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Even those you have trouble loving
A sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Gale Davis on July 20, 2014

July 20 Proper 11 A Track 1

Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

....Even those you have trouble loving.....

I have had a wonderful week this past week, thanks to the generosity of Eva Chase and her family. We bid and won a week at their house on Squirrel Island in Maine at last year’s auction (Blatant Advertising Note:  this year’s auction will be September 27!)  

Ernie and I spent the week with my grandchildren -- all 6 of them -- and my daughter, son-in-law and daughter-in-law. It was one of those blissful, no arguments, games, sand, swimming, everybody pitching in, sunny even during the rainy times, that families remember and cherish. One could even say it was a “wheat time, a time rich in the nurturing grains of life.“

But that is not all that happened this week of course. This week an airliner with nearly 300 passengers on it was shot down over the Ukraine. The third non-military plane to be shot down in the area in the past two weeks. Israel once again attacked Gaza in what they described as retaliation, and once again children were the collateral dead.

And mid-week, I left the island on a rainy day to drive back to Andover to celebrate the life of Bob Stevens, a valued member of this community and a truly good man who will be dearly missed.

All these things together are the stuff of human life -- love and family, world tensions, loss and hope. These kinds of events and weeks together make up the life of all of us -- ordinary people who know what it is to have the good sit in the middle of sometimes terrifying, sometimes sad, sometimes difficult circumstances around us.

We human beings constantly live as wheat amid the weeds. In fact, sometimes, if we are courageous enough to admit it, we are the weeds. Other times we are the wheat. And sometimes we do not recognize which we are, especially if we are the weeds. But rarely are we slow to point out the weediness of others.

It would be easy to blame evil for the rockets that killed the innocents, but likely the people who launched them might point to us or to some other government or peoples as the culprits to blame. Eventually it will get sorted out. But blaming and judging the culprits will not help us to be better Christians. Indeed throwing them into their own hellish fire in righteous judgment will only reduce us to their level.

You see, the difficulty, the challenge, in being Christian is that we cannot separate ourselves from the world -- not even on an idyllic island in the middle of a harbor that can only be gotten to by ferry a limited number of times a day. We Christians must accept the bad along with the good. Our task is not to separate saints from sinners. Judgment belongs to God alone. We are all subject to it -- not just the notoriously sinful, but all of us. Regular human beings who all lead less than perfect lives will be judged by God alone. Our task is not to judge, but to love. Yes, love even the ones who launch rockets at innocents.

Evil is one of the byproducts of being human. We are all innately selfish and self serving. But perhaps the greatest evil of all comes from human beings who judge each other claiming God’s authority. Therefore, our Christian stance should be to grow together until the harvest when God decides. Indeed the only way to overcome our humanity and predisposition toward judging others is to love those we would like to judge instead.

The lengthy explanation at the end of this parable is likely an explanation that Matthew or some later scribe added to make sure we all had “ears to hear”. Jesus was usually more thought-provoking and less answer-giving than this explanation seems to be. Which doesn't mean we should not beware of gnashing teeth and the fires of hell, but that we, too, need to look carefully at the parable and find its meaning and explanation in our age and time.

Could it be as simple as I have suggested? Could it be  that we are not to judge others ever at all? Rather we are to live with the good and the bad, the difficult and the beautiful equally? 

Sometimes at the final blessing for the service, I admonish us to "Go from this place in peace, proclaim Christ, serve others, love abundantly, forgive freely", and then I confer a priestly blessing in the name of the Trinity on the congregation, those they love and those they “have trouble loving.”

I truly believe that we are called to love those who do evil things because we know that God does. We know that God does because God loves everyone.

The portions of the psalm for today that we read together speak of God’s universal love for all. God knows us, searches us out, knows our rising and our sitting down. God knows our thoughts and our words, God is everywhere we are. And that means that God is everywhere evil happens. God knows. Like a parent watching a three year old choose to go exactly where they have been forbidden to go or pick up the forbidden object they have been told over and over not to touch or swing too high in the hammock they have been warned will dump them on the floor painfully if they do, God’s love does not stop when we or anyone else succumbs to selfish or self-serving actions or even evil. If anything, God’s love becomes stronger and more insistent, as does a parent watching that three year old.

God’s judgment will likely include consequences, as does all good parenting. However, those consequences are not for us to know or demand or define. And as with us humans, consequences are not decided by the siblings -- us. Rather we Christians hope and we trust, by faith, that God’s admonishment to us and to those we have trouble loving will be couched in profound love and knowing the recesses of our hearts. That is what the psalm promises us -- and everyone else, even those we have trouble loving!

So when I say to you that I wish God’s blessing on you, those you love, and those you have trouble loving, it is the “weedy ones” I am speaking about -- the ones who are a thorn in our side, or even those whom we may see as evil, wrong, cruel, politically and/or religiously way off base. I do the blessing that way because, like every other human being, I am pretty definite in what I believe and I am often focused and certain that I am right (not one of my more redeeming qualities to be sure.) So I am reminding myself, as well as you, that God loves the ones who see the world differently, who do things I find destructive or despicable, or wrong or evil, and that I am to love them, not to judge them, to bless them, not to curse them.

The collect we began with this morning asks that God have compassion on us in our weakness, giving us mercifully those things which in our blindness and unworthiness we cannot ask.  Loving the weedy ones God already loves is one way we can show that we are Christians despite our blindness and unworthiness. May your life be filled with far more wheat than weeds, and may we all love the weeds in our lives enough to overcome our predisposition to judge them. Amen.

Last Published: July 24, 2014 10:48 AM