Sunday, July 19, 2020
Lectionary 16, Year A
Prayer of the Day
Faithful God, most merciful judge, you care for your children with firmness and compassion. By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom, that we may be rooted in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Readings and Psalm (Semi-continuous First Reading and Psalm)
Genesis 28:10-19a Jacob’s dream of the ladder to heaven
Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24
Romans 8:12-25 The revealing of the children of God
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 The parable of the weeds
Title: Living with the Weeds and the Wheat
Continuing from last week, we are back in the garden. The scoundrel is still here – Jacob. The legalist is still here – Paul. Even the careless seed sower is still here. But this time, rather than the dirt, we are the seeds. The question of course is – which seed are we – what Jesus calls the good seed? Or the seeds that bring forth weeds?
Judging this parable of Jesus as one of the more easy to relate to, I’d say life has taught us all that it is not an either/or question, but rather an all-inclusive, both/and answer. By the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, we are the good seed. Growing in God through the grace and mercy in Christ Jesus, nurtured by the Holy Spirit. And at the same time, by our own sinful nature, we contribute to the weeds in the garden. Weeds that, if they get out of control, take over and choke at the good seed that has been lovingly planted.
We hear Paul from a couple of weeks ago describing this struggle of doing that which he knows is wrong, and not doing that which he knows is right. Cultivating weeds rather than good seeds – wheat perhaps – seeds that produce fruit to feed us and the world. Oh, if we could just apply a good dose of weed killer and be done with the whole struggle. So much easier. So much more peaceful.
What weeds are plaguing you these days? In Wednesday’s e-letter I wrote about our current societal, much needed, weeding that is going on. But this morning, perhaps it is good to focus on ourselves as individuals. Naming the weeds that are stealing from our good seeds growing. What are you seeing in the patch of God’s garden that is growing in you?
And while it is good to confront that which is unwanted in our garden patch, that which robs us of true life and good growth in God, we also know that those weeds will always be there.
Perhaps the scoundrel offers us a bit of hope as he runs from cheating his brother and tricking his father – right there he has broken three out of ten commandments. (And don’t try to come to his defense and say that the commandments had not been given yet. He knew he did wrong, that’s why he is running away.) But here is Jacob the scoundrel, cultivating his weediness, and God gives him one of the most beautiful dreams recorded in scripture. So many dreams offer dire predictions, urgent warnings, or crucial travel advice. But for Jacob the scoundrel, there is a gift of a dream of splendor, of assurance, of promise, a dream filled with hope.
In your on-going struggle with the weeds, where do you find or hear hope?
Hope is certainly the word for that legalist Paul as the grace-filled message of Romans chapter 8 continues to blossom for us. And you gotta figure that hope is not a valued word in the vocabulary of a legalist. A legalist doesn’t want to hear someone in the struggle say things like – “Oh, I hope to do better.” Or “I hope God will understand.” But here the legalist turned Evangelist tells us the good news – that we live in the tension of growing weeds and wheat – and it is all rooted in the hope we find in God through Christ Jesus. Good news especially to those of us who honestly admit that we cannot, by our own power or will weed our garden and grow only good seed.
Paul assures us that the Spirit is growing the good seed – those first fruits growing in us as we wait for the fullness of redemption. We wait in hope. Knowing that one day all our weediness will be gathered up and mercifully done away with. And our hope is sure because we have witnessed this hope in Jesus Christ – in his ministry, his teachings, his miracles, his passion, death and resurrection.
In Christ is the promise that the scoundrel Jacob heard in his dream – God is with us always.
In Christ is the hope that the legalist Paul discovered and in which he rooted his new life.
In Christ is the compassion for those of us who live in the tension of this weed infested garden of ours, as we wait for God’s garden to blossom and bloom into its fullness. God lets the tension be so that what is good might grow and thrive even now, in the presence of all these weeds.
We’ve taken time to identify the weeds. More importantly – take a look and see – what is the good seed that the Spirit, through the waters of baptism, has planted in you? What deserves your attention to nurture and grow?
Living in tension. Living with the weeds. Luther referred to it by naming us simultaneously saint and sinner. And it is not easy. Awareness of wheat and weeds brings greater tension. But we do it with hope, undying, death-defeating hope. The hope that transforms scoundrels and legalists. The hope that feeds our good seeds. So, rejoice and live, for by our God who plants, through Christ who tends, and by the power of the Holy Spirit who nurtures, hope blooms and grows in us, feeding us for the journey and feeding the world as it groans with impatience. Hope is ours and it is rooted in the completeness of God.
The Rev. Mark Erson,