Not As Easy as it Sounds

Philippians 4:1-9                  10.11.20

            There is a song that I learned as a child that continues to ring in my head.  I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay.  If you go looking for joy, you will notice that joy is found deep inside of you.  It is not dependent on your outer circumstances.  It is what bubbles out in humming a song while you work.  It is what creeps out in a smile at nothing in particular. 

            We have a choice as to how we respond to this strange time that has stretched for months and has months more to go.  We have a choice as to how we respond when things don’t go our way, when life seems to be dishing out lemons right and left.  Do we remain in lament and frustration, or do we look for the joy that exists despite our current circumstances, the joy that we belong to God, the joy that we belong to one another? 

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Seeking and Finding

Matthew 13:44-46      7.26.20

                A parable is a short story.  They are almost always about every-day things…farming, baking, fishing, planning a party.  Because they are so short, they are easy to remember.  Some are just a sentence.  Jesus uses them a lot—he works stories into his teaching in order to create for his listeners in any time and place a receptivity to God and God’s reign in our lives and in our world.    As we make our way through this pandemic of a deadly virus and come face to face with the longterm, simmering pandemic of racism in this country, my hope is that we can find some teachings in the parables that offer us encouragement and hope for the living of these days.  Our day to day activities have been changed.  Our ways of connecting with one another have been altered.  Yet we find in the scriptures stories which call to us wherever we are and whatever our current condition might be. 

Today’s two short parables are part of this parable packed chapter of Matthew’s gospel, sandwiched in, little glimpses of what Jesus means by the reign of the heavens, or the reign of God.  Matthew wrote to a mainly Jewish audience, and it was not considered respectful to mention God’s name aloud.  So he refers not to the kingdom of God (which is used in Luke’s gospel), but the kingdom of heaven, or the reign of heaven, knowing that all his listeners would understand the meaning of the term—the realm where God is in charge, whether in this world or in the next.  The reign of the heavens is the same as the kingdom of God.  Jesus lived in a time when people were fed up with their government, with generations having lived under the heavy hand of Roman rule.  Any hope of a different ruler, a different realm, would be exciting, enticing and encouraging indeed.   His words echo through the centuries into our ears today.

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