Sunday, July 23, 2017: After Pentecost Sunday: "Us and Them" or "We"


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Proper 11A’17

23 July 2017

Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

North Little Rock, Arkansas

 

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our

enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver

them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your

good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

A couple of weeks ago in my sermon I talked about the question that we preachers frequently ask ourselves, ‘What am I supposed to preach about?’  Another question that I often find myself asking in preparing for a sermon is,  ‘How are we supposed to live in these days?’ We live in a world divided and filled with brokenness and violence. Back in May I was struck by the images and sounds from that were captured on a cell phone where a 22-year-old young man blew himself and twenty-two others up at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

 

A group of fun loving young people and a talented young singer had gathered to celebrate life but were met by someone who was obsessed only with hatred and death; such genius, one creative, and the other destructive.  ‘How could this be? How could anyone do such a thing and think they were doing God a service?

 How are we supposed to live in these days?’

If you would, please take your prayer books and turn to p.848, I’d like to look at how the catechism defines sin. I will read the question and I ask that you please respond by reading the answer:  Q. What is sin? A. Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation. So we see that as a result of our distorted relationship with God all other relationships have been distorted. It is from his existence in a broken world that the Apostle Paul writes to the Romans: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

 

Now the closest thing some of us men would have to compare with labor pains would be kidney stones and I’ve talked to some women who have had both and they say the two don’t compare very well…but I digress Paul is making a comparison and saying that the whole earth is groaning together for that better day when the Lord comes to judge and to triumph over evil.

While you have your prayer books open look across to page 849, and again I will read the question and you respond with the answer:  Q. What is meant by the Messiah? A. The Messiah is one sent by God to free us from the power of sin, so that with the help of God we may live in harmony with God, within ourselves, with our neighbors, and with all creation. It is this harmony that God seeks to restore in us and in the whole creation – that day will come but what do we do in the meantime besides groan within ourselves for that awesome day?

 

Jesus’ parable today doesn’t so much tell us what to do but it definitely tells us what not to do. In this parable like the others Jesus endeavors to show us once again how vastly different the Kingdom of God is from the Kingdom of this world.  He gives advice to a farmer on how to deal with weed control in his wheat field.  Now folks my dad grew up on a farm and he knew a thing or two about the right way and the wrong way to grow healthy crops and I can just hear him arguing with Jesus on this one as would many other careful farmers and gardeners would. ‘Why man you’ve got to eliminate those weeds, they’ll choke out the wheat if you just let ‘em grow!’ It just doesn’t make any sense at all!’  We learn from Jesus’ interpretation of the parable that he isn’t talking about farming at all; he is using a metaphor to describe life in the kingdom of God.

 

As a Christian community we learn from this parable that it is not our job to decide who is in or out, saved or lost, good or bad – it is not our job to label others and place them into one category or the other – ‘US’ or ‘THEM.’

 

It is just this kind of judgmental labeling that has our nation and the world divided into paralyzing polarities.  I wonder what was going through the mind of the terrorist in Manchester before detonation – I imagine he had some very clear labels of who he thought ‘us and them’ were. Let’s bring things a little closer to home, ‘How bout those left-wing Democrats?’ or ‘How bout those right –wing Republicans?!’ Yes we are a nation divided into red states and blue states. The divide runs deep. What about the Anglican Communion? It too has fallen victim to the judgmentalism that is of the kingdom of this world – we seek to label and identify whether someone is a bleeding heart liberal or a flaming conservative so that we can decide whether or not we want to be friends with them. We are seeing right before our very eyes why Jesus gave us the warning. “And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then did these weeds come from? He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.” Jesus knew the truth that when you try to eliminate the weeds you end up losing some of the wheat. The parable shows us clearly that the separating of the wheat and the weeds is a job for God in the end. ‘The Son of man will send his angles, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin an evil.’  

 

Besides the images and sounds of evil and destruction from Manchester There was another image I saw that was one of hope.  It was a photo of Ariana Grande who had returned to Manchester less than a month after the bombing to perform a benefit concert for the victim’s families. Above her hung a huge banner that read, “One Love.”  This is the message- there is no ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ there is only a resounding ‘We!’

 

Make no mistake, God’s justice will one day ultimately and finally come but in the meantime may we be a people who respects the dignity of every human being, who will refuse to become issue obsessed but will instead allow ourselves to become possessed by God’s love – who will refuse to see in anyone anything but a sinner like themselves – who will refuse to demonize anyone but will see Christ in them – who will refuse to see another human as anyone other than one who is a part of the great ‘WE’ and who just like us are in need of God’s grace, mercy, and love! Amen.