July 13, 2020
We plow the fields and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God's almighty hand,
who sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine,
and soft refreshing rain.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #680]
The readings for Sunday, July 19, 2020, the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
So, last week, whether out of boredom or sheer stupidity, I waded into a Facebook debate that I knew I shouldn't have, but I felt compelled to comment. I could have kicked myself afterwards for not following my own principle to avoid such futile arguments on social media.
I have yet to witness one of those disputes where anyone is swayed to the other person's point of view. If anything, we dig deeper into our respective positions and end up either calling each other names, deleting the opposing comment, or "unfriending" the person with whom we disagree. Were it a verbal argument, we wind up shouting at each other.
Our society has become highly polarized, to put it mildly. We are sharply divided over many issues. The quarantines that have been imposed over the last several months in order to stem the rise in COVID-19 infections have not accomplished their purpose. If anything, they've only succeeded in escalating our anxiety.
- To wear a mask or not.
- To keep a safe physical distance or not.
- To avoid large crowds or not.
- To reopen businesses or keep them closed.
- To resume in-person worship or continue with online services.
These are but a few of the issues of contention that have driven a deep wedge between so-called friends and family members. I could easily write another page or two on the partisan political posturing, the racial conflicts, the economic disparities, police reform, and societal upheavals that have dominated the headlines.
There's a general culture of fear and anger that pervades our lives, coupled with the petty bickering over just about anything. We've become a touchy bunch.
The church is not immune to these entanglements. Over the course of history, the consequences have clouded its witness. I've often said that instead of the church transforming the world, more often that not, it has become a reflection of the world. Think of the divisions in this century alone.
In the ELCA we frequently refer to "The Decision" of 2009, which opened the door to the ordination of pastors in committed same-sex relationships. The mass exodus of those who disagreed was stunning. Friendships were fractured. Congregations were split. Some didn't survive the losses in membership. That is but one example.
And so, with all this as a background,
what are we to make of this coming Sunday's parable about the wheat and the weeds? What message does it provide for us today? What is Jesus really trying to tell us?
In the farmer's field, there was the wheat, and mixed in among the wheat are the weeds - good and evil side by side.
In life, there are certain people who do good and certain people with evil intentions. Many of those are pretty obvious.
There are those who sacrificially give themselves to serving the poor, the dying, the starving, the sick, the immigrant and the refugee.
On the other hand, there are those who will kill, maim, or otherwise prey on the innocent.
We have learned to live life among the weeds of society. But sometimes, it's hard to tell which is which. It's hard to tell who is good and who has evil intentions. That doesn't stop us from rushing to judgment. Especially in the church, where those who are serious about their faith and their Christianity find it easy to make comparisons, and be quite judgmental.
But Jesus says, "Hold on. Not so fast."
There will be a harvest; there will be a day of judgment; there will be separation. But let God bring these about in God's own time. It is not for us to predict how God will judge people. That is our challenge.
Yes, there is evil and injustice. Yes, we need to speak out about injustice. Yes, we need to act to correct some of the ills of society. But let us not be quick to cut ourselves off from each other. Rather, let God use us to be instruments of God's love and righteousness.
This parable begins with Jesus saying that, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to..." I don't know what Heaven will look like exactly, but I imagine that the last judgment will be full of surprises and when we look at the crowd in heaven, I'm sure that we will say more than once, "What are you doing here?" Or we may think quietly, "I didn't expect to see him/her here." Some may be just as surprised to see us.
Thanks be to God that we serve a God who is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.
My electronic meeting schedule this week is as follows:
: Staff meeting.
: Conference Deans
Conference meeting with Cleveland-East, Cleveland-West,
Canton-Massillon Rostered Ministers.
Beginning in August, there will be only one Rostered Ministers meeting on the first Wednesday of each month. Any rostered minister from any conference is welcome to drop in.)
Conference of Bishops Weekly Check-in
We continue with prayers calling for healing, understanding and reconciliation among God's people of different races. Today, this prayer calls for an end to racism and is from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
O Lord our God, in your mercy and kindness, no thought of ours is left unnoticed, no desire or concern ignored. You have proven that blessings abound when we fall on our knees in prayer, and so we turn to you in our hour of need.
Surrounded by violence and cries for justice, we hear your voice telling us what is required, "Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). Fill us with your mercy so that we, in turn, may be merciful to others.
Strip away pride, suspicion, and racism so that we may seek peace and justice in our communities. Strengthen our hearts so that they beat only to the rhythm of your holy will. Flood our path with your light as we walk humbly toward a future filled with encounter and unity.
Be with us, O Lord, in our efforts, for only by the prompting of your grace can we progress toward virtue. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
+Bishop Abraham Allende