You can join this week’s worship service by visiting: https://youtu.be/gkX7ZClpHTM
Thank you to Kyle Johnsen and Jens Jeppesen for sharing the gift of music with us this week, from New Denmark, NB.
Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection and prayers for this week. Our weekly e-newsletter will continue to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening at St. Paul’s. If you don’t currently receive that, and would like to, please contact us and we’ll happily add you to our mailing list.
In these exceptional times, please do stay in touch, with us and with each other.
The peace of Christ be with you all.
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture: Matthew 13: 24-30
Music: More Voices #142, Oh a Song Must Rise: Svenson/Nixon, 2006
Empty Fields written and composed by Kyle Johnsen, accompanied by Jens Jeppesen.
Jesus loved to tell stories that people could relate to; stories about lost sheep, bread dough, about a prodigal son and loving father. After all, in those days who would have believed there could be such a thing as a Good Samaritan? Would a shepherd really leave 99 sheep to go search for the one that is lost?
Another preacher who grew up on a farm pointed out, the parable last week and the one this week would have made anyone who had a garden let alone a farm would shake their heads in disbelief. Jesus was telling stories about lousy farming practices.
The Parable of the Sower is about a farmer casting seed on ground where he knew the seed would never grow; a waste of good seed. This week, he is talking about leaving the weeds alone and getting them at the harvest. Even I can identify some of the weeds in Sue’s gardens that need to get pulled.
I suspect most of us realize we can’t take a single verse from Scripture and say that it is definitive. We need to understand some of the context that it was written for and what is the context as we listen to it today.
This passage has traditionally been interpreted to mean that God and God alone should be the final arbitrator of who given a harp and goes directly to heaven and the rest who go directly to Hell without passing Go or collecting their $200. It is about who is in and who is out, wheat and weeds.
People who have studied church history will tell you that over the centuries churches have often spent more energy weeding than nurturing. I suspect Matthew had some very zealous weeders in his community. Paul warned about hoping on band wagons. Those who wrote the Nicene Creed in 325 were definitely trying to give the boot to Arius whose followers were a little too loosey goosey about the divinity of Jesus in the eyes of some. Who is in and who is out, wheat and weeds, weeds and wheat.
The church has spent a lot of time and energy trying to get rid of weeds from our midst. In large part that is why there are so many different Christian denominations. Often, it seems the primary focus of the church is on weeding rather than planting, nurturing and tending. Maybe we need to refocus and that should be part of what I talked about last week around rebranding.
Folks, these days it is easy to see the weeds:
- Truth no longer seems relevant,
- Greed trumps generosity,
- Narcissism has trampled humility,
- Arrogance and nastiness seem more common than kindness,
- Privilege blinds us to how others experience the world.
- Leaders are self absorbed and don’t seemed to be grounded in what many struggle with.
That is what the headlines seem to tell us.
But is that the reality of our world or are we just focused on headlines that play on our emotions and that are often meant to divide us?
I was moved by the song Kyle wrote and shared with us. It is about struggle and sacrifice – so someone will have a better life. It also calls on us to examine some of our choices to better understand how they make a difference. As I listened to Kyle, I was thinking about how many of you have sacrificed to create a better life for your parents or for your children or your spouse of for the community?
Weeds and wheat, we get to choose where we focus our time and energy between greed and self interest on making sure that somehow we benefit or on love and compassion and not just welcoming others but making sure they have a place at the table.
This is the end of Pride Week. I remember my attitude 40 years ago; I saw a lot of weeds in my world. One day, a few years ago, I was whining about the dandelions and the overall poor state of my lawn, someone who is a good gardener and someone I love deeply said to me, “You know, sometimes a weed is just a flower in the wrong place.”
We each need to choose where we will focus, on weeding or on tendering and nurturing.
We have learned a lot about inclusion over the past few years; about welcoming people into our midst. Part of what I hope we have learned and that we continue to learn as we continue to work at becoming more affirming is that inclusion is not just about welcoming someone who wanders into our midst feel welcome. It is about offering them a place at the table where they feel welcome and nourished. More important, that we listen to them and learn from them and hear their stories so we can begin to see how God is part of their lives.
Wheat and weeds, weeds and wheat; God invites us to see the world through a different set of lenses so we recognize that we are all beloved children of God.
For we are not alone. We live in God’s world. Thanks be to God.
Holy One, we come before you in awe of your great mystery and acknowledge that this is your world, your universe, your creation and especially your church; we are your servants seeking to better understand your call for inclusion and for peace with justice.
These days, our lives seem fraught with the unexpected, filled with the circumstances that confound and confuse us at times,
With happenings from day to day that sometimes startle and sometimes surprise us. Sometimes we are unsure of the truth; other times we wonder what is true, what is truth? Sometimes we grow cautious and weary about others in our personal lives, our church, our community, our world.
Yet, there you are, beckoning us, calling us, challenging us to embrace all that we face and to trust in your grace and that your wisdom will help us find the courage that we need;
the courage to continue to be faithful followers of your way.
Strengthen us to be your disciples and help us focus on nurturing and growing personally and as a community of faith rather than on weeding.
Guide us as we seek to bring healing into our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities and churches by creating a space where all may find safety, respect and acceptance. Be with us as we continue proclaiming your grace for the entire world through our actions and lives.
We pray for the people and places that are especially in need:
– the people of the United States, Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa and Mexico where the virus is on the rise.
We pray for those who are grieving today, especially the family of the late Joe Robichaud, his wife Beth, daughter Samantha and son Thomas and all of the family. May they find comfort and peace in the knowledge that they and all of the faithful departed are in your company, surrounded by eternal love.
We pray for all who are in hospital, who are receiving treatment and living in places where they are receiving care. Bless those who are caring for them with wisdom, compassion and insight.
We pray for all who are in need and we remember especially those with whom we are the closest and whose names are in our hearts and on our minds. In addition, hear our prayers for those whose names we do not know. Surround them with your steadfast love. Touch them with your infinite mercy. Fill them with a peace that passes all understanding.
In Jesus’ name we pray, in the words he taught us, Our Father, who art in heaven …..