A Double Portion

If you could have a double portion of anything in the world, what would it be? Fame? Fortune? Vacation time? A new house? A carefree lifestyle? Cheesecake?

In our continuing story of the prophet Elijah and his apprentice Elisha, the moment has come when Elijah is called up to heaven in quite a dramatic way. Elisha has been dreading this moment, as we all do when a loved one is on the verge of leaving us. What was on Elisha’s mind in the moment of this reality?

2 Kings 2 (Contemporary English Version)

Fifty prophets followed Elijah and Elisha from Jericho, then stood at a distance and watched as the two men walked toward the river. When they got there, Elijah took off his coat, then he rolled it up and struck the water with it. At once a path opened up through the river, and the two of them walked across on dry ground.

After they had reached the other side, Elijah said, “Elisha, the Lord will soon take me away. What can I do for you before that happens?”

Elisha answered, “Please give me twice as much of your power as you give the other prophets, so I can be the one who takes your place as their leader.”

It may seem self-centered that Elisha would request a double portion of Elijah’s prophetic power. But it reflects a healthy awareness that Elijah is indeed on the way out, and Elisha will have to put on the mantle of being the prophet for the people. Life goes on, and Elisha is hoping to be as prepared as he can while Elijah is still with him in these final moments.

10 “It won’t be easy,” Elijah answered. “It can happen only if you see me as I am being taken away.”

11 Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking, when suddenly there appeared between them a flaming chariot pulled by fiery horses. Right away, a strong wind took Elijah up into heaven. 12 Elisha saw this and shouted, “Israel’s cavalry and chariots have taken my master away!” After Elijah had gone, Elisha tore his clothes in sorrow.

Now equipped for the task ahead, Elisha demonstrates the true measure of his condition by tearing his clothes in sorrow. But the next day he will get up and do the work of the Lord in Elijah’s name, having been made ready for the task at hand.

I have a friend who lost her husband. On the one-year anniversary of his death, she made some changes in her environment and in her heart. She still grieves, and will always grieve, but she has taken a great step forward in being ready for the work to which she is called. Her example is a beautiful reminder that even in the midst of crushing sorrow, God still has a plan and a purpose for our lives.

God has a plan and a purpose for you, too. Like Elisha, I pray that the sorrow that has caused you to rend your clothes in grief will subside, and that your sense of purpose will take over so that you can move forward with doing the work to which you are called.

And know that you are NEVER alone.

Gone The Sun

Sleepwalking

These are trying times. That may be the understatement of the year. I don’t need to list all the reasons that I write that because you are living it. In my lifetime, nothing has been this hard, divisive, confusing, and in many ways, dangerous. The list of don’t do this, don’t go here, don’t engage in this behavior is endless. In my state, the governor just reduced indoor gatherings from 25 to 10. We are hunkering down for the next tidal wave of infections, which have already started…just in time for winter.

I know of two families who will not be able to share a Thanksgiving dinner together because younger members are not willing to isolate prior to that day. They have decided that going to the bars, gyms, and other social events is something they aren’t willing to give up for two weeks in order to be together safely. Another friend reports that she hasn’t seen her parents in months because they won’t wear masks when they go out and they continue to attend a monthly club dinner where nobody is wearing masks as they sit side by side at large tables.

Like I said, these are trying times. And trying times can bring out the most selfish tendencies that people have. It makes me think that I have been sleepwalking all of my life until 2020 reared its challenging head. Well, I’m woke now.

The lectionary assignment for today is (once again) startling in its accuracy. I had a wonderful chat with a colleague about the power and the relevance of the lectionary selections for this cycle. God is always ON POINT in scripture, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, the lectionary assignments written decades ago keep bringing the living word right into our current situation.

Take a look at Paul’s letter to his church at Thessalonica. If we didn’t know better, we might think he wrote it last night.

1 Thessalonians 5 (The Message)

1-3 I don’t think, friends, that I need to deal with the question of when all this is going to happen. You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would.

About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other—“We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!”—suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman.

Although Paul is referring to the end times, the image of people walking around complacently declaring that “we can take it easy” is an accurate portrait of what’s happening in pandemic ridden post-election America. We’re just tired. We want it all to be over. Our vigilance in many areas of society has slipped, and the numbers are surging.

4-8 But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others.

Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.

I love how Paul encourages us to keep our eyes open and be SMART. We can’t be taken off guard by this. Families are making hard decisions about gathering together. We may have to face the reality that our holiday meals will look much different than the festive tables we took for granted in the past.

But it won’t always be this way, so maybe it’s better to look beyond the immediate. Even in this struggle, we are alive in Christ…and that’s the good news.

9-11 God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him!

So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing .

Paul gives the best advice. Speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope! Make the sacrifice to quarantine so that you can be with your family members. We are all in this together, and together we can ensure that no one is left out. Let’s not sleepwalk through this. As Paul says, be smart!

We’re All in This Together by Michelle Robertson

Avenging Wrong Deeds

A friend has come to me over the last several months seeking help with a sin that she keeps committing. She knows the destruction and pain this sin is causing her and all those around her but she continues to indulge in it over and over again. Every time she is caught she goes through a period of remorse and self-loathing only to turn around a month later and do it again. The pull of the temptation of this sinful behavior is too strong for her to resist. Mindlessly, she forgets all of the pain it brings.

Here is a startling thought about sin. Most of us grew up thinking that God’s reaction to our sin is punishment. Surely in life when we sin and experience the consequences, we are engaging in some form of self-punishment. Our parents punished us when we did bad things. We were punished at school if we broke the rules.

We know there will be hell to pay if we do a particular thing but we do it anyway, consequences be damned. And when we are living through those consequences we feel God’s anger and wrath. Punishment is God’s response to our wrong deeds.

Or is it?

Psalm 99 (Common English Bible)

The Lord rules—
    the nations shake!
    He sits enthroned on the winged heavenly creatures—
    the earth quakes!
The Lord is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them thank your great and awesome name.
    He is holy!

Strong king who loves justice,
    you are the one who established what is fair.
    You worked justice and righteousness in Jacob.
Magnify the Lord, our God!
    Bow low at his footstool!
    He is holy!
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel too among those who called on his name.
They cried out to the Lord, and he himself answered them—
    he spoke to them from a pillar of cloud.
They kept the laws and the rules God gave to them.


Lord our God, you answered them.
    To them you were a God who forgives
    but also the one who avenged their wrong deeds.

Wait, what? God forgives and avenges wrong deeds?

What does it mean to avenge? To avenge is to step out from behind someone and take up their cause on their behalf. Avenging is an action of inflicting harm on something that caused harm to someone else. So when God is avenging our wrong deeds, his action is against the behavior, not aimed toward us. Thus the punishment we feel is not an indication that he doesn’t love us anymore because we have sinned. Indeed the exact opposite is true. He loves us so much he is angry at anything that separates us from that love…especially our wrong deeds.

Magnify the Lord our God!
    Bow low at his holy mountain
    because the Lord our God is holy!

Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He is the ultimate avenger who will fight against everything that gets between you and him…especially your sin.

Magnify the Lord by Michelle Robertson

Timeless

When you think of something that is timeless, what comes to mind? In art, you might recall pieces like the Mona Lisa or the Statue of David. In music, surely Beethoven’s Fifth and Bizet’s Carmen pop up. In cars it would have to be the Ford Model T or a 1960s era Corvette. In Rock and Roll it would be Stairway to Heaven or anything by Queen. (Argue with me!)

But when it comes to the Psalms there is only ONE. Heads and tails, the 23rd Psalm stands above the rest. Because of its inclusion in most funeral liturgies, it may be the most read aloud scripture of all time. At least in this pastor’s experience it certainly is the one scripture I have read aloud the most and for good reason: it is absolutely beautiful. It teaches us about the nature of God, it includes lyrical phrases, it proclaim’s God’s majesty, and it speaks to the heart of every pilgrim wanderer. It’s timeless!

Psalm 23 (New King James Version)

 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

I will always remember having an epiphany during a church matriarch’s funeral. I was preparing to read the 23rd Psalm as a soloist was singing. When my eyes hit the phrase “valley of the SHADOW of death” I realized that God was reminding us that death is just a mere shadow. When the light of Christ hits your life you don’t have to fear what lurks in the shadows any more. His light brings life.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

If you’ve had a rough week, meditate on these words. You will dwell in the house of the Lord FOREVER. Surely that balances out the aggravations of inflammatory politics, the constant threat of this pandemic, the uncertainty of our economy, all of our personal struggles, and the upcoming elections. ALL of these things will pass away and God assures us that the days of our lives will be filled with goodness and mercy.

Thanks be to God!

Valley of Shadows by Kathy Schumacher

Worries

Last week was filled with worries for all of us. Covid numbers are back on the rise, families are dealing with remote learning struggles, we experienced the debacle of the Presidential debate, many of us are worried over the elections…and to top it all off our President, First Lady, and key leaders in our government have tested positive for corona virus. Can 2020 get any worse? Have we all somehow stepped into the twilight zone?

When the world as we know it feels like it is crashing at our feet, it is always good and helpful to do two things: pray and turn to scripture. Amazingly (yet not surprisingly in the way the Holy Spirit works) the lectionary passage for today speaks directly into this unspeakable time. With the wisdom of the ages, God’s holy word written over 2,000 years ago offers exactly the right advice for today.

Rejoice.

When the diagnosis comes, rejoice. When death draws near, rejoice. When the sting of rejection is so hard you can’t breathe, rejoice. When divorce is requested, rejoice. When the world seems to be going straight to hell as you watch from your sofa, rejoice.

Who in their right mind would rejoice in this season? The people of God. You see, rejoicing casts out worry. Rejoicing opens up prayer. Rejoicing is the foundation for supplication to a Heavenly Father who is ready and able to hear your requests.

Rejoicing brings PEACE.

Philippians 4 (New Revised Standard)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The news this week will likely not be any better. In fact, it will probably be worse. But the God of peace is right here, right in the middle of it, right by our side. Paul didn’t say to rejoice when the news is good. He said to rejoice ALWAYS. Do not worry about anything.

So hang on to the good, the true, the honorable, the just, the pure, and the things that are pleasing to God. Set aside all of your worries and think about these things. Keep following Jesus, reading his word, praying for our nation, and focus on things worthy of praise.

Think about those things, and only those things, and the peace of God will be with you. His peace surpasses all understanding. The world can’t give us any peace, but the Lord is always near.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Again I will say, REJOICE!

The Peace of God by Mary Watts

Top Ten

Some people consider the Ten Commandments to be an outdated model for lawful living. Some people would be wrong. When Jesus said that there was a “greatest commandment” he was in no way trying to say that the rest no longer applied. Indeed, he remarked that the commandments to love God and neighbors were the foundation for all the other commandments:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22 New International Version)

Yet we somehow overlook teaching and learning all ten. We have removed them from our courthouses as though the mandate of separation of church and state is a good reason to deny the fact that our judicial system was built on the commandments. So today we will dive into them again.

As you read through these, use them as a mirror. Do they reflect your life? Are you living out each one with your words, actions, thoughts, and deeds?

Exodus 20 (New International Version)

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

I use a “ten finger way” of teaching the commandments to children. It is an easy way for kids to remember all ten by holding up the corresponding number of fingers and making an association with it. For example, if you hold up three fingers on one hand it looks like a W. The third commandment tells us to “watch your words.” You get the idea.

It got a little tricky when I landed on the 7th commandment on adultery. That one is challenging to teach to five-year-olds! Suddenly I realized that to make a seven with your fingers, you have five on one hand and two on the other. AH HA! I explained that the two separated fingers were two people who were married to each other, and the five on the other hand were all the other pretty people WHO THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO DATE. Problem solved.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Scripture records that when the first people received the Ten Commandments they trembled with fear. How much better off would society be if we had the same respect for God’s law today?

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

Moses assured them that they had nothing to fear. God’s law is given as a safety net that was delivered to save us and keep us from sinning.

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Even in this, we are reminded of God’s saving grace and his activity in our deliverance. Thanks be to God!

Nothing to Fear by Michelle Robertson

Equal Pay

A man in my church passed away earlier this year. He was gifted, funny, and had a lovely personality. He also had a son who is lost from the world. Drugs and alcohol have controlled his son’s life for years, yet the father wrote his son’s name on a prayer request card every Sunday. He never gave up hope that his son would be saved. Knowing the full measure of blessing that comes from a relationship with God, the father prayed earnestly for his son to receive this fullness for himself even after decades of estrangement. It is never too late to come home.

In our passage today we see a group of vineyard workers who are in the middle of a labor dispute with the foreman. Some worked a long, hard day in the blazing sun for their wages. Others were hired at noon, and still others came in an hour before quittin’ time. Yet they all received the same wage. Unfair! The workers protested.

Matthew 20  (The Message)

1-2 “God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.

3-5 “Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.

5-6 “He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’

“They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“He told them to go to work in his vineyard.

“When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’

9-12 “Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’

This is something the man in my church understood. If his son were to give his life to Christ tomorrow, he would receive the same wage as the father who spent his ninety-plus years following Jesus. It’s never too late to receive equal pay. That’s how generous God is and the reason why we should never stop hoping and praying for the unrepentant to turn their lives toward God.

13-15 “He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’

Is there someone in your life that you’ve almost given up on? Are you praying for a friend or family member to find Christ? Don’t give up. The reward is great. Even those who offer a deathbed confession are eligible to come into the Kingdom at full pay.

16 “Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.”

This last sentence stands as a warning. If you’ve been “earning your keep“ all your life and think there are categories of people you won’t have to suffer in heaven, think again. All those people you assume won’t get in because of their sin will likely be seated right next to you at the heavenly banquet. God decides to give to those whom he decides to give. He owns the vineyard and determines what is fair. His measure of fairness is weighed in grams of grace, mercy, and unconditional love. Better get ready now. And by the way, they might not be expecting to see you, either.

Somewhere Over by Joe McGraw

Good News!

Can you remember a time when you had good news to share? What did you do? When I found out I was accepted into college, I ran next door to tell my best friend. When I discovered I was pregnant, I immediately called my parents and my in-laws. When I was appointed to my current church, I called both daughters to share the happy news.

When you have good news, you move heaven and earth to share it with the ones you love. You just can’t wait! It burns in your heart until you get to that person to share it.

In our passage today, Paul is discussing the good news of Christ’s salvation for all. This wasn’t just good news, it was strange news. Imagine the Jews and Gentiles in the crowd, hearing for the first time that there is a faith that is open to all and a way of salvation that doesn’t care who you are. You don’t have to be born into it. You don’t have to prove your lineage, complete a check-list of good deeds, or jump through hoops.

You just have to ask.

Romans 10 (Contemporary English Version)

11 The Scriptures say that no one who has faith will be disappointed, 12 no matter if that person is a Jew or a Gentile. There is only one Lord, and he is generous to everyone who asks for his help. 13 All who call out to the Lord will be saved.

All who call on the Lord will be saved. This was a concept that radically changed the world. This opened heaven up to all people of all nations and all generations. There is only ONE Lord. Everyone gets to come in.

But wait…there’s a catch.

14 How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? 15 And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord?

YOU are the catch. In this wonderful offering of eternal life for all, there has to be something that prepares the way, and that is you. How can people hear if nobody tells them? How can they know about Jesus if nobody explains to them the wonderful good news of the resurrection? And how can you tell without being sent?

Jesus’ invitation to all of us today is to go and tell. Under the authority of the Holy Spirit, we are all being sent with a loving word of kindness into the world that needs to know about Jesus. We are offered an opportunity to share the best news someone will ever hear.

Who do you know that needs to hear this good news? Who is struggling for lack of hope and peace? Where is God nudging you to have that conversation with someone you care about?

The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news.

How beautiful when humble hearts give
the fruit of pure lives
so that others may live.
How beautiful is the body of Christ.


How beautiful the feet that bring
the sound of good news
and the love of the King.
How beautiful is the body of Christ. (How Beautiful by Anne Wilson)

Go, and be beautiful to someone today. May it burn in your heart until you tell it.

How Beautiful!

I’m So Mad I Could…

Let’s play a fun “finish-the-sentence” game! Finish this with your favorite response: I’m so mad I could….

Spit Nails.

Punch someone in the throat.

Scream.

Snatch you bald. (OK, that’s a southern one…)

I began a five-mile run with my partner yesterday with one or more of these sentences. My aggravation was a familiar one. I had been without internet for five days after spending the entire first day getting no satisfaction from the 1-800-WEDON’TCARE internet provider.

I finally got an appointment five days later and when they showed up, the problem was just as I had predicted. The surveyors who surveyed the lot next door had driven a spike through my line. Which I knew and had tried to explain to the agent I spoke to after an HOUR of working through the automated call system. An agent who was reading from a script. So even though I knew the problem, I still had to “unplug, then replug the modem after waiting five minutes” at least three times in order to satisfy her. Only to find out that she doesn’t actually make the appointments…you have to wait for the local dispatcher to call and make one with you. Three days later. For five days out. Oy vey!

So as I was venting about this to my partner, I realized that my feelings of frustration and anger were expressing themselves by verbalizing aggression. All of my chosen idioms connected my displeasure with a physical act.

It is so easy for anger to take hold of your heart. And what takes hold of your heart can easily come out in your actions.

So here is your challenge for today. Read this beautiful Psalm and get IT into your heart.

Let’s pause for a moment…what is in your heart right now? Are you aggravated? Hopeless? In despair? Wanting to give up? Feeling mad about everything? Dreading remote school starting again? Ready for this stupid pandemic to be over?

If you leave those things in your heart all day, no good will come of it.

Psalm 145 (Common English Bible)

    “The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
    very patient, and full of faithful love.
    The Lord is good to everyone and everything;
    God’s compassion extends to all his handiwork!”

The Lord is patient and merciful. Think about it! He is putting up with ALL of our nonsense, and still he is full of faithful love. Amazing. And by his own hand, our desires are satisfied. He cares for all of his creation so much he even died on the cross for it. Can you imagine a love like that? How can we stay mad?

Listen, anger is a normal thing. It’s all right to be angry when something goes wrong. But it is never good to stay angry. That only hurts your own heart.

The Lord supports all who fall down,
    straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
    and you give them their food right on time,
16     opening your hand
    and satisfying the desire of every living thing.


17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
    faithful in all his deeds.
18 The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
    to all who call out to him sincerely.
19 God shows favor to those who honor him,
    listening to their cries for help and saving them
.

This Psalm reminds us that we are God’s hands and feet in the world and we are invited to show the kindness and thoughtfulness that marks us as God-followers. It is OUR job to support all who fall down and are bent low. I don’t know about you, but when I’m mad at the internet company, I don’t have any kindness in me for anyone. Forgive me, Lord. Take away my selfishness so that I might be of use to you!

How can you reflect God’s compassion and patience today? Who needs your saving touch? Where can you extend mercy instead of frustration? God listens to his people’s cries for help….it’s up to us to listen with him. Come Lord, and empty out our hearts so that we might be filled with faithful love.

His Faithful Love Endures Forever by Michelle Robertson


The Smallest Seed

We are supposed to be having Vacation Bible School right now at my church, but of course the pandemic has changed that. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I have always had the role of storyteller at VBS, and the creative fun that ensues with sweaty, wiggly kids is one of the best parts of being a pastor.

Today’s parable took me back to a time when I was working with two off-the-wall pastors at VBS. We shared the story time, and I suggested we create a “growing plant” to use for this parable. You make it by rolling folded sheets of newspaper into a tight roll, and then cut slits from the top of the roll about half way down through all but the outer sheet. Then you tape around the base to secure it. When you reach inside and pull out the very center sheet, it grows into a large tree-like thing. If you use enough paper, it can be over six feet tall.

So I prepared several of these to use with each group, and the three of us took turns telling parts of the story.

Well, if you’ve ever been to VBS, you know that toward the end of the week and by the end of the day, the participants get punchy. So do the pastors. So at our last session, as I was pulling the paper out and making the tree grow, the narrating pastor decided to change the story and described how the mustard tree attacked the farmer. On cue, the other pastor grabbed the tree and pretended it was attacking him. His academy award-winning performance included the tree pushing him down as he wrestled with it, causing him to roll off the steps of the chancel and down the center aisle.

Well, that’s one way to tell the story! The kids LOST it. I still laugh at the memory of it!

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

The applications here are endless.

With a tiny grain of hope, life is renewed.

With the smallest seed of faith, peace is restored.

With just a little perseverance, a door is unlocked and you are set free.

With one man’s actions on a cross two thousand years ago, an entire world was saved.

With one word gently spoken, a lashing out of anger is prevented.

With one small act of kindness, a day is made.

With one selfless move, an accident is prevented.

With one smile, a stranger decides to hang on for another day.

With one quick phone call, a lonely person is comforted.

The question for us today is, where is God calling you to be that one small thing? What little effort on your part could turn things around for someone else?

You are the mustard seed. Go and plant peace, hope, and love in someone’s heart. You can make all the difference in someone’s day today.

From Small Seeds by Barbara Hudson