“Search me out O God and know my heart… Lead me in the way that is everlasting”
I love our readings for the day – so much encouragement and comfort offered here today for those with ears to listen. This is the second week in a row where we have Jesus telling a parable and then explaining the parable very clearly. Technically, we probably don’t even need a sermon on these days – you don’t need a further interpretation. So instead I will offer up some reflection as I see how this parable could affect us in different layers – a time for figuring out how this impacts us – here – today.
At our first, most personal layer, we can think about how we groan inwardly every time we realize that something we did with the best of intentions backfires. Maybe we gave or accepted a piece of jewelry as a sign of affection or commitment, only to find out later that it had not been mined ethically. Maybe our favorite place to shop has been tarnished for us because of their human right’s record. We would like to be able to shop for food grown locally, but maybe there has not been enough rain, or what we need is not available.
In another layer, at a community level, we struggle with taking care of others while balancing the city or county or state budget. There are no clear-cut solutions. Trying to judge worthiness might have us mistake the bus of refugee children for the bus of YMCA children. We struggle at the church level with Those Other Christians who embarrass us by being too ___________ happy, clap, out of touch, judgmental, to inclusive - you fill in the blank.
As a country – one more level – we seem to have this exact same struggle over and over – how to be a good ally and whom to support in conflicts. Within my lifetime I can think of several times that the weapons we gifted a couse were either used against us later or against an ally of ours. How long O Lord? It’s no longer surprising when it happens, yet we keep doing it.
Jesus says that the field is the world – not just us – not just here – not just now. This is a Universal: a situation faced by every person, every community, every country, every day, every year. Ahhhhhh – there are the words of comfort. It would be so easy to be paralyzed and afraid to do anything at all because of the shadow-sides of every thing and every decision, yet Jesus helps us through it by taking it out of our hands. Just last week, I travelled with our diocesan youth to EYE in Philadelphia. On one of the days we toured the historic sites in Philly – church and national historic sites – and then had cheese steak sandwiches and a dance party at the Museum of Art. It was awesome watching the youth dance – so much energy! They looked like a flock of birds or a school of fish – all moving together to the beat of the music. After we all got home, an online petition started about how the music had been inappropriate. It had all been top 40 radio versions, but some of the adult sponsors felt as though an apology should be offered because of the themes of the music. *Sigh* If I was an organizer of that event, such a petition might make me want to never plan something like that again, even though I’m pretty sure it was a highlight for most of the youth gathered. And that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed, but maybe I and the other adult sponsors should offer to step up and help vet the playlist, not criticize the effort afterwards and demand a public apology.
It is not for us to worry about. It is not our concern. We are to do the good that we know to do – to love God with all our hearts and minds and love our neighbors as ourselves. As Dory sings in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” Sometimes we might find ourselves in a moral pickle, but we are just keep growing. Remember who else Jesus is addressing here: Peter the Denier, Judas the Traitor, Thomas the Doubter, James and John the Social Climbers. Jesus knew how complicated it would be for us. He knew the each one of us will fall short – maybe even daily. He loves us anyway – he knows our hearts and our good intentions - he will take care of the winnowing so that we won’t have to. He gives us himself for nourishment to grow: wine and bread – and bids us to eat and flourish – Thanks be to God! Amen.
Preached at the Episcopal Church in Wichita Falls.