In Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 we find yet another perplexing parable. For contemporary readers, a cursory reading of this passage may bring to mind issues of membership, prompting us to ask "who is in?" and "who is out?" But this simplistic approach to these words of Jesus ignores the complexities that lurk within the text and within our world. To classify any person as wholly righteous or wholly evil is problematic--we all have a wide and varied inner landscape. If we step back from this passage a bit to see the picture it paints, we find a world full of good and evil, occupied by people who sometimes bring hope and peace and other times bring heartache and pain. Yet, in the midst of all this, God is continually working to bring to life communities of grace and mutuality where humanity can thrive.
The Parable of the Sower is one of those interesting places where we have a parable as well as Jesus interpretation of the parable in the text. The parable naturally invites us to introspection. If we are honest, as we examine the state of our own hearts we often find a variety of soils from rich loam to hardened clay. Attending to the condition of our hearts is not merely a pious exercise for inward holiness, but a path to create generous, sustainable communities that produce sustenance for our neighbors. Rather than living in the fear of scarcity, Matthew 13, invites us to see the love of a generous God who longs for all of his children to live in communities where there is enough.
As we come to the table we remember how Christ has called us from death into life. We remember that though we are sinful, our truest selves have been called forth through the grace of God by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As we encounter Jesus, we can come without pretense because our whole selves are fully embraced by God grace. God knows our darkest secrets and our greatest aspirations and envelopes all of these in a grace that pulls us up toward Jesus way of love and justice.
This Sunday, we continue our journey with Abraham by considering Genesis 22 and the binding of Isaac with Associate Pastor of Missions & Outreach Aaron Austin. This difficult passage leads us to ask some hard questions. It pulls us into Abraham's struggle. What does the way of God look like in this time and place? What does it mean to be faithful? As we journey this difficult way with Abraham, we will see how God helps us look past our limited theologies and cultural confines to a place of liberty and welcome—a place where we can release the bonds we use to marginalize and oppress others, and ourselves.
God is a gracious God. Most believers would enthusiastically affirm this statement. The controversy starts once you attempt to spell out the details. How exactly is God gracious? This week, we examine a powerful story found in Genesis 21 concerning God’s attentive kindness to a family who are found outside of the traditional order. A young woman, Hagar would become what today we call a “single mother" after her and her son Ishmael, were banished by Abraham due to the demands of the matriarch Sarah. Yet, God was gracious to Hagar and Ishmael and cared for them. Today, Muslims trace their heritage from Abraham through Ishmael and regularly commemorate the faith and courage of Hagar. As we listen to this story from our own Bible, we will be challenged to think about the fair and gracious ways we can be good neighbors to Muslims as we seek to look beyond the climate of fear and prejudice that regrettably exists between our two communities of faith.
On Sunday we reflect on the good creation of God and how we can care for our world. The way of Jesus invites us to walk in ways of peace and justice with all of creation—celebrating and championing the cause of the voiceless. We seek to be good stewards and faithful friends of all these rich blessings of the earth.