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July 17, 2005 (Sunday 16 · Time after Pentecost)

Webmaster's Note: Before this Sunday's sermon, two youth of the congregation, Kyra Ann Takamiya and Karyn Castro, shared their faith statements. They will be confirmed during worship on July 24.

Intern Pastor Katy Grindberg

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

Brothers and sisters, grace and peace to you from God our loving creator and from Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

The parable this morning from the gospel, the wheat and the tares, has been taken many ways. For some it is uncomfortable. It is a judgment parable, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth as people are cast into the outer darkness. Now, to some, this may seem like good news. "Those people" will get their due. That is one way to take this parable. As a charge to get busy helping God decide who is "in" and "out" of the kingdom. It is the wrong way to take the parable--we are told as much in the "key" to the parable that Jesus shares with his disciples when they ask for further explanation.

We are the slaves (in some translations, the servants) and it is not up to us to separate. Instead, we are told to leave it alone. It is pretty much a great big "mind your own business" from God. You worry about your business, God tells us, and it is possible to take that as, "OK, God--you do your thing, I will do mine--see you on judgment day." Also the wrong way to take this parable.

Certainly, in the parable, the master does tell the servant to leave the "weeding" to him--the master will handle it when it is time. But, the master does not tell the servants to go up to the porch, sit in the hammock with a Mai Tai and take the rest of their lives off. If you have ever been on a farm, you know that there is much more to do on a farm than just weeding. So it is with us in the world--there is a lot more to do, more productive ways of spending your time, even, than sitting around deciding who is in and who is out.

We, who are confident of our own "wheat-ness", could get much satisfaction out of finding the weeds and separating the out, and casting them out. But, Jesus reminds that we cannot tell the difference. And who among us, this gathering field of "wheat" who is not also a weed. Who is able to "love the lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul." I certainly can't. Who is able to "love your neighbor as yourself?" Sometimes I can't even love myself, let alone other people.

What do we do then? We certainly do live in a weedy world. I was listening to NPR yesterday, to the updates on the suicide bombings--the attacks in London, the myriad of attacks in Iraq. When did we quit being shocked by the phrase "suicide bomber" and just begin to accept it as part of how the world is now? But that is exactly why we are called to be about our business--you have good news to share with the world! As Kyra and Karen reminded us, the good news is that Jesus came for everyone, that God's love is for all. You, who have been washed in the waters of baptism, who are fed at Jesus' table of mercy, you have good news to share. Having that knowledge, that faith, how could you not want to share it? I'm not advocated a new crusade, but there are lonely, desperate people among us. And while they may not be at the point of wrapping a bomb around themselves and killing scores of people along with themselves, they need to hear this word of God's love and acceptance. There are people imprisoned by life's circumstances, or their own fears that could use this good news to open the door of the cell they are locked in.

Who else will bring the good news of the kingdom to the world, if not the servants, if not you? How do you do that, how do you share the good news?

Like Kyra, I just returned from the youth gathering in Seattle. Close to 2000 teens, and very tired adult counselors, from Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, North Dakota, and Washington gathered. We were a group of 50 from Hawai'i, from three islands, who traveled together to take part.

How was the good news of God's kingdom shared in Seattle? It was shared through words--as speakers brought the love of God alive though their words and pictures of the earth and the universe, of the inner city and the country. As the teens and adults talked to each other, and heard each other's stories. It was shared through music. In cheesy camp songs, hip-hop and rap, blues and gospel, yodeling, straight up rock, West African chants and teen pop the love of God for all was proclaimed. It was shared through dance. As we attempted to follow the choreography of the hip-hop Apostle's Creed, as the conga line snaked through the gym, as the energy and love of music inspired teens and adults alike to bounce, spin and make funny hand motions, the love of God was experienced. God's love was shared through service. One day was devoted to going out into the Seattle-Tacoma metro area and providing service in a myriad of ways. We, from Hawai'i, planted trees at a nursery, did trail maintenance and removed invasive bushes from a local parkŠall in the rain. Other groups played with children, painted, served food to the homeless, and much more. God's love was shared through play. As we laughed together, and when we descended on the water park wearing our "Jesus Christ, No Ka Oi" t-shirts for six hours of fun in the sun and water. For those of you unfamiliar with the Hawaiian phrase, no ka oi means "the best."

What is God calling you to in the world? What is the tug on your heart, the voice in your head encouraging you to do? You certainly are called to do many things--to be a friend, a parent, a sibling, a helping hand, a listening ear. But, is there more? One of the presenters in Seattle was called to start a hip-hop service in an inner-city Minneapolis church. I don't know if there are any aspiring rappers out there, but what is God calling you to? When you hear the voice, or feel the tug--listen to it. Be brave to stand up in front of people and say, "This is what I believe!" Kyra and Karen can tell you that it isn't easy, but don't let that stop you. God is bigger than your fears and your suppositions of what is and isn't possible. Listen to that voice, submit to that tug, because God will surprise you, and you will be blessed beyond your imagination, and others will surely be blessed by you.

Amen.


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