Sunday, July 30, 2017


seed, yeast, treasure, and pearl

A man sows seed in a field. It starts small, but grows.

A woman hides yeast in a big batch of flour, but it shows itself: it causes the whole batch to rise.

A man discovers that a field holds a treasure and quickly quietly giddily goes to buy that field and claim the treasure.

Equally foolishly a businessman liquidates his assets to devote all his resources to the acquisition of a single pearl.

Two children lean over a basin and get their hair wet.

Yet somehow all these people with their outrageous gestures of abandonment to joy find themselves fulfilled far beyond the dreams of avarice.

The little bitty seed outgrows all expectations and furnishes the nesting place for birds of all the air.

The little leaven is enough to season ⅔ of a bushel - plenty of bread for everybody. (Is this one of Jesus’ lakeside feasts?)

These two clever fellows with their secret deals - a treasure in a field, a pearl of great price - outmaneuver themselves, right out of the market, for now they have nothing - nothing but the one thing that matters above all else.

Leaving the rest behind, they find that one perfect pearl, that seed of a great tree, that hidden hoard of unreasoned happiness, that overwhelming blessing of bread, that redeems all of life.

The one thing that matters.

For hidden in all these parables is the one true thing that makes all else make sense: the same thing that two little kids are dedicated to today: following Jesus.

That is what the kingdom of heaven means: a way of living that makes sense of life.

And behind it is an unbreakable promise by the maker of all things:

I will never leave you. I will never stop loving you.

In the midst of your worst trials and tribulations, your greatest loves and greatest fears, I will stay by your side.

That is God’s promise to all of us: that now that we have called upon him,
Nothing can separate us from the love of the Eternal One. Nothing is that strong.

And so the stamp is indelible. The watermark is unerasable. The oil stain cannot be washed out.

You are marked as Christ’s own for ever.

July 30, 2017.
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.
Proper 12, Year A.

Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-46

The Parable of the Mustard Seed. (31-32)
The Parable of the Yeast. (33)
The Parable of the treasure hidden in a field. (44)
The Pearl of Great Price (45-46).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

weeds, wheat, and time

Mary of Magdala

There is a mine south and east of here once called the Irish Mag., from the false association of this woman of Galilee with a woman caught in adultery or a woman anointing Jesus' feet with precious oil. She was as desperate as the woman about to be stoned, she was as grateful as the woman preparing Jesus for his Burial.

What we do know about her is her dilemma and distress, her deliverance and dignity restored, her response of love and faithful follower-ship, and her witness to the one who delivered her from demons and who was himself to lead us all from death to life.

She was a witness: one of the last to see him living and the first to see him raised. She was a witness; the messenger to the apostles of the risen Lord, the first to proclaim the good news.

What we know of her helps us sort out the meaning of this strange parable of the wheat and the weeds. The farmer takes a puzzling course. He could have had the workers pull or hoe or poison the weeds once they'd sprouted and been spotted. But instead his patience and wisdom led to something that makes more sense if we realize Jesus was talking about a harvest of souls - and that the time was ripe.

Remember, he said that "the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few." (Matthew 9:37, Luke 10:2) The harvest time is now - for Mary of Magdala. A woman worn down by afflictions, she becomes one of the greatest of disciples.

Magdala is a small ancient town site along the lakeshore of Gennesaret better known in the Bible stories as the Sea of Galilee. On the west side of the lake south of the incoming stream of the Jordan are a series of places well known to pilgrim: Capernaum (where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law) then Tabgha (the multiplication of the fishes), Ginosaur, and Magdala. Inland from the ancient site is a modern Arab/Israeli village, Migdal. Recent excavations show the importance anew of these small ancient villages.

Along the lakeshore where Jesus first began his ministry, proclaiming and healing, he encountered this woman. (Luke 8:2, Mark 16:9) And something extraordinary happened. He encountered her in the midst of her affliction with unconditional love. He never confused her quandary with the person that God loved. And as a result of this personal encounter with Jesus her dignity was restored. She became an icon of hope for all who are broken in heart or spirit or body or mind.

And this freedom, and her devoted discipleship, prepared her for something even more extraordinary. For she was a witness - one of the last to see Jesus living, and then - the first to see him risen. A personal encounter with Jesus that transformed the world. For she, the first witness of the resurrection, was sent by Jesus to proclaim the good news to his apostles, the ones commissioned to take this message to all peoples.

St. Paul's, Tombstone.

July 23, 2017. Seventh Sunday after Pentecost.
Proper 11. Year A. Track 2.
Isaiah 44:6-8.
Psalm 86:11-17.
Romans 8:12-25.
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
The Parable of the Weeds of the Field (the Wheat and the Tares).

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene (July 22)
Judith 9:1,11-14
2 Corinthians 5:14-18
John 20:11-18
Psalm 42:1-7

"Mary Magdalene: Icon of Hope" by Jennifer Ristine, RC. accessed July 22, 2017.

Friday, July 14, 2017

waiting for rain

Ted Ramirez from Tubac has a song about the time of year just past - about waiting for rain. It is a cheerful song, sung in June, waiting for the monsoon. The rains will come - haven’t they always? And all this dry ground will moisten. Rivers will run, green will show among the brown. Mosquitoes will hover; termites take wing. The birds are happy. And there is the smell of creosote after the rain. Hope.

Hope. Scattered seeds. Scientifically and practically, as Joann Lee from San Francisco observes, we place our seeds cautiously in the garden, in neat rows, tilled carefully. Soil prepared, supplements added, nurture required.

It seems almost farcical to suggest a sower throwing arms wide, seed scattering here and there… indiscriminately? We don’t do it it this way -- usually.

Though as we speak a counter-example sits on my mantelpiece: mesquite pods of a rare variety. I’ve been encouraged by the giver to toss them into a wash just as the monsoon starts… And here where some oaks used to grow, cattle have unconsciously spread mesquite pods of a common variety wherever they sense moisture and shade enough to pause in…

Some gardener, huh? Rocks, weeds, thorns - and good soil.

Wherever that might be. Cracks in the pavement. There are towns where I lived once, San Francisco for example, where there seemed to be no green thing for miles, except in parks - just concrete. Before the urban tree movement. And Brooklyn -- you wouldn’t know it, looking at brownstone buildings lined up in closed ranks, but behind and between the stone facades are gardens, green things, and occasionally now a community garden in a vacant lot.

But that is not enough, not what it’s all about. Sure, there are farms, big and small, organic gardeners and agrichemical giants.

The seed that grows between, behind, among, and inside the buildings -- the Word of God -- falls more indiscriminately, apparently. A seed lies dormant in a human soul for years and miles. One day something brings it moisture and nurture, and it grows. May be concerns, bitterness, indifference can stop the process - or can it?

Is grace inexorable? Does it miss us sometimes?

This story seems not to be about gardening. It’s a simpler, stranger story, a challenge to be worked out. Parable itself seems to mean, literally, to throw alongside, to scatter about. Jesus the punster. And sower - for he himself throws out to us this story.

To scatter, broadcast: that’s what we do. For all our niche marketing and careful planning, it’s the seeds of hope that we drop unconsciously or unconcernedly, without an agenda, that may lodge, grow, and lead to fruitful life.

There is a story about an old Scottish minister looking back at the end of his life, over the course of his career, and a question came. Did you ever convert anybody? Did you ever bring the gospel into anyone’s heart? No, I don’t think so -- unless it was that little Davey Livingstone…

David Livingstone, who went on to a life of missionary service in Africa.

Now such things are less fashionable. But the people -- the descendants of the people who heard the Word from such as David Livingstone -- are grateful.

For the missions, indiscriminate as they may have been, left behind some seeds to grow.

Material benefits -- clean water, epidemic diseases eradicated, healthier food, educated children -- but notably all this came from a greater good, that ordered them and made sense of them all: to reconcile our souls to God in Christ.

This is still the mission of Christian service, underlying all our efforts and activities, and to be reaffirmed … as it was this last week by my wife’s relief and development organization, refocusing their efforts in light of the greater mission, for all is done in the name of Christ.

And so those seemingly random efforts have behind them a hope and a promise, that under God’s grace and with his assurance, his word will not return to him empty.

And the rains will come and water the earth.

May it be with us as you have purposed. Amen.

Psalm 65: 9-14
Romans 8:1-11

The Book of Common Prayer. New York: Oxford. 231.

Joann H. Lee, “Living the Word”, The Christian Century, June 21, 2017, 19.

Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Nourishing News, July 2017.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Summer Sunday Readings

Summer Sunday Readings for St. Paul’s, Tombstone.

For your reference here are summer Sunday readings from the Revised Common Lectionary, Episcopal Edition. At St Paul’s Tombstone we are following track two - with the Old Testament reading complementing the themes of the Gospel.

9 July 2017
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 9
Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-15
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

16 July 2017
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 10
Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 65: (1-8), 9-14
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

23 July 2017
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 11
Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 86:11-17
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

30 July 2017
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 12
1 Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 119:129-136
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

6 August 2017
The Transfiguration
Exodus 34:29-35
2 Peter 1:13-21
Luke 9:28-36
Psalm 99 or 99:5-9

13 August 2017
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 14
1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

20 August 2017
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 15
Isaiah 56:1,6-8
Psalm 67
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

27 August 2017
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 16
Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

3 September 2017
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17
Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

10 September 2017
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 18
Ezekiel 33:7-11
Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

17 September 2017
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 19
Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

24 September 2017
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 20
Jonah 3:10-4:11
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

1 October 2017
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 21
Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32
Psalm 25:1-8
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

8 October 2017
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 22
Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:7-14
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

15 October 2017
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 23
Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

22 October 2017
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 24
Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

29 October 2017
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 25
Leviticus 19:1-2,15-18
Psalm 1
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

5 November 2017
All Saints Sunday
Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

12 November 2017
Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 27
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

19 November 2017
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 28
Zephaniah 1:7,12-18
Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

26 November 2017
Last Sunday after Pentecost:
Christ the King
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46
________________ accessed July 4, 2017. JRL+