Sunday, July 19, 2020

7th Sunday after Pentecost 7/19/2020

I would like to dedicate todays service to the memories of Lives well lived; Sen. John C. Lewis and Rev. C.T.Vivian both amazing men who blessed the Equality movement with their voices and bodies.

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

Opening Reflection
Psalm 139:1-12 The Message (MSG)
A David Psalm

139 1-6 God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!
7-12 Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

let us begin today’s worship

L: We look at this world, focusing on the pain and confusion,
the fears and hatred which seem to abound.
P: For what can we hope?
L: We wait breathlessly for the goodness of creation
to be made manifest in all the world, for this is the promise of God.
P: God is always with us, guiding, rescuing, healing, restoring us.
L: Get ready, dear friends, the promises of God are true.
P: Lord, quiet our spirits and open our hearts. Bring us hope and peace. AMEN.
Sanctuary #655(Celebration Hymnal)
Gather us in #284 (Chalice Hymnal)
(All candles lit.)

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43(NRSV)
The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat

24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

The word of God for the people of God!

Sermon     Wheat n Weeds  

The old testament reading for today tells a story of Jacob.  Jacob had taken a walk out into the desert and stopped for the night. Then, as happens to most all the prophets, he has a dream.  He dreams of a giant ladder from earth to heaven and angels are going up and down and God stands beside him and tells him I am the God of your ancestors and of your Children. Your children shall cover the world just as dust and “all the families of the earth shall be blest in you.”

We are all descended from Jacob. Each and every human so when Jesus informs his disciples that the good seed are the children of the kin-dom and the bad seed are of the evil one just what is he saying? Does Jesus believe that there are children of the evil one running amuck among the descendants of Jacob? That is pretty harsh, for if each one of us has been created in the image of God, How can there be ones who are children of the quote evil one?.

Again we have a sower, we have seeds, we have good growth and we have weeds.  We are back in the garden!

After reading extensively I admit this parable frustrates and comforts at the same time.  There is language of a harsh judgement for things that block our relationship with God, things that cause evil but then added to that are people. The people who are the children of the evil one. How is this reconciled with an all loving God?  A Jesus of massive forgiveness?

Well one way to reconcile it is to become a scholar and learn that this maybe Mathew writing for Mathew’s community. It is a unique parable, but very similar to one found in mark.

What if I told you this parable was more about patience than anything else?

“Among various interpreters it is widely agreed that the parable alone (without the interpretation) emphasizes patience. The master tells his slaves that they must wait for the harvest for the separation of the wheat and the weeds. For now the wheat and the weeds will coexist. There can be little doubt but that, on a Mathean level, the wheat represents believers or at least true believers (Christians). But it is not so clear what the weeds represent.”[1]

I did find it interesting that this parable is told to the crowd but then Jesus goes into the house to explain it to his followers. The house is where bread is broken, the house is where the faithful gather, the house is the place where the congregation is cared for. This parable is addressing the congregation and the situation at hand for the Mathean community.

Walter Bruggeman asks; “who has not wrestled with the paradoxical character of a congregation, where committed members with perceptive visions about what the church ought to be and to do exist side by side with those who are indifferent or who apparently are motivated only by self-interest? It is not an idle matter, because often the opinions of the latter prevail over the opinions of the former, and the whole congregation is affected. Who has not wanted to be rid of the bad apples that spoil the barrel?”[2]

Well now isn’t that a little black and white? Some members have a right vision and others don’t? We need to pluck those weeds…I mean we want to pluck those weeds… but alas this is not where the parable leads us. The reading is confronted by “a double-edged impact. On the one hand, the nervousness that makes us want to banish recalcitrant members from the church is exposed as foolhardy, if not arrogant. Church discipline has its place…but it has to be tempered with the long look, which leaves ultimate judgement in the hands of the ultimate judge. A zealousness to purify the church, even when some purification might yield a stronger community, is called into question. It is too easily presumes the purifiers have perfect vision and neglects the fact that they will likely uproot wheat along with weeds.”[3]

Thank God the Church has never done anything of the sort…

Unfortunately the church has a history of declaring people heretics, regulating people as sinners and casting aside any one with a different thought or plan. What happens to those people?  Well…I mean why do you think there are so many Christian denominations?

And the Church has been quick to condemn and long to forgive for example

“In February-March 1616, the catholic church issued a prohibition against the Copernican theory of the earth’s motion. This led later (1633) to the Inquisition trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) as a suspected heretic.”[4]  It wasn’t until 1992 that the pope said that Galileo was right all along.

Even the wisdom of the church is contradicted by the culture around it..

The Congregationalist ordained the first African American preacher in the united states back in the 1700’s

Lemuel Haynes; “Ordained in the Congregational church in 1785, Haynes pastored a church in Torrington, Connecticut for three years. In 1788, Haynes accepted a call to pastor the West Parish Church of Rutland, Vermont (now West Rutland's United Church of Christ), where he remained for the next 30 years. He then moved to a temporary pastorate at Manchester, Vermont, and finally to South Granville, New York, where he was pastor of South Granville Congregational Church.”[5]
Many denominations arose out of cultural needs such as the AME church…

“The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society (FAS), which Richard AllenAbsalom Jones, and other free blacks established in Philadelphia in 1787. They left St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church because of discrimination. Although Allen and Jones were both accepted as preachers, they were limited to black congregations.”[6]

Women’s ordination has been a center for controversy and expulsion from churches for centuries.

  • “1815: Clarissa Danforth was ordained in New England. She was the first woman ordained in the Free Will Baptist faith, possibly by John Colby. The power to ordain a minister is reserved to individual churches in the Free Will Baptist denomination, so there was no policy for or against ordination of women.[1]

  • 1853: Antoinette Brown Blackwell was ordained as a minister in the Congregational Church.[2] The Congregational Church, like the Free Will Baptist Church, leaves decisions on ordination to individual churches. She was ordained on September 15, 1853, and the radical minister Luther Lee gave a sermon entitled "Women's Right to Preach the Gospel".[3][4][5] She was dismissed in July 1854, apparently by her own request because of lack of support from the women in the church. She later became a Unitarian and was ordained as a Unitarian minister in 1863.[6] The Congregationalists later merged with others to create the United Church of Christ, which ordains women.[6][7][7]

In the timeline of women’s ordination in Wikipedia, the timeline starts in 1815 and goes on to 2018 which says this argument and discrimination is still ongoing in the world churches today.

I have spoken of Bill Johnson as being the first openly gay man ordained in a mainline denomination in 1972 (the united fellowship of metropolitan community churches had been established since 1967). Yet it wasn’t until 2003 they were to call for full inclusion of transgender clergy and members.  Still it wasn’t until 2015 that the UCC Pension Board removes "transgender exclusion" from the UCC health insurance policies.

So our denomination has grown and change over the centuries.  Our churches and congregations often disagree. History has used the language of heresies to define those in the wrong thinking of the church. At one time a heretic could be sentenced to death.

Now that is kind of scary.

My exploration of who is right, who is just, may have been a bit misleading as I read in the beginning we must be patient, with each other and with the world.  Yes I make this broader.  Our call is not to judge, it is to be patient. Our call is not to be judgmental, but to be loving.

This call goes beyond the church and calls us to engage the world in just the same way. I have served on interfaith councils and ecumenical councils guess which I found more fulfilling?  The interfaith  council sought to find injustices in the world and how we could better use our resources together to help make the world a better and safer place.

Though the ecumenical council sought to do the same, they often spent hours on discussing our differences and making sure everyone knew the rules of each-others denominations. When I first joined the southern California ecumenical council it had to be deliberated and discussed because I was an openly gay minister coming from an openly gay denomination (at that time I was serving the UFMCC).  Members did leave as I was allowed in.

I believe there are wonderful lessons to be learned from other faiths especially when it comes to the concept of who is right, who is wrong. First let me be clear, if a preacher is teaching and preaching separation and or persecution of people and or cultures or other faiths because they have the absolute truth…No!  I just say no.

“The Baha’i principles completely repeal and do away with the entire idea of heresy, replacing it with the principle of unbounded love: ‘… all the prophets were sent, all the books were revealed, so that the law of love might be promoted. But a few self-seeking people subverted the original aims of the religion of God, changed its pure current and made it an instrument of hatred and rancor and quarrel and sedition’

The Buddha taught that there are 84,000 paths to enlightenment. To call the path of another heresy is unkind and narrow. We should examine our own actions and ask, ‘Are they coherent, consistent and loving?’”[8] 

Which takes me back to the old testament reading of today…according to our own religious beliefs all people are descendants of Jacob.  All of humanity is related.  So the first rule, the Golden rule which happens to run through most faiths is to love one another as you would wish to be loved.

In this time of pandemic in this time of safe distancing we can feel isolated and alone. We can become jaded, frustrated, saddened and pained by the shape the world is in. we can be tempted to judge our neighbors or even ourselves a bit more harshly.

But we need to stop and breathe into this.  We need to give ourselves time to be patient with ourselves and each other. We need to challenge ourselves to find the joy in the simpler things because the more extravagant things in life are just unattainable right now.

This past two weeks we have spoken of the sower and the seeds in two different parables but when it comes to us as individuals right now. We need to seek out the simple, the small, the still. We need nurture our joy.  We need to love ourselves and love our neighbors.

This is not a temporary setback from our day to day. Life has changed. We are now resolved to live and breathe into this for the long haul. We need to stop seeing the pain and look for the beauty.

This is who we are.
We are a Christian congregation.
We are a loving people.
We are a patient people.
We are blessed to live in a beautiful world full of wonders near.
We trust in God.

I believe that Jacobs ladder is more than a dream it is a reality.
Angels are coming and going all around us.
God is right beside us. Proclaiming our worth.

Be still.
Be patient.
Be blest.

A call to prayer

Summer is just about halfway over. Some of us have been able to travel, to spend special time with family and friends; but for others there is a sameness about this season. It brings pressures to work to provide for our families; it reminds us of the many people who are ill and who are unable to enjoy some of the special delights that this season is supposed to bring. This morning we take a few minutes to name our dear ones and situations of pain and loss as we ask for prayers from this congregation. Some people will remain unnamed because of the anguish we feel about their difficulties. But you are with them, every step of the way, even when they don’t feel like you care. You are there with them, offering them peace and hope. Let us turn our hearts to you as we write our joys and concerns in the comment section we will lift them up after this hymn

We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder

We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder
We are climbing Jacob's ladder
We are climbing Jacob's ladder
We are climbing Jacob's ladder
We're brothers, and sisters, all
Every rung goes higher and higher
Every rung goes higher and higher
Every rung goes higher and higher
We are brothers, and sisters, all
Every new rung just just makes us stronger
Every new rung just just makes us stronger
Every new rung just just makes us stronger
We are brothers, and sisters, all Yeah,
we are climbing Jacob's ladder Yeah,
we are climbing Jacob's ladder
We are climbing Jacob's ladder
We are brothers, and sisters, all Yeah
we are climbing higher and higher
We are climbing higher and higher Yeah
we are climbing higher and higher
We are brothers, and sisters, all
We are climbing Jacob's ladder Yeah,
we are climbing Jacob's ladder
We are climbing Jacob's ladder
We are brothers, and sisters, all

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

Invitation to the Offering

Like a field is ready for harvest, our lives bear the marks of God’s love and care.
May we, who bear the fruit of God’s labor,
Rejoice as people who have been blessed with a bounty not of our making.
With love and thanksgiving, let us bring our offerings to those in need.

Offering Prayer

Lord, we present these tokens of the many blessings you have poured into our lives. Make us people who are unafraid to proclaim your healing mercies. Help these gifts to bring hope and comfort to all those in need. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.

The office is open for regular hours
We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in

Come to tend God’s garden #586

Benediction/sending forth
Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. You have planted us in the fertile ground of your Church. Let us continue to express our gratitude for the love that grows within our fellowship by offering our love and care to the world around us. Go forth with Joy to serve God. AMEN.

Just a note Bible study is on summer leave…

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