Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 23 July 2017, Proper 11
Year A, RCL: Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Like last Sunday, today Jesus gives us seeds to munch on mentally – food for thought.
As we ponder life now & how it will be in the future when the righteous shine like the sun, know this: God is active in our lives, even when we do not know it. God is active at this altar, even when we do not sense it.
Like the ladder in Jacob’s dream, our 1st lesson points us to this truth: as we reach for God, God reaches for us, [actually God reaches for us first]. We reach out to each other. Often God reaches for us through others.
Our Gospel today points us to the truth: Like Jacob, we are a mix of good & ill, wheat & weeds1, yet, God loves us, God loves you. God’s wisdom is beyond our comprehension. God’s holy & whole perspective sees beyond our perspective.
Both stories today point us to God's total trustworthiness to accomplish God’s purposes for us & for all God’s creation, of which we are integral & dependent parts.
As one Bible commentary says2, God’s patience “is a strategy” of restraint, not vague, but wise & intentional & differs from our impatient, quick-fix world, which wants a lifetime guarantee. Jacob’s story reminds us our quick-fix is not unique to our time & place. Like the slaves in Jesus’ parable, we want to pull up weeds now to fix the problem as we see it. We want a sure thing.
We see this in Jeremiah 44, which we focused on at Friday's fascinating Bible study3. Women exiled to Egypt worship God & a female goddess as extra “life insurance”. This reminds me of the political savvy of Samaritans, who live today in Israel.
In his book, The Year of Living Biblically, which we will startstudying in September, A.J. Jacobs notes Samaritans are neither Israelis nor Palestinians & “feel slightly out of place...[& try to] remain friendly with both sides...[to] dodge the political raindrops.”4
Jacob, in our 1st lesson, wants to avoid the unknown dropping on him & takes matters into his own hands to guarantee life will work to suit him. As we learned last Sunday, Jacob has cheated & lied to get what he wants. Now he's on the run.
Despite all his faults, Jacob intentionally seeks an encounter with God. He does what was common in his day: stops for the night at an old shrine, hoping to encounter God in a dream. He takes a stone from the wall & lies down, putting the stone at his head as a quick, handy weapon & protection from a wild animal.5
Jacob sleeps. God speaks in his dream so Jacob hears for himself God’s promise & blessing of land & posterity.6 God promises more: to be with Jacob in his travels & to bring him back to the land from which he flees.
Notice: God gives us more than we ask, more than we deserve. God refrains from giving us what we deserve. We know God blesses Jacob, & we hear this in Jesus' words about wheat & weeds.
Jesus’ parable tells us God’s timing & perspective are different from ours: Don’t get rid of the weeds. You'll hurt the good plants.
We can't see clearly to pull out the weeds & to see God’s big picture.
If you plant a vegetable garden & discover poison ivy in it, do you let it grow? [Answers: pull them out.] If we see poison ivy, we see a big problem:
Weeds with a capital W for Wicked!
God sees differently.
God knows poison ivy provides food to more than 60 species of birds.7 God knows the details in God’s creation. God knows the details in all parts of our lives.
God is in the details in our lives. We aren’t always aware God is here. Like Jacob stopping for the night at the shrine, we expect – or hope – to encounter God in this place. We expect God at our altar. Our altar may be one of those thin places where we encounter God . . . . if we stay aware.
How many other places have you encountered God & not known it? How many times have you sensed God’s presence & been too busy to stop? God is polite & does not force us to recognize God’s presence.
We do not always recognize God immediately. Sometimes it sinks in later. Notice: Jacob sleeps through this encounter. He awakes, it sinks in & he responds with awe, then fear, then action:
He proclaims awe,
declares it really is a holy place,
& renames it to emphasize this reality.
When we are slow to respond to our encounter, God – in God’s intentional strategy of patience – does more than bide time. God is busy, patiently at work in us & with us in God’s work to redeem the whole of God’s creation.8 God is at work waiting for wheat & weeds to grow.
Despite his faults, Jacob – that liar & cheat – purposefully seeks an encounter with God. Can we do less?
Despite our faults, we boldly & gratefully gather at this holy table. At this table we proclaim we worship the God of our Fathers:
Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob.
Notice: We claim Jacob,
that mix of wheat & weeds,
as one of our forefathers in our faith.
Eastman, John. The Book of Forest and Thicket: Trees, Shrubs, and Wildflowers of Eastern North America. Stackpole Books. Mechanicksburg, PA: 1992. ISBN 0-8117-3046-8.
Education for Ministry: Year 1 The Old Testament. 4th Ed. Revised 2006. Gen. Ed: Patricia Bays. Chapter 10. Pages 137-45.
Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary Year A. Vol. 3. Eds: David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 2011.
Freeman, Lindsay Hardin. Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. Forward Movement. USA: 2016.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2007.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation.New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
“Opening the Book of Nature” class notes. School of Theology, The University of the South, Sewanee, TN. Advanced Degrees Program. Summer 2011.
1 Feasting on the Word. Year A, Vol. 3. P. 263.
3 Freeman, Lindsay Hardin. Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. Pp. 295-300.
4 Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as
Literally as Possible. P. 217.
5 Education for Ministry Year 1. P. 143.
6 Ibid. P. 144.
7 The Book of Forest and Thicket. Eastman, John.
8 Feasting. P. 263.