06-17-18 Sunday Sermon
First Congregational Church
June 17, 2018
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Fathers Day
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
All I’m really asking for in life is a chance to prove that money can’t make me happy. They told me I was gullible ... and I believed them. What if there were no hypothetical questions? Have you ever noticed that a flashlight is a case for holding dead batteries? Is it my imagination, or do buffalo wings taste like chicken? I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it.
There is something magical about each of the seasons with which we are gifted, but there is something majestic and artistic this time of year, about the stand of pine trees on the east side of Highway 31, just south of County Line Road, south of Joyfield Road. That stand of trees is beautiful any time of year, but yesterday, they were resplendent in their stateliness and variegated colors of green.
There was a Facebook story this week about a project in Kenya that is working to replant forests that have been lost over the years. The company behind this idea uses charcoal dust (a waste product) and nutrients to form a little ball, about the size of a gum ball, to house a seed. The little balls of potential can be hand sown, thrown out from scooters, slingshots, airplanes and helicopters, all at the huge price of two cents a seed ball. The dusty, dark coating helps to repel seed eating insects and animals and protects the seeds until rains fall to soak the clay ball and stimulate the seeds. Since so much of Kenya’s heating a cooking is done with wood, this seems like an amazingly great idea.
There is something also magical about the amber waves of grain that will soon begin to dot our landscapes, too. Robert Flugham reminds us of our Kindergarten lesson: that the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why. Of course we can understand the science. But when we look at a wheat field, there are so many individual stalks of grass, that we don’t see the individuals but the mass effect. And yet, each and every stalk of wheat, that produces so many more tiny seeds of grain, each of those are little miracles; so many little miracles that we don’t even see them as such.
Before we get to the scripture passage for this morning, I wanted to first offer a little caveat. Most often we hear of this passage with reference to a mustard seed. In using the version from The Message, not only is the passage more fun, but it uses a pine nut for the mustard seed. Really any kind of seed would probably fit the illustration, but pine nuts, which come primarily from pinyon trees in the U.S. southwest, take only 10-15 years to grow and provide a crop, once they reach their 33–66 feet.
Mark 4:26-34 The Message (MSG)
Never Without a Story
26-29 Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!
30-32 “How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it.”
33-34 With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.
Thank you, Bill. A number of years ago, there was a list going around of things that God is like. God is like…Coke: the real thing. God is like...Hallmark Cards: caring enough to send God’s very best. God is like...General Electric: bringing good things to life. God is like Scotch Tape: You can't see God, but you know God's there. God is like...Allstate, because you're in good hands with God. God is like...VO-5 Hair Spray: holding through all kinds of weather.
Jesus went a little further with this God is like gist - in regards to the kingdom of heaven. The Kingdom of God is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls. The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Ten times in the book of Matthew, Jesus filled in the blank of the kingdom of God being like something with which we - or the people back in the day - we would be familiar.
In our Mark passage, however, Jesus makes the link of God’s kingdom with a little tongue-in-cheek humor. The kingdom of God could have been likened to the cedars of Lebanon that grow to 130 feet, if Jesus wanted to impress the folks. But, probably, for reasons of humor and absurdity, or even to see who was really listening, Jesus used the smallest of seeds.
According to a professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, “Parables are comparisons, meant to cast two things alongside one another to provide analogy, contrast, or reflection - usually a reflection similar to the distortions that appear in a funhouse mirror.” Yet a preaching professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI contends that, “Scholars cannot agree what the key element is here: is it the power of the seeds, the inactivity of the farmer, the mystery of how seeds do what they do?”
Regardless of what any seminary expert might think, even the least among us, having listened to a number of good sermons, would surmise that the last thing Jesus was probably intending was that there is nothing for us in this analogy but to walk away from the passage singing “Que sera, sera–whatever will be, will be.”
There is a splendid sense of connection when you plant a tomato or a six-pack of pansies that you, together with God, and trust in wind that won’t destroy and the right timing of rain and sunshine, help make the conditions right for nurture and growth - whether it’s a garden or field or classroom or even in a discussion with someone who is struggling in one way or another.
We have to be watchful, too, for the afflictions of pests that can sabotage our efforts, pests like inflated ego and thinking that we are 100% correct on any moral or spiritual issue. There is no farmer in the world that will not pay attention to the fields and crops and herds and flocks - to make sure that he or she is doing the best of their ability to aide in the growth of their charges. And yet, there is such joy to see the tiny take root and sprout and even flourish.
There are plenty of times when the winds of wrath, the flames of ferocity or the waters of worry can threaten a crop. But when we stop to take note of the gardens and fields around us, we can find ourselves stymied by the abundance of gift and grace.
The video clip, that was no longer than maybe three minutes, featured a woman with cancer sitting next to her husband in a café, thinking it was an interview for a GoFundMe page. She has four children, no insurance and stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma. Her fear was in how she was going to make sure her children would be cared for. Little did she and her husband know that outside the cafe, 200 people were waiting to surprise them, each with a $100 bill.
Is not known if each individual provided their own $100 bill, but there were children in the line that day, too. It was what came at the end of the video that was the real harvest. as the music rolled on, the screen said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” “A kind gesture can reach a wound only compassion can heal.” “There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”
Not all of us can add a $100 bill two another person’s garden. Not all of us can help another person attend their garden. But all of us can do what the Japanese call “forest bathing.”
We can sit in our backyard or in a nearby park, stand long enough in one place to ‘take note’ of what God is doing. We can kneel down and rub a dog’s belly. We can visit one who doesn’t have a lot of visitors and find a joy that will overflow our heart. We can watch and admire the joy of young brothers having fun, squealing with delight, even when such moments end in over-exuberance and tears.
Maybe Jesus had no other purpose then to point out the marvelous in the abundance and even the grace that ultimately is God’s. Seed and soil, sunshine and rain are entirely different elements, but they come together to make something ‘new under the sun.’ Perhaps we can bring together kindness in unexpected places, healing where there is only brokenness, selflessness among human beings for whom selfishness is our default instinct, courage where fear would be more reasonable, generosity when our first impulse is to keep the best for ourselves, life where there was only death.
A small boy was at the zoo with his father. They were looking at the tigers, and his father was telling him how ferocious they were. “Daddy, if the tigers got out and ate you up…” “Yes, son?” the father asked, ready to console him. “ …Which bus would I take home?” May we all take note that we are surrounded by endless gifts of grace and abundance as we pray and go out into this week, knowing that God will provide for our ways.
God of Grace and Glory, we thank you for those individuals and groups of individuals that planted seeds in or tended our hearts in partnership with you to help our lives unfold in miraculous and multiplied levels of grace and joy and mercy and love. Help each of us to continue to grow into your world as a cedar of Lebanon, a mighty oak of love, a safe refuge for the weary, a source of life and comfort for the meek and a welcome home for God’s little ones. We may only see the seeds, but help us to rest in your vision of patience, waiting for the unfolding of all you have meant for us to be as people after your heart. For the tiny and the grand, the seen and unseen, the simple and complex, in all manner of life, all your people say, Amen.
06-10-17 Sunday Sermon
First Congregational Church
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Third Sunday after Pentecost (SCF Kids doing special music)
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:5
“Wits and Hopes”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
So Ole was sitting in the doctor's office waiting room, and said to himself every so often, "Boy, I hope I'm sick!” After about the fifth or sixth time, the receptionist couldn't stand it any longer, and asked, "Why in the world would you want to be sick?” Ole replied, "I'd hate to be well and feel like this.”
Then the other day, Seven was walking along a steep cliff when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror saw that the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet.
He couldn't hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So Sven began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something. HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? "HELP!"
He yelled for a long time, but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice. Sven, Sven. Can you hear me?"
“Jah, jah! I can hear you. I'm down here!"
"I can see you, Sven. Are you all right?"
"Jah, but who are you, and where are you?
"I am the Lord, Sven. I'm everywhere."
"De Lord? You mean, GOD?"
"God, please help me! I promise if, you'll get me down from here, I von’t ever sin again. I'll be a really good person. I'll serve You for the rest of my life."
"Easy on the promises, Sven. Let's get you off from there; then we can talk."
"I'll do anything, Lord. Yust tell me what to do."
"Okay. Let go of the branch.”
"I said, let go of the branch. Just trust Me. Let go."
There was a long silence. Finally Sven asked, “Is anyone else up there?"
Lois Malcolm, Professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota once said something to the effect that: “Faith is not just about believing a doctrine that guarantees our ego’s immortal existence (say, about the resurrection). It does not even have to do with mystical experiences or out of body encounters, whether in this life or the next.
Rather, faith has to do with grace - God’s gift freely given for all - which always shifts our focus from self-interest to the interests of others. As this grace extends to more and more people through us, it increases thanksgiving that also overflows with this grace.” It made me think about a chocolate fountain, one level spilling into the next and the next - but of God’s grace, God’s love, God’s joy, God’s mercy.
I wonder, though, if sometimes our “faith” can feel a little beige or limp, our souls needing a drink of water, or a new view that occurs in a place we’ve not noticed before, or even a colorful reinterpretation of what we might already know.
Our scripture passage for this morning is written by the great and infamous Paul. I don’t know about any of you, but I’ve always imagined him as a version of Hugh Jackman or a dark-haired Grizzly Adams.
There is a document that didn’t make it into the New Testament called The Acts of Paul and Thecla from 150 A.D. That document described the great and infamous Paul as “not much to look at. ‘Bald-headed, bowlegged, strongly built, a man small in size with meeting eyebrows, with a rather large nose.’ The great Paul is said have quoted someone else who had actually seen him: ‘His letters are strong but his bodily presence is weak’. Except that he was a tent-builder, so weak in the sense we usually use it may not be so accurate. And as for bald-headed, he was apparently a fashion icon before his time.
And yet, this is the same guy who ends up being whipped 39 times on five different occasions, beaten three times, stoned with rocks, shipwrecked three times, sick on and off all his life and would speak, at one point, of a “thorn in the flesh.” This is the man that influenced Eugene Peterson’s version of our scripture for today.
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:5 The Message (MSG)
13-15 We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
16-18 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
5 1-5 For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
Thank you, Kelly. I don’t know if there was a part that popped out to you, but the one that did that to me was the one about “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times.”
The man who wrote our first hymn this morning, John Newton, most likely didn’t get to that perspective about small potatoes until he was at least middle-aged. Born in London in 1725, his mother died two weeks before his seventh birthday, his stern sea-captain father took him to sea when he was eleven, captured and forced to join the navy, and after trying to desert the navy, he received 96 lashings, and his rank was reduced to that of a common seaman.
As if all that were not enough, Following that disgrace and humiliation, Newton initially contemplated murdering the captain and committing suicide by throwing himself overboard. He recovered, both physically and mentally.
Knowing this much of his background, it makes sense that John Newton’s disposition was such that his crew mates so disliked him, they left him in West Africa with a slave-trader. That slave trader gave Newton to his wife, a west African Princess, who treated him like all her other slaves - despicably and horribly.
Three years later, at the grand age of 25, Newton had a spiritual awakening during a storm off the coast of Ireland. As he began to read the Bible, Newton began to understand small potato comparisons and that “A person may be at their wit’s end
but they can never be at their hope’s end while they have the presence of Christ.”
This understanding didn’t happen overnight, and in fact it was when he was in his mid-50s that John Newton completely left the slave business, publicly apologizing for his part in the suffering and deaths of innocent people.
The person who wrote our second him this morning, Joseph Scriven, was born over 100 years after John Newton, although Scriven was a native Canadian. If ever there was anyone who might have understood being at their wits end, it truly had to be Mr. Scriven. As a young man, he was deeply in love and looking forward to his wedding the next day. He waited for his bride on the opposite side of a bridge, and while traveling across the river, she fell off her horse and died in a tragic drowning accident. He fell in love again, and before their marriage, his new fiancé took part in a full immersion baptism service. Already battling consumption, his second fiancé developed pneumonia and died four months later.
Despite his grieving, Joseph Scriven understood wits and hopes and small potatoes, and cut wood for people who couldn’t afford it. In fact, it is said that he walked around with a buck saw and sawhorse and refused to work for people who could pay. It is not clear whether he wrote the words to our second hymn in light of his second fiancés death or that he was trying to bring comfort to his dying mother. What we do know, is that after publishing the poem anonymously, this hymn was often sung during the first and second world wars, sending off young recruits or memorializing those same young men when lost in battle. So the next time you hear a boring sermon, you can look up “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and approach it with deeper appreciation for what it really says.
Hopefully, after the next few moments, you will be able to do that same thing with our last hymn this morning.
Fanny Crosby, born closer to Joseph Scriven than John Newton, became blind six weeks after her birth. For whatever reason, a doctor had put a mustard plaster on her eyes. For the rest of her 95 years, Fannie refused to let such an inconvenience stop her from not only working and supporting herself, but working through her handicap to strengthen her own faith and attitude, along with millions of people over the world and generations.
Before Fanny Crosby’s “tent” was taken down and folded away, she wrote over 500 gospel tunes and over 8000 poems and song lyrics. On top of all that, Fanny wrote over a thousand nonreligious songs, had four books of poetry and two best-selling autobiographies published.
Fannie once said, “I became a mother and knew a mother’s love, but the Angels came down and took my infant up to God.” At another point in her life, Fanny was visiting with her friend, Mrs. Knapp. A musician of sorts Mrs. Knapp played a melody for Fannie and asked her what did it say to her. After kneeling in prayer for a few moments Fanny rose and declared, “It says, ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!’”
Sometimes, more than other times, we can be tempted to throw up our hands, burrow into a ball or wish to disappear into the wallpaper. Some days are hard and some times we can feel completely alone. And don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to paint a picture for Negative Nelly here. But here’s the Good News: we are never alone. We have our wits, yes, we have our hopes, yes, and we most definitely have God’s Spirit weaving around us, being breathed into us, and God’s promise that one day, we will fully understand the Good Things God has waiting for us in our post-human lives.
Before then, there will be good times and great times and times when we will need to ask for help, and other times when we are the help that others need. Regardless of the times, of the circumstances, of what we may even think, we have the presence of Christ to give us the peace that passes all understanding, which seems like a mighty good reason to pray.
Lovely and Lavish God, we thank you for your overflowing grace, the grace that enables us to put one foot in front of the other, and to keep on keeping one. Forgive us when we fail to trust your presence and promises. Help us to embrace them more - with our whole beings. For the gift of your son, and in his presence, all your people say, Amen.
06-03-18 Sunday Sermon
First Congregational Church
June 3, 2018
Second Sunday after Pentecost
“Forests and Trees”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
I read that in Florida, a woman may be fined for falling asleep under a hair dryer. And I read that in Indiana, citizens are not allowed to attend a movie within four hours after eating garlic. Apparently they can be fined, I guess. I read that in Iowa, a man with a mustache is forbidden from kissing a woman in public - or he’ll be fined? I read that in Moline, IL, ice-skating at Riverside pond during the months of June and August is strictly prohibited. So if they catch you ice skating during those months, do they get to fine you or arrest you, aside from the issue of Indiana heat in June and August? I also read that in Nicholas County, West Virginia, no member of the clergy is allowed to tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit. I’ll just let that one stand by itself.
Except the Bible. We’re “supposed” to believe everything we read in the Bible; except that some of it is just so goofy. There was probably a reason for what seems goofy to us - back then, but the reasons are probably long gone.
According to charad.org, modern day Jewish practice would prohibit doing the following on the Sabbath: writing, erasing, and tearing; business transactions; driving or riding in cars or other vehicles; using the telephone; turning on or off anything which uses electricity, including lights, radios, television, computer, air-conditioners and alarm clocks, and a fair list of other activities. In Jesus’ day, besides the Big 10, there were 39 categories of activity prohibited on the Sabbath, some of which were just mentioned, but included 1. “removing all or part of a plant from its source of growth,” 2. climbing “a tree, for fear this may lead to one tearing off a branch. It was also forbidden for rabbis to ride an animal, as one may unthinkingly detach a stick (tearing) with which to hit the animal.
There is a passage from Deuteronomy 23:24-25 that is surely “interesting” and maybe even confusing, in light of the previously mentioned prohibitions. The passage says, “When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want until you’re full, but you may not put any in your bucket or bag. And when you walk through the ripe grain of your neighbor, you may pick the heads of grain, but you may not swing your sickle there.” One could wonder how the folks with the vineyard across the road from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church might feel about that.
Then there is the passage from Leviticus 24:5-9, where God and Moses were chatting about that Top 10 list that was to order the lives of the Hebrew people - and all people. The Bible tells us that God told Moses to “Take fine flour and bake twelve loaves of bread, using about seven pounds of flour to a loaf. (Mind you, it takes about one pound of flour to make our average loaf of bread.)
Arrange them in two rows of six each on the Table of pure gold before God. Along each row spread pure incense, marking the bread as a memorial; it is a gift to God. Regularly, every Sabbath, this bread is to be set before God, a perpetual covenantal response from Hebrew people.” Then Aaron and his sons - the other priests - could eat the holy bread - in a holy place - and this procedure was to be a perpetual decree. Other than it being a lot of flour and therefore a lot of bread, there’s not much too odd about that passage.
Then there is a passage from 1 Samuel 21:1-6 that tells a story about David being sent on a secret mission by King Saul. David was supposed to eventually meet up with a certain priest’s men, but before he left, David basically asked the priest, Abiathar, Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.” 4 But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here. So David ate holy bread that was supposed to be for priests. Many people think about David and Bathsheba, or David and Goliath, but rarely to they think about the non-priest David and the holy bread.
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath
3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Thank you, John and Kathy. In the first passage, Jesus says, “Have you not read what David did?” I don’t know if you can hear that question without the underlying emotion behind it. It doesn’t get much plainer: The Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath. As with many societies, we’ve gone well beyond the rules of keeping Sabbaths as specific days of rest, so we’ve sort of got the first part of that phrase “correct,” sort of.
In the second passage, the writer, Mark, clearly describes Jesus’ state “in anger, and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” for not seeing the forest for the trees - the failure to grasp the main issue because of excessive attention to details, as defined by Google.
In the first passage, the disciples were using their hands, not sickles or any other cutting implements, but they were walking - probably the distance beyond what it would take to milk a cow or feed a goat. Still, they should have been wiser and planned their snacks the day before. But then, they were tearing the grains from the stalks, so technically, they were “working” on the Sabbath. To the Pharisees, this behavior appears to deliberately neglect the mandate to observe the sabbath and keep it holy. Hair-splitting, forests and trees.
So Jesus offers a legal opinion, one he derives from scripture itself - in the bit about David and Abiathar. His point is that sometimes certain demands of the law are rightly set aside in favor of pursuing greater values or meeting greater needs, especially when those greater needs promote a person’s well-being. But in so doing, it seemed as though Jesus was comparing himself to the great David and David’s calling. Blasphemy! If Jesus would have just shut his mouth, things might have been fine. Instead, he references himself as the Son of Man, and Lord of the Sabbath, and that just goes to far - presenting himself as no ordinary teacher. The gall!
Okay, so the guy from the second passage wasn’t dying, it was just a withered hand, after all. Regardless of his hand, he’d still need to be provided for or provide for himself and who knows if he had a family. It wouldn’t really matter the degree, but society would have considered him broken, and Jesus not only fixed the man but made him whole again, restoring his dignity.
Despite this big forest of restoration, there are so many trees of irony. Instead of standing in awe of a man healed right before their eyes, not to mention the healer standing right in front of them, the Pharisees can’t get that Sabbath breaking tune and Jesus’ willful disregard for the law of God tune out of their heads. Maybe if there’d been a little more glitz and pizzazz, a little more smoke or feeling the earth move under their feet, they might have noticed the miracle.
And then there is the hindsight irony - the Pharisees probably just getting out of synagogue and going on to planning - not to preserve Jesus’ life - but to take it. From the sanctuary of the life giving presence of God to the barrenness of destruction using holy laws to make the transition. If only there weren’t so many trees, one could see the forest.
And then Jesus comes along and says it’s not about the rules, but about doing the right thing. Weren’t the Pharisees doing the right thing by trying to do their job? What if the man with the withered hand was you or your child or your beloved? It’s hard to see the forest when you’re standing in the middle of the trees. And sometimes, coming out of the trees, to see the forest can be hard on the eyes, hard to be in that light, away from the seeming comfort of the darkness.
Standing in the light of Christ, surrounded by the love of God and all the grace and mercy and love that comes together in that light, it becomes easier to see that feeding the hungry and healing the soul is greater than adhering to cold, hard rules. When we stand in that holy light, it is easier to see that the healer and the Lord and Son of Man designation was a bigger deal than the sabbath issue. Focusing on a small thing causes us to lose vision of the large thing. Trying to distinguish between who is deserving and who is undeserving sees right through the abundance of servings.
That mention of David in the priest Abiathar? That was Jesus offering a legal opinion, derived from Scripture itself. It was his subtle way of contending that sometimes certain demands of the law are rightly set aside in favor of pursuing greater values or meeting greater needs, especially when those greater needs promote a person’s well-being and facilitate the arrival of divine blessings.
I would venture a guess that a great number of us could nod our head in religious silence about this whole message. And yet, we are individuals with God-given brains and personal passions and visions, so what can seem to be moral and ethical to you, maybe the polar opposite of the person sitting next to you. God has gifted us not only with the ability to think through our own morals and ethics, but has given us the free will to act on them.
So we come together this day, to sit next to people that need support as much as we do in figuring out our moral and ethical paths. We celebrate our Lord’s supper that we remember that as much as we look at the details of our lives, we remember to look at the big picture, of our lives together and eternity. With such honor, importance and responsibility, we best set our hearts to looking for the forest and the trees in the light of Christ. (turn)
Most high and holy God, help us to see the forests and the trees, the details and the large picture. Guide us that we not become myopic, soul less, black and white rule containers. Help our hearts and minds enter into the blurred and sometimes gray areas of life that can challenge our beliefs and understandings. Thank you for choosing to see the good in us, healing us, restoring us to wholeness, even when we forget or choose to ignore your vision of us. Help us to see those you have given us, next to us in the pew, next to us in our homes, even those across the world from us, as your beloved children, just as deserving of your love and grace and mercy as we are. For these most precious blessings and all your gifts to us, most especially your son, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.