One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 39)

Weekly Devotional Message

The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 18A (September 7, 2014)

Lessons:
Ezekiel 33:7-11
Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
Saint Matthew 18:15-20

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy. Without your help, we mortals will fail; remove far from us everything that is harmful, and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

18.15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”


St. Matthew 18:15-20, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17A (August 31, 2014)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Saint Matthew 16:21-28

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b

Prayer of the Day:
O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

16.21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”


St. Matthew 16:21-28, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Take Up Your Cross; Follow Me

Peter just doesn’t  get it. He has been with the Lord from the very beginning of his ministry. He has had more opportunity than anyone else to learn how Jesus understands his mission. He has called out that profound confession: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God! But he just doesn’t get it. Directly following Peter’s confession, Jesus begins to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Peter just doesn’t get it. Like a fool, he blurts out: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

To the One who gives his life for us Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” To the One who becomes the sign of our hope Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” To the One whose self-giving service teaches us what it means to be God’s faithful people, Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” Peter just doesn’t get it.

Jesus comes, not to rule the world through military, economic, or social might. He comes to rule the world through love and humility and the willingness to give his all that others might know God’s grace. Jesus comes, not to enjoy the privileges afforded to those who are in positions of power. He comes to give of himself in a way that empowers others. Jesus comes, not to recruit a small group of followers who will help him rule the world. He comes to inspire his followers to lives of sacrificial love that can win over the world. Peter just doesn’t get it.

And sometimes, neither do we. It is easy to become so engulfed in our own preconceptions, that we just don’t get it. God’s word is a radical word. It is a word that contradicts much of what our society teaches us. It is a word that calls us out of our own wants and desires, and places us in the service of people we’ve never met and can scarcely imagine. It is a word that forces us to ask not: “What is good for my family and me?” but: “How can my family and I make a difference, for Christ’s sake, in the lives of others?” (Maybe JFK was on to something after all, back in 1961…)

This weekend’s text asks us whether or not we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, our customs, our preferences, our comforts… This weekend’s text asks us whether or not we are willing to pick up our cross, deny ourselves, lose our lives, and follow our Lord. It won’t be easy. It won’t be without cost. There won’t necessarily be a whole host of friends and neighbors encouraging us along the way. But the Lord assures us that “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it…”

May we be so deeply touched by God’s love, that we become determined to share it no matter the cost. May we be willing to give of ourselves, even when it is difficult, that we might be faithful to the One who died for us. May we find the kind of life that our Christ wants for us. True life. In Jesus’ name.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How is Peter’s rebuke of Jesus different from his confession in last week’s Gospel?
  2. How is Jesus’ response to Peter different from what we read last week?
  3. How is Jesus’ suffering for us related to his command that we “pick up our cross?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Do I know what it means to live as a follower of One whose love is seen most clearly in his death?
  2. Am I willing to shape my personal life, my family’s priorities, and my congregation’s mission in a way that shows I am willing to die for the sake of others?
  3. What most inhibits me from living sacrificially?

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 16A (August 24, 2014)

Lessons:
Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138 (8)
Romans 12:1-8
St. Matthew 16:13-20

Semicontinuous Series
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124 (7)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, with all your faithful followers of every age, we praise you, the rock of our life. Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son, that we may gladly minister to all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

St. Matthew 16:13-20. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Rock Solid Faith

It seems, some times, that we are inundated with polls. There are polls about issues; polls about politicians; polls about items of human interest. We seem obsessed with knowing how many people agree or disagree with us.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus takes a poll of his own. As he is traveling through Caesarea Philippi, he raises two questions. First of all, he asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They come back with the following information: some believe that he is John the Baptist, come back to life. Some believe that he is the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Some believe that he is Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Continue reading

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 15A (August 17, 2014)

Lessons:
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Psalm 67 (3)
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
St. Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133 (1)

Prayer of the Day:
God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you. Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy, that your name may be known throughout the earth, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

[15:10 Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”]

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

St. Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Mission… and Grace

There has been a lot of talk throughout the church about how important it is to be clear about one’s sense of mission. Churches are developing mission statements. Task forces and committees and teams are using those mission statements to shape their objectives. Leadership groups are making personnel and programmatic decisions based on those mission statements. It all is done for good reason: research shows that the clearer an organization is about its mission, the more apt it is to be moving forward in a way that is meaningful. We continue to find our stated mission here at Saint Peter (Welcomed into God’s love just as we are; Sent into God’s world to be a reflection of Christ’s love) to be a helpful way of focusing our efforts. Continue reading

The 9th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14A (August 10, 2014)

Lessons:
1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13 (8)
Romans 10:5-15
St. Matthew 14:22-33

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1, 45)

Prayer of the Day:
O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

14:22 Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

St. Matthew 14:22-33. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Trust

Some years ago my family and I decided to visit Glacier National Park, where I worked for two summers during my college years. I was an employee at Many Glacier Hotel: a beautiful Swiss-styled hotel, located in the Swiftcurrent Valley, just a few miles from the continental divide. It is a spectacular place, and I enjoy any opportunity I get to visit there.

We were on a driving and camping trip, so we decided to spend the night at the Many Glacier Campground. As we pulled into the campground, we saw a huge (8’ X 4’) sign that included an ominous image of a lurching bear, with the following text:

Warning: Grizzly bears have killed campers in this camp.
Follow all posted rules regarding food and personal items.
Continue reading

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13A (August 3, 2014)

Lessons
Isaiah 55:1-5
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (16)
Romans 9:1-5
St. Matthew 14:13-21

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 17:1-7, 15 (15)

Prayer of the Day
Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness, and you cover creation with abundance. Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit, and with this food fill all the starving world; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

St. Matthew 14:13-21. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Scarcity and Abundance

The disciples are faced with an overwhelming dilemma. They are in the wilderness, listening to Jesus preach and teach, and observing as he heals those who are sick. Quite a crowd has gathered. St. Luke records that there are about 5,000 men, besides women and children. This is one of the largest groups, ever, to gather with Jesus in Biblical times.

It is the end of the day, the disciples know the people will soon be hungry, so they advise Jesus to dismiss the crowds, allowing them to go and eat, but Jesus has something else in mind. He directs the disciples to feed them.

You can almost imagine what is running through the disciples’ minds as they look out over the vast crowd, and then back to the basket that holds the two fish and five loaves they have been able to pull together. There is hardly enough to feed the twelve of them and Jesus. How in the world does he expect to feed a crowd that includes 5,000 men? No reasonable person could disagree with the assessment that there just isn’t enough. Continue reading

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12A (July 27, 2014)

Lessons
1 Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 119:129-136 (130)
Romans 8:26-39
St. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (1, 45)
or Psalm 128 (1)2

Prayer of the Day
Beloved and sovereign God, through the death and resurrection of your Son you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy. By your Spirit, give us your wisdom, that we may treasure the life that comes from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:31 [Jesus] put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

St. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The New and the Old

I have long been a history fan, and admire those whose understanding of events past runs deep. I used to love hearing Professor Tim Lull discuss Luther and his time. His grasp of Luther’s life, ministry and theology was powerful, and he would share those old stories with us in a way that made us wish we had lived in those times. Likewise Shelby Foote, in the “Civil War” series presented by PBS years ago, seemed to make the past present again when he spoke of how our nation evolved during those tumultuous years. I love learning from a good historian. They teach us about our past in a way that helps us live more wisely in the present.

I also enjoy learning from those who have insights into what the future holds. Whether it is in congregational ministry, political science or economics, there are those who seem to know where events are leading us; people who can provide insights into what might make for a strong future. They help us shape our present in a way that allows us to most effectively address the future.

In this weekend’s Gospel lesson Jesus teaches us that both of these viewpoints are essential if we are to be about the work of God’s kingdom in a way that truly makes a difference. God’s people sometimes find themselves polarized, with some claiming that faithfulness is all about being true to our past, while others claim that adapting to the present and preparing for the future is our primary task. Jesus teaches us that “every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Faithfulness has to do with living amidst the interchange between the ancient word handed down from our ancestors and the creative insights about where God’s future is leading us.

Beverley R. Gaventa, Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, writes these words:

Not every new wind is a Nor’easter that will shake the church’s very foundations. Neither is every stone in the foundation the makings for a prison. Both the new and the old belong in the householder’s treasure. Both the new and the old may serve the church. Both the new and the old may reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Both the New and the Old” from Christian Century, June 30-July 7, 1993, page 669.

She reminds us that whether we are embracing that which is old, or experiencing that which is new, it is important to measure them both against what we know about God in Jesus Christ. How do our traditions (and our traditional beliefs) point us to the one who died and rose on our behalf? How do new insights (or new beliefs) draw us into those things that mattered most to Jesus?

May we be faithful in asking just such questions together.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Text:

  1. What do these parables teach us about the kingdom of heaven?
  2. Are the images Jesus uses here old images or new images?
  3. What new insights does he provide into God’s kingdom?

Connecting with This Week’s Text:

  1. What aspects of our (Christian or Lutheran) tradition are most meaningful to me?
  2. What new ways of being God’s people have stirred me most deeply?
  3. How have the old and the new worked together to help me better know God

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11A (July 20, 2014)

Lessons
Isaiah 44:6-8 or Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Psalm 86:11-17 (11)
Romans 8:12-25
St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 (1)

Prayer of the Day
Faithful God, most merciful judge, you care for your children with firmness and compassion. By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom, that we may be rooted in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

13:36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Of Weeds and Wheat

If only it was that simple!

There is a lot that is wrong with the way our world is these days. Violent weather patterns devastate communities, and send families scrambling to restore their lives. Warfare tears at countries, and uninvolved citizens often pay the highest price. Vulnerable children show up in our country because their parents made a poor decision (most likely based on untruthful information). Disease takes loved ones away from us long before they have lived a full life. It makes a person want to respond with a show of force, and destroy all that takes away from life as we know it — or life as we wish it was.

But the truth is, we live in a broken world. We live in a weeds-among-the-wheat world. And one sign of this brokenness is that it’s not always evident which is which. As the Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are currently demonstrating, you can’t just lob bombs across the border and hope to do away with those who mean you harm. The weeds are sown among the wheat, and bombs are just as deadly for unarmed civilians as they are for armed combatants. Continue reading

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10A (July 13, 2014)

Lessons
Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13 (11)
Romans 8:1-11
St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 25:19-34
Psalm 119:105-112 (105)

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

13:18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Sowers of Seed

I don’t know much about farming, but I understand that it has changed quite a bit since the 1950s when my Uncle Philip used to crank up an old John Deer tractor and head out into his 160 acres pulling a plow. I once read about a farmer in Iowa who has his combine hooked up to a laptop computer and a GPS tracking system. As he navigates through his fields, this setup creates a picture for him on a computer monitor of the yield he gets on the various sections of his field. After several seasons he can see which sections produce well and then judge how to most efficiently plant, fertilize and harvest the field. Then, the next Spring, he plugs that same information into his planter, and throughout the entire field he distributes just the right amount of seed in each section.

Continue reading

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 9A (July 6, 2014)

Lessons
Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-14 (8)
Romans 7:15-25a
St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45:10-17 (7)
or Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Prayer of the Day
You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Can There Possibly Be Rest for Our Souls

We live in busy times. Distracted driving is a problem in our society. Automobile operators imagine there is so much to do, that it makes no sense to carve out time to focus, exclusively, on driving. During the morning commute it is not unusual to observe drivers talking on their phones, sending texts, eating breakfast, and combing their hair or applying their makeup. Google “distracted driving” and you’ll get more than 3.7 million results in 0.30 seconds (including this image). Googling “distracted driving pledge” will produce more than 1.5 million results — maybe we all ought to follow one of those links, and challenge ourselves to become safer drivers.

Distracted living is also a problem. It seems that every new opportunity (and every new technological innovation!) makes us just a bit busier than we were the day before it arrived. When the electric clothes washing machine became available commercially in the 1930s, people imagined how much time it would free up for them. In reality, no time was saved. People just adopted the expectation that they have clean clothing every day, instead of once a week. As a leader in a faith community, I have wondered if participating in the life of our congregation makes life busier, more challenging, or more frustrating for already-too-busy people. Continue reading

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