Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Mind Full of Empty Nets


On the shore of the Sea of Galilee,
which I remember from Capernaum,
He borrowed a boat from Simon.
A little way from the beach, He taught them.
The day I visited was calm,
and it was a pleasant place to sit.

I wonder what it was
that made Him turn His attention to fishing after He taught.
Maybe He saw Simon distracted,
politely letting Him use his boat,
and moving it to where He requested,
but his mind full of his empty nets,
of the day getting away from him,
of the tired disappointment of the night's labor.
Maybe he wondered what his wife would say about there being no fish.
I've got things to do.

Maybe, when Jesus was finished saying eternal things,
He cared that Simon was obsessed with the temporal,
and wanted to help him see.
He didn't rebuke him for inattention,
or shame him for impatience.
He did something in the temporal
that shocked Simon into seeing the eternal.

Let's catch some fish, Simon.
Still polite, Simon obliged Him,
even though he knew his business better, he thought.
And now his nets were breaking;
his boat nearly sinking;
his partners' boat nearly sinking.
In the face of this blessing, he was afraid.
It brought him to his knees,
and in mind of his sins.

"Please leave me -- I'm too much of a sinner to be around You!"
And Jesus, now the center of these working men's attention,
as He had not been before,
said, "Don't be afraid! You'll catch men, now."
And these fishermen,
these entrepreneurs,
these distracted margin-listeners --
left it all and followed Him.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

If You Didn't Put the Pepper in it...

The people are to take some of the blood 
and put it on the doorposts and above the doors of the houses 
in which the animals are to be eaten.
That night the meat is to be roasted, 

and eaten with bitter herbs and with bread made without yeast.  
~Exodus 12:7,8

My brother-in-law introduced me to tea
made from fresh ginger and black pepper.
I was skeptical.
I was not a big ginger fan,
and adding black pepper to it really lowered its appeal to me.
But I felt miserable the day he offered it to me,
and he said how much it soothed his muscles,
lessened his aches, and opened up his airways.
I found it helps me immensely.

My little Silas has been coughing.
He told me his throat hurt,
and he likes "the regular kind of cough better,
the kind that doesn't hurt right here," he said, with his hand on his chest.
I poured him some ginger and black pepper tea.

"Mom... if you didn't put the pepper in it, I would like it," he said.
"I know, honey. But the pepper is part of the medicine of it.
You have to drink it all."
He sat at the table, taking a sip, grimacing,
and measuring the tea level with a ruler.
"The pepper makes my tongue spicy."

Don't we all wish He would not add the pepper?
That we could eat the sweet without the bitter?
As we eat the bitter, though, we must say,
"Praised are you, Adonai our God, 
Ruler of the universe, 
who makes us holy through Your commandments, 
and commands us to eat bitter herbs."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

This Reminds Me of Summer


We walked out of the house this morning,
and my New England-acclimated daughter said,
"This reminds me of summer!"
The sun was shining, the snow banks were receding (a little),
and a phoebe was calling out her name.
We got in the van and drove south.

In a town founded in 1623, we found a cemetery.
(Which was a 'dormitory' to the early church -- I like that.)
The cemetery was in full sunlight, and on a hill.
We parked the car and got out to walk.
Yes, we like to bring our children to graveyards to play.
The children ran, but I walked.
Away from the others, I walked in silence,
looking at the Polish and Italian and Irish surnames on the stones,
and at the words Rest In Peace,
and enjoying the feel of the sun warming my back.

I looked at the rhododendron buds awaiting resurrection,
and up at the bare branches of a deciduous tree with small buds formed,
awaiting resurrection,
and at the snow-covered ground hiding all those dead bones.
I thought about my own grave.

Elisa came and walked with me, and pointed at evergreen trees
someone had planted over a tombstone.
"Don't plant those over my grave," I said,
"and don't put fake flowers by my grave, either."
I told her I wanted them to plant bulbs over my grave.
"Every year they will die back,
but every spring they will bloom,
and you can remember that there is a resurrection."
"That is what I was planning to do!" she said.
And I could not help but look out over all those stones
and think about the men and women who have lived and died
and will live again.

I will join them: uncurling myself in the warmth of the Son,
and stretching out the stiffness of the long winter,
and no longer unadorned and bare of glory.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Who's Wasting Now?


And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 
as He sat at meat, there came a woman 
having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; 
and she brake the box, and poured it on His head. 
And there were some that had indignation within themselves, 
and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? 
For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, 
and have been given to the poor. 
And they murmured against her. 
And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? 
she hath wrought a good work on Me. 
For ye have the poor with you always, 
and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: 
but Me ye have not always. 
She hath done what she could: 
she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying. 
Verily I say unto you, 
Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached 
throughout the whole world, 
this also that she hath done 
shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. 
And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, 
went unto the chief priests, to betray Him unto them. 
And when they heard it, they were glad, 
and promised to give him money. 
And he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.
~Mark 14:3-11

Indignation.
"Why waste such expensive perfume?!
It could have been sold for a year's wages
and the money given to the poor!"
The economic value they placed on worship --
it was of far more value than that.

Here is a woman who, like the widow and her half penny,
gave of her substance.
She gave what cost her to give.
Her worship took tangible and fragrant form.
Spiritual worship poured out in material goods.
And not poured out in a way that could be benefited from physically.
This was no meat sacrificed and then served to all as a feast.
It was just dumped on Him to complete 'waste'.
She didn't even have an IRS form
that would let her claim the loss against her taxes.

The indignant ones were angry that they didn't get to control the largesse.
They didn't get to be the distributors of someone else's generosity.
So they berated her 'wastefulness'.

Is it possible to waste any good thing given to Him?
He notices widows who give half pennies.
He rewards cups of water that cost so little to share.
Alms come up as a memorial to Him.
He eavesdrops on the words of those who love Him,
and has them recorded in a book of remembrance.
He keeps a diary of words of love and worship.
Collects our tears in a bottle.
Counts our hairs.
Keeps track of sparrows who fall, and clothes lilies.
He waits anxiously for the prodigal,
ready to throw a lavish party at the return of the waster.
Killing the fatted calf over him -- to feed the wasted son.
Pouring out His own life to redeem thieves and murderers.
Talk about excess.
A year's wages is nothing to Him.
But He weighs the heart in the gift.
And hers poured it all out on Him.

Judas's response to this?
To sell Jesus for silver.
This woman 'wastes' a year's wages on Him.
Judas sells Him for thirty pieces of silver.
Four months' wages for a skilled laborer.
Who's wasting now?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Day the Kings Shut Their Mouths


Behold, My Servant shall rule well; 
He shall be exalted and extolled, 
and be very high. 
Just as many were astonished at You 
(so much was the disfigurement from man, 
His appearance and His form from the sons of mankind); 
so He sprinkles from many nations; 
the kings shall shut their mouths at Him; 
for they will see that which was not told to them; 
yea, what they had not heard, nor understood.
~Isaiah 52:13-15

It will be at the sight of Him;
at the sprinkling of many nations;
at His rule, and His exaltation.

That at the name of Jesus 
every knee should bow, of things in heaven, 
and things in earth, 
and things under the earth; 
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.
~Philippians 2:10,11

First silence, and then truth from the rulers of the earth.
I am looking forward to it.
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