Lectionary Reflection for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
July 20, 2014
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 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. Romans 8:19-21
If you’ve ever undertaken a church renovation or home restoration project, you understand a thing or two about what it means to be “in process.” Especially if you are of the “do-it-yourself” home improvement school, you may live in various states of confusion and disarray until the project in question is deemed complete. Well, that is, complete until the next project or phase of the renovation comes along. Dwellings need continual upkeep and maintenance to remain sound and functional. The Body of Christ is no exception to the rule.
Along with creation, we long and hope for that day when we will be set free from our bondage to decay, but until then, there is always work to do. It’s simply the reality where we live, love, work and worship.
It might help this week to envision one another as being in various stages of restoration and renovation on the discipleship journey. Just as photos from years past help us mark and remember time, and even as we look at our parents and grandparents for cloudy images of our future, we live right now–in process–in this particular location and moment in the cosmos. The congregations and worshiping communities of which we are part are also in flux. The proud cornerstones of original edifices may be 50 or 100 or even 250 years old (or more!), but the body that worships there is not the same as those founding mothers and fathers. Sure, many things remain the same, especially those non-negotiable fundamentals of our faith. We speak ancient creeds and follow a pattern of worship with roots that reach way back to the time of the Kings and Prophets. We may incorporate contemporary styles of music and instrumentation, and we may blend traditions of many ethnic backgrounds, but the foundation of the house, Jesus the Christ, is still the same.
We who are in process are also part of an entire created order that is in process. We are already but not yet, we are incorporated into the family but still growing. And we’re in the midst of a world and a culture that is rapidly changing, too. Yet this same creation and the cycles of the seasons is older still than recorded history. Even though we humans have experienced vast change–from the iron age to the bronze age to the Dark Ages and the Renaissance, into the industrial age, and hurtling into post-modernism and beyond–we are still placed here and charged with being stewards of this abundance.
In the grand scheme of life, at least from our limited view and paltry knowledge, we are on earth for a fleeting time yet we exist in eternity because matter doesn’t simply go away. We believe that through Christ we have conquered death, that we are freed in Christ.
Still we live in the midst of this ever changing world, often uncomfortably, not immune to pain and suffering. Even as our created world suffers at our own hands, and we all groan at the lack of peace and justice and our human mess, we may raise our heads in eager anticipation of when all will be put right. Surely on that day, God will harvest both the good wheat and the pesky weeds. Nothing will be wasted. Our best laid plans and schemes will count for naught, but it won’t matter one bit.
So soldier on, fellow disciple! Do the best you can to steward the mysteries of salvation and the gifts of this amazing world. Cultivate your relationships and give them a fresh coat of paint trimmed with love and grace. Fix the plumbing of broken systems of being church. Re-roof your dreams; boost the ceiling even a bit higher perhaps. Tend the grounds and sweep away the cobwebs of anger and despair.
We have hope. We cannot see it yet or even image it fully, but by the gift of faith we know these things to be true. There is the good news–in process but drawing ever near.
How has your Congregation Changed? Most congregations have written histories and/or photo archives. Consider putting together a PowerPoint that illustrates the many changes that have occurred in the life of your congregation since its founding. If possible, intersperse with photos of important world events that coincide with the same years/time periods of your congregational photos. You might use a hymn like “How Firm a Foundation” to accompany the photos. After the presentation invite worshipers to talk in small groups or with those sitting nearby about what the congregation might look like in 25, 50, or 100 years. How do the decisions made today possibly affect the future? Finish with a prayer for wisdom, discernment, faith, and perseverance.
We humans are extremely quick to judge. We want to organize our lives in nice, manageable compartments–clean and orderly (for the most part). But life rarely works that way. The human condition is messy. This week’s parable has a good lesson for us about living in the world. Wheat and weeds? Yes, once the roots become intertwined and things get complicated beneath the surface, it is impossible and unhealthy to to try to excise the good, growing wheat. Similarly, we can’t keep youth away from what we might consider to be the “bad influences of culture.” In fact, we do so at great risk. Instead, a better approach is always to engage youth in honest discussion about the “weeds” of the world. Even in the global picture, conflicts around the world such as the one escalating right now in Gaza are rarely clear-cut, tending more toward exceedingly messy and complicated and interwoven. Avoid a surface level reading of the explanation of the wheat and weeds. Engage youth in the subtlety of the story. What is Jesus saying to us here? Could it be more than just a cut-and-dried illustration of who’s in and who’s out? How can we use this lesson to understand better how to navigate our way through culture, conflict, and discipleship in a complicated world?
Good Plant or Pesky Weed? How do you tell a good and useful plant from a pesky weed? Consider the lowly dandelion. Many people try to rid their lawns of dandelions, either using weed killer or pulling them out by the roots before the flower can turn into the downy head that spreads the seeds far and wide. On the other hand, dandelions can be quite useful. The leaves contain many important vitamins and can be added to salads, teas, and sandwiches. The roots can be used as a coffee substitute, and the flowers can be made into wine. Native Americans and Chinese physicians have long used the plant for various medicinal purposes. It’s important to remember that not all weeds are all bad. We can remember that about people, too. God loves all of us. None of us go to waste in God’s world. Weeds and good wheat grow together. The wheat feeds people, and the weeds were burned–fuel and warmth. God is good! End with a short prayer.