Tag Archives: Mark 4

Underground Work

Horizontal Drill working at Resurrection

Horizontal Drill working at Resurrection

This week at Resurrection there has been plenty of working going on, but most has been invisible. A horizontal drilling machine was on site and it drilled a 350 foot tunnel under our parking lot so that a sewer pipe could connect our building to the county sewer line. It encountered rocks and layers of stone that slowed progress but the drill eventually broke through and the connection made.

Meanwhile our pumpkin patch continues to flourish and will soon be ready for our annual Harvest Festival on Sunday, October 6. The small seedling that were planted last June have flourished over the summer and more than 500 pumpkins that were once hidden by leafy vines are now visible.   They are ready for the harvest.

Harvest Festival brings much joy.

Harvest Festival brings much joy.

The Harvest Festival is a celebration of local farm heritage and your participation is encouraged, both as volunteers and participants.  Discover how you can help make this day special by volunteering here.

All this underground work reminds me of Jesus’ parable in Mark 4.

Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus’ parable states that the kingdom is growing all around us, often in invisible ways that we do not fully comprehend. Jesus calls us to be faithful in scattering the seed, God’s Word of promise and hope for all people.  The Word is often mysterious in how it calls people to faith in God.  I am one who wants to see tangible results right away, but God’s Word sometimes needs to be like the horizontal drill, pushing through a stony sinful heart. I need to persevere in my spreading of God’s Word.   The harvest of faith will eventually come.  And oh what joy comes with the harvest!

I am confident that all the underground work done this week will eventually bring glory to God’s kingdom. We need to remain patient in our trust of God’s promise of a fruitful harvest.

In what ways have you had to be patient with God’s underground work?

Lord Jesus, work your Word into my life and world.

My Philadelphia Story

Jesus’ parable on the farmer and the seed in Mark 4 evoked my own story about finding good soil and the mystery of growing seeds of faith.

Between my sophomore and junior year in college, I had a summer internship at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Havertown, an older suburb of Philadelphia, PA.  My mentor and friend, Stan Wood, was a pastor there and he asked me to work the summer with the junior high youth. I had spent my previous summers as a counselor at Lutheran Bible Camps in Washington State.

During that hot and humid summer, I missed the outdoors of Washington, but tried my best to relate to the youth of Bethany. Unlike Bible Camp, where I had different youth every week, we saw the same youth each Sunday for Bible Study and for special events. I tried my best to spread the seed of God’s Word. It didn’t seem to work. I kept missing the mark. I was the outsider, the stranger, and nothing seemed to work.

When that summer was over, I was glad to get back to college, and though Stan asked me to return to Bethany the next summer, I declined I decided my place was back in the good soil of Washington State. Philadelphia seemed a bit too rocky from my perspective.

Six years later, I was back in Pennsylvania, visiting my wife’s sister, Elizabeth, at her college in Suburban Philadelphia, not far from Bethany Presbyterian. As I was walking through her dorm, I heard a voice call my name, “John Keller, is that you?” I turned to see a tall young man who looked vaguely familiar. He introduced himself and said, “I am a member of Bethany Presbyterian and I remember when you were a summer intern.” I then recognized him though he had grown at least a foot. He went on to say, “You know, that summer really made a difference in my faith. I remember that you and the other interns expressed your relationship with Jesus as something real and vital. That stuck with me. I just want to thank you.” I thanked him and we parted.

I never forgot his expression of thanks. What I had determined to be a complete failure, turned out to bear fruit. Good soil can be found almost anywhere by the power of God.

Lord Jesus, continue to cast your Word into the good soil.

Social Media Scream and Seeds

Ahhhhhhh by kennymatic
Ahhhhhhh, a photo by kennymatic on Flickr.

Okay, this social media stuff is becoming more of a challenge. I started this blog over a year ago and I have two Facebook accounts (one for family and one for the congregation) and I use my Droid 3 phone to text my daughter and I have dabbled a bit on Twitter and I want our congregational website to be as current as possible and I need to start an on-line newsletter for the members of Resurrection Lutheran and I know that there are technologies that will link this all together and sometime I just want to SCREAM.

Well, maybe “scream” is a bit of an over-reaction, but certainly I am at time overwhelmed by the technological possibilities that have grabbed hold of our society. I could bury my head in the sand (or an old fashion book), but I feel this call to adapt. After all, the message of Jesus Christ is worth spreading out into the world. I remember that the apostle Paul had to adapt as he made his missionary journeys into the Gentile world. His sermon to the people of Athens revealed how he work to understand their culture, their native religiosity, so as to make a connect to the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 17:22-34). Every age has had to adapt to new technology and culture. I think one of the great strengths of our Christian faith is that it is adaptable to new times and situations, while staying true to our God.

As I write blog posts and try to compose cleaver tweets, I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20), my sermon text for this Sunday. The sower was pretty wild in his tossing of seed. He seemed to be intent on flinging it everywhere, with the confidence that it will find good soil. As I post, tweet, facebook, e-mail and preach I need to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, the wind of God, to carry the seed to productive soil, where the fantastic news that we are loved and cherished by God will be heard.

Lord Jesus, send your word on the wind of your Spirit.

Asleep on a Cushion

Details in Bible stories can fun as well as insightful.  This Sunday I am preaching on Mark 4:35-41, Jesus calms a storm.  The detail that catches my eye is in verse 38. As the storm reaches a climax and begins to swamp the boat, Jesus remains asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat. As I read this I wondered, Where did the cushion come from?  Did Galilean fishing boats carry them as standard equipment?  Or did a disciple pack a  travel pillow and loan it to Jesus?

On a more serious note is the fact that Jesus is asleep at this critical moment in the storm.  Was this a sign of his confidence in God’s care?  Or a reminder of his humanity and need for sleep? Or was he simply trusting Peter and the others to do their job as fishermen?

A core question that the story stirs in me is, “Jesus, shouldn’t you be awake so you can stir the boat around the storm?”  The ship was a Christian symbol of the church: the people of God as the ship’s crew and Jesus as our captain who guides our voyage.  And do not Christians often pray for such direction?  Do we not ask for God’s protection and guidance so that we do not have a storm to face or a crisis of faith to endure?  Whether the storm is an external crisis, like a death or financial loss, or an internal crisis, such as a broken relationship or sudden illness, do we not sometimes think Jesus could have prevented the “storm” from striking us?

Such questions can help us see the truth of the story for us, because Jesus does still the storm and then confronts the disciples regarding their lack of faith.  A storm or crisis often reveals our shallow trust and our need for Jesus as our savior. When my daughter faced open-heart surgery as an infant, I know that my prayers took on a new depth and clarity.   Without the crisis we would not call out for God’s help and then bear witness to God’s transforming power.  Jesus may be asleep for us, because we have not called out to him from the depths of our souls and asked him to transform our lives.

In what ways is Jesus’ power awake or asleep in your life?

Jesus, awaken me to the power of your love.

Storms and Trust

Compassion in Joplin

The deadly tornados that struck Joplin, Oklahoma City, and Minneapolis this week evoke spiritual questions. “Why would a loving, compassionate God allow such suffering to happen among His people?” “Was this God’s plan?” I did post a partial answer to these questions after the Japanese earthquake in March. Today I will respond to the question, “Was this an act of God?”

It is our human tendency to seek blame for such tragedies. Since tornados are such chaotic forces that we struggle to understand or predict, we tend to see God as the instigator of such storms. After all, God is the sovereign Lord of the universe, naming every star and directing their path (Psalm 147:4). Certainly God controls the path of every tornado?

Christians have argued this question for generations. My perspective is that in creating the universe, God released this world from strict determinism and gave us and the creation some freedom and control. God gave dominion over creation to humanity (Genesis 1:28). God loves the world, interacts with the world, redeems the world, but has chosen not to “control” the world like some gigantic computer game.

In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus and the disciples climbed into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. Jesus fell asleep while a great windstorm arose and the boat nearly swamped. The disciples panicked in the storm. Some Christians believe that God should steer us around the storms, should protect us from such violent destruction. In a sense, we believe God should wrap us in a kind of spiritual “bubble-wrap” that will protect us from all harm.

The disciples awaken Jesus with a question, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus then rebuked the wind, “Peace! Be still!” Jesus has the power to still the storm, but more often he stills the storm of doubt and confusion in our hearts. God’s deepest and truest plan is for us to trust Jesus, in the midst of storms and doubts.

Tornados will continue to disrupt creation. Like the tsunami in Japan, the best response of Christians is to love our neighbor in need, to bring tangible compassion to the people. One way to respond is the ELCA disaster relief. Such love is certainly part of God’s plan for creation.

How do you see God in the midst of such suffering?

Lord Jesus, bring healing and hope to those devastated by this week’s tornados.