Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Of Mustard Seeds and Fish Bait

Scriptural Passage for 2007

This year we will be using the passage from Saint Luke’s Gospel in which Jesus paints a word picture of the Kingdom of Heaven using a parable. This parable will be printed on the front page of our service booklets throughout the coming year.


Jesus said therefore, "What is the kingdom of God like? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches." (Luke 13:17-18)

I would also like to offer the other two versions of this parable as contained in Mark and Matthew and invite you to take today’s booklet with you for later reflection. How are these parables the same? How do they differ? How do these differences change the meaning of the parable?


He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all 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." Matt 13:31-32


He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." Mark 4:30-32

Please allow your heart and mind to soak up these powerful parables of the Kingdom and let them become your guide to learn about the home we are all called to inhabit.

Fish Bait Blues

What does it take to become a person whose life is about fishing for others to join them in the Kingdom of Heaven? What are the characteristics of a person who can attract others to God? David Bradfield wrote a song about this very question and it will be sung on Sunday to remind us of our Gospel lesson in which Jesus tells his disciples that they will no longer fish for fish, but for humanity.

Here are the lyrics to David’s song. Read them over and see if you can detect the characteristics that might make a person, like Peter, or you, or me, good bait for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Fish Bait Blues

Music and Lyrics by David Bradfield 6-01-2004

I ain't nothing but a worm
Just a hangin' on a hook.
When that big ole fish comes swimming by
He won't give me a 2nd look.
But I don't worry about tomorrow
It's not a thing you win or loose
When you're called as a Disciple
And you're singing the fish bait blues.

I've stayed up all night fishing
On the wrong side of the boat
And I've tried to walk on water,
But man, you know, I couldn't float
But I don't worry bout a darn thing
It's why I wear these rubber shoes
Cause I'm called as a Disciple
And I'm singing the fish bait blues.

It's a life of tribulation
On a dark and stormy sea.
There's a man overboard, the ship's going down
And you cry out, "Lord, why me?"
But you got to keep on fishin'
It's not a thing that you can choose
When you're called as a Disciple
And your singin' the fish bait blues.

Instrumental solo during fourth chorus-

You can waste a lifetime
Preoccupied with fate,
You get caught in a net, strung out on a line,
You can fish or cut bait!
But you know you shouldn't sweat the small stuff,
'Cause in the end it's still good news
To be called as a Disciple
And be singing the fish bait blues.

tag ending
To be called as a Disciple
And be singing the fish bait blues.

To be called as a Disciple
And be singing the fish bait blues.

copyright 2004 all rights reserved
(Dedicated to my Dad)

In our Gospel reading for this Sunday, Jesus tells his disciples to go out once again and lower their nets after a frustrating night of fishing and catching absolutely nothing. Tired and perhaps a bit annoyed, Peter and the others set out to follow Jesus’ orders. As they do, their nets fill to overflowing with fish to the point where their nets are about to tear wide open.

Peter’s response to this experience of failure followed by success is interesting.

“ But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"

What was it about this experience that would bring Peter to the conclusion that he was a sinful man and that Jesus should get away from him? Perhaps Peter knew all too well that one day his self assessment would play out in his denial and abandonment of Jesus at a critical time in their relationship. Peter is really saying to Jesus: “You can not afford to hang out with the likes of me. I am a sinner and I will fail you in your greatest time of need. Save yourself from me and forget that you ever met or knew me.”

Jesus then commissions Simon Peter to become one who fishes for his fellow human beings. Peter’s confession was perhaps the very thing that convinced Jesus of Peter’s ability to be fish bait for humanity and to participate in the passion that would bring him and others who hear his story into the kingdom of heaven.

What makes our story compelling? How are we fish bait for our brothers and sisters?

Luke 5:1-11

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Like a Mustard Seed

Rector’s Report: 2006

"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."

Matthew 13:32

I have chosen this one verse parable from the Gospel of Matthew as our Scripture Passage for 2007. It is one of several parables that Jesus uses to teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven. My hope is that we will consider how Christ Church is like the mustard seed which is like the Kingdom of Heaven.

Last year, our EfM first year group offered us a brilliant sermon on the mustard seed. What they offered has been percolating in my spirit this past year. As I prepared for our annual meeting, the mustard seed finally came to the surface again, like the persistent and hardy plant that it is.

I offer this brief parable as a way to help us form a better understanding of our past and the year to come.

We are a physically small church, like the mustard seed, but we have a history of growth in the most unusual ways. Like the mustard seed, it could be said that Christ Church has grown spiritually and has become a home for many people. We abide in God's love and that is what is growing in us and what invites others to abide here too.

This parish started the Casa De Los Amigos Senior Housing home that has provided 135 affordable apartments for senior citizens in Redondo Beach.

This parish has become the home to many people in recovery from various kinds of addiction. There is at least one meeting here 6 days a week.

For many people in search of a loving community of faith, Christ Church has been our home. Young and old have found a place in the gracious and welcoming branches of this tree and discovered the love of God in the faces of our brothers and sisters with whom we share “one Lord; one faith; and one baptism.”

The mustard seed and the plant that springs from that small seed remind us that God uses the smallest things to create the most valuable and lasting gifts. The seed of God’s love has been planted in the Christ Church garden and a home has sprung up for us all.

As we begin this new year of grace, let us continue to see the mustard seed in all we begin, continue, and end. I pray for the faith the size of that small seed and the joy of the home it may produce for many who are still in search of a place of true peace, unity, and love.

God’s Peace in the Mustard Seed We Are,


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Isn't This Joseph's Kid?


The game show, Jeopardy, is one of my favorite challenges. The host gives the answer and the contestants scramble to buzz in with a question that matches the given answer.

In this Sunday's Gospel reading, we hear the story of Jesus coming to his hometown and going to church (synagogue). He is handed a text from the prophet Isaiah for him to read (see what he read below).

At first, it appears that Jesus was very well received by his hometown and church. He had a reputation as a teacher, healer and worker of signs (miracles), but it appears that he was not immediately recognized as a local boy growing up and doing great things. His fame had preceeded him and resulted in his invitation to read in the synagogue.

But then something happens. Just a verse or so after our reading today, we find this question being asked:

"Isn't this Joseph's son?"

Now, take a look at what preceded this question and see if you can figure out what matches up with this question. What did Jesus say or do that would lead someone to ask this question? Read the passage from Luke again and see if you can find anything there that would be the appropriate answer to that question.

Luke 4:14-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.

He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.

The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

I am going to suggest that the very words that Jesus read from Isaiah plus the fact that Jesus was not a mysterious guest guru from another city triggered the question about his father. In Jesus’ world, fathers were the pattern for their sons. If Joseph was a carpenter, then Jesus was expected to apprentice under his father and become a carpenter.

It was not considered right for a son to aspire to be other than what his father was. It almost sounds as if Jesus was not at first recognized. The very question about Joseph being his father may have come from someone who had known the family before Jesus had left home and his father had died.

The invitation to read in the synagogue was extended to him because of his reputation, not as Joseph’s son, but as a worker of wonders and a teacher. After Jesus read the text, it was expected that he would offer commentary. All eyes were upon him as the crowd waited for his response.

His words are few, but powerful and challenging:

"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Jesus enters jeopardy by claiming to be the One spoken of in Isaiah. There was an initial response that showed the crowd was delighted with his words and actions. If the scripture had been fulfilled, why had Jesus not done for them what he had reportedly done in other places? We are all waiting for God to set things right for us and to do it here and now in our presence. Why would Jesus not do for them what he had done for others? Were not they, "his people?" Doesn't blood, family, and tribe give them preference over others?

Once Jesus uttered this claim and the crowd embraced his message. They remarked that his words were sheer grace to their ears. This praise is immediately followed by the question of the day:

“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

Should Jesus have stuck with being a carpenter? It seems the crowd now turns on this question. Jesus now enters double jeopardy. He would not heal and do miracles for them because he was "one of them." So now, his very "one of them" status turns against him. Jesus responds in such a way as to further enrage the crowd that shortly turns into a mob intent on throwing him off of a mountain (Luke 4:14-30).

How did Jesus go from uttering words of sheer grace to being so hated that religious people, countrymen, and neighbors were ready to kill him? What did their actions say about them? What did their actions say about Jesus? What do our actions say about us?

Jesus truly entered into jeopardy, but it was not a game. We will explore this reversal as we see Jesus enter double jeopardy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Water is used to clean and to quench thirst. Wine is used to celebrate. Drinks containing alcohol are often called "spirits." Jesus' first miracle in John's Gospel tells the story of how Jesus changed water into wine.

The word "remember" means more than just a simple recalling of the events of our lives. To remember is the act of recall that makes the times of our lives take on a deeper meaning. As John remembers Jesus' presence at this wedding in Cana of Galilee where the wine ran out way before the party was over, he offers us a deeper understanding of that moment when following Jesus' words of instruction resulted in a wine that was beyond compare. Perhaps now is a good time for us to remember. Jesus said: "Whenever you eat this bread or drink this wine, do this for the remembrance of me."

So, water can clean our bodies of the stuff that clings to us, but dissolves and rinses down the drain. John’s baptism which he performed in the River Jordan claimed to clean the not-so-obvious soot of sins from those who came out to him in the wilderness. They hoped that, like water cleans the body, it could also purify them from their sins that separated them from God.

Water, cool, refreshing water, is the stuff that fills us and makes our bodies function. When we actually begin to feel thirsty, we have already reached and passed the point of dehydration. Without water we die.

Water cleans our bodies, washes our soul, and refreshes us and brings us back from the brink of death. And it is water that Jesus transforms into the fire-filled red of wine of celebration and new life. The water turned to wine is the sign, as the gospel writer puts it, of a transformation that Jesus will accomplish in Jerusalem at the conclusion of his life.

Recall Jesus’ words spoken over the bread and wine, “on the night he was handed over to suffering and death…Jesus took the cup of wine and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them and said: ‘Drink this, all of you, this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins…’” In these words, Jesus is remembering that first miracle at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.

By remembering, Jesus deepens the meaning of the action of water changed to wine into a history changing, life transforming moment that grows stronger in the world every time we gather together to break the bread and share the common cup in memory of him. Life and forgiveness is celebrated in the wine that was once water. This is not magic. This is what happens to us and to our world when we faithfully remember and allow that remembering to transform us.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Light Through the Dark Box

This past Sunday, I spoke about my childhood experience of playing in the large cardboard boxes that contained gifts sent to us from our family in Kansas. The gifts were nice, but for a kid, there was nothing like the fun of crawling into the dark, self-contained sanctuary of the box.

As was often the case, a pin hole or two allowed beams of sunlight to illuminate the interior space of the otherwise dark box. I can remember the sense of awe I felt as I would move aside and allow the beam to pass unbroken through the darkness and onto the grass. Dust would sparkle and shine in and around those beams of light and would hold my attention better than many of the experiences I had in school.

It is this beam of light passing through the darkness that is my image of Epiphany. Pervasive darkness and intense light breaking through the darkness captures my sense of God revealing himself to the world.

Of course, most people have moments of self-revelation. That is, we may one day figure out a problem whose solution has eluded us for a very long time. Perhaps the light goes on when considering a career choice; a relationship choice; a financial decision; a moral or ethical dilemma; a painful change of course in our parenting of our children; a leaving home or returning; or coming up with a practical answer to a stubborn practical question.

The season of Epiphany certainly contains a sense of self-revelation, but it is even more profoundly an experience of something outside of ourselves lighting us up. It is the pin hole of God’s light that invades our “self-turned-in-on-self” box where darkness seeks to swallow up such light.

The light of God represents something new in the mix. It is not something we would have come up with on our own. It is so outside of our normal way of seeing, hearing, and doing that it often strikes us harsh, unrealistic, and foreign. Such light streams into our darkness and offers us a new way of being human.

(The grace or gift which precedes and enables any movement towards God)

Last week I also spoke about tipping a wait person before we were even served as a way of understanding God’s preparing us for something other than our darkness. In reading the stories of the Bible, we discover such front-loaded tipping. Our Jewish brothers and sisters seem to be the ones whom God chose to be the receivers of divine revelation. Their history recorded in sometimes brutal honesty, offers us a sense of how God has been beaming his loving light into our darkened world.

Jesus’ people allowed God’s grace to enter into their hearts and minds in such a way as to allow them to slowly, but surely receive more and more light. Of course, being the ones who receive divine revelation can be a pretty heady experience. It can result in a sense of entitlement and superiority over against other people that makes the “enlightened ones” seem arrogant, rude, abusive, exclusive, and unloving to those who are not part of their group.

Scripture records Israel’s struggle with such feelings of divine entitlement as God’s chosen people. We have all known the ego inflation that comes with thinking we have all the answers to other people’s problems or that we have some insight that no one else has managed to get. But the testimony that makes Israel’s epiphany so authentic is the way they experienced the popping of their inflated sense of identity.

Most individuals and almost all nations refuse to allow reversals in their fortunes to take them to a fuller experience of their identity and vocation. Israel did. Their story is filled with their own darkness and it stands in sharp contrast to the light of God that seems to pour through the text, pulling their covers and disallowing self-delusion.

With each event that seemed to deny their special-ness as a people, they were brought by God’s self-giving love and life to a deeper and richer sense of themselves and their very special mission to the world.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the full and complete epiphany of God. God shines through our darkness and allows us a vision of God. That is what we affirm in our creeds, but it is the living of this vision of the God whose self-giving presence is light in our personal darkness and in the darkness of the world that is our vocation too. Like Israel, whose name means “One who wrestles with God and survives,” we are called to live and walk in the light.

God's Peace in the Rising and the Shining,