+ SEVENTH SUNDAY after PENTECOST +
Waiting for Harvest Sunday
19 July 2020
THEME of The Day In the Meantime Pr. Jim
There’s a harvest coming—some time in the future. But in the meantime, why is there evil in the world? In today’s parable of the Wheat & Weeds Jesus suggests that both grow together until the harvest at which time the weeds will be burned. Seems simple, except for this: the One who speaks gives his life over to death, that God’s mercy for all people may be revealed, and that God’s power to bring good out of evil may be known. Is it possible that even weeds and thorns will be transformed into beautiful flowers and lush vines? With Paul, we long for the day when all creation will be set free from bondage and suffering.
So in the meantime, here then is each Christian’s mission: to speak and to act with mercy and justice in a world that knows too well the presence of evil.
May God bless your worship.
AN ACT of ADORATION
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let us adore our heavenly Father, who created us, who sustains us, who loves us
with an everlasting love, and gives us the light of the knowledge of his glory in the
face of Jesus Christ.
We praise you, O God, we acknowledge you to be the Lord
Let us glory in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for
our sakes became poor; who became obedient unto death, even death on a cross; who died and is alive forevermore; who opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers who is seated at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father; who will come again,as Judge and King.
You are the King of glory, O Christ.
Let us rejoice in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, by whom we are born into the family of God, and made members of the body of Christ, whose witness confirms us, whose wisdom teaches us, whose power enables us to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.
All praise to you, O Holy Spirit.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Faithful God, merciful Lord and 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, who
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON Isaiah 44:6-8
[Using a dramatic courtroom scene in which God is at once prosecuting attorney, witness, and judge, this prophet of exile introduces a radical monotheism: the Lord is not one among many gods; the Lord is the only God.]
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first
and I am the last; besides me there is no other god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let
him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what
is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
SECOND LESSON Romans 8:12-25
[Paul encourages us to experience life as more than just moral existence, which he calls “life in the flesh.” Those who are led by God’s Spirit discover a hope that sustains them even in their suffering.]
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if you live by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 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.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
HOLY GOSPEL Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
[Jesus has just told his disciples the famous parable of the sower, which compares different responses to the word to different kinds of soil in which a seed is planted. Now he tells a second parable about sowing to illustrate the coexistence of good and evil in the world. God’s judgment will remove all evildoers and causes of sin, but not until the end of human history.]
[Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
The he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them in the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”
The Gospel of our Lord. Praise to You, O Christ.
HOMILY Wheat & Weeds—A Strange Mix
Text: The Gospel Lesson Pr. Jim
Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-30 [36-43]
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
At Friday evening’s meet and greet for Patrick & Jinnipher, Stu, Patrick and I were talking about “2020 as the year of unanticipated changes.” In January, we were having the usual January thoughts: New Year, new opportunities, an election season about to begin. No one would have thought then that the biggest thing in the new in less than three months would be a global pandemic, with repercussion in every sphere of our life including our worship life.
And then, just when we thought this would be our preoccupation forever, an incident of police violence in Minneapolis set the national discussion on an entirely different course … the issue of racism in America. And added to this important dialog is the distracting mix of social unrest evidenced in ongoing protests, violence, and destruction of property … all of which distracts us from constructive dialog and resolve surrounding racism.
So how do you handle the distractions that confront you? Today’s Gospel Lesson addresses that question.
In the text, the owner goes out to sow some wheat. His intention is to sow the best seed possible to ensure a good harvest. But every generation has its pranksters and scoundrels. And one of the most mischievous crimes in Jesus’ day was to scatter someone’s field with weed seeds as a way of getting even with one’s neighbor or enemy. For one reason or another, that’s what someone wanted to do with this farmer for one reason or another.
When his farmhands went out to check the fields, they discovered a mixture of wheat and weeds … good and bad growing side by side. (Those of us who grew up on a farm or know something about farming know about Cheat Grass, Fire Weeds and Downey Brome in the midst of wheat fields. Not a pretty sight … and no amount of spraying ever fully chokes them out.)
Surprised by what they saw, the farmhands returned to the owner and asked: “Didn’t we sow good seed in your field? How come it has weeds?” In understanding this parable, it’s important to take note of that statement and what it teaches about life.
I’m sure all of us will agree that life is a bewildering mixture of wheat and tares … good and evil. None of us are surprised by that anymore, are we? Well, maybe sometimes we are—in our moments of trust and naiveté.
In my ministry over the years, I’ve had occasion to use this parable more than once when sitting with parents who were wringing their hands and shaking their heads when the worst was confirmed about their son or daughter and said, “Where did we go wrong, Pastor? How could this have happened?” As a parent or pastor, it’s difficult to trace when it all got started, isn’t it? Often there is never any one particular person or event that started it. All of a sudden, it’s just there.
From the text, our Lord would teach us that we need to get on with other more important things than trying to pinpoint the who, what, when, and where that have left us shocked and forlorn over weeds in the wheat.
“An enemy has done this …” says the owner in the parable. Jesus goes on to identify the enemy. It’s not our own flesh and blood. It’s the old evil foe that sows the tares, as he quietly seeks to overthrow The Kingdom—planting weeds alongside the good seed the Son of Man sows.
“Do you want us to go out and gather up the weeds?” ask the servants. “No way!” is the owner’s emphatic answer. Good intentions, notwithstanding, you and I are not able to destroy evil.
Once when the disciples wanted to call down hellfire and brimstone on some obnoxious Samaritans, Jesus reminded them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of … [Luke 9:52].” Like the disciples and the servants in the parable, we often don’t realize our “manner of spirit.” We, too, need teaching … admonishing … and reminding.
No one … the parable reminds us … no one is ever weed and altogether weed and nothing else. The servants thought they knew the difference between wheat and weed. “In gathering up the weeds you root up the wheat,” counsels the owner. All must wait for the final judgment at the harvest—then and only then will it be clear that what may have looked like weeds was not, and vice versa. The Day of Judgment, you see, will be full of surprise—a lesson that you and I need to learn now.
In assessing the servants, perhaps the owner could have said it simpler, “You’re not seeing the forest for the trees.” Dostoevsky put it this way, “to love a person means to see him as God intended him to be.” The person who seems to be a schemer … lout … good-for-nothing-bum is not only that. That person is also within the power of God to find and reclaim as a forgiven child of His grace. That’s what Jesus did with Matthew. That’s what He has done with each of us through Word and Sacrament. Through the Cross, God sees us as He intends us to be—forgiven and reconciled to Himself in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Reclaimed by the power of the Spirit, you and I are to grow in the light of God’s Son and bloom where we are planted—even if it is in the midst of weeds.
It’s His love that never lets us forget that God can find … bring home … set free … and welcome to His table the least among us—the ones who look like weeds and only weeds.
Writes St. Paul:
Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight
of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peacefully with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourself, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is
written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, if your
enemy hungers, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink … Do not
overcome evil with evil but overcome evil with good.”
God calls us to be who we are … the people of God …to bloom where we are planted with His mercy and grace even in the midst of the weeds and distractions of life.
May God grant us then the grace and patience to take the long view and with calmness enter into the dialog of racism among us and in us … so that we may live confidently in the Name of His victory, until one day we hear the good news, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the kingdom prepare for you.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Growing in the Sonlight
DIAGNOSIS: Weed whacking
Step 1 – Initial Diagnosis: What kind of seed are you?
If only our wheat field had no weeds – this seems to be one of the perennial cries of humanity. We rightly chaff at the enemy’s work around us, but then we also feel we have the right to sort ourselves into the good and bad categories – and, of course, “we” are always the wheat and “they” are always the weeds.
Step 2 – Advanced Diagnosis: Horticultural hubris
But when we make these distinctions, we are usurping God’s agenda for our lives. We are setting ourselves up as arbiters of good and evil, and keepers of the divine timetable. We are trying to decide the fate of the field and its crop, not trusting the owner (God) to plow, plant and harvest as God sees fit.
Step 3 – Final Diagnosis: Uprooted
But God does not allow anyone else to do what is his alone to do. The harvest time, the reapers and their work are appointed by God with no help from the plants. In fact, when we assert our agenda against God’s, the end of the age is grim indeed. Uprooted and burned, we will be left outside the kingdom with weeping and gnashing of teeth.
PROGNOSIS: Let ’em grow
Step 4 – Initial Prognosis: New roots for the world
This kingdom parable isn’t about wheat and weeds fighting it out in the field of life, but about Jesus’ entry into history on his redemption agenda that changed the field forever. He allowed himself to be uprooted, collected and burned on the cross for our sake. He took our weedy existence and gave us his resurrected life, the full golden head of grain, that is the first fruits of the kingdom of the Father.
Step 5 – Advanced Prognosis: Growing until the harvest
When we trust Jesus’ timetable for the kingdom and his mercy agenda rather than our self-appointed criteria, we don’t have to worry about who is growing next to us and can focus on keeping our faces turned toward the Son.
Step 6 – Final Prognosis: Shining like the sun/son
And with our faces turned toward him, his light becomes our light and we are able to shine in the world, glowing and reflecting the beauty of his countenance to all that we meet. We no longer need scramble to secure our place in the field, but are free to help the ones around us turn their faces toward him as well. Together we grow and though it’s not always easy waiting for the fulfillment of the harvest, God is always right on time.
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
Called into unity with one another, let us pray for The Church, the world, and all of God’s creation.
A Brief Pause
God of the harvest, you sow the good seed of the gospel of your Son, Jesus Christ, into your field. Help your Church throughout the world to be both diligent and patient, full of resolve and gentleness, that our witness may be faithful to your intention. Your Word has been sown in many ways and places. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of all time and space, your whole creation groans in labor pains, awaiting the gift of new birth. Renew the earth, sky, and sea, so that all your creation experiences freedom from the bondage of decay. Free us from apathy in our care of your creation and inspire us to toward sustainable living so that future generations may enjoy the goodness and blessings of your creation. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of the nations, teach us your ways, that we may walk in your truth. Mend the fabric of the human family, now torn apart by our suspicious, fearful, and warring way. Guide us and all world leaders by your mercy, grace, and steadfast love. we pray for our nation’s leaders. Increase their desire for justice and equality. Bridge the chasms that divide us as a nation during these days of protests and civil unrest, bring calm to our anxiousness and bless us with the necessary healing and change that only you can give. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of care and hope, open our eyes to see and attend all who are in need. For those who are doubting, renew their faith. For those who are worrying, provide release. For those under doctor’s care especially John, Sarah, and Shari, together with those we name in the secrecy of our hearts … brief pause … bring your healing and strength as we lift them up in prayer before you. With your love, surround those of our parish who are homebound especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of renewal, revive your Church in this place. Nourish and nurture the seeds you have planted through our parish and campus ministries. Sustain and deepen our relationships with the wider communities in which we live. We give thanks for the opportunity to visit and speak with Patrick as our prospective vicar this weekend, help us to discern your will for him and for us so that in all things your good and gracious will may be done. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of life, we give thanks for all who have gone before us with the sign of faith. Stir in us the desire to follow their faithful examples and sustain us as we serve you until the day you bear us up to join the saints in light. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Receive our prayers, merciful God, and dwell in us richly, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray …
Our Father who art in heaven;
hallowed be Thy Name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom
and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.