A little more about parables. The word comes from the Greek compound word "parabole'." Para means "alongside" and bole' means "to throw." A parable, then, throws something alongside something else, as in yesterday's parable where the Kingdom of Heaven was compared to (thrown alongside) someone sowing good seed.
We're in the middle of a three-week run of parables. There are many parables in the gospels, this week's comes from Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
Last week's parable had to do with seeds, this week's has to do with seeds and fields, next week's will include mustard seeds and fields. Jesus used what was readily available, easily pointed to, understood to illuminate something else. Often in parables the physical world is the illustration to help us with the spiritual/discipleship world.
I had a cousin who served in World War II with General Patton. I know that because I was told frequently. I joked at his funeral that I thought his name was, "Cousin Paul, who served with General Patton."
I don't think it was just the celebrity that caused people to introduce him that way. I think it was the history, the service, the uniqueness of having first-hand knowledge of a such a renowned general. It became part of Cousin Paul's lore.
I hope no one left yesterday’s service trying to sort through whether she is a John the Baptizer-type or a Jesus-type. That would be too simplistic. As I suggest about us being part-Mary and part-Martha (Luke 10:38-42), I think we’re at times in step with John’s approach to the world and at times in step with Jesus’ (Matthew 11:16-19) - and too often out of step with both.
In Sunday's gospel reading (Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30), Jesus uses a simile. It's unclear whether the comparison between the children calling out to each other is in reference to the present generation or to John the Baptist and him. I think it could well be both.
Major General Livingston reminded us at the Spirit of Central that July 2nd was the date the Continental Congress declared independence. I was intrigued and researched a little more. It turns out the reason we celebrate on July 4th is that's the date the official document, the Declaration of Independence, was adopted.
Among the gifts of The Old Testament are the stories which describe the human condition and our relationship to God. We find ourselves in the stories, which put flesh on theology.
It's one thing to assert "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; but we do not know how to pray as we are ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words" (Romans 8:26) and quite another to see this in God hearing Ishmael's unspoken prayers as his mother leaves him to die.
We're back in Florence and it's good to be home. And while we're still jet-lagged, there's much to do. Feeding Florence is today at noon in the Davis Christian Life Center. Briggs Elementary School clean-up day is tomorrow at 8:00 am. We will also be "Digging Deeper" as we head out to do a little yard work and general clean-up at two of the Pee Dee Coalition sites, bag lots and lots of lunches at the Help4Kids offices, put together picnic tables and benches for Briggs Elementary, and paint signs for All4Autism this Sunday morning after an abbreviated service in The Well. Please join us at one, two, or three of these service projects. Learning from Jesus, we know that feeding the hungry and helping vulnerable children and adults are primary ways to honor God.
As we finished our pilgrimage with Communion together, we thought about Jesus' continued presence with us. He has promised to remain with us. Receiving signs of that presence, his body and blood given for us, is an indication that his love never ends and that a relationship with him is possible whenever and wherever.
A day trip to Jericho put us in the oldest continually inhabited city in the world at over 11,000 years old. You’re familiar with the walls that came tumblin’ down (Joshua 2 and 6), but it’s also the location where blind Bartimaeus was healed (Mark 10:46-52) and where Jesus showed interested in wee Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-11).
Today was like having Holy Week in a day. We visited the Western Wall (or "Wailing Wall") of The Temple Mount. People pray there night and day, as some of the foundation stones of the 2nd Temple are exposed. Some are there wailing over the destruction of the first two temples. Others are there praying for other matters. It's a tradition to write your prayers on a small slip of paper and place it in the cracks between the huge foundation boulders.
Much of today was spent on the Mount of Olives. Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday from the east, from the Mount of Olives. He crossed the Kidron Valley and went to the Temple.
Included in our time on the Mount of Olives was a visit to the Garden of Gethsemane. Some of the olive trees there are said to be 2000 years old. We pictured the area Jesus shared time with his disciples, where he prayed for the cup to pass from him, and where he was arrested (John 18-19).
Today included a visit to Masada, Herod’s fortress in the wilderness and site of an inspiring act of resistance from 1st Century Jews when the Romans sought to capture them (circa 70 AD).
We also visited Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. These ancient scripture scrolls were discovered beginning in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd boy.