Saturday, June 20, 2009

3 Pentecost: Stormy seas

Readings are here.

Some random thoughts towards a sermon for tomorrow.
We used to have a small boat that we took out on Boysen Reservoir. As many know the mornings are calm and sunny but by mid afternoon thunderstorms begin to build and the storms can sweep across that lake in a matter of minutes. One day we were out in the middle of the lake when one of these storms came up. We made for the boat ramp, Jim jumped out to get the Suburban and boat trailer - back it down the ramp (there were others doing the same). I was out in the boat circling, awaiting my turn. The wind began to blow, the waves were crashing over the bow. I continued to circle, strapping on my life vest (I know, I know, I should have put it on first thing). Finally I saw that the trailer was in position. The wind was blowing across the boat pushing it off course. I knew I would have one chance to make it. Aiming the boat up wind from where I needed to end up I revved up the engine and shot towards shore. The boat hit the boat trailer and practically went into the back seat. We wrangled the whole thing up out of the water and up the ramp. Whew!

As I read about the disciples out on the sea of Galilee - a body of water known for storms that come up quickly - I thought about my experience. Their boat was larger but not by much - they had no engine, only oars and a sail. I can imagine the scene - Jesus sleeps (no fear in him), the storm terrifies the disciples. They shout at Jesus and shake him awake - help help - we are going to die! Jesus awakens, stretches, looks around and asks them why they have no faith. The way I see it - they were fishermen - they know sailing in rough weather - what had happened to make them turn to Jesus (a carpenter) for help?

As I read the story - it is not so much that Jesus calms the seas as he provides the calm around him that allows the disciples to remember that they know boats and seas and storms - they can cope with the situation. The sea suddenly seems calm to them.

How often to we get to feeling so overwhelmed that we forget that we know things, we forget to use the our gifts and the gifts of the community? The storms of life will happen. Turning to Christ in prayer may not change the situation but it will definitely help us to have peace in the midst of the storm. Like Paul in the epistle we can work together with God, we can open our hearts to the peace that passes understanding.

A painting of the storm at sea here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

2 Pentecost

Readings are here.

Today's readings are mostly about growth and the innateness of growth in all of creation. The tree in Ezekiel, flourishing of the psalm, and of course the mustard seed in the gospel. Although it is in the nature of all things to grow, it is a particularly human trait to have an imagination that grows. We are born with imagination and with care and feeding and the nurture of God - those seeds of imagination and ideas take root and grow until our death and beyond.

Dolly Parton was interviewed in AARP Magazine this past month. She epitomizes for me how the seeds of her imagination and her dreams became reality. We know how she grew up in poverty, her father could not even read, but her family encouraged her.
During her teenage years Parton and her mother's brother, Bill Owens, also a songwriter, would venture into Nashville and try to get signed. "We used to come down in his rickety car any time we could beg, borrow, or steal enough money for gas," Parton remembers. "We'd clean up in service stations. I'd wash my hair in those old, cold sinks and put my makeup on in the mirrors in the car." Through it all, she says, "there wasn't ever a time I thought I wasn't going to make it."

But achieving her dream did not stop her, it did not end with her success. She kept on dreaming:
I wake up with new dreams every day. And the more you do, when you're a dreamer, the more everything creates other arenas you can go into. It's like a tree with many branches, and branches with many leaves."

She feeds her dreams, she prays, she looks for ways to give away her dreams to others so they can dream and live into their dreams.

We had our driveway asphalted last year which makes it much easier to plow the snow off of it. However, the little seeds that were buried under inches of asphalt are not deterred. They force their way through the weaker places and pop up through that seemingly impenetrable barrier. Most are weeds of the mustard family. The urge to grow is strong - stronger than death. We have the promise of eternal life. So the setbacks and mini-deaths can be overcome according to this promise. Even after death we are promised more life and growth.

In Pakistan Christians are a small minority and in many places it is illegal and dangerous to be a Christian, yet I was reading in Church Times that they feel they were placed there by God to be a force for God's reconciling love.
In this volatile setting, Christians — 85 per cent of whom work in menial jobs — provide care for all in need. “We are trying to recreate God’s love as we have experienced it in Jesus Christ, and those people of God are the Taliban and al-Qaeda and Christians, whoever they are. This is our heritage through mission, and it is our privilege. Our three or four health centres are services in diakonia.”

He spoke of the work of six Lutheran women in a hall that they share with an al-Qaeda camp. “They are working in an area where even the bravest of the brave would shudder to go. We clean the wounds of the children, and that gives us the right to be of service there. But how do we serve others if we do not get support? This is why I yell at our global Christian siblings for support.”

Yet the Church faces great problems: “Legal discrimination against me on the basis of my religion — that I cannot tolerate. . . That is a crime against humanity, and that is what is being done to us. We are in the impossible situation of a slow death, a slow suffocation by prejudice, despite all our service. It is the challenge of our times. How do we co-exist in a situation of majority Islam?

“Our destiny is to exist as a Church and a people of God to encourage reconciled relationships. My challenge is that our destiny is to embrace the enemy — to smell the sweat of the enemy — and that is why God has supported us and places us there. We have not gone underground, and I am proud of that.”

This is definitely mustard seed living. We are called to witness in this way wherever we are planted. We are here in a small town in Wyoming. How can we be mustard seeds that grow and branch out and give shade for others to grow and branch out? How can we do this as individuals, as communities of faith?