Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Proper 6, Year B
June 13, 2021
(To date, I have mostly been reflecting on the Track 1 readings appointed for each Proper. This week, however, the theme of GROWTH figures prominently in Track 2 and is worth some reflection. The difference between Track 1 and 2 is in the Hebrew Scripture selection and Psalm only. The Epistle and Gospel are the same for both tracks).
Most Biblical scholars recognize these verses as part of a longer riddle presented in the entire chapter – insights offered by the prophet Ezekiel in coded language to a people in exile about the government which is oppressing them – efforts to offer hope that God will deliver. If we consider our entire lives, we can use these insights and promises in every circumstance which confronts us. No matter what is binding or oppressing us or constricting our growth, God is the one who plants and enables growth in our life. God is the one who is in charge. He plucks off a tender shoot, the most vulnerable part of the plant, and yet the one most likely to grow, and plants it in a spot where it can blossom and flourish. God brings life and withholds life and through His very words accomplishes His purposes. God’s planting is intended for majesty and fruit-bearing. His plants provide shelter for every living thing. Everyone has a branch on which to rest in God’s tree. Such resting brings knowledge of God.
Who is in charge of the growth in your life? Do you believe that He can accomplish it? Are you ready for God to cause you to become a place where all can rest and come to knowledge of Him?
Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14
Our theme of God’s flourishing growth continues in this Psalm. Here, the allegory of growth applies more directly to people. The righteous [people] shall flourish like a palm tree and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be green and succulent. The Psalmist intends to remind us that those who dwell in God shall flourish with growth and vitality and shall bear fruit.
What practices can you put in place in your life to help you dwell more fully in God so that He is able to further His growth for the world through you?
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul is operating from the dualistic understanding that being present in our physical bodies distances us to some extent from God. We are indeed constrained by earthly bounds, and God is not; so in that sense, there is some distance. Nevertheless, Paul reminds us in verses 14-17 that even in our physical bodies, God is accomplishing a new thing; and our goal should always be to try to please God while we are waiting for this growth to bear fruit. All of us on Earth, according to Paul, belong to the same club – the club of those who have been ransomed by the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore we should not separate anyone from ourselves by regarding them from a human point of view, but from Christ’s perspective – that of a ransomed beloved in which God is doing a new thing. For all in Christ are a new creation.
Think of how you might apply this thinking to someone with whom you have or have had difficulty in your life. Is there someone toward whom you hold resentment or a grudge? Is there someone with whom you are actively angry? Can you see that person as a member of the ransomed club of Christ? Can you trust that God is doing a new thing even in this person’s life? Make a commitment to practice some act of kindness toward that person, even if it is to spend a few minutes in prayer for them.
Today’s Gospel selection presents two parables that Jesus offers to the crowds as explanations of the Kingdom of God. In the first parable, seed is broadly scattered on the ground and appears to grow on its own, or at least does not seem to require any human intervention for growth. Humans, in fact, are to scatter the seed and then go about the business of attending to their lives – going to sleep and waking up. Humans are not given any knowledge of how the seed grows, but in order for the seeds to grow, humans must leave that outcome up to some higher power. We are told that the Earth produces life from these seeds seemingly of itself. In the second parable Jesus stresses that even the smallest of seeds has potential to produce something enormous. He suggests the mustard seed that can produce a bush so large that there is room for multitudes to come and find shelter within it. This image harkens back to the tree that God plants in Ezekiel that becomes shelter for countless winged creatures. The message should not be lost on us, however – God can take the smallest of things and bring about enormous results. When Jesus talks to the crowds, he uses story. Stories are powerful conveyors of God’s message. Any further explanation of these stories, Jesus reserves for his intimate circle – his disciples. We, as followers of Christ, have access to the stories AND to Christ’s more intimate teaching through prayer.
Consider the presence of God in your life. How much can you control God’s presence? Of course, you can attempt to squash it, and God will not push Himself on you; otherwise you can assume that God’s presence is filling your life, causing growth of itself without your willing it. We are called to scatter seed and then attend to our daily living in the soil of Christ while God works His miracles. How then do you attend to that daily living – with joy or with grumbling and complaining? Can you envision that you might grow into a place of shelter for many? God can certainly do that for you!
Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion, for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.