Sunday, July 17, 2005

July 24, 2005 - Year A - Pentecost +10

Genesis 29:15-28 or 1 Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 119:129-136
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The spirit helps us in our weakness of understanding the signs of our time, the parables of life, the history we are cycling through again.

As we listen in this week it will be interesting to see what surprises us and to ask how surprised we should be. After all we have been at this business of applying our knowledge of good and evil for a long time. Ordinarily we might expect to be further along than we are. However, we do continue to frame things in light of what has worked for us before and this gets in our way of reframing to take new life into account.


  1. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

    Three interrelated comments from my weekly comments at

    1. Try talking simply about "the kingdom of God." Religious talk can get us talking past ourselves. Another way to use parables is to move us from yesterday to tomorrow. Simply talking about a desired future brings image after image to mind. So, wherever you see "kingdom" you might want to substitute "desired future."

    2. When we are in touch with a desired future we are able access the old (the best of our heritage renewed) and the new (visions beyond any reason for them to come to pass). It is this sense of being able to be real that allows us to stand smack dab between yesterday and tomorrow to claim the best of both and to reimplement lost good and to put into place distant dreams.

    3. While there are a multitude of creative images for experiencing the presence of GOD, the best parable has always been the life of a human being who is able to listen to GOD and live with Neighbors. This sort of living always becomes visible in the world around. It takes the phenomenal growth of a mustard plant to grow one's self and provide space for others. It takes phenomenal power of yeast to raise the experiences of life to new heights. It takes the treasure of forgiveness, received and given, to move one to invest in making life better. It takes an expansive person to cast a wide enough net to catch all of life.

  2. Romans 8:26-39

    To bridge into this section remember verse 25, "But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." It may be that hope and patience are what might be behind verse 26, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought...."

    Those of us who live in hope and are patient in suffering the distance between our present and our desired future have been easily labeled as weak. A part of our waiting is praying tentatively. The life of having a prayer that is in accord with our present realities is still off in the distance somewhere. Where two or three accord in prayer is like unto having ourselves and our reality accord in prayer. Creation around us is an ignored prayer partner.

    Our weakness in hope, patience, and prayer are all too known to ourselves, and yet we encourage one another in these qualities. Still, that which we do have is sufficient to cause others enough anxiety that they must label us as weak in the ways of the world. Pray that weakness cease to be a reason for discounting one another. Hope that those now seen as weak will be seen as bearing a resilient strength valuable to all. Be patient, for the world does bend toward justice for all.

  3. Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 119:129-136

    "Seek the Lord's strength" can be a call to dependence or greater interdependence.

    Our tradition has a huge hunk of worminess within it. When we operate from that stance this kind of approach leads us to bow our heads and leave it all up to the one with power. We place our enemies before God to be smited.

    Fortunately our tradition also has a huge hunk of wisdom and goodness within it. When we operate from this stance this kind of approach appreciates the qualities of GOD, for they are also our qualities and we are able to reveal them in our day-to-day living. We place our enemies before GOD to be forgiven.

    Place your bets. How will GOD's strength be lived out in the midst of all the indeterminate issues of life? Does it have to do with some absolute as a law about Roe v. Wade or the Sabbath? Does it have to do with some imponderable as birth and death matters or spiritual breathing space?

    Many will be reflecting on that as the new U.S. Supreme Court nominee becomes better known. I know from my own voting for United Methodist bishops that the issue of peering into a person's soul is most trying. May GOD have mercy as well as strength.

  4. Genesis 29:15-28 or 1 Kings 3:5-12

    Life happens! The weakness of "unfair" crops up all around. For Jacob the trickster it is unfair to be tricked. If we pay attention to the situations in which we claim an unfairness has happened to us we may get an insight into both our understanding of GOD/Life/The Universe/and Everything as well as into our own particular weakness that we inflict, without awareness, upon others.

    A question that gets raised here is that of our response to being tricked. Do we have a larger picture than that which we have unfairly received? Will we escalate trickiness, leading to a further escalation of being tricked and our tricking back? Where does this end? With Frost's standoff? -- Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee / And I'll forgive Thy great big one on me.

    Even as I hope to get past being trickier than I need to be, I still hope there are tricks to be played. One trick I anticipate is seeing Justice Roberts turn into the Chief Justice Warren of our day - the appointing president's self-identified "worst decision". This is in keeping with the great joke of the last coming first and the first going last.

    Don't forget to hoot a bit as you catch the tricks played on you ("That was a good one, it helps me see what is important.") and don't forget to moan a bit as you catch the tricks you play on others ("Sorry, that didn't help us move toward a better future, did it?").

  5. Romans 8:26-39

    Verse 28, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love GOD, who are called according to GOD's purpose." It has been all too easy to move this into a prosperity theology. The way you know you GOD is on your side, that you are within GOD's purpose, is that good things come your way.

    This really is not about a wonderful resolution to any and all circumstances, proving our worth. It is about steadfast love, a presence of GOD tending things toward good. It is a vision, in the midst of whatever circumstance of weakness -- there is movement toward wholeness.

    And would someone tell me, or hang me a little higher than the sky, who is not called?

  6. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

    How does the church grow?

    It starts small.

    It is mixed into the world.

    It is constantly reborn, reformed, found again.

    It is costly.

    It is inclusive to the point of breaking apart.

    Now apply these parables to your life as will as to some "kingdom of heaven."


Thank you for blessing us with your response.