It's been a heavy week reflecting on what happened in Charlottesville and its aftermath. The images have been startling - the weaponized marchers and violence of Saturday, followed by the candlelight peace march Wednesday night.
I had no idea when I quoted from Martin Luther King Jr.'s dreams yesterday that more people had been injured and one person killed the day before for marching in favor of equality. I said in the sermon, "Some people...dream of a world that is more like what it is meant to be, a world where 'The sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.' They dream of a day when 'Children...will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.'
Yesterday's sermon concluded with this thought: Two things always remain: the scars of what we've been through and the God who has been through all of it with us.
Too often we want to disguise our scars, either because of how others might react or to limit our exposure to our own scars. But, they're there. We know they're there. And, those from whom we would hide our scars have theirs, too. We should know that.
Recently we've heard a lot about seeds from Jesus. First it was the parable about the prodigal sower who tossed seeds in all directions, some landing in places that would likely yield good results and others in places where it would be difficult to sustain growth. Yesterday we heard about mustard seeds that grow from tiny seeds to strong and big bushes.
When was the last time you quoted this verse: With open mouth I pant, because I long for your commandments (Psalm 119:131)?
We pant for many things, where do God's commandments fall on the list?
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.