Lord, we wait for you
and keep to your way.
(adapted from Psalm 37:34a)
The sons of Aaron took fire pans with lit fires, added incense, and then offered strange fire before the Eternal One. God had not commanded that they do this. The fire consumed the brothers. Maurice Harris asks in Leviticus, You Have No Idea, "When is religion like a destructive, consuming, and dangerous fire?"
Baby boomers fueled the growth in American church membership and attendance, but they are dying off. Lovett Weems has termed this the Death Tsunami. He suggests that we focus on what is important:
To talk of survival does not mean that survival is an end in itself. The survival sought is not for an institution and certainly not for institutional forms or entities. Church leadership is a response to God’s love and action in the world revealed most clearly in Jesus Christ. Christian leadership is a channel of God’s grace as it seeks the fulfillment of God’s vision, and such leadership emerges out of the history, beliefs, and traditions of faith communities.
What is the future going to look like? Will leadership emerge? I think about those early Christians, the first hearers of Mark's gospel. What discouragements were they facing? What did the future of the church look like to them?
Their gatherings were as small as mustard seeds. Yet, they did become as great shrubs providing protection.
So, I would like to draw from this parable a parallel--size now does not limit potential.
But, I'm also drawn to the lesson embedded in this passage--that Jesus spoke in parables because his hearers were not ready to learn his meaning. To his disciples, and in private, he explained everything.
Yet, even without understanding, the other hearers became part of the growth of the church. I'm looking back at verses 26-27. The sower of the seed doesn't have to know how the sprouting part works in order for it to work.
When the storm came up, he was asleep.
They asked him, "Don't you care about us?"
I'm reminded of the many laments in the psalms, how often appears the plea, "O Lord, how long?" And I'm reminded of how any of us feel during those really hard times--how we may wonder if the Lord is paying attention to our needs right now.
The disciples don't trust him. Or, they do trust him, and they want him to be quicker about it. In either case, they don't seem to realize that they themselves have any power to improve their situation.
He calls them on this, "Where's your faith?"
Mark says that after he stilled the storm, the disciples were amazed and asked each other "Who is this guy?"
Have they not been paying attention? I need to remember that I know a lot more of the story than they did this early in Jesus' life. And I need to remember to pay attention.
Prayer for Today: O Lord, increase our trust. Increase our attention span to hear what you intend for us to do. And increase our willingness to do it.