Pentecost 4, June 17, 2018

Title:Pentecost 4, June 17, 2018

 Pentecost 4, June 17, 2018 (full size gallery)


We had 41 in church with some special guests – Clarence and Betty’s daughter is here for an extended visit. Amy Turner, our original Godly Play teacher was here on the way back to Florida. Karen Richardson provided uplifting guitar music at the prelude and during communion. We have selections from her music and more videos from June 17.

The day was increasingly warm with a mixture of sun and clouds. It was also Father’s day. Catherine read a poem at the announcements. Coming up this week is the first "Nature Hike" in Portobago Bay.

After a year’s worth of work and planning the exterior sign came back to St. Peter’s filling in the blank space in the front. Rence Rupp of Fredericksburg did the work which turned out beautifully. He will be at St. Peter’s on July 1 to celebrate the installation.

We also celebrated Becky’s 17th wedding anniversary and Tucker’s 15th birthday.

The sermon was about the two parables in Mark -parable of the seed and mustard seed. We need to embrace the Kingdom of God now and become something larger than myself. "I’m glad to live no longer to myself, but for Jesus, who died and was resurrected, not just for us, but for the whole world…"So this Kingdom of God that Jesus talks about, that grows from something as small as a mustard seed, is a kingdom in which the king and the people in it make shelter in it for all people and all creatures. In God’s kingdom, there are no borders. No bird is turned away. All are welcome to nest in its shade.

Today’s readings are filled images of growth and newness. From the cedars of Ezekiel to the palm tree of the psalm, the flourishing of human beings is part of all creation’s fruitfulness.

Ezekiel in the Old Testament gives the Israelites hope that one day God will restore their strength. Paul reminds his Corinthian communities that our eternal dwelling is not found here on earth but is with the Lord. In the gospel, Jesus uses two parables to describe how God’s dynamic presence—the kingdom—grows in our lives.

Some background for Ezekiel. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered the city of Jerusalem in 597 BCE and forced thousands of Jews to relocate in Babylon. Ezekiel was probably one of these refugees. (Ironically, June 20 is World Refugee Day) Like his fellow prophet, Jeremiah, Ezekiel did not encourage the Israelites to hope for a speedy and victorious end to the exile. Both prophets foresaw a time of suffering and mourning as God worked to cleanse the people of their idolatry and hardheartedness.

Ezekiel was a priest who received his call to prophesy while in exile (1:1-3). His priestly experience comes through in many of his messages that deal with the loss of the temple and the departure of God’s glory from the inner court (chaps. 8–10, 40–48).

More than any other prophet, Ezekiel was called to transmit God’s messages through enacted symbolism. Despite his “gloom and doom,” Ezekiel’s visions are balanced by a firm reliance in God’s sovereignty. The holy God who disciplines severely will also restore the people and renew their worship. God’s judgment will not be retribution so much as cleansing, and Ezekiel relies on God’s future work in bringing salvation.

In today’s reading, we hear this note of hope. Chapter 17 begins with a “riddle” that describes Israel as a tall cedar that has been broken off by a great eagle (Nebuchadnezzar). Verses 22-24 redirect the people’s vision to God’s purposes for Israel. While the people hoped for political restoration and restored power, God explains that Israel’s role in the world is one of spiritual blessing, not political influence. God alone will accomplish Israel’s true destiny.

The Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14 also extrols God’s providence. This thanksgiving for the righteous rule of God seems originally to have been composed for individual use but was adapted for communal use on the sabbath. The Lord is to be praised at times of sacrifice (v. 2), both morning and evening. In verses 12-13, the psalmist repeats the theme of Psalm 1: God watches over the righteous and makes them “flourish.” The righteous will have a long and happy life, the Hebrew ideal (v. 14).

The Epistle is from 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17  which  raises the issue about the second coming. At first Christians believed that the Lord’s second coming was imminent (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). With the passage of time, questions were raised about the fate of those Christians who had already died (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). In a metaphor mixed between images of inhabiting a dwelling and putting on a garment, Paul develops further thoughts about the resurrected body from the teachings of 1 Corinthians 15:35-54.

Paul suggests that the believer is not “unclothed, but…further clothed” in the spiritual body. Though they are now not yet “with the Lord” in the full sense, they are still always in Christ even when “away from the Lord.” They “walk by faith, not by sight,” that is, not yet on the basis of an objectively verifiable Lord.

Paul then turns the Corinthians’ attention to the conduct of their earthly life, urging them to make it their aim to please the Lord in the knowledge that their reward at the final judgment depends not upon faith alone, but also upon their deeds. Paul sees no inconsistency between justification by faith and judgment on the basis of deeds for justification calls for obedience and right behavior. Gospel

In Mark’s Gospel in chapter 4, he uses parables as examples of Jesus teaching. The two parables of the kingdom in today’s reading both concern God’s presence in our world. Both emphasize the process of growth and the contrast between beginning and end.

In the first parable, the parable of the seed,which is not found in any other Gospel, it appears that the sower is a bit careless with his harvest. The seeds are scattered, but the sower has no idea how they are growing or what is making them grow, but when the time comes, when the grain is ripe, the sower turns into the harvester, reaping the grain. While a literal interpretation would presume that God, the sower, has no idea how any of us are growing or why, most of us assume that God has a more active interest in our lives. Yet God does allow us to grow on this earth, interacting with this world, and does not pull us out of danger or harm, or shield us from mistakes. But the kingdom or reign of God is built and created out of all of us. We do not know how each of us will grow, but we know we grow based on our experiences here on earth, and grow beyond our earthly experience. How we grow, and grow together, helps determine how and when we will be harvested, gathered together with God

The parable of the mustard seed contrasts the smallness of the seed, proverbially although not literally the smallest of all, with its ability, when grown, to provide shelter. The image of “the greatest of all shrubs” is drawn from the symbol of the world-tree of life (see today’s first reading).

Jesus’ initial ministry will lead to the inclusion of all nations. The contrast between small and secret beginnings and unexpected and triumphant endings in both parables also applies both to Jesus’ own earthly career and to the growth of the Church. Finally, the point is made that only faith in Christ makes possible genuine insight into the nature of the kingdom.

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