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.”

Who Am I?

30 Jun

When the men got back to the house that straddled the twin town of Ceserea-Phillipi the crowd that had followed camped out front. They wouldn’t leave, as if they feared their new prophet would disappear. Jesus’ men, tired from the journey, rested on the couches scattered through the rooms. Jesus looked out at the crowd through the open door. The corner of his lip turned up in a mild grin of pleasure at the sight. Absently he asked his men, “Who do they say I am?”

The boys looked at each other not wanting to speak up. Didn’t he know what all the people had been calling him? John spoke up, “They think you’re John the Baptist.” News of the prophet had filtered into all the towns, but nobody was sure what the baptizer looked like. The apostles hesitated to give a definite answer.

Red bearded Judd came up with, “They say you’re Elijah.” He knew Jesus was more than the people realized or guessed. Tom quickly added, “One of the prophets,” as if that would please Jesus. But he wasn’t really sure who Jesus was either. He knew Jesus could cure the sick, rattle off scripture like a priest, and raise the dead. Of course the prophets did the same.

Jesus seemed almost to toy with the ideas they had spouted, but they weren’t good enough, so he asked them again point blank, “Who do you say I am?”

The men dared not answer so they elbowed Pete. He spoke up instantly, as if he’d been enlightened from above. With absolute conviction he answered, “You are Christ, the son of the living God.”

Flesh and Blood

19 Jun

“I can’t handle this anymore,” said Nick. He stroked his white beard absently. “First it was talk of the Father, and I get that. But now he’s promising the Spirit. What kind of a God are we talking about anyway?”

“He’s Mystery,” answered the junior Pharisee. His tone stayed even and firm, as it often did in these theological discussions.

“How are we supposed to understand mystery?” asked Nick, his amber eyes fixed steadily on the youth.

“It’s impossible,” answered John, not looking up. “You know mysteries aren’t meant to be understood. You just accept them.”

“But he keeps saying we have to believe,” Nick protested. “How can I believe something I can’t get a handle on?”

“But we have understood,” said John, a tinge of exasperation in his voice. He looked up at Nick. “That’s why we follow him.”

“I’ve never understood anything,” said Nick shaking his head. “I just love the guy, even though I wasn’t there when he told you I am the living bread come down from heaven.

John leaned over to give Nick’s shoulder a knuckle butt saying, “Don’t you get it? We can understand because he’s one of us.”

“What do you mean?” asked Nick.

“The idea of God, any god is just too distant, too remote,” said John running his hand through his loose curls. “How can anyone love a god who’s so far beyond us?” He was trying to lead Nick into a different way of thinking.

“It’s Jesus I love!” said Nick trying to avoid confusion.

“So do I . . . and we share in the Father and the Spirit,” John rambled on, but could see he was losing Nick again. He stopped to  reach over and take the old man’s hand. Squeezing it hard and said, “He’s flesh and blood. That’s the only thing we poor mortals will ever understand.”

As he loosened his grip John repeated, “Our God is flesh and blood.”


This story published earlier this year is appropriate for Pentecost:

9 Jun

The Week After

He came in. I mean he was just there—the doors locked and all. We couldn’t believe it was him because our minds weren’t functioning. The past days had been a living hell. So we thought he was a ghost. He reached out to embrace us with the usual kiss of peace saying, “Peace be with you”

The ghostly form asked for something to eat maybe to convince us he was material. We almost expected to see the food slide down his gullet. It didn’t. We still had trouble believing it was him—except for the words. He always greeted us with “Peace be with you.”

Too bad Thomas wasn’t around. Unafraid of the Romans in the city streets, he’d gone to market for us. Tom could have told us whether or not this specter with the glow of light emanating from his corpus was really Jesus.

Half afraid, half eager, and in spite of the knots in all our bellies, we gathered close enough to him to feel his warm breath on our faces. One by one, he gave someone’s shoulder a friendly nudge, or took a hand in his so we could feel the wounds of the nails, close-up reminders of his crucifixion. He felt real enough, but we just couldn’t fully recognize him; he was so different from before.

Then he took a deep breath and exhaled filling the room with his very soul. Our minds came clear with it, and then we knew it was him, because he commissioned us for our most important work—to forgive sin.

I Am With You

1 Jun

“I didn’t walk with him like you, you know,” said the new addition to the group. “I didn’t see him heal or hear his words. It’s all hearsay to me.”

“K, So you missed the boat,” said Andy, who’d been the one to introduce her to the others.

“What boat,” retorted the woman. “I’m not a fisherman like you. I bake bread..

“That’s why I called you,” said Andy. “We need bread for out gatherings.”

“You a user, or something?” asked the woman drily. “I thought the fella you’re talking about was a giver.”

Is,” stressed Andrew adding, “Just wait till you meet him. Then you’ll believe.”

“Thought you said he was crucified,” her eyes flashed in mockery.

“But he rose from the dead,” said Andy.

“Yeah, sure,” said the woman, unbelieving.

“He comes and goes,” shrugged Andy as if he too had doubts. He sat her down at the table close to him. He leaned over her to pull out extra table service. She had provided the bread that the rest of the group was passing. It was still warm, and as he passed some of it on, he recognized the hand that reached out. Jesus he wanted to scream, but the rest of the group had already noticed the Master’s presence.

Because the new disciple was looking away when Jesus appeared Andy grabbed her arm for attention. He wanted to introduce her to Jesus. Perhaps then she would believe. “She’s been providing our bread; best baker in Galilee,” he said.

Jesus smiled and took the woman’s hand, pressing it to his lips.

Looking up into his eyes, her doubts about the messiah melted . The Redeemer stood before her, and she knew it.

She wanted to kick herself for having kept too busy baking bread. The crowds who had always come through town in his train were just money to her. She’d never caught their excitement. She was just filling orders for more bread, like the ones Andy kept placing as the Messiah’s following grew.

“Andy said you’ll leave again,” she ventured, worried that she’d lose what she’d just found.

Jesus assured her, “I’ll be with you always until the end of the world.” Then he broke the bread Andy had given him and offered it to her.


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