Hello my sisters and brothers,
This is a magnet I have on my refrigerator (you should see my fridge door - I am a bit of a magnet junkie - lol!!) Every time I see it I am reminded of the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:26-34) which is part of our gospel for this Sunday. Actually our gospel reading has two parables in it. One parable relates to the mystery of how a seed grows and flourishes without the aid of human initiative and the second parable uses the metaphor of a tiny mustard seed that grows to be the greatest of all shrubs, with large branches and with birds (nations) making nests in its shade. This metaphorical bush embodies a truth of the radical inclusiveness of Jesus' ministry and God's love.
All of our readings this Sunday (1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13, Psalm 20, 2 Corinthians 5:6-17) are filled with metaphor - prolific bushes, small seeds and wasteful seeds, bird nests and homebodies, palm trees and sap, horns of oil and banners of victory, bread and wine, water and gesture, art and community, indeed the liturgy itself....all these point to a truth larger and other than themselves. Jesus speaks often in metaphor and story to enable us to grasp and glimpse a reality that is beyond our literal understandings.
Martin Luther's ethic is often summed up in the words "faith active in love". The psalm for this Sunday sees God's children (you and me) resembling palm trees or the cedars of Lebanon. These trees have their roots, the source of their nourishment, in God's temple. Even in old age, these humans/trees still produce fruit, and they are always green and full of sap. Their productivity, as R.W. Klein, Professor of Old Testament Studies at Luther Seminary Chicago, says, show that the Lord is good. The psalmist urges the righteous to give thanks, to sing praises, and to declare God's steadfast love which is faith active in love.
The seed growing, bushes serving nesting birds, trees sprouting from sprigs, water splashed and bread and wine consumed, people gathered, and word spoken and heard are all quite common and everyday actions and things, quite literally. But as we gather to worship, says Pastor Charles Grube from St. Paul's Lutheran in Dallas Pennsylvania, all convey the presence of Christ, the reign of God, the life of the cross, the covenant of baptism's belonging and the mission of the church. So then, our faith active in love is to plant the seed (metaphorically) and tell the story (literally) so that God may do the work of saving, redeeming, and bringing in the kingdom among and through us.
Here is a prayer from John van de Laar, may it speak to your heart and your soul.
Love In Action Written by John van de Laar
Your love, O God,
is an active love:
Your love, O God,
is seen in what you do, not just in what you say:
in the blessing of children,
in the meals with outcasts,
in the touching of the untouchable,
in your presence,
and your self-giving,
in your opening of the way to life
to all who will come;
And your love, O God,
is expressed through people like us:
as we share our wealth in simplicity and generosity;
as we share wholeness in care and healing
of the sick and broken;
as we share hospitality by being truly present
to the lonely, the imprisoned and the marginalised;
as we share peace in kindness, listening and acceptance
with those who challenge us, confront us and threaten us.
As you have loved us in incarnate action, O God,
may we learn to be little incarnations
through whom your love is expressed and experienced