Archive for June, 2021

Mark 4:35-41 “Do You Not Care?”

stormy blue sea in sunlight
Photo by Ben Mack on Pexels.com

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” [NRSA: Mark 4:35-41]

The lesson in today’s reading from Mark is that God cares so very much for us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. It is the heart of what Paul shares with the church at Rome.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [NRSA: Romans 8:31-39]

Mark recalls Jesus’ instruction to disciples when they are thinking about themselves more than God.

Here poses our first question: if it comes to the moment of our own death, would you rather be in the boat with Jesus or somewhere else, with someone else? Therefore we hear Jesus using this moment in the storm, a moment of fear and uncertainty, so ask: Are you worried about yourself or God?

The honest answer is, “Me”! [Spiritual ] It’s me, It’s me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer, not my brother or my sister but it’s me O’ Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

Mark paints a scene that we can all identify, a boat on the sea, in a storm, wind and waves, and the impending doom and death of everyone, (reminds me of the movie 2012 where the cruise ship is facing a tidal wave of exponential proportions, and everyone is in absolute panic mode, except for Jesus who is sleeping on a big pillow, on a fat mattress, a cushion of peaceful rest and sleep.

Unbelievable scene of Jesus and the disciples. From their point of view Jesus has checked out, nodding off on the job, and unaware of the danger, terror, fear, and threat of death that faces the whole boat.

The familiar question we would ask our tour guide:

  • Why are you asleep now?
  • Don’t you see we are in trouble?
  • We are scared; we are afraid, and
  • we believe we are going to die in this storm.  

But the twist in the story is not that Jesus was pretending to sleep, peeking out of one eye to test the disciples. The twist is that core of the believers we do not believe that God was with them.

The Storm looked bigger than God.

  1. I know I’ve let the uncertainty about the church look bigger than God.
  2. I have seen the depth of corruption in government and given up hope of real change.
  3. I have look at the bank account balance and wondered how we would figure out all the spinning plates and responsibilities.
  4. I have looked at a bump in the road and considered giving up on the journey.
  5. I have questions and fears at every appointment and with every new pastor!

We’ve been in storms, jams, crisis, problem, court, debt, sickness, times of under certainty, confusion, and chaos and felt that sinking absence of God.

  • Where are you?
  • Have you forgotten me? Forgotten your promises?
  • Don’t you see where I am?
  • Don’t you know how bad my situation is and has been?
  • How can you have the luxury of peace, sleep, and rest, when my life is filled with fear, doubt, and hopelessness?

Yes, we have lived this moment on the sea with the disciples!

Stop for a moment think of those who find themselves in this boat and they have NO idea or perception that Jesus is on the boat, much less asleep on a cushion?

Point Two: The Disciples finally remembered to turn to Jesus.

Yes, there were still afraid, doubting, questioning, and out of their senses, but they had enough good sense IN the crisis to turn to Jesus.

Point One: Disciples don’t always believe and trust and Point Two: When we come to our senses, we start looking for Jesus.

The Final point, #3, is that Jesus connects our fear, worry, anxiety, pain, loss, emptiness, chaos to our faith, to our belief, to our trust.

There is where we run ahead and turn back to Paul’s offering to the church at Rome:

  • Can political chaos stop God’s love for us? No! So Turn to God instead of the government.
  • Can the money love us? {It can buy use a boat, and truck to pull it, but when the boat is in a storm and payments for the truck are due and the transmission falls out just when the warranty expires, there is no love}
  • Are our family and friends always understanding and strong enough?
  • Will our homes protect us from a category 5 tornado’s full wrath?
  • Will our acts of kindness be enough to curb evil hearts when we are in trouble?
  • Can we simply do our best and count on justice in the world?
  • Are we guaranteed an exact number of days in our life?

Jesus wakes up from his nap, sees the fear, the storm, and begins talking theology when there is a need for physical salvation. Jesus uses this moment of our being our line, out of control, out of sorts, out of our minds, to remind disciples, like us, our number one task is to believe, to trust, to leave the storms of our lives to God.

This story in the boat, reminds me to first give thanks that I’m in Jesus’s boat.

Those who have taken Disciple Bible study will recall that in Rembrandt’s famous painting of Jesus and the disciples on the sea in the storm there are 14 figures in the boat. Jesus, the 12, and Rembrandt himself.

This passage calls me to surrender myself to God’s strength, God’s love, God’s word, God’s power, God’s grace, God’s timing, God’s purpose.

In Wesley’s Covenant Prayer: we find the Nestea-Plunge into the arms of our creator, savior and sustainer.

“I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.” [John Wesley]

This is a challenging prayer to pray. We want to say it with conviction, purpose, and commitment, but we are hesitant to actually carry through with it, and yet it is the safest, strongest, and most affirming prayer to enter in the storm.

  • Lord, have mercy on me,
  • Help my unbelief.
  • Thou art mine, I am thine.

And with the confidence of Jaun-Luc Picard, we add, “Make it so.”

  • So will the church split?
  • Will that world heal?
  • Will our nation be united?
  • Will the change in pastors be a blessing?
  • Will the new churches be a blessing?
  • Will there be enough?
  • Will we be healed, saved, blessed, remade, renewed?
  • Jesus knows our every weakness
  • Jesus sees the waves, knows our pain, experiences our fears, is torn by our lack of belief and faith,

And still calls our to the source of our doubt, fear, chaos, pain, and unbelief and speaks words of salvation, comfort, and life:

“Peace, be still”

  • Pray with me: Lord Jesus we offer our brokenness, fears, and shame, it is worth nothing good to us, but we have come to our senses and come running to you for our hope and salvation.
  • Give power, depth, height, breadth, to our faith that we may go, do, know, ask, speak, listen, stand, kneel, live, die, and be joined with your forever.
  • Send us to reach those who don’t know you are on the boat
  • Help us to see your hand in our hands,
  • Carry your word and kingdom through our feet and words
  • Let nothing stop us from the belief and love you have hoped and dreamed for us all. Amen!

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At Home in a Tree House

Mark 4:26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know-how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 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. [NRSA: Mark 4:26-34]

The kingdom of God is like a flock of bird finding the home in a tree. 

One of my favorite parsonages as a child we only lived in for six months. The parsonage was built because the DS told my father the old house was too small to move a family into. (That DS never thought Mac would later become a DS.) The new parsonage was fun not because it was a brick ranch with lots of square feet and new appliances, it was a special place because there were plenty of building supplies leftover to build a treehouse.

My treehouse was nothing like Nelson’s Treehouses on television, it was a platform with crude walls and slanted roof, with a trapdoor and pull system to lift supplies up the six feet into the air. The rope ladder could be rolled up to keep friends safe and jealous neighbor bullies at bay. 

One of the early books I remember enjoying was, “We Were Tired of Living in a House” by Liesel Moak Skorpen, Joe Cepeda. It was a new book in 1969 and I was eager to imagine the new house we would next be moving to live in. 

Through the years I have lived in houses that church has provided our family. It is an interesting benefit of making it easy for pastors to move frequently and to remain, typically within sight of the church. When my father started his ministry the after the appointment was about two years. And now with housing allowances and longer tenures, we hold to an itinerate system of moving from church to church throughout a pastor’s career. With 53 years of my life having lived church-provided or funded housing. It is personally interesting to think about where we call home.

Mom always had a piece of needlework framed in every home, that reminded us of the quote, “Bloom where you are planted.” (Context/History)  [Is ‘Bloom Where You Are Planted’ in the Bible? Danielle Bernock, Crosswalk.com, Contributing Writer] Its Origin and Meaning: The sentiment can be found in Scripture, but not the exact words: “bloom where you are planted.” The popular phrase means to be fruitful, make the best of life when it throws lemons at you, and do what’s right, even when it’s hard. Is ‘Bloom Where You Are Planted’ in the Bible? Its Origin and Meaning: The phrase “Bloom Where You Are Planted” gets thrown around a lot. Many think it originated from the Bible, and others know this isn’t true. The sentiment can be found in Scripture, but not the exact words. An American graphic artist and illustrator made the phrase famous with her book, Mary Englebreit: The Art and the Artist, but she didn’t originate the phrase. An American radio broadcaster, Paul Harvey used the phrase a decade before Mary’s book, yet he was not the originator of it either. So, where did it come from? “Bloom Where You Are Planted” has a similar origin to the Celtic Cross — we only know some things and cannot confirm others. What Does “Bloom Where You Are Planted” Mean?

“Bloom Where You Are Planted” can mean various things depending on its usage.

To be fruitful, blossom, become all you were created to be. Make the best of what you have when life throws lemons at you. Do what’s right, even when it’s hard. Each has its place and even corresponding Scripture, which I’ll elaborate on.

1. Be Fruitful

Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), when he was the Bishop of Geneva is recorded as saying this: “Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.” As you can see, it’s not a direct quote of the idiom but carries its meaning.  I believe the words of St. Francis de Sales were inspired by words in the Bible. In the book of Genesis. After God created Adam and Eve, He blessed them and told them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Another Scripture describes a believer’s fruitful flourishing by trusting in God. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Scripture and other writings such as these encourage us to be all God has made us be. 

2. Make the Best of Life

Using the phrase in this way encourages resilience. Sometimes life is hard. Things don’t always go according to plan. Even in less than wonderful situations, we have control over how we respond. Blooming where we are planted is to make the choice to respond in a positive manner. It’s in agreement with another familiar phrase about making lemonade when life throws you lemons. When many Israelites were exiled to Babylon, they were in a less than a wonderful situation. But God told them, in a way, to bloom where they were planted for that time. “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:4-7).

3. Do What’s Right

Doing what’s right when it’s hard is — hard. Perhaps that’s why Paul gives this instruction in 1 Corinthians 7: 20-24, which is another place we find the sentiment of blooming where we are planted. This passage does not sanction human slavery, especially in the way slavery was practiced in the West during the 17th-19th centuries. Instead, this passage is a call to honor God above men. “Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them” (1 Corinthians 7:20-24).

“Bloom Where You Are Planted” Doesn’t Mean to Stay Stuck

Blooming where you are planted doesn’t mean you can’t improve yourself or must stay stuck in an awful place. Let me remind you of the line above, “if you can gain your freedom, do so” (vs. 21). The Bible is full of words encouraging us to grow and change. There are times to bloom where we are planted, and times for us to be transplanted so we can bloom even better elsewhere. Just follow the Lord where he leads. The sentiment of the phrase “Bloom Where You Are Planted” has been around for centuries, but the first publication of the exact phrase cannot be verified.

Make you home in the Lord: The kingdom of God is a the place we are to feel at home. 

Music notes with solid fill

 This World Is Not My Home, by Jim Reeves

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through, My treasures are laid up, Somewhere beyond the blue

The Angels beckon me, From Heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home, In this world anymore

Oh Lord, you know, I have no friend like you, If Heaven’s not my home, Then Lord what will I do

The Angels beckon me, From Heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home, In this world anymore.

Source: Musixmatch Songwriters: Mary Reeves Davis

We have an important character to examine in this parable. The invitation is not to see a tree that is home to one bird but to all the birds of the air.

There are many types of birds, but the invitation is to share a common home. In our modern wisdom, we have come to believe that that means we are working to find some least common denominator of tolerance of the widest sample of diversity, but that is not our invitation.

The invitation is for us all to find our home in God. Period. Drop the mic and should stop here. 

One of the great opportunities of moving in ministry is the opportunity to review the items that fill our house and ask the question does this connected me to God’s or to the world? I’m I holding on to memory because I’m scared, afraid, or lonely, OR am I keeping reminders of the faith story that each of us is personally sharing throughout our lives?

There are experiences such as natural disasters, pandemics, death, as well the choices we make and the challenges we accept or avoid, make up our idea of home, and where we belong. 

The real message for the church today is this, in what tree do we find our home? Is it God’s tree, the world’s tree, or the world’s tree that we slap on God’s name?

The test to answer where we make our home is measure by God and not what is popular at any given time in human history. Are we building a home that draws on God’s blessing, FOR God’s blessing!

Our measure is NOT to find everyone the same branch, God gifts, entrusts and blesses us differently.

Our measure is NOT to use God’s purpose for the world’s purpose, for then it ceases to be God’s.

Finding our home in God is the present we seek. Find it by building your life in Gods word, with other birds like us who belong to God and not the world.

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Use the Treasure in the Pot

2 Corinthians 4:1-18

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—”I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. [NRSA]

A CLAY JAR

A piece of clay that has been fashioned into a bowl, a mug, or a vase is many things.

  • It is an expression of the potter.
  • It is more than the sum of it’s parts,
  • It is more than a lump of dirt and water,
  • It is both durable and delicate,
  • It is fragile, yet useful,
  • It is one of the precious images Paul uses to remind us, and the churches in Corinth, that we are precious treasure of God.

Clay can never form itself as wonderfully, purposefully, or longingly as can the potter.

This is one of the power messages of Good News you and I must share with a world that hungers for meaning and is willing to create alternate realities rather than simply trust God is that very potter of our lives.

Do you ever feel like a clay pot?

Winnie the Pooh is always appreciative of having a useful clay pot near by, in the hope that it contains honey, or that it will soon be filled with honey.

It is Paul’s pray, and one that we also share, that we remember that we are the clay pots that are

  1. Useful
  2. Filled with a treasure greater than golden honey
  3. Our time and lives are to maximize the opportunity to share God’s treasure with those we interact each day.

As Clay Pots, there are times we feel like the roughness of a clay pot. One that has been fired by trial and suffering heat or pressure, but has not been glazed. We feel ordinary, worn, or even fractured.

When we focus on the vase, bowl, mug, the body, the bills, the money, the demands, we think our usefulness is measured by the world’s use or uselessness of our lives, INSTEAD of trusting that GOD has determined our PURPOSE and USEFULNESS and fills us with God’s Power, Spirit, Truth, and Grace to transform a broken, fragile, power-hungry world.

  1. The First lesson to remind you neighbor is this. God makes us.
  2. The second is that God fills us.
  3. The third is God desires to work through us, making us the vessel of God’s presence.

The Body of Christ…

  • God is more plainly revealed in the life, body, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus, showing us that God is in charge, command, and in love with us all.
  • God can transform all things to God’s heart and will.
  • God can use each of us, no matter the age, style, durability, or fragile nature we perceive.
  • God is calling us to be the container.

Our Containers may be

  • We are afflicted in every way,
    • but not crushed;
  • perplexed, but
    • not driven to despair;  
  • persecuted,
    • but not forsaken;
  • struck down,
    • but not destroyed;  

But here is the Good News: We are carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies

Always

When are we carrying the death and life of Jesus?

  • When we feed, cloth, be friends, remember the forgotten,
  • seek the lost, search for the weary,
  • knock on the table of those who are using God’s name for power, politics, and personal gain.

The old American Express slogan, “Don’t Leave Home without It” is just a good of a reminder that everywhere, in everyday, in every situation, we are the useful pots, the containers of Jesus for the world.

The Hitch in the Get Along

  • The catch is, we either don’t believe this to be true everyday,
  • We take it for granted and think it is something we can pick and choose to share , or
  • We don’t trust God’s power, word, and heart.

For weeks I have ask you to pray for someone that you can disciple, and share your faith. On one hand it is a poor attempt to suggest that there might just be one person, when there are thousands within our areas of influence that we would dare pick one. But this is just the thing:

Most of us don’t use the powers and gifts entrusted.

We are more focused on protecting our own pot, our own body, our own stuff, our own problems, and we miss the point of “God with Us”, Emmanuel, the Good News, the treasure that is entrusted us to share.

Which leaves us with the question to URGENTLY answer:

If you and I are those God is expecting the share the Good News, what do we have to report?

Why do you say URGENT, hasn’t it been thousands of years since Christ arose and might it be a thousand more? It might, but not for me and you.

We do not know the number of our days.

“ Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day”

  1. How many conversations about the weather and politics can we waste talking with one another about what is certain instead of what is perplexing?
  2. How many trips to work and town to do something necessary that we do not reach out to those who are afflicted with the blindness of what the world has to offer.
  3. How much breath do we withhold in an effort to avoid persecution, social shaming, and ridicule?
  4. How many times do we take a stand and risk being struck down for doing what is right for the kingdom of God?

Thank Goodness Paul is only talking to the church in Corinth and not the church in Rock Spring, Georgia! (Oh but his words touch us all, in all time, ALWAYS.

Speaking of Always, let’s compare Sunday afternoon to Eternity.

  • What is the most pressing thing we have today?
  • What is waiting for us in this week ahead that we are responsible to do, lead, or complete?
  • What can be placed on the back burner, or until we have more time, money, energy, or feel more like it?

I have an idea for social media this week:

Instead of posting the usual, or just reading others post and liking or skipping them. Let’s use this powerful tool to share a more powerful message.

  • Let’s share how God is at work in our lives
  • Share what songs and verses are guiding your day.
  • Share what conversation are drawing others closer to God

If you are not only social media, get on the phone, in the car, our out in person and start telling story, sharing the treasure, resume feeding and clothing, visiting and making friends in Christ, start knocking on hearts and heads, ask people how you can pray for them, how God can bless them.

  • Use these clay bots that we are
  • And share the treasure that God has invested in us
  • And transform the world and tell the good news…

Because keeping quiet is not the method that is working very well.

If we stay silent, if we keep it too ourselves, it is as if we only an empty, useless pots and that is not at all what God has blessed, saved, calls, nor expects us to be.

Are you with me? Let’s stop focusing on the pot and sharing the treasure we’ve already got.

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