Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Living with Thorns

...the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word... Matthew 13:22

On Monday I ran some errands and on my way stopped in at the future Cokato Food Shelf building. W, T, and Pastor R were chatting in the front room. How big will the sign be? Should we be guided by Matthew 5:14-16 (let your light shine) or by Matthew 6:1-4 (keep it secret)? And what will we do with the front room when the food shelf isn’t open? How will God’s kingdom be expanded through this place?

Two single working mothers asked for help today. How wonderful it was that I could refer them to the food shelf at Elim Mission Church and the “Save and Share Thrift Store” in the building behind “The Grounds” coffee shop. How excellent that generous people give to the ministerial association and our own church’s discretionary fund so we could help buy $4/gallon gas.

Later I shared worship with Cokato Manor residents, men and women who benefit from the care of an excellent staff. Every day I am thankful for this community. Every day I see how the Word of God is at work in many lives.

But what would happen if the Manor staff decided to get work based on how much it paid? And what if the volunteers and donors spent their time and money gambling or vacationing? It’s good to take some time off to rest and recharge, that’s true. But what if all the able bodied and secure went north in the summer and south in the winter? Tempting, isn’t it?

Chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel, which we will read in church on Sunday, July 13, talks about the Word of God as a seed intended “produce a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times” what was planted. But there’s fierce competition! The Bible talks about two kinds: “the cares of the world” and “the lure of wealth.” Wealth isn’t just money. It’s the relaxation and escape money can buy.

The Word can be overgrown also with the “cares” or “worries” or “troubles” of this world. With food and fuel getting so expensive, low income people are especially overcome. One of the women today expressed lots of skepticism about the church. Are we really as caring as God says? Or is the church overrun with judgmental attitudes? I had to admit that yes, thorny sinners abound even at church.

So, seeing that the thorns are there, and, being aware of them, will we continue to bear fruit just the same? Jesus worked among people no better and no worse than we. And he was tempted, it says, just as we are! Yet he was willing to do whatever was needed. Are Christians thankful, generous followers of that Lord?

In this world, we will always live with thorns of fear and thorns of greed. But as we open our hearts to our precious Lord, who promises us security in God’s Kingdom, we can continue to share, burdens and resources, and many can be saved.

Please be in prayer for the weak, the ill, and for all single mothers and fathers. And pray that all Christian hearts would stay open and soft to what God wants to be doing in our midst.

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