Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes

14 Jun

maryGood morning friends,

I wanted to share a joyous celebration that was given to me.  On Saturday my Garfield church was having a Father’s Day BBQ/potluck meal.  The sweet folks turned it into also a early 60th birthday party for me.  It was so much fun, as you can see from the photo. (Just once I would like to look like a size 8 or even a 10. . )

I also wanted to continue with the Gospel of Mark.   We are in the fourth chapter and Jesus trying to explain the spread of the Good News, tells the parable of the seed sower.    You probably know this story, but I invited you to read it again as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson.

1-2 He went back to teaching by the sea. A crowd built up to such a great size that he had to get into an offshore boat, using the boat as a pulpit as the people pushed to the water’s edge. He taught by using stories, many stories.

3-8 “Listen. What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

10-12 When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people—

Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.”

13 He continued, “Do you see how this story works? All my stories work this way.

14-15 “The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them.

16-17 “And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.

18-19 “The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.

20 “But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.”

21-22 Jesus went on: “Does anyone bring a lamp home and put it under a washtub or beneath the bed? Don’t you put it up on a table or on the mantel? We’re not keeping secrets, we’re telling them; we’re not hiding things, we’re bringing them out into the open.

23 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?

24-25 “Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.”

I remember one of the times I read this story and realized that it is not my responsibility to make sure that anyone receives the great news of God’s love, I just have to share what God has done in my life.

As I close in on celebrating 60 years, I am so thankful that I grew up in church and that my spirit was receptive to the wonders of the Divine Presence.  I encourage anyone of reads my blog to remember, we are not here to judge anyone, we are not here to force anyone to believe as we might believe, but just to live in a way to show the amazing power of God’s grace.

Generosity begets generosity, Stinginess improverishes

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Naming things correctly

3 Apr

Good Morning Friends,

The statistic on my blog site says I have blogged 365 times.  A whole year’s worth and it just took me a little under 5 years!

The last time I blogged Transfiguration Sunday was coming up and now it is Palm Sunday is coming up fast.  Time flies when your renovating.  That ‘s right, I am changing stuff up again!  A friend of my brother is putting down laminate wood flooring on the second floor.  No more gold and green shag carpet from 1976!  Now I have a wonderful soak tub and wood flooring in my bedroom.  There is an extra bedroom that has wood flooring too.

But let’s get on to the scripture of the day.  We are working our way through the Gospel of Mark and we are up to the next half of Chapter 3.  Jesus has just named his traveling companions and he is getting into trouble.

20-21 Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered—so many making demands on him that there wasn’t even time to eat. His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was getting carried away with himself.

22-27 The religion scholars from Jerusalem came down spreading rumors that he was working black magic, using devil tricks to impress them with spiritual power. Jesus confronted their slander with a story: “Does it make sense to send a devil to catch a devil, to use Satan to get rid of Satan? A constantly squabbling family disintegrates. If Satan were fighting Satan, there soon wouldn’t be any Satan left. Do you think it’s possible in broad daylight to enter the house of an awake, able-bodied man, and walk off with his possessions unless you tie him up first? Tie him up, though, and you can clean him out.

Those who are in power in the Jewish community are saying slanderous things about Jesus.  Would they be tweeting today?  Jesus speaks plainly when he says that their slander doesn’t make any sense; if he were using black magic, then why is he ridding people’s life of evil.  He adds that speaking against his ministry is trash talking God too.

28-30 “Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.” He gave this warning because they were accusing him of being in league with Evil.

31-32 Just then his mother and brothers showed up. Standing outside, they relayed a message that they wanted a word with him. He was surrounded by the crowd when he was given the message, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside looking for you.”

33-35 Jesus responded, “Who do you think are my mother and brothers?” Looking around, taking in everyone seated around him, he said, “Right here, right in front of you—my mother and my brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

God is the center.  The Divine Presence is the first relationship in Jesus life.   We are invited to believe in Jesus, the Christ, and claim that same Divine Presence for our first relationship.

This past Sunday I spoke on John 3; the born again passage.  The question I posed was, “If we are born of the spirit, then why would we worry about the color of skin of our brothers and sisters in Christ;  or, any of the other details about their lives.

Here is my wisdom of the day.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  People are always going to try to find fault in others.  Focus on the Center, the Presence that brings grace and hope and peace into our lives.  Love the people who are in your faith family and love people who are outside your faith family.  That’s our job.

Peace

And the beat goes on

23 Feb

Good Morning Friends,

There are many mornings that I think about adding to my blog, but so often I get distracted by something else.

Once the Christmas was done, I started working on renovating my upstairs bathroom. A great guy from my St. Paul’s used gifts of dry wall, tiling, flooring, and I added painted and hung  new towel bars and a shower curtain.  Plus, a plumber to connect a new toilet, and faucets for the bath, shower and sink.  Mix it all together and I have a beautiful bathroom where I soak in a deep bathtub almost every night.  It’s awesome.

And, as I revel in my new project on my home, I note that Jesus did not invest in buildings.  Jesus invested in people.  In the gospel of Mark chapter 3 we have Jesus naming and empowering his co-workers.

13-19 He climbed a mountain and invited those he wanted with him. They climbed together. He settled on twelve, and designated them apostles. The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out to proclaim the Word and give them authority to banish demons. These are the Twelve:

Simon (Jesus later named him Peter, meaning “Rock”),
James, son of Zebedee,
John, brother of James (Jesus nicknamed the Zebedee brothers Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder”),
Andrew,
Philip,
Bartholomew,
Matthew,
Thomas,
James, son of Alphaeus,
Thaddaeus,
Simon the Canaanite,
Judas Iscariot (who betrayed him)

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus – Son of God – most powerful – Prince of Peace – etc, wanted helpers to do what he did.  He wants the apostles [literally, one sent forth] to increase the amount of people that could be reached with Jesus’ message and ministry.

Christianity was never suppose to be a one person show; even Jesus.  The message was what matter and Jesus wanted to get that message of God’s good news out to as many people as possible.  AND having a building doesn’t seem to be on Jesus agenda.

This Sunday we will celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Whenever I think about that passage, I think of Peter saying,  “It’s a good thing you invited us to be here, now we can build a booth for you and Moses and Elijah”.  Having a dwelling on earth was not the priority, dwelling with God wherever we go was the important part.    The journey with an awareness of the Presence of God is what will transform our lives and our world.

Yes, church building are convenient.  But, they are not the dwelling place of God.  They can become sacred places because of what we do in them, not just that we  build them.

Think about your most sacred places today.  Realize that you have brought that meaning to that place because of God’s presence with you

Peace

Good News Travels Fast

14 Jan

Good Morning Friends,

Reading the Bible is so amazing.  It has really been a gift to read it over and over again through a number of years.  I read it so often not because I am particularly devout, but because I have got to come up with something to say on Sunday.

Anyway, this morning it slapped me in the face again about the nature of human beings.  Jesus is clear that he has come to tell the Good News that God is with us, and loves us and wants relationship with us and wants us to live in just relationship with one another.  Yet, everyone starts mobbing him because in his compassion he healed some people too.  He keeps going to new places to tell about God, but the word has spread about his ability to heal and people are coming from everywhere.  Even the historian of the time, Josephus, records the news of a great healer in Galilee.

7-10 Jesus went off with his disciples to the sea to get away.  But a huge crowd from Galilee trailed after them—also from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, across the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon—swarms of people who had heard the reports and had come to see for themselves. He told his disciples to get a boat ready so he wouldn’t be trampled by the crowd. He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him.

11-12 Evil spirits, when they recognized him, fell down and cried out, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus would have none of it. He shut them up, forbidding them to identify him in public.

In the gospel we hear that the evil spirit could recognize him and Jesus makes sure that can’t continue to speak.  I am not sure what this looks like, but it seems clear that this is not about Jesus, it is about God.  Jesus’ entire life was trying to tell about God and make God presence on earth really. . .to be a living example of the Divine Presence.

So, here’s my question.  Do we only come to God when we want something (like those folks who wanted healing.)  I am not saying it is a bad thing to look to the Divine Presence for healing, but IS IT THE ONLY THING?

Jesus came to tell Good News of God’s grace, to show what it was to live on this earth as God’s person, the healing was just a side line.

I think living into the fullness of the Divine is the way to live a whole and holy human beings; to live as we are meant to live.  That’s what Jesus was trying to tell us.  Yet, too often we get distracted with wanting a miracle cure, wanting God to change something in our life to make our lives easier.  [actually I find that we want God to change someone else so our lives with be easier].  I think the wanting of a specific healing or outcome closes our awareness to the blessings that are all around us.

So, here is my invitation today.  Think about the good news of God-with-us.  We just celebrated a month of this gift of the Divine Presence dwelling with us.  Imagine, God’s spirit walking along with you all through the day and see what that spirit might be trying to show you in your life.  I usually find it is showing me the blessings that are all around me.

Peace,

Let Me Make This Clear

2 Jan

Good Morning and Good New Year Friends,

When we last left Jesus at the end of Chapter 2 he was doing things he should do according Jewish law; specifically breaking the Sabbath law by doing “work.” [doing anythings at all on the Sabbath was illegal]

1-3 Then he went back in the meeting place where he found a man with a crippled hand. The Pharisees had their eyes on Jesus to see if he would heal him, hoping to catch him in a Sabbath infraction. He said to the man with the crippled hand, “Stand here where we can see you.”

Then he spoke to the people: “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?” No one said a word.

5-6 He looked them in the eye, one after another, angry now, furious at their hard-nosed religion. He said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out—it was as good as new! The Pharisees got out as fast as they could, sputtering about how they would join forces with Herod’s followers and ruin him.

There are so many things going through my head as I read this passage;

  •  The Gospel writer is clearly showing why people wanted to kill Jesus.
  • The work that Jesus was given to do didn’t match the “God rules” of the day and he didn’t care.
  • People hate to be embarrassed and out maneuvered, particularly when their word has never been questioned.

However, the question that Jesus leaves us with is, “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best?  Doing good or doing evil?  Helping people or leaving them helpless?”

To answer Jesus question, I like the quote from John Wesley, founder of Methodism, best.

The best thing of all is God is with us. Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

I think it is a good idea to keep in my head to start this journey into 2017.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Mary

People Pleaser – NOT

3 Dec

Good Morning friends,

One of the things I like most about Jesus was he never felt the need to please anyone.  It wasn’t mean about it usually, but he was clear about what he thought was important and how he went about his ministry.  If was often said that Jesus would have never gotten ordained by the Untied Methodist Church, he was too much of an non-conformist.  He seems never to be concerned with the appearance of things, but always with the substance of them.

18 The disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees made a practice of fasting. Some people confronted Jesus: “Why do the followers of John and the Pharisees take on the discipline of fasting, but your followers don’t?”

19-20 Jesus said, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!”

21-22 He went on, “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”

Jesus announced all through the gospels that, “This is Kingdom Come!”.  God had brought a new reality into the world, we just have a recognized it and get with the program.

You might ask, “what is the program?”  From what I read it has always been the same for God’s people.  To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all of your mind, and with all of your soul, AND to love your neighbor as yourself.  The prophet Micah thought is looked like this; to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.  And God repeatedly says through the prophets, “I will be there God and they will be my people.”

So, what don’t we get.  The gift is that the program is not specific do and don’t, but living in the Way of the Divine Presence with Justice and Mercy as a person in relationship with the eternal, infinite power of grace and creativity.

Yet, we want rules.  I think because that way we can be right and someone else can be wrong.

23-24 One Sabbath day he was walking through a field of ripe grain. As his disciples made a path, they pulled off heads of grain. The Pharisees told on them to Jesus: “Look, your disciples are breaking Sabbath rules!”

25-28 Jesus said, “Really? Haven’t you ever read what David did when he was hungry, along with those who were with him? How he entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, with the Chief Priest Abiathar right there watching—holy bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat—and handed it out to his companions?” Then Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath. He’s in charge!”

So, Jesus wants us to get the order of things right.  It is the substance of our lives that is important, not the appearance.  Everyone may have an opinion about the choices you make, however, it is only God’s perspective that counts.  People Pleaser – NOT.  God Pleaser _YES; a thousand time YES.

Blessings and peace,

Mary

Everyone’s Invited to Dinner

21 Nov

Freedom_from_Want_ORIGINALGood Morning Friends,

I wondering if you are getting ready for Thanksgiving.  Years ago we had huge Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners – 20 – 30 people.  Now we will have a small gathering (it looks like 5 of us).  I think we get caught up in the fallacy that a large and important gathering proves we are worthy of admiration; and simple and small, not so much.

I wanted to put in this classic Norman Rockwell painting as an image of the perfect Thanksgiving.  Then I found that the title is “Freedom from Want” and it was painted in 1943 – the middle of World War II where everything was scarce and ration stamps were a part of everyday life.  For me it has now gone for a commentary of what a perfect Thanksgiving should look like to a picture of hope in a difficult time.  I can almost hear the voice over saying, “this is what we’re fighting for boys.”

All of this was to talk about what Jesus thought were good dinner companions in a time were there were incredibly strict rules about how you dined and with whom you dined.

13-14 Then Jesus went again to walk alongside the lake. Again a crowd came to him, and he taught them. Strolling along, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” He came.

15-16 Later Jesus and his disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers. The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: “What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?”

17 Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit.”

Jesus calls tax collector to be a disciple.  These Jewish men were most hated because of their work for the Roman oppressors.  And well, they were tax collectors too; even in our society we don’t usually like tax collectors!

Each gospel says that Jesus ate with “disreputable” people.  Good religious people did not associate with “those kinds of people.  But, Jesus came to care for those no one else cared about.  As this paraphrase puts it, “the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit.”  Jesus’ Thanksgiving table would have been an interesting place.

Who’s at your table?  I have a friend, he and his wife have no children.  On “big meal” holidays they would invite folks who had no one to share the dinner with to come to their house.  It was usually older widows, unable to travel far with no children nearby.  I have always thought this was one of the greatest images of Thanksgiving.

Here is one more painting by Norma Rockwell that I want you to see.  It was painted on the Saturday Evening Post for Thanksgiving 1945.  The war had ended, and it looks like this is one KP (Kitchen Patrol) assignment that the soldier is enjoying.

Peace, MaryThanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes by Norman Rockwell