This past Sunday I changed the direction for my sermon when the news came out that the Florida State Board of Education had issued guidelines for teaching social studies. It included such nonsensical and egregious ideas as talking about slavery with ideas that included slaves learned skills that could help them later in life. Also, when talking about massacres of black people in the state of Florida (and there were some), the teaching would say blacks attacked or wounded white people. In the State of Virginia, the Governor issued guidelines for education that targeted transgender youth. The Lectionary was Jesus’ parable about the Wheat and the Weeds.
The suggestion was made that I use that sermon for this weekday meditation. I considered it, but since it is posted on the church’s website, I knew anyone interested could access it there.
Instead, I thought I would address another request. Someone said they agreed with everything I had said, but they also wished they could hear the sermon that was not written – “We Are In This Together”. The parable itself is found in the 13th Chapter of Matthew. The idea I was pondering was, “How do we live together when we are so painfully divided?”
Here are a few random thoughts.
1. The person to whom I was speaking suggested we need to get to know one another, get out of our own “bubble” and make the effort to understand one another. What hurt is so strong that these destructive thoughts are a logical solution?
2. These are some thoughts by The Rev. Sherry Warren who serves as Minister for Women and Gender Justice for the National Setting of the UCC.
“The imagery of dandelions is in the forefront of my mind. A weed that most are familiar with, that children and bees delight in, and many who want a manicured monoculture of grass abhor.
There is a contemporary movement No Mow May that asks people in the northern hemisphere to forgo mowing so as to let the dandelions bloom and feed the bees who are waking from their slumber and are in need of nectar to sustain themselves until other blossoms are available. This is causing some conflict in some neighborhoods and with HOAs, as people who like perfectly manicured monocultural lawns are irritated by unkempt yards of grass with dandelions raising their sunshine yellow heads as maturation to seed sweeps across the suburban landscape. Many people turn to poison to keep these interlopers that feed the bees and aerate the soil out of the vision of their perfect lawn.
I liken this to the many ways we poison our communities whenever anyone or anything does not meet the vision that has been laid out by individuals, committees, or entire neighborhoods. Is there room for the dandelions to grow among the grasses? Is there room for different colors of homes, different customs of peoples, different visions of what makes community among God’s people?
The parable of the weeds as explained by Jesus would indicate that there are not, yet we know that a healthy ecosystem is made of many different organisms together, finding a balance in which most can get at least some of their needs met. The bees do not starve, the dandelion does not perish as a species, the dirt does not compact into such hardpan as to sustain nothing, but only if we allow for there to be some weeds that mature to perpetuate their kind. I challenge us all to look beyond the green lawn with nary a blade of crabgrass or gray-headed puff of a dandelion orb to consider the great breadth of plant life or bug life and see if our vision has room for weeds to grow among the grass, as the landowner-farmer understood weeds to grow among the wheat. This does not mean we must tolerate or fertilize evil among our crops, but rather allow some time to let nature take its course and provide a growing medium for all that need it. Weeds are often referred to as plants in the wrong place. Perhaps evil among humans is another characteristic or behavior misplaced. Perhaps welcoming the weeds will provide a more robust ecosystem and a less monocultural body of Christ.”
3. I have begun reading a book called “The Wife of Bath, a Biography”, based on Chaucer’s writing about the wife of Bath in Canterbury Tales. In it, the author suggests a literary function of this ancient tale includes inviting the reader into the story. Inviting the reader to imagine what it would be like to be this character. We need to envision the stories of others before we decide the solutions. The author quotes Georges Duby, a historian of the Middle Ages: “human beings do not orient their behavior toward real events or circumstances, but rather to their image of them.”
4. We are in this together – wheat and weeds. And although we might think we are healthy wheat plants, we may well be doing more damage than good. Thanks be to God that the judgement comes from One who loves us unconditionally instead of from ourselves.