-12, 34-35, 53-58
in which Jesus speaks about parables, and is rejected in his hometown.
This will mark the end of the year's study of Matthew. Next week we'll celebrate Christ the King Sunday, and then Advent begins. We'll resume with Matthew 14 in Lent.

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"These are a few of my favorite wings..." yes wings, not things.

I once had some hotwings that were called “Creeping Dog” hot.
The name caught my interest, drew me in with its imagery.
The experience was intense and memorable... not forgotten but legendary.
(if only you could engage people with such intrigue and power when speaking)

My favorite hotwings are from Columbo's in Lancaster PA, but they are no-name.
Perfectly delicious. Nice little burn, maybe cumin aftertaste. To-die-for with celery and chunky blue cheese dressing.
And an hour or two later you still taste it... (I know, pastors aren't supposed to talk about burping, but you'll not soon forget it, will you?)
(if only you could engage people with a tantalizing story
they'd still be ruminating on a few hours later!)

A few of my favorite THINGS... (yes, now I'm talking about the Sound of Music.)
In the movie the children are frightened by a thunderstorm and Fraulein Maria seeks to calm them down by guiding their thinking, redirecting them away from their fears.
Then later on it's not a thunderstorm but the loneliness and grief of life that compels them to sing again of their favorite things, to redirect their thoughts.
(if only you could engage people in how they think,
to shape and direct them, and equip them for kingdom living...)

This is of course exactly what Jesus did, using parables as one of his tools. He drew people in, caught their interest, KEPT their interest with staying power, led them in ways that changed their lives, and that they'd talk about for generations.

But some will reject. Because it's not what they expect.
And people don't want unexpected. They want control.
And when the people of Jesus' hometown heard him, they were not willing or able to reconcile the amazing Godly wisdom with the boy they once knew,
...Jesus was too unexpected, uncontainable for them.
They could not receive the good news
because they stumbled over its presentation.

God wants to do great things among people... in our lives... and some of that requires our participation, positioning ourselves to let God work in us.

(District Superintendent Greg told story of arrogant preacher Augustus Toplady, a contemporary of Wesley... Legend has it that one time while traveling in the country there was a terrible storm, the kind of storm that makes a nonbeliever pray, and this preacher cried out to God and found refuge in a nearby rock wall that had space enough to shelter him and his horse's head... Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee...)
Jesus is our supremely worthy refuge,
and we do well to take his hand and rely fully on him.


Hymn 361 Rock of Ages




Matthew 13:10-12, 34-35, 53-58 CEB Nov. 16 / 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
10 Jesus’ disciples came and said to him,
“Why do you use parables when you speak to the crowds?”
11 Jesus replied, “Because they haven’t received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but you have. 12 For those who have will receive more and they will have more than enough. But as for those who don’t have, even the little they have will be taken away from them.


34 Jesus said all these things to the crowds in parables,
and he spoke to them only in parables.
35 This was to fulfill what the prophet spoke:
I’ll speak in parables;
        
I’ll declare what has been hidden
since the beginning of the world.
[Psalm 78:2]


53 When Jesus finished these parables, he departed.
54 When he came to his hometown, he taught the people in their synagogue.
They were surprised and said, “Where did he get this wisdom? Where did he get the power to work miracles? 55 Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? 56 And his sisters, aren’t they here with us? Where did this man get all this?” 57 They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.

But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns and in their own households.”
58 He was unable to do many miracles there because of their disbelief.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Kingdom of Heaven is like...

• 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-53
in which Jesus speaks six short parables 
about the Kingdom of Heaven


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How would YOU describe the Kingdom of Heaven? (KOH)
“The kingdom of heaven is like...”
(by the way, in Matthew, KOH and Kingdom of God are the same.
Matthew uses the word “heaven” out of respect for the name of God)
My wife bought a new car 5 years ago.
Some time in the first week... I scratched it.
KOH is like a new car with a scratch.
Not about the package but utility. Relationship.
KOH is like a teen driving the car Mom & Dad bought for him,
and getting into a fenderbender on the first day.
When he reached for the insurance information in the glovebox,
he found a note from his parents saying We love you.
This is KOH. Recognizing relative value.


KOH statements seek to describe something about God,
something about shalom
.
God is not neat. God is messy.
When we try to neatly define God, we fail. Because God is alive.


Yeast. Small contaminant (no yeast for passover!)
Mustard. Small contaminant. A weed, plus a little goes a long way.
Yet Jesus offers these as parallels to KOH.
God has a kind of preference for underdog.
Hates arrogance. Loves lifting up.
These parables lift up the low.
Hidden treasure.
God's people ordering their lives after God. God = #1.
Precious pearl.
God's people ordering their lives after God. God = #1.

KOH is what it looks like when God's people take action.
When disciples are being disciples, living Christ-like
generously, selflessly, with genuine concern for others,
especially the least of these.


The catch of fish, separation of good and bad:
There is good and bad in the world,
and God desires followers who take action.


KOH is Operation Christmas Child gift that inspires a world leader.
It is the fruit of Thy kingdom come, 
thy will be done on earth as in heaven...


KOH is son of God living a humble life of lifting others up while bringing arrogance down and getting killed for it. 
KOH is people patterning life after him.



Hymn 163 Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know


Matthew 13:31-33, 44-53 CEB Nov. 9 / 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
31 He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. 32  It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough.”

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. 46 When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away.49 That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, 50 and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
They said to him, “Yes.”
52 Then he said to them, “Therefore, every legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.”
53 When Jesus finished these parables, he departed.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Seeds of Righteousness

• All Saints' Sunday
on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
in which Jesus speaks a parable about Weeds in the Wheat.

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There was an artist sketching a transient on the street. 
The transient was dressed in rags, unshaven and unkempt, 
but the artist drew the man clean and shaven and well dressed. 
The artist beckoned the transient over to see her handiwork. 
The transient began to think, “If SHE can see me that way, 
by golly I can see me that way.”
She planted a seed of hope and renewal, and it blossomed in him.

One time I planted birdseed, and it grew into a bird. 
I didn't know what to feed it.

I did a wedding last weekend. In my wedding message 
I imagined the couple in ten years and in forty years, 
with careers and family and each other. 
I planted the seed for celebrating their 40th anniversary. 
And I hope it grows.

Weekend before that I did a funeral. 
As in every funeral, I “celebrate [the deceased's] righteous acts” 
and I plant seeds among the hearers for them to live well.

Jesus explains this parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, 
and these are some gleanings:
- There is evil in the world.
- God desires a harvest of righteousness. And God will triumph.
- God is growing righteousness in your life,
     and in the lives of people around you
     and MAY USE YOU to plant and nurture in the lives of others.
- Therefore do what you can to produce harvest of righteousness
God HAS USED others for generations to produce righteousness 
in you, to grow you.

Today is All Saints' Sunday. Let us remember those who have gone before us...
For those / who walked with us / this is a prayer.
For those / who have gone ahead, / this is a blessing.
For those / who touched and tended us, / who lingered with us 
/ while they lived, / this is a thanksgiving.
For those / who journey still with us / in the shadows of awareness,
in the crevices of memory, / in the landscape of our dreams,
this is a benediction. - by Jan Richardson

We remember, and we look forward to seeing again in the kingdom:
Pete P.        Melba M.    Dolly L.    June M.
Johnnie C.  Jenny S.     Mike W.


And thank God that Jesus was planted among humanity
to sow righteousness and to grow us... 
(into Communion liturgy, p. 13)


Matthew 13:24-30 CEB
24 Jesus told them another parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. 25 While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away.
26 When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field?
Then how is it that it has weeds?’
28 “‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered.
The servants said to him,
‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’
29 “But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them. 30  Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvesttime I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn.” ’”

Matthew 13:36-43 CEB
36 Jesus left the crowds and went into the house.
His disciples came to him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 Jesus replied, “The one who plants the good seed is the Human One, the Son of Man. 38  The field is the world. And the good seeds are the followers of the kingdom. But the weeds are the followers of the evil one. 39  The enemy who planted them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the present age. The harvesters are the angels. 40  Just as people gather weeds and burn them in the fire, so it will be at the end of the present age. 41  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that cause people to fall away and all people who sin. 42  He will throw them into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth. 43  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Those who have ears should hear.”