Monday, October 26, 2015

Insiders and Outsiders

“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables…” –Mark 4:11

The way of the kingdom is subtle, small, and unpredictable. It grows in hidden and wild ways (Mk. 4). It is mysterious—to the extent that it often can’t be perceived or, at least, understood except by those on “the inside.” It is divinely revealed, so the “insiders’ are not some elite class or gnostic possessors of secret wisdom. The insiders are those who go with Jesus into the inner room of contemplation, those who seek the deeper ways of the kingdom. No one is restricted from coming. But only a few choose to come “inside.”

Those who go inside with Jesus, however, those who push beyond merely hearing the kingdom parables into living the kingdom parables, they are the good soil that bears fruit. They are the lamps on stands bringing illumination. They are harvesters perceiving and urgently reaping the kingdom’s fruitfulness. They are the birds of the air making their nests in the kingdom’s comforting shade.

Those “outside” are welcome to the parables. The parables are vessels of God’s grace revealing to them the good news of the kingdom. And surely many of these "outsiders" come to understand that there is something bigger, that it is something like God’s reign, and that they can be part of it. 

But that’s often the extent, the limit of the revelation. It’s enough for many…for most, perhaps. Too many, though, remain distracted rocky soil. The message never takes root. The lamp’s illumination remains hidden. The kingdom’s crops are passed by with a shrug on the way to more dazzling worldly attractions. The trying heat of the sun is simply endured. For what relief could be found in such a small, scraggly, wild shrub?

And so they stay outside…looking for bigger things.

Monday, October 19, 2015

With Jesus By the Sea

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.”
-Matthew 13:1

There’s something about this picture that is striking. It is the Creator of the universe, the one who made the sea, sitting beside it, perhaps contemplating its beauty as he seeks a moment of silent retreat.

But also, it’s just so ordinary. I have walked out of a house (or hotel) and sat beside the sea. I have sat and pondered the power, majesty, and mystery of the universe and its Lord and Creator, illustrated in the power, majesty, and mystery of the sea. I have retreated to the seaside seeking solitude and silence.

I am in awe of how profound Jesus is, so exalted as the Creator of all—such power, majesty, and mystery embodied in this most holy one. I am in awe that he gathers crowds (usually unsolicited) and takes time to teach them the mysteries of the revelation of God and God’s kingdom, doing so in parables that they can understand and often using images drawn from his own creation.

And I am in awe that he humbled himself to become so like me, contemplating his creation, seeking solitude and silence, himself in awe of power, majesty, and mystery. And so, because he is so exalted and yet so humble, we can sit together beside the sea...even if sometimes the sea is only my soul.

My Friend Thomas

I met Thomas when we ditched school together. We were 16, and my friend Scott and I had planned to skip out after homeroom and take Scott’s ...