Isaiah 40:31 was probably one of the first scriptures I memorized in my youth. It was a great hope to feel that God could lift me up on Eagle’s wings and it still is. I love the idea of soaring above it all, being the swift and strong eagle, with a bird’s eye view of all the grasshoppers below. But honestly, I need to back up to Isaiah 40:22 and remember that so much of my life is lived with the grasshoppers. In describing the greatness of our Creator, Isaiah starts off comparing us to the small leaf-hoppers who are more prey than predator. Isaiah had such a gift for metaphor, so I wonder if he carefully chose contrasting grasshoppers with eagles, or if any small insect or rodent would do for his literary purposes. This week I want to take some time to applaud the grasshopper as well as the eagle.
Those of you who read bloomingcactus regularly probably noticed that I went through a down time in posting for a couple of month at the end of 2005. I have been discerning the role of this blog in my life, given how my call is changing. I have decided that the discipline of following the lectionary is a necessary spiritual practice and I want to continue writing. Many of you have written supportive comments and it helps me to know that some of you are finding ideas and help for ministry through my reflections. That's the main reason I write here on the internet rather than only in my journal. I'm not in a preaching ministry now, so I like being connected to those of you who are preachers and lay leaders. Please feel free to use my ideas. Its a way I can give back to the church right now. You can support me in one of three ways; 1) Write me a note telling me how you used an idea in worship or ministry, or send me a question or issue you are struggling with, 2) Click on the ads on the right hand sidebar regularly. Kanoodle ads pays me per click and that covers the cost of the site and hopefully my books for graduate study. 3) After Easter I am planning an annual appeal where people can donate $2 or so through the tip jar on the right hand side bar.
OK, now on to the fun stuff. Here is what I have planned for the future of this blog!
I wrote this sermon nine years ago, when I ran homeless programs for 120 people. I can imagine many of our residents as the man with an "unclean spirit," people who blurt things out in our comfortable space. But he asks the right questions-"What will you do with us, Jesus?"
There is a powerful urgency here in Mark’s Gospel that is easily missed because of the way we read the Bible. We are most likely to read the Bible in small doses. We take a verse, or section or maybe a chapter of scripture and read it to gain insight for our daily living. Devotional reading is quite valuable to the soul, but we can see different aspects of scriptural truth when we look at the sweep of the story. Let’s look at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel more from a literary perspective to see what the author intends.
(Bloomingcactus note: You can now follow me on Facebook by clicking the "like" button on the right hand side, or the Twitter icon. I will only send posts two to three times a week. Next week I plan to start sending a collection of articles relevant to preaching and spirituality.)
The Lectionary blend gives us sharp contrasts in how people respond to God’s calling. Jonah was called by God to be a prophet to the city of Nineveh. Instead of going east to the city, he gets on a boat and goes west, as far away as he can from the call. His epic adventure, worthy of the Odyssey, includes being thrown overboard from a ship; swallowed by a whale, and finally thrown up at the very point he started running from his mission. We could berate Jonah for his lack of faith or courage, but it is more helpful to identify with him for a moment.
He was given a mission impossible. Nineveh was one of the greatest cities of its day. It was a city of conquerors, with a strong commercial base, superior technology and a powerful war machine. Jonah was from a strip of wilderness that the rest of the world passed thorough as a way station to somewhere else, kind of like I-95 running through New Jersey. Jonah had no credentials for such an act of international diplomacy. He would get even less respect than Ambassador of Palau would get in Washington,DC. (You get extra credit if you actually know where Palau is!) Imagine yourself suddenly being sent to the Sudan where the government is perpetuating a genocide of Christians in the southern area. God tells you to march through the hot desert and tell their leaders to repent, to stop the genocide, to hold democratic elections and respect everyone’s civil rights, use their wealth for the good of all the nation’s people. Do you think you would get their leadership to dress up in sack cloth and ashes? For that matter, imagine going to Washington,DC and demanding that elected officials stop the legalized bribery of our campaign finance system. Do you think you could bring both houses of Congress to wear sack cloth and ashes? See what I mean? Jonah had a mission impossible.