Sermon for July 23, 2017
Patience is Faith in Action
Martin Luther famously said: "If I were God, I'd kick the world to pieces." There are days when I whole-heartedly agree with him. I feel that way because of the big injustices in the world -- hunger, poverty, hatred, greed and violence, but also I feel the anger and frustration that comes with daily living ... with ordinary meanness, pettiness, and the run-of-the-mill senseless, stupid suffering. I'm sure, though, that if you were God you'd be much more generous and gracious than I. Although, I also suspect that nothing would make us want to kick the world apart more than the experience of being God ... and I think this for one reason only ... you may disagree, that's OK ... but here's my reason: For anything and everything good in that happens in this world, there's always someone or something that ruins or spoils it.
It's like mosquitos on a beautiful summer night; like sand fleas on a perfect day at the beach; or like weeds. Weeds.
Jesus tells a story this week comparing God's kingdom -- that is the realm where God is fully present, where God's will is done, the realm and reality of Jesus, God with us -- God's kingdom is like a man who sowed a field of wheat, but that night an enemy came and over sowed the field with darnel -- a type of weed that resembles wheat until the full grain appears. Darnel looks like wheat, but it's seeds are poisonous. It's fruit brings death instead of life.
Later on, Jesus explains what all this has to do with God's kingdom. It's a story about God's good word taking root and bearing fruit in fertile soil ...like the soil of our heart or this congregation or Christ's church. But it seems, does it not, that wherever God's kingdom comes, the devil and all kinds of evil quickly follow?
That is the enigma of Jesus himself. He is God coming to us, stepping into our world, bringing life ... abundant life for all who hear and believe. Yet, the enemy worked against him, and he died. Yet God did not let evil have to final say, but God raised Jesus from the dead.
The crucifixion of Christ, however, is the event that separates wheat and weed. By the cross, Jesus overcomes the power of evil. So it isn't just blind faith and naive optimism that leads me to encourage you to hold on to your faith in Christ in confidence that all will be well in the end. It is the proclamation of the good news of Easter that compels each of us to comfort each other with the hope of God's ultimate wisdom and to trust in God's overwhelming love for us.
That's the promise of the end. Yet for now, God counsels patience. Patience as weed and wheat remain unseparated.
Patience on God'a part is a sign of God's love. In the story, the weeds remain because the risk to the wheat of rooting them out is greater than the risk the weeds pose to wheat by remaining, once the weeds have been identified, once we know that God has no intention of allowing the poison grain to taint the life-giving wheat. Paitience is one of the ways God shows God's love for us.
Patience on our part, however, is a sign of faith. It is how we trust God's Word and enjoy God's love. Paitience grows from faith that rests and allows God to be God. Faith that lets things unwind under God's care and watchful waiting eyes. Faith that rests and trusts and depends on God's patient love for us.
Do we have that kind of faith, that can endure evil, but remain the good seed?
Or ... are we so sure we are the wheat and not the weeds?
One time, early on in my ministry, we read this parable in a Bible study ... and I am talking about what comfort we have to know that God will root out all evil and causes of misery and suffering in the end, so that we might shine like the son in the glory of God's kingdom. But no one looked happy. They looked perplexed. One woman asked ... Am I wheat or am I a weed? It's a powerful and comforting story for those who are the wheat, but it's downright scary for the weedy types, and to be honest, We're all pretty weedy, at least sometimes. It also gets pretty scary when we think of the prospect of being separated, bound and cast out in the end.
What can we say to reassure each other that we are indeed those whom God has sown and will sustain to the end? That kind of fearful wondering can get us thinking what can we do to ... well, not be evil?
In the end, all I could tell the sensitive souls in the Bible study that night was simply -- be the wheat. Be the wheat ...the good and life-giving grain that God created and intended us to be, to be the people Christ redeemed us to be, to be the people the Holy Spirit is cultivating and nurturing us to be. Be the wheat.
That starts with faith, trust, love for God. That goodness grows from the goodness of Christ working out through us as the Holy Spirit shows us how to put our faith into action for the good of our neighbor. Trust in Christ and live according to that faith, that hope, that patience, and we will find that we are precious wheat. In the end, faith also allows God to carry to fruition the faith that God has begun in us.
So, you are the wheat.
And what's more, the God who created us and sustains us is much more patient and long suffering than I am or you are. God does not ever stand ready to kick the world to pieces, but time and time again enters our world in love. The cross reminds us that God is a God of love and salvation ... a God who suffers and overcomes evil ... a God who is good and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. In loving patience Jesus died for us and for his sake God forgives us all our sin. And because of that I can say ...
You are the wheat. For Christ's sake.
Whatever is lacking or sinful or evil, Christ will take away, so that you might endure, presevere, and so that you will bring forth the goodness God intends for you, for this world. And because of the cross, we can live in confidence and peace knowing that God will set things right in the end. You can trust that too ... though it may take some patience to see that through. But God will provide that too, just be patient. And trust God. Amen.
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