Finding Our Way Again!

Recently we explored the story of Finding Nemo with some children.  It is a fun story with a lot of strong themes.  Dory is a fish with short-term memory loss who is confused and experiences the same event several times in a few minutes as she forgets she has already been there.  She forgets and gets confused but sometimes something important sticks in her mind and she remembers at a crucial moment.  She is accepting and caring and seems to trust everyone because she doesn’t remember that of which she ought to be afraid.  Dory is a simple, loveable character that fills her world with fun, love and colour.

Alongside Dory is Marlin, the father of Nemo.  He is a nervous single father who is overprotective of his young son and always worries about him and fusses over him.  It is this over-fussing that leads to Nemo doing something stupid and becoming lost on his first day of school.  Marlin embarrasses Nemo and Nemo determines to prove himself capable and unafraid.  He swims out beyond the rock shelf, ‘the Drop’ and is caught by scuba divers.  So begins the adventure of Marlin searching for Nemo, who ends up in an aquarium in a Sydney dentist.  The movie is a wonderful story of a father desperately searching for his son and in the process overcoming his own inhibitions, fears and uncertainties.  He depends on a range of unusual creatures of the sea and there is a sense of working together, with each making its unique contribution.

As I shared the story with the children and went on to speak about how God loves us and seeks us when we lose our way, I wondered if there weren’t images and thoughts in this about the nature of God.  Is God like Marlin in more ways than we care to recognise?  Is God sometimes uncertain of what to do with or for us?  Is God fearful for us or desperate in loving us and wanting the very best for us and what/who we can be?  Does God desperately seek and search us out, constantly coming to us to liberate, free, nurture, lead, guide…?  I wonder…

The point of the sessions with the children was to think about being lost and how it is that we lose our way.  What does it feel like to be lost?  I remembered several times when I lost my way and the feeling of disorientation often leading to desperation and, when young, fear.  I remember driving in a new area where roads circled around more than I realised.  I took a wrong turn and became disorientated and kept driving in circles.  I was running late and the more desperate I became the worse it got.  Finally I had to stop take a deep breath, find a cross street and then look much more carefully at the street directory (it was before smart phones and Siri!).  I finally, carefully found my way out and to my destination.

Sometimes losing my way is a quick process and the realisation is swift and sure – I am lost!  At other times it becomes  a growing awareness over time.  I gradually realise that I am heading in a wrong direction and will be completely lost if I continue!  The response at these points is interesting: Do I continue on in case a landmark presents itself or the situation resolves?  Or, do I stop, turn back to the last point I knew was right and start from there?  There are times I continue on for a bit more hoping all might be well but knowing deep down I am only making things worse.  Sometimes I turn around the moment I realise I am lost and find my way back whilst I can still remember.

I think that this is a metaphor for life.  There are points in life where I lose my way.  I lose my sense of direction or of what is important.  I get caught up in all the stimulating messages and advertising or ideas that flood my senses daily.  It is easy to be distracted by things on the internet, news of the day, the latest fad…  There are myriad distractions to lead me away from what is truly important to me and feeds and nourishes my spirit and being.  It is easy to become distracted by busy-ness or demands or the urge to get along (ambition?) or to have more money to do more things that are perceived to be all-important or necessary.  As I look around there are many who seem lost as well.  Too many people seem to be ambling along in all directions and no direction.  Others are driving forward in a particular direction that seems destined to end in disappointment or a sense of loss.  It is so easy to lose our way and when we do to drift along unsure what to do or how to get back on track.  Some people aren’t even sure where the track is or what it looks like.  Others aren’t sure they want that track but don’t know whether there is an alternative that will give them joy, hope and life.

This week’s reading (Luke 19:1-10) is the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus.  As a tax collector, Zac, worked for the conquering empire and collected taxes, often exorbitant, for Rome.  On top of the taxes they demanded, Zac would add his own mark-up, effectively ripping off his own people.  It is likely that Zac drove some people into indebtedness, a desperate state from which it was unlikely they would emerge.  Zac was not well-loved – by anyone.  He was the epitome of everything that was rotten and unjust and he was shunned.  Zac was well-off, financially and that was probably his goal but in pursuing this direction in life, he had totally lost his way.  In the words of Jesus: ‘What does it benefit a person to gain the whole world but forfeit their soul?’ Zac had lots of money and ‘stuff’ but was obviously not enjoying life.  He was thoroughly lost and no-one would give him the time of day.  No-one would trust him or help him, until…

One day Jesus was walking through the town and crowds came out to see him.  Zac, short in stature, couldn’t get through the crowd so ended up climbing a tree to catch a glimpse.  But it was more than glimpse.  One suspects that it was a yearning to be accepted, loved, liberated and shown the right path.  Zac was lost and wanted to get back on the right track but had no idea.  From the road, Jesus looked up and saw Zac.  What he saw in those eyes and this possibly desperate man, we don’t know but he stopped and called him down.  The crowd were probably waiting for Jesus to tear into Zac and rip him up for ripping them off.  If so, they were surprised and astounded because Jesus invited himself to dinner at Zac’s place.  It was an encounter of grace and Zac turned back, paid restitution to all he had ripped off and got his life on a new course,  one that was relational, loving and focussed on what was of true worth and importance.

Zac found life in God and grace in Jesus’ acceptance.  He was lost but was found and liberated, forgiven and restored to relationships with others.  He found his way!  What about you and I?  God, who is somewhat like Marlin, seeks us out and is always with us, for us and seeking the best for us – if we want it.  Perhaps like Zac we might yearn for something that is missing and find our way with the love God offers.

By geoffstevenson

The Freedom to Love and Be!

A man walked into a doctor’s surgery and said: ‘Doctor, I have this awful headache that never leaves me. Could you give me something for it?’

‘I will,’ said the doctor, ‘But I want to check a few things out first. Tell me, do you drink a lot of liquor?’

‘Liquor?’ said the man indignantly, ‘I never touch the filthy stuff!’

How about smoking?’

‘I think smoking is disgusting! I’ve never in my life touched tobacco.’

‘I’m embarrassed to ask this, but… you know the way some men are… do you do any running around at night?’

‘Of course not! What do you take me for? I’m in bed every night by 10 o’clock at the latest.’

‘Tell me,’ said the doctor, ‘this pain in the head you speak of, is it a sharp, shooting kind of pain?’

‘Yes,’ said the man. ‘That’s it – a sharp, shooting kind of pain.’

‘Simple, my dear fellow! Your trouble is you have your halo on too tight. All we need to do for you, is loosen it a bit,’

I am tempted, in listening to this story, to say ‘Yes!’ and go on to name the various people I have encountered for whom this very diagnosis fits so well!  BUT, that is the problem, I then join the company of those who point the finger and divide the world into ‘them and us’.  It is a particular strategy of some leaders to create and us/them dichotomy; to divide the world into different groups – those who are for us and those who are against us.  The latter become objects we despise, reject, demonise and cast aside.  It happens in political spheres where leaders try to rally the masses around a common enemy, sometimes from across the world but often a minority whom we can all beat up on.  In order to justify our own actions, we often point the finger at others as the causative agents that require a response.  In the early days of the ‘boat people’ rhetoric, they were variously Muslim fanatics trying to get here under cover or they were trying to take our jobs and homes.  They were also believed to be rich people trying to get here without going through proper processes and not really refugees…   All of this rhetoric solidified the draconian governmental policies that aimed to reject these people.  They were made the enemy and took focus off various other deficiencies of government.

It is very easy to look at others and find their deficiencies, their failures and highlight them to make ourselves feel better about ourselves or justify our beliefs and actions.  It is very easy to look for the problem person or group, that which looks or seems different, and focus on their shortcomings as the problem with everything there is wrong in the world.  We traditionally take the view that if we can find the problem person in a situation, take them out, deal with them then all will be well.  The problem lies within that person, not those around them or the system.  The naughty boy in the classroom or team.  The girl who is always in trouble.  The person who is troubled or the local addicts or prostitutes or those with mental illness whom we don’t understand or those from a different culture who look, sound and act differently.  There are the people who don’t fit in and ruffle our feathers because they refuse to be like us or accept our ways.  There are the rich or the poor, the powerful or the powerless and pitiful, the strong, confident and arrogant or the weak, lacking in self-esteem and belief.  There are those who have faith and find it easy to believe in God and those who cannot.  There are those who have deep spiritual faith and practices and those who are more engaged in practical actions that are loving or compassionate.  If we’re honest, we don’t fit neatly into any group or stereotype ourselves.  We are unique people with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, joy and pain.  We succeed and fail – like everyone else and when we die we are naked and nothing of material value or all our achievements can change the fact that we die like everyone else and stand vulnerable before the One who holds all life in grace and love.

This week we read an interesting story form Luke 18:9-14.  It is the story of a religious person who prays honestly but somewhat arrogantly, thanking God that he isn’t like the sinful tax collector over there.  He obeys all the laws and takes them to higher levels.  He is pious and righteous and always does what is right.  He is grateful to God that he isn’t like others.  The tax collector stands off to the side and casts himself upon the mercy of God.  He knows that he is somewhat wretched – he has ripped people off, been greedy and caused hardship.  He hasn’t done nice things!  He doesn’t look up to heaven but bows down and throws himself upon the mercy of God.

Jesus, having told this story, suggests that the tax collector, not the religious person, goes away justified.  The temptation here is to lay into the religious person for his arrogance and suggest that the tax collector’s humility is the key – arrogance is bad and humility is good.  The humble are justified and the arrogant are not.  In so doing we create another dichotomy, one built upon our own efforts and this defies the point of Jesus.  Nothing we do or don’t do justifies us before God!  God’s loving embrace is extended to all of us and nothing we do cancels or deepens this love extended to us.  God, who is love, holds all in this embrace and draws all into the relational web of grace and community.  In other words, we are all in this together.  We are all unique and all make errors along the way but God is God and doesn’t hold this against us but draws us more deeply into the place, the relationship, of love.

I wonder how this might change the way we approach life and look at others?  Are we able to contemplate the beauty and blessing that is constantly around us in the created world, its creatures, flora and landforms, in people who share our lives with all their differences, frustrations and joys, in those we meet on this journey of life, in music, art and craft, literature and story, activity and rest?  Are we able to open our hearts, minds and spirits to the One who holds everything in this luminous web of love and life?    This benevolent gracious mercy comes to each of us and dwells within each of us. It is the presence in which we live and move and have our being. It is the deep love at the heart of the universe, the rich grace of beauty, wonder and kinship. All designations, definitions and labels ultimately become meaningless before gracious holiness and we simply become people, loved and cherished in the Divine heart.

By geoffstevenson

Persistently Living in the Presence of Life!

This week I was privileged to attend a closing ceremony of a Kairos Prison Ministries course in Parklea Prison.  It was a first for me and a wonderful event in which 22 men, young and old and from various cultural and socio-economic backgrounds participated and shared.  I have no idea why any of the men were incarcerated – it wasn’t important.  What I heard were a variety of stories of how they had messed up their own and other’s lives but discovered that they can be forgiven and released from the bondage they experience in their lives.  For some this will mean release from substance abuse.  Others will find help for their anger and violence.  Others will need support and help to rise above their issues of poor self-esteem and self-loathing.  Some of the blokes have lived with a sense of worthlessness and felt somewhat useless in life.  Others have made mistakes that have messed everything up and thrown their lives into chaos, along with the lives of others.  I can’t imagine what prison is like and how it must confront people with who they are and what they have done.  There is so much time to think and everything reminds you that you are a prisoner and have done wrong.

Through the ceremony we heard the testimonies of their week and it was very clear that there have been some profound experiences for these men this week.  The team, who gave up their week to go into the prison and share love, grace and faith with the men, have worked hard to help each person understand that they are deeply and profoundly loved by God and other people.  This is what grace is all about – the experience of being loved unconditionally regardless of who we are or what we have done.  For all of these men, there have been repercussions for their wrongdoing – their prison term is part of that.  It seems common that those who have messed up their lives in such ways not only pay the price through prison but live with it all their lives.  They feel the weight of failure and will have more struggle to get lives together when released.

As I sat and watched and listened, as I heard them sing with gusto and offer profound thanks to the team who led, taught and provided food throughout the week, I was moved by their faith, their simple and profound faith.  For some it is the very simple beginning through an experience of overwhelming love and grace provided through the week.  For others it has taken them back to the faith stories and early awareness of God that has faded or been lost along the way.  For all there was an acute awareness of God’s presence and the love of God that can lift them above their experiences and failures and the failures that others have imposed upon them through their lives.  They talked about forgiving and being forgiven and how the chains of their bondage have been broken.

As I sat in this dark place I wondered at the plethora of stories and experiences of pain felt and inflicted.  I felt the darkness and evil that often surrounded them in prison and the people in other parts whose lives are shrouded in deep evil and horrific crimes and how prison life must be very, very harsh and difficult for those whose crimes seem less severe and who need help and support to get lives back together.  I thought about how much this place needed the prayers and physical presence of people of hope and faith, love and grace, mercy and compassion to be agents of transformation and life.  This week has been, for these men, such an experience of grace and renewed hope.  As part of the ceremony, Liva, the prison chaplain warned them that there would be hard and dry times when they are alone or released and find life hard.  When the team leaves and they go back to ‘normal life’ or they are released back into the world beyond prison, they will be tested and tempted and the struggles will push them.  It is in these times that persistent praying and spiritual discipline will be needed, as it is for all of us.

Sometimes persistent prayer becomes superficial, with little or no personal engagement.  We cry out to God and hope that by some Divine magic all will be well:  ‘God help me and make everything okay.  Fix it all up and let me be alright…’  But this is life and requires a full engagement from us – it isn’t a spectator sport as they say.  These men will be tested as all of us are because life is like that and persistence means more than hanging in while all is going well.  Persistence is about engaging in the struggle and accepting the joy when it comes.  We can’t do it alone but need each other.

I couldn’t help but imagine Jesus in this place standing with these men, not condoning past actions but neither holding the past against them and calling them onwards into new and renewed life.  He would invite them into a new way of being as those beloved of God and to enter into the experience of God’s Reign, which is life-giving, compassionate, just and relational.  This week we will read passages from the ancient book of Jeremiah ((Jeremiah 31:27-34) and the gospel of Luke (Luke 18:1-8).  The story from Jeremiah speaks into the incredibly difficult and painful situation of people in exile from their destroyed homeland.  The Jewish people have been exiled in Babylon by the conquering army.  Jeremiah speaks words of hope that tell the people that their homeland will be restored and renewed.  God will be with them and lead them back – in time.  They are to persevere amidst the challenges of being people in exile.  Constant prayer that takes them deeply into their own being and reminds them of who they are, sustaining them in grace is vital.  This is about meditation, reflection and the prayers of the heart prayed in God’s presence with an awareness that we are not alone but find our very being in the Being of God who holds all things in relationship.

The gospel story tells of a widow who has been wronged.  This is not uncommon in Jesus’ time because widows couldn’t own property – only males could.  They were often abused and taken advantage of, leaving them impoverished and struggling in life.  This particular widow takes her complaint to a judge but he couldn’t care less.  He has no respect for people or fear of God and seems a law unto himself.  She is desperate and visits him every day to ask for help.  He becomes so annoyed and fed up that he determines to give her what she wants so she won’t haunt him until the end of time!  Jesus says it is this woman’s active persistence that wins the day and if an evil judge can eventually do the right thing, how much more will God be present when we persist in prayer and seek justice and that which is good and right and wonderful?

The men in Parklea will need to be persistent if they are to overcome and find life.  They will need others to walk with them and provide support and care.  We all need the persistent awareness of God’s presence and love and to share that with others.  If we can persistently love and seek justice then people, and the world, can change for the better!

By geoffstevenson

The Betwixt and Between!

Most of our lives are lived in the in-between places, that which I will call the ‘betwixt and between’.  This is the place between the places, the moment between the moments.  It is the place or journey between the destinations.  On the larger scale it might be the journey between our first and last breath.  But along this way there are many ‘betwixts and betweens’.  These can be strange places where the normal rules, beliefs, certainties (perhaps hopes or expectations?) seem to be missing or turned upside down.  Such are places where we feel fearful or confused, grieving or lost.  They are places where we feel bored or hopeless or just have to endure with resigned neutrality.  The betwixt and between is also the place where much life is lived and where growth and transformation often happens – much of it forced upon us in this strange land.

There are the specific times like a long drive to a holiday destination.  Feeling tired or stressed from life and just wanting to sit and relax in some enchanting place, we drive hours to get there.  I often feel that the time in the car is wasted and frustrating.  Can’t we just ‘beam me up Scotty?’  Then I wonder if the time in the car is the transformative space that provides time and distance from ordinary life and allows me to engage more fully in the holiday time?  There are also periods of life that may seem mundane, an endless cycle of routine that seems to go nowhere.  Yet this is the milieu of life.  There are many such times and spaces in my life that I tend to write off as wasted time but when I reflect on these moments they are often filled with unique possibility.  These are the places where life is or can be lived.  These are places of wonder and pausing to experience the sacred and holy in my midst.  For example, on the very slow walking of our dogs this morning (they are very old and slow), I was able to watch a family of ducks swim in the creek.  Cockatoos, magpies and a multitude of other birds squawked and sang through the creek valley.  Lizards scurried of the path and ants and insects went about their busy work.  Daisies are in full bloom, as are the bottle brush.  The small trees and shrubs planted a few months ago are suddenly growing large.  The walk was filled with wonder and beauty and also thoughtful pondering.  The betwixt and between of this walk was a gift filled with wonder and grace.  Once upon a time such a slow walk, or  walk for a walk’s sake, would have seemed a ludicrous waste of time.  Now it is a betwixt and between space of wonder, reflection, prayer and of being.  It is filled with the holy and sacred, the presence of God.

Not all places are life-giving in this way.  I have walked through valleys shadowed by grief and pain, where death or fear looms large and overwhelms.  Being thrust into these places is never easy nor one I would choose to venture if given the option.  Whether it is the place of my own life or where I am called to enter with another, to walk with them into uncertainty and chaos, it is a betwixt and between that is hard.  These betwixt and between places are often places of waiting; waiting for the grief and pain to subside and some measure of new reality to unfold and new life to ‘miraculously’ embrace us.  Sometimes it is the waiting for news, or healing or even the threatened, feared outcome to emerge.  These may be times to endure, hard places of life that seem to have little, if any meaning and only present pain.  We may one day look back and recognise moments of grace imbued within the moments of darkness.  We may return to this betwixt and between place wishing to reverse the outcome but never-the-less cognisant that we somehow survived and more than that.  We lived and through the painful reality we learned to see more deeply, to become aware of life and the precious gift that it is.  Perhaps we have been transformed in this dark betwixt and between place, a crucible of death and resurrection in our life?

This week we read two passages.  The first (Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7) speaks into the betwixt and between places of Jewish exiles in the 6th century BCE.  The Babylonian armies invaded Jerusalem and finally broke through the wall.  They razed the city, destroyed the Temple and took many leading people into exile to Babylon.  There the people grieved in their lost, confused, powerless state of exile in a foreign land.  Into this god-forsaken place and wilderness, the prophets, including Jeremiah, spoke words of hope and transformation.  Jeremiah tells the people to live!  They are to live, to take houses, build new lives, have children and be a light of grace into this dark world in which they live.  It was actually through the betwixt and between place of exile that the Jewish people encountered a deep transformation in world view and faith.  It was during this time that Israel’s understanding of a monotheistic God (one God rather than many through the surrounding nations) evolved.  Many of the writings of the Old Testament – especially the first 5 books – were written in their current form at this time.  The betwixt and between place of exile was a crucible of new life, transformation and deeper faith.

The Gospel reading (Luke 17: 11-19) begins by saying that on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus was passing through the region between Samaria and Galilee.  This was a betwixt and between place.  In fact it was a place a Jew would not normally choose to journey.  It was a place where the despised enemy, the Samaritans, lived.  Jews would not venture through this land but go around it.  For whatever reason, Jesus is in this betwixt and between place and he encounters 10 lepers, people with a skin condition that could vary from a mild allergy to something very serious.  They called out to him and he told them to go and show themselves to the priest – a requirement to prove they were now clean and could re-enter society.  The 10 men were healed but only 1 returned to thank Jesus and praise God – a Samaritan.  The one who was lowest of the low, a despised Samaritan leper proved himself the only one who understood the grace he received and became a model of faithful discipleship.  In the midst of the betwixt and between place Jesus encountered those who needed grace, offered healing and one came back grateful and understanding, a sign of gracious discipleship and new life.

In the betwixt and between spaces of life there is the impossible possibility of something new and transformative occurring.  In the barren wasteland of grief or the boredom of routine to which we are resigned, there is the possibility of grace filtering through and the sacred being revealed in our midst.  It is a complex space where change or growth exerts itself upon us through quiet reflection and awareness or the harsh reality of enforced change.  It can be discomforting, intense and stressful until the peace of resolution, of arriving at the next point on the journey and finding rest and grace

By geoffstevenson

There is Nothing to Prove – Ever!

I heard journalist Paul McGeough on radio the other day.  He was talking about the debate between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.  He said that the key thing each was seeking to attain was to look and be perceived as ‘presidential’.  I’m not sure what it means to be presidential and McGeough suggested that each candidate and the multitude of punters watching the debate would all have their own perception of what it means to look and act like a president.  It’s in the walk, the voice, the tone, the dress, the words and ideas.  At one point McGeough suggested that ‘presidential’ is often taken to mean being a CEO who gives orders that are obeyed and the one who looks most like they can take charge and be obeyed is the most ‘presidential’.  Being ‘presidential’ is taking one’s place on top of the pecking order.  It is about being the boss, being in command and having earned the right to sit atop the pyramid of hierarchy and controlling such power.

Perhaps all this is true but it doesn’t sound helpful to me.  I tend to think that when people believe they have earned the right to claim power, prestige or privilege over others or whose drive, ambition and achievement makes them feel more superior, they have missed the point of being human.  I don’t tend to look at people of particular occupations or professions as more significant and important than others – never have.  I have never quite been able to understand why the person who collects the garbage in my street, or growing up before the sewer was on, the one who collected our sewerage, is less than you or I or anyone else.  I cannot understand why the clothes one wears or the complexity of a person’s words and speech or education, or the car one drives or their address confers something special upon them with a sense of greater superiority.

I quite dislike it when people lord it over others or use their position or sense of power and authority to claim a superior and or influential place, to dominate and dictate to other people.  When I have unfortunately drifted into such situations and distorted the conversation into a monologue or abused my position I have been pleased to be called on it by people around me whom I respect and who are only willing to be honest with me.  It is tempting to fall victim to the use of power as we all have power to some degree – whether in the workplace, the social grouping, the family, the community organisation…  It is common to feel defensive and claim power to ourselves and use it to buffer our self-esteem.  Sometimes we fall into line with the structures around us or the examples we see and become authoritarian.  We live in a world that postures for hierarchical structures and positional authority.  I am often amused when people expect others to simply believe them or obey them because of their position.  When Prime Ministers or Premiers (or CEO’s, community leader or even ministers!) flaunt their authority or want to speak authoritatively because of their position, many of us tend to dismiss them until they have earned our respect.  Never-the-less we also live with expectations of a world where there are those at the top and many more below.  We live in a world where bosses give commands and expect underlings to act – now.  We live in a world where those with authority and power believe they have earned the right to exercise it, whether they are wise and compassionate, just and caring or tyrannical and abusive.

There is too often the sense that we have to earn our stripes to be considered equal or worthy of a voice at the table.  We have to prove ourselves in order to belong – whether to a social grouping, a sporting club, a profession, a tribe or even a church.  We have to learn and abide by the rules, put on the correct persona, use the right language, achieve the right level of expectation – to prove our worth.  Many never make it.  Most of us experience the failure of rejection when we don’t quite measure up to the expectations of others.  Most of us know the feeling of not being worthy of approval or acceptance at some level in our lives.  Most of us know what it is like to feel ordinary and not good enough because we don’t have the right skills or looks, or enough money or education, or the right car or house or job…  We live in a world where status is measured, earned and not everyone makes the grade.  Of course all this results in loneliness, rejection, feelings of low self-esteem and even self-hatred.  Many a suicide has flowed from these feelings of worthlessness, being of little use and the loneliness of rejection.

In the story of Jesus this week (Luke 17:5-10) his disciples ask him for an increased measure of faith.  I misread this initially, assuming they were simply being good disciples and wanting to grow in faith.  A commentator illumined the story by showing how they were seeking to rise in status and worth:  ‘Give us more faith – make us great people of obvious spiritual worthiness that people will see…’  In other words, the disciples were following the well-trod path of their world, that of proving oneself worthy through prestige, power or to be spectacular and relevant – to look good before others.  They believed that they needed to be better than others and to demonstrate this before others in order to be worthy.  Jesus makes an interesting response: ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed you could tell this mulberry tree to uproot itself and fly into the ocean.’  Certainly a strange saying and one that is a bit odd at first reading – who cares about casting a mulberry tree into the ocean and of what use would that be?  The point, it seems, is that you don’t need to be spectacular, clever, stand out before or above others, be brilliant, good-looking, wealthy… to be recognised, valued and loved by God!  There is nothing you can do to earn God’s love and grace!  There is nothing you can do to be more worthy of God’s love because od cannot love you anymore than you are already loved!  You and I do not have to prove ourselves or try to measure up because God’s love and grace is already there for us as we are.

This is a counter-cultural wonder that turns the world upside down and dismisses the A-listers or those who claim superiority on any basis as out of line.  It laughs in the face of the categories and definitions that people place upon one another and welcomes everyone into a community of grace and love that is based on the unique and infinite worth of each person and of the potential that each one has.  It invites each of us into the freedom of living as God created us to be and to find our true value and worth in God and the community of God’s grace (that sometimes equates to the church).  Jesus invites us to be people of forgiveness, peace, love and justice living together and welcoming all into relationship and community to be and belong, in and through the love of God.

By geoffstevenson