The Rock

25 Aug

He had a big mouth. He couldn’t help that he was impulsive, It was in his nature. So when Jesus asked, Who do you say I am? he blurted “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Sometimes he wished he were quiet like his brother. He’d have fewer headaches. He’d trudged behind his leader faithfully up and down mountains, in and out of villages, and followed him down dusty back roads, dry tracks that made him thirsty. Now they were up the mountain again, the one close to Caesarea-Philippi. And a bunch of other disciples were with him, including the women who always tagged along bringing food to keep Jesus from going hungry.

They weren’t privy to all of Christ’s miracles, like when he’d healed Jairus’ little girl. Neither was his brother, although he too was one of the twelve. Now, in front of everyone, Jesus told Simon his impulsive words weren’t his own. It caught his attention. He looked at his brother Andy and shrugged his shoulders because he wasn’t sure what Jesus was trying to tell him.

Then Jesus changed Simon’s name, “You are Peter . . .” He did it in front of everybody, and Simon got worried Jesus was trying to single him out, again. He ran the name through his head, Peter, Petrus, Pete. . . And on this rock I will build my church.”

Pete’s knees shook. He didn’t want to be a leader. He didn’t want to be in charge. He just wanted to be a fisherman, no responsibilities, no dealing with people who grumble, no dissension in the group. Fish don’t talk back. Fish hang together. He couldn’t help but look down with longing at his beloved Sea of Galilee. But with the rest of the disciples around there was no escape.

Jesus wasn’t finished. He added, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaved.” All the disciples understood and began to mill around Peter to kiss his hands.

Tears welled up in Pete’s eyes because the Son of God had singled him out to lead the Church, and all the disciples agreed with Him.

The Canaanite

17 Aug

The close circle of people crowding the home pushed and shoved against the Canaanite woman who had wormed her way into their circle. The woman was a fighter. She pushed back. She didn’t care about their stares. She started to yell over their heads, “Help me.”

How did she find the house? This was supposed to be a secret affair, the young Rabbi having been invited to share their friendship.

“Save my girl,” the woman cried and pushed forward. Her veil slipped revealing hair torn out in wads. Her little girl was a child, but her fists had left bruises all over her mother’s face. Though the mother could handle the taunts, the ripped clothing, the trashed home, she couldn’t take away the terror in her little girl’s eyes or the hopelessness of her condition.

The young preacher had come to be among his own and to get away from the larger crowds. He glanced toward the woman who had fallen to her knees in front of him. He could see that she was a Syrophoenecian. He held back comment. It wouldn’t do to support the pagan who had wormed her way into the exclusive group.

“Please help my daughter; she is possessed,” she begged, her tear stained face raised to him.

The Rabbi didn’t look at her, and the host began to grumble over the intrusion. His honored guest continued to ignore the woman’s pleas even as she grabbed for the hem of his robe and raised her voice again.

The idea of devils had been relegated to a superstition among her kind. Personal experience had changed that view. The mother knew her daughter wasn’t sick in the head or a mental case. There was nothing insane about the violent outbursts and dark verbiage. She had almost lost all hope when none of the local shamans could help her. Then she’d heard of this Jewish rabbi who once sent hundreds of devils into swine. So she left her child with a caretaker and came. The Rabbi was her only hope. If he could send swine over the cliff, he could surely release her daughter from torment. “My daughter,” she said, kissing his feet. “Help my child.”

“Get out of here,” grumbled an angry listener. “Can’t you see he’s ignoring you?”

A burly fellow that smelled of fish nudged his partner, “Make her go away.”

Almost smiling the Rabbi tested the woman who had fire in her eyes, “It isn’t right to give the food of the children to the dogs.”

The crowd sucked in a communal breath at the deprecation, then gave a muted cheer at the healer’s allusion to the children of the house of Israel. Their eyes bored through the woman. They meant for her to slink away. They didn’t know she was crying inside, not because of the rabbi’s remark, but because her pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Covering up her personal damage, she looked into the eyes of Jesus. His face melted with compassion, and she realized his reference to dogs was typically anti-Gentile prejudice. This would be her only chance, and she took it. In almost a whisper she said, “Even the dogs get the crumbs from the master’s table.”

She set her chin and threw her shoulders back. Her voice firm she answered, “Even the dogs get the scraps from their master’s table.”

The Challenge

10 Aug

I saw him come across the water
so simply, so naturally
that I couldn’t help but think
there’s nothing to it.
I knew when I saw him that I could do the same,
but it would be on his terms
and in his time.
So, dumb me, I yelled
“If it’s you, let me come
across the water.”
He answered,

Feed Them Yourselves

7 Aug

Thousands of people had followed Jesus to the open field between the towns. It was getting late, and Peter had asked Jesus about providing food. “Feed them yourselves,” Jesus had said.
Peter stared at him in disbelief. Even the villages surrounding the hillside where Jesus was preaching wouldn’t be able to support this many hungry people. “How will we feed so many?” he asked.
“Have them sit down,” said his Master.
Pete whispered to his partners, “Collect what food you can find among the people. We’ll share.” He began motioning the crowd to sit on the grass in groups. The weary people, children darting between them at play, waited eagerly for Peter to pass the bread.
Dismay wrinkled Peter’s face as he stared down at the sole basket of five loaves and two fish. He was about to reach for a loaf of bread to break it when a hand rested on his arm. Pete looked up at Jesus from his crouched position over the basket.
Jesus bent down and began to bless the food. It was like him to do that. The people bowed their heads to whisper their own grace before meals.
Peter reached out his hand for a loaf, and Jesus broke it and gave him half. He passed the other half to James. In a continued easy motion he passed the rest of the loves and fish to the other apostles and said, “Pass it on.”
The partners pulled off chunks of bread, and handed them to the seated groups saying, “Share.” Like a school of fish in frenzy the happy crowd ripped off piece after piece of bread and fish. The women laughed. The children giggled. The men stuffed their faces. Within an hour the thousands who had no idea where so much bread and fish was coming from calmed down to a crowd ready for spiritual food.
Before Jesus began to teach them he said, “Pass back the leftovers.”
Pete sent the apostles to pick up the baskets women were holding up. Twelve baskets full of food were laid at Jesus feet, and he began to teach.

Matthew 14:13ff


31 Jul

“Why do preachers always tell stories?”
“It’s their way of getting attention, because nobody listens.” Matt didn’t let on that he understood the real reason.
“Yeah, I get it, but last week he talked about farming. This week he’s talking about farming. What the heck does farming have to do with religion, anyway?”
“Like I said, it gets attention. I mean we’re not farmers, right?” Matt tugged on his beard. “Maybe there are some farmers in the crowd.”
“Let’s see, he talked about seeds and how they don’t always fall where they should. Maybe it’s like gambling, like when the dice don’t fall the way they should.”
Matt almost laughed. “You don’t gamble!”
“Nah, I just collect taxes, like you.”
“That was last week’s sermon and you didn’t stay to hear him out.” The post sermon explanation had included Isaiah’s words about folks blinded to the truth. Matt wanted to open his friend’s eyes to it.

“This week’s no different,” grumbled the partner. “Farming again. So what if some weeds come up with the crops. The world’s not perfect.”
“That wasn’t what he was driving at,” said Matt shaking his head. “You never stick around long enough to hear his explanations.”
“He should be up front and talk plain. You know, ‘make it simple stupid’ so I’m not so confused.” He got up to leave.
Matt took a deep breath, held him back with his hand, and explained, “He’s been talking about heaven.”
“I don’t believe in heaven,” said the friend. “I just want a little for myself here and now, or did you forget I’m a tax collector, too?”

“Shhh! Listen; there it is,” said Matt his ears attuned to Christ’s shift in storytelling. The words floated on the wind, words about treasures buried in fields and pearls of great price.
“Now he’s talking my language,” said the friend who sat down again and began to listen intently. He tried to look over the heads of some of the people to get a better view of the preacher. When the story shifted to nets cast into the sea to gather fish, he didn’t flinch. He remembered that among Matt’s friends were fishermen.
Matt watched his friend’s face. He could see that the man’s eyes had become animated. Things were finally making sense to him. But when Jesus mentioned the sorting of the fish, keeping the good and throwing out the bad, Matt worried. Still it seemed his friend was all ears now.
And when Jesus asked, “Do you understand all these things?”
His friend answered, “Yes!”

Links to Sunday Gospel Readings

23 Jul

The link for July 6th is missing from previous story. Here are the links for the last three Sundays:
July 6
July 13
July 20


5 Jul

Dave was an educated man, a local trader on the shores of the sea that provided the fish. He had no time for religion. His business was booming. His best friend Jehu didn’t understand his lack of interest when he dragged him up the slopes by the Sea of Galilee to hear the Rabbi teach. To humor him, he had promised to lunch with him. “I can only stay a half hour. I have an appointment,” he said as he followed his friend.

“It’s worth your while,” answered Jehu sitting down to share some dried fish.

Dave wasn’t paying attention to the voice that drifted on the breeze, but his ears perked at the mention of his home town. “What did he just say about Corozain?” he asked Jehu.

“It wasn’t nice,” answered his friend. “Listen, he’s talking over my head now, that father/son thing.”

“I’ve got to go,” he said to Jehu, munching his fish indifferently.

“You look tired, Dave,” said Jehu. “Stay a little longer.”

David looked around at the quiet simple folk, the ones with no money but all the time in the world. He wished he could be like them once in a while instead of always rushing around to make deals. That’s why he liked Jehu. His friend knew how to relax.

His resolve to leave crumbled under the touch of Jehu’s hand. Indeed he was tired. He didn’t know how much longer he could keep up the pace of running business after business. He was already over fifty.

Jehu pointed up the hill, “He’ll show you a better way.”

Dave, trying to slow down his racing mind cradled his head in his hand to hide his weariness. For once, he opened his ears to listen to the voice on the wind. It called out, “Come to me you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”


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