Archives: Proper 11

Cranmer: The Weedy Field with the Great Harvest

If you’re not aware of this already, let me give you some breaking news: Jesus is awesome.

I love this gospel text. It is a perfect illustration of his subversive wisdom, his undermining grace, his sneak attack on our complacencies and familiarities.

One of my favorite things about Jesus is that he refuses to allow us to believe we have all the answers.

We’ll arrive at a new spiritual understanding and relish and celebrate and benefit from it.

But the minute it starts to contribute to our ego satisfaction, Jesus will rip the rug out from underneath us.

Last week we talked about the fact that however great of a spiritual teacher Jesus may be, to be honest he would make an abysmal farmer.

Thank God the family business was carpentry instead.

But we continue this week with another edition of Poor Agricultural Advice by Jesus Christ, in the form of the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat.

First of all, who sows weeds? How does one even accomplish that?

Jesus attributes it to the Enemy or the Evil One, and I always have this image of the Devil standing in someone’s newly plowed field blowing the seeds off dandelions with unholy glee.

Then Jesus has the householder tell his servants not to weed the ground, because “in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.”

That’s, um, not how it works.

Every first-grader cultivating his first garden plot in the backyard knows that weeding is an unpleasant but entirely necessary part of the process.

And when you pull out weeds, generally the plants you are trying to grow are not uprooted if you pay attention at all.

So if we conclude once again that Jesus is not giving literal horticultural advice, what does he mean? If we are to take this spiritually, where do we land? Continue reading

The Gifts of Martha and Mary

Today we’re embarking on a unique phase of our worship life together. Today we begin our transition work in earnest.

I have four Sundays left in this pulpit, and my preaching task is as follows: to say goodbye, to tell you how much I love you and thank you for our time together, and to equip you for your transition time in any way I can.

We’re going to tackle those in reverse order over the next few weeks, using our lectionary scriptures to guide us in those tasks.

So let’s talk about Mary and Martha and what we can learn from them, not just for our everyday lives, but specifically for this unique season of transition St. Thomas and St. Luke’s are entering right now.

To do that, let’s start by talking about what clergy transition is like for a parish.

Transition is all kinds of things.

It’s exciting as the priest and parish look forward to the novelty of change.

It’s anxiety-producing as we face an unknown future and wonder how to tackle life without each other’s steady presence and familiar patterns.

It’s awkward as we try to decide what to say to each other—how much truth-telling is helpful and how much is just self-indulgent and divisive?

It’s full of grief as we say goodbye.

It’s simply full of emotion as we rehearse old grievances and old joys.

We give thanks for everything we’ve accomplished together and the ways in which we were so well-matched, and we mourn the goals we didn’t achieve and the ways we couldn’t fulfill each other.

It’s a holy mess, to my way of thinking, a sacred disaster, an exhausting miracle and a blessed train wreck.

It can bring out the worst in us if we’re not careful, but it will bring out the best in us if we allow it. Continue reading

What To Do When Atticus Dies

When we meet Jesus and the disciples in our gospel today, two things happen: “The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’”

But if we pick up the scripture right there, we miss a key ingredient of the story.

What just happened? What did we read about last week?

Mark doesn’t tell us what we know actually happened.

In the same conversation where the disciples tell Jesus all the good they have been able to do in his name, he has to break the terrible news to them: John the Baptist has been beheaded.

Can you imagine the grief and pain and fear that broke over them at hearing that Jesus has just lost his cousin and the world has just lost a great prophet?

So Jesus took them away to a deserted place to rest, not just from the clamor of the crowds and the tiring ministry work they’d been doing, but to give them some space to be alone as a small family to come to terms with the blow they’d been dealt.

It must have been a profoundly disillusioning moment for the disciples.

They’d just gone out and healed the sick and preached the good news to the poor.

They’d really seen people’s lives being changed by the message they had been sent out to deliver.

Then to come back and find that John the Baptist had been executed—it is one of those moments of wondering, “What is the point of all this? Where is God in the midst of this?”

We’ve all had moments like this lately as we’ve watched the news in our world around us, with one act of gun violence piling up on another.

And I have had one of those moments of combined disillusionment and grief in hearing the news about Atticus Finch. Continue reading

And I Did Not Know It: Jacob Goes To Mt. Rushmore

A rock, a ladder and a promise to a man who is running for his life.

That is what we get in our story from Genesis today.

Jacob is in a very bad situation.  He stole not only his brother Esau’s birthright, but also his blessing, and Esau has finally had enough.

Esau resolves in Genesis 27 to set aside a decent time of mourning for his father Isaac, but once it is over, he will kill Jacob.

Rebekah finds out and tells Jacob he needs to get out of town, fast.  So Jacob sets out.

There is very little that is admirable about Jacob.

Even his name means “cheater,” and he lives up to it every time.

We might even question why God keeps providing for him, why God continues to come through for him, why God chooses him to be the vessel through which the entire nation of Israel will be built.

We should actually take God’s choice of Jacob as great good news.

Why?  Because it takes away the burden and the illusion of personal worthiness being necessary for us to serve God. Continue reading