Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Parable of the Geraniums

I was out watering my garden this morning and I found a flower on one of my geranium plants.

This is interesting because I originally had two geranium plants, one of them I planted in pretty shallow soil and the other one in deep soil. The first geranium plant bore lots of flowers after about two days. I was overjoyed, but puzzled as to why the other geranium didn't have any. The flowers lasted for another couple of days and then died. This geranium has slowly been dying ever since. Now there are a few green leaves on it but most of them are brown and its stalk is all withered.

The second geranium just sat there for weeks. Its leaves were still green so I knew it was alive but it didn't seem to be thriving. Its leaves were sort of slightly curled up and it was... well... just sitting there.

But today, at least a month later, probably more like two months, it finally has a single flower, and still looks happy and green.

This reminded me in a really concrete way of Jesus' similar parable. And it made me realise the point of that comparison - it's not actually a good thing to do lots of good stuff and look like you're doing really well straight away. If you bury yourself deep in the soil of God's love and His word, then the fruit will come.
But you have to be patient. It won't come straight away, and you might only get one change at a time.

I find this so comforting because it makes me realise how true Jesus saying was "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." I mean seriously - ALL we have to do is revel in God's love? We don't actually have to work changes in those impossible areas ourselves?
I also find it comforting because it shows me that sometimes there might be times in our lives where we feel like we are not bearing much fruit. But that doesn't mean we're "backsliding". A church I used to attend used to tell us that if you aren't moving forward in God, then you're backsliding. You can't just stand still. And I understand what they mean but at the same time that idea can cause lots of anxiety if it's taken wrongly (or presented wrongly).
Sometimes you might feel like you are at a standstill. But if we rest deep in God's love we will never stop bearing fruit.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Paradoxes Are Cool

We approach the truth from many sides. Some may appear to contradict each other - like two waves travelling in opposite directions.
The waves hit, collide, and send up a spike of water that transcends all our approximations and reaches the pinnacle of the truth.
Even if we cannot ourselves ever imagine these high truths, our approximations, our labels, our descriptions, our wrestling with the paradox, all point us towards them and enable us to grasp them just that little bit more with our minds.

Paradoxes lead us further into God's mystery.
That's why they're cool.

Unfortunately what normally happens is the second scenario - our views appear contradictory, so we kill each other. I've used pretty contradictory views but it even happens with paradoxical disputes within monotheism, and even within Christianity.
But I think it's happening less and that's positive.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Aliens Make Crop Circles.

So this is a lame joke I came up with a few years ago. I have no idea whether aliens really do make crop circles. Crop circles are really cool though, there's some crazy ones out there.

The farmers are saying "Whaddya reckon? Aliens?" "Naw, just some kid with a rope and plank..."

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Taking up my cross... what does that even mean?

This morning on the bus I was reading Mark 8:34-36, the bit where Jesus talks about taking up your cross and following Him.
And I'd always thought that this meant that you need to give things up for Jesus. Which is probably true sometimes. But then something struck me.
Immediately preceding this saying, Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, and then rebukes Jesus for telling them He is going to die..
And immediately afterward, Jesus says "for whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

Generally the things preceding and succeding a saying or story are significant in helping us to understand that saying.
Could it be that Jesus, in saying "take up your cross and follow me," is making a point about Peter's rebuke? Peter knew Jesus was the Christ - yet when Jesus started talking about His imminent death, Peter refused to accept it. Was Peter ashamed of Jesus' words? Maybe because Jesus' vision of what it meant to be "the Christ" was so radically different to anything that anyone might logically guess it meant.
Judea at that time was longing for a saviour who would defeat the oppressive Roman forces and free them, giving them back their land and their autonomy. So the idea of a Messiah who would be rejected and die would have been ridiculous. Even more ridiculous, Jesus was saying He was going to come back to life! I can understand why Peter would have been alarmed, appalled, and ashamed at such statements.
But Jesus says "you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man... take up your cross and follow me," and then instructs the disciples not to be ashamed of His words.

So often, we try to get around the sayings of Jesus and make them more palatable, because we are ashamed in this world of what He really says. I do this all the time. The resurrection is one - wouldn't it be far easier to say that it's all just a symbol, that it never literally happened? In a scientific age this is a great temptation for me.
What about Jesus' claim that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life? Postmodernism insists that there is no one truth. Everyone's way is equally valid.
One more - sin, and atonement. The idea that we need saving, to many people, is frankly insulting and arrogant.

And yet these are all things that Jesus tells us are true. We are not to be ashamed of them. Instead, we are to proudly uphold them.
And here is where the cross comes in. Because to put your name to ideas that are mocked and rejected by the world is indeed a cross. Don't forget that as well as death, the cross represents shame. Carrying your cross through the streets, in full view of everyone? You would be incredibly exposed. People would be throwing insults at you, heckling, and judging you for being a lesser person, an outcast. This is exactly what happens to people who lay claim to the words of Jesus.
I recently read an Inside Cover article in the West Australian mocking Kevin Rudd for believing in miracles. I say, good on him. He is not ashamed of our Lord Jesus. He's not ashamed to say he believes His words.

I work in a science centre and this idea is an incredible challenge to me. I believe that God created the world, I believe in miracles, I believe in a physical resurrection of all people who have ever existed at the end of time. Am I willing to stand up and not be ashamed of the teachings of Jesus? I fear that all too often I am ashamed, and this is something I must rectify, because if I want to follow Jesus, I can't be. I have to take up my cross.

God give us all the courage to be proud that we follow Jesus!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Seed

Jesus put another parable before them, saying "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

The other parable that inspired this is "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how."

The gospel is a seed inside of us that grows without us knowing how. It grows quietly, but even though it starts off so small as to be invisible, it becomes large and fruitful within us. But not because we do anything - God makes it grow in us.

There's a great song by Sara Groves which runs "in the hearts of the sons and daughters, this kingdom's coming" which talks about growth happening little by little, as we live our lives, exercise our faith, put our trust in God and allow Him to produce growth in us through the small events in each day.

That's sort of what this doodle is about. And the end result? Gladness!
May that be true for me and you.