Anyone Found A Pez Dispenser?

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 – The 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, July 27, 2014

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid…” (Matthew 13:44)

In early July 2014, Mr. Jason Buzi continued his Hidden Cash social media “experiment” by hiding envelopes with money in Fresno’s Woodward Park. According to the Fresno Bee . . .

Thousands of people descended on Woodward Park in north Fresno—triggering a traffic jam at the park entrances—after hints began flowing on Twitter and Facebook shortly before 5:30 p.m. Some people were sniffing around in the sprawling park on instinct, however, even before the first tweeted hints.

Nearly $1,900 was hidden in various locations in the park, tucked away in envelopes and Pez candy dispensers.

Buzi, who apparently uses his own money, placed silver dollars in some envelopes and as much as $75 in currency in others. He stuffed $125 in the Pez dispensers. But Fresno was not unique. Either Mr. Buzi or one of his friends has unleashed the Hidden Cash treasure hunt from the San Francisco area to Southern California. There are plans for London, Paris, Madrid, and more! Stay alert! There may be euros and pounds joining dollars in this search for . . .

Search for what? Treasure?

Jesus’s briefest of parables (Matthew 13:44) described a different treasure hunt:

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.

Is the kingdom of heaven like a traffic jam as people crowd into a park, probe bushes with sticks, peer under park benches and elbow and curse (and cheer) each other as they pursue a repurposed Pez dispenser? Continue reading →

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What If It’s Not About Prayer?

Luke 18:1-8  – The 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, October 20, 2013

“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people…” (Luke 18:2)

Here’s a smidgen of a parable to ponder . . .

(1) Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. (2) He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. (3) In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ (4) For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, (5) yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” (6) And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. (7) And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? (8) I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

(A) Luke 18:1-8 one of Jesus’ parables about prayer. But what if it’s not about prayer?

(B) It tells of a good widow that achieved justice. But is justice her only accomplishment (and did Jesus mention anything about her being good)?

(C) The parable’s about a bad judge that also happened to be a rotten human being. Okay, I’ll buy that.

(D) And what if you didn’t know Jesus—the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, the Holy Trinity’s Middle Name, the Teacher from Nazareth, Joseph and Mary’s Kid, the Son of Humanity, the Christ—had spun the tale about the judge and the widow? Does that matter?

How ‘bout let’s have a do-over and return to our cozy patisserie...
How ‘bout let’s have a do-over and return to our cozy patisserie…

(E) I mean, what if you and I were sitting at our favorite bakery where we enjoyed the fresh croissants, sipped French roast coffee and solved all the world’s problems, and you complained about how difficult it’s been to take the next step in your life? You tell me you’ve been persistent in your efforts, but there’s a person or situation that has prevented you from achieving your goals? And, to encourage and inspire you, I told you a story—about a judge, a widow and about . . .

*         *         *

(D) How can we know if Jesus told this story in this way? Unless you take the Bible literally, the idea that early followers of Jesus only partially recalled any parable is likely. There are no original manuscripts. The oral tradition of Jesus’ stories became word-of-mouth among believers, became written documents influenced by a particular writer’s bias, contained unintentional mistakes, intentionally included or excluded certain parts, and then were all translated into different languages over and over and over and over again. Continue reading →

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Page Turner

Mark 4:26-34 – The 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – for June 17, 2012

“He also said, ‘With what can we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?’” (Mark 4:30)

Jesus “did not speak to them except in parables.”

So said Mark’s Gospel.

The sentence’s “them” were the people that followed Jesus around the countryside.

Parables, of course, are stories.

Tell me a story...

Remnants of Jesus’ tales and teachings appear in every Gospel; some seem complete and intact, others are partial, like slices of light through shutters. Compared to a novel—say John Irving’s most recent book or the briefest of Alice Munro’s award-winning short stories—all of Jesus’ parables are spare. A few could easily be tweeted. Several parables might be page-turners, but only if the first verses began near the bottom of a page! However, all possess a story’s most basic structure:  a beginning, middle and end.

We know them. 2,000 years later Jesus’ stories roam popular culture like restless travelers, eager to be part of the next big thing. Whether in a film or book, enduring or forgettable, blatant or subtle, Jesus’ stories are continually “resurrected.” Rich landowners, good Samaritans, prodigal sons, wicked tenants and the vineyard workers have had more lives than the luckiest of cats. Even with our urban sensibilities, with most of us never setting foot on a working farm or doing more than driving past a cornfield, our favorite writers—from William Shakespeare to Aaron Sorkin—toss out references to tiny mustard seeds, lost sheep or new wine in old wineskins.

Tell me a story, a child pleads.

I love the B&W photo of my Dad I’ve included in these thoughts. After all, I’m writing this (and many of you will read this) near Father’s Day. Dad holds me in his lap, a book open and a story about to unfold. I can almost hear his voice. Dad often read to me. Mom read to me. My older sister read to me. Stories keep us up past bedtime. They introduce heroes and villains. They conjure monsters under the bed and conquer them before sleepy eyes drift shut.

Tell me about your favorite story from a book or movie or television show. Maybe I’ll hear about Perry Mason in a courtroom or Neytiri on Pandora. Will you wow me with Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) or Jean Louise Finch (aka Scout)? Whatever your favorite tale might be, I’m betting you’ll share it as if it’s real. Those fictional people matter . . . they are harsh mirrors and warm blankets, demanding mentors and bestest friends. Continue reading →

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