Monday, July 30, 2012

Do We Really Count in This Big World

On Saturday the Mens Group discussed a possible answer to Billy Bigelow’s lament: There’s a heck of a lotta stars in the sky and the sky’s so big the sea looks small. Two little people, you and I; we don’t count at all.

In his gospel St. Mark (4:30-32) answers Billy and reminds us of how the smallest of seeds can flourish and grow infinitely: “The kingdom of God is like, a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

Thursday, July 26, 2012

…As Thyself Billy

As was suggested by one of our group during our discussion of the first installment of Carousel last night, Billy Bigelow was incapable of loving because he was incapable of loving himself. While we have discussed them often, Billy was a great model for one of the “Two Great Commandments.”
Taking it further, Padavano tells us that Homecoming has less to do with geography than it has to do with a sense of personal integrity or inner wholeness. The most important of all endeavors in life is to come home. The most terrifying of all fears is loneliness. It means that one has become a stranger to himself and consequently, to others. Someone truly loves us when he brings us home, when he makes us comfortable with ourselves. We are loved when we are no longer frightened with ourselves. The human heart was made to be at home with itself.
Another of our group reminds us that God is our link to all love: all impulses of love [emanate from] and return to the love that made them. (Thornton Wilder)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where Can We Buy Bread and How Much Will It Cost?

 John 6:1-21 helps shed light on our own needs, and expectations.

How often is it that people "come after" Jesus because of the signs? People observe the good that comes to those who follow Jesus. Expectations are awakened. We want the big things: Healing from horrible diseases; instant money when the house is in foreclosure; a miracle for the child who cannot overcome addictions. Sometimes we get the miracle.

But, how often is it that all someone needs is a simple reassurance that, indeed, Jesus the Christ is present. That presence can get the boat to shore and can calm the grandest of fears. In these stories, our job, like that of the disciples, is to share the Jesus factor, what Jesus has done and continues to do for us. It is to help others "mind the gap" between the momentary optimism of "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish," and the influx of negativity in "But what are they among so many people?" In between "Here is what little we have" and "Here are the 12 baskets of leftovers," there is the Jesus factor.  
Let's not forget to factor Jesus into our daily equations and situations. Let's not forget to share his good news with others. It means remembering that as our needs are met, we are to share with others.
(Ginger Barfield, Preaching This Week,, 2012. & Mind the Gap," Alyce M. McKenzie, Edgy Exegesis, Patheos, 2012.)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summertime and the Living is Easy

Rest… A break from all the bustle and activity. Rest…A chance to renew, to stop, to slow. Rest… And end of work, if only for a little while. Rest…An opportunity to stop doing that you may simply be. Rest…What a beautiful word!

Jesus' simple invitation in Mark 6:30-34,53-65  to "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile" is not just an invitation to take an afternoon off or go on vacation -- though those may be important elements -- this is an invitation to loosen our shackles and climb out of the cages we've constructed from a culturally-fed belief that more is the ticket to happiness and that work is the ticket to more.
Maybe that's the key thing about Sabbath rest and our Bible discussion and reflection?  They provide a chance to step back from all the things that usually consume us so that we might experience God's presence and a sense of contentment and give thanks.
 Jesus wants us to rest. He wants us to recognize the “trap” we call success and the rat race we call modern life. He wants us to reflect on how much time we really spend together and actually enjoy the things we’ve worked so hard to attain.
God wants us to live an abundant life. Abundant life doesn't consist of merely more and more. "Abundant" ultimately isn't a quantitative term but a qualitative one.
How do we begin? Maybe we might consider just one evening when we will shut down our computer, or turn off our cell phones or, say no to one obligation or appointment. After all, it’s summertime and the living is easy.
(David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

He Who Goes Before

The execution of John the Baptist, in Mark 6:14-29, is a story that goes beyond mere political corruption. The contrast between the innocence of a young girl, who at the bidding of her mother, asks for the head of John on a platter, and Herod's motives, is grotesque and reveals the potential for utter corruption and evil of those in power.   

Yielding to pride and his weakness, Herod executes John because he “vowed” that he would give the young girl whatever she wanted. Of course as king, he was not required by law to fulfill a vow or execute an innocent man at her request.  

This story shares many common elements with the story of the trial before Pilate to come. Pilate also condemns Jesus to death knowing that he had done nothing wrong. Jesus' execution is ordered out of political expediency and out of Pilate's desire to save his reputation and his own political future. In the same way, Herod clearly has John executed rather than suffer the political embarrassment of not keeping his vow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jesus came home, but he wasn't at home.

In Mark 6:1-13 Jesus went home. But, he wasn't at home. In spite of his powerful teaching, his family and old friends treated him with skepticism. In a culture that measured a person's worth by their place in society, Jesus had clearly overstepped his bounds. Carpenters were poorly regarded as men who left their families without economic security to seek work. They did not even have the respect of their own families. Jesus was a carpenter. By daring to step above His station in life He did not fit into the world of His family and old friends. He was no longer what his home town folks of Nazareth expected him to be. They did not trust him. So, he went back out on the road to serve the surrounding villages.

Jesus came home, but he wasn't at home.

Have we ever been disrespected by those close to us? How do their opinions affect us? Have we ever treated old friends or family in the same way? How have our opinions and acts against others affected you?

How can God help us in these areas be at home in Him?