Saturday, July 19, 2014
[Jesus] put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 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?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 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.” ’
Wheat & weeds
The last thing I did before coming to the office on Friday was to pull three thistles from around my bushes. The three always appear there--the father, the son and the holy sticker.
They’ll be back. They always come back, and I always look for them.
Early experiences in my life tuned the eyes of my heart more toward troubles than toward beauty. I see the thistles first, missing the shrubs and flowers that surround them. Something deep within fixates more on weeds … than on what Jesus might call the wheat.
Left unchecked, life becomes more focused on dealing with the weeds than on the wheat--the life, beauty, wonder and joy that fills the heart, if only we see and savor God’s loving presence … that is present every where.
When I was a boy I delivered papers to a lawn motor repair shop where a bunch of old guys gathered on summer afternoons to chew tobacco and complain about the world.
Everything was bad, they said. Prices are higher, the country isn’t what is used to be, kids are not responsible or respectful, people are allergic to hard work, the communists are winning, and soon we’ll all be speaking Russian.
The downward spiral of … everything … was lamented amid the sweet smell of grease and tobacco juice. They fixated on what is imperfect, what is wrong, what is evil … on the weeds all too prevalent in life.
Lord knows there are many weeds in God’s garden--conflict, hatred and destruction around the world, pernicious cancers and diseases we can’t quite pull out and be rid of, tensions and conflicts at work and in our homes and hearts.
It is the most natural thing in the world to see only the weeds that obscure the beauty of
Love, the wonder of life, and the grace shining in the faces of those who truly know God … and whose presence makes us feel more alive.
Totally natural, yes, but destructive.
It sours the soul so that we fail to see and be swept up in the beauty of the wheat, the life and love, the goodness and the grace that fills us and makes us truly human and alive, shining with the beauty God intends.
For far too long, far too much Christian teaching and preaching has hyperventilated about weeds, as if following Jesus had more to do with judging and rooting out evil … than with becoming the love of Christ.
Pr. David L. Miller
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 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.
Give me shelter. After years of great blessing, we are startled to become what we need.
At least that is God’s hope for us, a secret planted so deeply in our flesh that we discover it only after many years of thinking we are less than we are.
I had a dream once of a great tree, a maple with wide leaves and broadly spreading boughs, standing solo in a small meadow behind my aunt’s house.
I cut through that field when I left elementary school in the afternoons. A police car sometimes sat on the other side of the field, the officer waiting to tell me (again) that I should not cut across people’s yards.
I told him it was my aunt’s yard, and she didn’t mind. He didn’t know what to say, which was fine with me. I could continue my way.
But I didn’t want to. I wanted to roll around in the grass by the tiny stream that cut through one corner the field. I wanted to feel free, no longer locked up and watched like a hawk at school, able to wander where I chose, uninhibited by authorities who seemed to exist to tell not to do what I wanted or to go where I chose.
Years later, I dreamt of that field, a symbol of freedom and peace from my childhood. In the dream, there was a great maple in field, a tree that was not there during my youth. The tree spread mighty arms, creating an island of sweet shade from the afternoon sun under which I found shelter from the heat.
Alone, at peace, unshackled, I found blessed respite under this great tree that wanted nothing, but always welcomed my arrival and blessed me for whatever time I spent there.
This is what I wanted … and wanted also from the God to whom I prayed--a great tree to give me shelter. I suppose I have looked for such shelter all my life, thinking I needed it more than most.
I found it in communities of grace, among people who were strong and gracious, like my imaginary tree. They provided safe places where welcome was real and being real was welcome.
For most of my life I have seen myself as a receiver, a needy receiver of shelter. But something happens in years of receiving the grace you crave, you become what you receive.
Resting under great trees of welcome, over time, our lives become like my spreading maple, offering respite and peace, islands of sweet shade and shelter where other souls find life and blessing.
Becoming the tree of respite for another soul is great blessing … and a sign that the seed of grace planted in your life is finally, after decades of struggle and uncertainty bearing the beauty and fruit the Holy One always intended.
It all starts with a small seed, planted in the soil of our souls that grows into a tree where birds find their home, or so Jesus says.
Pr. David L. Miller
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.
The end of all prayer is silence, quiet in the Presence of the One who is always present.
What can one say? Who can speak a word in the face of God, the Love who is the first and last, who finds us wherever we are no matter how far we wander?
Who is like this Love who knows and holds every future and tells us not to fear, for every future is held and laced through with the Love that is before all and after all and in all?
When the heart knows this Love present and warm, filling one within, silent joy and wonder are the truest response.
Yet, two words form again and again in my heart, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Thank you for the Love you are, the Life you give, the hope that fills me when I know myself in your presence, eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart with you who fill me beyond all measure.
The words are as unnecessary as they are inadequate. No words will do. They are feel … and are … so insufficient and incapable of bearing the joyous weight of glory that spills from the heart.
Yet surely something must be spoken to praise you, Holy One. I live in words. My soul craves expression that speaks what the heart knows.
But this morning all I have to give you is this amazed smile, quiet tears … and silence. Yes, this silent knowing … only this give adequate praise to you, the Love who holds me this and every moment.
Pr. David L. Miller
Monday, July 14, 2014
But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you: Do not fear, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams.
This day, O Lord, is like water on thirsty land, not that I have been parched in recent days.
The water of your life has come to me again and again through lives and faces that tell me I am where I need to be, with people and places you intend.
You are the water of life, the nectar of the soul, the Presence always present who comes through many means, through the loves we love and by which we are loved, through work that serves a purpose, through praising and knowing you in community, yes there.
In community, Sunday worship done, conversation in the narthex, a tray of Bill’s berries shared with the McKenna girls, and I feel inextricably connected by sinews I cannot see but feel in laughter and brilliant smiles … in common concerns and hopes, in shared food and moments.
And now, today, a question: Why is it that I come to these keys filled with hope? Why does an average summer Monday fill me with peace as steam rises from the coffee waiting at my right hand?
It is more than Sunday’s afterglow. It is the presence of Love in every love, the Living Water of which Jesus spoke, water that flows through my soul.
But it comes always from a source, the Source of our souls … You.
You are the Living Water that flows. You water my soul and the seeds of your life spring up into a harvest of hope and peace.
Is it too childish to say that you make me smile? For, you do. You are the smile in my soul.
Living Water, the stream of life you are reaches me through a thousand channels stirring an excess of joy that blesses me … and makes my once sad soul more a blessing of joy for a few others.
Thank you … for this day, for this life, for this Love, for this awareness of who you are.
Pr. David L. Miller