Here we are in another week on our journey with our brother Jesus in July of 2020 in a time of pandemic. Each of us is, as always–called to be our best. This is a time when strong leadership in Church and government would be a comfort, but unfortunately, we have come to see, that for the most part, we have to look within ourselves for answers as we seem to be short on leadership from the aforementioned places. Our loving God though, the Scriptures tell us this week, is always with us–we have no need to fear as our good God is our hope and we are each other’s hope too. Please reach out to me if I can be of help in any way: 507-429-3616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
God, you are our help, upholding our lives. We offer you a willing gift of ourselves—we praise your name God for your goodness towards us—always!
Let Us Pray
Loving God, be merciful to us. Fill us with your gifts and make us always eager to serve you in faith, hope and love. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name who lives and loves us, with you, in the Spirit, one God, forever and ever, Amen.
- Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19
- Romans 8: 26-27
- Matthew 13: 24-43
My friends, the Wisdom literature for this Sunday tells us, and I paraphrase, a truly powerful God can risk being lenient to attain the justice that is wanted (needed) by all. To me, this idea speaks to the whole issue of law versus love. This is the theme of the Wisdom writers throughout the First Testament of the Bible, known to most of us as the “Old Testament.” It would behoove us to keep our eyes on these writers more, including the prophets, and not as much on those who depict our God as mean and unfeeling. The books of Wisdom and that of the Prophets challenge us to be people of justice and of love as the God of us all had challenged them to be. The God of the prophets was the God that our brother Jesus called—“Abba,” Loving Parent.
Contemplating on the God of Wisdom literature being lenient in judgment, strong, caring, powerful and kind reminds me of the much loved musical, Fiddler on the Roof that we had occasion to watch this past week. This story, as you may know is that of Tevye, the Jewish “papa,” his wife, Golda and their five daughters whom they try to raise in the traditions of their Jewish faith. Their God seems somewhat remote and they are constantly trying to understand this God, especially Tevye.
Their faith, in its tradition, holds that a “match-maker in their town will choose husbands for their daughters when the time comes for them to marry. The whole story is fraught with the notion that, “times are changing,” which means that Tevye’s sense of tradition, “what is right” will be challenged by his daughters wanting to marry men that they love, not men whom their papa and mama choose for them.
As the story unfolds, we see that the final decision will come from “the papa,” who, as in all Jewish families, is head of the household. We see though, that he can be resigned to his daughters marrying men that they choose, as long as they marry within the faith. Chava, the youngest of the three to marry in the story, chooses a man outside the faith and to papa; it is seen as if she has died. This reflects a God who is not “lenient” as described in Wisdom today, and even one who is “mean and unfeeling.”
For those of you who know the story, as the townspeople of Anatevka are forced to move on the brink of the Russian revolution of 1905, Tevye, in the end, can find it in his heart to show love and not just “the law” to his daughter who married outside of the faith.
So, my friends, what does this story have to say about our Scriptures today? It seems, when all is said and done, the entirety of words of both testaments of our Holy Book speak to the struggle of law versus love—it was always so and always will be. We need the law to guide our path but never at the expense of love. This was certainly the message of our brother, Jesus. We need to remember the words from the Wisdom writer’s 1st reading today—a truly powerful God can risk being lenient to attain justice.
One cannot read this Sunday’s readings and come away with any other notion than that, “God definitely has our backs.” Paul, in his letter to the Romans carries on the thought of the Wisdom writer of a God who is kind, caring, strong and filled with justice by saying, “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness, with groanings too deep for words.” I would say, God truly knows our hearts and stands with us, not only in our pain, but in our joy too.
The psalmist continues—“You are good and forgiving.” In Matthew’s gospel today we read of three parables told by our brother Jesus—of weeds and wheat, of the mustard seed growing into the largest of shrubs, even though it started as the smallest seed, and yeast put into a measure of flour—all with the same message—we are loved and God will give us every chance to grow and become all that we were meant to be. And as his followers; we are challenged as the prophets of old, to share that goodness with others.
As always, my friends; the Scriptures call us back into our lives, our world in July of 2020 where we must ask, “What do I make of these words on the page of so long ago?” Are they living words that are reflected in my life or are they dead upon the page?
And my friends, I can honestly admit to you, that I struggle in my life as you do in yours to let these words of justice, caring, goodness—basically, love be reflected in my life—in July of 2020. A sampling from my life may be of help:
- I struggle to make sense of people in religion with power over others using and abusing them—completely ruining the lives of those they have abused. The most current example is musician-songwriter, David Haas.
- I struggle with his apology to the Catholic community, which on the surface seems, heartfelt, but knowing the cunning of such people, “to groom” their vulnerable victims—can I truly trust his apparent sincerity?
- I struggle with those in public office whose bottom line seems to be, themselves, not the people they purport to serve—what literally do I do with my anger, my disgust?
- I struggle with those one-issue voters who use their precious right to vote to elect individuals who promise to save life in the womb, but deny it to those same lives once here. By electing people who promise life at one point on the continuum but deny it through a livable wage, adequate housing, food and education makes absolutely no sense and it makes me livid. This is the kind of thing that caused Jesus to incite a riot in the temple on the last week of his life. Life is life all along the continuum! I could go on, but I think you get the point.
July in 2020 lays out a plenitude on the land—to be harvested and to be enjoyed—fruits and vegetables—flowers of all colors and sizes to behold! As we consider the harvest which Jesus is speaking of in the parable of weeds and wheat growing up together in today’s gospel; we see the plenitude of our God. The “weeds and the wheat” are us, of course, as we make our way through life, choosing at one time, good, and at other times, the not so good. Our God realizes that we are capable of both and gives us every chance to grow, as is depicted in letting the weeds grow along with the wheat, so that we, all, might become, if we choose, our best selves.
There is a poignant scene in, Fiddler on the Roof when the townspeople are told that they have to leave Anatevka. Tevye’s son-in-law, Motel (pronounced with a long “O”) says to the rabbi, “We have waited all our lives for the Messiah—wouldn’t this be a good time for him to come?” The rabbi, who is depicted as rather non-plussed by everything in life says, “Well, we will just have to wait for him someplace else.”
Overall, the people of Anatevka are depicted as a long-suffering group, but one too of fortitude—courage in pain and suffering. One of the themes in this movie, as I indicated earlier, is that, “the times are changing.”
Maybe we all need to consider, in the face of pain and suffering that our call may be to name the pain suffered as the Jewish people were beginning to do as evidenced by the three marriageable daughters in the Fiddler. As Jesus’ followers we too need to name the pain in our world and ask what part we play in that pain. We must then do our part to make the necessary changes that would allow everyone—every race—every gender and its variations, to have justice. That is what, “Black Lives Matter” is really all about, hearing the cries of all in our world who are imploring us to hear their cries that, “they cannot breathe.”
The time when we can be shocked one day by a crime at the hands of the State, the police, the Church—whomever it may be and let it slip past us if we aren’t directly affected, is over. Period.
We all have been given the perfect opportunity in this July of 2020, in a time of pandemic—felt to a greater degree by those living in poverty, a time that has called our nation’s attention to its racist heart, and to the lack of concern and true moral leadership at the highest levels of our government, to be the “messiahs” that we all hope for—basically to do our parts in the ways that we can to make meaningful change.
We may feel like that smallest of seeds in today’s gospel—the mustard seed and that our paltry efforts can make no difference—but they can!
Our efforts, each one, will make the greatest of “trees.” This is what Jesus, our brother did in his time—this is what we must do in our time, now, in July of 2020! Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Be with us Loving God”
- Jesus, give us strength to be the good seed, the yeast for your people that we might all grow to be what you intend for us, we pray—Response: “Be with us Loving God”
2. O God, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace—help us to understand that making peace is always better, albeit harder, than making war, we pray—Response: “Be with us Loving God”
3. Jesus, you ask us to be people of faith, and trust—we believe, but help our times of unbelief, we pray —Response: “Be with us Loving God”
- Jesus, in your loving Spirit let us as members of this community, All Are One, always find room at our table for all your people, help us all to be together again soon, we pray—Response: “Be with us Loving God”
5. Loving Creator, Savior, Spirit—give us your patience, your strength, your love for our world, be with our country that it can find its way back to “goodness” for all, we pray—Response: “Be with us Loving God”
6. Loving Jesus, give each of us, what we most need today, to be prophets for the kindom, we pray—Response: “Be with us Loving God”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, due to COVID 19, and all other causes—give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Be with us, Loving God.”
***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, we pray, then response
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, we pray, then response
Let Us Pray
Gentle God, you who loves us beyond all imagining—be close to us each and every day, shadow us under your wings and be the strength that we need to live as you did, conscious of being inclusive of all, loving others when it is easy and when it is not so easy. Be with our community, All Are One, in special ways during this time of physical separation. Give us your deep and abiding peace that we would not worry, but trust and believe that you will always be with us. All of this we ask of you who are God, living and loving us forever and ever—Amen!
Let Us Pray—Jesus is with us my friends—always, if we want him to be—this time without the physical Eucharist reminds us of this fact—let us remember often that Jesus is with us.
Prayer after Communion
Loving Jesus—thank you for the gift of yourself with us, always—let it help us to always share your love and peace with all we meet. We ask this in your wonderful name—Amen.