Tares Will Burn

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 18.14-15
14 The human spirit can endure in sickness, 
but a crushed spirit who can bear? 
15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, 
for the ears of the wise seek it out. 

Matthew 13.30
30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.

Reflection: Tares Will Burn
By John Tillman

It crushes the spirit and sickens the heart when evil returns and seems unopposed.

Recently in American cities, Nazis openly marched and chanted in the streets, referring to non-white people as feces and vermin.

Over 400,000 Americans died defeating the Nazi empire, yet today, Hitler’s flags and slogans in American streets brought shrugs from some politicians, media personalities, and Christians. “Are they really Nazis? Did anyone interview them to find out what they want?” As if we couldn’t listen to the chants, read the flags, or remember what Nazis want.

In the 1930s, Nazi ideology twisted and manipulated Christianity and the Bible into an explicitly anti-Christian mandate of hate. Nazi ideology was defeated by those who reclaimed Christianity from hatred, kinism, and fascism. Yet today, some think fascism might not be so bad, and some Christians have pulled Nazi definitions of Christendom from the trash heap of history and are reheating them on a stove to serve their followers.

Who can endure when sickness such as this returns and returns? How can our spirits not be crushed to witness moral and theological failure? To what can we appeal when those supporting hatred, violence, and oppression slander the very name of Christ?

There have always been tares among the wheat, false gospels among the true, and false Christs posing as “saviors” of the church or Christianity.

There is no glib proverb promising such things cannot happen in our time. There’s no easy answer other than proclaiming the truth. There’s no course of action other than staying the course in the way of Jesus.

There is good news. First, this evil is not unopposed. Don’t become distracted by Christian voices deceived by or apathetic to kinism and racism. Lend your voice to those who cry against such things.

We may be embarrassed by the arguments between Christians about whether it is bad that Nazis are marching or not. We may be disappointed or disillusioned by the failures of leaders or organizations to confront false Christendoms, false gospels, and false messiahs that promote them.

However, there are those longing to hear the truth if we will tell them. The heart of the discerning longs to acquire knowledge. The ears of the wise are seeking the truth.

There are tares in the field, but many people search for the true wheat. And someday, those tares will burn.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill?
Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart.
There is no guile upon his tongue; he does no evil to his friend; he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
In his sight the wicked is rejected, but he honors those who fear the Lord.
He has sworn to do no wrong and does not take back his word.
He does not give his money in hope of gain, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things shall never be overthrown. — Psalm 15

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 18 (Listen 2:23)
Mark 8  (Listen 4:29)

Read more about Breathing Prayers
Breath prayers are simply short prayers which can be said “in a breath.” These are often taken from scripture.

Read more about A Sword Unsheathed
May we cry against violence not cry for it. 
May we end the suffering of the poor not endorse it.

Would You Rather Proverbs?

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 17.1-7
1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet 
than a house full of feasting, with strife. 
2 A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son 
and will share the inheritance as one of the family. 
3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, 
but the Lord tests the heart. 
4 A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; 
a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue. 
5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; 
whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished. 
6 Children’s children are a crown to the aged, 
and parents are the pride of their children. 
7 Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool— 
how much worse lying lips to a ruler!

Reflection: Would You Rather Proverbs?
By John Tillman

“Would You Rather?” forces choices between bad and usually gross options. “Would you rather eat a live bug or a hairball?” Some proverbs sound like a question from the game: Would you rather be peaceful with poverty or problematic with prosperity? (Proverbs 17.1) But God isn’t trying to gross us out or force us to choose between two bad options. God is teaching us to see and to think differently.

In the world, the “party” is worth the “strife.” The grind is worth the drip. Even if it means grinding up your competitors, workers, or family. Wealth, power, and ease are worth whatever you do to obtain them. 

In Christ, no amount of wealth, power, or ease is worth abandoning the way of Jesus. These are the very things Satan tempted Jesus with. We must resist them, too.

In the world, children inherit whether they are wise or wastrels, whether their habits are gracious or grotesque. Birthright is biological, and the first always gobbles the biggest slice. 

In Christ, the first are joyfully last and the older serve the younger. Not only that, God treats as family outsiders and exiles who embrace wisdom and disowns and rejects biological kin who mock his grace and mercy.

In the world, we mock the poor for their poverty and honor those who inherit wealth as if they earned it.

In Christ, there is good news for the poor. Helping the poor is helping Christ himself, and mocking or turning away the poor is mocking and turning away God himself. Kingdoms and their leaders are wicked if the poor, the foreigner, and the vulnerable suffer and righteous when they find justice and peace.

Among God’s people, in Christ, a new family is defined, a new kingdom is founded, and a new world is created. In this family, love is defined differently. In this kingdom, power operates differently. In this world, growth occurs differently. We should be different. We should expect, pursue, and celebrate different things when we are a part of Christ than we do as a part of the world. We must align our hearts and minds to these new ways of thinking.

We are not choosing between two bad options when we choose the way of Christ. We are learning to spot what is good in what the world finds gross and what is gold in what the world dismisses as dross.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let those who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 17 (Listen 2:58)
Mark 7  (Listen 4:28)

Read more about Proverbs’ House of Mirrors
Do our words rhyme with God’s? Or do they stink? Would we enjoy eating them?

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Faith After the Storm

Scripture Focus: Mark 4.37-41
37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” 

Reflection: Faith After the Storm
By John Tillman

How tired Christ must have been to sleep during the storm. 

Mark gives us the beautiful eyewitness detail of Christ asleep on a cushion. Jesus had healed and preached all day long. Then he had preached it all again to his disciples, who had heard the stories but, like the crowd, had difficulty understanding.

Jesus was so exhausted that the wildly rocking boat, the crashing waves, and even the boat filling up with water didn’t wake him. Jesus slept on in the midst of this terrible storm, until his shaken disciples shook him awake.

The disciples didn’t seem to wake Jesus expecting him to save them from the storm. They merely woke him to complain about his treatment of them. “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” The drowning seems a foregone conclusion. There is no direct request, merely bitterness and accusation. 

How often do we pray to Jesus without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints and accusations?

Don’t you care? Why don’t you answer? What’s wrong with you?

After Jesus calms the storm, we expect the disciples’ fears to be as calm as the sea. Instead, they are even more terrified. 

Jesus asleep on the cushion is a punching bag for our emotions. Asleep, he cannot dispute our complaints, our fears, or our version of events. 

Jesus standing and commanding the storm is intimidating and disturbing. He is no longer someone we can shake awake and push around. Jesus is not a servile employee behind the desk of God’s complaint department. Instead, he can demand our service and command our compliance. His power and position cannot be debated or bargained with. His rebuke of the storm may rebuke us as well. “Quiet. Be still.” We may be as terrified by a Jesus who calms storms as we are by the storms themselves.

After the storm, Jesus says, “Do you still have no faith?”

Whatever degree of faith we have after the storm, Jesus is willing to do great things through us, as he did through the disciples. Like the disciples, we must contemplate the fearful question, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Spend some time meditating on this question. Who is this Jesus?

As you do, may the storms of your heart be stilled and calmed by Christ. The winds and waves listen to his rebukes. We can, too.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to  be heard;
Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. — Psalm 66.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 14 (Listen 3:45
Mark 4  (Listen 5:01)

​This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 15 (Listen 3:36), Mark 5  (Listen 5:21)
Proverbs 16 (Listen 3:15), Mark 6  (Listen 7:23)

Read more about Fear in the Boat
So we will suffer and make our way through together with Christ, looking always to him who is with us in the boat.

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Proverbs’ House of Mirrors

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 13.1-5
1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.
2 From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, 
but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence. 
3 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, 
but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. 
4 A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, 
but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. 
5 The righteous hate what is false, 
but the wicked make themselves a stench 
and bring shame on themselves. 

Exodus 3.14-15
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ 
“This is my name forever, 
the name you shall call me 
from generation to generation.

Reflection: Proverbs’ House of Mirrors
By John Tillman

We often remember that the Psalms are poetry. (Although we may not remember this enough.) But other parts of the Bible, including Proverbs, are also better interpreted through a poetic lens.

Hebrew poetry rhymes ideas, not sounds. Occasionally, biblical writers use homophones or near-homophones as puns, implying meaning and connections, but they do not arrange them in rhyming patterns. Parallelism is the primary tool in the biblical poetry toolkit.

Perhaps Hebrew poetry’s love of and proficiency at parallelism is a reflection on the name of the God they worshiped. God’s name has parallelism within itself. God tells Moses his name is “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3.15) God’s name is a reflective statement. “I am” is reflected by “who I am. Even his description of the use of his name is reflective. “Forever” is reflected by “from generation to generation.”

Let us reflect on a small section of Proverbs, considering each verse as a reflective couplet and each couplet as reflecting those before it and around it.

Proverbs 13.2: The first image is people eating their words. In this case, “eating one’s words” is not comeuppance. The righteous can enjoy eating their words. Next, we see others’ words produce evil, specifically violence. These people have an appetite for violence and enjoy the taste.

Proverbs 13.3: A new detail appears. Guarded, truthful, careful speech saves lives, while rash, false, violent speech brings ruin.

Proverbs 13.4: The image of the appetite returns. The sluggard’s appetite leads to dissatisfaction. The appetite for violence, mentioned above, needs more and more, while the desires of the righteous bring fulfillment.

Proverbs 13.5: More details about flavors of speech arise. The righteous develop a distaste for dishonesty and deception. The wicked gobble up and spew forth lies and distortions. They smell of what they eat and what they vomit up.

Biblical poetry is like a house of mirrors, with patterns of reflective statements all reflecting on each other. Do we see ourselves reflected in these mirrored statements?

Which son (Proverbs 13.1) do we resemble? The son who heeds? Or the son who mocks? 
What do our words incite? Violence or joy?
Do our words rhyme with God’s? Or do they stink? Would we enjoy eating them?
How do our actions reflect God’s name? Do we distort his image?

Let us not look into scripture’s mirror and forget what we see. (James 1.23-24)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us bless the Lord from this time forth forevermore. — Psalm 115.18

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 13 (Listen 2:45
Mark 3  (Listen 3:41)

Read more about The Promise of Proverbs is Change
It is crucial to ask, “Are we becoming people of wickedness or righteousness?” What we become can change our world.

Read more about The Logic of Proverbs
Foolishness, folly, and violence will be attractive because they seem effective. The violent will inevitably prosper. How will we respond?

The Spirituality of Bird Feeders

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 12:10
10 The righteous care for the needs of their animals,
     but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

Reflection: The Spirituality of Bird Feeders
By Erin Newton

When I wake up in the morning, I can hear that the world around me has not slept at all. The sun peeks through the curtains as the Earth slowly spins in orbit. The songs of the birds call me to the window. I see the squirrels rushing from tree to tree. The last remaining leaves rustle in the cold winter breeze.

As I bring in my groceries, the sun stands tall above my head. I hear the call of crows scaring away a pair of hawks. Even when it snows outside, the footprints of the wild bunnies show me that they were passing through my yard at night. An owl lands just out the window. We sit frozen, locked eye to eye.

Before humanity was told to fill this world with our own creations, we were asked to take care of that which God had already made. The first command was to take care of the more ancient citizens of this planet—Nature.

The wisdom in this proverb echoes the call from the dawn of those first few days in Genesis. It was through wisdom that God made all things. Wisdom here is this: The righteous, those who seek to uphold the nature and will of God, tend to the needs of animals.

In some ways, we do a very poor job fulfilling the first request God ever gave to us. We take land and clear it out. Even when we plant, we remove biodiversity with monoculture ecosystems. We limit food sources for wild creatures. We pave paradise.

Jesus told his disciples to consider the ravens: “They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them.” And how? By letting the ground produce plants that will give their seeds and house insects. (Ravens even clear out decomposing rodents—a helpful feature for those of us with sensitive noses and a weak stomach!)

If our first call was to cultivate, to bring this Earth to its fullest potential, then our righteousness should be reflected in our care for creation. It is not unspiritual work to fill up a bird feeder, adopt a pet, or plant flowers for the bees.

We cannot survive this world without our cohabiting creatures. This world is far too big for one person alone to care for them all. We can divide the work and cultivate this world together.

Music:Feed the Birds,from Mary Poppins.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Wake up, my spirit; awake lute and harp; I myself will waken the dawn. — Psalm 57.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 12 (Listen 3:07
Mark 2  (Listen 3:55)

Read more about Cultivating Is Supernatural
A stronger faith, and a greater crop yield comes when we invest in cultivation. Cultivation is not natural. It is supernatural.


Read more about The Cultivating Life
“Cultivation is supernatural,” but the actions of cultivating faith are not ethereal or fanciful. They are the practical, steady doings of the farmer.