Proper 11A (OT18)
229: July 23, 2017
Voice in the Wilderness: Renee Roederer
Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
Featured Musician: The Steel Wheels
Kingdom of Heaven- Jesus’ favorite topic
Constant reversal - takes typical images of what someone would think the Kingdom of God looks like and turns it upside down:
Banquet- attended by the poor, prostitutes, and lepers
Bread - not unleavened Manna, but filled with yeast
Field - with a weed, a tree and birds
Field filled with wheat AND weeds
Skipped parables in 31-33 (mustard seed and yeast) will be covered next week.
Surprises in the parable according to Warren Carter (there are always surprises in a parable)
The master is sowing the seed, despite the fact that he has slaves.
The master knows that the weeds were sowed by an enemy - and not just natural wild growth
Slaves question the quality of the seed, but master assures them that the seed is good.
The master allows the wheat and the weeds to grow side by side.
Interesting side note from Elizabeth Johnson at workingpreacher.com:
“What Matthew most likely refers to, however, is darnel or cockle, a noxious weed that closely resembles wheat and is plentiful in Israel. The difference between darnel and real wheat is evident only when the plants mature and the ears appear. The ears of the real wheat are heavy and will droop, while the ears of the darnel stand up straight.”
Judgment or Grace
First thought might be judgment - weeding the kingdom
“While the parable’s symbolism is readily accessible, some interpreters are rightly disturbed by its analysis and implications. For example, the parable’s presentation of two antithetical types of plants presents a view of human beings that hardly reflects the complexity of human life.” (Warren Carter)
“We may find the dualism of this text troubling. It seems that there are two groups of people in the world -- children of the kingdom and children of the evil one, wheat and weeds -- and that their destinies are fixed from the beginning. Jesus says that at the end of the age, the angels will "collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin (σκάνδαλα) and all evildoers, and will throw them into the furnace of fire" (13:41).” (Elizabeth Johnson at workingpreacher.com)
This is a word of judgment from within the community.
“The interpretation of the parable found in verses 36-43 applies the parable to the time of the church. The risen Christ sows good seed in the world and thus creates the church. Into the midst of this church the devil sows people who do not belong in the kingdom… Matthew is greatly disturbed by the mixed state of the church, which contains many who enthusiastically call Jesus Lord, but refuse to follow his ethical teaching” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew)
“Matthew assures himself and others that a day of reckoning will come to these pseudodisciples.”
Even if we cannot tell apart the weeds and the wheat, God will be able to.
This means however, that we need to leave such matters up to God, and not be in the business of doing the separating ourselves.
Also grace- not our job to weed, but only to grow and tend the field
Hyperbolic language - we don’t cut off our foot after we walk somewhere we shouldn’t, Peter isn’t really Satan, .
In 12:50, Jesus declared his family to comprise those who do “the will of my Father in heaven,” a descriptor that might embrace a wide and surprising variety of people.
“So perhaps we should not press the logic of the parable too literally. In the world we know, weeds do not become wheat. Yet Matthew's story holds out hope even for those who stumble -- yes, even for the one whom Jesus calls a stumbling block!” (Elizabeth Johnson at workingpreacher.com)
Theodicy - The question of Evil - Why does God allow bad things to exist and even flourish? For the sake of the good seed- the wheat
Can God just snap “his” fingers and fix the world? No, because God chooses to limit Godself out of love for us and our ability to grow into fat wheat (and risk us growing into fat weeds - see above)
Barbara Brown Taylor - "that growth interests him more than perfection and that he is willing to risk fat weeds for fat wheat. When we try to help him out a little, to improve on his plan, he lets us know that our timing is off, not to mention our judgment, and that he does, after all, own the field."
Both wheat and weeds have a place in God’s Kingdom
Does not define different people but different things
We do not separate people into wheat and weeds, but we can identify the good seeds (that draw us close to God and neighbor) and the veil seeds (that draw us away from God and neighbor)
We are not called to weed the garden
“Jesus does not, however, say whom the slaves represent. Perhaps the slaves represent the disciples, or anyone who hears this parable and its interpretation. Who among us has not questioned why God allows evil to grow and thrive? Who among us has not wanted to take matters into our own hands and root out the evil in our midst? The master stops the slaves from doing anything of the sort. For one thing, it is not so easy to tell the weeds from the wheat, and for another, their roots are intertwined below the ground. Rooting out the weeds would uproot the wheat as well, doing more damage to the crop than leaving the weeds to grow.” (Elisabeth Johnson, Working Preacer)
Doesn’t mean we simply stand by ignorant of the weeds, injustice or sin.
The slaves/ servant rightly identify the wheat and the weeds
Prophetic witness is different from judgment
How do we embrace our calling for prophetic witness while resisting the temptation to “weed” the garden?
Are we able to tend the garden and reserve self-righteous judgement until the fruits of the wheat or the weeds presents themselves?
Tolerating weeds is frustrating- especially the weeds within ourself- how can we (as the church) help support one another in tending the garden without getting choked by the weeds?
Immediately follows the story of Jacob tricking Isaac into blessing him.
Jacob’s journey has two functions, one is to escape Esau’s anger. OTher is to go to his uncle Laban’s house to find a wife.
At the end of the saga at Laban’s house (14 years and two wives later), Jacob wrestles with God before meeting Esau (Gen. 32:22-32, the lectionary reading for Pentecost +8A). Thus, both the trip to Laban’s house and the trip from Laban’s house is marked with a divine encounter.
Setting of the Dream
Jacob at his most vulnerable. There is no action of Jacob to initiate this encounter with God.
Exile from family.
No wife or property accumulated
Asleep - He’s not even conscious.
Jacob’s ladder probably “looked” more like a stairway than what we think of as a ladder (Led Zeppelin had it right).
“The news is that there is traffic between heaven and earth. The object described is probably a ramp rather than the conventional ladder. It refers to something like the Mesopotamian ziggurat, a land mass formed as a temple through which earth touches heaven. Such a ramp as a religious figure reflects the imperial religion of the culture. But now it has become a visual vehicle for a gospel assertion. Earth is not left to its own resources and heaven is not a remote self-contained realm for the gods. Heaven has to do with earth. And earth may finally count on the resources of heaven.” (Walter Brueggeman, Interpretation: Genesis, p. 243).
God appears to Jacob, and says nothing about the ways that he scammed Esau and tricked his father. God simply extends the promises that were once made to Abraham.
Promises of God
I will give to you the land on which you lie.
Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and shall be spread abroad.
All the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.
I am with you.
I will keep you wherever you go.
I will bring you back to this land.
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.
God is steadfast to Abraham’s descendants, namely to Isaac and then to Jacob. The promises to Jacob are similar to the ones made to Abraham. It is clear though, that it is Jacob who is favored over Esau - even though he has done nothing to deserve such favor.
Response found in lectionary seems to be one of appropriate fear, awe, and reverence.
When he sought Isaac’s blessing, he said, “Because the Lord your God granted me success” (Genesis 27:20b, emphasis added)
When Jacob awoke, he declares “Surely the Lord is in this place- and I did not know it.”
Must read past lectionary to see that Jacob hasn’t really changed:
Even after the dream, Jacob is still conniving. He won’t call God “my God,” unless he has a little proof:
After the lectionary reading, Jacob says, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that i come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God…” (Gen. 28:20-21) Refers to God as “my God,” but still this affirmation is set with conditions.
Jacob did not seem to know God as he was brought up. Despite being the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, he did not know God. He has not acted as a righteous man, and clearly will have some scores to settle. Yet this is the man that God lays his promise on. God continues to go “all in,” with this disturbed family. What kind of God would put such a huge stake in such a faulted man?
Jacob responds to God’s promise with awe and reverence, but then quickly reverts back to bargaining. How do we bargain with God? Even though all is promised, how often to do we wait for proof or some kind of tests before we’ll really believe?
Interesting text as my sister-in-law is in the midst of her own labor pains
The passage continues from last week
Debtors to the Spirit
Historical Theology: Our debt has been paid to the Devil or God by Jesus death on the cross- thereby making Christians debt free.
Debt is usually bad- depending on who you owe
You owe the Spirit- your debt is to the Spirit
What does it mean to owe the Spirit?
The Spirit gives life and grace to live into the future and not be bound by the past.
Gift of love, given to liberate not obligate
Parents paying for a child’s education. “Parents do not lend to their children as a bank does, because it is love, not law, that does it. Parents lend to open the debtor to the future, not to bind him or her to the past.” - Steven Paulson, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 3:
Life and Death
The way of flesh- selfishness leads to death, bound by the fear of and temptation to overcome death, death becomes your master
The way of the Spirit means to no longer be ruled by fear and death but by life.
The way of the Spirit recognizes that we are children of God- so even when things are horrific we need not succumb to selfishness and fear but to cry out to God as a child to a parent.
Being a child of God does NOT mean freedom from suffering- Christ was God’s son and Christ died and suffered. Being a child of God means we do not suffer alone or suffer needlessly, but live in hope of redemption and liberation
Hope is for the foolish- it is a belief against all belief
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” MLK Jr.
Hope is born out the disconnect between what is and what should be
The dis-ease and pain of the current suffering is expressed in groaning: Pain acknowledged, experienced, lived through, not denied.
The glory of resurrection doesn’t erase the agony of crucifixion - nor does it justify it. Nevertheless- resurrection, life, light is coming
Faith does not draw us out of our sufferings into a pollyannic escape, rather hope gives us the strength and courage to endure and work for a better future
Hope keeps us from falling into despair or apathetic acceptance.
Patient hope is not acquiescence.
A better future
Hope is born out of living in the Spirit and being inspired to work for a better future
Inspired = literally In-Spirit
We have seen the first fruits of the Spirit in Jesus Christ- his love, forgiveness, welcome, and grace are a glimpse of the kingdom to come
Now but not yet = First fruits but still groaning, suffering and hoping
What does it mean to owe a debt to God? How do we pay such a debt? Does God care if we pay it? Can we be indebted to someone (like God) for an extravagant gift given (like Grace)?
Passage is a lot about identity: Who and whose are you? You are God’s child. Adopted into God and an heir to all that is God’s. Being God’s child does not prevent suffering but changes our outlook on the past, present and future. We are no longer bound by the past. We groan in the present seeing that the Kingdom is not here (having seen the first fruits as presented in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus) and we are inspired to work with God toward a better future.
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING AND GET IN TOUCH:
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).