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Monday, July 14, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Weeder's Digest Edition

This coming Sunday's lectionary readings can be found here .

An interesting collection of lessons today. Our Old Testament readings speak to God's glory and sovereignty. The Epistle lesson tells us that we, as the people of God, are more than subjects of this God -- we're adopted members of God's family and heirs to the Reign of God. (As a friend of mine would say: "Wowsers.") And then in the Gospel lesson we get an intriguing set of parables that describe what this Reign of God is like. Our God -- a God who causes the rain to fall on good and bad alike -- allows the bad to grow along with the good, and cautions us to have patience with God's kairos so that, in our zeal to combat evil, we don't also injure the good. The Reign of God is compared to both a mustard seed and a bit of yeast mixed into dough -- something that starts out small but grows into something huge and amazing.

Any bits of insight into the texts working, like those tiny yeast beasties, through your thoughts right now? How are you tackling the wheat-and-tares parable? Discuss!


  1. well, I'm actually skipping ahead this week and I'm doing the pearl that the merchant sells everything to buy... (it fits in better with my series)

    but I'm definately intrigued by this weeds and wheat parable. We talked in my lectionary group about the possibility of weeds turning into wheat or wheat turning into weeds... it just depends on which bear fruit. We were also trying our darndest to be anti-predestinarian (is that a word? - lol), because our presbyterian colleague was absent and couldn't defend himself =)

  2. Katie,
    That's always bothered me, too. I think the wheat and the tares works on more than one level --

    1) the world -- some of us are wheat, some are tares (think Mother Teresa and Hitler)
    2) in the church -- the unrepentant in the pews who hear the gospel but still are not willing to follow Christ (this skates on that problem of wheat turning into tares etc.)
    3) in ourselves -- there are areas in my life where I do indeed bear fruit, and areas where it's just a bunch of weeds. I will actually be grateful to burn out those weeds -- rather like the refiners fire.

    More thoughts later....

  3. I'm with Katie and skipping ahead a week, as a I was last week, so here's my offering from last week, complete with a few cool wheat/weed images for those who use them. God bless Google Images! The pretty purple flower is a corn cockle, a wheat weed! Run with that!

  4. I'm running ahead of schedule this week - but only in the sermon department - since I will be out of town Sunday and needed to get the sermon to the two guys who will lead worship in my absence. So I've posted it on my blog. I wrote one yesterday that *tried* to tie Genesis and Matthew together but it was clumsy at best so is going to recycling. Of course, this one may not be any better!

  5. A thought that occurs. Often weeds are just a plant growing where it shouldn't.

    So wheat could be a weed in a rose garden. While a rose would be a weed (and often are!) in a farm field. Just something that popped first into my head

  6. As I was trying to find a connection between the various lectionary texts, I thought of the Flannery O'Connor short story, "Revelation." She wrote it about Jacob's Ladder, but it speaks of those people who try to make distinctions between people by superficial judgments. I think this is a nice tie in to what I want to do with the wheat and tares passage.

  7. I posted some illustrative stuff I found in the news.

    Still working on it...

  8. I haven't been here in forever! This is the first Tuesday in I don't know how long that the day didn't get insane early in the morning. It's good to be home.

    Thanks kim in kck for your reminder of the Flannery O'Connor story, since I am preaching on the Jacob's ladder passage. The fact that this passage has a hymn title in it made it irresistable "Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place." :-) Theme for the day will be God's presence. Now begins the work of getting a sermon to flow out of that.

  9. Here's my line of thought so far:
    No matter how conflicted our lives may be, we can still contribute to God's purpose and will for humanity. Just like Jacob, on the run for tricking his brother, God still uses him to make a holy nation. Just like the wheat field that is choked with weeds, we can still bear fruit.
    As for those of you who are working on the idea that some tares can turn to wheat and vice versa, this is where I'd say focus on the part where God sorts it all out in the end.

  10. I am going with JAcob running away. Maybe talk about the improbability of ruinning away from GOd. But likely about Jacob running from the consequences of his actions (something he does with Laban too come to think of it). But in the end he has to make amends with Esau.

    For those with wheat and tares. I wonder if in the world today we of faith are actually called to be the weeds that challenge the growth of what has been intentionally planted?

  11. For me it is Psalm 139 and Romans 8. If you've visited over at my place recently you know that I have been thinking about identity. Not just my identity as a pastor, but also about what it means to be a Child of God, and a church community.

    As an adopted person, I have struggled mightily with what I call "adoption theology". I think it might be time to deal with it homiletically. Wish me luck.

  12. Pam Tinnin wrote a story that might be helpful this week. I posted it on my blog

  13. You might also want to check out Thom Shuman's Occasional Sightings of the Gospel

    I think the story "holds up" for most (if not all) of this week's lectionary readings.

    I like Josh's story as posted on ESPN

  14. Katie and RevMommy,
    I am also thinking on the multiple levels of wheat and tares...
    But, like the refiners' fire, i think there could be some good there in what first appears bad...a grain of sand can be annoying, but apply pressure and it becomes a pearl...
    and on a more rural garden level, Queen Anne's lace has been known as a weed all my life. As a child, I would do the food coloring in tha water trick.
    However, on a recent spring garden tour I noted that more than one home had it growing in their gardens and it is used a lot in floral arrangments. Happily, we ddi not get rid of that weed, because now it is a desired thing to have.
    So, on the spiritual/theolical level, can a weed become a flower after a time or a change...or is it always a flower,but appear to be a weed in certain environments?
    Am i way off here folks?
    Am i wacky?
    Do I make since?
    Oh, good thoughts Gord!

  15. gord - that's set the hares running for me - the idea that we are maybe called to be weeds among that intentionally planted. wow. love it. I looove being a weed.

  16. Well the whole "be a weed" idea is going to inform my sermon next week about seeds, yeast, and pearls.

  17. As a kid I used to empathize with the weeds my dad pulled, so when I went out to "help him" weed the garden, I ended up collecting some and starting a weed garden inside in a tin pie weed gardens would grow right there in the breakfast room next to the fish bowl. So, naturally, I have a soft spot in my heart for weeds.

  18. SheRev - I loved the sermon and the photos are fabulous.

    Cheesehead - I will pray for you and hope to be able to read your take on adoption theology.

    Hogsmeade - awesome story you posted by Pam Tinnin. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    And 1-4 grace thanks for thoughts on Queen Ann's Lace - beautiful! I was really struggling with some suggesting that weeds can become "wheat" - you've opened my eyes to the possibilty of the miraculous!

    Searching soul - you are a sweet soul!

    I am going with the wheat and weeds - and am going to do like SheRev and make pulling some weeds in my own yard part of my sermon preparation. My front lawn would be entirely brown if sprayed with weed killer - the weeds are my lawn. In the back yard there are patches where the weeds are so tall they need a string-trimmer! Even my potted plants have weeds!

    Be sure to check out Jan Richardson's thoughts at The Painted Prayerbook

  19. Having just completed my 20th year as a public school music educator, I am accutely aware of the possibility of what first appears to be weeds turning to wheat before my eyes. Thus, I am going with the idea that it isn't my job to decide. It's my job to care for the garden.

    I was also wondering if there's a tie in to the garden of Eden, and if there would have been some connection there for the Jews who heard this parable first. Anyone with thoughts on that?

  20. Joanna Adams used the Gospel text in Feb 2006 for a sermon now psoted on Day 1 (there's a link on textweek for this passage).
    Sermon is good and has many of same type thoguths we have echoed already today...Good stuff.
    but I especailly liked the MLK, jr quote...thought y'all could use it.Here is the quote:
    God's purpose is not wrathful judgment. God's purpose is redemption, and the road to redemption is by way of reconciliation. Only in that way will the world finally be saved."

  21. I have to say that it is true that in HUMAN terms, one person's weeds can be another person's wheat. My Grandma cultivated dandelions. My neighbor pollutes the water table because of them.

    But in God's eyes... there is a different ecology in place. And for me, just EXACTLY what that means is a very VERY hard question to answer. I'll pop in on Saturday to read sermons. :)


  22. Hi all! I was late getting my weekly reflection posted, but it is here. And yes, my POV on weeds is that the only difference between a wildflower and a weed is whether you intended for it to grow there. So when I find lots of weeds - which are often pretty! - I'll often decide that I intended them to grow where they are, and dub them wildflowers instead. :-)

    What sang for me through these readings this week was the thread of God sowing seeds in us, and our work to do the waiting and bringing the fruits into the world. I saw hints of this in each of the readings, and it turned into an interesting reflection... what are the seeds God is planting in me or in you? And am I treating them like weeds, and uprooting or ignoring them? Or am I cultivating them and trying to make them bear fruit?

  23. Lots of good reflection going on here. I've posted mine over at my sermon blog
    Fortunately, its not for preaching this week.

  24. My first (rural) parish gave me insight into this from an agriculture standpoint. The widows group informed me that back before chemicals there was no way really you could "weed" the wheat, because, unlike corn, it's not a row crop.

    And there is indeed a weed that looks almost exactly like wheat.

    two points: God doesn't want us to, or want to pull up ONE PIECE of WHEAT by mistake. (No such thing as "collateral damage" in the fight against evil.)

    There are obvious evils, but in the tares case, the point seems to be that No one Knows but God, sometimes, which is which.

  25. My first time posting here! A bit scary. I think I'm going with the weeds and the wheat, informed by my good ole lutheran heritage that we are all actually weeds (sinners). It is only God who can make us wheat, through Christ's redemption on the cross - which I may try to tie into Romans and being adopted.

    We shouldn't be the wheat, we shouldn't be heirs to the Kindom, but God has adopted us to be heirs, and God has redeemed / transformed us into wheat. Might be too much.

    I'm also thinking of the mustard seed. I'm in Norway, and in much of Scandinavia mustard seed, which is considered a weed in much of midwestern US, is grown as a crop to make rape seed or Canola oil.

  26. All of the comments about one person's weed being another person's garden are wonderful; however, I think they skew the text. Are we trying to make "nice" things that may not be nice?
    Not that I have all the experience in the world, but it has always seemed to me that my job is to tackle the hard texts, beginning with admitting we can't explain away all the hard parts, that maybe we have to live with them as they are and not as we want them to be.
    Is our job to make everyone feel good or to help them wrestle with the Word as it has been handed down to us? Or maybe both?

  27. I'm headed toward using both Jacob and the wheat/weeds, with the idea that sometimes what we need is a paradigm shift. From that angle I'm not in a position of trying to explain away the weeds but of saying we might assume we need to weed now, but sometimes we have to take the long view. We might assume Jacob is a bad buy based on his history, but God met him in this place and had a purpose for us. What assumptions do we make as individuals and as a church that might be preventing us from feeling God's presence and following God's leading, no matter how hard it might be?
    Margaret, rather than sweetening a hard text, my tendency is to triangulate with the congregation "against" it, to say, I find this one hard, too, how can we better try to understand it?
    However, do I know for sure that Jesus gave the explanation in the later verses? If there is any possibility that the explanations are redactive, I hate to preach them as if they were the last word. One of my preaching struggles!

  28. Songbird, I like what you are saying about Jacob vis a vis the weeds. The points are 1) yes, there is real evil; I think Jesus acknowledges this, and I don't think we get anywhere by saying there isn't real evil in the world; but 2) sometimes we make assumptions about who and what it is, that aren't true, like Jacob.

  29. Margaret wrote: "Are we trying to make "nice" things that may not be nice? "

    I don't think it's "make it nice" as much as recognize that our viewpoints and our reactions to life may be skewed. And when we judge... we judge from our own limitations, not from God's perspectives.


  30. The first sermon I did off an outline in homiletics was on the wheat and the weeds. Some things in that outline I may use if I go with the gospel. Psalm 139 is one of my favorites so am tempted to use it.

    In 2005 I said with the interpretation included it seems like it's all wrapped up in a neat package for us, but like the disciples we may find ourselves asking what it all means, this can be a hard text to hear. I noted some think the interpretation may have come later, and we see the apocalyptic world view of the early church. The parable talks about waiting and that the two are growing together. If the parable is about separate entities or individuals and some kind of sorting (an image of cosmic dodgeball - choosing sides came to mind), one thing I thought we should consider is that people change - an easy example was Saul/Paul (be careful of quick judgments). But since the wheat and weeds are together I wondered about both being present in us and the possibility that there may be things in our lives and communities we want to weed out. There may be things we *should* consider weeding, but to use some caution/patience.

    This time around as I do some sermon prep I ran up against the idea that the writer/Jesus speak to the presence of evil in the world. And how easy it is for us to identify with the wheat. In thinking about horrible things in the world, I thought of my recent visit to Dachau Concentration Camp and Memorial site outside of Munich, Germany. The experience of being there, the reality of what humans are capable of doing to one another amidst various circumstances. I don't know if I will go there, but if I do I may talk about the potential within us all. About God's ability to transform and reconcile. Perhaps mention things we think need to be weeded from our lives and instead of doing it ourselves ask God for help with the timing and the weed-pulling.

    I also like the ideas about what a weed is being relative... a rose in a cornfield, someone who likes dandelions. I think I ran across this concept last time.

    I also think of those "eager" helpers who weed someone's garden and come to find out they pulled the wrong things, or something special to the person.

  31. When I preached on the wheat/tare last time this rolled around, I actually sang Dory's song: "just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." for Finding Nemo - 2 months ago, I actually had someone come up to me and say that particular sermon had stuck with him - it had been his first Sunday at our church - and had kept him coming back. He had never been in a tradition with a woman preacher before. This passage now means more to me. Not preaching this Sunday, prayers for all who are!!

  32. This is my first time posting, so hello all!

    Cheesehead- Good luck, I will pray for you.

    Diane- I love your insight! The theocentricity is great and I didn't go there at all.

    Peace be with you all!


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