my miscellany

Pentecost 4, 2018 — 17 Jun 18

Pentecost 4, 2018

RCL Year B Proper 6
Ezekiel 17:22-24, Psalm 92:1-4 and 11-14, II Corinthians 5:6-10 and 14-17,
Saint Mark 4:26-34

In the prophecy of Ezekiel, we heard that the Lord God “will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar” and…“will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar.”[1] Ezekiel uses the allegory of a sprig growing into a noble cedar to prophesy that the Lord will restore Israel under a messianic King from the house and lineage of David. Ezekiel makes this prophecy from exile in Babylon six centuries before Christ.

And that very messianic King in the Gospel today uses similar figures of vegetative growth to teach the disciples and us about the kingdom of God.

Jesus teaches through two tiny parables some remarkable things, some things that may startle us by taking from us the control we may think we have.

He tells us, in the first parable, of seeds that are planted and then harvested. No human effort is required between the planting and the harvesting. That, to me, is very striking. The seed grows, as we hear, the planter “does not know how.”[2] And also, in the second parable, the kingdom of God begins as the smallest of seeds and grows into “the greatest of all shrubs.”[3]

I’m bound to tell you that the certainty of the harvest from nearly invisible beginnings with very little human effort appeals to me very much. The kingdom of God resists our control. We cannot sell it, market it, duplicate it, preach it, represent it, redirect it, or otherwise do anything to make it grow. God does all these things. God’s work begins exactly where ours ends. We have been entrusted with tiny seeds to plant, and we plant them and harvest them as best we can. God does the rest. Control freaks and workaholics beware. Planters, real farmers, when they have finished irrigating, spraying, and fertilizing still wait in faith. They wait in the mystery of God’s time, and they wait in the unknown of God’s pleasure. The growth happens while they sleep and not as a result of their efforts.

Silently and imperceptibly at times, perhaps, the kingdom grows. What Jesus asks of us is to rely upon the promise of the kingdom just as we know we have to rely upon God when we plant a seed. Seeds grow in the dark ground even when we cannot see them. Seeds grow in us and in our world, yearning for meaning and purpose, even when we cannot see them.

[1] Ezekiel 17:22-23.

[2] Saint Mark 4:27.

[3] Saint Mark 4:32.

A Priestly Word — 15 Jun 18

A Priestly Word

On Sunday we continue our reading of II Corinthians (5:6-10 and 14-17) wherein St Paul describes the human condition from a specifically Christian viewpoint. In the first portion of the reading (5:6-9), we (all Christians) at home in our bodies “are away from the Lord” in a kind of exile until we are “at home with the Lord” (5:8). Separate from him, we “walk by faith, not by sight” (5:7) in confidence that “we make it our aim to please him” (5:9).

And, our confidence draws from the belief that in Christ’s death “one has died for all; therefore all have died” (5:14). “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (5:15). Therefore, St Paul concludes, “we regard no one from a human point of view” (5:16), for “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” (5:17).

As St Paul conceives the human condition of Christians, we are in a kind of exile that we endure by aiming to please him as a new creation until we find our eternal home with the Lord. In this journey our hopeful expectation is “being raised with him” so that we “may know the strength of his presence, and rejoice in his eternal glory” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 493). Hope in the Lord characterizes our life and urges us on to what will finally be.

Quotation — 13 Jun 18


But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

James Madison

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