Weeding out Judgment (19 July 2020)

19 Jul 2020 by Kathy Slade (Engadine) Graham Lawrence, (Menai Illawong), Barbara Moore (Jannali) , Young Dae Lee (Jannali), Picture by Tacuina Sanitatis, 14th century. in: Online Services

Acknowledgement of Country

This land is God’s land and God’s Spirit dwells here. We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands where we are worshipping today and how they have blessed this place through their care and concern. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge the stories, traditions and living culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We commit ourselves to working for reconciliation in this land and to building a better future together. May we continue to think of, pray for and connect with our First Nations people.

 

Lighting of the candle – please light a candle in your space

God who made the heavens and the earth, as we light the candle today we remember that there is no place where your light cannot reach, There are no people beyond your care, God who is the Creator, Spirit, the Comforter. You are the light of the world, guiding our steps, illuminating the truth and lightening the dark places in our lives. May your light renew our hope and refresh our spirit.  AMEN

 

Today in our Zoom meeting we are gathering with friends from Gymea-Miranda, Menai-Illawong and Jannali who will be taking part and sharing with us in worship. Some prayers are included in this liturgy.

Opening Prayers- Barbara Moore Jannali UC

Lord, please hear our prayers.

As we gather before you today in a virtual way, we give you thanks that we can come together to worship you despite there being a physical distance between us.  With your help, we can be a community of people who can overcome the challenges before us. In these difficult times, when being in contact with our community holds real dangers of spreading disease, we pray that we will still find ways to be there for each other. We thank you for the love you bestow on us, that we can pass forward onto others. We ask for your blessing on us and pray that with your guidance this combined service gives us yet another opportunity to learn more about how to serve you better and how to live out the lessons Jesus taught us - especially to look out for one another. 

 

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (Psalm 139:7-12)

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where could I get away from your presence? 
If I climbed the heavens, you would be there;
if I made my bed in Sheol, you would be there. 
If I were to fly with the morning light
and settle at the farthest limits of the sunset, 
even there your hand would lead me,
and your right hand would take hold of me.
If I asked the darkness to cover me,
and the light around me to become night, 
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for light and dark are just the same.

Forgive what we have been;
help us amend what we are;
shape what we shall be;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways;
in Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN

Let us listen together to The Brilliance - Night Has Passed / Morning Has Broken and rejoice in the gift of this day God has given to us. Please click on the link below

Night has Passed Morning has Broken - The Brillance

Night has passed and the day lies open
Night has passed and the day lies open
Before us
Let us pray with one heart and mind
Let us pray with one heart and mind
We rejoice, we rejoice
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day
Morning comes
With the light of Your presence
Morning comes
With the light of Your presence
Upon us
Let us pray with one heart and mind
Let us pray with one heart and mind
We rejoice, we rejoice
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day
Morning has broken
Like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken
Like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing
Fresh from the word
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day
We rejoice, we rejoice
We rejoice, we rejoice
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day
In the gift of this day

Bible Reading

Matthew 13:24-30

24 Jesus told them another parable: "The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man sowed good seed in his field. 25 One night, when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 When the plants grew and the heads of grain began to form, then the weeds showed up. 27 The man's servants came to him and said, "Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field; where did the weeds come from?' 28 "It was some enemy who did this,' he answered. "Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?' they asked him. 29 "No,' he answered, "because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them. 30 Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest. Then I will tell the harvest workers to pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them, and then to gather in the wheat and put it in my barn.' "

Matthew 13:36-43

36 When Jesus had left the crowd and gone indoors, his disciples came to him and said, "Tell us what the parable about the weeds in the field means." 37 Jesus answered, "The man who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world; the good seed is the people who belong to the Kingdom; the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One; 39 and the enemy who sowed the weeds is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvest workers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire, so the same thing will happen at the end of the age: 41 the Son of Man will send out his angels to gather up out of his Kingdom all those who cause people to sin and all others who do evil things, 42 and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and gnash their teeth. 43 Then God's people will shine like the sun in their Father's Kingdom. Listen, then, if you have ears!

 

Reflection

This week Jesus tells a second parable about sowing seeds. This time about good seeds and weeds growing together intertwined. Our first impulse is to weed out the bad– eradicate! But as with last weeks parable of wasteful love, Jesus is inviting us to look beyond our normal notions of who belongs, and who does not, who is worthy and who is not. To again reimagine our world. From Michael Marsh – “ The reality, according to Jesus, is that our lives and our world are a field in which good and evil, life and death, joy and sorrow, that which we want and that which we don’t want grow and live side by side. The wheat and the weeds stand together in our world and in each of our lives”

Read the rest of Michael Marsh’s reflection on Matthew 13 below:

Weeding Out Judgement - Michael Marsh

Weeding out Judgment – A Sermon on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, by Michael K Marsh

 

“Where, then, did these weeds come from?”

Who has not at some point asked that question? You may not have used those same words and you may not have spoken it aloud but I’ll bet everyone has, at some time or another, asked the question.

Maybe you’ve read or watched the news and wondered, “How did our world get in this shape? How did we get to this point?” It’s one headline after another; the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner, the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, the conflict around the refugee children coming to American soil. It seems the world is going crazy.

Maybe life’s circumstances have left you asking yourself, “How did my life get like this? What has become of me?” We could all list the hurts and wounds of life, the betrayals and resentments, the addictions, fears, and loneliness. On and on the list goes.

Perhaps you’ve faced the death of a loved one, a devastating illness, or other tragedy and want to know, “Why, if God is good and loving, did this happen?”

“Where, then, did these weeds come from?”                             Tacuina Sanitatis, 14th century

We often live with the assumption that if we do good, work hard, and be nice everything should work out as we want. That’s the illusion with which the slaves in today’s parable live. “Master,” they ask the farmer, “did you not sow good seed in your field?” Of course he did. They know he did. That’s why they are so surprised when they discover the weeds. The weeds have shattered their illusion. This isn’t supposed to happen. “Where, then, did these weeds come from?”

There is an urgency to their question. They want to know what happened and who is responsible. So do we. That’s what we want to know when we discover weeds in our fields. We want an explanation and someone we can blame, hold accountable, and even punish. Far too often we see that in our political bickering, our Facebook posts, and our privately held opinions. Jesus, however, seems less interested in this approach than we are. He doesn’t give it much time or attention.

“An enemy has done this,” he says. That’s it. He doesn’t explain it. He doesn’t identify or name the enemy. He doesn’t give instructions to find, drive out, and punish this enemy.

Behind our desire for an explanation and the name of the culprit is a truth many of us neither like nor want to accept. It’s one of the challenges of today’s gospel. It’s the challenge to become more than who we think we are. It’s a challenge that arises every time we face the weeds of our life and world.

The reality, according to Jesus, is that our lives and our world are a field in which good and evil, life and death, joys and sorrows, that which we want and that which we don’t want to grow and live side by side. The wheat and the weeds stand together in our world and in each of our lives.

That, Jesus says, is what the kingdom of heaven is like. That’s good news for us. It means that despite the weeds in and around us the kingdom is still here. The weeds do not overcome or make absent God’s kingdom. It may not be the fullness of the kingdom but it is, nevertheless, the kingdom.

But what about those weeds? What do we do about them? Surely we should do something. Not according to Jesus. “Let them grow together until the harvest,” he says. That makes no sense. How can we let them be? The weeds are bad and the wheat is good. We must do something. We need to take a stand, draw a line in the sand, establish some boundaries.

“Don’t you want us to pull up the weeds,” the slaves ask their master. “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.” These aren’t just generic weeds. The parable speaks of a particular weed called zizania. It’s sometimes known as darnel or false wheat. It grows with the wheat. It looks like wheat. Its roots intertwine with the roots of the real wheat. The difference between the two is not always readily apparent.

It seems the separation between the wheat and the weeds is not as clear-cut or black and white as Facebook, the media, our politicians, and our personal opinions would often have us believe. In any event, we are not the ones to make that judgment. We’re not the ones to uproot those we see as weeds. Jesus is clear about that.

“Let them grow together until the harvest,” he says. Jesus shows more interest in growth than extermination. He is willing to wait and to be patient. If we are his followers we too will wait and be patient amongst the weeds of our life.

While we patiently wait let’s not get too excited about the end of this parable. Let’s not revel in and celebrate the end of the age and the coming of Jesus as some divine weed whacker. I don’t think Jesus intended this parable to be taken literally, but, rather, with absolute seriousness.

So do we do nothing? Just sit and wait? No, that’s not what Jesus is saying. There is plenty to do and it will be a challenge. The words that are translated as “let them” in Jesus’ statement, “Let them grow…” can also be translated as forgive them. It’s the same words Jesus spoke from the cross in St. Luke’s account of the gospel when he says, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). Even then, even on the cross, Jesus is unwilling to pull up the weeds.

There is no place in Jesus’ gospel for Christian vigilantism, by word or by action, against another or against ourselves. Instead, Jesus commands love. Love your enemy. Love your neighbour. Love yourself. Love God.

Forgive the weeds? Love the weeds? Remember, I told you the gospel is always a challenge. So, yes, forgive them. Love them. Maybe that’s how the wheat begins to disentangle its roots from the weeds and show itself to be wheat and not weeds. Maybe love and forgiveness are what life in the mixed field of God’s kingdom and this world is like.

 

PRAYERS FOR OTHERS

 

As we come to our prayers for others and bring our needs to God let’s listen together to the song The Sun will Rise

The Sun Will Rise - The Brilliance

The sun will rise, the sun will rise
Bringing life to the earth
As it springs from the ground
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
Won't you dry all your tears lay your burden down?
Won't you dry all your tears lay your burden down?

Let us pray together

 

The needs of the world are too many and large for us. But not for God.

 

Let us pray.

 

God of the universe, at night the sign of the Cross rises and sets over our land. Grant that the hour may come when the Man of the Cross will be welcomed into every heart, and into every street, office, school, court and parliament. May the love of Christ flourish and his values transform our land.

 

God of the “Son of Man who had nowhere to lay his head,” please be with all who will sleep outdoors tonight in the cold. Bless the efforts of those agencies who try to help them. Please make us more determined to build a society and world where everyone who wants shelter can obtain it.

 

We pray, Gracious God, that you will help our nation to reconcile justly and compassionately with the First Nations people of this land. We pray with deep yearning for connection and friendship with First Nations people and the courage to accept the realities of our history so we can build a better future together.

 

God of Love give rest to those who suffer. May they know tenderness and compassion from those who care for them. Be with the medical teams who support them. Bring healing and restoration to good health. In daylight hours encircle them with human kindness, and in the long night hours surround them with the warmth and comfort of your Spirit.

 

 

We take time now to pray for those we know need prayer today. (please pray for those known to you in need)

 

We especially pray for:       Our friends in Timor Leste especially Zoe at Uniting World

                                                Our friends at Common Grace

                                                Uniting Earth and the Climate Conference

                                                Our friends at Sydney Alliance

                                                Menai- Illawong Uniting Church Congregation

                                                Jannali Uniting Church Congregation

                                                Gymea Miranda Uniting Church Congregation

                                               

God of all people you challenge us to be a place of welcome, a Church without walls,
offering your love, care and compassion to those who need it most - both our neighbours and our enemies. Assist us to be a help, not a hinderance to them. Lord, help us to be people of courage, that our Church may be a witness to your vision of how we should live together.

 

Hear us now,
as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us:

Our Father in Heaven

Hallowed be your name

Your Kingdom come

Your will be done

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us

Save us in the time of trial and deliver us from evil

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are Yours

Now and forever AMEN

 

Thank you for joining our worship service today. My prayer is that you have been blessed and refreshed by the Spirit and as you go out into the week:

May Christ be in your seeing the beauty and pain in the world.
May Christ be in your hearing the laughter and tears of the world.
May Christ be in your thinking and may you never be satisfied with easy answers.
May Christ be in your speaking to tell good news.
May Christ be in your holding with strength and gentleness.
May Christ be in your heart with patience and determination.
May Christ be in your walking to take you far and wide.
May Christ be deep in your soul that you may always know deep peace.

 

Blessing - Rev Hye Kyoung Lee Gymea-Miranda UC

Let us leave here in anticipation, 

believing that the way ahead is full of new opportunities of cooperation, share, and support. 

And every fragile seed be cherished by God the Loving Parent

may each drop of water cherished from God's well sustain our ministries 

every moment of uplifting be held fast in the passionate arms of Christ

and the wisdom and breath of the Holy Spirit guide each step towards a hopeful future. AMEN

 

Blessing Song – please click on the link to listen (and sing along) to this beautiful blessing to take with you into your week. Much love and blessings to you and those you love.

Blessing Song