Monday, March 30, 2015

Spreading our Cloaks

Mark 11: 1-11
Palm Sunday

As of today we are released from the introspective 40 days of Lent as the activities of Holy Week commence.  Lent is a time of self reflection, of self denial and fasting, it’s been a time for us to go deep within our souls and seek the ways in which we are in need of forgiveness.  Lent is all about you as an individual. 

Today, Palm Sunday, however is a time to put ‘you’ down because it is no longer about you. You have prepared yourself and now you are ready to focus. Today and the rest of this week that we claim as holy is ALL ABOUT JESUS.  It’s about his triumph and his agony, his fear and being betrayed, it’s about his coming to terms with his mortality and his death and ultimately it will be about life.  So please, for this one week, do not think about yourself but think about Jesus and be a part of the reenactment of what he is going through beginning with that triumphal journey into Jerusalem.

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’”

They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.

Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. 

It was spring in first century Palestine.  The olive trees were in bloom and the cyclamen were bursting out everywhere, even out of the crevices of that ancient stone-walled city.  The moon was waxing furiously, growing bigger and brighter with each passing evening.  It was near Passover and Jerusalem was getting increasingly more crowded with people who had come to celebrate, and make pilgrimage. 

The marketplace was busy.  The temple was busy.  And Jesus, rather than heading directly into Jerusalem goes to Bethphage and Bethany where he often went to get away and to spend time with his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  It seemed to be a home away from home for him, a place of calm and respite.

The days were warm and sunny and the nights still cool so you would need to take a cloak with you if you were to be gone for any amount of time, something to through over your shoulders as the sun set for the day. Bethphage and Bethany are just a short distance from Jerusalem up and over the Mount of Olives.  Jesus sends two of his disciples to go and find him some transportation, perhaps a donkey on which he could ride.  “If they question you”, Jesus says, “just tell them the Lord needs it”.  That’s all.  And so they follow his instructions. I would have been a bit nervous but they didn’t seem it mind.  They throw their own cloaks on the back of that humble donkey that they secured for their Lord and returned to him.  It worked out, just like Jesus said.
Donkey on Mount of Olives, photo by Dina Tsoar
A head above all of the rest, he begins the ride.  Like royalty, Jesus rides into the masses of people, into Jerusalem, into his ultimate doom.  The donkey moves slowly and the ride is a bumpy over the dirt and stone pathway, he holds tight as the donkey begins the descent into the Kidron Valley.  The people are happy and shouting and laying their cloaks on the ground for Jesus to ride on, a sure sign that he is Lord and king.  The very long palm branches have been axed off of the trees and people are waving them in the air.  “Hosanna, save us Lord.  Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”. 

Of course there were some in the crowd who didn’t like what was going on, and who he was, so they keep a close eye on Jesus.  They will make their move later.

This was such an atypical move for Jesus riding on a donkey like a king.  Usually he is moving away from the crowds, up the mountainside for some downtime or across the sea for some privacy, definitively not heading directly into the throng of people, into a possible mob scene and certainly he is never intentionally trying to draw attention to himself.  And I don’t think he ever thought of himself as a king.  That’s why this day is such a departure from all of the rest.
Photo by Dina Tsoar
And I don’t imagine that there were a lot of wealthy people among his followers, maybe, but more than likely they were from the lower ranks of society.  They didn’t have closets filled with clothing like we do.  Articles of clothing were not expendable like they are now.  When we get tired of something we donate it and go to the store and find something new to wear. 

They didn’t have what we have today.  They had a very simple wardrobe for their daily living. So for the people to lay down their cloaks, spreading them all over the dusty, rocky path well that was significant.  For some it was the only cloak that they had ever owned and here they are laying it down so a donkey’s hoof could clip-clop over it and so that Jesus could be treated as a king.  It’s also quite possible that they didn’t get their cloak back or if they did, it might have been ripped and soiled beyond repair.  They risked exposure to the hot sun and the cool nights.  For the people it was a sacrificial act steeped in loyalty for Jesus. 

We know that this very same crowd turns on Jesus only a few days later under heavy Roman influence.  Insurrection was in the air.  “Hosanna, save us” dissolves pretty abruptly into “Crucify him”.  I believe though that there were some who stayed with Jesus, who stuck with him until the end.  It may not have been many but there were some. 

They are the ones who really exposed themselves for who they were - devoted, faithful disciples of Jesus who followed him to the cross in lamentation and tears.  They were willing to risk themselves in this vulnerable act.  To follow Jesus means to sometimes be exposed and vulnerable and in doing so we can better understand the nature of what Jesus is asking of us.

Today we brought forward our ‘cloaks’, our clean and mended gently used coats.  They will be stored and given away in the fall to Bridgeport Rescue Mission and The Umbrella Center for Domestic Violence Services in Ansonia for their clients use.  I hope that you saw it as a symbolic act of generosity but there is so much more.

Many years ago, at a former church of mine on Palm Sunday we also brought in our winter coats to give to those who might be in need.  In that symbolic act we laid down our cloaks before Jesus, just like the people that day laying down their cloaks for Jesus to ride on during his entry into Jerusalem. 

Well we collected quite a few coats and we sent letters to various organizations in the area, and we were able to give warmth to 250 men, women and children in Bridgeport and Fairfield. 

A group of women from Bridge House in Bridgeport came over to choose 30 coats.
One of the women who came was the program director and the other three women were clients of Bridge House, a place for the psychosocial rehabilitation of people who are recovering from the persistent effect of psychiatric illness.  We talked as they chose their coats and bagged them.  One women kept repeating to me “you don’t know how much I appreciate this, with only $100 dollars to live on, you just don’t know how much I appreciate this.”

You don’t know how much

She was right that day, I didn’t know how much!  I’ve never been without a warm coat.  I’ve never had to live on $100 a month.  I’ve never been dependent on a stranger to provide for me. I’ve been with little, but never without.  I could afford to give away my used coat but it didn’t render me exposed.

I wondered if I had ever really made myself vulnerable and exposed for God’s sake like the crowds who did so that first ‘Palm Sunday’ processional.  Have I ever really spread my cloak down for Jesus and rendered myself open to the elements around that could inhibit my living.  Would I do that for Jesus?

Are you willing to give away your last metaphorical coat in adoration of Jesus, like the people did so long ago in Jerusalem so that you can follow him unencumbered?  When Jesus says to drop your fishing nets and follow him, are you willing to risk hunger and to rely on him to feed you?  When he says to leave your family, are you willing to put God first before anyone else? 

When Jesus goes to Golgotha are you willing to go with him all of the way; to accompany him in his death?  For this is where this parade of palms is heading.  It’s the least we can do.

The Easter Story Begins
Palm Sunday is a day of contrasts.  The coming kingdom of God meets the entourage of Herod as we will see with our second reading.  Rev. William Carter, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania says this, “Jesus rides no high horse, just a lowly colt.  He chooses to enter a deadly situation without force or protection.  He gives himself freely and without reservation.  This is a prophetic act, a sign of God’s vulnerable love, which risks everything and promises to gain all.”

Jesus exposes all for us, will we do the same?

Monday, March 23, 2015

In All Fairness

Matthew 20: 1-16
Years ago when I used to direct Vacation Bible School this same principle – equal wages for equal work - played itself out.  At the end of Vacation Bible School I liked to give the volunteers a small token of appreciation for their help.  Seemed like the nice thing to do. But as more people are in the workplace there are less and less volunteers who can give an entire week to help at VBS. So I had to make a grid of the teacher roster and it looked like a patchwork quilt. It helped me determine “if it’s Tuesday it must be Carol in the kindergarten class.”  There were a lot of creative, children loving volunteers.

Well I thought about what I should give to the volunteers, usually it was a plant.  Should the ones who could only help for one day be given the same gift as the ones who were there to help for the entire week?  I tell you, I stewed about this one for about a week.  Until it hit me.  VBS needed every single person, whether they could give a week or a day, Vacation Bible School wouldn’t be able to happen unless each person were there giving of their time and resources. 

So I realized that fairness, as we might see it, in my gift giving with volunteers was absolutely NOT the issue.  Having a good program with happy volunteers was the issue! They all worked, they all received plants. Still, I wanted parity, I thought the ones who worked 5 days should have gotten a bit more than the ones who worked one day until I realized that I needn’t be such a tight wad.

In this parable of the laborers in the vineyard it is disconcerting to think that those who work eight hours get the same wage, the exact same amount of money and benefits and acceptance as those who work for only one hour.  In our 21st practice of fair labor it would be an outrage. It goes against all of the labor practices that we are conditioned to expect, work for, and demand. And, if this parable were about impartiality, and justice, and workplace equity, then it simply wouldn’t be fair.
But this parable is not about justice or being fair…nor is it about our human nature so much as it is about the nature of God much like the other parables that we have examined this Lenten season: the sower, the pearl, the treasure, and the Samaritan. 

We try very hard to justify God’s ways, God’s actions on our own human terms.  But God’s ways are not our ways.  God’s peace and love, and justice goes far beyond our human capacity for understanding.  Here lies the tension and the grittiness of this parable.  This is why it makes our hackles spike higher than Mount Everest.

Systematically the landowners would come early in the morning to the public square where commerce began early in the day.  The day laborers, those living hand to mouth, gather, at nine, at noon, at three and at five…they just keep coming out in hopeful expectation for a little work so that they could feed their families.  Who doesn’t want to feed their families?

The landowner also, systematically comes out to see who is there, who is still waiting, hoping to land some honest work for the day.  They were not just idly standing there pounding down beer in the blazing heat.  The laborers were waiting there unemployed in anticipation that they would be chosen for the next job. They. Needed. Work.  And the finally get it.

The landowner comes through and gives the laborers what is needed – work and wages only on his terms.  Each laborer is provided for, there is enough work for all, and enough wages for everyone, no one’s family will go hungry that day.  They were given their daily bread.  Isn’t that what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer?  “Give US (all of us) OUR daily bread”. Just enough for today, for everyone, so that no one has to live with a growling stomach.  

But still, the scent of unfairness permeates the air we breathe right?  Often in the situations we find ourselves, perhaps like this scenario…..

I gave a good portion of my life caring for my father while my sisters and brothers maintained their normal routines, their lives and when he finally died they grieved as if they were alongside of him the whole time.  And then, to top it off, the will named all four of us as equal beneficiaries of the estate. What’s fair about that?  Or…

I’ve worked here for 15 years and worked really hard to receive $25 per hour and along comes this na├»ve, inexperienced worker and they offer him $25 to start mind you, where’s the justice in that? That’s not fair.

If we take this parable literally then it just flat out makes no sense as far as justice and fairness is concerned.  It might even anger some of us depending on where you place yourself in this parable.  God doesn’t come off looking so good here, God wouldn’t win a popularity contest with most of us probably because we think of ourselves as the hard working laborers.

There are two absolutes here in this parable where Jesus seeks to define a new world order for the kingdom of God.  The first is that the landowner can do what he wants to with what belongs to him.  The second is that because he can do what he wants with what belongs to him he claims the right to be generous with his holdings.  He doesn’t give in to the kvetching of the laborers who worked the entire day.  He has empathy for those who worked only one hour of the day, they, too receive the grace and generosity of God.

We look for equity but find only generosity.  Our ways and thoughts and actions are not God’s ways and thoughts and actions. 

Justice and grace just can’t be reconciled here.  Justice we understand, we get that.  Grace well, that is as elusive as can be. It is a part of the nature of God and God’s generosity often violates our own sense of right and wrong.  We’ll never know why God seems to act unjustly to some, why the first that show up in line, that worked their tails off receive seemingly so very little then those who show up at the very end and also receive a portion of God’s love. 

There will be times when others will receive a blessing and you will not.  Don’t be hurt.  You are not diminished because someone else is lavished upon.  It does not mean that God loves you any less than someone who got more than you.  Get over it.  God, our benevolent God is generous, and God meets us when we are in need of being met, and where we are in need of being met.

God is consistent and systematic in pursing a vibrant relationship with us. We come to the vineyard hungry and in need and without fail are met by God who loves us, who knows us and who provides for our living. Like the landowner God, who knows our needs, receives each one of us into the vineyard to collect our sustenance for living.  We are cared for, we are loved.

Why then should we grumble? 
The Kingdom of heaven is like this.


Monday, March 16, 2015

The Good Samaritan Redo

Luke 10: 25-37
During this Lenten sojourn we have been looking at some of the valuable, but often confusing parables of Jesus.  Confusing because we hear one message and then, in the end understand it in another way.  Parables are tricky that way.  This Lent we’ve heard about the sower who went out to the field to sow seed and where it fell was anyone’s guess but to be sure, our sowing God was plentiful and did not withhold one iota of seed to the mostly unforgiving soil. 

Then we heard about a pearl and a mustard seed and Elliott talked about the pearl parable that encourages us to give it all that we have, and the parable of the mustard sees encourages us to give it all up or rather how the Christian life requires a balance between active and passive courage. Today we will hear another old chestnut that Jesus tells his followers from the Gospel of Luke.  Let’s see what meaning that we can squeeze out of this often-told parable.


An individual in today’s religious and secular society would be hard pressed if they did not know this parable or at least what a ‘good Samaritan’ is. The term ‘Good Samaritan’ has been used to describe someone who comes to the aid of another.  And, well let’s face it, that’s a good thing.  Right?  Can’t argue with that. 

It’s the name of a roadside assistance group who rescues stranded motorists, several hospitals and social service agencies are named after it and a few years ago now a law was made called the Good Samaritan Act that protects a person for giving emergency, volunteer aid to someone in dire need, just in case they do something wrong and get sued.  This is the antithesis, of course, to this beloved parable but I guess we ‘gotta’ protect ourselves in the litigious world in which we live.
 So the story goes, a man travelled from Jerusalem to Jericho.  It a tough journey, really rotten terrain.  It’s a steep descent into the Judean dessert where bandits ready to mug could hide out in the crevices and jump on travelers at any given time.  We don’t know anything about this traveler’s identity except that his luck had run out and most likely a Jew.  He was robbed, beaten, stripped and left to die on the side of the dusty, rocky road where scorpions and all manner of wildlife could have at him. 

Now indulge me for a minute, when I hear this parable what sometimes goes through my mind is a joke formula like, “a priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar”.  Are you with me?  Three clergy persons all of similar callings with similar expectations in their work performance.  Three of a kind.

But Jesus’ version was, “Did you hear the one about a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan?” A priest, a Levite and a Samaritan were not three of a kind. His followers would have expected to hear, “Did you hear the one about a priest, a Levite, and an fellow Jew”, now that’s three of a kind!   But Jesus upends them, their jaws probably dropped, he turns their expectations and their world upside down.  The Samaritan was not a Jew, similar yes, but they didn’t qualify.

Now this was not a slam against the Jews.  There is a certain orderliness to ALL cultures and religious in defining who they are, and there are assumptions that are made about who’s on the inside and who’s on the outside.  Jesus challenges them to think about their stereotypical thinking.  He challenges them to think about the “other” being nice, the “other” giving aid, the “other” being the one to reach out to an almost dead man.

The first two men flub up completely.  The priest does not bother to help the beaten man.  Sad. Wrong, unacceptable.  The priest passes on by.  In fact not only does he pass on by he crosses to the other side of the road.  That’s akin to you walking down Chapel Street in New Haven and averting your eyes away from the beggar who will be approaching you soon.  Are you with me on this one?  The priest would have been expected to help him because life trumps all, and he would have been expected to bury the man had he been dead.

And the Levite – same thing.  Descended from the tribe of Levi, the Levites assisted in the Temple.  He would have known the law, he would have known what to do with the man if he were dead.  But nope, like the priest, the Levite passed by the man in the ditch on the other side of the road, too preoccupied or maybe just didn’t want to be bothered.
He Qi
So its here that Jesus would have launched into what the good Jew did had the ‘typical first century’ scenario been told by Jesus – a priest, a Levite, and a Jew.  But no!  It’s a Samaritan that was the good guy.  It was the Samaritan who was a good neighbor.  A Samaritan who interpreted Torah differently, who worshipped up north rather than coming to the temple in Jerusalem, a man of mixed racial lineage, an enemy, it was a Samaritan who was hero.  He was a good, ethical man who saw that there was another human being in need.  He broke the boundaries, crossed the picket-line, and risked his life, his limb, his social status to help another.  It was not a quid pro quo, this for that kind of conditional help.  He gave all, expected nothing – this outsider.  This is the story we know.  We get this story.

Where would you place yourself in this parable?  Would you walk by like the priest and the Levite?  Would you be the Samaritan man who stops?  Or would you be the person in the ditch in dire need of assistance. 

Well, probably some days you would be the priest or the Levite or we feel as if you’ve been beaten up and left for dead.  But often we place ourselves in the dusty sandals of the Samaritan.  And that’s really great when it happens doesn’t it?  The Samaritan was practicing philanthropy and who doesn’t like to think of themselves as a philanthropist showing love and mercy for others.  But then that is all about us. 

I’d like for us to think about this parable they way in which the Christians of the first century would probably have understood it because I think over the years, the millennia we have glossed over the poignancy of the message of this parable. In context the Greco-Roman listeners understood Jesus’ parables as allegory about God: one character in the story represented God and events in the story pointed toward our rebellion, divine judgment, or God’s forgiveness.[i]  Jesus always wanted them to know about God all of the time.  He never pointed to himself but to God.

In the Lukan narrative, showing mercy and compassion is a divine privilege and so the Samaritan, who showed mercy for the man in the ditch, is acting in God’s capacity or as God’s agent.  So if God is the fine Samaritan then this is a parable about God and God’s compassionate acts of love.  And for us it is a call from Jesus to be Godly compassionate in our actions.  Not because it just feels good to be doing nice things for others but because we are acting on God’s behalf which is serious business, not our own.  Because it’s just what God would do.

So when Jesus says, ‘Go and do likewise’, he is challenging them, and us, to be agents of love and compassion for God in all situations, because that’s what God would do in ALL circumstances.  Acting on God’s behalf is weighty and mighty work and we will be and are called to do something that might just turn our stomachs or minister to someone whom we deem ‘untasteful’.

Would you still choose to be the good Samaritan?  Would you still choose to act on God’s behalf?  This is what it is to be a Christ follower.

So there are choices to make and this ancient story becomes a mighty call upon our lives.

May we be granted the grace to fulfill all that we are called to do in our lifetimes.


[i] “Hearing Parables with the Early Church” in The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. 2006. Kruschwitz, Robert

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Soil, Seed, and the Sower

Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
What I really like about Orange, besides all of you, is its agricultural roots that are still maintained to a certain extent thanks to the Wrights, the Hines, the Treats, the Clarks, the Zeoli’s, the Bespuda’s and Holdens, the Gagels and probably a few more that I’ve missed. 

I have an affinity for farms and farming.  It might be because it brings back childhood memories of my Uncle Al’s farm in Prairieville, IL and going out there each summer for a family reunion.  Or maybe because I went to college in the middle of Missouri and my watercolor professor made us go out and paint barns in the middle of rich and verdant Mid-western farmland, I dunno.
c 1974 Suzanne Wagner copyright

But let’s get this straight.  I am not a farmer; I’m not even a gardener.  In fact I’m pretty far from it.  So I would have to refer to all of the Orange farmers if I wanted to have a successful garden or to know anything about sustainable agriculture and how to grow things, or maybe the Bible.

Today we find ourselves in scripture on this second Sunday in Lent, learning about soil and seed and the beneficent sower; an agrarian parable for an agrarian culture.  In many ways different than farming in CT but I bet in many ways very similar.

Can you imagine being just one body among with so many other farmers, carpenters, and fishermen folks?  The crowd must have been very large that day and sitting there in the hot sun it was probably a bit sticky too.  So Jesus hops aboard an old fishing boat to get some space.  And it’s from this little wooden boat on the Sea of Galilee that this parable is told.  From the 13th chapter in Matthew…

That same day Jesus left the house and went out beside Lake Galilee, where he sat down to teach.  Such large crowds gathered around him that he had to sit in a boat, while the people stood on the shore. Then he taught them many things by using stories. He said:

A farmer went out to scatter seed in a field. While the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell along the road and was eaten by birds.  Other seeds fell on thin, rocky ground and quickly started growing because the soil wasn’t very deep.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and dried up, because they did not have enough roots.

Some other seeds fell where thornbushes grew up and choked the plants. But a few seeds did fall on good ground where the plants produced a hundred or sixty or thirty times as much as was scattered.  If you have ears, pay attention!

This is just one of seven parables in the 13th chapter in the Gospel of Matthew.  And it’s a good one, so good that it is also recorded in the Gospels of Mark and Luke and the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.  Jesus, we know, used parables quite a bit in his teaching with his followers.  He used common situations and elements known to first century ordinary folk to get his message out there without saying it directly so that only certain kinds of listeners would understand. 
The Sower
Jean-Francois Millet
If you have ears and hear with your heart, then listen to his parable is what he is saying.  This way the believers would get it but the authorities wouldn’t.  Tricky, eh?  But he just couldn’t risk getting the kingdom of God information into the wrong hands at that point in time.

And they listen to this parable about farming, about the soil and the seed.  And being Jesus he probably knew that some would get it immediately and others not since parables are a bit tougher to decipher the real message. 

So later on in the 13th chapter Jesus offers an explanation of his parable….

The seeds that fell along the road are the people who hear the message about the kingdom, but don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches the message from their hearts.

The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the people who gladly hear the message and accept it right away.  But they don’t have deep roots, and they don’t last very long. As soon as life gets hard or the message gets them in trouble, they give up.

The seeds that fell among the thorn bushes are also people who hear the message. But they start worrying about the needs of this life and are fooled by the desire to get rich. So the message gets choked out, and they never produce anything.

The seeds that fell on good ground are the people who hear and understand the message. They produce as much as a hundred or sixty or thirty times what was planted.

Jesus’ spin on his parable is that we farmers have the responsibility to prepare and be good soil and bear fruit.  It is our responsibility to be sure that the ‘field’ of our lives is to be properly prepared and tended to, not rocky, organically fertilized and watered.  It is our responsibility to let the word of God take hold of us, to grow within us.  We definitely have responsibility and some work to do.   

Iffy farmers, or people like me, get a bit nervous with this traditional reading of the text.  That’s because I can see myself being all four of Jesus’ examples of soil on any given day.  Sometimes I don’t get what’s going on, what God is trying to do with me, sometimes I want to give up because life is really hard and I just get flat out tired, and sometimes my materialistic desires get in the way of the important things in my life.  Then there are days that it’s good, I’m good, life is really, really good and I am singing God’s praises from the time I get up until the time when I lay me down to sleep.  Is that true for you as well? Do you find yourself in this beloved parable?

What kind of soil are your today at this moment?

If we dig a bit deeper, pun fully intended, this parable is a tad bit more redeeming then you might think.  You see the message here isn’t so much about working hard to have a verdant field.  It’s really not so much about us but about God.  The seed is sown by Christ and the harvest is God’s doing, it’s God’s work.  We do not effect the final coming of the kingdom, only God does.  And we do not regulate the amount of seed being tossed about, God does that too.

Thank the Lord above, the sower in this parable is extravagant with the seed.  It is flung on hard paths, and rocky ones too.  It’s flung high and low into the thorn bushes and bramble and out into the open space.  The seed just keeps coming.  It is our benevolent and generous maker who prolifically sews the seed, no matter what type of soil it lands on.  Some might call that wasteful but God’s word is never wasteful or wasted.

Now that is the kind of God in Jesus Christ that I want. 

I want to know that when I falter, that when I am not prepared to received God’s undeserving love it will still be graciously available to me.  It was St. Benedict who said, “Listen with the ear of your heart”.  God loves unconditionally.  This my fellow farming friends is the really good news of Jesus Christ today.