Monthly Archives: March 2020

Matthew 14: 13-21 Bread in the Wilderness

Mosaic at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha near the Sea of Galilee

Matthew 14: 13-21

Parallels: Mark 6: 32-44; Luke 9: 10b-17; John 6: 1-15

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

The rejection in Nazareth and the death of John the Baptist puts both Jesus and the crowds in motion and they both arrive in the wilderness. Jesus and his disciples get into a boat and come to an uninhabited place along the sea, and the crowds abandon the towns to follow him on foot. Matthew shortened version of this story (if Mark’s narration is the original) continues to invite the followers of Jesus to reflect upon his identity by echoing other portions of both Matthew’s narration of Jesus’ life and scriptures. The feeding of the five thousand men, plus women and children, is unique among the miracle stories of Jesus because it is the only one included in all four gospel accounts.

The wilderness was where John the Baptist began his story, where Jesus was baptized and where Jesus was tempted. People once came into the wilderness to see John the Baptist instead of Herod (see comments on 11: 7-15), but now the come seeking Jesus. Jesus has compassion on this large crowd and begins to heal those who are sick. Matthew drops Mark’s allusion to Ezekiel 34 where the crowd is like sheep without a shepherd, but the contrast with the compassion Jesus shows towards the crowd and the fear Herod Antipas shows highlights the contrast in relations between these ‘kings of Israel.’ Matthew also drops the teaching of the crowds, but since Jesus teaching the crowds in parables comprises the previous chapter this is not necessary to Matthew’s narration. Now in the absence of John the Baptist and instead of Herod Antipas, the large crowd journeys over land to meet Jesus in this wilderness place.

The defining story of the Hebrew people is the Exodus and central to the people’s journey through the wilderness is the provision of bread by God on that journey. In this wilderness the people are now fed by Jesus, he becomes the one who makes an excessive amount of bread in the wilderness. Like the woman who folded the yeast into three measures of flour (13: 33) he prepares a feast to this great crowd. This story also resonates with the final meal that Jesus will share with his disciples where again he will bless and break bread to be distributed (26:26-30). Matthew, following Mark’s structure, will have Jesus do two feedings of large crowds in the wilderness. (15: 32-39) In both feeding stories the disciples of Jesus in addition to distributing the bread are also invited to wonder about the one who can provide an abundant feast where all are satisfied in a wilderness place. Like God providing for the people in the Exodus or promising a great feast on the mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 25: 6-9) we are invited to consider who Jesus is in relation to God. He is more than a prophet like John the Baptist and more than a king like Herod even if those in his homeland cannot recognize it.

The Air is Heavy


The air is heavy as it fills my lungs with its leaden weight
For in this springtime of the year in addition to the pollen,
The heavy perfume of the earth reawakening from its slumber
The emergence of wildflowers and bees and leave on the trees
Comes the weight of our fears over the death of the world we know
While the rest of creation emerges from its wintry hibernation
We confine ourselves to our modern caves repaying sabbaths missed
While the bird songs fill the morning light, we sing a dirge
Like children caught between dance and death we are unsatisfied
And we grieve the world transformed in ways we didn’t forsee

The air is heavy as the alveoli slowly force it back into the sky above
Breathing out the pain and the sadness, the life and the death
As each lobe automatically works to push the moist carbon dioxide
Through the bronchi and trachea to be expelled out of the mouth
Carrying on its respiration a heavy prayer for some lighter air
When we gathered in great numbers to sing and dance and jump
Sitting at the banquet table eating rich food and drinking well aged wine
Eating the marrow of life and drinking the wine strained clear
Never thinking that death could swallow this up so quickly
And the shroud would lie over so many people from so many nations

The air that bears the unweighable virus can seem so heavy
As we try to launch our saline filled cries up into the heavens
Waiting behind the high fortifications of our walls for the day
When we can open the gates in joyous celebration and lightness
For the air is no longer heavy and we can breathe freely again
For the shroud has been removed and death is swallowed up
And prayers are finally answered as tears are wiped away
The city’s life which has been placed in a coma awakens
As our lungs fill with the warm but lighter air of summer

Matthew 14: 1-12 The Death of John the Baptist

By Jean Benner – [1], Public Domain,

Matthew 14: 1-12

Parallel Mark 6: 14-29; Luke 9: 7-9

1 At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 3 For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 because John had been telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod 7 so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9 The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; 10 he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. 12 His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.

Immediately after Jesus is not received in his hometown, Matthew narrates the death of John the Baptist. Herod Antipas may, like his father Herod the Great, want to be the ‘King of the Jews’ but his actions run contrary to the vision expressed in the law for how a king is supposed to be. He also is sharply contrasted with Jesus in the coming narrative: while Herod fears the crowd Jesus has compassion on them, while the death of one who came ‘neither eating of drinking’ occurs at a feast at Herod’s birthday party, Jesus will provide a banquet in the deserted place for thousands. This story of sex, intrigue and power demonstrates the nature of the kingdom of rulers like Herod. The kingdom that Jesus and John pointed to is an alternative to this Herodian tragedy.

Herod Antipas is the tetrarch, he ruled a quarter of his father’s former kingdom including Galilee. His brother Herod II, also known as Herod Philip, was the husband of Herodias not to be confused with Philip II the ruler of Trachonitis. We learned in Matthew 11:2 that John the Baptist was in prison and now we hear the reason that Herod Antipas took notice of this prophet. The divorce of Herod II and Herodias is also mentioned in Josephus and we know that eventually Herod Antipas married Herodias, but their marriage would have been a scandal among the people of Galilee. Unfortunately, rulers often feel above the law that their followers adhere to. Jesus will speak against divorce multiple times in Matthew and, like John, he wouldn’t have endorsed a brother marrying his brother’s wife serving as the king of the region where Jesus’ ministry begins.

Rulers making wild declarations which have lasting consequences are common characters throughout the bible and these rulers are bound by their words. Herod makes Herodias’ daughter a promise to give her what she asks for. Generations earlier Esther when given a similar opportunity by King Ahaseurus uses the opportunity to save the people and to bring about the death of Haman, the enemy of her people (Esther 5:3, Mark’s parallel telling of this uses identical language in Herod’s and Ahaseurus’ promises) but here the daughter of Herodias asks only for the death of the prophet. Herod Antipas is bound by his rash promise and the presence of those reclining at the table with him.

Herod expresses a belief that John the Baptist has been raised from the dead to his children (NRSV renders the word servants), which points to an understanding of the resurrection of the righteous which would have been an idea shared by the Pharisees and the followers of Jesus. I don’t believe that Herod Antipas would’ve considered himself a Pharisee, but he probably had enough in common with them for them to work together when it served their interests. This may lie behind the collaboration between Pharisees and Herodians in 22:16.

Matthew shortens Mark’s narration of the death of John the Baptist’s, but it does serve  important functions in Matthew’s narration of Jesus’ ministry. By coming immediately after the rejection in Jesus’ hometown it demonstrates the resistance to the kingdom of heaven and the cost that prophets and messiahs will pay. It also ends John the Baptist’s role in the story. In Matthew, Jesus and John share identical language in their proclamation but have different roles. Yet, we also will hear others understand Jesus in terms of John the Baptist (16:14). John’s disciples have come to Jesus before, and now they come to Jesus a final time with the news of John’s death, which sets Jesus in motion. Jesus will withdraw to a deserted place, perhaps to grieve and perhaps to avoid Herod Antipas. Herod will stay at his celebration with those who have seen Herodias’ daughter dance and John the Baptist beheaded with the crowds outside. Jesus in going to the deserted place will find the crowds coming and seeking him like sheep without a shepherd, or at least without a good shepherd.

Matthew 13: 54-58 Rejecting Wisdom

By Meister der Kahriye-Cami-Kirche in Istanbul – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain,

Matthew 13: 54-58

Parallels Mark 6: 1-6a; Luke 4: 16-30

54 He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” 58 And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

The rejection of Jesus by those in his hometown or country (Greek patrida literally fatherland is behind both words in this narrative) fits within the overall flow of the gospel of Matthew’s structure which existed prior to the chapter divisions and this short narrative of the rejection in Nazareth combined with the death of John the Baptist set the stage for the next group of stories of Jesus’ power and reflections on faith. Throughout the parables we have been warned that many will not have ears to hear, eyes to see or hearts to understand. For the people of Jesus’ hometown familiarity with the relations of Jesus becomes the ‘stumbling block’ or ‘scandal’ (Greek skandalizo) which makes them unable to receive the wisdom that Jesus offers them, presumably in parables.

Earlier in response to the crowd, notably after the disciples of John the Baptist come to him. Jesus would say, “Yet wisdom is vinidicated by her deeds.” (11:19) Now the ones in his hometown recognize both wisdom and the deeds of power, and yet they are unable to receive him. Their unbelief (literally unfaith or lack of faith) it not due to the lack of justification for faith, the wisdom and deeds of power are known and demonstrated even here. There may not be a large number of deeds of power where ‘all the sick’ will be healed as in other places but that is because their lack of faith. As I argued in talking about faith in Matthew’s gospel, faith is an openness or awareness to what God is doing in the world through the presence of Jesus. They are in a synagogue, they can perceive the wisdom and even the deeds of power, but they are unable to connect those realities to the kingdom of heaven’s presence in this one whose father was a laborer (we may associate carpenters with craftsmen, but in this time the Greek tekton is merely a builder/laborer) whose mother and brothers they can name and whose sisters are known among them.

There may be many reasons that people reject wisdom, many stumbling blocks that can cause them to fall, but this is still a world in which the harvest will occur. The seed may fall on the path, or the rocky soil or among the thorns but the sower continues to sow. The weeds and the wheat will grow up together, the mustard seed is sown among the massive field, and the yeast is hidden among the three measures of flour. One discovers a treasure, one a pearl of surpassing value, others good and bad fish that need to be sorted. Yet, even in the midst of no faith Jesus is still able to do something according to Matthew. In a change from Mark’s language where the lack of faith in his hometown makes Jesus unable to do any deeds of power (except for healing a few sick people), in Matthew’s gospel Jesus doesn’t do deeds of power there and the reason is ambiguous. Perhaps it is by choice, why do deeds of power where hearts cannot understand, eyes cannot see and ears cannot hear, perhaps their lack of openness to the kingdom creates a resistance to God’s activity in that place. Regardless there are other fields to tend to and so Jesus and his disciples go where the people are ready to be fed.

Video Reflection 5: On Creativity

1 Corinthians 12: 4-13

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

As I was thinking about what we needed in a time like this I started reflecting about the role I’ve tried to play as a leader of this community and what attributes I try to model as a leader, and although I’m not one who normally goes for catch phrases what I ended up with were my 5 c’s: Calm, Centered, Connected, Creativity and its cousin Curiousity. Apologies for the alliteration but I do try to remain calm in times of crisis, and I’ve walked through some in my times as a leader as an adult. I try to remain centered in the things that ground me, my faith, my love of scripture, the people I love. I try to remain connected with the people I am gifted to serve however I can to the best of my ability, while still taking times to rest and care for myself. But I want to focus on these last two today: Creativity and its cousin Curiosity.

I’ve had a fascination with creativity and curiosity for years and I’m thankful for some of the places it has led me in my life. I can talk about this for a long time, but some quick reflections today:

  • Some of us may be at the point where we are growing bored (or maybe we’ve been bored for days now). The good news is that this can be a place where curiosity and creativity can play. When we are constantly busy it is hard for us to get curious about something, to invest the time and resources it takes to be creative. Also crises can be a place where necessity forces us to consider new and creative ways of doing things.
  • Creativity is scary, vulnerable and full of terrifying firsts. It was terrifying when I started writing, when I started recording video (especially since I’m self-conscious about how I look in pictures and video), Elizabeth Gilbert gives a lot of reasons not to be creative, which I’ll read (if you want all the reasons see the video) but ultimately it is scary, scary, scary
  • Creativity looks different in different people. My medium is words, Adam has a great eye for photography. Maybe you organize things or paint or skate or dance, or who knows what the gift God’s spirit has placed within you. Jack Gilbert, the poet reportedly once told a student in one of his classes, “Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden within you are hoping you will say yes.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic, 7
  • “I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and ours: The universe buried strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” Big Magic, 8

I’m going to close today with a poem that I wrote years ago, but that still is one of my favorites of these gifts I never knew was buried inside me, it’s a poem called Creative Words (click on the title to link to the poem)


Video Reflection 4: On Prayer during this time of Social Distancing

Psalm 5: 1-3, 11-12
Give ear to my words, O LORD; give heed to my sighing.
2 Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
3 O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover them with favor as with a shield.

Matthew 6: 6-13
6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

Romans 8: 26-27
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Today I want to give you some resources for prayer. There is not an incorrect way to pray, God knows the needs of our hearts before we voice them, but sometimes it helps to have some resources to give words to our prayers. Sometimes there are portions of scriptures like the Psalms, or the Lord’s Prayer that can help us. But here are some other prayers for this time:
The first one come from our hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship on p. 76

O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

These next prayers come from a little resource that many pastors have that is a supplement to the hymnal called Pastoral Care which has resources and prayers for various situations. While I normally will pray without referencing this, sometimes it is helpful to have prayers for various situations. Here are a few:
Prayer to be recited with a child who is anxious:

Gentle Jesus, stay beside me through this day (night). Take away my pain. Keep me safe. Help me when I’m afraid. Make my body strong again and my heart glad. Thank you for your love that surrounds me.

Another couple prayers which are written for morning but can be adapted for any time of day:

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where to go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We give you thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected us through the night from all harm and danger. We ask that you would also protect us today from sin and all evil, so that our life and actions may please you. Into your hands we commend ourselves: our bodies, our souls, and all that is ours. Let your holy angels be with us, so that the wicked for may have no power over us.

Praying for those who are caregivers in this time:

Holy and compassionate God, you send to us in our need those who care for us and look out for our lives. Bless them in their love for us. Bless the hands of those who work for our health. Bless the minds of those who search for our healing. Bless the feet of those who come to us in our need. Bless the eyes of those who look after us. Bless the hearts of all who serve; fill them with compassion and patience; and work through all of them for the betterment and well-being of all your children, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Merciful God, your healing power is everywhere about us. Strengthen those who work among the sick; give them courage and confidence in all they do. Encourage them when they are overwhelmed with many pressing needs or when their efforts seem futile. Increase their trust in your power to bring life and wholeness even in the midst of death and pain and crying. May they be thankful for every sign of health you give, and humble before the mystery of your healing grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tears and Gears

By Tangopaso – Own work, Public Domain,


As the gears of the machine we’ve wired ourselves into grinds to a screeching halt
This system which was fueled by sweat and creativity and occasionally lubricated by blood
Whose thrums and hums we’ve synched the rhythm of our lives and thoughts to
And we find ourselves in this forced sabbatical as time seems to slow to a crawl
And the machine which daily accepted our offerings closes its gaping maw
Perhaps we wonder if we were merely a parasite on this clunking monstrosity
Maybe we might discover that we were engaged in a symbiotic relationship
Or we may perceive that the machine was slowly but steadily feeding on us
That the lifeblood it gave was more precious than the benefits it provided
And we were merely living batteries tied into the matrix that we powered

The machine is down for maintenance and perhaps we are as well
And when it restarts, which will inexorably occur when this pause ends
What will the relationship between our tears and its gears be?
Will we give our blood and sweat so willingly, be wired in so completely?
Will it be lifegiving to synch our energies to the beat of its mechanical heart?
Or will our relationship change, will the machine change, will we?
What will this unscheduled maintenance for both mean for we and it?
May this forced sabbatical allow us time to listen to the rhythm of our souls
The beat of our own heart, the feelings of our mind, and the language of our body

Video reflection 3: Caring for Ourselves and Others

Romans 12: 14-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Psalm 133

1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.

3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.


It is Thursday of the first full week of physical distancing, and I know that life has changed around us. Perhaps you have kids who are home from school for a second week in a row with nowhere to go, perhaps you are going a little bit stir crazy, perhaps tempers or anxiety sometimes gets the better of you.  I want to give the opportunity to pause and think about how we care for ourselves in this time, and how we might care for one another when we can’t be physically close.

A friendly reminder that you need to care for yourself, if you are an introvert take some time to read or watch TV or play a video game to recharge your batteries if you are locked in a house with others. If you are an extrovert, this time may be hard on your but reach out to friend through phone or skype, schedule times to get out of the house when weather permits. I do think that for several weeks our lives are going to be interrupted, so if you have to stay home try to schedule times to do things that are life giving.

Don’t obsess over the news or the stock market, I’m not saying not to stay informed but don’t spend your day looking at a screen which is giving you bad news all the time. I know there is grieving in this time about the way things are changed, and that is ok. If you are like me you have plans that were made and now have changed.

If only kindred could only live together in unity all the time or we could always live in harmony but have patience with one another. Nobody has lived through something like this for a long time.

A couple new notes: with the libraries closing we do have a couple opportunities at the church. If you need access to a computer, office space or wi-fi we can make one of our classrooms available for a workspace (Monday-Thursday). Please contact the office for availability. Also one of our library volunteers brought in a shelf of books that are from the public library for various age ranges which if you need reading material are available.

Grey Days

There was a time when the rain fell softly every day
When the cool dampness soaked beyond flesh and bone
And the cold water dimmed the fire of my soul
While the earth around me seemed to drink in the drops
Bursting forth into forests of deep green that blocked out the sun
I am a creature of the sun baked plains and the heat of summer
And the life in the forest made the air too heavy to breathe
Now I’ve returned to my natural habitat, to the place where I can thrive
Perhaps a place to hot and dry for many but it warms my bones
And in this place the fire of my soul was rekindled and burns brightly
Yet, on those grey days where the thunder rumbles and clouds collect
And the lightning flashes across the sky announcing the coming
Of the large grey drops that drench the earth and flood the plains
For a time I am returned to the dampness of that forested place
And the fire within sputters under the impact of the downpour
But in this place of dust and sun the rains last only for a time
Shortly to be replace by the arid heat and the drying wind
But without the grey days, without the chilling rain and cool wind
The life of the plains shrivels and dies and even the creatures of the sun
Need those times of being soaked soul, flesh and bone
To enjoy the life in the midst of the valley of the sun

Originally published:

Matthew 13: 44-53 Treasures Old and New

By Brocken Inaglory – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Matthew 13: 44-53

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” 53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.

This final set of three parables with a bonus image wraps up this block of teaching the crowds and disciples in parables. The careful hearer will hear several resonances between these images, which are unique to Matthew’s gospel, and other teachings of Jesus earlier in the gospel. Those who are scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven (literally disciple scribes of the kingdom of heaven) have learned from both the wisdom of scripture and the teaching of Jesus and have a rich storehouse of wisdom to bring forth into their life. As I continue to sit with these images I am aware that many have been unearthing the treasures hidden here for almost 2,000 years but I still find a rich storehouse of treasures waiting the patient seeker.

The first two images contrast with the previous earthy images in the extravagant image that is likened to the kingdom of heaven. The previous images have been very earthy, related to fields and baking, but here we are dealing with the discovery of treasures and pearls. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure or a storehouse of treasure hidden in a field which compels that person to sell all they have to possess. The image of treasure may remind the attentive disciple to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 19-21 about storing up treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth and about one’s heart being where one’s treasures are or Matthew 19:21 where Jesus in conversation tells a rich young man to sell his possessions to have treasure in heaven. The person in the parable is completely invested in their decision to purchase the field and possess the treasure. They have given up what they have to live on to possess the treasure, and while we might naturally think of this person selling off the treasure to live more abundantly the story ends with the person owning the field, the treasure and nothing else.

In a similar way the image of the person purchasing a pearl of great value takes us into an extravagant image that most of the people in Jesus’ audience couldn’t imagine. There is no undisputed mention of pearls in the Hebrew scriptures (the NRSV translates Job 28: 18 ‘the price of wisdom is above pearls’ but the words translated pearls is the Hebrew p’ninim which means jewels), but Matthew has used the image of casting ‘pearls before swine’ in Matthew 7:6. Pearls are produced by a non-kosher animal but wouldn’t be forbidden to wear by Jewish people, the problem with pearls is at this time they are more valuable than any other ‘fine jewels.’ They were simply unavailable for the average person. They may never see a pearl except in depictions of the very wealthy, much less one of exceeding value. (Levine, 2014, pp. 146-148) In modern settings we normally anticipate a person who is a merchant purchasing something of high value in order to sell it at a high cost, but few of us can imagine risking everything on one high priced item that literally bankrupts us, but the parable again shows no interest in selling the pearl. The person who was a merchant now gives all to possess this pearl of exceeding value that is qualitatively different from any other pearl or gemstone. Both individuals who sell everything desire to possess the discovered treasure and find themselves willing to empty out their storehouses to make space for this one thing.

The third image, which is given with interpretation, returns to the familiar realm of most of the people around Jesus, the image of fishing. The net thrown into the sea is a dragnet, not the small circular net cast into the sea for targeted fishing indicated earlier in the gospel. It is a net pulled behind or between boats gathering everything indiscriminately that is not too small for the net.  Nor does the Greek indicate that it caught fish of every kind, instead it simply says ‘all kinds/races gathered together’ (pantos genous sunagagouse). We may hear the echo of Jesus’ call to Peter and Andrew when he told them he would have them fish for people in Matthew 4: 19 and the explanation of this final parable indicates that it is indeed people instead of fish being sorted. In the explanation the angels are the sorters who gather the good ones into vessels and the bad ones are cast out into the fire. I do believe that Matthew wants us to hear that there is a consequence for failing to be righteous instead of evil, good instead of bad, having one’s hearts and treasures not invested in the approaching kingdom of heaven. Even in their way parables both conceal and reveal they are intended for those with ears to hear to become scribes learning the ways of the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew unearths some of these treasures for us to see and conceals others for those who trained to hear the scriptures of Israel in light of the new reality of the kingdom of heaven’s approach in Jesus. Matthew is trying to train us how to read scripture in the light of Jesus’ teaching and wisdom and give us a map to the storehouse of treasure or the pearl of exceeding value. Scribes trained to marvel at the pearls of wisdom contained in some of these earthy tales of sowing, baking and fishing and to delight in the presence of the kingdom in unexpected ways in the midst of the world. Perhaps that is a part of the reason that patient seekers continue to unearth unexpected treasures in these parables 2,000 years later.

Video Reflection 2 During COVID 19, Body of Christ

Romans 12: 4-13

4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.


We are only the body of Christ together, we need one another in this time. We all have different needs and those needs may change as we go through this time.  We are trying to anticipate those needs and I’ve been talking to lot’s of people over the last couple days, but I can use your help.


Today I have a couple very pragmatic and practical things in this reflection. First I’ve attached the directory, and we’ve also placed it online at which is under the about us tab at the top of the website. First I’d like you to check your information is correct and if you either don’t have a picture or would like to change your picture you can email a new picture to What I’d like you to consider is looking at the people around you in the directory and call, email or text someone you know and someone you don’t know well. Doesn’t need to be much, could be something as simple as “This is Neil (or insert your name), just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you today.” It’s a simple act of staying connected to your brothers and sisters in Christ.


Secondly, I asked Adam to create a link on our website to request or to offer assistance. We don’t know exactly what the next several weeks will bring, but there may be needs that arise in our congregation or in our community. Perhaps someone is close to running out of toilet paper and someone else has a case, perhaps someone needs help with something at their home. The link on our website is and it is one of the rotating links on our main page. Please feel free to share this in the local community. We’ve reached out to a couple local organizations, like schools, but we also wanted to be ready to adjust as we move through this uncharted time.


Being that today is St. Patrick’s day and while people may not be drinking green beer today, we can close today with a prayer attributed to St. Patrick.


St. Patrick’s Prayer


I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

Tomorrow we will broadcast our normal Wednesday night service as our video. I will send out the words and the song that comes from our hymnal but since Joyous Light, the service we use, falls outside our normal copyright license I cannot make the music available. If you’d like to take a copy of the service you can pick one up at church for your use, the building will be open 9-3 today and tomorrow.