The Red Thread – Just as He Was

• 35 “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

At the end of the day it was Jesus’ idea they cross to the other side of the lake but the scriptures says “they took him along, just as he was.” What in the world could that mean? It’s likely he was showing the effects of a full day of being surrounded by pressing crowds. The same elements that had been inspiration for his parables, dirt, rocks, and scorching heat had taken their toll. “Just as he was” likely meant he was emotionally drained as well as physically tired, just as they were.

Being human was a condition for those men. Being human for Jesus was a sacrifice. He saved them through the storm. Now his life AND the cross have become the fullness of our salvation.

The Red Thread – Remember?

• 26 “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
• “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

Get it? You’re the seed! A tiny speck planted in the kingdom of God that grew. Nothing emerges from the dirt full grown. Growth is a combination of day and night in the soil of “thy will be done” for this crop to grow. Growth is almost imperceptible except for comparing then to now. Remember then? Remember now?

You’re the crop! You grew and became one of “the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” But wait, there’s more! God isn’t finished with you yet.

You began as one small seed planted in good soil and inexplicable growth happened. You became part of the crop and now “the harvest has come.” Here’s the Lightning Flash: as inexplicable as it may be, you’re the evidence there really is a kingdom of God happening “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Remember? You’re the harvest!

The Red Thread – In the Presence of God

• 21 “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.
• 23 “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. 24 Consider carefully what you hear,”
• “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

The crowd Jesus was speaking to was accustomed to their connection to God being dependent on a priest in a synagogue where they would be required to sit until dismissed. Jesus knew two important things about them. They were there because they’d heard he was changing lives AND they were free to wander away at any time.

He gave them stories that could become their lightning flash of reality; to discover a heavenly meaning in the seemingly inconsequential events of daily life. They weren’t meant to be studied at length but to cause an immediate response. If people would see and hear them in the actual presence of God they could discover truth of God that was truly their own. God wasn’t only there in the church, he desired a direct connection to their day-to-day lives.

I read somewhere these words of Jesus are sometimes called orphan statements. I don’t know when the concept of God as Our Father began but I do know without God we’re all orphans. “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. Consider carefully what you hear,”

The Red Thread – Find A Voice

Mark 4
• 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
• 9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Each morning I spend time reading scripture and writing hoping the “rest” of the story will help me find a voice for my faith today. Here’s what I wrote about this parable at first glance: ‘Jesus is the farmer who went out to sow his seed. The obvious comparisons are the different responses to what Jesus was speaking about the seed he was sowing.’

Good, that’s all true but I’m surprised to to discover I can still be surprised by the Bible. I’d been looking for a thread of connection between the words Jesus spoke about the path, the rocky soil and the thorns when I found this quote from William Temple.

“A parable is not a situation in which every detail stands for something but a situation in which one great idea leaps out and shines like a flash of lightning.”

BOOM…There it was! The truth wasn’t a subtle thread at all. Jesus was speaking! He spoke knowing some of his words would just be wasted, some would be temporary fixes and some would be rejected but this truth made speaking them worth the effort…”Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
…and if Jesus has given you seeds to sow, find your voice and speak.

The Red Thread – Ragtag Unity

Mark 3 The Red Thread – Rag Tag Unity

•“Stand up in front of everyone.”
•“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
•“Stretch out your hand.”
•“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
•33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
•“Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

ragtag: adjective
1. untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied in character.
“a ragtag group of idealists”

What an varied assortment of characters there are in this chapter. First and foremost is Jesus, a carpenter turned itinerant minister from an obscure background causing a stir everywhere he went. The ragtag list continues: a man with shriveled hand, the “them” watching to find a way to accuse Jesus, crowds from all over, impure spirits, 12 ragtag men we call disciples, some of Jesus’s own family who are worried about his behavior and teachers of the law who find him both irritating and threatening. It doesn’t sound like the makings of a book that is still the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed according to Guinness World Records.

That’s the story though. God assembling his own ragtag community of people then…and now…for the essential purpose of keeping them close to himself. Essential ragtag people who manage to live together in ragtag unity because of one essential person, Jesus, the son of God, our Savior.

There’s an argument still made today those essentials are fine, “if you need them.” Recently I asked my pastor about how to respond to that. He gave me an answer I’ve never even considered before – embrace the need. I can’t give you proof that God exists or that Jesus can really change you. I can tell you about the need of one woman with a ragtag history who’s heart is being rebuilt with these red letter words of Jesus. It’s a ragtag unity I share with other “untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied” people who find red letter words filling in the blanks of their lives too.

“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” Rupertus Meldenius, author of the 17th century tract in which the quote first appeared.

The Red Thread – Pay Attention

Mark 2
•19 How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
•21 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.
•22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins…
•25 Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions. 27 The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

Jesus doesn’t intend his words to be rules. They’re meant to help you be the very person he’s created you to be. It wasn’t until I re-read these verses several times that I saw a connection between these four red letter verses. They’re all about paying attention to what you’ve been given.

Is Fasting denial or sacrifice? It’s both. Denial of food can be a diet or it can become a sacrifice of worship when it changes your attention from the visible act of eating into hunger for God to act. Hunger is the signal that it’s time to kneel, read scripture and pray instead of eat. Pay attention.

Jesus uses vivid word pictures to get our attention about how to deal with the old and new in our relationship to him. Don’t settle for the unsuccessful results of letting what he’s done for you be only a new patch that dresses up an old habit or try to squeeze a brand new part of your relationship to him into an old lifestyle. Pay attention.

Jesus has the right, power, and authority to declare your denial and sacrifice worship when you’re hungry and in need. Pay attention to him.

The Red Thread – The Unlikely Choice

Mark 2
14 Follow me…
17 It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners…

Could there be a more unlikely choice than Levi [Matthew] for Jesus to choose as his second object lesson to the crowd as they walked through Capernaum? They’d certainly heard that Jesus had power over physical illness but this was Levi the local tax collector. Levi had been given his power by the king to make his living by squeezing as much of their money from them as he could. What could he possibly deserve, or need, compared to some poor invalid?

This time Jesus sees something invisible in a man it’s likely no one else in that crowd would ever choose. He chooses Levi. Jesus simply said “follow me” and Levi got up and followed him. It was a different kind of miracle that revealed Jesus is a very different kind of King that has the power to make a visible change in the circumstances of a life forever.