Monday, July 07, 2008

Freezing, Drying and Mediating

So, the preserving is going well. Saturday evening I put 1 quart of the blackberries into a cobbler and the rest into cobbler-sized freezer bags, so those are taken care of. Yesterday, we sliced up a dehydrator-sized batch of peaches and got them going, and then put over half of the rest into freezer bags and the rest into holding into the fridge, so those are going. I also got the purple-hulled peas shelled and into the freezer, so all that's good. Still haven't touched the corn--except for the ear the dog ate, cob and all, so we'll have to get working on that tonight. At least it sounds productive, and I can feel virtuous at least for a little while.

On the knitting front, well that's pretty boring right now. Nothing that I'm really excited about, although I do seem to be churning out quite a lot of prayer wraps of various sorts right now, so that's good. I wish someone at this new church would get interested in being a part of that so it isn't so much just my thing.

Speaking of the new church, what in the world do you do with people who are apparently ready to go to blows over window blinds, of all things? Obviously, I need to find out more of what's behind all that.

So, I need to get rolling. I want to take communion out to my home-bound people this week. Apparently that hasn't been offered to them for a long time so I guess I'll just offer it and see if they want it or not. If so, I'd like to see that it gets to them regularly.

One last thing. Here's my sermon for yesterday. I didn't get it posted earlier. Yesterday turned out much more interesting than anyone expected since we lost power right in the middle of service! Good thing it's a small building and I have a lot of experience talking really, really loudly.

Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30
July 6, 2008
Cashion United Methodist Church

Scripture Reference:
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
11:16 "But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
11:17 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.'
11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon';
11:19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
11:25 At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;
11:26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
11:28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Can I Help You With That?

This is one of those great scripture passages that you here over and over in and around churches. It’s been referenced in songs, stories and sermons since Christians started being Christians. And, like last week’s passage, sometimes we’ve heard it so many times that we don’t always really hear what Jesus is saying.
He starts out by comparing the people around him to some bored, whiny kids hanging out in the center of town. They don’t know what they want, just that whatever anyone suggests is not it. They are dissatisfied and restless, and they have no idea what to do about it. I think we hear some of Jesus’ frustration with those who ‘just don’t get it’ coming through. In fact, he says it’s not that they can’t get it, but that they just don’t want to that’s the real problem. They want to know God, but only on their terms.
John the Baptist, he says, came like the stereotypical Old Testament prophet of the stories—wild hair, unshaven, bizarre clothing—ranting and raving about the status quo, preaching hellfire and brimstone. All the things they had been led to expect of a prophet. But instead of leading a reformation or rebellion, John ended up beheaded. Not what they had expected from a prophet at all.
Then Jesus came. Much more of a people person. Healing, preaching, going out to dinner, leading disciples around the country, interpreting the scriptures in a new and intriguing way. Very much like what they would expect from a revered teacher and religious leader. Of course, there was that troublesome tendency of his to go out to dinner with the wrong people. And he did tend to be a little hard on the moral and religious people. Yes, what he said sounded good, sometimes, but there were some real concerns that this Jesus guy had some real behavior issues that they just couldn’t get around. Not the right sort of person at all.
And so, Jesus says, what exactly do you want? What they wanted, of course, was a tame God. A God who would fit into their boundaries and live by the rules they had all grown up with and gotten used to. A God who they were comfortable with. A God who would behave predictably. And certainly not one who would challenge not just the authorities, because who doesn’t grouse about the government sometimes, but each of them, right where they live.
The problem, of course, is that God cannot be tamed and put into a box. God cannot be predicted or controlled by us. God is not our pet, but our Lord. And this God, as embodied by Jesus, many of them could not and would not accept.
But then Jesus goes on, and does something even more upsetting. He issues an open invitation to anyone who wishes to be his disciple!
Now, that doesn’t sound like such a big deal to us, but it really was. You see, in many ways, Jesus acted just like the roaming, teaching rabbis who were so common back then. And those rabbis would, as they gained some notice, begin to acquire disciples who studied both the teacher and their teachings and would eventually go out on their own and spread those same teachings. Now this was actually a highly prized position, and there were lots of applicants to be disciples of a rabbi—the more important the rabbi, the more applicants. And these rabbis were pretty picky about who they would choose to follow them. You had to pass at least two levels of schooling, graduating at the top of your class at each level to be allowed to continue. Then, if you managed that, the rabbi would submit you to grueling questioning to see if you were gifted, talented and determined enough to qualify as his student. So, rabbi’s disciples were, quite literally, the best of the best of the best.
Of course, Jesus had already upset that applecart by recruiting not gifted students, but the washouts—fishermen, tax collectors, guys hanging out on street corners—to follow him. But now, he goes even further and invites anyone who wishes to come follow his way.
That’s what the part about the yoke means. Students of a given rabbi were said to wear that rabbi’s yoke, a reference to that thing oxen wore to plow the fields. A disciple of a rabbi, one who wore his yoke, strove to learn and understand everything their rabbi had to say. Ultimately, of course, these students wanted to be the rabbi. Exactly like the rabbi. Now most of these teachings were different interpretations about how best to please God by following his instructions. How far exactly could you walk on the Sabbath? How many times did you have to forgive someone? How much grain to leave in the fields for gleaners?
Now this may sound trivial to us, but these people were honestly and sincerely working very hard to try and please God. And they wanted so much to get it right, they were so concerned about getting it wrong, that they made it very, very hard. So hard that sometimes following the teachings did indeed become a burden.
Then Jesus comes along. He doesn’t take the cream of the crop for his disciples. And he goes on, right here he to upset all the rules and invite everyone to follow him, no questions asked. And then he goes even farther. His yoke, he says, isn’t a heavy burden. It’s light. Following Jesus is a path of joy. Because it’s not about following the rules. It’s not about agonizing about always doing the correct thing. Jesus is calling people away from religion as a set of rules to follow and to a new place. A place of being freed and transformed from the inside out by a creating and nurturing God. A place with only two rules—love God and love your neighbor. This is the yoke that our rabbi call us to bear. And it is in thanksgiving and joy that we embrace this gift today as we participate in the sacrament of holy communion.
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.