June 17th, 2018
Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful dads…. And even to you just “good enough” dads! I hope you have heard from your children… or that you will before the day is over. And if you don’t, I hope you do whatever you need to do to remember the things you love about being a dad. And If you need to make amends with one of your kids I hope you will. Or if you need to make amends with you dad, why not now? Why not today… tomorrow may never come. This is my first Father’s Day without my dad and it is a bit of a strange sensation. There are things I wish I could say to him, things I wish I could hear from him…. First anniversaries seem weighty. But more, I ache for the dad’s separated from their children at our southern borders. I know the whole thing about “Illegal Immigration” is complicated and effects people in different ways. But I also know that inhumane treatment of desperate people and children is not acceptable -- ever. What have we come to that politicians are quoting scripture to justify appalling actions? I do not have the solutions, but I know terrorizing moms and dads and their children is not the answer. I spent some time Friday calling elected officials to express my concerns…. I didn’t know what else to do, but I had to do something. I hope you will do something, too. For now, I wonder if we might pause for a few moments of silence to offer our own concerns and thanksgivings on this Father’s Day and to lift up concerns for the children and families, who are being terrified and traumatized at our borders. Can we do that? Can we silently together seek God’s direction and plea for God’s mercy for those in greatest need and despair?
Amen. Thank you.
This has been a full week: returning from an amazing, inspirational pilgrimage (which you will hear more about in the weeks ahead); attempting to establish a new rhythm of prayer, meditation and discernment; preparing for Vestry Retreat (which just happened yesterday and Friday); listening to the news and being appalled by the words and actions of our elected officials; and oh, yeah, trying to understand the Kingdom of God enough to create a sermon for this moment.
In verse 30 of Mark 4, it is almost as if Jesus is thinking on his feet – kind of like, ‘How can I explain this to you?.... Let me think… “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?
“The Kingdom of God” (He basileia tou theou) – is used 14 x in the Gospel of Mark. It is an important concept that is difficult to explain or simplify. And Parables… well parables seem to leave us a little in the gray, mystery of life. The definition of parable, (para ballo), – is “stories thrown alongside our lives; short, provocative stories that require the use of imagination”. Nibs Stroupe writes: In using parables Jesus is seeking a shift in our imaginations, a shift in the way we see ourselves, see God, and see others. Such a shift may seem small and insignificant, but here he compares it to a mustard seed, a tiny particle that can have miraculous powers. In using parables, Jesus seeks to stimulate his audience’s imagination so that they might perceive the power and presence of God in a new and immediate way.
I wonder if I might take some liberties with today’s parable and offer a new parable. Would that be okay? Are you willing to tag along with me on a new parable imagination?
The mustard seed is just what it is… small, inconsequential; totally surrendered to the soil and to the process of becoming a bush.
It doesn’t wish to be a strawberry or okra. It just is what it is and trusts in the soil to make it be what it is.
Can we imagine that God is the soil and we are planted in God – we, the tomato, squash, lemon tree, mighty oak, petunia, or what have you, are rooted in the very creator of the universe to become all we are created to be?
Nadia Bolz-Webber – “I want to be her when I grow up” Echoed by several other people – Made me think how sad that must make God –
Don’t want to be someone else – want to be the most genuine, authentic me that God created. It doesn’t do any good to wish to be a snapdragon if God created you to be a mustard bush. Nor to try and be a mustard bush if you are created to be a mulberry bush.
It is for us to be so deeply rooted in the soil – so deeply rooted in God – that we mysteriously become what God created us to be, by God’s grace, even. Your one very small speck of a life on this planet is of utmost importance to the Creator of the Universe. Indeed, without you, the universe would not be the same. The universe needs mustard bushes, mighty oaks, tomatoes, eggplants, soy beans, roses, etc… You get the idea…. Diversity is a gift from God!
We need people of every color and flavor to be a representation of God’s creation. Can you imagine a world if mustard bushes were the only foliage? How boring… How sad. One of the beauties of Italy is the variety of vegetation that gives incredible hues to the landscape. I cannot fathom looking over the hills in Tuscany or Umbria and seeing only mustard bushes. The vistas would definitely be lacking without the variety of foliage and colors.
I have to believe in the Garden of God’s creating – that soil where we are the seeds, surrendered to the grace and mercy of God – beautiful growth beyond our imagining is possible. Growth that includes all sorts of people – Growth that covers a world of differences unified under one sun and one sky.
I imagine God’s garden being unified in its diversity. A world of people of every shape, size, age, color and orientation growing together, resting in God’s grace together as the seed rests in the soil, surrendering to the process of growing roots and becoming what it is created to be.
Is that not a beautiful image? Does that not make you want to embrace a mustard bush if you are a mulberry? Or stand beside a cedar if you are a pine? Or enjoy the fragrance of a rose if you are a tomato?
It is in standing strong with our brothers and sisters who are different from us that we are the living, breathing Kingdom of God here and how. We must stand for justice for those less powerful than we are. We must love those who are deemed unlovable by society. We must embrace those who are outcasts for any variety of reasons.
“God does not look on the exterior and neither should we.” God “looks on the heart” and so should we. The love of Christ is our inspiration, indeed it is our mandate to love ourselves – to become the best mustard bush we can possible be. To trust ourselves completely to the work of God in our lives – in the deep, dark, dirty areas of our lives where God’s grace covers all and we soar to being all God created us to be, being empowered to break down barriers, being beautifully unified even in our diversity, being freed to love as Christ loves…. And do you know how much Christ loves? Do you? Christ loves THIS much (open arms wide as if on cross). Christ loves enough to open up completely for you, for me and for every one of God’s children. Jesus loves this much! Jesus shows us how to love God, love our neighbors – even those from other borders – and how to love ourselves. This is how we are to love, because this is how Christ loves us.