Proper 11, Year A
The Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector, St. Paul’s Brunswick
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.
As a millennial growing up in the 90s I had the esteemed privilege of having access to some amazing TV programming. I remember when we got cable and life seemed to change in an instant. All of a sudden we were connected to the world in a new way. Perhaps one of the favorite programming blocks in my home was Nick at Night. This channel geared towards kids during the day became a haven in the evening for those seeking reruns from classics like, Happy Days, Lavern and Sherily, The Jeffersons and more. My mom would light up as she recalled seeing these reruns air the first time… trying her best not to spill the beans and spoil what was to come in the episode for me and my brother, Matt.
I’ll be honest there were two things that really drew me into these “oldies”. The clothes, I mean who doesn’t love a poodle skirt or long for their initials to be on their cardigans?! And the theme songs. They really don’t make theme songs like that any more. One of my favorites, that has become a regular spoken word exchange between my mom and I, was the theme song for The Facts of Life. “You take the good, you take the bad, you take ‘em both and there you have… the facts of life, the facts of life.” I think, even at the ripe old age of eight, I really got the depth of truth in this line. Life is both beautiful and messy… life has things that are both good and bad… life… and people… are more than one thing. While this song is seated in the division of good and bad…and life certainly has many shades of grey, I still find it a helpful reminder of all that life and people are.
And this week’s scripture lessons from Genesis and Matthew drive this truth home for me in new and fresh ways. We find ourselves journeying with Jacob as he flees his home. He has just played a part in stealing his older brother’s birthright. Let us not forget his dad is Isaac the promised child of Abraham and Sara, so stealing this particular birthright is no small thing. In fact, “Jacob’s flight from the southern city of Beer Sheba to the northern city of Haran seems to reverse the celebrated journey of his grandparents Abraham and Sarah, who traveled in faith from their homeland in Haran to the land that God promised their descendants” (workingpreacher.org).
Yet, even as he flees, knowing he and his mother have just swindled his brother and father, again no small thing in the context of ancient Hebrew life, God still chooses to reveal God’s intimate presence to him by way of this spectacular dream. We are reminded through this vivid encounter of the unexpectedness of God… the God who loves us and is with us no matter what. As the Facts of Life theme song plays in my head alongside this image of “Jacob’s Ladder”, this movement between sky and earth, I am reminded that even in our mistakes and side steps God can still use us… God is not done with us. Jacob is complex, afterall he is indeed human (Theological Bible Commentary, 20).
And God doesn’t just show up in this big and powerful way to Jacob, God extends all of the same promises that were extended to Abraham (Theological Bible Commentary, 20). One writer notes that, “Ordinary people are the means for God’s widespread blessing. God announces that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring” (Genesis 28:14). Earlier Esau (Jacob’s older brother) protests, “Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!” and weeps in frustration at being excluded (Genesis 27:38). The coveted blessing that destroys this family is countered with God’s alternative vision. Rather than a limited blessing won through defeat and humiliation of others, God extends a prodigal blessing to all the families of the earth through Jacob and his descendants.” (workingpreaching.org). God takes the good, and takes the bad… and makes life abundant and new for us all by way of Jacob. Jacob who later wrestles with an angel of God and becomes Israel… it is from his twelve children that the Isrealite nation is born (Theological Bible Commentary,20).
Our exploration of what God does in the midst of the good and the bad doesn’t stop with Jacob. This week in Matthew Jesus gifts us with the parable of the wheat and the weeds. For hundreds of years the church has interpreted this story in a way that tends to seat us in an “us and them” mentality (workingpreacher.org). As we see our nation settle more deeply into extreme binaries of what is perceived as good or bad I find myself deeply weary of this particular reading of this parable.
In talking with one of my life’s great sages, my husband Phil, I was brought to another way of experiencing this text. I’d love to invite us all to try on this perspective that may move us into a new direction. What if we, people, aren’t the wheat or the weeds? What if we are the field? The place where both the wheat and weeds grow together. What does it mean to extend this idea of taking the good and the bad and examine our own spirits and lives?
We know that for now, before the harvest, the wheat and weeds are to grow together. That our job is not necessarily in the reaping but in the sowing and noticing of what is growing in us. Noticing how the good and bad inform one another. Noticing what seeds are intentionally sown and what are the ones that have crept into our hearts?
Jesus tells us by way of the farmer that we will not be the ones to solely cast out our own weeds… but we are the ones to take stock of them. To see where they are choking the growth, and where they are forcing our growth in ways that might uproot parts of us if they are pulled from the wheat. How might we all become more aware of the weeds we are living with in our lives? And … how might we hold fast to the truth that as with Jacob and the wheat and weeds… God’s goodness is growing too?
Here’s the good news today, friends. With Jacob we are shown that even in the messy beauty of our humanity God shows up, makes promises, and continues to use us. With the wheat and the weeds we are given the invitation to self examine and trust that while it is not yet harvest time, things are still growing. God is still at work even when the weeds are in the midst of the wheat.
So, we take the good, we take the bad, we take them both… and call God into our lives to transform us. Knowing we are more than one thing. Knowing we are called to dream widely and inherit the promise of Jacob. Knowing that we are a field that is growing, and that in the harvest Jesus will help us to gather the weeds of our hearts and cast them out. So, how might you dream widley with God, examine the field of your heart, and notice that God is not done transforming you yet?