Morning in Minneapolis

Boy and Dinosaurs

"I miss the Science Museum," Theo said a few weeks ago. So we visited.

Duluth for Spring Break

Theo and I chased the end of winter to Duluth.

Canal Park Lighthouse

Detail from Canal Park Lift Bridge


Palimpsest: Living Water

John 4:5-30

baptismal font by Paul Granlunch,
Gustavus Adolphus Chapel
photo MMH
There just wouldn't be any you, me, or Fido the dog without the existence of an ample liquid water supply on Earth. The unique qualities and properties of water are what make it so important and basic to life. The cells in our bodies are full of water. The excellent ability of water to dissolve so many substances allows our cells to use valuable nutrients, minerals, and chemicals in biological processes. Water's "stickiness" (from surface tension) plays a part in our body's ability to transport these materials all through ourselves. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream. No less important is the ability of water to transport waste material out of our bodies.

In a country without saints or shrines
I knew one who made his pilgrimage
to springs, where in his life’s dry years
his mind held on. Everlasting,
people called them, and gave them names.
The water broke into sounds and shinings
at the vein mouth, bearing the taste
of the place, the deep rock, sweetness
out of the dark. He bent and drank
in bondage to the ground.
— Wendell Berry, “The Springs”

In the wilderness of water
we shall all be drowned
the ocean cannot be compassed
I weep, I die
Put my tears in your bottle
I thirst
the water is in a cup
(O Lord open thou our lips)
I thirst
Is it any less water
because you have contained it for us
in a vessel we can touch?
—Madeleine L’Engle,  “The Samaritan Woman at the Well”

macro photo of water drop
photo by MMH
My Lord is the source of Love; I the river’s course. Let God’s love flow through me. I will not obstruct it. Irrigation ditches can water but a portion of the field; the great Yangtze River can water a thousand acres. Expand my heart, O Lord, that I may love yet more people. The waters of love can water vast tracts, nothing will be lost to me. The greater the outward flow, the greater the returning tide. If I am not linked to Love’s source, I will dry up. If I dam the waters of Love, they will stagnate. Can I compare my heart to the boundless seas? But abandon not the measure of my heart, O Lord. Let the waves of your love still billow there!
—Wang Weifan

All the chemical reactions that take place in plants require the presence of water. All movement of nutrients through plans and through the soil requires water. And water is also needed to give plant parts “turgor,” or firmness…Try to water deeply or not at all. Everyone runs out of patience standing there with a hose and is apt to skimp at the end, but it’s better to water only part of the garden and really soak it, or use a soaker hose or drip-irrigation system.
—Barbara Damrosch, The Garden Primer

· What are you thirsty for? How does God respond to your thirst?
· How do you experience God or Jesus as living water?

Palimpsest: Small Things

mustard seeds MMH

Matthew 13:31-32

What should an empire be like: a mustard plant or the noble, mighty cedar? The answer is clear. An empire is more like a cedar of Lebanon. But Jesus’ parable burlesques this assumption. It pokes fun at our expectation that an empire is more pervasive than dominant. It is like a pungent weed that takes over everything and in which the birds of the air can nest; it bears little if any resemblance to the might, majestic, and noble symbol of empire of Israel or Caesar. Take your choice, says the parable.
—Bernard Brandon Scott,
Re-Imagine the World

Both (parables) proclaim that God’s action in the world, while almost imperceptible (the mustard seed was proverbial as the smallest thing that an eye could see) or hidden (as leaven in dough), is nonetheless real and will in God’s own time come to full fruition. Both assume that the kingdom of God is not a strictly future reality that will suddenly appear full-blown without any prior activity. In Jesus’ ministry the kingdom has been mysteriously inaugurated.
—Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew

 We can get a better handle on listening by turning to theologian Karl Rahner, one of this century’s master gardeners. Rahner’s message is that the listening that grows God is really a remembering. Embedded with Godseed as we are, each person already contains the promise of harvest within his or her heart. But we generally forget its presence to such an extent that it takes a special effort to recall to consciousness what we knew all along. When we cultivate the soil by listening, we remember.
—Kerry Walters, Growing God

It (mustard) grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.
—Pliny the Elder, Natural History

“A weed,” my mother used to say, “is just the right plant in the wrong place.” To me this is much more accurate than defining weeds as “wild” plants as opposed to “garden” ones...And man a garden plant, fine in one spot, can be an unwelcome guest in another. Even the right plant in the right spot can be weedy if there is too much of it; in that case you must “weed” it out along with the pigweed, man-underground and fall panic grass.
—Barbara Damrosch, The Garden Primer

The butterfly effect is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory; namely that small differences in the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system.
—James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science

· Have you ever lost a battle with weeds in your garden? How did that happen? What did you do? Was it expected?
· When has a small thing made a large difference in your life?
· Do you believe our lives, and the way of the world, is a set thing, or can it surprise us?
· Does God surprise us? How does God participate in small things?


Palimpsest: Looking for the Garden

Genesis 2:4b-17

Swans on the Minnesota River, 2-14
Paradise, we realized, was the dominant image of early Christian sanctuaries. This both disconcerted and intrigued us. On the one hand, we were dismayed to think that early Christians appeared to be obsessed with the afterlife. On the other hand, we wondered why they covered every inch of church walls with such beautiful sights...Reading early church texts on paradise, we sought to understand the ideas worshippers held as they daily prayed, processed, stood, sang, and partook of the Eucharist in such spaces. To our surprise and delight, we discovered that early Christian paradise was something other than “heaven” or the afterlife. Our modern views of heaven and paradise think of them as a world after death. However, in the early church, paradise — first and foremost — was this world, permeated and blessed by the Spirit of God. It was on the earth. — Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, Saving Paradise

The Kingdom of God is a secret garden. In the beginning, while still innocent, our Edenic ancestors dwelt in that garden and marveled at its splendor, even though they didn’t quite appreciate what they had. Then came the dreadful day when the garden was lost and our parents driven over its borders. “Roam the world,” Yahweh told them. “Scrabble around in the dust for awhile and think about what you once had. Remember the ripe fruit and sweet grasses as you toil and sweat. Maybe then you won’t take them for granted. One day you’ll be ready to reenter the garden. When you are, here’s something for your to chew on: You never really left it. It was inside you all along. The only thing you ever had to do was open the gates of your heart and walk through them.”
— Kerry Walters, Growing God: A Guide for Spiritual Gardeners

Did you too see it, drifting, all night on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air,
an armful of white blossoms,
a perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings: a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
a shrill dark music, like the rain pelting the trees,
like a waterfall
knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds —
a white cross streaming across the sky, its feet
like black leaves, its wings like the stretching light
of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
— Mary Oliver, “Swan”

· Do you believe we can experience paradise in this life, or is it hidden from us?
· Have you seen moments of paradise in the church?
· Have you witnessed moments of paradise in the world?


Palimpsest: Turn the Other Cheek

Matthew 5:38-48

Then I was introduced to the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. As I read his works I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. The whole Gandhian concept of satyagraha (satya is truth which equals love and graha is force; satyagraha thus means truth-force of love force) was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of non-violence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.

When I was in Montgomery, Alabama, as a pastor in 1954, I had not the slightest idea that I would later become involved in a crisis in which nonviolent resistance would be applicable. After I had lived in the community about a year, the bus boycott began. The Negro people of Montgomery, exhausted by the humiliating experiences that they had constantly faced on the buses, expressed in a massive act of non-co-operation their determination to be free. They came to see that it was ultimately more honourable to walk the streets in dignity than to ride the buses in humiliation. At the beginning of the protest, the people called on me to serve as their spokesman. In accepting this responsibility, my mind, consciously or unconsciously, was driven back to the Sermon on the Mount and the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance. This principle became the guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation and Gandhi furnished the method. — Martin Luther King., Jr., Strength to Love

As Paul puts it, the gospel passage for today is filled with the "foolishness" of God: Turn the other cheek? Hand over your cloak? Walk the extra mile? What is this madness? One thing it's not: Jesus isn't talking martyrdom here (although that was the fate of a number of his hearers). What he's offering is transformation, both practical and theological. He's calling us to active, creative, nonviolent resistance. As Walter Wink points out in his book Engaging the Powers, Jesus is offering a way for poor, humiliated people to take the initiative against their oppressors, allowing them to restore a sense of dignity while putting their oppressors off balance—and at the same time offering them opportunities for conversion. -- Jim Rice, Sojo.net
For centuries, readers of this advice have instinctively known something was wrong with this picture. Jesus always resisted evil. Why would he tell us to behave in ways he himself refused? And that’s where the trouble starts. The Greek word translated as “resist” (antistenai), is literally “to stand (stenai) against (anti).” The term is taken from warfare. When two armies collide, they were said to “stand against” each other. The correct translation is given in the new Scholars Bible: “Don’t react violently against the one who is evil.” The meaning is clear: don’t react in kind, don’t mirror your enemy, don’t turn into the very thing you hate. Jesus is not telling us not to resist evil, but only not to resist it violently. -- Walter Wink, “Can Love Save the World?”

· How have you interpreted these sayings of Jesus? Do you find them inspirational or difficult?
· How have you seen or experienced these teachings come to life? Does Jesus’ method work? Why or why not?