July 20, 2014

Proper 11-A

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 86 or 86:11-17; Matthew 13:24-30,36-43; Romans 8:18-25


When I was in elementary school, we were taught about the larger world through a little newspaper called The Weekly Reader. Do any of you remember The Weekly Reader? Famous world figures were often pictured and some biographical material would be included. We might be apprised of Major events from the political, sports, social science, and scientific facets of humanity. Looking back over the events of this past week, I was thinking that the editors of the Weekly Reader would be hard pressed to write an edition suitable for young minds to read. And yet, thousands of young minds and bodies are very much in the thick of what has and is transpiring this very minute. What are we as Christians to make of it all? How are we to sort out the evil and horror for our own peace of mind, much less explain it all to our children and grandchildren? And how is it we are to respond to the evil in the world - the weeds?

I do not pretend to understand everything humans do to and with other humans. However, I firmly believe that God has not abandoned the planet, and I think we have a few clues in today's Scripture as to how and where our God is in all this. Jesus was sitting in a boat teaching his disciples and others who gathered around. As he usually did, he used metaphors familiar to the people in their everyday lives. He said that the Kingdom of heaven could be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field, but while everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, then went away.

This brings to my mind the Creation story in which God made all things good, but while the couple in the garden were focused on themselves rather than the beauty and abundance of their gifts, an enemy came and planted temptation and left them to explain their actions. A short while later in the story we learn that one of the couple's sons murders his brother. Thus, man's inhumanity to man has been around from the earliest of days.

Now Jesus' parable gets a little strange. But the householder in this story told his gardeners to let the weeds grow right along with the wheat and wait until harvest to deal with them. I don't know about you, but I am an avid WEEDER. Just let the wind or a bird plant one of those ugly, smelly weeds in the middle of my flower bed, or my pot of miniature roses, and as soon as I see it, PLUCK - out it comes and into the trash. 

I wonder if many of you, like me, would like to rid the world of the weeds and NOW! Looking at the horror of wars in the world, (Scott Pelley of CBS News recently stated that across the globe this very minute, 41 wars are in progress) or refugees, of bodies of airplane passengers strewn over miles of barren land and who knows how much ocean floor, of children housed in kennels and others tortured and abandoned by their own parents even in our own city - how can we as Christians NOT want to do some weeding? But Jesus cautioned that eradicating the weeds before the harvest could cause the good plants to also be uprooted. Where is God in all this? God is in the midst of his people and his people are planted in the same field as the weeds. 

So I wonder again, " What are we as Christians to make of it all?" 

Our mission is to love. Our mission is to spread the Word of God throughout this miserable world in which we live. And I think one very important point of this story is that if we marched forth hating the people we view as weeds and eliminated them, we would have much collateral damage. Witness the Middle East today. This has been done before, you know - and often in the name of religion. The very idea is frequently preached even today by false prophets and misinformed evangelists. Our mission is to love, not to eliminate possibilities for those who do not know the sower to never meet him.

The kingdom of God kind of love is a compassion which compels us to look injustice in the face, feel another's pain, acknowledge and call out the systems which sustain exploitation and inequality and to take a stand beside the marginalized - in other words, Solidarity with our brothers and sisters. It means recognizing the weeds - the enemies of Love. Some call them demons or the devil or evil personified.

Weeding can be back-breaking work. Gardeners suffer back and knee pain. Most farmers have calloused hands. God has not promised that now that we live in the Spirit we will have milk and honey and no back aches or horror. Living a Christ life means encountering and experiencing these things as did our Lord. 

One cannot truly love at all without suffering hurt on some level. We are commanded to love just as God loves us. We are to allow the weeds to grow right along with us - to be inclusive, all the while living in such a way that the enemy will be overcome by the brilliance of the Christ light that shines from our hearts and our faces. 

Paul reminds us that we are indeed children of God, joint heirs with Christ - if we suffer with him we may also be glorified with him. For we live with the knowledge of our salvation and the hope of the Resurrection. As followers of God in Christ, we are united with God. Atonement - At-one-ment. We are adopted sons and daughters and that covenant cannot be undone. This adoption is finalized.

If it is true what Paul says - that the suffering of our present time does not compare to the glory which will be revealed to us, how can we not risk loving enough to suffer in order to bring healing and hope to a cruel and broken world? This does not mean we are to avoid confrontation or challenge. On the contrary, since we are living and growing in the same field as the weeds, and since God in very present with and through us in that field, we MUST stand up to the enemy. And just like the couple in the first garden, we will be held accountable for our actions or our inactions.

 Each time one of us acts courageously to change an unjust law or to stand against the evils which cause poverty or to write an op-ed bringing attention to a weed, we may also be encouraging many others to do the same. Each time we write a letter to a government official explaining the nature and consequence of a weed and demanding action to remedy an injustice, we are demonstrating our faith and acting on the Word of God. Each time we take time to pray for the weeds rather than pull them up, we provide an opportunity for God to turn hearts from hate to love and minds from self to other.

Jesus said, when he explained this story to his disciples later, that the sower of the good seed is the Son of Man and the good seed the children of God; that at the end of time the angels will do the reaping and will separate and deal justly with both the good crop and the weeds. So we are to let God deal with the alleged weediness of others. We cannot really know what is going on in the heart and mind of another, therefore we are to deal inclusively. 

Could it possibly be that the over powering love of an entire nation for poor, exploited thousands of children might in the end turn the hearts of some unscrupulous government officials and cartel lords? Could it be that the fervent prayers of millions could bring an end to barbaric ethnic cleansings? Could it be that the power of love expressed through standing up for injustices throughout the world could actually be the greatest weed-preventer ever invented?