Typically the sermon takes the form of a twenty to thirty minute talk. Who said it had to be that way?
Wedgewood sometimes has three ten minute sermons: one person speaking on each lectionary text or three different people speaking on one of the three texts. Or sometimes a congregant will preach two sermons taking two different approaches to a text. It is the latter form which is used for this week’s gospel lesson.
Sermon #1 Weed Discrimination
What’s with all this weed discrimination in this text? Race discrimination, gender discrimination, sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, age discrimination, religious discrimination, national origin discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, genetic information discrimination, disability discrimination, accent discrimination, and now weed discrimination is added to the list. It’s not like the world didn’t already have enough discrimination.
And yet weeds in this text, and in our world, are considered bad. A weed, by definition is a plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden.
I know people who are treated like weeds.
Who gets to say what is a good plant and what is a bad plant?
Didn’t God make all the earth good? Weren’t weeds part of the original plan?
Have you ever been treated like a weed?
Having been described as evil ourselves whether for our theology or our sexual orientation or gender identity, let us be careful in determining what is a weed and what is wheat. Having been told we are going to be tossed into the furnace of fire let us not so quickly toss about the words “good” and “evil”. Having gnashed our teeth because of what others thought of us, let us not think too little of any human being or any living plant or animal. Having suffered discrimination, let us never discriminate ourselves.
(Note: This sermon in no way is an effort on my part to get out of helping my wife weed our flower gardens. Although sometimes I feel like my wedding vow was “for better, for gardening. . .”
Sermon #2 Theological Weeds
Our theological thinking must account for, and take into consideration, every available piece of evidence or information. We cannot ignore what I am calling “theological weeds.” Or put another way, the worst theologies, the dangerous theologies, the most dishonest theologies are those which are highly reductionistic. The case for God is made while the case against God is ignored. The good is emphasized while the bad is ignored. The comforting is acknowledged even as the problematic is discarded.
As Rev. Dr. Emil Mialik, former minister at Wedgewood Baptist, used to say, “We must put no period at the end of our theological sentences.” And I would add: No theological shortcuts. No head in the sand. No sly simplicities. No making excuses for God or us.
You don’t have to figure it out all. That’s why we call it faith. But you do have to deal with all the evidence.
For example, our theology must take into consideration Shannon Stone, the 39 year-old, 18-year firefighting veteran, who recently died at a Texas Rangers baseball game. The accident occurred during the second inning of the Rangers v. Oakland A's game, after Conor Jackson of the A's hit a foul ball near left field. Star outfielder Josh Hamilton retrieved the ball and threw it into the stands. Stone fell head-first20 feet to the ground. Bleeding from a head wound while on a stretcher, Stone was talking and moving his arms, telling the paramedics, “Please check on my son. My son was up there by himself.” His son is six years old and now fatherless.
There are a lot of deadbeat fathers out there who don't have anything to do with their families and here you've got a guy who loves his kid and he's doing the father and son baseball game and this happens, a random act of kindness that turned tragic.
I’ve heard some really smart Christians theorize that Shannon had a beer in his hand. Now I don’t know if that’s true or not. But good Lord, Jesus drank himself, and anybody that’s read John’s gospel about the wedding in Cana knows Jesus was the most popular bartender in that town.
Come on Christians, please don’t come up with stupid stuff like that. And don’t say it was just his time to die.
You don’t have to have answers, but your theology must take into account that even random acts of kindness turn tragic in our world.
Theological weeds. Did you know some butterflies live up to a year. Others live only a week.
Walk through the intensive care pediatric ward at a hospital. That should help you not come up with any sloppy theology.
While you are at it, talk to a high school friend of mine. Just connected with her on Facebook. She informed me her 19 year-old freshman died unexpectedly in his sleep while at school.
Theological weeds. Conservative Christians propose Genesis as science even as Hubble has revealed the age of the universe to be about 13 to 14 billion year and led to the discovery of dark energy, a mysterious force that causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate.
Our theology must account for every bit of evidence before us, including evolution. Science is not unbiased and science is not infallible, but our theology must be based on time-tested information and evolution is one of the most time-tested scientific observations before us.
Theological weeds. We wantto discard what causes us dis-ease. And I can understand that. Life is hard and theology should be comforting. But don’t tell that to the author of Psalm 77. The Psalmist writes: “I think of God and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints.” (77:4)
Meditation on God, theology, can cause extreme anguish.
The Psalmist is not an atheist. The Psalmist is not just having a bad day. The Psalmist loves Yahweh passionately. In the face of all available evidence he moans. (James Crenshaw, Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil, pp. 11-12)
When is the last time your theology caused you to moan?
Today we have in our church’s art gallery a painting by Greta West titled “The Womb of the Day”.
Isn’t it beautiful! If only all of life were born of such a womb.
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