Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 4:25 bible study (November 14, 2023)
Updated: Nov 16
Grace and Peace to you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am thankful to God for your willingness to be a part of this on-going Bible Study which comes to you from American Ev. Lutheran Church in Tucson, AZ. After the pandemic it became more difficult to gather, and we had gotten out of the habit of coming together in person each week for a Tuesday morning Bible Study at my office. Since then, I have been doing three shorter studies online each week. I would be interested in hearing if you would like to return, or perhaps. come for the first time to an in-person study after the first of the year. That is certainly something which we can move back into if we can gather a group of at least three or four people to come. Let me know please.
One of my 17-year-old young men who is a senior in high school this year stated to me this morning that he was very surprised that 2023 was already close to being over, and that it would already be 2024 sooner than he had really thought about. I suspect this comes from the fact that he knows this next year will find him job hunting for a summer employment, and having to start thinking about what it might be like to not have Mom and Dad cover all the expenses, cleaning (though he does help some) laundry, cooking, and, heaven forbid, he will have to buy his own fruit loops. It is his go to cereal. I told him that he will feel like he has just turned around a couple of times and he will, if all goes well in his life, be looking at being a senior citizen of 74 years and wondering how it all went by so fast! No wonder our lifetime acts of generosity, compassion, and love are so important in this life. With time flying by so fast, is it any wonder that there is barely enough time to truly be the children of God in this world. I am thankful to have parents who took me to Sunday School, and nearly every Sunday, to church. Christ's gift of faith has shaped my life for as long as I can remember, and I cherish the 74 years with which I have been blessed. I am thankful to God for His abundant and forgiving love that is mine through our Savior, Jesus Christ. At 74 the flame of faith and living thankfully are still powerfully present, and I would say, continuing forward empowering my service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my pastoral call, which fills every day with new hope in the Lord.
Our passage today is Mark 4:25. These words from Jesus might seem to be Wisdom language, and in some ways they are. But in this third independent comment of Christ in this section of Mark, they are far more. Christ sees in our lives how our interactive faith relationship with Him can and will continue to grow throughout our lives if we are involved and living every day as a day of thanksgiving to God by our faith active living and life-commitment to being His children. The reality in our lives is that if we fail to remain active in any part of who we are we will begin that long slide to no longer being able to do what we could before. So, let's look at a few of these things.
Perhaps one of the most important is knowledge. We all know that as we age, some things seem to float away, like remembering skills that we used to have pretty much together. Personally, I think of learning to speak Spanish in high school. I was pretty fluent, but not like my wife who used to read novels in Spanish. I still know some of it but considering that I worked for Stokely Van Camp as a migrant interpreter in high school, I am nowhere near proficient anymore. I can pull some of it together to offer a blessing, or a greeting, or get a drink of water, or to ask where the bathroom is. Pretty basic stuff. But our member Nancy G speaks fluently after using Spanish in her work life. The same is true for me about piano. I am a better player, even with the arthritis in my hands, today than I was 15 years ago. I can take on more challenging pieces, and even do pretty well with the drummer who sets an insistent tempo with which I must keep up regardless of errors and my own desired tempo changes. Practicing between 6 and 8 hours a week, continuing to challenge myself, has meant that my playing is getting stronger and more competent as I play for worship. And since you are studying the Bible with me several times a week, you are getting your knowledge boosted regularly, and you must know that it is really good for me to.
Effort is something that can leave us too. We all know that we have to be intentional as we age about keeping up our flexibility and strength. It is true for every one of us. Even when we are younger, if we assume the strength that we had as teenagers will continue into our twenties, we are in for a big shock. The saying, "Use it or Lose It" is a truth that we all face. My first job was at least in part moving hundred-pound blocks of ice in the only icehouse in town in the 60's. Later at another workplace, I brought in all of the heavy boxes of sale goods, and I even helped to move safes from our office supply store. As a young married, I work hauling canoes in the late spring through the leaf color season in the fall. Some days I would handle as many as 120 canoes by myself. After that time, my life became quieter, though for about 7 years I cut and split black oak logs for heat in our turn of the century farmhouse. Needless to say, graduate school does not contribute to much exercise, and neither do calls to parishes. Over the years that nice trim strong muscled body has gone away. Now I swim with mostly aerobic style pool exercises.
Skills and Crafts can also be lost without use. If this is your gift, I don't think it is mine, and if you fail to participate in doing that special skill or craft it will definitely weaken over time. In our current house I have done work on a small tile floor, and tiled the back splash in the kitchen, I also, along with some help from my boys who are now in their 30s and 40s, built our entire Scandinavian style kitchen. Along the way I also had the expertise of some of our members. As I think back that some 13 or 14 years now, I can't really believe that I built all of the cabinets and drawers, and doors pretty much on my own on the living room floor and the dining room table. Today I would have less of that beginner’s confidence to take that on.
Finally, another character trait that we can lose is our ability to carry responsibility. This is one that we hope will strengthen in all of us, and we are especially hopeful that it will be a trait that our children will have all of their lives. However, if we avoid this by placing blame on others for our shortcomings, or if we just, plain old, will not do it, then our abilities in this area will gradually seem impossible to gain again. This is certainly true, as our Lord knew it would be, when it comes to this statement. That those who have will have more, and those with little will have even less.
Though it seems harsh to say this, we all know that it is true. Continue to participate, and faith grows and matures and gives us the growing gift of confidence in our Savior and His promises. However, if we have fallen away, when we really need our faith in time of crises, it won't be substantial enough to carry us through our troubles. When that happens, despair sets in and takes over our lives. When the disciples and people with whom Jesus was speaking hear this, they have all probably been caught in the despair of the true practice of their faith, and because of that, many will have chosen to let their relationship with God fall away. On one hand you have the faith of the Romans in their multiplicity of gods, and on the other you see the corruption of your own religious leaders as they lead with money and power as their gods. Falling away seems only natural, yet Jesus makes it clear that doing so will bring difficult consequences and loss.
Monday we will see a parable unique to Mark. Thanks for being with me today.
In Christ's love, Pastor Kim