Saturday, September 13, 2014

How can you sings as the works of my hand are drowning: Empathic Imagination in Scripture


Proper 19A, St. Clement’s 

The traditional Haggadah, the service booklet for the celebration of the Passover, lists the ten plagues.  In college, when I attended the Passover Seder, I was struck by the solemnity that marked the recitation of the plagues, a solemnity that edged on mourning for the suffering of an ancient enemy. To quote from a contemporary haggadah

“Our rabbis taught: When the Egyptian armies were drowning in the sea, the Heavenly Hosts broke out in songs of jubilation. God silenced them and said, "My creatures are perishing, and you sing praises?"

Though we descend from those redeemed from brutal Egypt, and have ourselves rejoiced to see oppressors overcome, yet our triumph is diminished by the slaughter of the foe.

Our rabbis taught: "The sword comes into the world because of justice delayed and justice denied."

To remember upheaval that follows oppression, we pour ten drops for the plagues upon Egypt.

A full cup is the symbol of complete joy. Though we celebrate the triumph of our sacred cause, our happiness cannot be complete so long as others had to be sacrificed for its sake. We shall, therefore, diminish the wine in our cups as we recall the plagues visited upon the Egyptians, to give expression to our sorrow over the losses, which each plague exacted. We now recite the list of the ten ancient plagues, pouring off wine as each one is mentioned.

Dam, Blood
Tzfardeah, Frogs
Kinim, Lice
Arov, Swarms
Dever, Blight
Sh'chin, Boils
Barad, Hail
Arbeh, Locusts
Choshech, Darkness
Makat B'chorot, Death of the Firstborn”

What a remarkable act, to mourn over the death of an ancient enemy and, in that mourning, recognize the dignity and sanctity of all lives.  

Moving the conversation from a place of vengeance and into a place of compassion.  One drop of wine spilled for each plague and a double portion spilled for the death of the firstborn.  

What if all suffering, was met with such sorrow?  Do we spill a double portion, do we weep, over the suffering of our enemies?  If we are to pay any attention to the news, it is the rare event that calls this empathy out--as words like retribution are tied to words like justice and making amends becomes coded language for punishment.  

In the Jewish tradition’s frank acknowledgment that the Israelites freedom came at the great cost of another’s suffering we see a longing for reconciliation and making sense of tragedy.  We see a longing for those caught in the throes of violence to find a way out--a way out that does not destroy others, a way out unmarred by destruction.  We see a community that marks, in ritual, the importance of being able to imagine and recognize the sufferings of others, friend or foe.    

Being able to imagine the feelings, the emotions, the suffering of another human being is a critical skill in this violence marred world of ours.  Some refer to this skill as having “empathic imagination” 

Yann Martel, author of “The Life of Pi” is emphatic that what we call empathic imagination is critical to the cause of peace.  In an interview he suggests that, “if you are an Israeli you should imagine yourself a Palestinian.  Then you will understand why the Palestinians are angry.  If you’re a Palestinian, you should make the effort of imagining yourself an Israeli, and then you will understand why the Israelis are afraid.  If you’re a man and you become a woman, you understand.  If you’re white and you imagine yourself black, etc. Such an approach will not only make the universe more peaceful.  It’s also very enriching.” (Interview, Canadian Literature 177/Summer 2003, p25)

In the Talmud the rabbis are doing this work--this work of imagining, “if you are an Israelite, imagine you are an Egyptian”.  And, in turn, we are invited to do the same--imaging ourselves as the individual or group with which we are in conflict...

This act of imagining ourselves as the other, this empathic imagination, allows us to feel an “an essential connection not only to our closest family, friends and community, but to humanity as a whole, and to other sentient creatures . . .”

And out of that connection, we are able to act with compassion, and work towards reconciliation and forgiveness.  Out of empathic imagination we can see our calling to work towards equity and the general welfare of all people.  

If we can imagine ourselves impoverished we work toward ending poverty; if we imagine ourselves oppressed we then find ourselves working to end oppression; if we can imagine ourselves as a parent of one lost to gun violence, we then work to end gun violence.  

Our baptismal covenant of seeking and serving Christ in all persons and honoring the dignity of every human being requires empathic imagination--we can only see Christ in another when we can imagine Christ within them.  And, if we can do so, we can see that advocating for another is advocating for Christ in the world.  Our faith asks us to make a stand against injustice and work towards the general welfare of all people BECAUSE of God’s own saving work in the world.  

And, arguably, this is what the slave has failed at in in the Gospel today...he fails to see that his own freedom demands that he do the work of freeing others.  Rather than freeing others, he uses his freedom to destroy another, and in destroying another, he destroys himself.

When the slave is unable to express compassion rooted in empathy, he finds himself imprisoned within the cycle of violence, revenge and hatred.  If you are free, imagine that you are enslaved...and then act accordingly.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes that, “ if you look deeply into your anger, you will see that the person you call your enemy is also suffering.  As soon as you see that, the capacity of accepting and having compassion for him is there. Jesus calls this “loving your enemy.”  When you are able to love your enemy, he or she is no longer your enemy.  The idea of “enemy” vanishes and is replaced by the notion of someone who is suffering and needs your compassion.”  

If we fail to recognize our shared identity, we imprison ourselves within the torture of anger, enmity and isolation which results from our own perversion of God’s grace. 
When we can replace anger with empathy, we are able to act with the compassion which emerges when we can see that the one who suffers is one of God’s creatures too.  

In the talmud (Megillah 10b), the earliest rabbinic interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures, God’s reaction to the drowning of Pharaoh’s army is stated as follows
“How can you sing as the works of my hand are drowning?”

How indeed...

Amen.

For references:
http://michaeldorf.com/seder/23.html  (a contemporary Haggadah)
http://www.overcominghateportal.org/empathic-imagination.html (an introduction to empathic imagination)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZ_ZjORYeeY Ted talk by Dr. Robin Meyers - "The Empathic Imagination: Escaping the Prison of Self"
http://www.parallax.org/living-buddha-living-christ/ Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Holy Dunderheads



Proper 18A, 2014

A few weeks ago, Mary Fred referenced the Greek word Ecclesia in her sermon.  The word Ecclesia occurs in only two places in the Gospel of Matthew--Ecclesia means “gathering” and the use of this particular word gives us some insight into the context in which the Gospel of Matthew emerged...

One in which small groups of followers of the way, of Christ, gathered together as a community---and as in any community, there emerged norms for how members of the community are to treat each other.  

Recently, a colleague referred to the dynamic of “belonging, believing and behaving” that marks community life.  And in Matthew, a Gospel whose authorship occurred during a time of regularizing the fledgling Christian community, we see woven through the text instruction as to both belief and behavior for those who participate in the Ecclesia or gathering of early Christians.  

When people claim belonging to community, it can follow then that people ascribe to roughly the same sets of belief and have norms of behavior that are meant to govern life  together.

In this case, we hear instruction for how to handle conflict within community--a process of confrontation, negotiation and adjudication.  

All with the same goal in mind--the restoration of the offender to the community.  Much of the scripture we adhere to shares this goal of reconciliation--and many of my sermons have touched on the idea that central to who we are as Christians is an identity as a reconciling people.  We are called to unity and called to reconciliation of the broken relationships amongst us and the world we live in.  

The trajectory of our liturgy EVERY SINGLE WEEK points in this direction.  We begin by reminding ourselves what we gather for--the blessing of God.  Then, we hear the story of God’s work in scripture.  We then reflect upon how the work of God continues in our own lives. Following these actions of hearing and reflecting on the story we are given the opportunity to reflect on the brokenness in our lives and then reconcile with those in our community with whom we may have broken relationship.  The peace isn’t intended as a “stretch” break or chance to catch up with friends--but as a time of saying that regardless of what has happened before we are at peace with each other.  

Then having made the point that we’ve worked towards reconciliation of broken relationships, we have the opportunity to participate in another essential symbol of our unity--the broken body of Christ manifest as bread and united again through the one body of the church.

As hymn #305 puts it, “One Body we, one Body who partake, one Church united in Communion blest; one Name we bear, one Bread of life we break, with all thy saints on earth and saints at rest.”  

Given that what we do and say, what we pray and believe, points us towards reconciliation--given this, how is it that we so often struggle with this central act of our faith?

I have heard people, often folks who have been wounded or alienated by conflict within the Christian community, point to the Church’s brokenness as a sign of the hypocrisy of Christians...that our conflicts and the manner in which we treat each other gives every indication that, those things we claim to hold sacred have no authority or bearing in the world.  

I wouldn’t necessarily suggest googling “conflict in the church” or “Christian hypocrites”, but if you were to do so you would see a search engine litany of woundedness.  

And, I wonder if part of our trouble is that we are really lousy at conflict.  We avoid it, we ignore it, we let things fester...until some crisis, some straw on the camel’s back, serves as the catalyst for explosion.  And, at that point, people walk away--disengaging completely from relationship (regardless of who was in the wrong) and the body of Christ becomes further fractured.

Or, blame is placed on one person or group...and in the scapegoating of an individual or discrete group, no one else in the community has to own their part in the conflict.  And, since the conflict doesn’t actually get dealt with through scapegoating it’s only a matter of time before conflict bubbles up again.  

Now being lousy at conflict is not new to the modern church.  And, it does not surprise me in the least that in some of these earliest texts of our tradition we see the community--the gathered people, the ecclesia--being instructed in how to deal with conflict.  It seems right and fitting that as the community wrestled with what it meant to actually be in community, we see emerging rules of life for community.  The ordering and structuring of the ecclesia intended to perpetuate the community as a place where Christ is made manifest in the actions of Christ’s body on earth. And, because we are people making manifest God’s will in the world--well, we aren’t going to get it right all the time.  I mean, really, if you want to see a bunch of dunderheads messing things up, take a look at the disciples.  Scripture doesn’t hold up the disciples as perfect--it holds them up as people.  This is critical to me, because in their imperfection we can see that God calls each and every one of us--not just the best, not just the perfect (as if there were such a person!).  And out of our imperfection comes the potential for transformation and affecting change in the world we live in.  

In our brokenness, we as Christian community are given the opportunity to model how God calls us to be in relationship.  We are given the chance to teach the world what peaceful reconciliation can look like.  If we can shine light on our conflicts, we are then able to shine light on what we do about them--or as those who’ve made their work that of teaching parenting would put it, kids who see the beginning of an argument ought to see the end of the argument as well.  Because, in seeing how grown-ups in healthy relationships handle conflict, they will learn how to handle conflict.  

Times of transition can be times when the uncertainty and anxiety of change lead to conflict.  As you know, the transition team is currently requesting that members of this community participate in the online survey they are conduction as well as attend one of the various listening sessions being offered.
  
And, as this process of discernment continues, I would encourage us to consider how we are called to be in relationship a reconciled and reconciling people.  I would encourage patience and an intentional focus on the work we are called to do in the world--because if we remember that we share a goal to make God’s love manifest to the world, perhaps we can be more forgiving when our attempts fall short.  



   







Saturday, August 30, 2014

Proper 17A, 2014 St. Clement's "The Name"


If they ask me what is his name, what shall I say to them?

In so many ways, this sentence sums up the preacher’s dilemma.  If they ask me what his name is, what shall I say to them?

It can be so hard to name God in this world we live in.  

Searching and stumbling over language and rite...seeing God everywhere and nowhere, in everything and nothing.  Filling the God shaped hole in our lives and our world with version after version.   

The rendition with graying beard and booming voice--John Huston and Charleton Heston.  The countercultural version--Alanis Morrisette in Dogma.  Genial and buddy like, Morgan Freeman in Bruce the Almighty.  Crabby and fed up with all of us, George Burns.  British and therefore droll--making an appearance in all of the Monty Python films.  

If they ask me what is his name?  What shall I say to them?

Each week, trying to paint another picture, tell another story, sing another song, evoke another memory.

Using the tools we have of art, and scripture, of music and verse, of architecture and words, or prayer and presence.  

Countering in some cases, and perhaps affirming in others, the variations on the names we give God.  

Names we learned in childhood, new names given as our lives have changed.

As we gain new metaphors for the I AM WHO I AM.

Pronouns, descriptors, adjectives and expletives.  

If they ask me what is his name?  What shall I say to them?

God the sender.

I AM has sent me to you.

God the foundation.

I AM.

Before and after the beginning and the end.  All time and unbound by time.  

I will be with you.

A companion on the journey, constant and encompassing.  Leading the people on the journey of liberation.  I know their sufferings.

God the sympathizer and the liberator.  The One who prepares a place for us.

The God of your ancestors.

God who reminds us and calls us to acts of remembering.  God who tells stories in a litany of names.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.  And, in those stories, a people are reminded who they are and the promises they’ve inherited.  

God made manifest in unique encounters, each to each.  

There is a Jewish story which teaches that when God gave the Torah to Israel it was like a mirror.  And, like a mirror, anyone looking into the Torah finds his or her own image reflected back.  

When we read scripture, we see ourselves.  We see ourselves because our only frame of reference is our lives and the context in which our lives can be found. 

What a notion, that we might name God out of our own experiences and places.  Our own understanding of who we are and what we yearn for.  In Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso’s boo “In God’s Name” the soldier yearning for peace calls God the maker of peace; the lonely child calls God friend. 

And, what an interesting way to approach scripture--understanding it as a mirror of our yearnings and our identities.

Did Moses yearn to be seen by the Israelites as one of them?  Did this man, raised with privilege within the Egyptian court long to be known as a Jew?  When God refers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, does Moses understand that these are HIS ancestors too?

Did Paul’s litany of how to live as a follower of Christ emerge from his past as a persecutor?  Did he cling so tightly to what is good because he had clung so tightly to what was not?  

Did Peter’s desperation to save his friend from the pain and suffering to come, emerge out of his own fear of pain and suffering?  When Peter pins all his hopes on Christ, does he see only his hope and not his friend and the truth Christ brings?  

Peter had been taught that the messiah would come in triumph and Jesus’ insistence that this will not be the case does not reflect Peter’s understanding of who God is as a triumphant liberator--that the messiah comes in triumph masks his ability to understand that this Messiah will die to rise again.  
Moses, Peter and Paul--serving the I AM WHO I AM.  

In Sandy Sasso’s book The Name of God, the people begin to argue over whose name for God is the right name.  

But, if the name we give God is reflected out of our own life--wouldn’t such an argument over the image of God be an argument that only a certain person can lay claim to being made in God’s image.  

Wouldn’t that then be a repudiation of creation--of the idea that humankind is made in the Image of God?  All humanity made in the image, all names carrying the validity of the creator...

Sophistry perhaps.

But, I wonder...  

If that is perhaps the power of the website “Humans of New York” in which a photographer, Brandon Stanton, takes informal portraits of anyone who allows it--and asks a simple question.  “What was your proudest moment?”, “What’s the saddest thing that ever happened to you?”.  The folks who fill his frame aren’t “anybody” in particular--no fame, no notoriety--but, their honest answers strike chords and people comment by the thousands on these photos.  In the photographer’s most recent work, he’s taken his camera to places such as Iraq, Uganda and Kenya.

And, as he gives voice to those we’d otherwise never know or notice, the replies roll in...

“Tell me where to send money so that she can go to school; I have connections there, I would like to help him find a job; God bless you friend; I am a father too; my mother, she worked three jobs, I know what that is like”

People share their stories.

Some of the stories are of rejoicing and others of brokenness.

But, the stories are shared.  

In the work of Humans of New York I can see that burdens that are revealed are lightened for the telling, the weight lifted by a willing shoulder, the valley of the shadow of death reveals companions on the journey and there are constant offers to share out of abundance to those in need.

If they ask me what is his name, what shall I say?

Father, mother, friend, daughter, son, creator, redeemer, forgiver, divine, human...

Seeking and serving Christ in all persons--seeing God’s image in each face.  I would argue that what those who comment on the photographer’s work are so often responding too the Christ they’ve glimpsed in another’s face.  And, in that glimpse of the divine we see our shared humanity, shared brokenness, shared resilience. 

Take up your cross and follow me.

Moses, Paul, Peter...they were sent in order to follow.  They picked up burdens and proclaimed new truths.

All in obedience

To a name.  I AM WHO I AM

And, now I wonder,

If they ask you what his name is, What shall you say to them?







Saturday, July 26, 2014

Proper 12A, Sighs Too Deep for Words


When Paul authored the letter to the Romans, he addressed a community which contained a large number of both Jewish and Gentile Christians.  And, as this community sought to live into the way of Jesus, it is theorized that there was significant conflict.  We get hints of this when Paul uses the language of calling to describe the gathered community, when Paul reminds them that they are called according to God’s purpose (and not their own), when Paul makes clear that they are not to accuse, nor are they to condemn--because such is not the way of God.  Thematically, Paul reminds the community again and again of God’s impartiality--and in this he argues for the full inclusion of all.  

And, then speaking to this factionalized communities need for reconciliation, Paul theologizes around a truth of shared brokenness--brokenness between each other and between us and God.  

I have spent a great deal of time considering this brokenness over the last two weeks.  At the conclusion of last Sunday’s sermon, I encouraged people to read the paper (yes, in church) and then spend time in silent prayer for the hurting places in the world.  When I read the propers for today, I was struck that last week when I encouraged this silent prayer I was not thinking of Paul’s description of “sighs too deep for words” nor was I thinking of the importance and centrality of recognizing our shared brokenness in the work of reconciliation.  

That sense of helplessness when we see another's tragedy and feel we can do nothing to correct or influence the outcome...and out of our exhaustion and the deepest part of our being we sigh...

Sighs too deep for words...

Sometimes the being there is enough with these sighs too deep for words.  Expressing our fellowship, our empathy, grounded in shared grief and understanding

When I worked as a pediatric chaplain, I saw this fellowship.  Parents who shared nothing but adjoining hospital rooms and the experience of a sick child found themselves friends--offering support through the long nights and compassion during the long days.  

While the majority of the patients I worked with identified as Christian, there were times when I was called for people of other faiths.  As a renowned Children’s hospital, we often had patients from other countries.  Usually, these children arrived accompanied by their mother--leaving the rest of the family at home.  These moms rarely spoke English and I can only imagine how frightening and isolating the experience of being reliant upon a translator was.  In the case of women from the Middle East, the interpreter was an Arabic speaking volunteer from a local mosque.  A kind and compassionate man, I had great respect for the care he provided--but, given the reality that he was a volunteer, there were times when it could take awhile for him to get to the hospital.  

So, one day, I was called to the room of a very sick child whose mother spoke only Arabic.  She was clearly frightened and I remember seeing her and thinking of how very alone she must have felt.  

And so, I joined her in the window well seating area immediately outside her child’s room.  She wore a hijab, the traditional scarf worn by Muslim women, and I wore my clericals--black shirt and white collar.  She was literally shaking as she wept and while I waited with her, I used the only Arabic I knew... 

Insh’allah, insh’allah, I said.  

I invoked God's blessing and will, insh’allah.  And, then when I did not know how to pray as I ought, I remained silent...

There were no other words but tears and sighs.  She clutched my hand and with the only words I could speak spoken...we sat--two women worried over a child, forgetting all that might divide us.  

Sighs too deep for words.

As I ponder these moments of empathetic intimacy, I consider the publicity drawn when those who culture deems enemies engage in what seem to be extraordinary acts of forgiveness.  

The father of a slain college student meeting with the father of his son's killer--sharing in the pain of losing a son--and out of their pain calling for reformation of gun laws.  

Stories of Israelis attending the funerals of Palestinian children.  And of Palestinians offering their condolences to grieving Israeli parents.  In a recent National Public Radio interview of a Palestinian child, the interviewer asked the child if he wanted the Israeli children to suffer too.  The child, in great seriousness, said, and I paraphrase, “no, they are children like me, they do not want this and they have not caused this--my mother says they are frightened too”.

Mutuality emerges, I did not wish that for them.  I do not wish this for me.

When those separated by culture, by tradition, by war, by history, by death and by vengeance are united in the grieving, in their shared experience of brokenness, reconciliation can happen.

Brene Brown, a social worker who has studied vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame speaks of the importance of leaning into the discomfort of making ourselves vulnerable because, ”connection is why we are here, it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives...the ability to feel connected is neurobiologically how we are wired and why we are here...[but, just as] when we ask people about love they tell you about heartbreak, when you ask them about connection they tell you about disconnection...in order for connection to happen we have to make ourselves open to being really seen”.  

And, I would add, that for reconciliation and new connection to happen, we have to be open to really seeing.   

When we make ourselves vulnerable in shared presence and shared pain we bring into the experience the grace and love of the kingdom of God.  Brene Brown writes that those who feel love and belonging feel themselves worthy of love and belonging--in this passage from Romans we are reminded most vehemently that God considers us worthy of love and belonging.  

With no partiality, with a uniting Spirit interceding in our human brokenness--we receive the gift of abundant grace from a God who loves us as we are.  In our brokenness and in our wholeness, in our sighs and in our breath--we are loved and we belong.  

Paul is adamant that, no matter how broken we may be, God’s love is fundamental and unbreakable.  God’s grace is radical.  God’s grace is victorious, God’s grace is all-encompassing--for as Paul writes,

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

I am convinced that neither death nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And in this, 

God's grace, like the mustard seed

God's grace like the leaven

We will always have grace enough

This grace, which is our treasure, this grace abundant...

Even in those moments of sighs too deep for words

Perhaps especially in those moments of sighs too deep for words.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Proper 11A, Being a Blessing in a Heart Rending World


The pervasive feeling of helplessness that I’ve been experiencing this week has been frustrating and heart breaking.  

As I read the news, the strong sense that history repeats itself, that our culture has learned nothing about help for the helpless, that children matter less than acts of revenge and that children seeking sanctuary are denied safe shelter, that taking a stand becomes more important than acting with mercy.  

For awhile this week I tried to ignore it.  

I googled "Minnesota refugee children", and when I found nothing I thought, well this situation, this situation is not relevant to us in the far reaches of the north.

(And, don’t deny it, even Southern Minnesota sits in the far reaches of the North!)  

But, then, letters appeared in my newsfeed from the Episcopal Public Policy Network requesting advocacy on the part of children and refugees.

Then, I read the essay by the President of the House of Deputies in which she reminds us that Jesus was an infant fleeing violence in his place of birth.  

A friend and colleague posts a picture she took in the Garden of Gethsemane on her recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

And, moments later a picture of a Palestinian hospital destroyed by bombs.

And, then, and then...

Brokenness leading to more brokenness.  

And, the lamentations of the psalms comes to mind, “how long O Lord, how long?”

And, I got stuck in that place of lamenting, seeing no way out...and the scripture appointed for today irrelevant to the pain of the world.

But, in the midst of this seemingly inescapable litany of tragedy this week,

I read an interview with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams in which he references theologian Karl Barth in his charge to any potential Archbishop,

'You have to preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other'."You have to be cross-referencing all the time and saying 'How does the vision of humanity and community that's put before us in the Bible map onto these issues of poverty, privation, violence and conflict?' And you have to use what you read in the newspaper to prompt and direct the questions that you put to the Bible: 'Where is this going to help me?'

So, I charged myself with this task this week, looking at the scripture appointed for today and listening, listening to what it says as I hold this newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other.  

And, this is what I heard...

We are a people called to be IN the world.  When I speak of faith as a verb, when we leave this place we are reminded to serve the Lord.

And, as much as I want to filter away the broken bits and focus instead on the good and the whole and the holy.

If I pretend the broken does not exist I lose the opportunity to be part of the healing.  As Christians, we are charged with bringing the good and the whole and the holy to this broken world we live in--to bring reconciliation, to bring peace, to embrace mercy.

The act of making whole what has been broken...the work of reconciliation lays before us.

So holding the Bible in one hand...

In Jacob’s encounter with God, he is told that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and your offspring”.  

Will we, the people of St. Clement’s, be a blessing to all the families of the earth--regardless of race, nation, creed or class?  Will we as a community advocate for the marginalized, will we lend voice to the voiceless?  

Will people look upon us and see us as a blessing, will we exist as the hope of creation? 

For as Paul writes, “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God”.

As we work towards God’s kingdom--the indwelling grace and love made manifest through our efforts--will we be the children creation longs for?  

As ice melts, as sea levels rise, will we be careful stewards of this longing creation?  Will we bring healing to the earth?  Will we raise awareness of the reality that the earth carries the burden of our lives and lifestyles?  Will we seek change for the good of all creation?  

Will we grow ever closer to the God of all and claim our place as children of the kingdom?  Children of the kingdom spread out throughout the world--concerning ourselves with the work of creation rather than destruction.  
And, when we let go of destruction can we then nourish weed and wheat together, knowing that if we seek to destroy that which we deem evil we will also destroy that which we deem good?

Scholars note that the weed to which this passage refers looked much like growing wheat.  So, if the weed was pulled up there was risk of pulling the wheat as well.  
And thus in the terms of this parable, in taking revenge and exacting judgment we risk destroying ourselves.  

Will we work for peace in the world and counter evil with mercy?  Will we see Christ in every human being and mourn each one dead as our own? 

Holding the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other...

Our stories.  These are our stories.  This is the world we live in.  And, in just these few words of scripture today--we are reminded that we are called to be a blessing, we are called to set creation free from bondage, we are called to nourish and not to judge and we are called to trust in the ever present God of creation--knowing God’s presence at all times and in all things.

To quote again, Archbishop Rowan Williams, 'How does the vision of humanity and community that's put before us in the Bible map onto these issues of poverty, privation, violence and conflict?'

In your pew you will find newspapers alongside your pew Bibles (and if you read the news on your smartphone feel free to pull up your newsfeed now).  I invite you to take some time to notice some story, some piece of the world’s brokenness and then in the silence that follows...

Take some time to pray upon the truth that we are a people called to the work of reconciliation.