A Limb Rests on the Roof

Last Thursday morning I noticed a blue tarp covering a hole over the kitchen and a limb resting on the roof of the garage at the ranch style domicile at the end of our extended one block long street.  Most of the houses on our street are circa 1950, “stick built,” that is, without usual rafters.   The large forked limb fell from well up on a mature oak tree which stands nearby. There is also a lot of debris scattered on the ground.

Sunday Becky and I were talking with a couple of neighbors.  One couple had first heard and seen the limb break the previous Sunday.  It came crashing down taking more limbs with it during a rain Wednesday evening. Jeff, who lives next door to the owner has been in communication with her in Connecticut. 

As I understand it, a couple of years a woman living in California bought the house sight unseen intending to live in her new purchase.  She also intended to rent out a small mother-in-law house in the back yard.  However, when she arrived in person, she discovered that she could not rent out the small house.  Furthermore, the larger house needed extensive refurbishing.  Her plans not working out, she decided to rent out the main house after getting some major rehabbing done.  After the latest folks moved out, she had it interior repainted.  Another neighbor, Marie, told me that it’s beautiful inside. In the meantime, the woman in question moved out east.  Jeff said he suggested having the tree taken down.  That must have been too much, and she cut off communication.

For now, a lease sign stands in the yard and a large oak limb rests on the garage roof beside the blue tarp covered hole above the kitchen.   All is quiet, though we do wonder.

Pentecost Wheat Harvest Festival

The wheat was ripening last weekend when Becky and I traveled in Illinois.  I imagine our former neighbors from when we lived east of Collinsville are thinking of getting their combines in working order once again.

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost, originally a festival of joy and thanksgiving for the wheat harvest.  Pentecost came fifty days after Passover and was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals in Judaism. The reading from Acts 2, will include a listing of the nations represented in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples with the sound of wind and tongues like fire enabling them to be heard in a multiplicity of languages.

This was a fulfillment of OT promises that God would gather his scattered people from the four the winds back to Jerusalem.  Thus, on Pentecost there were people from all directions.  From east of the Roman Empire were Parthians, Medes and Elamites, closer in were others from Mesopotamia and Judea.  From the north in the regions of Asia Minor (Turkey) were people from Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, also Phrygia and Pamphylia.  From the south individuals from the large Jewish population centers of Alexandria, Egypt and from Cyrene in Libya.  Moving west individuals had arrived from the Rome.  Completing the picture, island dwellers from Crete and those from the desert regions of Arabia.

  Easterners and Westerners were gathered in Jerusalem, when the meaning of the wheat harvest day of joy and thanksgiving was changed to the beginning of the world-wide harvest of people still going on today as the seed of the Gospel is planted, sprouts, grows and ripens in the hearts of those who hear and respond in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Choosing the Twelve Disciples

Choosing the Twelve Disciples

We were studying Mark 3, in our Coffee and Conversation group this morning.  We should also add “Doughnuts” since who brings goodies the next week is usually the first order of business.  A young man who is going to the seminary this Fall came to class.  John, one of the retired lawyer members, said, “Just so you are aware, this is a rough and tumble group.”

Rough and tumble is what Jesus faced, becoming more and more of a celebrity.  People came from all directions.  Mark reports, “To keep the crowd from crushing him he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him.  He healed so many that all who had diseases rushed up to him.”  Even the unclean spirits were rushing to him, falling down before him.  They were the only ones who acknowledged that he was the Son of God.  But Jesus didn’t want their acclamation and he told them to keep their mouths shut.

To get away he went into the hills and summoned to himself those he wanted to be his group of Twelve.  Mark reports “He made the Twelve to be with Him and to be sent out to preach and have authority to drive out demons.”  “Made” in the preceding sentence has the sense of Genesis 1:1, “He made the heavens and the earth.”

But who did he choose?  There was Simon whom he nicknamed “Rocky.” Rocky shattered after Jesus was arrested but gave a rock-solid message on Pentecost Day. He also called two brothers, James and John, whom he nicknamed “Thunderbolts.”  Andrew, Peter’s brother and Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew the hated and mistrusted tax collector, Thomas who later had his doubts about the resurrection, James, Thaddaeus, Simon the radical revolutionary and Judas, from Kerioth who would betray Jesus. Hardly a utopian group.

Incidentally, by this time the Pharisees, a legalistic lay group who thought they could hasten the kingdom of God via rigorous adherence to rules and regulations.  In other words, legislate morality according to their own view.  They gathered with some backers of the ethics – challenged king Herod to destroy and ruin Jesus.  Of course, they were plotting to kill the very one they were expecting to come and save the day.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

The trees are quiet.  We are waiting for a line of storms to move up I-44 by about 7 p.m.  Then with the wind they will come alive shaking, weaving, and waving.  Once the storms pass the trees will return to quietude once again.

In John’s vision in Rev. 22 a grove of the Tree of Life, makes a park area between the river and the street in the restored Garden of Eden.  The grove is a sort of fruit of the month club continually producing twelve kinds of fruit. The curse placed on Adam and Eve for eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil has been removed.  Christ took that curse upon himself, replacing the curse with God’s grace and blessing. 

The leaves have healing powers, not only for medical purposes, but the ability to heal the relationships and the waring nature of the nations.

This Tree of Life is none other than Jesus Christ himself.   A sentence from the Orthodox vespers service for Easter sums it up, “By your cross, you did destroy the curse of the tree.  By your burial you did slay the dominion of death. By your rising, you did enlighten humanity. O One who brings blessings, Christ our God, to you be glory.”

A Hungarian hymn tells us:

There in God’s garden stands the Tree of Wisdom, whose leaves hold forth the healing of the nations.  See how its branches reach to us in welcome; hear what the voice says, “Come to me, you weary!  Give me your sickness; give me your sorrow; I will give blessing.”

A River Runs Through It

Decades ago, long before sunrise, I rode with my father -in-law Walt and my brother-in-law Mike Blank along endlessly winding Missouri roads to southwestern Missouri for some trout fishing.  I didn’t fish but watched the trout swimming about in the crystal – clear water of the Current River not being lured by the lures cast in front of them.  What was amazing, what I had never seen before, was that the water flowed as a full-fledged river from a spring fed pool out of a solid rock wall.

That is nothing compared to the river of the water of life the angel showed John in his vision in Revelation 22.  The water of life flowed crystal clear from the throne of God and of the Lamb, who is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It was part of the new heaven and new earth.   The fulfillment of the promise in Isaiah, Peter and Revelation, “Look, I am making everything new.”

In baptism we were placed into the current of the river of God’s mercy, grace and life and salvation which flows through our life every day, enriching our life like the silt carried by flood waters enriches the land. The water of life in baptism and the water of life in the river is the same living water of which Jesus spoke in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well.  That water is the Holy Spirit- empowered message of Jesus Christ.  Jesus told the woman, “Anyone who drinks of this water that I will give him will never thirst again.  The water I give is like a flowing spring bubbling up to everlasting life.”  It emerges from the spring of the baptism font as a full-fledged river of God’s endless flood of grace.

In this case, it’s good to live in a flood plain, without levees, dams or dikes to hinder its life-giving flow.

Jesus Saw Their Faith

We are studying the Gospel of Mark on Friday mornings.  We are only as far as 3:6 when the Pharisees and Herodians left the synagogue where Jesus healed a man’s deformed hand on the Sabbath and held a meeting on how best to destroy this guy Jesus.  But what is clear already in Mark, like love and marriage in the song, faith and action go together Brazil and the Amazon.

When Jesus called the man with the withered hand to the front he responded.   There in front of everyone who could see his deformity Jesus said, “Stretch out your hand.”  Now the man had to risk that if he did and nothing happened, he would be humiliated, but if he did take the risk, trusting that Jesus could heal his useless hand he would be healed.  In trust, shaky as it may have been, he stretched out his hand and it was restored without a further word from Jesus.

We see it in the earlier scene of some men carrying a paralyzed friend up the narrow stairs on the outside of a house, because the crowd was blocking the door.  They tore a hole in the thatched roof, lowered the man in front of Jesus.  Mark reports, “Jesus saw their faith.”  Jesus forgave the man’s sins right in front of the theological scholars.  When they objected to this ungodly, Godly behavior on Jesus part, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”  The question that remained in the air for a minute was, “Dare I trust that I am no longer paralyzed and risk trying to get up?”  But he responded by putting his faith into action.

Faith in action is a faith that can be seen.