July 19th: Proper 11, the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for Sunday, July 19th, was preached based on the below manuscript . The gospel text was Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

In our text today,
we have a Parable of Farming — part 2.
Rather than sowing the seeds of the Good News
that God’s Reign is at hand
all willy nilly,
with reckless abandon,
today’s farmer sows good seed
in prepared ground that he already owns.
As we continue through Matthew 13
hearing more parables,
not always with explanations,
and certainly not immediately after
remember that parables aren’t simply allegories.
These two parables of the farmer
with their quickly interpreted stories,
give us one understanding of them.
Parables, however, are meant to tease our brains.
They’re supposed to make us go,
“Wait a minute. That doesn’t make sense.”

Last week what didn’t make sense
was a farmer throwing seed wherever it would land.
This week what doesn’t make sense
is that after a sower sows seed in prepared ground
a generic enemy sneaks in
and plants weeds among the wheat.
That’s a totally normal occurrence, right?
And then the landowning sower says,
Oh there’s weeds growing?
Let’s just let them grow all the way up.
We don’t want to accidentally pull up the wheat’s roots.
I wish working my mom’s garden
in middle school and high school
her philosophy of weeds had been
“Yeah, just let ‘em grow.
We’ll deal with them when we start to harvest.”
This, Jesus says,
is what God’s reign is like.

I’m glad that we’re hearing parables,
stories that make us say
like Pete Hogwollop to Everett in O Brother Where Art Thou
“Now, wait a minute. That don’t make no sense,”
during these times.
If we look around,
we’re confronted with stories in the news
that don’t make no sense.
As a country we essentially squandered three months of shelter in place.
We were meant
to be better prepared to resume life
with testing and contact tracing measures for COVID19.
We were not.

Students may be expected to go back to school in the fall
which means in two weeks in the South,
despite the hugely rising cases of COVID19 around them.
It may not impact them too much,
but it will certainly impact those around them
who are even more vulnerable.
Federal troops? officers? in Portland,
and who are being sent to other major cities,
are grabbing demonstrators without identifying themselves
tossing them into unmarked vehicles
and detaining them un unknown locations for hours.
Protesters around the country are asking for
reallocation of police funds
to better community services which lead to actual safety,
and others are demanding the firing and arrest of
Jonathan Mattingly
Brett Hankison
Myles Cosgrove
the police who killed Breonna Taylor.
Cities are painting Black Lives Matter murals on the street,
racist episodes of 40 year old TV shows are being pulled,
and Disney is finally updating a ride to not be about Song of the South.
What people are actually asking for
is being ignored,
and this week Civil Rights leader John Lewis died
while HR 4 — the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019
sits, waiting for action in the Senate.
That don’t make no sense.

Although the world around us don’t make no sense,
that’s not the kind of not-sense that Jesus
compares the Kingdom of Heaven to.
God’s reign doesn’t make sense,
because it doesn’t follow our rules.
The reign brought about by Jesus’ incarnation,
death, resurrection, and ascension,
is one without out corruption,
one where protesters don’t need to demand
that Black lives matter
because all lives do actually already matter.

Jesus’ reign that is breaking in on earth,
doesn’t make sense not because it ignores the cries of justice,
but because it brings about justice in ways
that we can’t even imagine.
When Jesus says “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to”
he uses stories so that we can maybe understand,
because we are so fallen and broken
that to be direct about what God’s reign looks like
would be to be laughed at
and told it was a utopian vision
that would be impossible to have.

That’s the point here!
I said last week that in John’s
gospel characters are screens
onto whom we can project ourselves.
I also said that in Matthew’s gospel
this is not the case.
Last week’s story was not about
trying to be good soil,
but about Jesus announcing God’s love
and that God’s reign is surrounding us,
whether people want to listen or not.

This week’s story isn’t about
deciding who around us is tares,
who around us will be bundled up at the harvest time
and thrown into the fire.
This week’s story certainly isn’t about
making sure that we ourselves aren’t weeds
in order to avoid the fire ourselves.
The Kingdom of Heaven, God’s reign breaking in,
is not about fire insurance.

When Jesus tells us about the farmer —
who lets someone into his field to sow weeds overnight
and then doesn’t have them pulled up —
that don’t make no sense.
Just ask our weekly weeders.
It’s God who does the sorting at the end of time,
not us, not the angels.
The sorting God does,
because of God’s perfection and perfect love,
likely don’t and won’t make no sense to us.
We who have ears to hear Jesus’ teaching
about how to live like him
and what God’s Reign can be compared to
should listen.

Paying attention to the news,
there are so many things that don’t make no sense.
Paying attention to the news,
we may find ourselves
(regardless of what media we consume!)
counting off:
child of the evil one,
child of the evil one,
child of the evil one.
I heard those sermons growing up
and I hope this isn’t one of them!
It’s Jesus who sends the angels to do the collecting,
not us.
It’s God who determines whose sin needs punishing at the end of time,
not us.
What’s happening around us don’t make no sense,
but God will take care of it.

The world around us feels like a dumpster fire.
For most people or at some point in most humans’ lifes,
that’s true.
It’s not the last word though,
for any of us.
Jesus has come as a manifestation of God’s love
to show us how to live like him
and to show us that God’s Reign is here.
Breaking in all around us,
not making no sense
to our feeble mortal selves.
May we understand the teachings of Jesus’ kingdom
and call for our own repentance of our sin
and those whose sin we witness
and the sin done on our behalf.
The kingdom of heaven —
the place of God’s perfect love and justice —
don’t make no sense
and it is at hand.

Let those with ears to hear,

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