Sounding Stupid

Question marksFriday, June 12, 2015

Mark 4:26-34

“With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” (Mark 4:33-34)

 

When I hear this passage, I can just see the disciples smiling and nodding, nodding and smiling the whole time Jesus speaks in parables to the crowd.

 

 

And then, the minute they have Jesus alone…

 

 

The mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed on earth, why did you say that? Mustard plants don’t have branches that large, is this some new hybrid strain? Why compare the kingdom of God to a weed?  Why not cedar trees?

 

Why birds? Why not sheep?

 

We were fishermen, do you want us to start farming now? What on earth does this mean for us?  For them?

 

Are you saying we should eat more mustard?

 

 

I wish that the disciples had felt more comfortable asking their questions right there, in front of God and everybody—no matter how stupid they might feel. It would set a good example for the rest of us.

 

 

To be honest about having questions, to celebrate curiosity, to cultivate contemplation, to be able to change one’s mind, to admit that you’ve been wrong and to acknowledge that you will be wrong again…somehow these things have gotten a bad rap in popular culture.

 

 

Faith has been confused with certainty…the scriptures with a catalogue of answers…Jesus’ teaching with a how-to guide.

 

 

In the media, a “Christian” position on everything from wedding catering to earthquakes is quoted faster than you can say “knee-jerk.”

 

 

And yet, here is Jesus speaking to the world and his disciples in parables. It is through these tricky, confusing, strange parables that Jesus chooses to speak of the Kingdom of God. And the more time we spend with parables the more we can see that Jesus knows exactly what he’s doing.

 

 

In a black and white world, the parables are always muddying everything up, making it clear that God’s word, God’s kingdom, God’s Son is always more surprising, more challenging, more life-giving than we had first thought.

 

 

Parables take a straight-forward situation and turn it on its ear, causing us to look again, and this time from a different perspective.

 

 

In the face of common sense the parables sound stupid. And that nonsense just might make us second guess what we’ve held to be true.

 

 

So if we are paying any attention to parables at all---we should have questions. Lots of questions. And that should leaves us wondering, where do we turn when we are looking for answers?

 

 

To Jesus, of course—just as the disciples did.

Pastor Sarah

 

 

“With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” (Mark 4:33-34)

When I hear this passage, I can just see the disciples smiling and nodding, nodding and smiling the whole time Jesus speaks in parables to the crowd.

And then, the minute they have Jesus alone…

The mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed on earth, why did you say that? Mustard plants don’t have branches that large, is this some new hybrid strain? Why compare the kingdom of God to a weed?  Why not cedar trees?

Why birds? Why not sheep?

We were fishermen, do you want us to start farming now? What on earth does this mean for us?  For them?

Are you saying we should eat more mustard?

I wish that the disciples had felt more comfortable asking their questions right there, in front of God and everybody—no matter how stupid they might feel. It would set a good example for the rest of us.

To be honest about having questions, to celebrate curiosity, to cultivate contemplation, to be able to change one’s mind, to admit that you’ve been wrong and to acknowledge that you will be wrong again…somehow these things have gotten a bad rap in popular culture.

Faith has been confused with certainty…the scriptures with a catalogue of answers…Jesus’ teaching with a how-to guide.

In the media, a “Christian” position on everything from wedding catering to earthquakes is quoted faster than you can say “knee-jerk.”

And yet, here is Jesus speaking to the world and his disciples in parables. It is through these tricky, confusing, strange parables that Jesus chooses to speak of the Kingdom of God. And the more time we spend with parables the more we can see that Jesus knows exactly what he’s doing.

In a black and white world, the parables are always muddying everything up, making it clear that God’s word, God’s kingdom, God’s Son is always more surprising, more challenging, more life-giving than we had first thought.


Parables take a straight-forward situation and turn it on its ear, causing us to look again, and this time from a different perspective.

In the face of common sense the parables sound stupid. And that nonsense just might make us second guess what we’ve held to be true.

So if we are paying any attention to parables at all---we should have questions. Lots of questions. And that should leaves us wondering, where do we turn when we are looking for answers?

To Jesus, of course—just as the disciples did.

Attentive

clouds

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mark 3:20-35

Psalm 130

Since we arrived in Iowa, Mary and I have been captivated by the skies. Mary is known to jump up from the supper table when the sun begins to set to take a picture of the western skies. The Iowa skies have given me a new appreciation for the landscape of the open places. It’s helpful from time to time to look up to gain perspective and a sense of proportion. The skies are alive with movement, dimension and great variety. It makes me want to learn the names of all the cloud formations again to better appreciate what I am seeing.

The community of faith is a dynamic thing. As we worship and share in ministry we can feel its movement and energy. If we are receptive we can see something greater than us at work, a depth of relationships and an excitement about a shared future. We may hold particular expectations of the church and at times feel disappointed when they are not adequately met. Our point of reference may primarily be the past, the familiar and the comfortable.

But the very nature of faith gets us paying attention to things we otherwise might pass by. We get to look beyond ourselves. Congregational life is a place of discovery and even adventure that is hope filled. Our point of reference leans toward what is yet to be, trusting that God is working through us in ways that may even surprise us (My soul waits for the Lord, more than those who keep watch in the morning.)

Early on in his ministry Jesus came back home and he was met by confusion by those who thought they knew him. His actions of ministry did not fit into their set ideas and religious notions. They found it hard to measure a ministry that was so relational - bringing people together for healing and wholeness at every opportunity.

It was a challenge to understand that to follow Jesus meant living into new ways of being present for others. By sharing in the very mission of Jesus was to shape new connections characterized by gratitude and generosity of spirit. This remains surprising all together and a clear reminder that the Spirit is still very much at work in our hearts and in the world (…for with the Lord, there is steadfast love.)

Pastor Randy

How to be Born Again

pregnant

Friday, May 29, 2015

John 3:1-17

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (John 3:3)

Nicodemus does not understand what Jesus is saying to him. He can’t get past the ridiculous image of a grown man trying to get back into the womb to be born again.

His fellow teachers of Israel are even less receptive to the idea of new birth. New life in the Spirit refuses to fit into their old ways, and so they resist it. God’s power made known in Jesus will not yield to their control, so they reject it. This way to new life is not of their initiative, their doing, and so they will fight against it.

When confronted with new life, how often do we do the very same things?
Laugh at it.
Resist it.
Reject it.
Fight against it.

What if we could instead, approach new life as we did the first time around?

I don’t remember what it was like to be born,
but I do remember what it was like to give birth.
It wasn’t pain exactly. Pain is not the right word.

The only way I can describe natural child birth:
it felt like the world was being torn apart.

The forces of nature had taken hold of me.
Forces that make the mountains rise up, and bring them crashing down.
The forces of the surging seas, the forces that drive the wind.

Forces completely beyond my control had taken over and were working their transformation in me, and there was no where I could hide.

I went into labor with the idea that I could prepare, that I could plan, that I had control.

But instead, what I experienced was being swept away by a power so completely beyond me. All that I could do was surrender to it and let it transform me.

Really, in giving birth, I was not so different from that baby being born.
It was happening to both of us.

After it was all over there it was, new life.
I was grateful…and I was humbled.
With absolute certainly, I knew I was not the one who made this new life come into being.

Pastor Sarah

Send Forth Your Spirit

Trees webFriday, May 22, 2015

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Pentecost Sunday marks the fiftieth day of Easter. The day celebrates the Spirit of the risen Christ in the church – a spirit of service, a spirit of love, a spirit of hope.

The texts speak of the height and depth of the Spirit’s movement. The Spirit that renews the face of the earth is the same Spirit that intercedes with sighs too deep for words. For us in today’s church, we welcome the wonder and mystery of the gift of the Holy Spirit; it stirs within us new visions for living into our faith!

We have named collaboration as an integral part of our congregational vision. After some months of working with it, I continue to grow in my excitement about it. I think it’s fitting and timely. It recognizes that there is more capacity to our ministry when we move beyond our programmatic silos. In other words we seek to find creative ways of being the church together. As we live into the vision we are quickly learning that this can be quiet challenging.

Moving ahead takes imagination, commitment, a willingness to try new things and mutuality. Moving ahead takes patience and a good amount of energy too.

Realizing our limitations in all of this is very healthy. It allows us to look beyond ourselves and to continuously make room for the work of the Spirit among us. The notion of a more fully integrated approach to being the church today is our response to the Holy Spirit that is still moving, creating and renewing. When I am part of a true collaborative effort it feels that I am experiencing the church living into the vibrancy of its identity and purpose.

O Holy Spirit, root of life, creator, cleanser of all things:
anoint our wounds, awaken us with lustrous movement of your wings. –
ELW 399

Pastor Randy

Stay Weird

comfort.zone web

Friday, May 15, 2015

John 17:6-19

One of my least favorite things in the world is to be alone in a crowd of people who all seem to know each other.

That intense awareness of not belonging makes it really hard to remain. There is an overwhelming desire to flee from that awkward, out of place feeling. Not fitting in, feeling strange, being weird...many of us do everything we can to avoid these moments, those places, the crowds where we don’t feel like we belong.

Maybe it’s making you uncomfortable right now, just to think about it.

But what if we could overcome that fear? What then might be possible?

What experiences?
What relationships?
What learning?
What new life?
What Joy?

Traveling in foreign country. Navigating the first days on the job. Walking down the halls of a different school. Relocating your family. Visiting a church. Starting anything new. If you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone (or been pushed) you know the potential gifts that await…if you can just make it through the discomfort.

In his final moments at the table of the last supper Jesus prays for his disciples. He knows life for them has not and will not be easy because “they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”

Jesus does not ask for the disciples to be taken out of the world.
Instead, he asks that they may be “sanctified in the truth.”

Sanctified
Be made holy
Set apart for God’s purposes

Jesus is basically asking: Father, may they stay weird.

May the disciples always be made different by God’s word and transformed by the truth.

May they continue in Jesus’ weird ways of welcoming strangers, loving the unlovable, speaking truth to power, giving away and giving up everything for the benefit of others.

May they never fit in, revealing to all a different way of being in the world.

And in this, may the joy Jesus has known, be made complete in them.

Pastor Sarah