my miscellany

Pentecost 7, 2017 — 23 Jul 17

Pentecost 7, 2017

RCL A Proper 11
Isaiah 44:6-8, Psalm 86:11-17, Romans 8:12-25, Saint Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43

“The field is the world,”[1] Jesus says in his interpretation of the parable that is today’s Gospel. Could he have possibly foreseen the world in which we live in the twenty-first century?

We have perceived the world in such a way that we see it sharply divided, like the field in the parable, between the wheat and the weeds. We have legal and illegal people, we have Democrats and Republicans, we have haves and have-nots, we have rich and poor, we have capitalists and communists, we have the insured and the uninsured, and we have Christians and Jews on one hand, and Islamists on the other. On Thursday in Kingston, I saw a familiar profile, complete with hair, between the words Stop Bigotry. So, we can add bigots and non-bigots to the polarized and polarizing list. And, what is more, we know, each one of us knows, which is which. We know, we are proud to know, the difference between the wheat and the weeds. How do we react to this reality of our field, our world?

The slaves in the parable know this difference, too. And they go to the householder and offer to uproot the weeds, because they know which is which. But the householder says, “No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together.”[2]

The designations of wheat and weeds we have given to the field in which we live and the remedies each of us has for the field in which we live, all have been put on hold by this parable. They have been put on hold by God’s preference for patience and tolerance.

The wheat can grow, and the weeds can grow, because uprooting one could damage the other. Our role in the world is to grow as best we know how, recognizing that there is a householder who, at the last, will preserve the wheat.

In the past, I have named this patience and this tolerance to be letting God be God. And letting God be God is hard, I know. I would rather step in and make sure things were put right. But stepping in that way would compromise God, and that would be to my way of thinking but maybe not to your way of thinking. And beyond that, stepping in may not be to God’s way of thinking.

And so, the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds is a cautionary tale reminding us that though we have been made in God’s image, we simply have no business in remaking the world in our image. What if we mistake wheat for a weed?

[1] Saint Matthew 13:38.

[2] Saint Matthew 13:29-30a.


Pentecost 9, 2016 — 17 Jul 16

Pentecost 9, 2016

RCL C Proper 11 Complementary
Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 15, Colossians 1:15-28, Saint Luke 10:38-42

The Gospel today is the familiar, charming account of Martha and Mary in Saint Luke, just five verses. We simply don’t know whether they are or aren’t the Martha and Mary of Saint John’s Gospel. You remember that one of Jesus’s greatest signs is to raise their brother, Lazarus, from the dead. This is their only appearance in Saint Luke. This Gospel tells us nothing more about them.

What is the preachment in this Gospel? What has it to say to us?

This Gospel reminds us of the importance of listening to Jesus, the Teacher, the Master, the Lord. And it reminds us of the equality Jesus gives to women. We should never forget that.

You remember that Martha is “distracted by her many tasks”[1] while Mary sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to him. Again, do not forget how unusual it was in first-century Judaism for a woman to assume the man’s role of a disciple to a Teacher. Boundaries are being broken. Freedom is being enlarged and encouraged.

But it is Martha who finds fault with Mary, and Martha’s doing so reminds me of a little parable earlier in Saint Luke. Here it is: “Why do you see the speck in your [brother’s] eye, but do not see the log in your own eye?”[2]

Mary has chosen the better part, as the Lord says. Usually this statement, interpreted, means that the Lord prefers education to labor. And Mary hasn’t become the judge of her sister.

I wonder if that little parable about the speck and the log is not also part of what the Lord is teaching. You and I will do well to tend to the log in our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck in our brother’s or sister’s or neighbor’s eye.

You add that to the reminder to learn from the Lord, to hang upon every word of the Lord, and to be led by the Lord’s example of extending equality to every person, and you have a lifetime of things to make your own. As the Psalmist says today, “Whoever does these things * shall never be overthrown.”[3]

[1] Saint Luke 10:40.

[2] Saint Luke 6:41.

[3] Psalm 15:7.

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