Sunday Sermon – Brenda Tibbetts, AiM

6th SUNDAY after PENTACOST – Year C

July 20, 2014 – OSLC, Virginia, MN

TEXTS: Isaiah 44:6-8; Psalm 86:11-17; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

THEMES: Is. – “Do not fear or be afraid,” says the Lord. “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god – there is no other rock, I know not one.” Ps. – “Great is your steadfast love toward me…you, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me, give your strength to your servant…” Rom. – “We know that the whole of creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; …For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Mt. – “Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers…let anyone with ears listen!”

 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope, we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God..” Romans 8:22-27 Let us pray…

OPENING PRAYER:

Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace. Amen.

Today let us choose and cling to hope. Hope in the God who is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and searches the heart…

In light of the news coming out from Gaza, Ukraine, Niger, Pakistan, Syria, and other war-torn places of violence, it is “easy” (and tempting) to claim we know for certain where those weeds of destruction have been planted in God’s global field. It is easy to spot those glaring human rights violations, condemning “their” actions and give labels to groups. Derogatory labeling makes others “less human” while at the same time labeling the opposition with names of gallantry makes group “more than human”. Yesterday’s Freedom Fighters become today’s rebel insurgents. What will they be called tomorrow? The labels are dependent on which group matches your personal political viewpoint.

Killing innocent children I the air or on the beach while hiding behind launching pads or walls is just plain wrong. I think we would all agree – it ought to provoke a global humanitarian outcry. Yes, we are very astute in spotting the enemy’s weeds growing in God’s global field.

But just how astute are we, in spotting the weeds of destruction and disharmony in our own country, in our own community, or even in our own lives and relationships? What seems good and harmless on the outside may not always match the intent of the heart. And we too often judge one another based on outward appearances.

Where are the weeds of divisiveness allowed to grow alongside the wheat? Or the weeds of envy, anger, lack of self-control, addictions, untruthfulness or unwillingness to forgive? Where do we launch destructive rockets through our words, our texts or our postings? Are these weeds in our lives recognizable to others who look out at the fields of our faith community?

“Parables are designed to shake us up. They make us look at the world in a different way. If it makes us ‘uneasy’, the parables have done their work.” (Amy-Jill Levine)

It is always far easier and far more comfortable to look at the world’s field’s rather than our own. Yes, it is wrong to shoot rockets at innocent children – no matter where they are; but what about those children coming across our own southern-most borders? Are we to label them “What” or “Weeds”? Again, often according to personal political affiliation? The fact remains – they are children, for God’s sake!, and these children deserve to be treated compassionately and as reflections of God’s own image.

When parables make us uneasy, they are doing what they were intended to do – make us take a second look at our lives. Indeed, the Word of God is living and active and it does something in us.

I won’t even begin to say that I have a clue as to how the border situation should be handled – any more than I would have the wisdom to say how nations should respond to the other acts of violence taking place in the world. When innocent children are involved, it is complex – and it should be compelling us to prayer and action.

The news headlines flash for the purpose of selling and titillating until the next big headline comes along…Yet, I wonder how I would react if I were in those places dealing with violence every day. Have you ever done that? Wondered what you would do it those were your children? As a parent in north Minneapolis, Chicago, Ukraine, Gaza, Jerusalem, Honduras, Guatemala, Nigeria – what would I do to protect my children? To what lengths would you or I go to keep them safe and provide for them their daily needs, education…and most importantly, hope? All of a sudden, the news stories are seen in a different light. I’m not sure I would be able to tell the wheat apart for the weeds. All of a sudden, I recognize news of violence is closer to home.

One spring, I was over-zealous in weeding my garden. As a result, I lost a bunch of my favorite Monarda (or Bee Balm) plants just beginning to poke out of the group. It taught me to be more patient in letting them grow so I could indeed, tell the difference between those flower seedlings and the weeds. That’s what Jesus was talking about in this parable. We aren’t the ones to make those distinctions. Jesus tells us justice will come – in God’s time. But justice (or lasting peace for that matter) does not happen without judgment. And the good news is, we are not the judge.

We live in the “meantime” of planting and harvest. We are called to grow in God’s hope, mercy and steadfast love now. We are called to share those crops of God’s love with one another now.

Perhaps you have seen field upon field of sunflower plants. It’s a gorgeous sight – the bright flowers lifting their multi-colored faces to the sky…following the movement of the sun. We are called to be like that in the fields God has planted us in. Blossoms of hope that follow God’s Son bringing light and hope to God’s global fields struggling against the invasive weeds of destruction.

As we bathe in the light of God’s love and soak up nourishment rooted in the soil of God’s word, we can help strengthen others to continue to meet Jesus and to follow the living Christ, whose love is stronger than death…We can prayer and encourage others to pray back the enemy’s weeds in order to bear witness to the world, to our community, to our homes – that God’s peace, mercy, and Shalom will ultimately be a reality for all of God’s people God is worthy of our hope and our trust.

Today we chose and cling to hope. We celebrate the gift of new life and hope in the baptism of Conner this morning. We say Yes to God’s gift of forgiveness and new life in the meal to which Jesus invites  us. We claim the promise given in God’s word – “Do not be afraid. I am with you always…the Spirit helps us in our weakness – interceding on our behalf, and on behalf of the world and all creation, with sighs too deep for words.” Share the hope! Thanks be to God. Amen.

Let us pray: “O Lord God, where hearts of fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams” We ask this in the name of the One who himself, bears the marks of human violence and overcomes the powers of darkness, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. (ELW p. 76)