When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.
Kelli: One of the underlying truths of the parables of Jesus is (excuse the grammar): you get what you focus on. If we focus on tragedy and violence, we will only notice more tragedy and violence. That is not to say we blissfully ignore the troubles of our time. It does mean that we focus on the places we see grace so those places will grow and good will overcome evil. I write this blog post today for myself as much as anyone else. Perhaps we all need to be reminded that our lives can have purpose and meaning despite the pain and tragedy.
God bless us every one.
Another story. “God’s kingdom is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years it grows into a huge pine tree, and eagles build nests in it.” Another story. “God’s kingdom is like yeast that a woman works into the dough for dozens of loaves of barley bread—and waits while the dough rises.” Matthew 13:31-33, The Message
Disciplines 2014, Upper Room – ..(these parables relate) to our contemplation of God’s prevailing love. The amazing plant that emerges from the tiny seed and the airy loaf, fully leavened by yeast, do not happen instantaneously. The process takes time. It requires patience to see the results. And waiting is not easy….We can see the signs of God’s ‘kingdom come’ all around us every day. But we also experience God reign as coming – that is, not yet here. Sometimes the areas where we await the coming of God’s reign hold our attention more than the places where we see clear evidence of God’s kingdom. We become obsessed by the broken relationship with a family member or friend. Our spirits are troubles by the senseless acts of violence we witness in the world around us. Tragedy abounds. Where is the mighty tree that grows from the tiny seed? Why is that flat dough not growing to rise over the edges of the bowl? We are often called to live faithfully as we wait for God’s reign to come – for God’s love and grace to be fully evident in circumstances where we desire them most. We can wait because we know God is true to God’s word.
Timeless God, grant us the patience to plant the seeds and mix in the yeast, knowing that you are faithful and that your reign will come, Amen. (Peter Velander, 246)
The unforced rhythms of grace
It’s the little things.
One thing that can make Monday morning a little easier is to realize we do our best work when we concentrate on the little things – the good word, the small adjustment, the attention to detail that complements the big picture. Over the last couple of weeks, I have preached on the parables of Jesus from Matthew 12 and 13. There is such richness there.
One of the main things I am taking away from the text is the smallness, the relative insignificance of the change agent that Jesus describes. That change agent is the seed sown by the farmer in these parables. It’s also the tiny mustard seed that grows into a large plant (on in the Message – the pine nut that grows into a tall pine tree, something very common here in eastern North Carolina) and the tiny spores of yeast that are given nutrition and structure with flour, sugar and water to power incredible, dramatic growth.
For me, the practical application of theses parables boils down to one question: What are the small things we can do that make people ask questions to which the only answer is Jesus? Not the dramatic things, not the loud and brash things that draw attention to me but the small and powerful things that can only be motivated by the One who is the Answer.
Sometimes, all that means is simply showing up. Or the bowed head over a fast food meal. Or the quiet word that refocuses a raucous conversation. Small actions take as much courage and prayerful thought as big, drastic actions. Yet, they have more potential to point toward the Holy Love that motivates them. Practice of spiritual disciplines in our lives: prayer, fasting, study, silence, solitude, celebration, fellowship, holy conversation, worship – are the starting places for these small actions. They ARE the actions for which the only answer is Jesus. When we live our lives in the rhythms of Holy Love, we are the seed that is planted by the Master Gardener.
When we pay attention to the small things in us, around us and for us to do, Holy Love spreads its roots in the world, people begin to ask questions and the answer is the one we are most able to give: life following Jesus in the unforced rhythms of grace.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11: 28-30, The Message)
God, we believe, accepts us, accepts all men, unconditionally, warts and all. Laughter is the purest form of our response to God’s acceptance of us. For when I laugh at myself I accept myself and when I laugh at other people in genuine mirth I accept them. Self-acceptance in laughter is the very opposite of self-satisfaction or pride. For in laughter, I accept myself not because I’m some sort of super-person, but precisely because I’m not. There is nothing funny about a super-person. There is everything funny about a man who thinks he is. In laughing at my own claims to importance or regard, I receive myself in a sort of loving forgiveness which is an echo of God’s forgiveness of me. In much conventional contrition there is a selfishness and pride which are scarcely hidden. In our desperate self-concern, we blame ourselves for not being the super-people we think we really are. But in laughter we sit light to ourselves. That is why laughter is the purest form of our response to God. – From Tensions by H.A. Williams
I call to you, O Lord, from my quiet darkness. Show me your mercy and love. Let me see your face, hear your voice, touch the hem of your cloak. I want to love you, be with you, speak to you and simply stand in your presence. But I cannot make it happen. Pressing my eyes against my hand is not praying, and reading about your presence is not living in it. But there is that moment in which you will come to me, as you did to your fearful disciples, and say, “Do not be afraid; it is I.” Let that moment come soon, O Lord. And if you want to delay it, then make me patient. Amen – From A Cry for Mercy by Henri J.M. Nouwen