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Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Romans 8:12-25

I’ve been thinking about an idea that God plants weeds suggested this week in a poem* by Steve Garnaas-Holmes. I remember that we are not always in agreement about which plants are weeds. Many folks think of dandelions as weeds spending lots of time and energy ridding their lawns of them. But others remind us how important they are in the life cycle of bees. Dandelions are a great source of nectar for bees as they go about the work of fertilizing flowers and food crops. Some people eat dandelions in salad are use them and their relative chicory as a beverage. It’s not so clear what plants are weeds after all.

Folks, I’m going to tell you right not, this was not an easy week. In preparing for today, I worked a lot on this sermon, thought about the text, studied, wrote and rewrote it. Maybe there’s still more that could be done and maybe that’s the point of the reading today. Maybe we need to stop and think about what in our life is wheat or productivity, and what is weeds or distraction.

Here I am trying to be productive, or if not productive, at least faithful and all these weeds are getting in the way. The simplest tasks are overlaid with Covid concerns. Will it be safe, the distancing, the masks? Can I trust others to act responsibly? What are their values? Everything must be measured by the Covid yardstick.

I’ve been trying to plan vacation while remembering past vacations and what I had expected to do this summer. What’s out? What’s in? I think of people I hoped to see this summer, friends and family. They live in Covid hotspots. Traveling to see them is not an option. Meanwhile my social media feed tugs at my heart, offering reminders of friends and places I visited in times past. I used to say when I lived in a small Iowa town, that social media kept me connected. Now it’s not only a source of connection, but also of grief.

The constant reevaluation of risk and need translates into a lot of worry and sadness, and it’s tiring. This week’s parable led me to think of it as life as among the weeds.

What heaviness do you hold in your body and in your heart?

What weeds are in your garden threatening to choke the life out of you?

What do you mourn in this time?

When we turn to our sacred texts, we see there’s a ritual for that – lament. There’s even a form for it. Many of the psalms are words of lament. They begin with indignation, with anger, or at the very least an expression of unfairness at a world gone awry.

God, I’m angry. I can’t see the people I love.

It isn’t fair. This virus is out of control

and it’s getting on my nerves.

People debate and disagree about how to respond,  

The lack of clarity and distrust is only making it worse.

Just make it go away! Make it stop!!!

What heaviness do you hold in your body and in your heart?

What weeds are in your garden threatening to choke the life out of you?

As we gather here this morning, I know that for many of us one of the things near the top of our list of weeds is the need to do church differently right now. I hear you. I miss seeing you all in person. I’m concerned about church members, aware of their needs, and struggles, and pastoral care as I have long envisioned it is hampered by limitations on connecting in-person.

Not only that, I long for the times I’d say hello to Bob who sat at the door greeting all of us,

guests and members alike on Sunday morning. I miss the hospitality and care of the women and men who offer a cup of coffee or tea and a friendly smile and kind words. I miss the little surprises I’d find on my desk after worship when I’d find that Dolly, or Sophie, or Annette, or Sonia left a treat there, something I just had to try even if I was counting carbs and calories. I miss hearing the singing and the choir, live and in person. Miss the hugs and high fives, the handshakes and fist bumps of the adults and children who are passing the peace.

And here’s the sad part, even if we were to go back into the sanctuary next Sunday, all those things would still be missing. They are the things that are unsafe in this time. Yes, coming back together would be like pulling up the weeds in the field and finding ourselves uprooted as well, still deep in grief.

So, what can we do? What should we do? I’m not going to consider the last part of the question. I know there is a lot of debate about what we should do. And we have a team of faithful folks considering how to proceed. We know that the church has faced difficult times in the past, times when there was no clear path forward. And yet it survives. We survive. And we know that the virus we face is very contagious and serious. It is serious enough to give us pause.

Pause…… now that we CAN do. In the pause we can commit ourselves to gratitude and to hope.

That in fact is the next part of the formula of lament. You see, having expressed sorrow, lament refuses to dwell there. After anger, it moves on to remembrance. It speaks to awareness of the ways God shows up, has shown up in the past, and might yet show up again today, moving to hope in the midst of uncertainty.

We have words of encouragement from Romans today: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. …. [and] if we hope for what we do not yet have [as we most certainly do], we wait for it patiently.**

While mourning the things that are out, things that we miss, remembering God’s presence in former trials makes room for gratitude, for things previously taken for granted. It makes room for creativity reminding us of the tools we do have and can use. It commends the tools we possess as members of the body of Christ.

We begin to celebrate those who have stepped up in this time. We rejoice that shared leadership is strengthening our connections. While they cannot meet in person the choir and members of the music and worship committee meet virtually to discuss how they can bring their gifts of music and melody to worship. We all benefit from hearing the diversity of voices lead our worship.

Perhaps in the end we will celebrate how the weeds of this moment the forced solitude and separation have in fact brought us closer as we are called from week to week by members of the telephone team and as we pick up the phone ourselves and call those folks we miss seeing and spend some time in conversation. Perhaps in the end this time will lead us to imagine new ways of doing and being church. Perhaps the time of quiet has opened our eyes to matters that did not concern us in the hurried life we led before.

My friends, let’s not let the weeds get to us. What we are doing now is faithful and worthy. The connections we are making and nurturing are lifegiving and sustaining. We are reaching out, living in community, spreading the Good News one can of vegetables, one jar of peanut butter, one telephone call, and one Zoom meeting at a time. It is good and holy work we are doing. Thanks be to God. 

*Steve Garnaas-Holmes, “Weeds,” Unfolding Light,
**Romans 8: 18-19, 22, 25 NIV