Lent.08: Taxes

Palm Prints

Mark 12:13-17

They sent some of the Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you’re genuine and you don’t worry about what people think. You don’t show favoritism but teach God’s way as it really is. Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay taxes or not?”

Since Jesus recognized their deceit, he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a coin. Show it to me.” And they brought one. He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” His reply left them overcome with wonder.

Mark 12:13-17, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I believe I am to be a good steward of what I have because it all belongs to God.  We are, like Abram and Sarai (see Genesis 12:1-3), blessed to be a blessing.  In my better moments I live that way: aware of the abundance in my life, on the look-out for opportunities to share, erring on the side of generosity.

Tax day is a month away.  It is a reminder that we live in community and are called to care for each other.  In my better moments, I pay taxes with gratitude for public education, for police and fire protection, for good roads and road crews.  What would you add to the list?

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 8


A Photo a Week Challenge: Colorful

This week’s photo challenge from Nancy Merrill Photography is the word “colorful.”  She says, “I’m looking for the most colorful thing you can find to photograph.”

The most colorful thing in my house is a quilt currently under construction.


Every block is made with scraps from other quilts.  There are 35 blocks, each one will finish at 12″ square; the sashing between blocks is 2″ wide.

The idea for the quilt goes back to when I was playing with the number of squares needed to make a square block.  A 6″ block (finished size) easily made with

  • thirty-six 1″ squares (6×6) or
  • sixteen 1.5″ squares (4×4) or
  • nine 2″ squares (3×3) or
  • four 3″ blocks (2×2).


The squares in on the outside edges of the blocks pictured above began square and will be square once the blocks are completely sewn into a quilt top.  Quilters know you need an extra 1/4 inch on each side for the seam allowance – so an unfinished 6″ block measures 6.5″ square.

Here’s my first 144-patch 12.5″ unfinished block; it may be my last.


Lent.07: Parable

Palm Prints

Mark 12:1-12

Jesus spoke to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the winepress, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. When it was time, he sent a servant to collect from the tenants his share of the fruit of the vineyard. But they grabbed the servant, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again the landowner sent another servant to them, but they struck him on the head and treated him disgracefully. He sent another one; that one they killed. The landlord sent many other servants, but the tenants beat some and killed others. Now the landowner had one son whom he loved dearly. He sent him last, thinking, They will respect my son. But those tenant farmers said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

“So what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this scripture, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes?”[a]

They wanted to arrest Jesus because they knew that he had told the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.

[a] Ps 118:22-23

Mark 12: 1-12, Common English Bible (c) 2011

This is a parable.  It is “a metaphor drawn from common life, arresting the hearer by its strangeness and leaving the mind to doubt its precise application so as to tease it into active thought.” (C.H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, used by Stephen Patterson in his book The God of Jesus.)

While the first audience (chief priests, legal experts, elders) is clear that the parable is told against them, I’m not so sure.  Could Jesus be talking to us when we hang on tightly to a tradition or a particular practice because we’ve always done it that way?  Could the parable be addressing us when we ignore the voices of children or newcomers?  Could the story be a warning about grabbing what is not ours to have?

So, what do you think?

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 7


Lent.06: Authority

Palm Prints

Mark 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem again. As Jesus was walking around the temple, the chief priests, legal experts, and elders came to him.  They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?”

Jesus said to them, “I have a question for you. Give me an answer, then I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”

They argued among themselves, “If we say, ‘It’s of heavenly origin,’ he’ll say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But we can’t say, ‘It’s of earthly origin.’” They said this because they were afraid of the crowd, because they all thought John was a prophet. They answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus replied, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things.”

– Mark 11:27-33, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I turned to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for a definition of “authority.”  Turns out old Webster would be an example of the first definition:” a source of a citation used in defense or support.”  The second dictionary definition – “power to influence or command thought, open, or behavior” – is likely what Mark has in mind.  Jesus can influence people in ways they could believe only because they were seeing it.  Jesus’ authority was in conflict with the authorities, the “persons in command” (Webster’s third definition).  At least the persons in command thought so.

What authority do you trust?  When one is in conflict with another, how do you decide which to heed?

-Teressa Clark, 2012

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 6


Lent.05: Faith

Palm Prints

Early in the morning, as Jesus and his disciples were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered from the root up.  Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look how the fig tree you cursed has dried up.”

Jesus responded to them, “Have faith in God!  I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’—and doesn’t waver but believes that what is said will really happen—it will happen.  Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you.  And whenever you stand up to pray, if you have something against anyone, forgive so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your wrongdoings.”[d]

[d] Mark 11:26 is omitted in most critical editions of the Greek New Testament And if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your wrongdoings.

Mark 11:20-26, Common English Bible (c) 2011

This is one of those teachings of Jesus – one that is misused every time it is quoted to imply that someone – you, me, the grieving parent, the bereft spouse, the lonely or the sick or the underemployed or the __(fill in the blank)__ – does not have enough faith.  In the face of pain and suffering and overwhelming obstacles in ordinary human lives I refuse to think that someone’s faith is not good enough or that it is not sufficient; measuring another’s faith is never in my job description.

I do believe in prayer and encourage regular, honest communication with God – conversations where we ask, we listen, and we are somehow changed.

“Believe” is not a head thing.  It is a heart thing and it has everything to do with faith in action.  When a creed begins “I believe …” it means “I give my heart and life to …” or “I give myself, body and soul to ….”.   So when we pray and believe we’re offering our lives as part of the answer.

If we are talking about mountain-sized issues of justice – from immigration to racism to truly welcoming our LGBTQ siblings in Christ to addressing climate change – we must do do more than pray.  We must also act.  And, to borrow Jesus’ words: not waver.

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 5


Lent.04: House of Prayer

Palm Prints

They came into Jerusalem. After entering the temple, he threw out those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves.  He didn’t allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.  He taught them, “Hasn’t it been written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?[b]  But you’ve turned it into a hideout for crooks.”[c] The chief priests and legal experts heard this and tried to find a way to destroy him. They regarded him as dangerous because the whole crowd was enthralled at his teaching.  When it was evening, Jesus and his disciples went outside the city.

[b] Isaiah 56:7  [c] Jeremiah 7:11

 – Mark 11:15-19, Common English Bible (C) 2011

I really like the idea that the temple – the place of worship – is to be a place of prayer for ALL – not just some, not just the orthodox (those who practice worship the “right” way), not just the pre-approved, not just Jews or Christians or Muslims or Buddhists or whatever other religious group.  It is to be a place of worship, of prayer, for all nations.

But notice the chief priests and the scribes.  They are afraid of Jesus.  Afraid.  Fear can lead us down strange paths and cause us to do things that are not always in our own – or anyone else’s – best interest.  Fear can also hold us back, keep us from experiencing something new – perhaps even something joyful, hope filled, or brimming with new life.  No wonder we hear the words “fear not” over and over again in scripture!

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 4

Lent.03: Fig Tree

Palm Prints

The next day, after leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. From far away, he noticed a fig tree in leaf, so he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing except leaves, since it wasn’t the season for figs.  So he said to it, “No one will ever again eat your fruit!”  His disciples heard this.

Mark 11:12, Common English Bible (c) 2011

Jesus being hungry is so very human.  So is being angry.  But I don’t expect Jesus to be angry at a fig tree for not having figs when it isn’t fig season.  Maybe he was really hungry.  But seeking instant gratification just doesn’t seem very Jesus-like.

Luke tells the parable of the fig tree where the tree is fertilized and water and given another year to produce figs. (Luke 13:6-9)  So why did Jesus curse this fig tree?

Did Jesus mean for the disciples hear him?  A reminder that when we say something unexpected, someone is listening!

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 3

-Teressa Clark, 2019