“It is one thing to believe in the Incarnation as an historical event; it is another to understand, even intellectually what it means, and still another to experience the meaning in terms of everyday life and consciousness.”

                — Alan Watts – Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion [6]

The Wheat & the Weeds

 an enemy has done this

 The Gospel lessons for last Sunday, today and next Sunday are sequential parables of the Kingdom recorded by Matthew. Last Sunday we looked at the Parable of the Sower. The Word (the seed) has in it the power which brings the Kingdom. The Kingdom is not dependent on us. All we can do is respond. That is our contribution. The greatest yield per acre of soul comes to those who interfere with the word the LEAST! Next Sunday we will look at a grouping of little parables: the mustard seed, yeast hidden in flour, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl merchant and the fish net.

Today we chew on the parable of the Tares/Weeds. A man sowed good seed in his field and while everyone slept an enemy came and sowed weeds in the field. So the wheat and weeds came up together.

wheat vs tares 001What the enemy sowed among the wheat was ziziania weeds, tares — specifically darnel, Lolium te-mu-len-tum, an annual grass that, with it’s long, slender awns, or bristles, looks very much like wheat. The weeds do not effect the wheat. It is clear from the story the weeds will not effect the fruitfulness of the wheat. It is not the danger to the crop, but the inconvenience to the farmer and his servants that is the issue. The servants, who will have to do the work, naturally enough, have the most intense feelings about the inconvenience. They want to immediately rip up the weeds. The farmer, though, is able to see the big scheme and has in mind another strategy: “wait, until harvest.”

taresAs Robert Farrar Capon says, “. . . the parable says that doing nothing is, for the time being, the preferred response to evil. It insists that the mysterious, paradoxical tactic of noninterference is the only one that can be effective in the time frame within which the servants are working. Not matter that they may have plausible proposals for dealing with the menace as they see it; their very proposals, the farmer tells them, are more of a menace than anything else. To be sure, he goes on the assure them that at some later, riper time, he will indeed interfere to a fare-thee-well with his enemy’s plans.”

Jesus then explains the meaning of the parts. In this story of the Kingdom we find what all Christians know: we live in the in-between-time of already and not yet. The Kingdom has begun but the full impact of God’s reign is not yet realized. What do we do with this injunction of let the weeds and wheat grow together?

The truth is:
1. we can not always discern the real difference between good and evil.
2. the real division between good and evil is not between one person and another, but rather in EACH person. Therefore to be rid of evil now will get rid of literally everyone.
So what do we do?

parable of tares Here we encounter a deep truth of Jesus; the sort of truth which runs counter to everything we instinctively believe. It’s like the instinctive response that I had the first time I drove a car on ice and it skidded. “You know, grab the wheel and steer!” That strategy will put you in the ditch in a hurry. You have to learn to go against your first impulse and let go of the wheel. Often the car will right itself. Or in other words, our first instinct is to say, “Don’t just stand there do something!!!” But what might really be called for is what Murray Bowen used to say, “Don’t just do something stand there!!!!”

The same sort of process goes on in the Spiritual life, particularly when it comes to power. I think it was Martin Luther who coined the expression “Left handed VRS Right handed power”. Right handed power is the power of force.

I borrow again from the Parables of the Kingdom, by Robert Farrar Capon. [p. 18]

“Direct, straight-line, intervening power does, of course have many uses. With it, you can lift the spaghetti from the plate to your mouth, wipe the sauce off your slacks, carry to them to the dry cleaners, and perhaps make enough money to ransom them back. Indeed, straight-line power (“use the force you need to get the result you want”) is responsible for almost everything that happens in the world. And the beauty of it is, it works. From removing, the dust with a cloth to removing your enemy with a .45, it achieves its ends in sensible, effective, easily understood ways.

wheatgatheredintobarntaresburntinfireMatthewthirteenthirtyUnfortunately, it has a whopping limitation. If you take the view that one of the chief objects in life is to remain in loving relationships with other people, straight-line power becomes useless. Oh, admittedly you can snatch your baby boy away from the edge of a cliff and not have a broken relationship on your hands. But just try interfering with his plans for the season when he is twenty, and see what happens, especially if his chosen plans play havoc with your own. Suppose he makes unauthorized use of your car, and you use a little straight-line verbal power to scare him out of doing it again. Well and good. But suppose further that he does it again anyway – and again and again and again. What do you do best if you are committed to straight-line power? You raise your voice a little more nastily each time till you can’t shout any louder. And then you beat him (if you are stronger than he is) until you can’t beat any harder. Then you chain him to a radiator till. . . . But you see the point. At some very early crux in that difficult, personal relationship, the whole thing will be destroyed unless you — who, on any reasonable view, should be allowed to use straight-line power — simply refuse to use it; unless, in other words, you decide that instead of dishing out justifiable pain and punishment, you are willing, quite foolishly, to take a beating yourself.

wheat-and-the-tares-2But such a paradoxical exercise of power, please note, is a hundred and eighty degrees away from the straight-line variety. It is, to introduce a phrase from Luther, left-handed power. Unlike the power of the right hand (which, interestingly enough, is governed by the logical, plausibility-loving left hemisphere of the brain), left-handed power is guided by the more intuitive, open and imaginative right side of the brain.

Left-handed power, in other words, is precisely paradoxical power: power that looks for all the world like weakness, intervention that seems indistinguishable from nonintervention. More than that, it is guaranteed to stop no determined evildoers whatsoever. It might, of course, touch and soften their hearts. but then again, it might not. It certainly didn’t for Jesus; and if you decide to use it, you should be quite clear that it probably won’t for you either.
The only thing it does insure is that you will not — even after your chin has been bashed in — have make the mistake of closing any interpersonal doors from your side.”

I believe that is why Jesus instructs us “not to resist evil” or in other words to become what we are opposing. I suspect that is why God does not seem to be “intervening” in human affairs. His ways or not our ways.

In the Wheat FieldsI quote from, The Parables of Jesus, Studies in the Synoptic Gospels by Herman Hendrickx (p. 72f.)

“Our natural tendency is to identify with the master’s servants. Do they not wish to be of service to their Lord by offering to weed out the tares? For what they see in the heat is the tares. But they have lost sight of everything else; they are forgetting about the wheat shooting up among the tares. As they see it, the tares are the stronger of the two plants. . . . If they leave them alone, they will get the upper hand and choke the good wheat. The are afraid; they want to act speedily and ruthlessly: weed out those tares. in so doing, they attach less importance to their master than to the enemy. In their eyes, the enemy is stronger; what he has sown will ultimately get the upper hand; perhaps there will be no harvest at all.

Satan Sowing

Satan Sowing

But, unconsciously, they are thus siding with the enemy and acting like him: they are against him in much the same way as he is against their Master; they are attacking the tares, just as the enemy attacked the wheat. . . Therefore they are making themselves dependent on the enemy and going away from the master: ’Do you want us to go off and weed them out?’ At the heart of the parable, Are we advised to let things alone, to be free and easy? Are we dispensed from sturdy action in the world? Of course not. The parable digs deeper: it gets down to the heart of things, to our innermost being whence spring our actions and our involvement: faith or fear? Faith or the desire to be all-powerful? All depends on the way we look at the world, that field where the good wheat and the tares are intermingled. Do we regard it as the property of Another, who sows life and whose servants we are? OR do we consider ourselves to be solely responsible for our history, for History?

There is great anxiety in the culture as we face emerging issues of our day. What do we do? Do we live in faith or fear? As Jesus said, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Relax, we are not ultimately responsible, because we are not God. We become willful and anxious when we begin to think we have to be God. God is all knowing, all powerful, and without limit. We are not all knowing, all powerful, and we are limited. When we become willful we are motivated by anxiety and fear, not faith!!! We are called to be faithful, not willing people to be different than they are and then using a little body English and straight line power on them if they don’t change to suit us.

Some things just can’t be willed.

You can will eating — but not hunger
You can will drinking — but not thirst
You can will closeness — but not intimacy
You can will fear — but not respect.
You can will church attendance — but not worship

angels reap at the end of the ageYou can not will love. It just doesn’t work that way.
You cannot will hate either. That’s what the cross teaches us.

God calls us to grow up and mature. Maturity is the most important issue in life: taking personal responsibility for our own emotional being and destiny. Our part of the in-between-time dance is to love God, and proclaim God’s love to each other and creation. We are not called to weed control. The wheat and the weeds grow together and we can’t tell the difference yet. A weed may turn out to be wheat and what we thought was wheat may not be after all.

We are called to live and love in that tension.  It is a tension of grace!!  Amen.

Quote

Lancelot andrewes

Tomb of Lancelot Andrewes – Southwark Cathederal, London UK

“One canon, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the series of the Fathers in that period determine the boundaries of our faith.”

~ Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

Why I Don’t Believe in Grace Anymore

Why I Don’t Believe in Grace Anymore | UnTangled.

Giving Grace is the incarnating movement of love crossing the liminial wasteland of culture wars. In the smoky silence lie the litter of bodies; those going into battle hoping for more, finding only the debris of hope among the scattered dreams .Battle Ruin - Jaecheol Park Battle Ruin – Jaecheol Park

It is up to us to walk the boundaries,  the verge of  chaos and gather up those who long for someone to just be glad to see them and take delight (often a matter of choice in the begininning – feelings following) in the simple fact that they exist.

I know someone did it for me, one time long ago, and it has made all the difference.  JWS+

christ-sower-200x267

 

Gabriel Stamp

Gabriel Stamp

One day God was looking down on Earth and saw of the despicable behavior that was going on. So he called Gabriel, the head of communication for heaven, and sent him to earth to observe the situation. When he returned, he told God, “Yes, it is bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not.”

Michael Stamp

Michael Stamp

God though for a moment and said, “Maybe I had better get a second opinion.” So God called Michael, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of heaven, and sent him to survey the situation. Michael reported, “Yes, it’s true. The Earth is in decline; 95% are misbehaving, but 5% are faithful.”

God was displeased. So He decided to e-mail the 5% who were being good, because he wanted encourage them…give them a little something to help them keep going. Do you know what the e-mail said — Okay, just wondering; — I didn’t get one either…

Actually all of humanity got the E-Mail in the person of Jesus, the Christ, which leads me to the Gospel reading for today. Jesus tells us that the seed is the word.

Parable-of-the-SowerAllow me an aside about, “word.” St. John the patron of this parish begins his Gospel with “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” Word: could be very legitimately translated “creative energy.” It is more a verb than a noun. So we could say, “in the beginning was the creative energy and the creative energy was with God and the creative energy was God.”

The late Robert Capon educated me more about the parables than anyone. He also taught me more about the radical nature of GRACE than anyone. I miss him. In the The Parables of the Kingdom, [page 73] he engages the theme of the Word of God in terms of: CATHOLICITY, MYSTERY, HOSTILITY AND RESPONSE.

THE WORD OF GOD IS CATHOLIC — UNIVERSAL.
The word is working everywhere at all times whether we know it or not. Even when we think it is not present at all the word is working. Jesus taught this from beginning to end. The kinds of soil described cover all the conditions and circumstances of humanity. The word of God is true then and now, in and out, up and down. No one is beyond the scope of its power and life giving grace. The seed is universal in its potential.

THE WORD OF GOD, THE SEED OF THE KINGDOM, IS MYSTERIOUS.

Christ the seed

Christ the Seed

Why choose seed as an image? Seed are tiny in comparison to what they produce. The seed falls into the earth and in the process of producing a new plant disappears or dies. Notice how this describes the life and ministry of Jesus.

In fact in John’s Gospel he uses this very imagery when he says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The life, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord is mysterious. He dies, rises, and ascends. As God’s ways are not our ways, we have faith that the mysterious word is working even when we can’t see its action.

THERE IS HOSTILITY TO THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM

leafing corssOn nearly every page of the New Testament there is hostility.

  • The devil tempts Jesus.
  • The religious establishment plots against him.
  • The Pharisees dispute with him.
  • The Romans execute him.

He appears to lose by dying on the cross. But that is not the end of the story. We can get so focused on the hostility to the word that we are almost convinced that the seed is without power. But the seed is still the word of God regardless of the hostility to it. Let us never forget that. It is the Word alone, and not the interference with it, that finally counts.

As Capon puts it, “the fullest enjoyment of the fruitfulness of the Word is available only to those who interfere with it least.”

THE RESPONSE TO THE SOWING OF THE WORD IS MADE IN THE FINAL THRUST OF THE PARABLE.

How we respond to the word makes a difference not in the power of the word but in how that power affects us. Jesus, the Word, came into the world to become the first of many brothers and sisters, the first fruits of them that sleep..

Our choice is not whether the Word will achieve his purposes. BUT whether we will enjoy his achievement OR find ourselves in opposition to it.

This is the parable of the Sower! Where I came from, the focus was on the soils and which one we were . See how the focus shifts from what the Sower is doing to what we think about it.

But look at the good news! Granted it is only good news in the Kingdom, but that is the only place that matters. This is the sort of Sower that no prudent farmer would tolerate. The only folk that would approve would be the seed companies for obvious reasons.

What a wastrel is the Sower! In full-swing he flings and slings the precious seed everywhere without regard. Avant-garde, comes the Kingdom. Like nard poured by Mary,  no actuary could calculate such waste; but beloved it is WASTE based on GRACE.

The Empty Tomb

The Empty Tomb

 

 

Three crucial aspects of spiritual growth in Episcopal* Congregations

September 8, 2013 484

Baptism of Chinese converts at Saint Martin’s, York, UK September 8, 2013

  • A more transformative encounter with God, especially in our common prayer, our worship, and our engagement with Scripture.
  •  A deeper life of discipleship, marked by personal spiritual practices that infuse all of life, not just time spent in a church building.
  •  A more compelling orientation toward putting faith into action, specifically in service to those in need for justice & peace, with clear articulation of opportunities to do that.

 

*Insert any denomination

From Lessons from Unlikely Sources: What a Market Research a Megachurch are teaching a few Episcopalians about Growing the Church – Jay Sidebotham The Anglican Digest 94.3 [496]

Laws of Geometric Emotional Process

Definition – An emotional triangle is any three persons
or two persons and a part of a system with a ‘problem’

Emotional Triangle

Emotional Triangle

FIRST LAW OF TRIANGLES: YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE

It is not possible from the position of A to change the relationship of B and C.

SECOND LAW OF TRIANGLES: PROTOPLASM IS PERVERSE

Continued efforts to change the relationship of B and C from the position of A will be converted by homeostatic forces to their opposite intent (pushing them apart will make them ‘fall in love’, and trying to push them together will create polarized opposition).

twoperson_ruleTHIRD LAW OF TRIANGLES: YOU HAVE TO START FROM HERE 

Start From Here Change in B and C can only come from changing one’s own relationship with either or both, individually.

hqdefaultFOURTH LAW OF TRIANGLES: OVER FUNCTIONING = STRESS

If from the position of A you become responsible for the relationship of B and C, then you will wind up with the stress for their relationship, if not for the whole system. By “helping” (a synanom for controlling) B and C will not feel it.  It may be that they need to feel the anxiety to get unstuck.  

Bowen Theory – Notes from lecture by Rabbi Edwin Friedman

Then the World Gets to Work…

Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard

The case with most men is that they go out into life with one or another accidental characteristic of personality of which they say: Well, this is the way I am. I cannot do otherwise. Then the world gets to work on them and thus the majority of men are ground into conformity. In each generation a small part cling to their “I cannot do otherwise” and lose their minds. Finally there are a very few in each generation who in spite of all life’s terrors cling with more and more inwardness to this “I cannot do otherwise”. They are the geniuses. Their “I cannot do otherwise” is an infinite thought, for if one were to cling firmly to a finite thought, he would lose his mind.
– Kierkegaard