As I open the newspaper this morning, the Greeks are demonstrating and the European Union is under threat of collapse, Congress is debating lifting the debt ceiling to a number higher than the miles to Alpha Centauri, the Russians won’t buy vegetables in Europe due to an E. coli outbreak, and the Supreme Court struck down campaign finance laws in Arizona and seems to think banning the sale of violent games to minors violates their basic human rights. Its hard to believe that while I am serenely sitting on my deck this cool morning, watching our tomato plants and basil growing, that the world thrashes with such tumult.
Michael Crichton, the screenwriter who mastered the science fiction thriller in Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Congo, State of Fear, sold over 150 million books trying to scare us regarding the perils of our planet growing more interconnected, hot and crowded. In the Lost World he warned,
At a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at al. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion.
Do the ancient words of scriptures still have guidance for our 21st century challenges? Too often the Christian message for our time has been reduced to hoping things being better in heaven. Just hang in there and do the right thing because eternity will be worth it. The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t let me adopt this view, since I’m reminded each time I pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” What are we to do about the earth part of this prayer?
The Lectionary readings this month offer ancient words of hope that I find relevant to our modern challenges. Jesus faced difficult opposition in spreading his message. In the first July reading, John the Baptist, his mentor is wondering if Jesus is really the one and Jesus curses several cities for their inhospitality to his teaching. As I read the next four Gospel lessons for July, it strikes me that they are the antidote to anger, frustration and cynicism with worldly tumult. Turning to the wisdom of creation, Jesus tells parables about a farmer sowing seeds, wheat and weeds growing in the same field, and the potential of a tiny mustard seed. After three weeks of agricultural parables, the final reading for July is a story of 5000 hungry people experiencing communal sharing and an abundance of bread. These readings challenge my cynicism and move me towards hope, even when things are rough out there beyond my comfortable deck. The Gospel lessons remind me that the hard work of farming and gardening produce a harvest, so I can labor in hope.
Readings for July 2011
July 3 – Matthew 11:16-30
A generation unhappy with everything they get from God will be judged.
July 10 - Matthew 13:1-23
The Sower of Seeds
July 17 – Matthew 13:24-30
Wheat and Tares
July 24 – Matt. 13_31-33, 44-52
The parables of the Mustard Seed, Treasure in a Field, Pearl of Great Price.
July 31 – Matt. 14:13-21
Feeding the 5000