Sunday, July 23, 2017

Jesus' Summertime Parables & the Fate of the United Methodist Church

     During these long, sweltering summer days, when the pace of church life is a bit slower for me, I find my mind wandering from here to there, and I start to connect some dots I wouldn’t if I were busier. 

     Like the Gospel lectionary texts for the past two Sundays, and what will eventually happen to us United Methodists in the aftermath of years of wrangling over homosexuality.  On July 16, we were dazzled and confounded by Jesus’ story about the crazed sower who tossed his precious seed, not just on the fertile, plowed soil, but right on the road, over where it was rocky, and even in that thorn-infested place over there.  In my sermon, I actually threw handfuls of seed all over my sanctuary (shocking at my place, maybe the norm where you are) and asked not What kind of soil are you?  Go be fertile soil! – but instead, What kind of sower is this?  God wants God’s goodness, life, blessing to go all over the place, no matter how much gets wasted. 

     So then you have to ask, What kind of church will we be, this church that follows the crazed sower?  Will we be careful, getting bang for the buck, not taking chances?  Or do we fling it all over the place, willing and even eager to fail? 

     I hope for the latter – but then, since it’s summertime, I ventured to ask if this applies in any way to our church and what to do about LGBTQ people.  The seed should go here – but not over there?  Doesn’t Jesus’ story invite us to err on the side of flinging it any and everywhere – and let the seed do what it will, grow where it might, instead of limiting where God gets sown?  Maybe these are not connected, or maybe I misconstrue how they are connected.  But you never know.  Seems to me Jesus longs for risk-taking more than drawing firm lines.

     Then on July 23, Jesus took us back into a field where seed has actually sprung – but in the thick of the wheat there are weeds.  Robert Farrar Capon said Jesus was a way better carpenter than gardener, since all farmers and gardeners know you can't tolerate weeds.  But Jesus says Let them beClearly the story implies there’s evil growing right in the same field as the good – and it’s a story about how to be God’s people, how to be Church.  We want wheat in our church, not those dastardly weeds! – but then everybody defines what’s wheat and what’s weed in very different ways; wheat to me is a weed to the other guy.  Jesus seems to imply he’s not all that interested in whether we get that identification right or not.  He says Let them grow together.

     In my sermon, I recalled a passage in a novel I read years ago (Stephen Bransford's Riders of the Long Road) about a circuit rider who was trying to explain God and evil to a young man with hard questions – including Why won’t God finish evil off right now?  The preacher pointed to some grass where they were sitting.  See this good grass? But then, see there’s pennyroyal – like the weeds in Jesus’ story.  He grabbed a stem of the pennyroyal and yanked it out of the ground.  Dirt went flying – and so did the good grass.  You see, the roots of the grass and of the pennyroyal are all tangled under the ground.  Just like us.  We are a tangle of good and bad, all of us.  If God destroyed evil, if God uprooted all that is sinful, God would destroy all of us.

     Does Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds have anything to say to us?  In our church, at times there are those we just want to be rid of.  We want an 100% all-wheat church!  But I’m a tangle of wheat and weeds, and so are all the others.  Isn’t Jesus telling us, through this parable, that he wants us to let all that is growing in this field of Methodism just keep growing together, even though we are pretty sure others must have been sown by the enemy?  Progressives think they are wheat and conservatives are weeds; conservatives feel they're the wheat and the progressive are the tares.  Seems to me Jesus loves sticking together, we wheat and weeds.

     But maybe I’m just connecting random dots, and Jesus’ parables don’t have anything to say to the church during these stifling summer days.  Or maybe I misinterpret.  The perspiration gets in my eyes sometimes.

*************************************
{ I put out a weekly preaching blog, http://jameshowellsweeeklypreachingnotions.blogspot.com }

************************************

   ** My newest book, Worshipful: Living Sunday Morning All Week, is available.  My forthcoming book, Weak Enough to Lead: What the Bible Tells Us About Powerful Leadership, will appear before too long.  

5 comments:

  1. Excellent. Thank you for writing this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want to give an unlimited thanks to this Great man Called Dr. Okaya. I am happy today because my husband is now back with full of love, My husband left me for another woman,just because we had a little misunderstanding. he left me and promise he will never come back to me again. i cry all day looking for a solution to help me bring him back. Then i saw a testimony share on the internet by client. i email him and tell him my problems with my ex husband, and he promise to bring him back home within 2 days. indeed he is wonderful he help me to get my husband back within 2days which he promise and my husband return to me and promise to love me forever and beg me for the pain he caused me. I will forever be grateful to you Dr and i will not stop to publish your name on the internet for people to see how truthful you are. And I want to say to everyone on this site that I will always remain thankful to this man Dr. Okaya for all he has done for me,My husband is back with love,caring,truthful and he promise to love me forever.I have made a promise that every body I know will never have a relationship problem, via email (OKAYASPELLHELP@GMAIL.COM Or call/Whatsapp +27814506790

    ReplyDelete
  3. Effective love spell to get lost lover back/stop divorce/save broken marriage happylovespell2@gmail.com is the best on urgent love spell casting with 100% result guarantee
    Am Sai Vidhya from CA Usa my boyfriend cheated on me and asked for breakup. I don't believe at first i try to get back with him but all he told me was he’s with someone else. that he is no longer interested in marrying me at that point i was heart broken coz i love my boyfriend so much that i could not let go off him all of a sudden he left me, i really love him and never can imagine my life without him. not until i came across a powerful real spell caster Dr happy who promise me 48hours urgent love spell to get back with my boyfriend, good forty-eight {48} hours. hmm-mm, it was a good night time at 10:05pm within the days that Dr happy told me that my boyfriend will be back, at first i heard the bell rings getting close to my door i heard someone saying honey!!!, it sound familiar i opened the door and i saw my boyfriend standing and weeping in front of me. i was not surprised because its all i have been praying for him to come back home. Guess what in six days after i noticed my system and my body temperature is changed and i went to clinic for check up and the doctor told me that there is life in me which means i am pregnant i really wants to use this opportunity to thanks Dr happy so much and my lovely collage who directed me to Dr happy if you have any problem or predicament that is worse or exactly like this you have been into, i plead you to contact Dr happy on happylovespell2@gmail.com you can also view on his blogs site... https://happylovespell2.blogspot.com.ng/ whatsapp/call...+2348133873774

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is my story, a true life story on how I survived an abusive husband(s). Please read and share.

    Leaving an abusive marriage was life threatening, I was scared of the post-divorce lifestyle. I felt starting afresh with another man seems impossible at my age because my husband(s) always downplays my emotions making me feel like a worthless woman. Yes, I was married thrice.

    I was betrayed by a friend, cheated upon by husband(s), beaten, jailed but I never gave up, I chose to ride or die with my current 5-year-old marriage because of love, our children and our shared finance. Though I love my husband to a fault and believed I can change his mindset through spiritual means before we go our separate ways.

    After domestic abuse and emotional conflicts comes spiritual father, Dr. Wakina with redemption and restoration via dr.wakinalovetemple@gmail.com with the spell that ended my abusive circle. I also escaped social pressure.

    I wasn’t wrong afterall sticking to my husband and changing our lifestyle through spiritual doctors. Believe me, we’re living our dream lifestyle for over 5-months with much love and respect for each other.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My husband is my hero, he saved our marriage and my heart from an unhealthy emotional attachment with my ex.
    The problem was that I jumped into marriage from a fresh breakup, I never allowed my heart to heal, that’s why I was heavily hunted and distracted to a point that I almost abandoned my husband and our 2 beautiful daughters to my ex. Look how stupid I was to think that my beloved husband of 5 years can be replaced by a bad ass ex-boyfriend.
    My husband proved that real men still exist despite all the embarrassment I brought to him, he didn’t let go, he rather worked with Dr. Wakina through his love spell to untie me from the unhealthy emotional attachment with my ex.
    Now my eyes are open to cherish the beautiful family I have, I also realised the meaning of true love. I’m hoping to do more than what Dr. Wakina via dr.wakinalovetemple@gmail.com did for me.
    Thanks to my husband for letting me share this story.
    Remain blessed.

    ReplyDelete