Saturday, June 27, 2015

Discovering Hope

Devotions at Discovering Hope Event 6/27/2015

Mark 4:35-41
“On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”

Sometimes when people ask me what my parents did for a living I reply:  “They were professional gamblers.”

That’s one way of talking about farming, “dirt farming” (to be specific), which my dad and mom did together for over 30 years in southern Minnesota, from 1943 through 1974.

Farming the land has always been akin to an annual high stakes poker game— predicated on a host of assumptions about soil fertility, favorable weather, dependable machinery, unflagging human energies and an at least “good enough” economy.   Every growing cycle, each crop year entails risks and unforeseen twists in the road that could make or break a farming operation.

I think there is something paradigmatic about this way of “framing” the enterprise of agriculture that still impacts all of us who care about and serve the gospel small towns and rural areas across the upper Midwest.   That gamblers’ sense of “living on the edge” marks so much of our approach to life on the Great Plains.

And perhaps that’s why it’s so easy, for small town and rural folks and their congregations to see themselves always hanging on, dangling from a precipice, wondering if they can make it one more growing season, one more year….

How effortlessly we jump to the worst possible conclusion, like the disciples in their little boat, about to be swamped:   “Do you not care that we are perishing?”

I used to think that what STaR churches (small town and rural churches) needed most was more money and people…but then, along the way, I realized that people and money mean nothing without a healthy dose of imagination fired by hope!

So we are always hankering for hope, which is what got us all out of bed early on a Saturday morning in the summer.   We hunger and thirst for hope--hope that is usually already present, right under our noses—the way the disciples discovered Hope comfortably snoozing on a cushion in the  hold of their small ship!

May that be the hope, in Christ Jesus, that discovers us today and in all our tomorrows!

Lord Jesus, it is so easy to hit the panic button, so natural for us to assume the worst.   Surprise us with signs of hope that will stir up our imaginations.   Teach us how you are always right beside us, out ahead of us, calming storms, renewing your creation, making us new, and tuning us to sing your praises. Bless this day and all that we will learn together, as agents of your Hope.  Amen.     

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