Question: What if we lived our lives as if every grain of wheat was significant?
“You got some time” the young woman asked me, “I want to talk about God AGAIN.”
“My favorite subject,” I responded, “Tell me when and where.” “My place,” she said, “Before lunch.”
“So here’s my pain,” she began, “I have a friend who’s always thanking God for blessings, like her newborn baby, her new house, and her husband’s new job.
But sometimes I wonder if God constantly meddles in the lives of people—reaches in and gives us this and that sometimes—suddenly throwing people something they want and then ignoring them at other times. I also wonder if money really is a blessing. I mean, the more I struggle with less the closer I live to God; depend on God. The more I succeed, the less I focus on God and the more I focus on success. Do you understand what I am asking? Sometimes I find myself thinking that struggling financially is the blessing and that rolling in money isn’t the blessing, and that a smaller home is more in line with God than a large home. Sometimes I can’t detect if the old job I left was “worse” than the new job I have now. It’s so hard to understand God—how God works and what God wants—what’s God and what’s not. Maybe it’s ALL God, and maybe God doesn’t think in terms of good and bad. Perhaps God simply wants a relationship and for me to get involved in making the world a better place and all that I experience is simply keeps one foot in God and the other in the neighborhood; neither good nor bad. Am I making any sense?”
Have you ever “wondered’ the same “wonder” that this young woman shared with me?
I certainly have. When I was younger I used to think that I was progressing in some sort of organized fashion towards a goal that I’ll call the “right” relationship or the “right” job. But I don’t think that way anymore. Instead of climbing the fictional ladder of success what I am beginning to understand is that I’m caught up in a whirlwind, a vortex, a tornado that’s not good or bad, right or wrong, or up or down. Instead the circular motion keeps introducing me to the same themes:
Faith in God to Act
Round and round I go. I didn’t create the whirlwind—my job is to be aware of it and to listen to it. In every relationship and through every work experience I am aware that God is desiring a willingness in me to let go of old patterns of responding to God and neighbor and to embrace whatever truth God is inviting me to understand in the moment. Truth; wisdom.
For example, does forgiveness occupy a different space in your life NOW than when you were nine years old? Does your neighbor? Does God?
In his book Falling Upward, Father Richard Rohr reminds his reading audience that “We belong to a Mystery far grander than our little selves and our little time. Great storytellers and spiritual teachers always know this. Remember, the opposite of rational is not always irrational, but it can also be TRANSRATIONAL or bigger than the rational mind can process; things like love, death, suffering. The merely rational mind is invariably dualistic, and divides the field of almost every moment between what it can presently understand and what it deems “wrong” or “untrue.” Because the rational mind cannot process love or suffering, for example, it tends to either avoid them, when in fact they are the greatest spiritual teachers of all, if we but allow them.”
As I sat with the young woman in her living room, and Richard Rohr’s words in his book Falling Upwards, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat—today’s scripture study. Jesus is bringing his listening audience OUT of their rational mind, which occupies a small, tight, controlled space, and into the trans-rational mind—an open and larger perspective—so that the heart, soul, and mind are free to respond to God. “Don’t uproot the weeds,” Jesus says to his listening audience, “the experiences in your life that are prickly, and cause you pain and sorrow. Let both grow up together until the harvest when God will bundle and burn the weeds and gather the wheat unto God’s self.”
What is Jesus talking about? He is talking about the big picture of a human life, which he wants us to understand is like a field, and how, to quote Rohr, “love, death, and suffering are often better teachers of God’s intimacy and character and compassion.” Where we’d prefer life of unlimited material wealth, comfort, and easy-peasy, God wisely refrains from such absurd indulgences and instead partners joy with sorrow or loss so that we can be found.”
A friend who suffered from vertigo FOR YEARS and suddenly discovered she was at the mercy of God said to me with a wink, “I had to get crooked to get straight.”
The Apostle Paul has his own take on non-dualistic thinking in Romans 8:28 when we wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
But Dana, you might be thinking, what do we do with Matthew 13:36-34. What most scholarship knows is that Jesus didn’t interpret his own parables. The point of a parable, after all, is to awaken the mind—to tease it into higher consciousness; God’s consciousness. Matthew 13:36-42 was most likely the work of the early Christian community. Its interpretation is dangerous if applied to persons as the wheat and the weeds, for it implies that people who count themselves as the wheat are to denounce the weeds—label them foul, unworthy, less-than. Why would the Savior of Humanity, who spent the biggest part of his ministry elevating the lives of the foul, the unworthy, and the less-than, who DIDN’T see people in terms of better than and less than, suddenly separate persons into categories and invite the better to beat up on the worse? It simply doesn’t add up.
What does add up is seeing our life as a field in which God, the Master Gardener, has planted a variety of experiences with at least two goals in mind: devotion (listening, loving) to God and service to our neighbor. We are not to judge our experiences, or label them. We simply are to receive our whole lives as gift. “At the end of your life,” Jesus teaches his listening audience, “God will burn or loose what is foul and collect unto God’s self what is worthy; good. God sorts things out.”
Is this Good News to you? How does it change your participation in life? Do you feel a shift in your tendency to focus on behavior instead of relationships? Does this parable allow you to live more slowly and appreciate every experience and not just a few? Does this parable awaken you to the skill of the Master Gardener?
What you and I are beginning to understand that when it comes to life it’s about the journey and the destination; the both/and and not the either/or—and that it’s all God, all good.
Let us pray: Gracious God, help us to embrace the both/and of your life in us. Help us trust your Holy Spirit as she enlarges our understanding about the amazing journey called “a life,” and about your amazing love for us. We truly are your workshop. Amen.
(Preached by Reverend Dana Keener on Sunday, July 27, 2014 at Central Christian Church in Billings, Montana.)