Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pentecost 20C -- got faith?

The point -- if there was a point of this sermon (notes below) was that the miracle done by faith is NOT the miracle of the spontaneously supernaturally uprooted mulberry tree.  The miracle is not moving the mulberry tree but moving the disciple[s].  The folks seemed to be happy with that -- and then we had a great potluck lunch.  There were little kids and even a three week old baby to cuddle...

Pentecost 20, preached at  St Swithin’s in the Swamp, October 6, 2013.

I speak with you this morning in the presence of God.  AMEN.
All summer and into the fall we have been reading in the gospel of Luke; and if we were going to put a title on what we’ve been reading, it might well be, “Things we wish Jesus hadn’t said.”  More formally, we might call them “The Hard Sayings…” – not necessarily hard in the sense tht we don’t understand what he means – sometimes hard in the sense that we are afraid we DO understand what he means, and we’re not sure we like it.  At the very least, Jesus upsets the disciples’ expectations, and our expectations as well. //a signal to pay attention//
This morning’s reading from the gospel is one of these passages.  Look with me for a few minutes at what happens.  The disciples ask to be given more faith.  What a natural, innocent, harmless, blameless request – the kind of thing one might well say in hard or challenging circumstances//lamentations//. 
But how does Jesus respond – does he say, “Why, sure, I thought you’d never ask” and comply with this Perfectly Reasonable Request?  Not a bit of it.  He is quite rude about their request, in fact.  He tells them they don’t have any faith at all (you can almost hear the “Huh”) and then he says something quite wild about a mulberry tree, and wraps up with a gratuitous scolding about something else entirely.
What on earth is going on here?  Something seems to have been wrong with the request!  1. What did they really want? 2. And why didn’t Jesus give it to them?
1.    He’s just told them about the obligation to forgive – and it’s a hard one.  So before they start in forgiving, they say, “if you give us enough faith, we’ll do it” – or, more likely, “if you don’t give us more faith, we’re not even going to try.”  “Increase our faith” turns out to mean, “give us more strength, more power ~~ make this task easier ~~ and then we’ll do it.”  “FAITH” is a kind of magic, a kind of superpower, that will keep the life of a disciple from costing us anything, including failure.
2.   And Jesus doesn’t give it to them; in fact he mocks their desire to do what they – and we – must do by supernatural means.  God does not do for us what we can do for ourselves.  That mulberry tree is there to demonstrate this.  If we want that mulberry tree flung into the sea, we can manage it without divine intervention, without extraordinary spiritual power… //lady evangelist story about new Christians wanting spiritual power – wouldn’t exercise what they already had//
3.   The word “exercise” takes us deeper into Jesus’ program here.  The disciples do need more faith (and often, so do we); and faith is a gift from God; but it is a gift like the other gifts we are given, such as a talent for music, or a capacity for athletic accomplishment.  None of these gifts comes as a wrapped-up, ribbon-tied accomplishment – every such gift is a gift of “potential” – not the finished expertise, or virtue, but something like “a kit” – some assembly is required; some exercise is required; some practice is required )Carnegie Hall story). Such gifts  never mere luxuries or mere ornaments, always given in response to need – courage, patience, only present where they are needed (in great fear, in great frustration)…  They don’t “make things easy” – they make us willing to confront what is hard.
4.   When we want to have the spiritual gift, such as faith, in its perfect form before we undertake the tasks that are set before us, we get the process backwards.  We have been given enough faith to start to be obedient in some small things – and by our obedience we find a) the limits of our faith[fulness] and b) the faithfulness of God toward us c)the increase in faith that we have desired – not in our own spiritual “easiness,” but in our capacity to be a blessing to other people, to our community, and to our world…

Thing One and Thing Two

In my most recent post I mentioned the Granddaughters (Thing One and Thing Two) and then thought, GOOD HEAVENS, it's time for up to date pictures.  So here they are: Annie at 19 months (nearly), and Lena at 10 months (just barely)... What's that zinger about "the lines have fallen unto me in very pleasant places?"  Yes.  And among very lovely creatures, too.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Friday Five (okay, okay...)

3dogmom has given us this prompt, for this week's Friday Five:
I’ve just returned from an extended road trip, a portion of which included travel through ancestral homelands. While I was gone our son’s first child, Hunter, was born, making me mindful of the gift that our roots can offer to us as we venture through life.  That juxtaposition inspires today’s Friday Five.
At a baby shower honoring Hunter guests filled out a card full of hopes and wishes for his life. Thinking about whatever new life may be touching yours (the birth of a child, a marriage, a new call…), choose five wishes from the following and do the same. (For instance, I wrote for Hunter, “I hope you laugh at your grandfather’s jokes.)
I hope you: learn, grow, remember, laugh, get, follow, aren’t afraid, love, respect, try to, never forget, become, experience.
Bonus: what hopes did someone in your life offer to you that have stayed with and inspired you?
Let us know in the comments if you play. You can leave a link old school if you want to be fancy, or you can simply cut and paste the URL, because that works on WordPress.

My wishes and hopes are for Thing One and Thing Two (the 2012 vintage granddaughters) -- but how do I keep it down to five? All right, here goes.

I hope you learn and go on learning as long as you live.
I hope you laugh whenever you can (and only cry when you must).
I hope you respect yourselves, and each other (and if there's any left over for Grandma that would be all right too).
I hope you never forget that you are tremendously loved, and tremendously loveable (because your RevGalBlogAunties can tell you, those are SUPERPOWERS).
I hope you aren't afraid of the world or the people in it.

There.  That's about it!
And I love you very much.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Back again...

Don't look now, but I'm blogging again.  Up at 5, blanched and peeled peaches (big BC freestone-type -- the stones may be "free" but oh boy, the peel wasn't) and put together a Dutch oven full of ingredients and made six pint jars of Peach and Raisin Chutney.  The jars all sealed.  There was a spoonful left over for me to enjoy with my lunch.  Jars are cooling on a rack in the kitchen.  Contentment.

I bought a half-case (allegedly, 10 pounds, but I think the fruit merchant was a bit generous in his measures) while I was at the downtown market in Prairie Metropolis on Saturday.  A full case was beyond me, I knew, in part because I was coming and going by bus.  As it was, I "blessed" the ones I had purchased before I finished wrastling them home.  I've eaten several "in the hand" -- and there's enough left still for at least a generous peach pie and something else, not sure what.

I'm in the "crack" between two ministerial assignments -- finished my happy summer stint with the parishioners in Intensely Orange -- Sundays only, one service, a 400 km round-trip drive through prime agricultural country as well as a small national park, so I had at least a glimpse of Bison bison athabascae  once a week -- and on the last Sunday at different points along the way I saw FIVE moose -- and at least three vast flocks of snow geese resting and fuelling up for migration among the stubble.  I'd seen snow geese before, back East on the St. Lawrence, but never on the western flyway. 

Pretty rich stubble this season too.  My summer congregation were, um, agriculturalists, and as we got on from August into September they began to smile very, very cautiously and mutter, "she...doesn't look too bad, this year..."  This unemphatic perspective translates into newspaper headlines about "Best Yields EVER"... wheat, barley, and canola...   I kept saying to myself, "There IS corn in Egypt yet..."  Must be irretrievably carnal-minded, I guess, but nothing improves a vista like the visible presence of (potential) GRUB spread over it.

So now it's time to get dug into St. Leroy's, here in town, half-time, while their Rector has parental leave.  The trick will be giving an honest half-time's worth of work AND NO MORE.  Still juggling that in my own head.  I'll see what the lay leadership thinks about priorities and necessities.

All this--and reading, and reading, and reading.  Working on understanding my OWN priorities and necessities.  I seem to have been doing that for a very very long time.