Monday, July 25, 2011

The Way it is

There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford

Monday, July 18, 2011

Noxious Weeds by Pastor Bettye

July 17th, 2011
Matthew 13: 24 – 30 6 – 43

This week we took a day trip to Furnace Town. We walked and learned and for one afternoon were propelled back to another time. Thanks to the efforts of present sponsors and their belief that the history of a small steel producing community from the 1800’s is important for today’s culture we had a glimpse into the twenty year life cycle of a community of people. Our tour was completed at the site of the home or kitchen garden section of the town. I was impressed by the keeper of the garden and his knowledge. How necessary for life it was that the tenders of that garden be able to tell the weeds from the good plants.
In another experience this weekend I learned of noxious------plants; plants that have the potential to kill. The bearded darnel I discovered is known as the “devil weed”. Its roots suck up precious nutrients and water making it impossible to root this weed out without destroying the good crop. The Bible calls this weed “tares”; Jesus mentions it in his parables. Bearded darnel or tares look exactly like good wheat until it bears seed. Then the harvester realizes why this weed is called a devil weed. It can cause hallucinations and even death if ingested. In today’s parable Jesus takes us back into the growing field to help hose with ears to listen to get an understanding of evil.
Last week’s message was fun and easy……just go and sow good seed! This week Jesus goes to the darker side of his parables and we hear about intentional evil in the world and how we have no choice but live among it. We are, however. To call evil for what it is. Last week’s story was a parable of happenstance; what happens when seed is simply sown, when the Word of God is simply brought forward into the world. Today’s parable takes us to in intentional evil that is meant to destroy and Jesus tells us to call a spade a spade when it comes to that evil. Jesus takes a firm, prophetic approach and underscores both the necessity and difficulty of this task in our individual and community lives.
Sometimes our lives resemble the farmer tending the kitchen garden in Furnace town with good plants and noxious weeds fighting for a place in our hearts, minds and souls. In Romans 7:15 we are reminded by St. Paul that, ”I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate.” In today’s second lesson from Romans 8: 12 – 25 St. Paul reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s power and desire to call us to our place a children of God and therefore, not to be encouraged, influenced or choked off by the flesh and the world. The key to living with evil within and without is to first call evil just what it is……EVIL. One of the gifts of the twelve step program associated with AA and ALANON is how these steps help people how have addiction problems reclaiming the good in their lives by first declaring what is bad. Step one confesses the powerless of an individual over alcohol and how because of that evil their lives have become unmanageable. In step four the alcoholic or person suffering from addiction is called to give a moral inventory and sort out exactly what Jesus calls us to today, the sorting out of the wheat and tares within us. These my friends are bold steps, difficult steps yet our Lord call us to take them for the sake of our lives and the life of the community we called to serve. Jesus knows that an infected heart can often be incased and hidden in a lovely, pleasing external presence (wolves in sheep clothing!) can kill a community over time. Just ask anyone who has lived through a church crisis or family schism. Just ask anyone who hears the Good News of Jesus Christ on Sunday morning and then engages in gossip Friday night. Jesus warns us against tares and noxious-------, people leading other people astray. He warns us today my friends “Don’t do it!” Don’t destroy the Kingdom of God found within you which is to be the bearer of good fruit for the world.”
Jesus calls us to look hard for antagonists to God’s mission and call evil for what it is. He also wants us to be cautious against a rush to judgment remembering that we cannot always tell initially a good plant from a noxious weed, loyal opposition from heresy, healthy conflict from destructive antagonism. Eventually Jesus sites in his parable that when the harvest comes we will see the differences in the fruit that has been born. This sight takes patience and time.

. He also reminds us that evil can and does win out in the world and in our lives for a time ….only for a time. Jesus tells us that evil will eventually play its last card. Jesus completes this parable with a message of eternal hope in God the one who created the first garden in its pure state and will complete his harvesting judgment and will win out over the great evils in the world. God will do the final sorting of the wheat and the tares. God remains in charge of his garden, its good plants and its noxious weeds……”….and though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” This is our message of hope God yesterday, today and for all time…..thanks be to God!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A farmer ahd some Pastor Bettye

The parable from Jesus begins with the two most important parts of the parable: the farmer and the seed. The soil, while interesting and varied is not the center of the parable as many listeners might think. Jesus in his teaching, in evangelism training of his disciples begins with what is needed, the farmer and the seed.
Have you ever considered yourself a farmer in God’s Kingdom sharing the seeds of the Word of God with the world? Think for a moment about your favorite Bible story or a most loved and remembered Bible passage. How did these words come to you? Perhaps they came from parents, Sunday school teachers, pastors, friends; any variety of people could have planted the seeds of God’s Word into your being and thus affected your life. For some reason these words took root. In some way the Word of God or the story of God has grown into you and quided your life. Sometimes the Word of God has been shared and has quickly dried up, been forgotten or pushed aside for words from the world. Sometimes the words of the world have choked the memories of God’s Word. Part of the challenge of Jesus parable is this: what do you do with the plant that grows from the seeds that were sown in you heart? What do you do with the Word of God once it has taken root in your being? This is where the story of and practice of evangelism to God’s glory and in the name of Jesus begins. The seeds of God’s Word once planted bring forth new growth. New growth begets other growth and so on and so on. It is the story of the Christian faith; if it the outcome of the Acts of the Apostles. The problem in many churches today is that we, the bearers of God’s Word bringing the message of salvation have forgotten how to plant those seeds as did the farmers before us. Perhaps we have become comfortable with just running our hands through the soil, planting seeds but then become too tired or busy to nurture those seeds. Preaching from that point of view allows the hearer to step aside from the real meaning of the parable. A listener in the pew might think that since they are planted in their pews and have been growing there they are the “good soil’ people so that the parable goes right past them – they do not have listening ears. Looking at the words of Jesus from the farmer and the seed does not allow the listener to escape his or her role in the planting process. The vantage point of the farmer and the seed is really where we are called to engage Jesus. He is asking us to examine how our soil is doing. Have the Words of God’s love, mercy and salvation in Jesus taken root and brought forth the plant that bears the fruit of God’s word to others?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Words from a Journal - #16

Words from the journal of a student of spiritual discipline

July 6, 2011 - Today's words are actually from today! As is frequently the case, I was reading from Daily writings of Thomas Merton and was shocked to be aimed in a different spiritual direction than that in which I thought I was going. For several weeks the idea for a new Bible study has been formulating in my mind. Since it is really the topic of another writing, I will simply say that the subject is "The Ignored Gifts of the Spirit."

For as long as I can remember I have had the title of my book (if ever, it will be the first!) "Anarchy of Place." Our lives are so intrinsically wrapped up in where we are born or where we live. We will root for and in some cases even fight for our home team and so on. Merton wrote for July 8th about "Ones Place on Earth." After speaking to the beauty of the hills and valleys around his monastery, Gethsemane, he ends with "We do not realize our own setting as we ought to; it is important to know where you are put on the face of the earth." This is from his book, "The Sign of Jonas." My premise all along is that place is irrelevant! That's easy to say when you are blessed to live in the USA at this time! At this point I felt that the Holy Spirit was really challenging me with such diverse thoughts. But then I paused, maybe they are not that diverse and there is a common thread.

Where you are placed is not necessarily your place of birth. It is a temporary place in to which God placed you to do service and to learn and grow. We must recognize our "mission" at each of our "changing" earthly locations. Consider what happens when individual missions are similar in the same place. An EXPLOSION! - like at St. Philips in Wilmington. We speak of the church's mission in this place at this time, but fail to recognize that the whole is composed of all the individual missions! It is possible that most folks don't know their personal mission at this time in this place. They may even be fighting it since they are now retired and just want to do their own thing.

God has sent your spirit to this place at this time - Obviously for a purpose! There is no such thing as a siding to the railroad of life. Other than to nourish our bodies, each of our lives is on the main line of our track through time. At this time we are HERE! To do God's will! Just as Merton was enthralled with the beauty of his surroundings, his spirit caught him and reminded him that "it is important to know where you are put on the face of the earth!" Amen.

R. Jeremiah

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I Surrender all.....and get what I need by Pastor Bettye

Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the blessed Savior to whom we surrender all, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

If someone asks you to surrender what does that mean? What feelings does this word “surrender” evoke? Depending on your age and life experience the word “surrender” connotes different images. For some the act of surrendering is a “giving up”; for others surrendering may be an act of giving in. Sometimes surrendering is part of negotiations towards a better in. For most people I dare to guess that the act of surrendering is an act of loss. As parents we may find ourselves surrendering our will to our children’s will on difficult issues; anything from bed time to life styles. As couples we may find ourselves surrendering our will to our mate on anything from what t have for dinner to which state to relocate to for new jobs. The act of surrendering to something is always with us in the human condition. How we handle that act of surrendering determines how we adjust to the outcome. So it is in today’s gospel text.
Judson W. Van De Venter, a hymn writer from the late 1800’s taps into the Christian experienced of surrendering to God in his hymn “I Surrender All”... the hymn refrain is appropriate for today passage from Matthew:
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savoir, I surrender all.
We read the invitation to discipleship in today’s text; an invitation what comes in verses 28 – 30. To accept this invitation, surrendering is necessary.
Jesus begins today’s reading by summarizing the different stages of Jesus and John the Baptist use to call people to discipleship. Both carry messages, both call the followers to discipleship, to a surrendering of old ways for a new walk with God. The message of Jesus and John are threats to our human desire for autonomy, our lust for control, our instinctive desires to get, keep and win in this life our under our terms. We want the future we dream of, plan for, and hope for. We chafe under John’s unapologetic insistence that our surrender to God is at hand for each of us. We must examine our hearts, let God burn away the chaff and surrender our all to God’s future for us as disciples holding on to only that which God says we need.
Jesus can rub us the wrong way as well. Far more gentle then John but equally as irrational, Jesus calls us to carry his yoke, following him, drop and leave our nets and become his disciples; another hard message of surrender. Can’ we just find a happy medium?
This week I caught a few minutes of a movie during its dramatic climax at which time a popular rock sung was playing and carries an interesting tie to today’s text. As significant as W. Van De Venter’s “I Surrender All” is to some listening ears, I think that the refrain of this rock song works for other generations.You can’t always get what you want.
You can’t always get what you want,
No, you can’t always get what you want….
But if you try real hard…you get what you need.
…..and don’t we WANT everything! To our mental, emotional and spiritual depletions instead to surrendering our wills, our lives to the Almighty God of the cross, the one who has secured for all humans for all time total and complete salvation we hold back too busy working on getting what we think we want.. Perhaps, just perhaps in surrendering all……we will get what we need.
This brings us to the promises of discipleship which we will realize as we surrender to God’s will, God’s way, God’s teaching.
“Come to me all you that are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest form your souls.”
All to thee my blessed savior – I surrender all and “I get what I need” living out our lives in surrendering as an act of faith, an act of dreaming with God for humankind.
What does it take for us to surrender, get what we truly need and dream of a world to God’s glory? Today we are invited to discipleship, pushed to think more deeply as individuals and as a community of God carrying his burden and his love. How much are we willing to surrender to get what we need?
Today’s message calls us to a new relationship with the word SURRENDER as seen in a relationship with Jesus. An invitation has been extended. Come, share the good news with both its demands and comfort for his yoke is easy and his burden is light….thanks be to God!