In the midst of a flurry of news, ads, and apps vying for our attention, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Our culture venerates bombastic personalities, dramatic stories, and extravagant lifestyles. And yet, God invites us to see through these grandiose facades. In I Kings 19:9-18, Elijah is called to the mountain of God where God will pass by. There were gale-force winds, an earthquake and fire, but God was not in them. After these displays of power, God spoke in the stillness. In the quiet and seemingly insignificant, we hear the whispers of the Divine. Here we find the way to a life rooted in God's acceptance and grace--a life liberated from the false importance of our culture's frenetic pace.
This week, we hear again the familiar story of Jesus feeding the multitudes. It’s a great story, but have we ever thought of the many ways Jesus feeds us with many good things in addition to food? Matthew 14 begins with the news of the execution of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. Many questions could be expected. How will the Jesus movement respond to this news? How will Jesus himself respond to this news? Will there be an organized protest? Will Jesus immediately go to be with his family so they can grieve together? Will they continue to risk being at odds with the powerful elite? Would it be better to take a break until things calm down? As you think about our customs of gathering for a meal after experiencing loss and death, also consider how this perspective can give new meaning to the feeding miracle. Consider how Jesus responds to this difficult situation with compassion. Notice as Jesus breaks, blesses and offers the bread, he foreshadows all future communions his followers will share with him. Allow these insights to create fresh space to listen to this story and learn from it, as we gather as God’s people this Sunday.
This week, we encounter a set of parables in Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. Jesus uses a variety of stories to describe the Kingdom of God, from yeast and mustard seeds to pearls and nets. These commonplace images lead us to look for the holy in the mundane, to find God among the humble and the least. Here we find a kingdom that does not impose pronouncements from on high, but springs up from the grassroots, spreading through the most unremarkable means. We find that God's kingdom is open to all, a beautiful treasure that beckons us to reorient our lives toward our generous Creator.
In Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 we find yet another perplexing parable. For contemporary readers, a cursory reading of this passage may bring to mind issues of membership, prompting us to ask "who is in?" and "who is out?" But this simplistic approach to these words of Jesus ignores the complexities that lurk within the text and within our world. To classify any person as wholly righteous or wholly evil is problematic--we all have a wide and varied inner landscape. If we step back from this passage a bit to see the picture it paints, we find a world full of good and evil, occupied by people who sometimes bring hope and peace and other times bring heartache and pain. Yet, in the midst of all this, God is continually working to bring to life communities of grace and mutuality where humanity can thrive.
The Parable of the Sower is one of those interesting places where we have a parable as well as Jesus interpretation of the parable in the text. The parable naturally invites us to introspection. If we are honest, as we examine the state of our own hearts we often find a variety of soils from rich loam to hardened clay. Attending to the condition of our hearts is not merely a pious exercise for inward holiness, but a path to create generous, sustainable communities that produce sustenance for our neighbors. Rather than living in the fear of scarcity, Matthew 13, invites us to see the love of a generous God who longs for all of his children to live in communities where there is enough.
As we come to the table we remember how Christ has called us from death into life. We remember that though we are sinful, our truest selves have been called forth through the grace of God by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As we encounter Jesus, we can come without pretense because our whole selves are fully embraced by God grace. God knows our darkest secrets and our greatest aspirations and envelopes all of these in a grace that pulls us up toward Jesus way of love and justice.