3 stories about how God works here and now

He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him,“Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him,“Then do you want us to go and gather them?”

But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’

Sermon Seed #1: Appointed Weeder

As you can see, I’m a weeder. I’ve put on my weeding best for you today to demonstrate just how dedicated and good at it I am. I’ve got the muddy knees to prove it. Each week, on Mondays, I head out to Loon Organics, a local organic farm that supports itself through Community Supported Agriculture. Which means, I means I weed and then I get a box of amazing produce once a week. It’s the only way I can keep a garden, really.

Most days our task is to weed. And because I am not a master gardener, I ask each week to be shown the difference between the weed and the thing that is not a weed. And sometimes it is very, very hard to tell. And other times, the weeds are much bigger than the plant they want to keep. Other times, it will make harvesting that much easier to get the big weeds out. There are some we leave because they are butterfly-and-bee-friendly and it’s worth it for the whole crop and the earth to be kept alive.

I enjoy the work and most Mondays, it is mindless enough that I get to have great conversations with my fellow weeders. Every once in a while, we check in with each other about the validity of a plant – if it’s a weed or not – and continue on.

Now, a weed is just another plant. It’s just a plant that is not wanted or could be a detriment to those around it. I love dandelions and think they’re great while others would call them a weed and do everything in their power to get rid of them.

One of the things I enjoy about this weekly work is that it has such clear impact – I see evidence of work I’ve done. I enjoy the fruits of my labor quite literally, too. But what if, just what if, I brought this same effective and swift mentality to my work as pastor, designating who is a weed and who is not. Who should be picked and should remain, asking God, just as the slaves do in this parable, “Should I go and gather them up?”

So if that were the case, then I’d begin here, wouldn’t I? And instead of asking the farmer who the weeds are, I would consult scripture. So a natural spot to start, I mean the most well known place to start would be the 10 commandments, right? Weeding out all people who have used the Lord’s name not in prayer but as an exclamation point. Or those who have worshiped time and possessions as a god instead of the God of Israel. Or, those of you who have not made time for Sabbath to rest and play and worship, you’re out. How about those who have ever disobeyed your parent, whether it was this week or 30 years ago. How about those of you who have looked longingly at your friend’s smart phone or car or husband or wife – you’re out too. Weeded. Weeded. Weeded. Let’s clean this lot up so we can grow. Wouldn’t it be so nice to have everyone so clearly categorized “weed” so we’d know who to get rid of, who to try and change, or who to exclude? It makes my hair stand on end how well church is known for doing just this.

Thank God Jesus’ view of the kingdom of heaven, meaning God’s reality of love and life on this earth right now, means that what we call weeds and what we call the good, expected plants, the preferred plants ought to both be given life. And while they are gathered up and separated at the end of this parable, it’s not us who are in charge of the separating or the weeding. Thank God, God does not pluck us up like an unwanted weed. Thank God I am not the weeder. Thank God you are not the weeder. I am thankful that God is God and we are not.

Parable #2 

He put before them 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.’

Sermon Seed #2: Unlikely Home

Do you see what can happen when God allows the weeds to flourish? Back in the 1st century, the mustard seed was a weed. It was the dandelion of its time, stomped out at every turn. Did you hear what happened? This unwanted plant? It, this weed, became a home for the birds. They made their nests in its branches. Home sweet home. Often, when birds are mentioned in scripture, they refer to the people of Israel, they refer to oppressed people. So the very people who have been made homeless, who have had it all taken from them – they are the ones who benefit from what this weed produces.

My friend JD and his wife Lauren weeded their garden like crazy a week ago and then they left the weeds in a pile next to the garden, “because” in the words of my friend, “we were lazy.” Just yesterday, JD thought he’d finally take care of the pile of weeds and as he began to scoop them up he heard squealing and found 3 baby bunnies had made their home in his lazy pile of weeds.

Our own River of Hope was created by, well, let’s be honest, the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit stirred up a bunch of folks who left their former churches, feeling a little weeded and with much heart ache, and our little pile of heart broken people has turned into a safe shelter, a home for all people – for LGBT people and for people like you and for people like me.

Thank God, that God’s vision of heaven on earth is one of vast imagination, letting the smallest of seeds make a huge impact and actually bring life and shelter to the world. Where we see a useless and ugly and unwanted weed, God sees a home for the most vulnerable. God sees potential and life.

Parable #3

He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’ Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.’

Sermon Seed #3: Unlikely Food

Our third parable is about yeast. Jesus sees God’s reality of love and peace in the here and now as yeast hidden in flour. It is unseen at first but the work it does causes a rising, a reaction, a change. It takes an ordinary thing, flour, and gives it substance. Gives it life.

Yeast, in 1st century Palestine, was thought to be contaminated and unclean, that it caused food to rot. It caused corruption. It’s a fungus, after all. Something unseen and unwanted and just look what it does. It gives life, it creates substance and susteanance. It does the opposite of what we thought it would do.

Weeds and wheat, seeds and now yeast. We are not weeders, we are the ones sent out to help bring about new life, or to witness it; to show love and mercy in the name of Jesus. We are a people who provide shelter to those who need it, who have not experienced it in the church or the world. And we don’t do it on an empty stomach. We do it through the power of Jesus who, all along, is creating new life. Who is our life.

Jesus is the yeast. Jesus is the weed. Jesus is the unwanted thing that the politicians and priests tried their best to pluck up, to get rid of, to stamp out, to throw away. But instead, Jesus proves to be the very substance of life.

Thanks be to God.