Sermon – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, July 19, 2020

Sergio Rodrigues
Pastoral Intern

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

As this pandemic carries on with us through the summer, Out of Christian love and concern I must encourage you to keep on wearing your masks and following all health protocols. In Christ, we abide in a love that expresses itself in ways that protect the livelihood of our neighbors At this time, we express that love which has been poured into our hearts by following health and safety guidelines. Our neighbors life is our life. Their concerns, our concerns. Their needs, our needs. In Christ, we are knit together in a love that unites our entire lives and needs together. Yet we face a challenge today in our world today that this pandemic has unveiled for what it is. Simply put, we live, breathe and ingest a partisan perspective on life. Even the wearing of mask has become less an expression of life together and more of a clear sign of partisan affiliation. It seems as if the love of Christ is not immune to the ills of partisanship where people become entrenched in their own battle lines. To be honest, this increase stress on digital connective creates opportunities for this division to be furthered if one does not take the opportunity to curate relationships with folks of another partisan line. The challenge facing our collective life as we continue to live in some degree of physical distance, is how to abide in the love of God that embraces the concerns and livelihoods of people unlike ourselves; politically, spiritually, ideologically and the like.

Were one to take a simplistic reading of today’s parable, one would easily say that Jesus himself casts the world just as we do; into weeds and into wheat; sower versus fiend. One may also look to the disciple’s eagerness to understand Jesus’ parable as a desire to confirm what they already know; we are the children who will triumph over the weeds of the enemy. If one should attempt to read the parable in that way, one misses several key details about the character of the sower. Unlike the Parable of the sower, one is not privy as to the response of the seeds to the work of the sower; no rocky soil, good soil and the like. Jesus stresses the actions of the central figure of the parable; the sower himself. He delay judgment on the harvest because he is waiting to see the true character of the wheat and the weeds themselves. Until that time when the fruits and grains ripen, the plants are to grow together with no preferential treatment for one over the other.

Even with this crucial detail, the question still stands as to what ought we do to with people, the weeds, who are so called open sinners; the wicked among us. One option that we could take would be to allow for wickedness to carry on among us and for us not to separate from such wantonness. The world is a mixed field of sorts where evil carries on its own way and the kingdom of the heavens continues unbated. Of course, this circumstance would favor those who in power act against the well-being of folks, the very lives of people. One can easily go back a century to glean plenty of examples where this perspective has failed. Another option would be to admit that in this world, there are multiple harvest, multiples judgement days where the wicked are judged and the wheat come out unscathed by our pre-emptive judgment of the weeds. But who are the arbiters and by what standard are folks to be judged as wicked? As a gay man myself, I find the annals of history to be filled with the exclusion of folks as myself as being children of the devil. Herein lies the danger of our current predicament challenge of living in this partisan times. The folks whom we judge to be supporting wicked ideologies, we treat as open sinners unable to be changed, unable to love, children of the evil one himself. This may not be true in every circumstance but the tendency to infantilize the partisan other reveals itself for what it is; an inability to love our neighbor and live with our neighbor. Here in lies the weeds.

In this partisan time, one can see how easy it is to grasp the complexity of Jesus’ parable and interpretation. The good seed are not good because of anything they did nor are the weeds evil because there was a form of evil discernable in their actions. Sower planted, waited and then shall harvest. Jesus planted, is patient and then shall bring the kingdom to fruition. It is God in Christ who is sowing, cultivating and growing the seeds of the kingdom in the ministry of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ life, death and resurrection God heals, forgives and frees us so that we may be free to love in the same way as God loves; in patience and in limitless embrace. This limitless embrace of the kingdom envelops us in a love that transforms our lives towards the very field of God that is still growing among us. Having been planted by the grace of God, we live in a love that considers the ideological other as wheat, as blessed, as children of the same sower. Of course when it comes to the question of overt actions of evil such as abuse, genocide, intimate partner violence, and the like, we can not stay silent and assume a naivete about the character of people. But in this partisan time that we live in, with the constant barrage of partisan talking points, we can not assume that everyone who disagrees with us or hold to a different perspective on life must be treated like a child of the evil one. God in Christ sows within us a hope that the people we encounter and live with may grow with us, bearing grains of abundant life.

So what to do with those people on my social media feed or in my circle of friends and family who perpetuate myths that go against health and safety guidelines? How does a simple embrace correct what is misinformation that is spread far and wide? Well for starters we do not infantilize them nor shame them for spread such information be it willingly or unwillingly. Then we point out the factual inerrancies and point them to the truth that science, health and our faith point towards. Our Faith point towards the God who in Christ sows seeds of truth that heals and makes the world whole. May our life together bear witness to this seeds of truth; that in Christ we have been reconciled so that we may reconcile others to the abundant life in God.