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Martin Luther King Jr.
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’
‘Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kindom and does not understand it, evil comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
Message – “Trusting Hope
Last week we were sowing seeds. Planting seeds of hope. This week we are hoping those seeds sprout and begin to set roots in the soil. However, in the story we read this morning, as we look out across the landscape of our work, we notice plants we were not expecting, perhaps even plants we did not plant, and we do not want them to take over our work.
I think back on the days when I was working for a farmer, I mentioned last week. I was pulling a set of sweeps with anhydrous. In the fields I was working, the farmer would tell me to watch for white blossoms as I worked. If I saw them, I was to stop the tractor, get out and place flags around the perimeter of the vines with the blossoms, pull my sweeps up, back up and go around those patches, and they would come and treat them later. Bind Weed. It was explained I didn’t want to just run through them as it would drag the seeds of the weed throughout the field.
I visited a friend in North Carolina last fall and saw for the first time, at least as I remember, Kudzu. All along the winding roads as we drove, vines that seemed to engulf all there was in its path… trees, shrubs, hillsides… an incredibly evasive vine. It is hard to control without damaging that which it has attached itself to.
I have a vine in our yard at home that keeps popping up all over the place. It is on our chain link fence in the back, it is in the bushes in the front, it pops up in the middle of the yard. The other day I noticed it had begun a tentacle out of one of TruDee’s flower pots on the front porch. I started to pull it out… and then I remembered her saying something about planting some kind of vine out front in a pot. I did not pull it. Catastrophe avoided!
Gardening… Farming…. Agriculture… tending the fields… the first commandment in Genesis… “tend my garden” is difficult work. It takes knowledge, discernment, labor, wisdom, patience, and trust.
“Where did these weeds come from” they asked the farmer in Jesus’ story…. Do you want us to go pull them up?” “No, let both grow together until the harvest.” Trust that it will be okay.
It is difficult work to be patient and trust. When one sees the work of planting seeds of hope seem to begin to go all wrong. Things change, plans are thwarted, goals are crushed, dreams seem scattered…
Brueggemann addresses this again in his book, Reality, Grief, and Hope, Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks when he speaks of this difficult work of uncovering the illusion in which our society lives. Brueggemann writes, “The prophetic task is to expose the distorted view of societal reality sustained by the ideology that breeds unrealistic notions of entitlement, privilege, and superiority.” We see this uncovering in the world around us today as we continue to point out the injustices of racism, sexism, poverty, climate change, abuse of power… and the push back against this revealing by the powers that be. For those in the story of the Way of Jesus… pointing out the weeds in the wheat are dismissed and demonized. The ideology of exceptionalism and superiority is being challenged and those who would promote nationalism, white supremacy, the out of control gap between the rich and the poor do not like the reality behind the illusion that has been revealed.
Brueggemann writes, we need to continue to tell the truth to this illusion as we move toward hope. However, first, he says, we must grieve. We must acknowledge the loss of what we thought was true and “embrace, model, and practice grief, in order that the real losses in our lives can be acknowledged.” We grieve with the workers as we look across the landscape of our tasks and see the weeds that continue to attempt to choke out the good seed, that continue to produce the illusion and hide the reality of where we are. However, grief, lament… Brueggemann says, is not failure… it Is not giving up… it is not stuck in the past… it does not fall into fear of a world and society that says, “Be afraid of relinquishing the failure because there is no other or no other path to lead us forward, which is denial… because, Brueggemann says, “Honest lament knows better. It knows that relinquishment positions us to receive yet again!” 1
Grieve and lament for what seems to be lost, grieve and lament because the world in which we live is in denial… just look at the push back against racial equality conversations or our government’s response to COVID-19 if we don’t think we are living in a society in denial!… but let that grief and lament open us to new and more profound possibilities! Look now… across the landscape of the work of the Way of Jesus and see the fruit that is already appearing… food pantries feeding the hungry, neighbor helping neighbor, more and more persons speaking out against racism, of how to be allies and better allies, and in support and lifting up the clarion call of Black Lives Matter, Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQIA rights, persons serving immigrants and refugees in our communities, … and so much more… with all the crap and chaos that is going on in the world, there is still good happening!
Keep Planting those seeds of Hope. Keep Watering where you are planted.
Trust the Hope you know,
Trust the Hope You See,
Trust the Hope You Believe In!
May it be so. May it be so. Amen.
1 Brueggemann, Walter, (2014). Realty, Grief, Hope; Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.