Summary: Sermon based on the high ideals of church but the realities are so often different.
Preaching from the lectionary as I do has its limitations. After all, the there are various forms of lections, RC, Episcopalian but I have always used the Reformed Lectionary. It has its limitations and quite often we re-hash the old things of the past, years a, b and c come around so often that in my seven years here – I have used all the years at least twice and all the readings associated with lectionary have been heard at least twice by you.
Quite often, all too often I am tempted to break away abandon the discipline and it is a discipline. Many don’t use the lectionary, some view it as RC, some view it as not expressing God’s word and others like myself see it as a measure of keeping us on track, on the proper path as it is all too often, far too easy to deviate and stray into areas that we are not often comfortable. For instance, I have been in many churches when the preacher has began talking about abortion and regardless of my own personal views or biblical views, I am a man and therefore I truly don’t believe I have the right to lecture or direct on the issue. Anyway it is a complex and emotive issue, a minefield and I am not terrified to enter into the debate, just unqualified because of my gender.
Politics, now that’s an area that I really enjoy and whilst I have my own personal, private political views, I try to keep away from party politics if I can, but that’s not easy for everything in life evolves around politics and we are all politicians, for we hold views on everything; from the price of a loaf of bread to the price of a litre of petrol, to the waiting time to see the consultant or whatever.
Indeed the whole bible is about politics in one form or another, regional, personal, cultural, theological and religious politics. Our bible is composed of two halves, the first half is Jewish, the Torah, the second half is the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament. Two different cultures, with often contradictory context and bringing the two together are God and Jesus and that’s another political hotbed for some!
Whilst I am prepared to preach on political situations, the environment, global economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and do so without fear, as I have said many times, I would never do what some of my colleagues do and stand up here and tell you that I think you should vote for this party or that party, perhaps the exception would be the Monster Raving Loony party. Partly because with politics these days, sometimes the Loony Party is the only colourful group in politics and part of their manifesto is to abolish gravity and make those members of gangs paint every third house in Britain purple. The idea being that they spend so much time painting and getting the paint off themselves they have no time to be out with knives. Sounds reasonable to me and what if the whole of Britain looks like Balamory, it will only add colour to our sometimes dull lives. The abolition of Gravity kind of gives it away though, they are not a serious political party but I do like their take on painting purple every third house! My personal favourite is introducing piranhas as an Olympic sport; see how fast we obese people swim that lake! Now that would be a real spectator sport!
With all this frivolity and humour, where does it seriously lead us with our lectionary reading today? As I stated earlier, the lectionary can be so constricting but there are times we can think outside of the box and reflect on a passage from the bible, disregarding the books, the commentaries written by scholars and think for ourselves, as we beg the question of what the passage is really saying to us.
One can well imagine how this parable might have functioned in the earliest Christian communities perhaps as caution to those who envisioned a perfect Church, to those who sought to cull their numbers from time to time by raising the standards, adding additional rules and qualifications for Christian membership. But the parable also suggests grace and non-judgment and becoming a welcoming, inclusive community of faith. Good seed, bad seed, wheat and darnel, the farmer and the enemy, God and the harvest all connect to create a powerful story that may well confront our own views and visions of what the worshiping community is supposed look like in the world!
It also highlights the frivolity of the message, the irony that Jesus delivers a sermon and uses a parable and like us, his disciples move in doors and ask him, “Hey what did you mean out there?” Of course if you look at the book of Matthew, you can see that at this point Jesus has used a lot of parables in one session and so they have good reason to be perplexed, but Jesus explains it to them and I think he does it pretty well, but again it is in parable form.