Sermon for Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2020
Read Pastor Julie's sermon as shared on Facebook Live. Visit https://www.facebook.com/saronstrasburg each Sunday at 8:30 a.m. between now and May 31, 2020, for a brief live service of scripture, prayer, and a sermon by Pastor Julie.
Isaiah 44:6–8 | Psalm 86:11–17 | Romans 8:18–25 | Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43 (Lectionary 16A)
(Mother’s Day) One of the tasks as a child that my mother (speaking of mothers) got me to do at least a handful of times—somehow—was to weed the stretch of garden along the edge of our yard in Lakewood around the carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and flowers. It was probably my least favorite job EVER: It didn’t look like there was much to do until you were down on your knees and up close—and then the rows seemed to go on and on. And it was hot. And the roots of the weeds never totally came up from the dry, clay-like soil—even with the dandelion digger. I felt like I was “half-weeding” half the time; an exercise in futility—the invaders just waiting to sprout up again. And, well, what was the point? Could not vegetables be found in the grocery store, weed-free? ;) “Hi, Mom! Glad you are tuning in today!” (Now, here’s my own mom-commentary—and there is only me to blame: My own kids think it’s inhumane to put away the clean dishes and sometimes take out the trash and recycling: And believe me, children, the emotional labor it takes to enforce doing a chore is harder than doing it myself: But our parental hope is that someday you all will live a good life that is not—at least totally—marked by filth and squalor…) Strangely enough, two of my children are working on gardens right now. (The seedlings are from my daughter in MN, and that’s my college son at home, digging far deeper than necessary.) And, well. I still pull weeds—but just out of my wild yard: Usually 8 massive trash-bags full of Canada thistle in July—resulting in itchy welts on my arms and legs- and a couple more bags of cheat grass. If only I could just ignore the weeds!
Which is the point of Jesus’ metaphorical talk, right? —Let it go, when it comes to the weeds. I mean, unfortunately, this isn’t about your real crop, garden or yard if you want to nurture certain types of plants and their produce; or curb invasive species. But it IS about how we see and act. To get at this, Jesus wants us a to feel a little “itchy”—like he does in parables—by lifting up something contrary to what seem obvious. He is speaking to our tendency to sort out what is good and bad in one another and in ourselves. To re-visit Richard Rohr speaking to the Rocky Mtn. Synod Assembly a year ago, our dualistic brain that distinguishes and clarifies is very helpful for carving out a sustainable and orderly life together: ALSO, there are some days—esp. these days—that I’m pretty convinced that my husband is a weed. If so, what’s to be done? ;) Or is he wheat? I don’t know. Sometimes I’m just out of sorts and he bothers me. AND sometimes I bother him. What does that make me? What should be done with me? (Have you noticed this if there are other people around your house?) Our sense of judgement might be a bit skewed by… quarantine and being busy or not busy, getting enough sleep or not, feeling fulfilled or restless: We go through a lot of emotions in any given day. Which means I might not make a good judge all of the time—deciding if a person is good or bad. Or if I am good or bad. Lutheran theology comes in very handy here: Sinner and Saint are simultaneously both my state of being. The weed and wheat co-exist. It really can be no other way in this life. One part cannot somehow be excised—maybe transformed—but not removed. Truly—in this sense—you CAN ignore the weed. Or maybe at least learn what it has to teach you. And trust God for the rest.
We suffer much in thinking we can control things that we cannot; what am I missing? what am I not doing? what could be different? (Self-blame? shame? frustration, futility.) This gap that leads to discontentment. So thank goodness—for me and everyone around—it’s NOT UP TO ME to sort out the weeds and the wheat; inside or outside of me. Be aware, perhaps—but Our sense of fairness is usually skewed toward ourselves, after all, and so we remember as we get to the explanation part of the parable that God’s justice is not the same as our take on fairness. Which actually works in my favor—the Un-fairness: God who is First and Last, redeems, after all. And says things like “Do not fear; Do not be afraid.” Isaiah 44: Despite all evident to the contrary.
For this time of the weeds and wheat all growing together can seem a bit frayed, however. As in Romans 8—and since it’s Mother’s Day—think about it—and maybe specifically our time right now—as being like labor; birth pangs: There is nothing fun or good by itself in that level of pain and physical demand! We might be better without it. Better to get rid of labor, then. (I mean, modern drugs and procedures can help…) But labor pain- deadly as it has been throughout history—is ironically an inseparable part of bringing life into the world. And even then, birth is only the beginning of the labor of parenting—in which—as someone once said, you lose a layer of skin: No longer can you buffer just yourself against the whims of life, but you long to protect these ones who are now beyond you; and for whom you wish you could remove the difficulties or suffer them yourself rather than stand by, helpless. And yet, weeds AND wheat.
Pastor/ Dr. Erin Raffety is mother to a child with multiple disabilities and a terminal illness. She says, ”I've never been able to save my daughter, Lucia. It's a truth I've had to come to grips with… [living] at the edge of your limits as a mother and a person: You realize to ask [the whys] is futile, distracting, daunting. The control that you don't have was never an idol to be worshiped, but rather a tyrannical robber of joy.” She goes on: “I don’t want to live with a false security that my child will always be there. Instead, with the full knowledge of life’s impermanency, … choose to love even more fiercely, generously, lavishly.”
The weeds grow up with the wheat and God will sort out when such a time arises. For now, this is what we have. And it is ample opportunity for the labor of changing our ego-systems to eco-systems: Moving from me to we. Tending the soil for all to grow as we lean into an unknown future—with the love that is a gift of our faith and… let go the outcome. And I have a hunch- there will be something wonderful. Thanks be to God. Amen.