Our Sister Phoebe, a Deacon

Theological musings inspired by the Spirit and totally Ellen…

Archive for the month “July, 2008”

>Growth from God … and Tiny Seeds

>Creation is a glorious mystery. I live in an area of California where there are redwoods and eucalyptus. I love the smell of eucalyptus, the seeds that look like tea cups. Redwoods are just amazing — is there any plant as tall and majestic? 25 years ago, when my daughter Celia was born, we planted a redwood out in front of her grandmother’s house where a dying tree once stood. Today, that tree soars over the tiny white cottage on the hill and the plush neighborhood where it stands. What is amazing is that it came from a seed I can hold in the palm of my hand.

Life comes from a spark of almost nothing and becomes something extraordinary.

Where the seeds are planted and nurtured make a big difference.

The Gospel for Sunday, July, 13, is the first of three lections from Matthew 13 consisting of parables, the the third major body of Jesus’ teachings found in this Gospel, the first being the Sermon on the Mount and the other, the Mission Charge.

Okay, so what’s a parable?

It’s a tool for teaching that Jesus used – they are powerful, because what stays in the memory better than a good story?

But these are stories that allow the listener to teach themselves. Jesus’ parables are disorienting; they turn society as we know it on it’s head, takes us out of the predictable and comfortable and challenges us to look deeper, closer.

The “Parable of the Sower” tells us of seeds that are planted in different ground – the seeds are tossed; some seeds fell on pavement; some seeds fell in rocky ground; more seed fell into bracken, thorns and weeds, and finally, seeds fell into good soil.

What happens to the seeds, the seed that fell on pavement, or path? They were eaten by the birds immediately, And the seeds that fell on rocky ground? Well, they sprang up but there was no depth for their roots and they withered and died, How about the seeds that fell into the thorns? Choked. Finally, the seeds that fell into good soil? Can you guess? They produce grain in hundredfolds, and them some!

So which seed are you?

That’s the point of this parable. Our ears hear an allegory – the seed is Logos, the word of God through Christ. The seeds represent we children of God and how we respond to the teaching of Jesus.

Let’s see if I can get this right:

The seed on the path is the person who doesn’t want to hear; the seed on rocky ground is the person who wants to get it, tries hard at it, then gives up for whatever reason. It’s just too hard. The seed in the thorns might be someone in the wrong crowd, who cannot hear, tries, but is suffocated by their own worries and life; and the seed in the good soil – that’s not hard to figure out. That’s someone who hears and takes it to heart; let’s the word of the Lord and the invitation of Christ to be nurtured and it grows so that the word is spread to everyone that good seed knows and sees, and it continues to reap a good harvest.

Jesus told these stories to get people to think harder about their lives, their relationships with God and people, to look at the Kingdom of Heaven through a different lens, take an understanding of it as a way of being and acting, other than a physical place.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like . . .

well, what do you think it is like?

How will you sow the Word of God so that it may reap in a hundredfold, twenty, thirty, believers ready to make the Kingdom of Heaven a place for all to come and sit down at the table?

Go in peace!

Ellen+

>Yokes That Are Tailored to Fit

>

I’ve been off the radar for the last couple of weeks due to a nasty infection – oral surgery is not one of my favorite pastimes. During an uncomfortable time, Jesus’ words offered a lot of comfort. When I don’t have the strength, or am in pain, there’s someone to lean on.
This last Sunday’s gospel from Matthew 11:16-18, 28-30 is one of those passages in the Christian scripture that despite Jesus’ denunciation of Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernum, he invites us to come to him that our burdens may be lifted from our shoulders, and how beautiful the invitation is:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give
you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble
in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

(Matthew 11:28-30).

Such a deal, one might think! I can just let Jesus take care of everything.

It’s this deacon’s opinion that nah, don’t think so.

Jesus offers a shoulder to lean on, but I think he would expect that in dark times, in times of uncertainty, frustration, fear and pain, we turn to Him for guidance, to learn from His example. And while we’re being offered support, maybe that will give us time to put matters to prayer and have the strength to act on whatever we’re being called to do in Christ’s name. From Jesus of Nazareth we can model His new command-ment – love one another as Christ loves us.

I often quote this and mention it in conversation and sermons and in my writing, but it bears repeating, that and his paraphrasing of Deuteronomy 10:12-15 at Mark 12:29-30 and Matthew 22:34-40:

“The most important one,” {commandment} answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. ‘ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than this.”

(Mark 12:29-30)
Loving your neighbor, whether a friend, a stranger, or a co-worker with which you barely share three words in one day, is difficult. Love comes more easily if we let our egos and human frailty, our tendencies to want to be first, and our search for perfection in beauty and mind, to be the center of the universe. And that’s where Jesus’ yoke comes into play. Yokes are those harnesses that go over the shoulders of an ox or horse to keep them attached to a wagon, cart, or plow. It’s used to help bear heavy loads. Made of hardwood, they’re pretty heavy – but not as heavy as the cross-beam Jesus carried on humanity�s behalf in his exhausted state to Golgotha. Once we get out of the blinding sun of our own wants and needs, and step into the shadow Jesus we are able to take up the yoke � one made with Jesus’ support and the strength of love and faith, of submitting our hearts, souls and minds to the ever-present, ever powerful, unconditional love of God and loving Christ as we love the Father.
Go in peace, dear ones!
With God’s love and mine, Ellen+

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