Wednesday, July 20, 2011
This week's Gospel Reflection is offered to the Glory of God in thanksgiving for the life and ministry of John Simpson. John was not a perfect human being, but he was a man who continually wrestled with God and with our human condition in hopes of one day being part of God's dream for us all.
In a recent interview of John, he made this statement: “I’m a member of the church. One of the things they teach us in church is our job is to be helpful, is to be of service. You don’t have time to think about your own problems when you’re busy trying to help other people live better.”
John was one of those wonderful birds who found a home in the mustard tree of God's kingdom on earth and who welcomed others to join him in the loving arms of that tree. May God bless John as he goes from strength to strength and from glory to glory in continued service to God and others.
Jesus put before the crowds another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."
Who would anyone ever compare the Kingdom of Heaven to a weed? Jesus did. I love parables because they confront my usual way of thinking about life. You see the mustard bush is a weed. Why would I want a weed in my life? Why would Jesus or anyone else think that comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a weed was a good way of promoting or even talking about the Kingdom of Heaven to those of us who like our world to be as free of pesky weeds as possible?
We are about to enter a deeper place of our souls if we pursue this parable and that place is accessed by the questions that will surely arise if we challenge Jesus’ use of a mustard seed that grows into a huge weed as a proper way of understanding what God is doing in our world. I ask who is the “someone” who would intentionally do such a thing to his own field?
Mustard seeds are very tiny. Perhaps these seeds got accidentally mixed in with the seeds “someone” was planting in his field. The parable does not seem to give us that idea. In fact, it seems that the owner of the field did not plant anything but a single mustard seed in the whole of his field.
Now that is peculiar and if you recall that Jesus just told us another parable about wheat and weeds growing up together and that the weeds would be allowed to grow up with the wheat until they were separated out and burned at the great harvest, the idea of suggesting that this “someone” was God is even harder to understand.
So, let’s just accept the possibility that God is the “someone” who intentionally plants this one tiny little mustard seed in the field that is God’s field and that this tiny seed grows into a humungous weed that is so big that it is like a tree that every sort of bird can call home. What are we to make of the parable now?
I would like to offer a quote from an early Church theologian named Tertullian. He said: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Martyrs are people who die seeking to live according to God’s dream of justice, mercy, forgiveness, and resurrection.
The tiniest seed of blood that fell to the ground beneath the cross is the seed of the church. This tiny seed of Christ’s blood carries the DNA of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and is growing into a large and sometimes unwanted presence in a world that has chosen to live without God from the beginning.
Jesus’ parable makes more sense when we read it from the perspective of God giving his life and very being in that one seed of Jesus planted on the hill outside of Jerusalem, the city of peace where there is no peace. We have chosen ways of living and dealing with our problems without God and that way of dealing was exposed most clearly, definitively, and finally on the cross of Jesus.
Jesus who represented the love and mercy of God was rejected like some unwanted and pernicious weed messing up our human garden and our sense of things and yet, that one life, that one tiny human seed of God is growing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
His dying at our hands released the very seed of his life that is transforming our world and giving all of us a place here on earth to call home. The Kingdom of Heaven is open and welcoming to all of us. No one is excluded. No one is left behind.
It is this message of grace that our world seeks to ignore, cast out, and silence. It is the Good News of the weed of God’s Kingdom on earth that we proclaim.
Alleluia! Alleluia!! Alleluia!!!
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Have you ever been too quick to judge someone?
Have you ever been judged too quickly by yourself or by others?
If you have experienced these situations, you might find Jesus’ parable about the landowner who sowed good seeds in his field interesting. The landowner plants good seeds to grow wheat, but his slaves come back to him and ask him why he has also planted weeds.
This parable is simple, but difficult for us to hear. We certainly look at the horrible injustices that are happening around the world today and perhaps wonder why God is allowing such things to take place. We may think or say that if God were a loving God, he would stop such evil by tearing those responsible for it from creation.
Since the beginning of human community we have found ourselves judging ourselves and others quickly and almost out of habit. Most people think they are pretty good at judging others, but the parable suggests that we really are not that good at it. The story of Adam and Eve is a parable of what happens when human beings think that they can tell the weeds from the wheat.
So, when the landowner’s slaves ask him what they should do about the weeds growing up in the field of wheat, the landowner tells them not to wade through the wheat to tear out the weeds because all that tramping about might destroy the wheat. More importantly wheat and this sort of weed called darnel look very much alike making it really hard to know one from the other and risking the loss of additional valuable wheat through mistaken identity.
Jesus lived and died this parable. In order to understand it we need to look at how this parable played out in his life. Was he the landowner, the son of man, one of the slaves, the good seed growing up into wheat to nourish, or one of the weeds that the enemy had planted at night? Go through each of these roles and see how the cross fits into the parable or how the parable is more easily understood from the perspective of the cross.
Parables have the power to take us deeper into truth and meaning. The story takes us on a tour of the Kingdom of Heaven as it is unfolding in the world. Consider what might have happened if the slaves had decided to disregard the master’s instructions.
Consider how patient or impatient you become when you see a perfectly good thing or person being threatened by someone or something.
Consider those times that you have decided to take things into your own hands and disregard the commandment to love as we are loved.
Consider how the Kingdom of Heaven is growing up around us despite the weeds.
Consider how easily we confuse wheat and weeds?
Consider how much damage we do when we try to weed out others who we see as “weeds” in our otherwise perfect world.