I’m having a fun discussion about mustard seeds with a blogger who is a botanist, theologian and pastor. We had a chat by way of blog comments about a “lectionary spark” article she posted about the classic mustard seed reference from Jesus. I guess that there is a big debate that I’ve missed all these 20 years. I’m remembering why I used to love theology.
Is, or is not,
Was, or was not
Jesus referring to a mustard tree, or was it a mustard plant?
Was, or was not,
Jesus teasing with many of his parables?
In any case, I really like what Pastor Warren wrote about how, when all comparisons and studies are done, the point is that Jesus encourages faith in the form of willingness to take another road home. Warren says,
Basically—to explain away the funny—Jesus is saying the Kingdom of God doesn’t show up the way we expect it to. Jesus is saying the kingdom of God is weedy and dismiss-able. Jesus is saying the Kingdom of God surprises us about where and when it comes about. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God makes waste-places, abandoned places, unimportant places (where weeds grow) into places of new life and if we are determined to only see the Kingdom of God in the big, glorious, obvious places of the past, we’re probably going to miss out on the sprouting taking place by our feet and the fields of gold blooming in front of us.
(From Lena Warren, in her blog: Jabbok Dawn http://jabbokdawn.wordpress.com/)
This is exactly how I feel about our move to Iowa. Who would think, a year or even two ago, that last night I would have celebrated Father’s day by being wrapped up in a blanket with our youngest and a puppy as he was enthralled with his first viewing of the movie Field of Dreams. It made the rest of us watch it again, but through his little kid eyes.
He kept asking why the music was scary and if there was going to be death and gloom. “Watch!” we kept saying. And as baseball hero (he’s a sports history buff) after baseball hero came to the field he would fist pump the air and say something like: “I can’t believe it!”
Pure joy and forgiveness. (Forgiveness because I’d yelled, LOUDLY, a few minutes before that I was not willing to watch another minute of a Rocky Movie. For good measure I then guilted them all that we didn’t watch a girl movie on Mother’s day, so I should have a solid voice in our movie selection).
I’m hoping that this busy summer allows time for me to finish marking up a book called Between Heaven and Mirth that I got for my husband self for Christmas. Fr. James Martin tells us that St. Paul’s First letter to early Christians in Thessalonica is not a scolding letter, like some of his other spit fire letters. Much of what Paul preaches includes harsh demands of faith and warnings of doom if fragile Christians don’t comply. Martin suggests that 1 Thessalonians in the bible is a gentle invitation to joy.
This idea works for me, since when I was trying to woo my husband away from becoming a Marianist Catholic priest, and he was trying to woo me away from my sullen ways, we closed or began our love letters with St. Paul’s phrase, “holy kisses.” St. Paul’s harsh side never has tripped me up, because I stumbled into a dating fog while at the same time studying for my masters and writing a thesis on St. Paul’s dreamy side.
“Greet all brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.”
St. Paul, 1Thesallonians:5
Like several of my friends, with and without partners or kids of their own, we have had some very sad and tragic hills to climb at this middle point in life. At a minimum, we’ve all at least been asked to struggle up a crazy climb with someone else. Cancer, divorce, death, job loss, disease, bankruptcy, failed dreams…you get what I’m saying. The works of life.
For me, the past three or four years have been quite the haul. The best of these friends though, the ones who I’ve trusted the most with the blow by blow details of my particular climb, have the very, very best sense of humor. The list is short, not because I don’t have great friends and family, but because I am very guarded and private with things in my life that feel like a boxed up Tasmanian devil. This handful of friends, when I tell them the truth of how I am, greet me with some form of “it’s okay, I know who you are,” and most often they send me off with some form of laughter. Either I’ve cracked them up, or them me about the most tragic of situations.
This approach to handling life works with what I just read in Martin’s book. He says in a chapter titled A Study in Joy,
Two of my small fist full of friends that I just mentioned are experiencing great tragedy this weekend. I heard from both yesterday, they are having an unbearable couple of weeks, and both situations seem to be at a seemingly endless place of pain. They even bear the same first name. What can I do? What can I say? I’m at a loss. I’m too summer fuzzed tired to cry, and I can’t imagine finding a way to make them laugh. Yet.
So, I’m banking on the good advice I’ve read this morning, and will try to trust that praying for a light heart for them will be good enough work for today.