July 19, 2020
7th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11
Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Do you like to do puzzles? Jim and I have done a lot of puzzles this year; normally it’s just a winter activity but in this long winter of our discontent that doesn’t appear to have a glorious summer coming, it’s one of the ways we’ve kept ourselves entertained at home.
Our typical methodology is to sort through and pull out all the edge pieces and then sort the remaining pieces by color or pattern. But this last puzzle we did didn’t have name large sections of specific color or pattern, so after completing the edge we just divided the pieces among the trays we work from and got busy.
There was this one piece that was quite distinctive and in my mind I saw part of a shirt with buttons on it and I thought it would be easy to place. I looked and looked and looked at the picture and could not figure out where it went. There were little figures all over the puzzle and none of them were wearing a bright blue shirt with brown buttons. So I put it in Jim’s tray.
Some time later, he picked it up this particular piece and put it right where it belonged without even looking at the picture! It wasn’t a part of a shirt after all and what I saw as buttons were nail heads. I couldn’t see it for what it really was.
Sometimes we need to see from another perspective to get the true picture. That’s why Jesus tells parables – to give us another perspective, to help us see and hear our circumstances differently or in a new way.
Last week in our Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable about scattering seeds on different types of soil. The message of that parable isn’t that we are to be stingy with our seeds or even to be with careful where they land, but to scatter the seeds of God’s love abundantly without concern of where they land and to till our own soul’s soil so that the seeds that land on us can grow to abundance so we have more to scatter.
This week, Jesus again puts before the crowd another parable involving seeds and sowing. But this time, instead of being the sower or the soil, we are the seeds.
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like someone – notice he doesn’t compare the kingdom to a place but to people, that’s an important detail – the kingdom of heaven is like someone who sows good seed in a field and when no one was looking, an enemy sneaks in and sows weeds. The two types of plants grow together and when they get mature enough so that it is apparent some are weeds, the servants come in and question the Master – don’t you know what you are doing? they ask.
Without listening to the Master’s plan or thinking through the consequences, they offer up their own plan to fix it: we’ll just rip out the weeds. And the Master tells them “no, trust me, I’ve got this”. The Master knows that the servants’ exclusionary plan would cause so much more harm to the good plants than leaving the weeds in place.
When we lose sight of God’s love and seek to root out those we don’t approve of, we are sowing violence not compassion.
As God’s children, the people who are God’s kingdom, our purpose isn’t to separate the wheat and the weeds, but to sow the seeds of God’s love abundantly. When we attempt to damage the “weeds” we do more harm to our own souls that we do to whomever we label as “them”.
Jesus talks a lot about seeds, some say it’s because he lived in an agrarian society, which I’m sure is part of it, but I can’t think of a better metaphor for the continual newness of life Jesus calls us to. For a seed to bear fruit, it must die, it must cease being a seed and become a plant so that it can bear the fruit it was created to bear.
For us to live as kingdom people, we must continually let go of our inclination to say to God, “I’ve got a better plan than yours”. We must let go of our own ego and live for God’s glory.
We must learn to see the world from a kingdom perspective. We must have ears to hear God say “trust me, I’ve got this” and with God’s help live into our created purpose of spreading the abundance of God’s love in all that we think, say, and do.
God always and only wants the best life for us, the life God created us for. A life grown in the fertile soil of love and hope and peace, a life that bears the fruit of the Spirit, even in the midst of a pandemic and social unrest and financial strife – ESPECIALLY in the midst of a pandemic and social unrest and financial strife.
We cannot let the weeds in this world distract us from sowing God’s love. I couldn’t see the puzzle piece for what it really was but Jim saw it easily. Sometimes we all need help to see as Jesus teaches us to see, to hear as Jesus teaches us to hear. Parables help us get a different perspective, to hear and see things differently.
Jesus “puts before us” many things in parables. He tells the story and then leaves it to us to hear the message. It’s our choice. Parables are glimpses of the fullness of God’s Kingdom, not just intended to prepare us for the “end of the age” but to give us a model for our life here and now as the Kingdom of God already at hand.
And when the suffering of this day seems more than we can bear, we have the words of St. Paul to remind us that the glory of God’s kingdom is revealed in and through us as we strive with God’s help to live on earth as it is in heaven.
Let anyone with ears listen. Amen.