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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Weekly Gospel Meditation

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, June 14, 2009:

First Reading: Ezekiel 17:22-24

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 1 Samuel 15:34--16:13

Psalm: Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14 (Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15 NRSV)

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 20

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17

Gospel: Mark 4:26-34

This week we return to those parables of potential held in tiny packages. We return to parables that remind us of what can happen when a speck of a seed is buried in the dirt and left alone. We return to parables that remind us that much happens beneath the surfaces and behind the scenes while we sleep peacefully.

We live in a culture that demands instant gratification. Many of us find it hard to read a book. I'm hearing more and more people confess that they can't even read a magazine article--their attention spans are just that fried. We live in a culture where, if it doesn't happen immediately, people don't stick around to see what happens.

I suspect that we're not living in a culture that's new in this respect. When I look at the parables of Jesus, I suspect that he was fighting a similar battle. People probably came up to him and said, "How can God be good if there's so much injustice in the world? Why does God allow that?" People probably say that to you, too.

I often use a parable of my own; in my own short life, I've seen the Kingdom of God break through in glorious and unexpected ways. The other day, I was looking through photo albums. I didn't find the pictures of my Confirmation day that I was looking for, but I did find a picture of an old college friend, back in 1986, who was wearing a shirt that demanded "Free Nelson Mandela."

Of course, we didn't expect that would happen. We expected that Nelson Mandela would die in jail and that the country would erupt in flames and bloodshed at any moment. We attended rallies and prayer vigils, but we didn't really expect peaceful social change.

Nonetheless, a few short years after I took that snapshot of my friend, Nelson Mandela walked out of jail. And a few years after that, he was elected president of South Africa. I continue to shake my head and wonder at my lack of faith. I continue to pray for God's kingdom to break through here on earth, and I'm still often surprised when it does.

In his recent book, Tell It Slant: A conversation on the language of Jesus in his stories and prayers, Eugene H. Peterson, says, "Still, when it comes to doing something about what is wrong in the world, Jesus is best known for his fondness for the minute, the invisible, the quiet, the slow--yeast, salt, seeds, light" (page 70). Some of my non-faithful friends snort and say, "What's the use?"

Peterson points out that "Waiting provides the time and space for others to get in on salvation. Waiting calls a time-out, puts us on the sidelines for a while so that we don't interfere with essential kingdom-of-God operations that we don't even know are going on. Not-doing involves a means of detaching my ego, my still immature understanding of the way God works comprehensively but without forcing his way, without coercion" (page 95).

Once again, these parables remind us that God's way is not the way of the world. But God's way can lead to a world transformed: floured leavened into bread, seeds grown into orchards, a community where everyone has enough and not a single person goes to bed hungry or lonely.

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