The glory of God: context

TransfigMatthew 17:1–9  1 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  2 And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.  4 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  6 When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.  7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  8 And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.  9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Continue reading

Keeping up

The kingdom of heaven is like…. There are lots of parables that begin with those words.  Maybe we can do a thought experiment – a kind of fill-in-the-blank thing. Keep your answers silent within your own thoughts. And since no one is listening, you can be completely honest with your answer. For you…. the kingdom of heaven is like……. What? (No hurry, I’ll wait….) Continue reading

Summer Isn’t Over

Guide2summer

Day 1: Choose to act mercifully.
Day 2: Share what you have with those in need.
Day 3: Seek out someone you can help.
Day 4: Choose loving words and actions.
Day 5: Let no one in your day feel ignored.
Day 6: Visit, call, or send a card to someone sick.
Day 7: Pick a bad habit and let it go.
Day 8: Pray for those who have died.
Day 9: Tell someone today’s Gospel message.
Day 10: Say something to someone feeling hopeless.
Day 11: Go to confession; ask forgiveness of your sins.
Day 12: Pick an “enemy” and pray for them.
Day 13: Say to someone, “I forgive you” and mean it.
Day 14: Say thank you to God and be joyful.
Day 15: Pray for one particular person.
Day 16: Do something extra nice for Mom.
Day 17: Speak out against injustice.
Day 18: Donate clothing to a shelter.
Day 19: Donate food to a food pantry.
Day 20: Extend a loving touch to heal a hurt.
Day 21: Do something unexpected and nice for Dad.
Day 22: Offer an act of kindness to someone suffering or
afraid.
Day 23: Teach the Gospel by example.
Day 24: Be an instrument of peace .
Day 25: Be an instrument of pardon.
Day 26: Volunteer.
Day 27: Ask for forgiveness from someone.
Day 28: Find someone who needs a kind word.
Day 29: Share something with a friend.
Day 30: Write a thank you note.
Day 31: Say a prayer of gratitude to God for the last 30 days

The Net Cast Widely

The Net Cast Widely. The net pictured here is a large dragnet, usually about six feet deep and up to several hundred feet wide, positioned in the lake by boats and requiring several men to operate (hence the plurals of v. 48). The picture is realistic, portraying an ordinary event with no surprising twists: The net brings in “every kind” of both good and bad fish, which are then sorted, the good being kept and the bad thrown out. Whatever the original meaning of the parable, Matthew’s own ecclesiastical application already appears in the telling of the parable itself. The bad fish are called “rotten” (sapra), inappropriate to fish that have just been caught, but used four times previously in Matthew’s description of bad “fruit” (works) presented by Christians, where it is appropriate (7:17-18; 12:33 twice). The fishers “sit” for the sorting, as will the Son of Man at the end (19:28; 25:31). Continue reading

Treasure and Pearls: two parables

Two Parables. Matthew apparently intends the parable of the treasure to be interpreted together with the parable of the pearl, which immediately follows. The two parables do have common features: (I) In each case only a brief vignette of a crucial situation is given, without enough details to evaluate them as realistic stories. The interpreter should, therefore, be wary of filling in the gaps from pious imagination, but concentrate on what the parable does, in fact, portray. (2) The primary common feature is surely central to the meaning of each: The protagonist goes and sells everything for the sake of the one thing. This is the action of both the plowman and the merchant. This movement of the story as a whole is to be compared with the kingdom of God, for the kingdom is “like” neither the “treasure” of v. 44 nor the “merchant” of v. 45, but in each case somehow like the story as a whole. In each case, the protagonist acts with the single-minded response of the “pure in heart.” From the story in Mark 10:17-31, Matthew and his community had long known of the kingdom’s demand of “all,” and of one who had failed (cf. esp. Mark 10:21, where selling everything and giving it to the poor is connected with true “treasure”). Continue reading

Treasure and Pearls

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.

Hidden Treasure. Buried treasure is the stuff of popular stories in every age and while out “pirates” no longer sail the Seven Seas we seem content with stories of lottery winners. Given Israel’s location at the crossroads of major powers to the north and east and to the south (Egypt) there is a long history of wars and rumors of war playing out upon the promised land.  “Buried treasure” was a realistic possibility. Continue reading

Treasure, Pearls, and Other Parables

fishing net

Matthew 13:44-52 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. 48 When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. 49 Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. 51 “Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Continue reading

Peas, Pigweed, and Prayer

pigweedBack in the day when I owned a home in the Catoctin hills of Northern Virginia, one summer I decided to plant a garden. I knew nothing about the endeavor, but I did check a book out of the library. I decided to try only three things: tomatoes, yellow squash and peas. It wasn’t going to be a large project, but I have to admit I had an inner vision of this garden, rows in prefect, soil turned up just so, and weed free – all due to my meticulous care and fastidiousness in proper vegetable garden maintenance. My neighbor Bill Leigh, came over one day. He explained the difference between peas and this other thing in my garden which he called pigweed. There was difference that he could see and that I could pretend to see. Of course I wanted to weed the whole thing right then and there. Bill said it was too late to do that as I would just uproot my entire crop of peas. Continue reading

What is it you believe?

There are many different scenes and settings in which this basic scenario can play out. Barbara Taylor Brown tells of a woman in her congregation who left church, her mind and attention already turned to many things. She did not notice a lost-looking man on the sidewalk staring up at the cross on the steeple. She excused herself and started to walk on her way when the man called to her, and, pointing to the doors of the church, asked, “What is it that you believe in there?” She started to answer and then was unsure of what to say, or how to say it, or if she should say it. After a long uncomfortable silence, the man said, “Sorry to have bothered you” and walked away. Continue reading

Harvest parables: mustard seed and yeast

mustard plantsThe Mustard Seed and Yeast. There is much debate over the meaning of these two short parables. Some Christians believe that the imagery of the parables is meant to portray the presence of evil within professing Christendom. This is due primarily to an understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven as a “mystery” encompassing Christendom, understood as organized Christianity. Christendom as a whole contains evil elements mixed with the good, so both parables are usually viewed as picturing that evil. The birds nesting in the mustard tree are unbelievers. It is also pointed out that yeast is often a symbol of evil (Exod 12:15, 19; Matt 16:6, 11–12; 1 Cor 5:6–8; Gal 5:9; but see Lev 7:13–14; 23:17) and asserted that the parable of the yeast portrays the growth of evil within Christendom. This view of the parables is often held in conscious opposition to a view which understands the images of the growth of the Kingdom in the two parables as indicating the ultimate conversion of the world to Christianity before Christ returns. Continue reading