Category Archives: reign of God

Great and Meaningless Then and Now

A Multi-media Sermon

Both the scripture and message from a worship service I led July 31, 2016, are more timely than I realized at the time. President-elect Donald Trump is not the first man to declare himself “great,” or to blur the lines between allegiance to God and allegiance to self.

Call to Worship (and first scripture):

Colossians 3:1-17 New International Version (NIV)
One: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, not on earthly things.
Many: For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
One: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: immorality, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
Many: But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
One: You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Many: Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
One: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Many: Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
All: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


Old Testament Reading

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 2:18-23
The words of the Teacher,[a](A) son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!”says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

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New Testament Reading

Luke 12:13-21 (NIV)
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

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The Message

Jerusalem June 2016

jerusalem-june-2016

photo credit: Barry Gilbert

Isn’t it amazing how the lectionary sometimes dovetails so closely to current events? When I read the lectionary scripture, after coming back from our tour of Israel, I was reminded of another quote from Ecclesiastes: “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

While I am tempted to point immediately at current figures in the news who bandy about the term “great,” I’m going to go back to much earlier times, to the person who history has often referred to as Herod the “Great.”

Herod the Builder

herod-the-builder

photo credit: Wikipedia

One reason for giving that Herod a modifier was that there were two Herods in the gospels:  the Herod who the gospel of Matthew said killed all the babies of Bethlehem, and his son, Herod Antipas, who had John the Baptist executed and who handed Jesus back to Pontius Pilate for his eventual crucifixion. One might call the first of these despots Herod the Elder.

I certainly wouldn’t call him “great.” We don’t have other corroborating evidence for Matthew’s accusation of the slaughter of innocents in Bethlehem,  but we do have multiple instances of that Herod ordering the deaths of many people in the area he controlled, including the murder of two of his own sons, and several mass crucifixions of Jews he considered to be political opponents.

This Herod I would call Herod the Builder.

Caesarea

caesareaBarry Gilbert

He built the city of Caesarea, whose ruins we toured. It is full of beautiful stone edifices and many examples of the excesses that the Romans encouraged their designated elite to build for themselves all over the empire. Theaters and chariot race tracks — really.

Herod’s Fresh-water Swimming Pool

Herod's Fresh-water Swimming Pool.jpgBarry Gilbert

Here’s one example of the excesses of wealth and power:  a swimming pool on the edge of the beach of the Mediterranean. It was a fresh water pool, filled with fresh water brought from 20 kilometers away.  This is a sort of outdoor example of Roman-inspired excess, ruins of which you can see all over the former Roman empire, from Britain to Palestine, that is, bath houses.

These bath houses, which were open only to the elite, were the primary reason that the Romans built aqueducts.

Roman Aqueduct in Southern Gaul

roman-aqueductWikipedia image

Yes. The Romans built aqueducts to supply water for their bathhouses. I learned that fact from Jon Dominic Crossan’s book on the life of the early church. Roman aqueducts were, for Crossan, the perfect and revealing symbol of Roman imperial rule. They syphoned precious water from the countryside — not for irrigation of crops as I had always assumed, not even for drinking water for people in the cities. No, the aqueducts took the countryside’s water for the bath houses, so that the fat-cat middle managers like Herod and his lieutenants could loll about in water that could have given life to crops and animals and people.

That’s not “great.” That’s what the writer of Ecclesiastes called “meaningless.” Many of Herod the Builder’s projects carried out that same principle of taking the necessities of the people and using them for the luxury and ego of the rich and powerful. Caesarea was paid for by taxing the people into destitution, as Crossan documented over and over in his 600-page book. It’s one of the reasons that “tax collectors” are so often lumped with “sinners” in the gospels. Because tax collectors were often state-conscripted and -sponsored robbers of the people.

I would say, “Oh don’t get me started,” but I’ve already gone down that route, haven’t I? Taxes then were not like the taxes that we vote for now. We vote to tax ourselves to pay for schools and roads and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission and the army, navy and air force and Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and food stamps … That’s what we want our taxes to pay for, not to siphon life-giving water into bath houses for the rich.

But back to Herod.

Herod the Builder’s most meaningless project was the fortress on the top of Masada, a mountain south of Jerusalem.

View from the top of Masada

view-from-top-of-masadaBarry Gilbert

 Here’s a view from the fortress. It was designed to give Herod a place to run to if he lost control of Jerusalem. Anyone attacking him there would have to scale a mountain first. He built the fortress with a double wall, to slow down any army that made it to the top of the mountain.

He built a bath house there, and spacious apartments for himself and his royal retinue. He also built barracks for soldiers and many, many storehouses for grain.

Grain Storage Rooms at Masada

grain-storeage-rooms-at-masadaInternet stock photo

So here we come back to the scripture today. When I read in Jesus’ parable about the rich man’s plans to build larger barns, I couldn’t help but think of the grain storehouses that Herod built on Masada. Long, stone-walled rooms that were designed to allow Masada’s defenders to survive months of siege.

Maybe you know — Herod the Builder never lived at Masada. He died a horrible death of kidney disease. His son, Herod Antipas, never lived at Masada either. He died in exile. Luke could have been writing about  Herod the Builder when he quoted Jesus saying, “who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

The only people to use Masada as a fortress were rebels during the insurrection that resulted in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem — including Herod’s palace and the second temple.

Roman Ramp at Masada

roman-ramp-at-masadaBarry Gilbert

The rebels and their families survived for months in the fortress and watched helplessly as the Romans built a ramp up the side of the mountain. (This is the ramp that Barry and I climbed to get to the top of Masada to watch the sun rise.)

As the Roman soldiers broke into the outer wall of the fortress, the rebels killed their families and committed suicide rather than surrender. When the Romans breached the inner wall, they found hundreds of bodies.

Meaningless, meaningless.

Another View from Masada

Another view from Masada.jpg Barry Gilbert

“What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless,” wrote the writer of Ecclesiastes.

I also think of Herod when I read the verse in Ecclesiastes that laments that “a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it.” As I said before, Herod killed two of his sons, because he feared they were conspiring to take what he had built. Imagine, thinking it meaningless to leave all you own to “another who has not toiled for it.”

I think it’s not an accident that the parable in Luke begins with two men disputing their inheritance. Jesus’ response to them is, ““Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

How many times does humanity need to be told that, before it sinks in?  “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Let’s look at some subtleties of this parable, starting with its beginning: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.”

abundant-harvest

Notice that the rich man did not “toil” for this abundance. The ground yielded it. Grain is a gift from God. There’s no question someone has to toil to harvest the grain. But the person or corporation that is considered to be the owner of the ground doesn’t usually do the toiling.

So this rich man, seeing all the abundance of the harvest and his overflowing barns, doesn’t spend a moment expressing gratitude, either to God or to the field laborers. He thinks only of how to make room to hoard this abundance for himself, so that he’s set for years to come. He’s not even thinking about “who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

But what does it mean to be “rich toward God”? Jesus’s and Luke’s audience would have known what he meant when he said that.

gleaners.jpg

The Hebrew Bible is very clear about how people are to treat abundant harvests:  We are to share with those who have none. Hebrew scripture and Jewish liturgy are full of commands: Remember, you once were strangers. Take care of the stranger, the orphan, the widow, those who have less than you. Leave grain on the edges of your fields for the poor, set aside some bread for the hungry. And remember that Adonai rescued you from bondage, and from hunger and share with your neighbor.

Consider the Lilies.jpg

Consider the Lilies

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the verses in Luke following the parable of the rich man we get the very familiar sayings of Jesus about the lilies of the field, which begins, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” He goes on to urge his followers to sell their possessions and give to the poor.

In this chapter in Luke, Jesus is not talking to the destitute who faced hunger every day, those for whom “give us this day our daily bread” is not a metaphor, but a very real plea. He is talking to those who have an inheritance to fight over, those who have surplus they don’t know what to do with.

And when Jesus says life is more than food, he’s talking about how we treat each other. The writer of the letter to Colossians expands on this concept. Maybe you noticed, I slipped a third scripture from the lectionary into the call to worship this morning. The letter writer, a student of Paul’s, calls on the Colossians to “put on new clothes.”

Reject one set of views of the world — take them off like a worn-out coat — immorality, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Rid yourselves of anger, rage, malice and slander. They knew then and we know now, greed and malice and slander are destructive to the individual as well as to society. Such a view of the world leads to meaningless striving for the wrong things.

Put on a new set of clothes, the letter writer says: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I would add a subset that is part of compassion and kindness, that is, generosity or sharing.

Tzfat

tzfatBarry Gilbert

Our tour group of 19 people did a lot of sharing, of food, prayer, music and help — carrying things, finding our way, explaining things.

Our tour in Israel took us to Jerusalem and the Galilee. We rafted on the Jordan River and we floated in the Dead Sea. We ended our tour in Tzfat, also known as Safed or Safad, the home of Kabbala, mystic Judaism. Perhaps you have heard or read of the pop star Madonna  discussing Kabbalistic teachings.

Avraham Lowenthal.jpgBarry Gilbert

We met a Kabbalist artist, Avraham Lowenthal, who created a painting and then made a necklace of it, portraying what he calls Teshuva Heh. Teshuva is the Hebrew word for “turning around” or “returning to” and is translated into English as “repentance.” Heh is the Hebrew letter that is used twice in the initials for the divine, YHWH, or Yahweh.

Teshuva ה: Return to G_D

necklaceVirginia Gilbert

In the painting and this necklace, the hollow Heh is a life without God and the raised Heh above it is a life filled with God.

Here is Lowenthal’s explanation:

“The bottom Heh is associated with our desire to receive for the self (the place of conditional love). The upper Heh is associated with the desire to give (the place of unconditional love).”

In my words, the hollow Heh — I think of that as the meaninglessness that the writer of Ecclesiastes writes about. The filled Heh — that is a life of abundance, of recognizing God’s gifts to us and sharing them with others. A life of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And recognizing that the real Great one is God.

colossians

As the writer to Colossians said, and as we prayed today in our opening, prayer, “over all these virtues — compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and generosity — may we put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

And that is the definition of Great.

Praise God. Amen.

Separating the Weeds from the Wheat

Sermon preached at Epiphany United Church of Christ, July 20,2014

Scripture: Psalm 139 Matthew 5:38-48

I can see the headlines now:  God’s kingdom is full of weeds! The Almighty blames the devil, but declines to have the weeds removed.” Sidebars include, “Congress calls for hearings on delay of weed-pulling,” and “President sends in FBI to identify and detain saboteur of wheat crop.”

Yeah. We don’t like weeds, especially in our food crops. Those weeds might be poisonous, we’d better have the wheat labelled, “Warning, this wheat was grown in a field containing weeds.”

I suppose you could say I’ve been spending too much time reading the satirist Andy Borowitz. His latest entry: “Boehner drops Obama lawsuit; says it would mean doing something.”

Reading Borowitz and watching Jon Stewart have warped my perceptions. Or maybe I’ve just been reading and hearing too many news stories about the imperfections of the world. I identify much too strongly with the servants in the parable who want to pull up the weeds. In fact, as I read the usual commentaries in preparation for preaching on this text, I focused so sharply on the weeds that at first I skimmed over the opening line.

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

This is one of several parables that Matthew has Jesus telling the crowd along the lake shore while he sits in a boat just offshore. They’re all about the kingdom of heaven. Weeds in heaven?

No. Commentators say that in the parables that Luke and Matthew have in common Luke quotes Jesus as saying the kingdom of God and Matthew substitutes kingdom of heaven to follow the Jewish tradition of not saying the name of God out loud (or writing it). So it’s the kingdom of God, or as we who want to use inclusive language say, the reign of God, or the rule of God to lose that male king part. Lately I’ve read some people (I think from New Zealand) use the Commonwealth of God.

Sorry to get so pedantic, but I wanted to remind myself and you that Jesus was talking mainly about this kingdom or commonwealth of God’s, not some hereafter world with pearly gates — not that there’s anything wrong with pearly gates. It’s just not the whole story about the kingdom or commonwealth of God.

All through chapters 12 and 13, Matthew’s been writing about Jesus saying this commonwealth is near. “The kingdom is at hand,” he says. I’ve come to believe, along with others, that this kingdom is both now and still-to-come. And we see the split nature of this reign of God in this parable. Jesus says The kingdom is like… but then he also mentions the harvest time as being the end of the age. So it’s both now and to come.

In this part of Matthew, Jesus’s speeches and parables are interspersed with people questioning him, trying to back him into a corner with “gotcha” questions, trying to get him to say something that they could twist and exploit. Things haven’t changed all that much, have they? There always seem to be a lot of people wanting to tear down and heckle people who want to increase God’s love and God’s justice in the world.

So here, in one of his longer descriptions of the coming rule of God, Jesus says it has weeds in it.  Well, it does, doesn’t it? Our world is filled with imperfections. It’s filled with imperfect people, people who do unspeakable things to each other, many times hurting each other in the name of God.

Just like the servants, we can see these weeds in God’s field, whether they’re other people or our own imperfections. But they’re so closely bound together with the good wheat, that it would take a lot of work to tease apart the good plants from the bad and even then, we might damage the wheat. Besides, until harvest time the weeds look a lot like the wheat, especially when you get to the level of the root.

It’s a better plan, says the owner of the field, to wait until harvest, when the good grain of the wheat plant will stand out from the weed. Also I interpret that the owner of the field doesn’t plan to pull up the weeds by the root even then. He’ll just have the harvesters cut the weeds at the base, and the ears of wheat from higher on the stalk.

But here’s the biggest part of the lesson for me, if I identify with the farm hands who first notice the weeds. That is, I don’t get to decide what’s a weed and what’s not. Not now, while the plants are growing and not at harvest time, when the harvesters — who we’re later told represent angels — will be instructed to separate the two kinds of plants.

This parable is rich and can be interpreted in many ways. It has a lot of room for shifting and viewing from different angles. I’d say the scholars and preachers I consulted are about evenly divided that the good and bad seeds are different people, or that the good and bad seeds are found in each of us. Either way, it’s hard for the servants to tell which is which, and Jesus seems to be saying that you can’t really tell until you see what fruit the plant produces.

And even then, Jesus is not suggesting that it’s our job to separate the weeds from the wheat. Judge not, that you be not judged, that’s also in Matthew, chapter seven.  “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

I’ve preached before on the difference between being good and being pure, and how scripture seems to sway back and forth between those who think you please God by pious acts of purity and those who think you please God by peaceful acts of justice. Jesus himself gives guidance for which is most important by citing the two most important commandments, love God and love one another.

But most of us try to do a little of both, don’t we? We try to be pious and respectful, and we try to show love by seeking justice. And sometimes we don’t try very hard, or we don’t try at all.

I almost titled this sermon, “Sometimes I feel like a weed, sometimes I don’t.” If we’re honest with ourselves, we know we’re as imperfect as the field we’re growing in.

Oh, I see I’ve switched identifications. Before, I was a farm hand. Now I’m a plant in the field. Jesus said in his explanation of the parable that the good seeds were sown by the Son of Man, which is what he often called himself. And the weed seeds were sown by the evil one.

Some people seem to be quite certain who the weeds are. Or they’re not at all worried about killing the wheat stalks to get at them. Last week I took a class in Public Ethics at a seminary in Chicago. I read a book about genocide and the author said that the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia actually had a saying, “It is better to arrest ten people by mistake than to let one guilty person go free.” That’s kind of backwards from the way we want our justice system to work here, isn’t it?

But we don’t have to look at Cambodia in the mid 1970s to find weeds entangled with good grain.

We can look at the Middle East, with its conflicts and American involvement. Rabbi Susan Talve just came back from Israel and posted a plea for understanding on all sides. She said,

No one is more critical of Israel than Israelis. As progressive Americans I am not asking you to give your support blindly to either side. I am also not asking you to stop caring. I am asking you to recognize the many complex narratives that make up the situation that exists today that make it impossible and dangerous to take sides. I am asking you to believe with me that even though peace in a completely unstable region that is surrounded by Lebanon and Syria, Iraq, Iran and Jordan may seem impossible, because we are talking about these two peoples Israelis and Palestinians, it is possible. It will take time, it will take work, but we have to believe it is possible and by not sliding into predictable, over simplified rhetoric that takes sides we can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Maybe it should be no surprise that nations are composed of good grain and noxious weeds. Because each of us has both weeds and wheat intertwined in our field. In my introspective moments, I wonder, is my life producing nutritious wheat or noxious weeds? Or both? How will I get rid of the weeds? Should I get out my Roundup spray right now and try to free myself from weeds?

Uh uh. I may not be a very productive gardner, but I believe Jesus when he tells me that’s not my job. As the psalmist said in Psalm 139, God has searched us and knows us through and through. We can’t escape this knowledge, we can’t fool God. But that’s OK, because, as the psalmist says, God’s right hand holds us fast. The last verse of the psalm asks God to “search me and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts. See if I follow the path of evil, and lead me in the way of eternal life.” Again, I am resisting the interpretation that this is about heaven after we die, but more of a plea to be guided into right living here and now.

One of the commentators I read on Jesus’s parable suggested that God, using angels as God’s messengers, will remove the weeds from our souls, as in verse 41: they will weed out of God’s kingdom everything that causes sin.” And then, this commentator points to verse 43, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.”

Ah, but that interpretation leaves out a few words. The full verse is  “They will weed out of God’s kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And only then will the righteous “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

So who’s going to be weeping and gnashing their teeth? Passages like this make me squirm. I, who believe in an inclusive Jesus and an inclusive God, what am I to make of  evil doers being thrown into a fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”? What happened to “I got wings, you got wings, all God’s children got wings”?

If I think of the end times at all, I confess I feel more inclined to think of a song in the musical comedy, Finnian’s Rainbow. “On that Great Come-and-Get-it-Day. Won’t it be fun when worry is done and money is hay.” No gnashing of teeth there. But Jesus and several prophets warn that some people should fear judgment day. It’s not gonna be a fun day for some people.

The best explanation I have found, one that I can sort of trust judging from reading some of his stuff, comes from a blogger, Steve Cooke, from Sydney, Australia.  His explanation of the right-here-right-now nature of the kingdom as well as it being in the future matches my own understanding. In this particular post he examines the uses of the phrase gnashing of teeth in Matthew and Luke and he finds that often it is aimed at the self-proclaimed elite who focus on purity rather than love and who are more interested in proving Jesus false than listening to what he says. Steve said this:

“Something you’ve hopefully already noticed from reading earlier posts on this blog is that when Jesus told stories or parables about the kingdom He wasn’t always speaking of some future time in the Age to Come. Most of Jesus’ kingdom-sayings were about the here-and-now, and how kingdom-people should prepare for the Age to Come. Of course, some of His stories were about the future, such as the one in Matthew 13 (our passage today) where He said “this is how it will be at the end of the age.” The context will determine whether Jesus is speaking about the here-and-now or the age to come.

(still quoting Steve) So it is that the religious purists who will be rejected “at the end of the age” will go away angrily “gnashing their teeth” with rage because that is how they behave now. Throughout history we have seen “religious” people directing their anger against other believers who don’t measure up to the standards imposed by the purists. The same is evident today.

Putting this together, Steve says, we see that the idea behind this expression is that those who are apart from God attack each other and try to tear each other, much like a pack of dogs fighting over a carcass. Without love there is just hatred and envy. Those who do not live by Jesus’ teachings on love and grace bite and tear each other. Those who live according to God’s way help others, rather than tearing them down. In these stories of Jesus we are being told that the time will come when they will be left to themselves to tear each other apart. We don’t have to wait until “the end of the age” to see this principle fulfilled. Communities, denominations and churches [and I would add, nations] which splinter and divide do so because they are obsessed with their own standards of doctrinal purity or so-called holiness rather than reaching out in love to those who are in need of God’s kingdom, and in the process they tear each other apart.”

Isn’t that well said? I probably ought to read more Steve Cook and maybe less Andy Borowitz, at least for sermon prep.

What I learn from Steve’s vision of those gnashing their teeth is that for whatever reason, those who willingly follow the evil one or do evil, rejecting love — it’s for suckers, you know — are creating their own commonwealth right here and now as well as in the future. A commonwealth where they can tear each other apart.

The good seed, on the other hand, is producing good heads of grain. Now I’m going to quote one of my favorite biblical scholars, John Pilch, who has published 14 books on the cultural world of the bible:

“The landowner knows that the wheat is strong enough to tolerate the weeds’ competition for nutrition and irrigation. After the harvest, the landowner will not only have grain for his barns, but extra, unanticipated fuel for his needs. Instead of shaming this landowner, the weed strategy has backfired and shamed the enemy. The landowner and his servants have the last laugh. The enemy bent on shaming others is shamed instead!

The “something other” or “something more” of this parable may well be the landowner’s refusal to retaliate, to get even with the enemy. In a society dedicated to revenge, the landowner’s victory by seeming to do nothing is a powerful lesson.

Pilch continues, “The confidence of the landowner that his wheat will survive the effect of the weeds is worth pondering. A trust in goodness that is greater than the fear of wickedness could be a powerful weapon against rampant, senseless violence. It has worked before in history, and could work again if given a chance.”

So putting these mixed metaphors together, of the weeds and the gnashing of teeth, we see that bad seed produces bad fruit, or no fruit at all, and that those who function in a kingdom of evil will conduct their lives here and now and in the future in a way that produces weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Whereas the good seed produces good fruit, and those who grow in the commonwealth of god will conduct their lives here and now and in the future in a way that causes them to be gathered into God’s barn where the righteous — those who seek justice — will shine.

For those of us with both good and bad seed growing in us, we can find support for pulling in our fangs and not gnashing our teeth at each other if we trust God’s trust in us.

“A trust in goodness that is greater than the fear of wickedness.” That’s worth holding onto. God has searched us and knows us through and through. And as we’re allowing God to guide us, we can catch glimpses — while we’re still in that weedy field — we can catch glimpses of the commonwealth of God.

“Won’t it be fun when worry is done and money is hay.”

Praise God. Amen.