(Genesis 25:19-34; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)
Is there enough for what we need? Is there enough for what we all need?
Can there be enough? Will there be enough?
And can enough be enough?
Must plenty is some places mean poverty in others?
Must one person’s freedom require another person’s oppression?
Must salvation for some rely on damnation for others?
Or is there another way?
Is there a way for there to be enough for all, and for enough to be enough?
Do we believe it? Do we believe there is another way?
Have you heard there is another way? Have you trusted it to be Good News?
Have you seen it for yourselves? Have you known it and enjoyed it and shared it with others… that there is another way, there is a good way –
a way of enough, in mind, body, society, and soul … enough for all in all that we need?
There is a way, and we can find that way in the Way of Jesus. Jesus lived it and taught it and embodied it – in him it was made real, with him it came to dwell with us, as it dwells ever still: the Realm of Heaven intermingled with the Realm of Earth.
That’s Good News… Good News that God’s love abounds without boundary.
How do we respond that that Good News? That’s what Jesus’ Parable of the Sower is about. I’m going to just focus on just one part of that teaching illustration: the seeds of the Good News that fell among the weeds (or among the thorns as some translations put it). Sometimes seeds of the Good News land and root and grow up only to get choked out by thorns and weeds and other vicious vegetation. Now, what does that mean?
Jesus tells his disciples that these thorns and weeds have to do with this question of “Is there enough? And can enough be enough?”
These weeds, Jesus tells us, are “weeds of worry.” They are thorns of anxiety – the message we get and repeat that “There isn’t enough! There won’t be enough. We are lacking, the world is lacking.” This is the anxiety of poverty, or of an impoverished experience of the world.
But that’s only one side of it.
Jesus also says that these weeds and thorns are also about the “deceitfulness of riches.” That’s the old King James Bible way of putting it, with I rather like: “the deceitfulness of riches.” In the version we read for today the turn of phrase is: “Illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun.”
This is pointing out that if we have enough, if we are experiencing plenty, then there can arise the illusion, the deceit that we need more than that, we gotta have more, we have to keep taking and taking in order to stay ahead of others or to keep up with an appetite that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
So these weeds and thorns are about the anxiety of poverty, on the one hand, that there won’t be enough. And, on the other hand, they are about the anxiety of plenty, that enough is not enough.
Now remember what the kids discovered about the Jacob and Esau story: When we are hungry, we are liable to getting tricked. Tricksters draw on appetite to hook us. Some tricksters take from you and then try to sell it back to you. But other tricksters just conjure up the illusion that we actually need whatever it is they’re selling. So let us be on guard against messages that increase our hunger or our sense of lack, our sense of desperation, or our sense of desire for more.
The really tricky thing is that this is one of those self-fulfilling beliefs. When we believe there is not enough, that there cannot be enough, that enough is not enough, we help to bring that about, for ourselves and for others.
The idea can spread like weeds until it’s just taken for granted that to have plenty for some there needs to be poverty for others. Freedom for some requires oppression for other. Salvation for some relies on damnation for others.
These are the thorns can choke out the Good News.
So how about the Good News? The Good News that the Love of God abounds beyond all boundaries. The Good News that there is a way for there to be enough, in mind, body, society, and soul … enough for all in all that we need.
Do you believe it? Do you trust the Good News?
The good news is that this Good News is true, regardless of whether we believe in the moment.
It’s always true.
And it’s always being sown.
It’s always being sown everywhere.
Our farmer is an outrageous, extravagant farmer, throwing seed all over the place –
across the fields and into the weeds and across the rocks and into the stables and yards and over the highways and into the towns, over the roofs and into the creeks, through houses and alleys and churches and temples and mosques and schools and courtrooms and prisons and detention centers, through the bars and into the deserts, across the borders, and into the fields and forests and cities far afield … all over creation, that planter just sows and sows and sows.
And all that needs to happen is for some little bit of that seed to fall on a patch of ground that says “Yes!” and keeps saying “Yes!”
All that needs to happen is for someone somewhere to trust the Good News. Anyone will do, anywhere.
Say “Yes” and keep saying “Yes” and grace will root and grow and bear fruit beyond our wildest dreams. Grace will abound beyond all boundaries, grace enough for all of us, one generation after the next.
May that somewhere be here.
Thanks be to God.
Delivered July 16, 2017, at First Congregational Church of Walla Walla, by Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg