Praise and Thanksgiving
Giving thanks is easy to think of, and even do, as we are celebrating Thanksgiving - especially when we can be with family and friends. What about when it is early (like 4 am early) and you are trying to get to the airport for the early flight? What about when the technology is working and you can't finish what you were trying to do? What about after a long day of traveling?
The holidays are a time of coming together with family and friends. A time of s-t-o-p-p-i-n-g to give thanks for all of our blessings. A time of coming together in worship to praise God. So, yes, even at very early times (and even when the technology isn't working) we CAN be praising God.
Technology continues to cause issues but being with family is a special blessing. Thanking God for time to be with family, time to be "off" from work and times of fellowship still take priority. Can you stop, even for a few minutes, to thank God?
Vine? Branches? Vineyard?
I must admit the first thing I think of with vines are the beautiful wreaths on various doors around town. There are so many of them - some "just" vines but some "just" branches. Are wreaths what you think of first also? Or are you thinking of the verse, in John (15:5) "I am the vine, you are the branches." As Caregivers we need to stay strong in our relationship, with God, so we can continue to do everything we need to do - especially caring for "our person(s)."
Today's readings, however, are talking about Vineyards -- God's vineyards. In Isaiah God is growing a "vineyard" - planting it, building the press, tending it - expecting to get "good grapes but it produced only worthless ones." (vs. 2) In our Gospel reading (Mark 12:1-3) Jesus is telling the story of the owner wanting his "some of the produce of the vineyard" (vs. 2) and the reception the growers give. One commentator pointed out, about the reading in Isaiah, that we know the seeds we plant will become what we plant - corn becomes corn, wheat becomes wheat - but we don't know about the "children we grow." Will they become "good?" What about the "seeds" planted in us and how they are growing?
This is a little different way of looking at the "vineyard" isn't it? The seeds God has planted in us - are we tending them, taking care of them and producing what God is calling for? Are we staying "in the vine" like Jesus calls us to in John? Or are we, like Jesus speaks of in Mark, sending the servant away "empty-handed"? Something to think about........
Another interesting question isn't it? Do I mean "how much," "what kind" or "do you have"? You could also ask "faith in what"? Recently several of us have talked about NOT having much "faith" in the 'weatherman'. We question the weather until we see it - right? We question quite a few things actually...... but that would be a different blog.
This morning I am thinking of the Scripture readings. The Old Testament is in Hosea 11:1-9 where Hosea is showing God as the loving Father concerned for His children. Reminding the "children" (Hebrew people) how God brought them out of Egypt and took care of them. The Shepherd who keeps bringing the "children back" and, like a parent, loves the child. Jesus, in the Gospel reading (Mark 10:13-14) is making sure the Disciples know to let the "children come to me." Jesus is telling ALL of us "anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it."
So....... Do we believe it? Do we have "faith" in what God is telling us through the Scripture? Can we step "out in faith" to do what God is calling us to? Or, like the Hebrew people during Hosea's time, are we paying more attention to what the 'world' is telling us?
This is kind of like last week..... "transformed" brings several ideas to mind. A butterfly 'transformed' from a caterpillar. Or, if you have/know young people, you think of the various 'transformers.' I know I learned about "Bumble Bee" when one of my grandsons wanted a "Bumble Bee" quilt. I started out thinking the child loved honey! Thankfully a friend knew about the 'transformer' and I was able to find 'Bumble Bee' fabric.
Today, however, I am thinking about how we are supposed to be "transformed" as we follow where God is leading. Our Old Testament reading, in 1 Kings 18:36-39 has Elijah calling the people back to "The LORD - The God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel." He is calling down fire, fighting the prophets of Baal and showing all the people (and the King) who the Lord is. After the fire "burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil and also licked p the water in the trench." (vs. 38) the people are ready to declare The Lord "is God!" (v. 39)
Our Gospel reading, in Mark 9, is about Jesus' Transfiguration. We are reading verses 2-4, seeing Jesus talking to Elijah and Moses, but in verse 7 God speaks to Peter, James and John, saying "This is my son, whom I love. LISTEN TO HIM!" (emphasis mine)
So...... are we "listening" to God? Or, like the people deciding which 'god' was/is God, are we questioning? IF we are listening are we transformed? Can people tell the difference? Are we still the caterpillar or have we "transformed" into the butterfly?