March 6, 2009

MARCH 6 – FROM FIREWOOD TO BEAUTY

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By Luke Gascho, executive director of Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College
SCRIPTURE: Mark 8:31-38 (NRSV) Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL: The old trunk of an apple tree had been lying on the floor of my garage of a number of years. It was gnarly and crooked. At some point, it had been exposed to moisture, so some fungal activity had started to change the color of the wood. By all appearances, the trunk looked like it should be headed to the fireplace.

But I could see great potential in the wood. Bowls of all shapes were hidden under the rough appearance of the trunk. I knew by cutting with my bandsaw and using sharp tools on the turning lathe I could expose the “new life” of the apple wood. As I applied a beeswax finish to each bowl, the rich color of the wood emerged in a wonderful, transformative way — from firewood to beauty. The bowls delighted family members and friends who received them as gifts.

The text for today is a story of faith in the transformative power of Christ. The friends of Jesus didn’t want to hear of his impending death. They — like us — weren’t interested in thinking about suffering. But Jesus calls for a sea change in our thinking by outlining a shift from human to divine understandings. By letting go of the old way of thinking — through denying self and losing life — a new life pattern could be exposed in ways similar to the transformation of the apple wood.

This is an upside down teaching. It means letting go for the sake of the good news — news filled with hope. The present is what we know, therefore it is easy to keep our attention there and miss out on the possibilities of the future. Our faith grows through Christ’s hope — and hope strengthens our faith.

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SCRIPTURE: Mark 8:31-38 (NRSV)

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

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Comments (6)

  1. Coincided nicely with my meditation today from James 4 which says evil is knowing what to do but not doing it. Jesus tells us clearly here what we need to do but it is hard. His Will, not mine, be done!

    Jim Rowley March 6, 2009 |
  2. THe real fruit of an apple tree is not an apple but another apple tree or a beautiful bowl – faith to struggle to something new, God’s blessings to all.

    Pam Harrison March 6, 2009 |
  3. that was really beautiful — thank you.

    Meghan Hoover March 6, 2009 |
  4. Thank you for a beautiful analogy! We appreciate your dedication to our alma mater and to environmental learning at Goshen College.

    Annabelle Lerch March 6, 2009 |
  5. I burn many cords of wood each winter for the supplemental heating of our old house. Most of my neighbors know this and come to me to work up an old tulip, apple, cherry, dead and deseased dutch elm for fire wood. In thirty three years I have never paid a cent for wood and very little fossil fuel to haul it to my house. Even a next door neighbors old hard to split giant box elder that I cut up and burned this past winter provided warmth for our bodies but it also warmed our hearts for our generous neighbors who thought we were doing them a favor by cleaning up their dead unwanted wood. Gifts created out of an old apple trunk that are shaped by the artist are also gifts to me in warmth from a neighbor when I recycle and use the wood and conserve on the costly production and use of other fossil fuels. Others also provide the raw resouces for us to use in the testimony of simple living.

    John Hackman

    John Hackman March 6, 2009 |
  6. The place of suffering I am meditating with this Lent is a small clay pot of soil I filtered from my back yard. Everyday I touch it, stir it, put a small mound in the palm of my hand. To me, something about bare soil is like an open wound. I want to ‘improve’ it, cover it up, grow something in it, ignore it. But I keep going back to it every day. I especially notice how ‘potent’ it is to read today’s scripture and meditation while holding this ‘ordinary,’ (wounded?) soil. Thank you.

    Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler March 6, 2009 |