Tag Archives: harvest

Lip service or life? Called to courageous loving

Preached today to my wonderful community that give me all the support and love and really are a family in faith to me…

As I prayed and reflected on today’s readings, it was very hard for me to separate out the escalating feelings of fear, grief and hurt I have felt over the last week from some of the homophobic comments and lies that are circulating at the moment. As a queer woman, some people would say that I am “going to hell” or am locked out of God’s community, yet I experience God as knowing me better than I know myself and loving me deeply- allowing for my slowness to learn how best to live and encouraging my good intention. I have tried to resist the temptation to make my journey with this week’s readings nothing more than an expression of the pain I feel in this time. Yet I will name the pain because it is there. And then I will try to move on…

The first reading is the last part of a longer discussion about the way that each person owns their own conscience. Within it, a person is not judged by their family, culture or community nor by how others around them choose to live but insofar as they themselves respond to God and do what is right their path will be always into life. This is both a liberating and a troubling concept in our historical context, where we are increasingly facing the reality of climate change that will take more than the actions of a handful of well-meaning individuals to reverse.

And yet this is the reality we live in, things are happening around us that we have limited control to halt or change and we must somehow keep finding hope and meaning. Perhaps what we can find here is an antidote to the sorts of thinking that see decreasing compassion and rising inequality as inevitable. God does not desire our death, the call is always into life. We must embrace hope so that seeing the fallenness, imperfection or powerlessness of ourselves or those around us we must look for the potential for liberation and healing.

In the psalm we cry out to God to be compassionate and to teach us, this echoes both the awareness that things may be wrong and the determination to hope of the first reading. In the verses, God’s nature is revealed to be goodness and kindness, love and compassion. We can and must depend upon that whatever else we are emboldened to do.

The second reading is a sort of counterpoint to the first. Just as in the first reading, each of us was asked to think for ourselves, and to do good even if we are surrounded by wrong-doing, the second reading calls us to be community, to seek harmony and connection with others and to work for the good of others, not just selfishness. Hope then, is no longer a lonely place and we do not stand and judge from a moral high-ground but seek to know and serve whatever is vulnerable in each other.

Thus we come to the gospel, and the difference between giving lip-service to faith and living it. The first son is foolish and rebellious, he does not like to be told. I relate to him a lot and I see my own children in him too. And yet, once he has given his tokenistic resistance to the authority of his “father” he realises that the vineyard is something he is involved in and responsible for and he quietly gets in and works for the harvest. The second son is all performative obedience and moral superiority but when it comes down to it does not contribute to getting the harvest in.

This is a theology that Jesus points out even the religiously impure ones, even the tax collectors and prostitutes, instinctively understand. So what of us? Are we brave and honest enough to argue with the “father” when we do not feel as committed or engaged as we are told we ought to be? Would we dare to refuse to do what we are told…and then give ourselves the chance to rethink what we are really being asked to do, and what our role may be in the vineyard of God.

Or would we opt to look “respectable”, to follow from as great a distance as possible, paying lip-service but avoiding getting our hands dirty? Do we only go along with the call to love and accept the vulnerable so far as they don’t challenge or disgust us? Is there a limit to our ability to transmit God’s grace, or is it simply that we are busy and there are higher priorities than loving? But the first son’s apparently sullen attitude masks a deep love. Sometimes things may be better than they seem at first sight.

All three of the readings seem very sure in telling us that we need to risk being authentic before God. God’s desire is to always keep the option open for us to return and return and return into the heart of the community, into the work of the harvest, into life.

If we are called today, then what is our direction? Let us become aware of God’s love and allow ourselves to be authentic before it. Let us reflect on the readings for a short time and then as is our custom you might share your thoughts with the people sitting near you.

Interviewing Mark 4:26-34 and some of his friends

What if someone (not necessarily a man) would scatter seed? Someone desperate for growth, for ears of golden corn, for an end to the spiritual famine. Someone who lives on the fringes. Someone who has carefully saved up the seeds from meagre gleaning, who has survived for many years on the crumbs that fall (if only you give up your dignity to crawl), fall from the table of grace.

Is the “kingdom” of God like that? The starving household of the same God? The fringe-dwelling widows and orphans of the “kingdom”. Excommunicated for disobedience, for living with open eyes. I was hungry God and the church refused to feed my spirit.

Do we sleep? Do we rise? Do we walk away? Something calls us back to scatter our seed again and again, to waste our potential on hard and stony ground, to hope against hope as our seed chokes among the thorns of common-sense.

Does it sprout? Does it grow? By their words you shall know them. Or was that works? No, by their fruits.

4:28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.

And on those who say that feminists are narcissists, that say that women who seek to be ordained are acting out of the sin of pride (I won’t add those links as I don’t want to give them traffic) I ask them to look again. Do we claim to have any more control over the seed than any other sower, than any other patch of earth? Do we claim to choose where we are sown any more than the helpless grain of wheat?

Where are we in the story?

Do we sleep? Do we rise? Do we feed and teach our children and maybe someone else’s too?

4:28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.

And where then is our harvest? We sow love but we do not reap respect. We sow wisdom but we do not reap justice. Wives and mothers are just wombs and breasts, helpmates and servants. Wisdom choked by thorns of heedlessness, trivialised by stony silence of privilege.

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4:29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.
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He goes in does he? When do we go in? Where is our harvest? Even the dogs may gather the crumbs, oh God.

What if the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed? What if we had faith the size of a mustard seed? But my faith is shrivelled and old: past its season. I never had the courage or the strength to move a mountain.

Perhaps it is after all mustard I am sowing, tiny seeds unheeded to make a shrub we could all underestimate. My words that I sow I will be forced to eat – hot burning mustard to kill the decaying taste of patriarchy in my mouth, to season the blandness of a faith too privileged to see that I exist. mustard spreads like a weed, try to pull it out, eradicate it if you can!

the master’s house infested with this tenacious mustard, which are the little birds that will now make their nests?

Hearing parables, I always get the itch to tell my own. What does a woman know of sowing? Resisting, resisting, resisting the straightest reading of the text I weave it through and around other sections testing to see how they intersect, are the strands strong? Do the colours clash or make a rainbow?

Apparently I am not a “disciple” my bible doesn’t have the answers in the back for me to check my work.

But what if someone would scatter seed?

Someone desperate for growth…