Sunday, July 7, 2024

7 Pentecost


July 7, 2024

 

2 Corinthians 12.2-10; Mark 6.1-13

+ Sometimes, when you engage Scripture on a daily basis, when engagement with scripture is a big part of your job, like it is to me, I sometimes don’t give things a second thought.

 

I’ll give you an example.

 

Prophets.

 

We hear a lot about prophets and prophecy in Scripture.

 

We read from their prophecies, we hear the stories of how prophets were often despised and hated.

 

And we heard about the danger of false prophets.

 

And if we think prophets—legitimate or false—are things of the past, we are happily living in our wonderful Episcopal bubble, because in the world of American Nationalist evangelicalism, there are so-called “prophets” out there right now, claiming lots of prophecies about our country, our country’s leadership and the world.

 

Look them up only for entertainment value.

 

Because it’s pretty easy to see how false prophets are alive and well, here in the United States right now.  

 

But I have always found prophets interesting.

 

I find it fascinating that God chose particular people, to speak to in a very clear and distinct way.

 

And how, as wonderful as that may sound, being a prophet is an inglorious profession.

 

In our Gospel reading for today, we find Jesus coming to his hometown and people taking offense at him because they know he is special, he is different, because he has a special communicative relationship with God.

 

He seems to shrug that off with a simple, “‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house

 

And to a large extent, that is the truth.

 

Legitimate prophecy can be a good thing, or it can be a bad thing.

 

It depends on where you end up on the receiving end of prophecy.

 

But we need to be very clear here:

 

Prophets are not some kind of psychics or fortune tellers.

 

Yes, they see things and know things we “normal” people don’t see or know.

 

They are people with vision.

 

They have knowledge the rest of us don’t.

 

But, again, prophets aren’t psychics or fortune tellers.

 

Psychics or fortune tellers tend to be people who believe they have some kind of special power that they were often born with (if we believe in such things)

 

Prophets, as we see in scripture again and again, aren’t born.

 

Prophets are picked by God and instilled with God’s Spirit.

 

God’s Spirit enters them and sets them on their feet.

 

And when they are instilled with God’s Spirit, they don’t just tell us our fortunes.

 

They don’t just do some kind of psychic mumbo jumbo to tell us what our futures are going to be or what kind of wealth we’re going to have or who our true love is.

 

What they tell us isn’t just about us as individuals.

 

Rather, the prophet tells us things about all of us that we might not want to hear.

 

They stir us up, they provoke us, they jar us.

 

Maybe that’s why we find the idea of prophets so uncomfortable.

 

And that’s what we dislike the most about them.

 

We don’t like people who make us uncomfortable.

 

We don’t like people who stir us up, who provoke us, who jar us out of our complacency.

 

Prophets come into our lives like lightning bolts and when they strike, they explode like electric sparks.

 

They shatter our complacency to pieces.

 

They shove us.

 

They push us hard outside the safe box in which we live (and worship) and they leave us bewildered.

 

Prophets, as much as they are like us, are also unlike us as well.

 

The Spirit of God has transformed these normal people into something else.

 

And this is what we need from our prophets.

 

After all, we are certain about our ideas of God, right?

 

We, in our complacency, think we know God—we know what God thinks and wants of us and the world and the Church.

 

Prophets, touched as they are by the Spirit of God in that unique way, frighten us because what they convey to us about God is sometimes something very different than we thought we knew about God.

 

The prophet is not afraid to say to us: “You are wrong. You are wrong in what you think about God and about what you think God is saying to you.”

 

Nothing makes us angrier than someone telling us we’re wrong—especially about our perception of God.

 

And that is the reason we sometimes refuse to recognize the prophet.

 

That is why the prophet is not often accepted in their home town or among their own kin.

 

That is why we resist the prophet, and resist change, and resist looking forward in hope.

 

We reject prophets because they know how to reach deep down within us, to that one sensitive place inside us and they know how to press just the right button that will cause us to react.

 

And the worst prophet we can imagine is not the one who comes to us from some other place.

 

The worst prophet is not the one who comes to us as a stranger.

 

The worst prophet we can imagine is the one who comes to us from our own neighborhood—from the very midst of us.

 

The worst prophet is the one whom we’ve known.

 

Who is one of us.

 

We knew them before the Spirit of God’s prophecy descended upon them.

 

And now, they have been transformed with this knowledge of God.

 

They are different.

 

These people we know, that we saw in their inexperience, are now speaking as a conduit of God’s Voice.

 

When someone we know begins to say and do things they say God tells them to do, we find ourselves becoming very defensive very quickly.

 

Certainly, we can understand why people in Jesus’ hometown had such difficulty in accepting him.

 

We would too.

 

We, rational people that we are, would no doubt try to explain away who he was and what he did.

 

But probably the hardest aspect of Jesus’ message to us is the simple fact that he, in a very real sense, calls us and empowers us to be prophets as well.

 

As Christians, we are called to be a bit different than others.

 

We are transformed in some ways by the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives.

 

In a sense, God empowers us with the Spirit to be conduits of that Spirit to others.

 

If we felt uncomfortable about others being prophets, we’re even more uncomfortable about being prophets ourselves.

 

Being a prophet, just like hearing the prophet, means we must shed our complacency.

 

If our neighbor as the prophet frightens us and irritates us, we ourselves being the prophet is even more frightening and irritating.

 

The Spirit of prophecy we received from God seems a bit unusual to those people around us.

 

Loving God?

 

Loving those who hate us or despise us?

 

Being peaceful—in spirit and action—in the face of overwhelming violence or anger?

 

To side with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized when it is much easier and more personally pleasing to be with the wealthy and powerful?

 

Or BE the wealthy and powerful!

 

To welcome all people as equals, who deserve the same rights we have, even if we might not really—deep down—think of them as equals?

 

To actually see the Kingdom of God breaking through in instances when others only see failure and defeat?

 

That is what it means to be a prophet.

 

Being a prophet has nothing to do with our own sense of comfort.

 

Being a prophet means seeing and sensing and proclaiming that Kingdom of God—and God’s sense of what is right. 

 

For us, as Christians, that is what we are to do—we are to strive to see and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

 

We are to help bring that Kingdom forth and when it is here, we are to proclaim it in word and in deed.

 

Because when that Spirit of God comes upon us, we become a community of prophets, and when we do, we become the Kingdom of God present here.

 

Being a prophet in our days is more than just preaching doom and gloom to people.

 

And let me tell you; we’re hearing plenty of doom and gloom right now.

 

It’s more than saying to people: “repent, for the kingdom of God is near!”

 

Being a prophet in our day means being able to recognize injustice and oppression in our midst and to speak out about them.

 

And, most importantly, CHANGE those things.

 

Being a prophet means we’re going to press people’s buttons.

 

And when we do, let me tell you by first-hand experience, people are going to react.

 

We need to be prepared to do that, if we are to be prophets in this day and age.

 

But we can’t be afraid to do so.

 

We need to continue to speak out.

 

We need to do the right thing.

 

We need to heed God’s voice speaking to us, and then follow through.

 

And we need to keep looking forward.

 

In hope.

 

 And trusting in our God who leads the way.

 

We need to continue to be the prophets who have visions of how incredible it will be when that Kingdom of God breaks through into our midst and transforms us.

 

We need to keep striving to welcome all people, to strive for the equality and equal rights of all people in this church, in our nation and in the world.

 

So, let us proclaim the Kingdom of God in our midst with the fervor of prophets.

 

Let us proclaim that Kingdom without fear—without the fear of rejection from those who know us.

 

Let us look forward and strive forward and move forward in hope.

 

I don’t know if we can be truly content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, as we heard from Paul’s in his epistle today.

 

But having endured them, we know that none of these things ultimately defeat us.

 

And that is the secret of our resilience in the face of anything life may throw at us.

 

Let us bear these things.

 

With dignity.

 

With honor.

 

Let us be strong and shoulder what needs to be shouldered.

 

Because, we know.

 

In that strange paradoxical way we know that whenever it seems that we are weak, it is then that we are truly strong.

 

 

 

Sunday, June 30, 2024

6 Pentecost

 


Baptism of James William Stalboerger

June 30, 2024

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Mark 5.21-43

+ I once had a Homiletics class in which the students were told not to make the pulpit into a confessional.

Meaning, don’t get up and tell people all your faults and failings.

I have failed miserably at that over the years.

I often bring up my vices, because it’s important for all of us to know that we’re in this thing called life together.

None of us are perfect, not even those of who are called and ordained.

Even we ordained people have vices.

Well, except maybe for Deacon Suzanne.

One of my biggest vices is. . . .wait for it.  . . . impatience.

I know. You’re all surprised by that one aren’t you?

Well, I admit it.

There are times when I want certain things—and I want them NOW.

Not tomorrow.

Not in some vague future.

NOW!

But for me I have never liked waiting.

Waiting is one of the worst things I can imagine.

For me, if there was a hell and I was sent there, it would be a place in which I would do nothing else but wait. Forever.  For all eternity.

Hell for me would a waiting room in which one waits and waits and waits.

And while I wait, my anxiety grows. And my anger grows. Andthere’s nothing I can do about nay of it. See…..hell.

Still, impatient as I am, ultimately I know that waiting and being patient is a good thing sometimes.

The fact is, we can’t rush these things.

Things happen in their due course.

Not OUR course.

Not MY course!

But the proper course.

God works in God’s own time.

And this is probably the most difficult thing for us. 

It certainly is for me.

Impatience is actually present in our Gospel reading for today, but in a more subtle way.

Our reading from the Gospel today also teaches us an important reflection on our own impatience and waiting.

We have two things going on.

We have Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, who has lost his daughter, even though he doesn’t know it yet.

While Jairus is pleading with Jesus to heal his daughter, we encounter this unnamed woman who has been suffering with a hemorrhage for twelve years—twelve years!—is desperate.

She wants healing.

I can tell you in all honesty that as I read and reflected and lived with this Gospel reading this past week,  I could relate.  

I can relate to Jairus, who is being touched with the darkness of death in his life.

And when I read of the woman with a hemorrhage grasping at the hem of Jesus’ garment, I could certainly empathize with her impatience and her grasping.

Many of us have known the anguish of Jairus.

We have known the anguish and pain of watching someone we love fade away and die.

And many of us know the pain of that woman.

We often find ourselves bleeding deeply inside with no possible hope for relief.

And can you imagine how long she must’ve lived with this?

For us, as we relate, that “bleeding” might not be an actual bleeding, but a bleeding of our spirit, of our hopes and dreams, of a deep emotional or spiritual wound that just won’t heal, or just our grief and sadness, which, let me tell you, can also “bleed” away at us.  

And when we’ve been desperate, when we find ourselves so impatient, so in need of a change, we find ourselves clutching at anything—at any little thing.

We clutch even for a fringe of the prayer shawl of the One whom God sends to us in those dark moments.

When we do, we find, strangely, God’s healing.

And in this story of Jarius’ daughter, I too felt that moment in which I felt separated from the loved ones in my life—by death, yes, of course.

But also when I felt that a distance was caused by estrangement or anger.

And when I have begged for healing for them and for myself, it has often come.

But it has come in God’s own time.

Not in mine.

It is a matter of simply,  sometimes waiting.

For Jairus, he didn’t have to wait long.

For the woman, it took twelve years.

But in both cases, it did come.

Still, I admit, I continue to be impatient.

But, resurrection comes in many forms in our lives and if we wait them out these moments will happen.

And not all impatience is bad.

It is all right to be impatient—righteously impatient—for justice, for the right thing to be done.

It is all right to be impatient for injustice and lying and deceit to be brought to light and be revealed.

And dealt with.

It is all right to be impatient for the right thing to be done in this world.

But we cannot let our impatience get in the way of seeing that  miracles continue to happen in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

I know, because I have seen it again and again and, not only in my own life, but in the lives of others.

We know that in God, we find our greatest consolation.

Our God of justice and compassion and love will provide and will win out ultimately over the forces of darkness that seem, at times, to prevail in our lives.  

Knowing that, reminding ourselves of all that we are able to be strengthened and sustained and rejuvenated.

We are able to face whatever life may throw at us with hope and, sometimes, even joy.

We are not in that weird, made-up hell I have imagined for myself.

At some point, the doors of what seems like that eternal waiting room will be opened.

And we will be called forward.

And all will be well.

That is what scripture and our faith in God tell us again and again.

That is how God works in this world and in our lives.

In our impatience, we sometimes see glimpses of God’s goodness and love.

We certainly see it today in sweet James as he is washed in the waters of baptism.

We see it in the amazing life he is about to enter into.

We see it in the joy we feel as we celebrate his new birth.

So, let us cling to this hope and find true strength in it.

True strength to get us through those impatient moments in our lives when we want darkness and death and injustice and pain behind us.  

Let us be truly patient for our God.  

Because, if we do, those words of Jesus to the woman today will be words directed to us as well:

“your faith has made you well;

go in peace;

be healed.”

 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

5 Pentecost

 


June 23, 2024

 Job 38.1-11; Mark 4.35-41

  

+ I have always been fascinated by weather.

 Especially storms.

 Blizzards.

 Tornados.

 I even wrote a book about a tornado.

 As many of you know, I wrote a book, which published back in 2010, about the tornado that struck Fargo on June 20, 1957.

 The book is entitled Fargo, 1957.

 I struggled for along time as I was writing that book and afterward to make sense of this event.

 As a Christian, as a priest, I had to ask myself: why?

 Why did this happen?

 Why did this happen to these people?

 These people were people just like you and me.

 They woke up that morning—to a hot, June morning in Fargo, North Dakota—just like any other day.

 And then, a storm came and uprooted their entire lives in a matter of moments.

 Several years ago, I read a book called The New Christians by Tony Jones. 

 In this book, Jones has probably one of the best contemporary definitions of theology.

 He writes:

 “Theology…speaks directly of God. And anytime human beings talk of God, they’re necessarily also going to talk about their own experience of God.”

 Jones then goes on to define theology more succinctly.

 He writes, “theology is talk about the nexus of divine and human action.”

 I like that definition very much.

 (and I love that word “nexus”).

 “But theology isn’t just talk,” Jones adds. “When we paint scenes from the Bible or when we write songs about Jesus or when we compose poems about God or when we write novels about the human struggle with meaning, we are ‘doing theology.’”

 So, essentially, our entire lives are all about “doing theology.”

 All we do as followers of Jesus is essentially “doing theology.”

 As I pondered our reading today from the Gospel of Mark and that reading from Job in which God speaks from the whirlwind, , I found myself “doing theology” by re-examining the storms of my own life in the light of that scripture.

 We all have them.

 We all have our own storms in this life.

 We all have our own chaos.

 And they are disruptive.

 And they can be destructive.

 So, the question to ask of ourselves this morning is: What is God saying to us when the storms invade our lives?

 What do we do in the windstorms of our lives, when we feel battered and beaten and bashed?

 Well, as I have been “doing theology” on that Gospel reading and on that book I wrote all that times ago, one glaring, honest reality of my life came forth:

 Sometimes—not always—but sometimes, when the storms of my own life came, I was the one responsible for many of those storms.

 I’m not talking about tornados, or natural events that just happen.

 I’m talking about the storms that come into my life and just disrupt everything.

 Sometimes, there was no one to blame for some of these storms but myself.

 And more often than not, the storms of my own life were caused by own violent behavior.

 Now, yes, I know.

 I preach often about my non-violence.

 And I have worked hard, I have strived hard for non-violence in the world.

 But I have realized over the last several years that working for non-violence means ridding violence in all forms from one’s own life.

 One must have a firm foundation of non-violence in one’s own life before seeking it from the larger world (this is a major tenet of Gandhi’s non-violence).

 I was reminded of the violence in my own life by a book I read by the Buddhist teacher Noah Levine, called Refuge Recovery.

 Levine writes,

 “Harsh speech, dirty looks, obscene gestures and [angry and] offensive texts and e-mails are…subtle forms of violence. Our communications have power, the ability to cause harm or harmony.”

 He goes on,

 “we must strive to abstain from creating more negativity in this world” because by doing so we contribute to the negativity in this world.

 “Violent actions have violent…consequences., and that…could manifest as…guilt, [anger,] shame and self-hatred…”

 That passage from the book shook me to my core.

 I did not want to admit to violence in my life much less to the fact that I sometimes contributed to the violence of this world by my own negativity sometimes.

 And let me tell you I have definitely contributed to it from those seemingly small, knee-jerk reactions.

 The snide comments.

 The angry text or email or Facebook response.

 A mean-spirited eye-roll.

 The gesture in traffic.  

 But the ripple effects of these seemingly innocent gestures in my life were certainly chaotic not only in my life, but possible in the lives of others.

 These acts of small or simple violence more often than not were enough to add to the brewing storms of my own life—and possibly to other’s lives as well..

 I have, in fact, created storms in my life, then found myself blaming others for those storms.

 So, when we hear scriptures like this today, as we experience our own storms in our lives, what do we do?

 How do we respond?

 Do we let the winds blow, let the chaos rage?


 Or do we, in those moments, calm ourselves and listen?

 Do we strain against the wind of the storm and listen to hear the Voice of God?

 The fact is, if we do so, trust me: we will hear God’s voice.

 If we turn our spiritual ears toward God, we will hear God, even in those self-made storms in our lives.

 When bad things happen in our lives, we ask, Why do bad things happen to those of us who are faithful to God?

 Why do our lives get turned upside down?

 We want answers when we shout our angry questions of unfairness into the storm, our first raised.

 Sometimes, when we do, the Voice in the wind only throws it all back at us with more questions, just as God did in our reading today from Job.

  Just when we want answers, we find more questions and we ourselves are forced to find the answers within ourselves. 

 But, sometimes the Voice answering back from the wind with questions, is a voice more succinct.

 Sometimes it is a more potent question, a pointblank question to us.

 Sometimes the voice from the wind—as we shake with fear or anger (or both) and hold on for dear life during those frightening storms—asks us bluntly:

 “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

 Why fear the whirlwinds and all that they unleash upon us?

 Why even create them in the first place?

 Have we no faith?

 Again and again through the scriptures God commands us, in various voices, “do not be afraid.”

 “Do not be afraid.”

 And still we fear.

 And our fear causes anger.

 And our anger causes storms.

 But the message is that although the storms of our lives will rage around us, when we stop fearing, those storms are quieted.

 Because sometimes the voice that comes out of the storms of our lives is not asking a question of us.

 Sometimes the voice that comes out of the storms of our lives commands,

 “Peace! Be Still!”

 “Peace!”

 That wonderful, soothing word that truly does settle and soothe.

 “Be still!”

 In that calm stillness, we feel God’s Presence most fully and completely.

 As disoriented as we might be from being buffeted by the storm, that stillness can almost be as disorienting as the storms themselves.

 Still, in it, we find Jesus, calm and collected, awaiting us to have faith, to shed our fears and to allow him to still the storms of our lives.

 So, in those moments when we stir up the forces of our anger, when the whirlwinds rage, when the storms come up, when the skies turn dark and ominous, when fear begins lurking at our doors and anger jostles us around, let us strain toward that Voice that asks us,

 “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

 Do not fear.

 Have faith.

 God loves us.

 God will not leave alone even in the storms of our lives.

 In midst of even the worst whirlwinds of our lives, there is a stillness dwelling in its core.

 And while the storms rage, as violence goes on unleashed in the form of anger and fear, in the form of awful stories in the news and social media and people on the street or in our own lives, we can choose non-violence as our option.

 We can choose not to contribute to the storms.

 And we can live!

 And not just live.

 But flourish!

 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

4 Pentecost

 


June 16, 2024

Ezekiel 17.22-24; 2 Corinthians 5.6-17; Mark 4.26-34

 + I try hard not to do this to you.

 I hate to start your Sunday out with, of all things, a poem.

 Actually, it’s only a fragment of a poem.

 But still….it’s a poem.

 And not just any poem either.

 No, this poem is a poem from, of all people, a Chilean Communist.

 But it is one of my favorite poems.

 It is called “Oda al ├ítamo” or “Ode to the Atom.”

 

Infinitesimal

star,

you seemed

forever

buried

in metal, hidden,

your diabolic

fire.

One day

someone knocked

at your tiny

door:

it was man .

With one

explosion

he unchained you,

you saw the world,

you came out

into the daylight,

you traveled through

cities,

your great brilliance

illuminating lives,

you were a

terrible fruit

of electric beauty…

[Then] came

the warrior

and seduced you:

sleep,

he told you,

curl up,

atom, you resemble

a Greek god…

in springtime,

lie down here

on my fingernail,

climb into this little box,

and then the warrior

put you in his jacket

as if you were nothing but

a North American

pill,

and traveled through the world

and dropped you

on Hiroshima.

 

This poem was written by one of my all-time favorite poets—a poet no doubt you’ve heard me quote before and, trust me, you will hear me quote again and again—Pablo Neruda.

 And this fragment of the poem just touches a bit on what something as small as an atom can do.

 An atom—that smallest of all things—can, when it is unleashed, do such horrendous damage.

 It truly can be, as Neruda said, 

 a

terrible fruit

of electric beauty…

 

If the people of Jesus’ day knew what atoms where, he would no doubt would’ve used the atom instead as a symbol of the Kingdom of God,

 But rather, what we find today in our Gospel reading is Jesus comparing the Kingdom of God to the smallest thing they could’ve understood.

 A mustard seed.

 A small, simple mustard seed.

 Something they no doubt knew.

 And something they no doubt gave little thought to. But it was with this simple image—this simple symbol—that Jesus makes clear to those listening that little things do matter.

 And we, as followers of Jesus, need to take heed of that.

 Little things DO matter.

 Because little things can unleash BIG things.

 Even the smallest action on our part can bring forth the kingdom of God in our lives and in the lives of those we serve.

 But those small actions—those little seeds that we sow in our lives—can also bring about not only God’s kingdom but the exact opposite.

 Our smallest bad actions, can, destroy.

 Our actions can destroy the kingdom in our midst and drive us further away from God.

 Any of us who do ministry on a regular basis know this keenly.

 You will hear me say this again and again to anyone who wants to do ministry: be careful about those small actions.

 You’ve heard me say: when it comes to dealing with people in the church, use VELVET GLOVES.

 Be sensitive to others.

 Those small words or actions.

 Those little criticisms of people who are volunteering.

 Those little snips and moments of impatience.

 That impatient tone in a voice.

 Those moments of frustration at someone who doesn’t quite “get it” or who simply can’t do it.

 “Use velvet gloves all the time,” I say, and I mean it.

 None of us can afford to lose anyone from the church, no matter how big the church might be.

 Even one lost person is a huge loss to all of us.

 I cannot tell you how many times I hear stories about clergy or lay leaders who said or did one thing wrong and it literally destroyed a person’s faith.

 I’m sure almost everyone here this morning has either experienced a situation like this first hand with a priest or pastor or a fellow parishioner.

 Or if not you, you have known someone close who has.

 A good friend of mine who doesn’t attend church anymore shared this story with me once.

 This person was very active in her parish (NOT St. Stephen’s!), especially when her kids were young.

 She was active on the altar guild, in Sunday School, helped organize the annual parish rummage sale, but especially liked to help out in the kitchen.

 She and another parishioner decided one day to volunteer to thoroughly clean the church kitchen, from top to bottom.

 After a whole day of hard work, they stood back to survey the work they did and admire the “spic and span” kitchen.

 It was at that moment that one of the matriarchs of the parish happened to enter the kitchen.

 She proceeded to carefully examine the newly cleaned kitchen.

 Finally, she humphed and, as she exited the kitchen, she loudly proclaimed, “Well, your ‘spic and span’ kitchen isn’t very ‘spic and span!’”

 That was all it took.

 Within a year of that comment neither of those women, both of whom were invaluable workers in that parish, were attending church anymore.

 And not just them.

 But their children too.

 Luckily, I still have contact with them both.

 In fact, I’m still very close with them and their families.

 I have performed weddings and baptisms for those now-grown kids.

 I have done funerals for their parents.

 But those families are not attending church anywhere this morning.

 And probably never will again.

 Now, sometimes remarks by priests or parishioenrs are innocent comments.

 There may have been no bad intention involved.

 But one wrong comment—one wrong action—a cold shoulder or an exhausted roll of the eyes or a scolding or the tone of a voice—the fact that a priest did not visit us when were in the hospital or a parishioner said something that we took the wrong way—is all it takes when a person is in need to turn that person once and for all away from the church and, possibly, from God.

 That mustard seed all of a sudden takes on a whole other meaning in a case like this.

 What grows from a small seed like this is a flowering tree of hurt and despair and anger and bitterness.

 So, it is true.

 Those seeds we sow do make a huge difference in the world.

 Please, please, please, strive hard in your lives not to be the matriarch in that story.

 Strive hard not be that kind of Church to people.

 Strive hard to guard your actions and comments, to guard your tone and the way your respond to others.

 Because, I’ll be honest: I have done it as well.

 I have made some stupid comments in a joking manner that was taken out of context.

 You know me.

 I have a big mouth and a biting wit.

 And sometimes things I have said have been taken out of context and used against me.

 See, those mustard seeds in our lives are important.

 We get to make the choice.

 We can sow seeds of goodness and graciousness—seeds of the Gospel.

 We can sow the seeds of God’s kingdom.

 Or we can sow the seeds of discontent.

 We can, through our actions, sow the weeds and thistles that will kill off the harvest.

 These past several years you have heard me preach ad nauseum about change in the church.

 Well, I am clear when I say that the most substantial changes we can make in the church are not always the BIG ones.

 Oftentimes, the most radical changes we can make are in the little things we do—the things we think are not important.

 We forget about how important the small things in life are—and more importantly we forget how important the small things in life are to God.

 God does take notice of the small things.

 We have often heard the term “the devil is in the details.”

 But I can’t help but believe that it is truly God who is in the details.

 God works just as mightily through the small things of life as through the large.

 This is what Jesus is telling us this morning in this parable.

 So, let us take notice of those small things.

 It is there we will find our faith—our God.

 It from that small place—those tentative attempts at growth—that God’s kingdom flourishes in our lives.

 So, let us be mindful of those smallest seeds we sow in our lives as followers of Jesus.

 Let us remind ourselves that sometimes what they produce can either be a wonderful and glorious tree or a painful, hurtful weed.

 Let us sow God’s love from the smallest ounce of faith.

 Let us truly further the kingdom of God’s love in whatever seemingly small ways we can.

  Amen.   

 

 

7 Pentecost

July 7, 2024   2 Corinthians 12.2-10; Mark 6.1-13 + Sometimes, when you engage Scripture on a daily basis, when engagement with scri...