Friday, June 15, 2012

Looking Toward Sunday

June 17, 2012 - Third Sunday in Pentecost 

"Scattering Seeds, Spreading Weeds"

Our scripture reading for Sunday is a couple of "kingdom" parables from the Gospel of Mark. (You can read the lesson here.)  In both of the stories Jesus compares the kingdom of God to seeds being planted.  

In the first parable, a farmer sows seed for his crop.  He doesn't understand exactly how it happens, but he knows that the planted seeds will eventually produce wheat.  In the second parable, a tiny little mustard seed becomes a shrub, so thick and full that it attracts birds to its shade. 

The mustard seed metaphor is familiar.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the disciples that if they have faith the size of a mustard seed, they can move a mountain.  In Luke, Jesus says the same thing about a mulberry tree.  As we listen to this story from Mark's gospel, most of us assume that here the mustard seed carries the same meaning as in Matthew and Luke.  So, we regard this as a "faith starts small and grows big" kind of lesson.  

But if we pay careful attention to what Jesus is actually saying, and we listen with the ears of Jesus' first-century, agrarian audience, we may just hear a very different meaning - a message not about the size of our faith, but the nature of God's kingdom.  Perhaps Jesus' point is that - like those mustard plants (which are notoriously fast-growing and prolific) - the kingdom of God isn't something we can control.  Could it be that this story is a promise (or a warning) that once the kingdom of God takes root, it will spread like an invasive, tenacious, unstoppable...weed? 

Join us on Sunday as we explore that possibility.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Today's Moment for Reflection

Born from Above
by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

No one can see the Realm of God without being born from above. (John 3:3)

With every breath
you come from God.

Your life is a gift,
everything is a gift,
and so you see.

You are not born long ago,
but right now,
seeing everything
with the wondering eyes
of the newborn.

Look up into those eyes.
Fall, as if dead, into those arms.
Let her birth you into this
other world, eyes open.

Take that first breath, bewildered,
as one about to be born.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Today's Moment for Reflection

Behind the Impossible
by Luis Espinal

Train us, Lord,
to fling ourselves
upon the impossible,
for behind the impossible
is your grace and your presence;
we cannot fall into emptiness.

The future is an enigma,
our road is covered by mist,
but we want to go on giving ourselves,
because you continue hoping
amid the night
and weeping tears
through a thousand human eyes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Today's Moment for Reflection

Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, “How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.”
(From the Mishkan T'Filah)

Looking Toward Sunday

June 3, 2012 - First Sunday in Pentecost 

"God Loves You - Like It or Not"

This week we look at the story of Jesus' late-night discussion with Nicodemus the Pharisee. (You can read it here.) It's a rather long conversation, but we'll be focusing on only the last two verses. 

The first of those two verses is surely the most loved, most memorized, most often quoted verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." (John 3:16)  They're wonderful words that proclaim God's essential quality (love) and God's primary purpose (to save).  God demonstrated the depth of God's love for us by sending Jesus to save us.

It's a verse that should bring great comfort, but it's been used by some Christians to cause great anxiety - a means of judging and condemning those who haven't received God's gift of Jesus. Their assertion is that there are people to whom God's love does not extend. 

Is that really what Jesus meant?  What does John 3:16-17 tell us about God's motive and purpose in sending Jesus?  What does this passage suggest about the scope and reach of God's love?  And who exactly is "the world" that God so loved?  Join us as we explore those questions and reflect on the meaning of the most popular verse in scripture.

See you Sunday!