Sunday, July 20
“Surely the LORD is in this place– and I did not know it” In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
My name is Christian… I grew up in Allendale, but my folks grew up in Zeeland and most of my extended family live in the Holland/Zeeland area. I am overjoyed to be back in Holland and can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have gotten the opportunity to come to Grace and to start my ordained ministry with you kind folks. You have exceeded my expectations for hospitality and kindness and this is only my 8th day on the job. We moved in to the parish house right over here on June 9, Pentecost Sunday. A special shout-out to all those who participated in any way to the work on the parish house. It is a lovely home and we have already begun making life-long memories in it.
Well, I haven’t preached since Easter season… so forgive me if I’m rusty… And…, I haven’t really preached that many times total, so forgive me if I’m a bit green. And… I’ve never preached here… so forgive me if i’m not relevant or if my interpretation of the scriptures is offensive… I’m still figuring this all out.
In case you missed it, last week in Jen’s sermon, she talked about her new curates a bit. And I think she said we are either curate seeds or carrot seeds, I’m not sure. I’d be fine with either except that she didn’t say that they are wheat seeds and I doubt carrots will mix in well with the wheat. And we heard the fate of non-wheat-seeds didn’t we… But the parable was the parable of the sower last week. And Jen reminded us that we are all seeds planted by the sower in a Kingdom that is taking shape before our very eyes. And the gospel this week is another parable involving seeds and sowing and the complexities of the growing and coming Kingdom. This time Matthew reminds the reader that we are going to have trouble. In the Kingdom, the good that we recognize… the good that we notice will be in the midst of trials. The good will be in the midst of evil. And sometimes we may not be able to even tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds. We may not even be able to tell right away what is good and what is evil. But the author makes it clear that pulling the weeds could be more harmful than helpful and so.. the wheat and the weeds live together. Together drawing the nutrients from the soil. Benefiting equally from the rain and from the sun. Suffering equally when there is drought or when there is flooding.
This passage is clear that it isn’t our job to eradicate the weeds. It isn’t our job to erase evil. Too bad right? I have a garage full of weed killing chemicals that the previous tenants used. We would love to come up with a secret formula to eradicate evil and suffering. But the truth is, sometimes the Church has done a good job of pulling weeds and at other times we have done great damage. The same body… The Body of Christ… our global Church… has done wonderful things and yet we have many black eyes over the centuries… We, the Church, has produced wheat and weeds haven’t we? The same global Church that we are a part of feeds those in need right out these doors in our very parking lot… and yet, different individuals, but the same Body, have been in the news, shouting hateful things at children in the name of Jesus at our southern border. This is the same Church that has Christians on both sides of every political and social issue in the history of the Church. The same Church that has made decisions that have seemed wise and good at the time, only to turn out to be not so wise and not so good to us today.
So how shall we interact with this Kingdom that at times seems present and at other times seems distant? How shall we go on sitting next to our friends in the pews that, at times are our deepest companions and at other times hurt us and betray us? How should we understand the global Church that at times feeds the hungry and hopeless but at other times shouts hateful things at busloads of children looking for refuge. What shall we do when violence of war bleeds over the agreed upon borders ushering in absurd acts like the shooting down of a passenger jet filled with the innocent? It is certainly easiest to hide our heads in the sand… It is easiest to look at events in Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, and on the southern US border and shake our heads and say “how awful”. Should we sit back waiting for the harvest to take place? Shall we sit back and wait for the weeds to be separated from the wheat? God… It is too difficult for us to do so…. it is too difficult to sit by waiting for the harvest…. we must act… and yet often times we feel so helpless and maybe even hopeless.
And we need reminding that each time we come to the altar, we bring our weeds and the weeds of the Church and the world. We bring our wheat and we offer it to a God that is good. We bring our wheat and our weeds to the one in charge of the harvest when we feel helpless and hopeless. And trust that God will turn it into good. And when it seems like we are surrounded by weeds, we may declare like Jacob, “Surely the LORD is in this place– and I did not know it”