Monday, September 29, 2014

Fruits of the Kingdom

MATTHEW 21:33-46
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.

you speak in parables to make things plain.
Storytelling is a powerful communicator.

This parable points
to greed, disrespect, and a total disregard for justice.
Why do the tenants beat, kill and stone?
the landowner's slaves (twice) and then the son?
They say it themselves, "let us... get his inheritance..."
Never mind respecting the very life of another human being.
Saying nothing of the issue of justice
that tenants owe the landowner the agreed upon rent (or harvest).

Forgive me, Lord,
my own greed
which hoards what is not mine
by any means necessary.

Instead, transform me into one who
"produces the fruits of the kingdom".

But I wonder, Lord,
what are the "fruits of your kingdom"?
I can quote the fruits of the spirit,
"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control"
But what are the "fruits of your kingdom"?

I might assume at first "fruits" means the righteousness of obeying your law,
but you first spoke this parable to "the chief priests and the Pharisees"
They were experts in keeping your law,
and you challenged their righteousness at every turn.

Again I ask: what are the "fruits of your kingdom"?
What do you want to bloom and grow in my life 
that fulfills the beauty of your kingdom?

I'm drawn one phrase of the Lord's Prayer:
"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"
Give me eyes to see, and ears to hear,
and a community of faith with whom to discern:
What is your will?
What are the "fruits of your kingdom"?

Until then,
restrain my selfish greed, my pride.
Humble me to welcome your servants
and watch for your son,
for I am but a tenant in your vineyard.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Others interests first...

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

as I reflect on how to
"look not to your own interests,
but to the interests of others"
your Spirit brings me to one of the prayers
attributed to Saint Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that
I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I know it best as a hymn:

that prayer/hymn consistently challenges me
in times of conflict with my spouse or with others
that the hard work is NOT trying to get my point across
but rather the work that MUST be done
is to listen hard, listen deep and WORK
to console and comfort the other,
to understand the other,
to choose to love the other,
to give myself to the other,
to forgive the other...

So hard, Lord, so hard
and yet it is exactly
what you do for us EVERY DAY.

make me an agent of YOUR kind of peace,
a peace that surpasses human ways of thinking and being.
May it be so in my life today.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Philippians 2:1-2
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Paul is so powerfully subtle.
"If there is any encouragement in Christ..."
Of course there is!!
ALL of our encouragement is in Christ.

"If there is any consolation from love..."
Of course there is!
The love of God, the love of others
is our only true comfort and consolation.

"If there is any sharing in the Spirit..."
Of course!
The Spirit of God is exactly what binds us together!

"If there is any compassion and sympathy..."
In Jesus Christ, we see God's compassion and
Jesus is sympathetic to us in every way except sin.

I think it should read,

we, Christian community,
shall be of the same mind,
the same love,
united by the Spirit of God
standing together at the foot of the cross
in need of grace.

Lord this is my prayer.
May it be so.
Amen and Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014



For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. 
Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well — since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

I am confident of one thing:
I am NEVER worthy of your gospel.
I identify more with Paul's writing in Romans 7:24-25:
"wretched man that I am -- who will save me from the body of death!
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ!"

And that IS the gospel --
though I am wretched and dying,
through the birth, life, teaching, healing, forgiving,
death, resurrection, and ongoing prayers of Jesus Christ,
You choose to save me from my wretchedness, from my deadly ways.
You set me free from such hell
and empower me to carry that very same GOOD NEWS
in my body, in my actions, in my words
proclaiming your love to ALL.

No, I'm not worthy,
but because of your grace
I WILL seek to live my life
"in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ".
Help me do that!
Today, Help me embody your Gospel.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Generous God...

Matthew 20:1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 
Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 
But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
indeed your ways are not our ways,
nor are your thoughts, our thoughts.
It just doesn't seem fair,
those who worked the least received the same pay
as those who worked the longest.
True, they each received what was agreed upon, but...

Your final question cuts to the heart:
"Are you envious because I am generous?"
Yes, I am envious.
Yes, you are SO generous.
You bless when we don't deserve it.
You forgive when revenge is demanded.
You turn the other check, extend the other arm,
and take in your body the punishment we deserve.

Teach me to be content.
Help me celebrate the blessings of others.
Help me share your incredible blessings with those who need to be blessed.
Mostly Lord, teach me to follow Jesus' model of humility.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Forgive completely

MATTHEW 18:21-22
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

forgiving those who wrong us, who hurt us is hard work,
even harder when they are part of the family of faith.
Surely, Peter's seven times would be enough.
I'm mean haven't you heard the phrase:
"hurt me once, shame on you.
hurt me twice, shame on me."

But you do what you always do,
Lord, you push us beyond human possibilities.
You say, "seventy-seven times".
If the scholars are right
about seven being understood as the complete number,
then you are telling us to forgive completely.
Let not even an ounce of grudge or resentment.

I've also heard it said that forgiveness is not complete
until you can wish the other well-being and blessings.

You teach us to pray:
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"
So I confess to you, Lord,
forgive me for my unforgiving heart, for my unforgiving ways.
In the same way you forgive me, (which is completely!)
Lord, help me forgive others with that same complete measure of Grace!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pray for pastor...

Loving God,
we name you with terms like
King of Kings,
Lord of Lords,
Alpha & Omega,
the Lion of Judah,
the Good Shepherd.

Today I am mindful that you are also
Pastor of pastors.

Today I hold in prayer pastors
who often feel lonely
who have precious few friends they really can talk with
whose lives are watched by all
who too often care for others
at the expense of their own lives, their own marriage, their own children
who are sometimes to scared to be bold
who serve often at some distance from relatives
or whose call is judged as somehow less if they return close to those relatives
who carry the burdens of others
but are too tired, too busy, too proud to seek out help themselves.

Today I hold in prayer pastors
who have heard your calling
and know their are doing what you God want them to do
who love sharing your love with others daily
who feel useful standing beside the dying, the grieving, the crying
who have an extra measure of grace that they share gladly.

Today I hold in prayer pastors
because they matter,
they make a difference
by your power they remind us
that you are at work redeeming the mess in our lives.

So too, Lord, be at work in their lives
in real and tangible ways
redeeming pastors,
healing pastors,
loving pastors,
feeding pastors,
encouraging pastors.
We need them.
Our world needs them.
You choose them.
Help us pray for them.