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The Weekly Devotionals
Returning to the subject of empire, Jesus uses the parable of the net to show us how God's kingdom will remove evil power structures and people from power. The net here symbolizes imperial aggression, and of course the fish represent people.
Closely related to the last parable, this story again teaches the value of the kingdom in the personal realm -- a pearl, worthy of full sacrifice. The repetition underscores the importance of the message. Jesus wants YOU to PERSONALLY know the value of the kingdom.
What is the value of your relationship with Jesus? How do you protect it, nurture it, and care for it? How do you prioritize it?
Jesus moves away from the communal struggle with empire to the personal relationship of individual citizenship in the kingdom of God. Here, the kingdom is like a treasure -- something to be searched for, sacrificed for, and cherished.
Yeast was considered to be corrupting and contaminating. It is interesting here to see that it is a woman who yields it. Though it is now invisible, small, and even secretive, Jesus promises a time in which the kingdom of God will subvert the cultural norms of Empire: hierarchy, patriarchy, social injustice.
The parable of the mustard seed has a meaningful interpretation: that even the slightest bit of faith can yield fruitful results. And this is true, and good. Even the smallest bit of faith in Jesus can bring forth his peace, love, and grace.
This parable seems to explain why evil coincides on earth with good -- Jesus is waiting for the harvest. It even seems as if this is for the protection of the wheat -- "for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest."
In this parable, Jesus explains that there are 4 types of responses to his message, and 3/4s of those responses will reject him for various reasons. The enemy plays a role, as do hardened hearts. Jesus compares the seeds of the Kingdom of God with seeds that the enemy sows.
Read through this beginning of the Sermon on the Mount once more. Which of these things seems most difficult or alien to you? Which seems like second nature? Which seems like an impossibility?
Think about each one for a moment, and consider it. Have you experienced this in your life? Have you receieved it or given it? Have you blessed a mourner or been a mourner who is blessed? Have you given and received mercy?
The Beatitudes represent the beginning of Jesus's teachings, but also the first description of what the Kingdom of God actually looks like -- a community comprised of justice, shared resources, and transformed social relationships (also from my Study Bible, page 1754). Jesus often spoke of heaven (the place with many rooms that he is preparing for us) but he also often announced that the kingdom of heaven has arrived.
Let's talk about demoniacs. The scripture here makes a distinction between epileptics and demoniacs, which indicates that perhaps the population back then did recognize one from the other. My handy study Bible says that the demon possession represents the invasive rule of empire -- political, military and economic control. In healing demoniacs, Jesus "counters the sinful effects of the imperial system, and anticipates the promised time [of] God's empire..." (The New Interpreter's Study Bible, pg. 1754).
The Personal Essays
We always take for granted the things we have in abundance. It’s why we have reminders not to let the water run while we brush our teeth, or to eat the food on our plates. Rest assured that people in places where water is scarce or eating more than once a day is not guaranteed do not need these reminders.
I confess to being stuck in the ho-hum of life. Things are not easy, and while most of my problems are privileged, they weigh heavily on me (along with the guilt of having privilege problems). I am dealing with things like thousands of dollars of emergency home repairs just when we thought we were getting ahead. I am dealing with a slowdown in my business that is not only a little scary, but also leaves me bored. I am waiting for a miracle that hasn’t shown up yet (specifically, how I’m going to pay for school). And my parents are aging quickly, and their care is getting more intricate, more daily, and yes, more expensive.
I had to get a new Bible for seminary. I wasn’t happy — I love my beautiful, leather bound parallel Bible, with the NIV on one side of every page, The Message on the other. It’s an ongoing conversation with God, that book, and its margins are filled with the occasional argument, question, exclamation point. This new Bible, called The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, felt hard, cold, heavy when I first got it — certainly not something the Holy Spirit might embody. But the truth is, I’m loving the new dimension that both this new Bible, and seminary, are bringing to my reading.
I was expecting to meet Jesus in places I didn't expect -- I just didn't expect it to be so soon. I’d boldly read the words to Nicole Nordeman’s song Dear Me when I closed the Sunday gathering … “And you can not imagine all the places you’ll see Jesus… But you’ll find him everywhere you thought He wasn't supposed to go… ”
I’d had the song on repeat for days now and it was messing with me in ways that only God can do…
I’m not new to rustling the patriarchal feathers of Biblical tradition, but that doesn’t make it less uncomfortable. Still, sometimes it feels like you’re about to drop an atom bomb on your own community, like you’re about to say something that will blow the top off some age-old beliefs held dear.
That’s sort of what this feels like, what I’m about to write here. It felt so dangerous that I had to do a Google search to see if I was the first one to ever think it. Turns out, I’m not. But that doesn’t make the realization any less seismic for me. But we’ll get to that in a moment. Let me first, and finally, get to the point:
Father Abraham was a pimp, and Sarah was his chattel.
There is a mystical juiciness we can access whenever we enter the realm of creation stories. These stories ask us to contemplate our origins; they speculate about the creative powers that originated us, our world our cosmos. And, of course, in spinning these tales, the authors themselves engage in a creative act. The human imagination that creates a story about creation enters into that self-same creative mystery!
Tips For Progressive Christians
There's something to be said for listening to other voices, especially if your goal is to be a peacemaker (not a peace keeper -- there's a difference) in this world. Stepping outside of our echo chambers is important so we can understand perspectives different from our own. The learning out there beyond our boundaries can be invaluable, and we are more likely to initiate the change we want to see in the world when we travel beyond our nice, safe personal borders.
The idea of meekness in western culture has taken on an unfortunate connotation of weakness. There is hardly even a virtue that we admire that remotely mimics the virtue of meekness. Far from being weak, a meek person is the person who endures undesirable circumstances, with the understanding that it's all part of a bigger plan.
I’ll be honest. It’s been a little bit of a sucky week. It’s been one of those weeks when you might start to think that maybe you were the kind of person who has an electric current that runs through your body and breaks things. That’s what my husband says about me, anyway.
We all have our own special perch on the privilege ladder; as a white, straight, cis-gendered American-born woman, I’m pretty much one step down from the top of the heap. So while I experience some marginalization, I still have a lot of privilege, and with that comes a lot of responsibility and a lot of power. How can I use that power for good, especially when I want to be an ally to those who are more marginalized than me, like my black, Muslim, or gay friends?
We've all experienced it -- the social media flurry of combative statements, over-generalizations, and heated arguments. Probably, you've already been unfriended by a person or two. Social justice is important to you, but Jesus told us that peacemakers are blessed -- so how do we stand up for what for what we believe, and still be the peacemaker that Jesus calls blessed?
Normally, I like to highlight small organizations that have been started by women who have the guts to do the most amazing things. I prefer to do that rather than large, national organizations, but in this case, I have personal experience with the good work these folks are doing.
During the spring and summer of 1994, members of the Hutu majority government carried out a genocidal mass slaughter of the Tutsi in Rwanda. During the 100-day period from April 7th to mid-July, 1994, an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed, decimating as much as 70% of the Tutsi population. Additionally, 30% of the Pygmy Batwa were killed. The genocide and widespread slaughter of Rwandans ended when the Tutsi-backed and heavily armed Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led by Paul Kagame took control of the country. An estimated 2,000,000 Rwandans, mostly Hutus, were displaced and became refugees.
This week's opportunity is a little different -- it's not a non-profit, but rather a business. I'm all for supporting small, woman-owned businesses, especially ones that have a mission and higher purpose to serve the world. Chidimma Ozor and Sseko Designs fit the bill. Here's what Chidimma (aka "The Type A Hippie") has to say:
There are over 60 million missing girls in India.
They were either aborted before birth, killed once born, died of neglect just because they were girls, trafficked, or given away in child marriage. This abuse stems from a systemic, centuries-old disregard of the value of women. Rescue Pink works to change this through rescue, prevention, and awareness.
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