7 Oct

Leasing a property has its drawbacks. You never know if renters will pay up. I know, because I’d rented out my vineyard to a new vintner who, after the crush, didn’t pay up. I took it to court and won.
So the story that the young rabbi was telling rang true, except for its scary outcome. I know it’s just a parable and teaching stories like that need a little melodrama. You know, for the priests and elders who were hanging around. They looked interested and almost agreeable at first, until the rabbi added the part about the son whom the tenant had killed.
That got to me. I have a son, and the possibility of losing him to unscrupulous renters turned my stomach. Maybe I should sell out! Even if the rabbi just meant to make a point, it could happen. People can be evil.
I look up to see the priests nudge each other and whisper. They obviously nursed a similar thought. They got fidgety, as if the rabbi’s words were getting under their skin. I’d joined the group of listeners late and one of the rabbi’s disciples filled me in. Darkly he quipped he’s after the priests. So I listened hard when the rabbi asked the priests directly, “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants?”
Of course, the priests gave him the only possible outcome. Then the rabbi seemed to change the subject. He asked “Haven’t you read the scripture . . .?” as if they didn’t understand scripture at all. I sure don’t, especially not what he meant by the stone rejected by the builders. I mean I’m not a priest or an engineer, just a farmer.
The priests, teeth on edge, obviously knew what he was driving at. There was fire in their eyes and the muscles in their necks strained hard. It looked like they wanted to kill him. But the folks who had gathered to hear the story prevented any action.


29 Sep

Being a Pharisee has its benefits. I could join Jesus when he sat in the temple among the priests and elders. After all, I was one of them. This time Jesus had come to the temple explain scripture to eager listeners. The Pharisees and elders scrambled to check up on his teaching. They never let up, always questioning his intentions. It pleased me that Jesus could beat them at their game.
And so they asked him, “By what authority do you do these things?”
Jesus mentioned the work of John the Baptist, asking if it was from heaven or men. The priests got angry because an answer either way would nail their bad intentions. To end their dilemma, Jesus asked them to judge a case. It was about a couple of brothers. The father had asked for help. One said he would, the other said he was too busy. In the end the busy brother felt bad and decided to do the work anyway.
The priests and elders were as stumped as me over the first brother who said he would help but did nothing. The answer about who fulfilled the father’s request was too obvious. The story didn’t connect to what Jesus had been teaching earlier. But the elders and priests looked annoyed, fumbling with their scrolls.
I waited for Jesus to explain the meaning of the story. It wasn’t intended for the simple folk standing around. He’d baited the priests. I worried because he was telling them they were like the do nothing brother. What’s worse, with his voice betraying controlled anger Jesus said, “The prostitutes and tax collectors will enter the kingdom of God before you . . . because when John came, you didn’t believe.

A Day’s Wage

22 Sep

A Day’s Wage
The kid stuffing himself on grapes at the edge of the vineyard waved ‘Hi’ to his Dad’s friend who was picking.
The man stopped his work and asked, “Where’s Ollie?”
“He’s still asleep. Worked late last night,” said the boy.
“Sleeping at three o’clock?” The boy shrugged.
“Well run to get him. The boss needs the rest of the grapes picked before six. They’re overripe.”
The boy ran off to tell his father, who managed to douse water in his face and race to the square. A couple of other men were joined him to wait for the owner of the vineyard who came by at five. “Why aren’t you working?” the owner asked.
“Nobody hired us,” said Ollie, not willing to say he’d slept in.
“Well, get to the field. My grapes need to go to the crushers right now.”
Ollie worked double hard loading the grapes into the press the last hour of the day. He was splattered so purple his boy, who had come to check on him, laughed out loud. Before Ollie could say, What are you laughing at? the vine-dresser sounded the end of shift.
Ollie took his son by the hand and led him to the pay station. He wanted his boy to know that even an hour of work can pay off. He managed to be first in line. When he opened his leather wallet for the money, the owner dropped a fistful of coins in into it. Ollie’s eyes grew wide. He knew he had received a full day’s wage. He looked up at the owner, wonder on his face and thinking, did he forget I only worked an hour.
The owner just nodded his head to the right for him to get out of line. On the way home, his boy asked a weird question, “Is that what heaven is like?”
The father, a lump in his throat, answered, “I guess so.” But he wasn’t referring to the generous amount of money. Somehow he understood the eternal reward is the same for everyone no matter when they found God.


15 Sep

“Follow me,” said the frantic young Pharisee. “He’s in court.”
“What do you mean, ‘in court’?”
“I’ll explain later. Maybe you can stop the madness.”
It was the middle of the night. Nicodemus didn’t want to get involved with some late night case among his confreres, especially with the Sabbath so close. But John was a friend because he was unafraid of the leaders. It bolstered his lack of courage, so he wrapped his shawl around his head and followed the apostle toward the temple precincts.
They were too late. The case had been turned over to the Romans. By the time the two men picked up mother Mary, dawn had broken and they were forced to shove their way through nosy crowds that had accumulated around the Praetorium. The pulsing mob didn’t give Nick enough room to move. Mary tried to steady his unstable old legs, and he finally rested against a pillar. He took a moment to recall Jesus’ words at their first meeting that had initiated him into truth. Christ was learned as he was, and it was refreshing how he had talked about being born again and about the prophets, but his mind was too tired. John and Mary started to move again. He pushed off the street post and followed. He wasn’t paying attention to the crowds ahead. He just put one foot in front of the other trusting John.
“What’s going on?” he stopped to ask John between his huffing and puffing.
“They’re taking him to Golgotha,” said John. He didn’t mince his words, “They want to crucify him.”
Nick stopped dead in his tracks, “Crucify him? Why?”
“It’s a long story,” answered John. Mary reached out her hand and just said with a wan smile, “Let’s follow him.”
Nick understood the words as indicating his continuing journey to faith. He smiled back remembering Jesus’ words to him about eternal life, something a few of his fellow priests didn’t believe in. But he believed!
When they broke through the crowd, they found themselves on the hill. Mary leaned on John whose face had paled at the preparations of the three criminals. But he isn’t a criminal, thought Nick. He’s a teacher, a healer, a lover. . .
And as the soldier raised the crucifix up and Christ’s body slumped in agony, Nick finally understood what Jesus had tried to tell him when he had said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” He was really saying ‘look at me . . and live’ And Nick, tears in his eyes, looked up at the Savior of the world.

Not Interested

7 Sep

“I’m not Interested.”
“But you’re such a spiritual soul.”
“Didn’t get that way from prayer group gossip. “Prayer’s a private thing.”
“Yeah, I know . . . close the door and all that. But there’s strength in numbers. Maybe the girls can help.” The neighbor knew Miriam had been worried about her sick husband.
“I don’t need any help.” Miriam scrubbed the clothes on the washboard harder, avoiding Anna.
“We all need a little support. I can get the girls to come over. They can cook and clean so you can tend to Joe.”
Miriam wiped her arm across her sweaty forehead. She could use a little help, stubborn as she was. “I only need God to answer my prayer,” she said turning back to her work.
Anna had already told the ladies Miriam would never join the prayer group. Still, she was certain their combined prayers could help Joe get better. “How ‘bout I put you on the prayer tree?”
Miriam shrugged. “Guess there’s no harm in that,” she said thinking ‘as long as I don’t have to join up.’
Excited voices echoed through the outer corridor as Elizabeth and Martha spilled into the sunlit courtyard. “We’ve come to pray with you Miriam,” said Elizabeth.
“Yes,” Martha chimed in. “The teacher wants us to pray together.”
Miriam had heard about the new Rabbi she avoided because he was a groupie like them. “So my prayer isn’t good enough?” she said, a touch of cynicism in her voice.
Anna knew Miriam felt invaded. She understood the value of silent private prayer as well as anyone and didn’t want to force group prayer on her. But before she could stop them, the other two women had grabbed Miriam’s wet hands, pulled her into their circle, and started to pray for Joe.

The’ll Kill Me

2 Sep

Pete felt no pleasure in his new role. Jesus had, so to speak, given him “the Keyes”. The bystanders who had kissed his hands slowly dispersed while he was still trying to take it all in. He wondered, almost out loud, why would Jesus put him in such a position?
A few of the boys started to come up to him. He was sitting there on the rock that the tree’s roots had grown around. They provided a footrest that Jimmy almost stumbled over. He caught himself, smiling sheepishly, and said, “This is why he picked you. I’m too much of a klutz to be a leader.”
Tom and Judd came up to promise obedience and gave him a firm clasp of congratulations. Judas just tossed the community money bag at his feet with a dark grumble “It’s all yours,” and walked away. That took him apart. Why would Jesus turn leadership over to him? The boys already had a leader. Sure they all liked him. He even took charge of little issues that arose among them. The apostles didn’t always agree when Jesus was off praying or sleeping in his boat on crossings. His mood got glum until he looked up at Jesus. But him a leader?
Jesus was leaning against the tree next to him. As if he had been drained after calling him “the Rock” Jesus, eyes closed, just breathed in deep and slow. Pete, shaking off his glum mood asked, “You alright?” He was truly worried about his leader, so he pulled him aside, away from the others.
Jesus opened his eyes and said slow and even, “They’re out to get me.”
“They?” asked Peter.
“The Elders: Scribes, Pharisees, you know, the priests.” For a moment he stared at Pete, then as if confronting an internal devil he said, “I have to go to Jerusalem.”
“You don’t have to go.”
“They’ll kill me.”
He’s going crazy! Why would he go if they were going to kill him. Pete pushed a loose hair out of his eyes. I gotta do something. He grabbed Jesus’ arm firmly to pull him out of his dark reverie. “God forbid,” he said, unsettled by the prediction. “This won’t be.”
A fire flared in Jesus’ eyes. He turned on Peter screaming, “Get behind me Satan!!!”
In fright Peter backed against the tree shaking as Jesus continued, “If you want to come after me . . . take up your cross!”
The remaining words became a blur in his mind. Suddenly he realized that Jesus had made him leader because he wasn’t going to be around much longer. And Pete crumbled onto the rock and cradled his head in his hands.

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.


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