Why Comparisions May Be Graceful – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistMatthew 20:1-16

One of my favorite music recordings is of Arthur Rubenstein, the great Polish-American classical pianist, playing Chopin.[i]  Rubenstein was known to be the greatest interpreter of Chopin in his time.  This particular recording is brilliant.  It’s not just the music; it’s also the jacket cover.  The recording was originally made in 1965, when Rubenstein was still at his height.  This newer recording is actually a remix of the 1965 recording released again in 1981, about a year before he died at age 95.  The photo on the jacket cover captures the elderly Rubenstein in deep concentration, with his hands at work on the keyboard… except the keyboard and the piano are non-existent.  Rubenstein is pictured, clad in his shirtsleeves, sitting in his apartment, with his hands outstretched above his coffee table, playing “in the air” what it must have been like for him to play in the great concert halls of the world.  In this cover photo, Rubenstein is absolutely engrossed in the music which he no longer actually plays, but remembers and rehearses on his invisible piano.  He is a man at peace.  This informal portrait of Rubenstein is stunning. Read More

Extravagant Love – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim WoodrumMatthew 20:1-16

One of the biggest fads to hit social media as of late is the computer ‘meme.’  A lot of you may know what I’m talking about, but for those who are less tech savvy:  a ‘meme’ is a picture or video produced with a certain inspirational message that is passed on through social media such as personal blogs or Facebook.  These modern day “motivational posters” might have a picture of a beautiful Robin with an earthworm hanging from its beak, and at the bottom of the picture the popular proverb:  “The early bird catches the worm!”  The saying seems reasonable and there is no arguing that this responsible bird and its chicks will be fed.  Recently my friends started sharing a meme that had a photo of a small, rather awkward looking bird with big glaring eyes, disheveled feathers, and an oversized beak that made it look like it was frowning.  The message accompanying the picture said “I woke up early…….there was no worm!” Read More

Oh, Stop Complaining! – Br. David Vryhof

Jonah 3:10-4:11; Matt. 20:1-16

Today seems to be “Complaining” Sunday. The lectionary gives us a choice of two readings from the Old Testament.  The first is the story of the Israelites complaining against Moses and Aaron in the desert after their deliverance from the land of Egypt (Ex 16:2-15). They’re hungry and tired, and beginning to think that bondage in Egypt wasn’t so bad after all. “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread;” they lament, “for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

The second passage, which we just heard, is from the book of Jonah (3:10-4:11). You’ll remember that Jonah was the reluctant prophet chosen by God to warn the people of Nineveh to turn from their evil ways.  It comes as a surprise and a disappointment to Jonah when the people actually do repent in response to his preaching, and he becomes angry — angry enough to die! he claims. The Lord then raises up a bush to provide shade for Jonah and he is consoled. But when the bush withers, Jonah’s anger returns and he starts complaining again, suggesting to God how unfair it is that God has chosen to be merciful to the Ninevites.  Apparently Jonah thought they deserved to be punished! Read More