#LikeDolores is the reflection for June 14, 2015. How can we participate in bringing in the “Kingdom of God”? How much planning, evaluating and reimplementation does that take on our part ? Can we afford to take the risk to participate in such a venture? Find out in “Like Dolores”, the podcast for this week. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Dolores #InthePresent #DoYourThing
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/14/2015 The 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 4:26-34.
It was an amazing moment as I interviewed Dolores Bopp Potterton. She was a woman who had way too much experience, way too much skill, and way too much talent for the job for which we were interviewing her. It was one of those moments where you, as the interviewer, are so amazed that God has put this person in front of you that you think ‘she is way too talented for this job’. I was blown away by Dolores, especially after she said this, “I have come to the point in my life, and my relationship with Jesus Christ, that I no longer base my self-worth on results. It is being faithful that gives me satisfaction in life.”
Let’s face it, the reason we are in the fix that we are in as human beings is because we are all basically control freaks. We have to have our fingers in everything to make sure “it turns out like it should.” We have our metrics and our analytics to defy what the eye sees. We have our counterintuitive solutions to complex problems of the world. We create our business plans, our life plans, and our other plans, and we watch our plan, work our plan, present our plan and evaluate our plan all along the way. We are, indeed, busy. Busy, busy, busy.
It is true that one of the hardest things for me to do as a spiritual director or when I am giving pastoral counseling is to get people to stop and be in the moment. The best thing for a person having an anxiety attack is to be in the moment and realize that they are safe, things are good for the next 24 hours and that they don’t have to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will have its own worries.
Today’s passage is about the Kingdom of God. It is in the section of the Gospel of Mark that deals with parables. Parables are short stories designed to illustrate an overall moral or truth. They are not intended to be allegories, which are stories that represent a real life situation in detail. Parables are for us to understand the gist of things and then apply that principle, moral, or truth to our lives. When people are listening to parables, they can get all mixed up in what they hear. Some people are too literal and have to adjust their ear to it. Some people are too suspicious and cannot believe what they are hearing. Some folks get caught up in the context of the parable and cannot relate to it. Yet, those who are with the program, trusting in the one who is speaking, and open to change get it, adapt to it, and live it.
So, Jesus is teaching his parables to people who have chosen to follow because they will believe. They will hear what is being said because they have faith. The Kingdom of God is like the person who goes out and scatters the word of God, which is the seed, and trusts that God will make it grow. When it grows, the surety is that God will come again and reap the harvest.
The parable does not call each of us who have faith to measure the results. The parable does not call for each of us to check to make sure that every other seed thrower is throwing their seed and throwing it in the proper way. The parable does not call for us to worry about the plowing, the harrowing, nor the cultivating. The parable calls for us to do what we have been called to do to advance the Kingdom of God and trust that God will take care of the rest. It calls on us to be like Dolores. We are called to not base our self-worth on results but on our actions in the moment.
Results are a crazy thing. In a consumer driven culture, results are really all we look at. We ask, “Did it increase our bottom line?” Well, what is your bottom line? Is your bottom line that you had an increase in attendance at worship in your church? How does that judge an increase in faith? Did you have to change your worship service or liturgy to the point that it was no longer true to the Christian tradition to get there? Did you have walk back to the middle ages to create a niche for your liturgy? Did you have to promise people the moon or cow tow to whatever they wanted you to say to them to get them in the door?
Or, were you more concerned with being true to your faith when the person you ran into at the grocery store asked you why you were so happy? When the person next to you asked why you were so relaxed, what did you say? I once had a friend who was being fired who was asked by people who had conspired to take his position at his company after a year long campaign to smear him to the CEO, “How can you stay so calm?” He said, “I believe God has something planned for me.”
I have been the victim of more than one Church growth initiative in my lifetime. I can name them: “Vision 2000”, “Lifestyle Relational Evangelism,” “Future Full of Hope”, “Vital Congregations.” Each one had their own gimmick or gadget that would assure us of growth. None of them did. Each one had something that focused on the inside of our church and the convincing of others on the outside to come in. Everyone of them, and others, built welcome centers, opened coffee bars, created welcome packets, or trained people to say one thing or another that would get people into the Church.
Well, I have a novel idea. Rather than trying all the gadgets and gizmos, why don’t we just start being the Church, the Kingdom of God? One of the biggest turn offs to the so called “millennials” is being disingenuous, phony, unreal. What are the marks of the Church that would cause us to find ourselves again?
First, what if we just rested in the thought that our church was part of the greater story of Christianity? We are part of the long expanse of the reaching out of Christ to the world. For example, what if we heard the readings at church as readings written to our community rather than to a community 2,000 years ago? It would make your ears perk up if you heard this, “A reading from St. Paul to the Church at Chicago.” (just put your city or town’s name where I have put “Chicago.”) Wouldn’t you stop and pay more attention? If we really believed that we were part of the Kingdom of God, then we would pay more attention to what was read to us on Sundays.
What if we stopped and thought of our liturgies, our worship services, as offerings to God? I am sure that we would stop the dog and pony shows and throw backs to years gone by if we were to truly believe that we are offering ourselves in the NOW. To. God.
If we were to consider ourselves the Church in the Now, then we would spread the word, like the sower spread the seed. We would find ways to reach out and be the Gospel to people in the neighborhoods around us. If we were focusing on being the Kingdom of God, a genuine community of faith that loved Jesus, then we would not have to worry about the results. Who wouldn’t want to come to a community that was loving, considerate of others, generous, concerned about the physical and spiritual well being of its members, and overall concerned that people in the world knew that God loved them? Think of it. What if you could go to a church where you could make mistakes in your life and you would truly be forgiven without being embarrassed or shamed? I cannot recall Jesus being about shame.
Plus, if we are truly believing that God is responsible for the results, we are just responsible for the spreading of the seed around us, then what do we really have to lose? No one is going to ask us for our monthly seed spreading report. Well, at least not yet. So, what results focused burden would you like to put down today so that you could focus on what you have to do to advance the Kingdom of God? Amen.
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