Pentecost 7, Proper 11
Sermon, July 23, 2017
By Linda Shay, Church of the Good Shepherd, Silver City, NM
LINK TO PDF VERSION (Good for saving or printing out)
First, I want to give thanks to God for creating the minds that created the internet. I read today’s Epistle lesson from the letter to the Romans and immediately thought of a song sung by the Fisher Folk about 40 years ago. It was on an album my children had (the real kind that spins around on a turntable). But I couldn’t remember the name of the song – just a small part of the chorus. I typed that into my antique desktop PC and – voila – the song lyrics appeared! Along with them was the information that the song was indeed based on today’s portion of Romans: “For the creation waits in eager longing for the revealing of the children of God..”
The song puts it this way:
“And all creation’s waiting on tiptoe just to see the children of God come into their own.”
All of creation is waiting, dependent upon we humans to come into the fullness of who God created us to be. So how are we doing? It depends upon what the measuring stick is, doesn’t it? We have all probably looked at our neighbors, our colleagues at work, our siblings, our spouse, and thought “I would never have done it that way”, or “What a bad decision he/she made” or That will never work” and finally, secretly, thought “I’m smarter, better, wiser” – pick an adjective. Measured by our own criteria, we look pretty good. What does the Bible tell us about our measuring criteria? We are created in the image of God.
I went through the descriptions of God given in today’s reading from Psalm 86: always kind, gracious, compassionate, strong, truthful, merciful, helpful, comforting. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t quite measure up. I’m sure that I intend to be all of those things, and manage to be sometimes, but not always. As Paul says, in Romans 7:19 “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Sound familiar? I can’t count all the times I lost my temper with my children as they were growing up. I do know that it was at least one more than the times that I promised myself that I would stay calm, not overreact, and not insist on having the last word. Evil is not always a commission, but is often an omission. I am ashamed to remember the times when I’ve heard a racial slur or a joke that demeans a person or group and said nothing, not wanting to “make waves.”
In our gospel lesson for today, Jesus tells a parable about seeds, fields and the owner of the field. Last week, the problem lay in the soil that the seed fell on. This week, it is weeds sown in the field by an enemy. Jesus then explains the parable to his disciples. At the risk of committing an unforgivable act of hubris, I’d like to offer another interpretation. It isn’t better but it extends the meaning for me into my own life.
God not only places his children in the world as good seed. He also places his Spirit within each of us – the seed of His intentions for our life. And those intentions are always good. The enemy is always ready to plant the seeds of doubt, contention, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, selfishness, and pride into the world and, more particularly, into each of us. That enemy is identified as Satan in the parable, but it is often our own ego. And it is through that ego that evil, personified as Satan, gains power over us.
Notice that we are the ones giving permission, our consent, when we seek to protect our egos at all costs. As we go through life, meeting its difficulties and challenges, we hear that we should stand up for ourselves, make our own way, take care of number one. We learn to put up barriers to protect our egos and to shut out what we perceive as hurtful, dangerous, different and threatening. This creates fertile ground for the enemy’s seeds to grow. We see those who are different from us as a threat and shut out the possibility of communication. We grow fearful of losing security, prestige, and comfort, so we jealously guard our goods, position, and resources. We brand opinions and attitudes different from ours as evil, foolish and dangerous. The good seed planted in us that God intended to grow into His image can be crowded out as the weeds grow. On our own, we cannot pull out those bad weeds..
But Paul, in his letter to the Romans, tells us, “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” God’s glory will shine forth through us, His children. God has not given up on us – even we weed-ridden fields! In prayer, we can go to Him with our fears and insecurities, and He will give us what we need in order to change. “ Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). The qualities of God that we long for: kindness, graciousness, compassion, strength, mercy – the good news is that He always has them, and He intends that we will have them, too. In today’s parable, the landowner plans to wait until the final harvest to separate the wheat from the weeds. God intends to give us time to grow into His perfect plan for each of us. We just need to move our short-sighted egos out of the way.
When we put our complete trust in God, he will uproot the weeds of fear, mistrust, prejudice, and selfishness from our hearts, burn them as chaff and allow the harvest of our true selves, made in His image, to grow and be a blessing in His world.
Remember: And all creation’s waiting on tiptoe just to see,
The children of God come into their own. Amen.