Thursday, June 18, 2009

Did I Move to Seattle?

The last couple of days I've felt like I moved to Seattle (or somewhere where it rains almost daily). I just want summer to be here already! It also means that with all this rain and with the Red River flowing north, the Red is going to rise yet again. I definetely have been feeling dajavoux(sp?)! Luckily, the Red is only going to rise some and wont get where it was a couple months ago which means at least that there wont be sandbags in our near future but the River will rise above 18 ft at this rate. Its looking rainy yet again outside. Please Lord no more rain, we are ready to be done with this rain!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Picking Dandelions!"-A Sermon for 6-14-09

Over Memorial Day weekend, my sister Andrea and I headed home to Ashley, ND to spend time with our family since we hadn’t been home for
awhile.// When we arrived in Ashley, we found our dad and Uncle Terry busily preparing the crops. They were planting soybeans and rolling the fields to help in the process.// However the reality is that my dad and Uncle Terry cannot make the seed grow, they can only prepare the soil and plant at the right time.// So what does that say to us in the midst of today’s gospel text; the parable of the mustard seed?// What does the mustard seed teach
us about being God’s faithful people amongst the kingdom of God?//

Have you ever watched a child out in the yard picking dandelions for his/her parent? I remember my sister and I thinking they were such beautiful flowers but what we didn’t realize was that they are truly a weed; a nuisance.
However to a child, the dandelion is just another beautiful flower.// In fact, just the other day, I was given a dandelion by one of the little boys at church. He thought he was giving me this beautiful gift. And to me, it was a beautiful gift because it came from someone special.// So what would it mean for us to see the beauty in even the weeds like a child?//

The other day during our Tuesday morning devotions, a story was told that is a wonderful example of seeing the weeds like a child sees it. Judy told us about her granddaughter who picked a green tomato off of the vine. Her granddaughter then proceeded to look at her, “Grandma, you can watch it grow up now.” What an amazing example of seeing the beauty in even an unripe tomato!//Judy’s granddaughter trusted that the tomato would grow even off of the vine. However what she didn’t realize was, that it would take more for the plant to grow; fresh rain, soil, etc.//

The mustard seed is not a grand or even glorious plant. In fact in comparison to the mighty Redwood trees in California, it is just an ordinary plant, yet
the mustard plants outnumber the Redwoods in many areas of the world.//
God’s rule is very much like the mustard seed.// God’s rule challenges our world about the assumptions of the coming, powerful kingdom of God. //
However when covered by cement, these seeds seem to find a way to grow through the tiniest of cracks. In fact, it grows too readily on its own and once it appears, also takes over the field.//

During the NWMN Synod Assembly, Mark Vitalis Hoffman had a similar and great take on the mustard seed parable. He pointed out how the mustard seed is seen as unclean by Mosaic law and is forbidden to be in a garden. Yet no matter how you crush them, rip them up or try to kill them, little mustard plants crop up all around and just keep spreading.// Like dandelions, really!// And that is exactly what God’s kingdom is like: the massive tree we are looking for is really an unclean, unwanted, tiny little thing that nonetheless spreads across the ground like wildfire…a “good infection” as CS Lewis liked to say.//

Kerry Nelson in his daily devotion for Tuesday July 9, 2009 writes the following, “And that is how this planting of seeds works. Often so secretly, so mysteriously. A word here. A loving deed there. A firm correction and a hard dose of reality and a reminder of grace sprinkled in along the way.// Isn’t that how it has worked along the way for us?// We get discouraged and then something happens, or someone happens along, and we remember who we are and whose we are.// Our faith seems so wispy and weak and then we find it carrying us through troubled waters we never saw coming.// The spirit takes the smallest of seeds and grows it into a work of beauty.”//

Recently I was reading a really great book entitled, “Same Kind of Different as Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore which truly captures what it means for us to watch the seed be planted and grow. (Spoiler Alert: I’ll try not to give away too much!). In the book, this wonderful woman plants a seed in her husband which continues to grow long after she has left this earth. She understands what it means even to watch the seed grow amongst even the weeds! She is able to plant a seed in a homeless man who fears that he will never be accepted for who and whose he is! // God calls each of us to do the same; to plant the seeds among all God’s people and watch them grow!// We are the seeds God has scattered!//

Just like dad and Uncle Terry cannot control whether or not the crops grow, we too cannot control our own lives.// The sad reality though is that we too often find ourselves wanting to be in control of our lives.// As a result, we must learn to trust in the one who loves us unconditionally because it is through him that “everything old becomes new again.”//

In other words, the old is loosening its grip. It still wounds and haunts us, yet the new creation is bigger, brighter, bolder, and stronger than the old creation.// The new is permanent!// Rob Bell in one of his bestselling books tells a wonderful story. Bell tells of a wedding he once performed.//He writes, “It was a simple affair.//The ceremony was outdoors. In a circle of trees in a park. There was something suggestive, I guess, about the simplicity, the beauty, the freshness.//

After the ceremony, the couple went away by themselves to another part of the park. And they released a whole set of helium balloons.// Each of these represented the traumas that this couple had experienced getting to the place where they now were. One balloon represented a marriage that had ended in bitterness; One balloon, several balloons represented affairs; One balloon represented a pregnancy that had been terminated; One balloon represented another significant relationship that had failed.// What the couple did was release the balloons as a symbol that in Christ the old has gone and the new has come. This is the new economy of God. The new has come.”// But then Bell tells us that something else happened. The old came back.// A year later the marriage imploded. She moved an hour away. He moved to the other end of the country.//

Life is not risk free in the New Creation, not with the old still clinging, life remains gut-wrenchingly fraught.// Paul who writes all this about New Creation, knows all this because a few short months ago, he did not want to live any longer but he knew that God wanted him here, in this strange new creation.// This Second Big Bang “New Creation”---Paul just drops it into the text like an unexpected explosion.//”New Creation!”// The new creation is this; the power of Jesus Christ who broke death ---(remember that---he broke death) starts something new and Jesus followers are drawn in so that the new will always win in the end.// This is what I believe. That there is nothing that New Creation people cannot recover from.// Nothing!// The old might still cling for a while but the Father that Jesus introduced us to. He never ever, ever, ever runs out of balloons.” // In other words, we must trust in the one who brings hope, peace, understanding, comfort and joy.//We must trust in the one who ALWAYS finds life and beauty even in the mustard seeds and dandelions!//

Jesus is the one through which we all are rooted.// In fact, when we partake in Christ’s holy supper, we are reminded that we are rooted into the tree of life; Jesus Christ!// This tree is the tree around which we are nourished in the holy supper.// This tree is the tree that gives each of us life and plants the seed among all God’s people even the least in society!// And as this tree of life nourishes each of us, we are reminded, not only, that God plants the seed in each of us but also that God wants us to plant the seeds in each other as well!// In other words, God wants us to plant even the dandelions amongst us!//Amen!//