A Mere Tip of the Hat


February 4, 2014

A Mere Tip of the Hat ~~ Martin B. Copenhaver

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." Excerpt from Matthew 13:31-33

In his memoirs Oscar Wilde recalled the experience of being brought from the prison, where he was held after being declared—in the strange manner of his day — "guilty" of homosexuality. He writes: "When I was brought down from my prison between two policemen, a man I know waited in the long dreary corridor so that, before the whole crowd, whom an action so sweet and simple hushed into silence, he might gravely raise his hat to me as, handcuffed and with bowed head, I passed him by. Men have gone to heaven for smaller things than that."

After Episcopal Archbishop Desmond Tutu won a Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent struggle against apartheid in South Africa, he was asked to recall the formative experiences of his life. He replied, "One incident comes to mind immediately. When I was a young child I saw a man tip his hat to a black woman. Please understand that such a gesture is completely unheard of in my country. The white man was an Episcopal bishop and the black woman was my mother."

These two stories remind me that even a small, fragile gesture can take on grand dimensions when it is offered in love. Our own efforts may be small, but through them the largest of all realities — the love of God — can be communicated. A mere tip of the hat can offer hope and change a life.

Prayer: God, remind me not to neglect the small acts of compassion so that you, in turn, might fill them with your great love. Amen.


From the United Church of Christ daily devotional, Feed Your Spirit.

Matthew 21:12-17


Jesus Threw Them Out


12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

15-16 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”

17 Fed up, Jesus turned on his heel and left the city for Bethany, where he spent the night.

Lectio Divina 

Read -- Read the passage aloud

Think/pray -- Image you are there when Jesus comes n the temple and cleanses it. To get your imagination going, read the passage a second time, but then set this book aside,close your eyes, and see yourself as a part of the scene.
     Who are you? Where are you? Smell the incense and the scent of burning, sacrificed, animal flesh. Jump at the sound echo in the stunned silence. What are the expressions on the faces around you?
     Now let the blind and crippled come into your view. Watch Jesus healing them. Listen to the voices of the children as they play and shout, "Hosanna!" What's your reaction to them? To Jesus' interaction with the disabled? To the indignation of the religious leaders?(Include no only your mental reaction but your physical reaction too, if any.)
     Now follow Jesus as he walks out of the city, still fuming. Picture him initiating a conversation wiht you about the events of the day. Imagine that he asks  you what it was like. Tell him. 

Live -- In CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe , the lion, Aslan, "isn't safe but he is good."
     Consider the statement in light of what you've just read about Jesus. How does this view of Jesus alter your perception of who he is? In what ways does this affect how you relate to him. 


Matthew 13:10-17


Eyes Screwed Shut


10 The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”

11-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:

Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
    Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
    so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
    so they won’t have to look,
    so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
    and let me heal them.

16-17 “But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.

Lectio Divina 

Read – – read the passage carefully. 

Think – – notice what Jesus says about human hearts. What does he draw attention to about our receptively to his message? How does he deal with our resistance? What does he want for us?
     Now read Jesus' words again, and hear them as if he is saying them all to you personally. Meditate on his words until the message becomes familiar. What stands out that relates to your life? 

Pray – – tell Jesus about your meditation – your thoughts and feelings. Listen for his response. 

Live – – search your memory (or your journal) for any insights God has given you in recent weeks as you have interacted with God's message. What have those truths led you to do? Were there times when God invited you to act on or think about something, but you ignore the request or put it off? Why? Revisit that experience with Jesus. Remember that his greatest desire is not to get you to act a certain way but to engage with you in a relationship. 


Our Lectio Divina posting is take from The Message: Solo - An Uncommon Devotional by Eugene Peterson