The Living Reed

Pearl Buck is best known for her books published in the 1930’s, especially The Good Earth in 1931, her second novel. It was good enough to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature the next year, and in  1938 she received the Nobel Prize for literature.

While most of her books were set in China where she grew up the daughter of missionaries and where she was also a missionary until missionaries were ordered out of the country. This book, as you can see, is set in Korea. It was published in 1963, but the story ends in 1945.

It is the story of the high ranking Kim family (Kim is the Smith & Jones of Korea) the head of which was a scholar and advisor to the Queen. His two sons take different paths as do the grandsons, yet each play an important role in the history.

This is not her best work but it is an excellent history of Korea caught between the weakening China, their longtime protector, and the rising power of Japan in the late Nineteenth Century. In 1910, Japan annexed Korea and forced everyone to learn Japanese and become Japanese (as they did in other territories). That brutal rule lasted until the end of the war.

The book in print form is 604 pages long and could have easily been cut to 400 without losing anything, but those pages would be and are worth the read. I really did not have an issue with the writing until about the 75% mark.

Mike Lawrence

God’s Kingdom is Like…

Photo by Tina Witherspoon on Unsplash


Jonah 3:10-4:11
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

God’s kingdom is like, is a phrase found seven times in chapter 13 of Matthew and once each in chapters 20, 22, and 25, for a total of ten. In each case Jesus tells us a little more about the Kingdom.

If we read all ten together, we might notice that the Kingdom is action. Seeds are planted, crops are harvested, bread is leavened, treasures are sought, fish are caught. There is no parable from Jesus that includes a soft recliner and a big-screen TV.

We will also notice, especially in today’s reading, that God’s mercy is able to make the work easy. His mercy allows us to see what needs doing. His mercy gives us the courage to do it. Being a Kingdom citizen involves being an imitation Jesus every day. It is not about our being a perfect imitation, God’s mercy will smooth out the rough spots.

If we look beyond the ten parables in Matthew to Abraham, Moses, and David, we will notice that the Kingdom is filled with people who are called by God and who make the correct response to the call.

The idea of responding to God’s call put in my mind the 70s song, The Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. It’s about a man who intends to be involved in his son’s life but never seems to find the time.

We Christians have the same problem. I’ll get to that, God, as soon as I finish this paperwork, this project, this plan, this building, this…

We are ambassadors of God here where we live now. If I had been appointed to be the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom and I spent most of my time seeing the sights in London and eating fish-an-chips, I would have been fired.

Yet, we claim as Christians to be His Ambassadors and we fail to do our jobs. Now, God understands that we are not living in Heaven, that we must make a living and try to stay alive. But what’s to stop us from doing our Kingdom work while doing our earthly work? Talk to coworkers. Help them with their problems. Just be a friend. I’m not talking about badgering them into coming to church or preaching during lunch. Just be there. Be aware. Notice who is down, who needs a good word.

Notice that Jesus did not force himself on people. Mostly they sought him out. In a few cases, Jesus asked question which lead to him helping someone.

No doubt there were people standing near Jesus when he told the parable of hiring workers for the vineyard who were upset that the owner paid the same amount no matter how many hours were worked. Now, many jobs calculate the minutes worked and pay a per/minute rate. A century ago, most American workers expected to be paid a dollar a day. So, if someone came to work for only a couple of hours to receive the dollar, there would have been an uprising.

The difference is that there is no time clock in Heaven. We are not even paid on piece work (likely a good thing for many of us). We all will receive the same reward; Peter, John, Paul, you and me. Mercy rules.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence