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Search Us, O Lord…

July 22, 2017

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Sometimes when I look up at the mountains, I am overwhelmed by the wonder and the majesty that is the Rocky Mountain National Park… and by the fact that Rocky is our backyard! The amazing thing is, the One who created the wondrous majesty that is Rocky also created us and knows us intimately. As the psalmist says in this week’s Lectionary reading… such knowledge is too wonderful for me!

I have struggled this week reconciling the Gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost with what I see going on around us in the so-called christian (yes, lower case is intentional) camps where judgment and condescension are the order of the day while mercy and grace take a back seat if they are even allowed in the car to begin with!

The Gospel reading is a kingdom parable. The kingdom of heaven is like someone who sowed good seeds in his field. In the middle of the night, someone sows weeds amongst the wheat and then goes away. The servants ask the master what they can do about the weeds amongst the wheat. Do you want us to uproot the weeds? The master replies, don’t do that… you may accidentally uproot wheat while uprooting the weeds. Wait until the time of the harvest and then it will be clear what is good and what is bad.

When the disciples got Jesus alone, they asked him to explain the parable. Jesus then explained that the weeds planted were the children of the evil one and the wheat seeds planted were the children of the kingdom. The finale is where the reapers at the end of the age (angels) would separate the wheat from the weeds and cast the weeds into the furnace where they will be destroyed.

This is where my heartburn comes into play with the church and this passage (amongst many other passages of scripture) are used and abused. Far too often it seems as though the “righteous” (like the Pharisees and Religious Power Brokers of old) use this story to beat others into submission or to outright condemn those who are different from them to Hell! Jesus challenged the disciples and challenges us today (if I am challenging you, remember that while one finger is pointed at you, three are pointed back at me as I challenge myself as well)… “Let anyone with ears listen!”

What are you asking us to listen for, Lord? Oh wait… the one who knows us… the one who knows us intimately… the one whom we cannot escape from no matter how hard we try… are you asking us to listen to our Creator and Redeemer?

The psalmist writes: “O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:1-10)

You know me so well, Lord… I cannot escape that knowledge. You know my self-righteous hypocrisy… You know the good seed/wheat that I long to be and you know the weeds within me. No matter where I go or whom I pretend to be, you know me inside and outside. Such knowledge is too great for me… wow!

In today’s world, people who claim to be christians are so quick to judge and condemn. To hear from the pulpit at a funeral that the preacher doesn’t know the deceased or whether or not they are in heaven or in hell, but it isn’t too late for the congregation to make the right decisions… wow! Yes, those words have been blasted from the pulpit during a funeral attended by my wife Denise. I have heard equally atrocious words blasted from pulpits and have seen the crap that the people of the Westboro Church have thrown out, in the name of God, at the funerals of military members killed in action overseas. I have also seen and heard similar statements of hate thrown out at others who are different from liberal/progressive pulpits as well.

The point for me is this: we spend a whole lot of time hating and judging others and not much time trying to act like Christ whom we profess to serve. Yet the one who knows us intimately does not call us to condemn others. The one who knows us intimately calls us to do the opposite. Does he call us to condemn our enemies? Nope… he calls us to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors. He doesn’t call us to make the decision about who is the good seed and who are the weeds.

If we are completely honest with ourselves, we are all a mixture of wheat and weeds. The good, the bad, and the ugly… We can try and fool ourselves, but the one who has searched us and known us knows the truth. Instead of taking on the role of the avenging angel (which in the parable is the role of the angels and not the follower/disciple) we need to do something else.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24) Maybe if we spent more time asking the Lord to search us, know us, cleanse us, and show us the way to serve Christ’s church might be a better example to the world.

If you ask young men and women in their teens and twenties what the church is, their answer is not heartening. The church is bigoted, hateful, judgmental, egotistical, elitist… and the list goes on…

For years I counselled military members that it was a good thing to seek out the help of our Mental Health professionals to deal with their “stuff” in a positive way. To do such a thing is to get to know yourself… the good, the bad, and the ugly… and to walk with the Mental Health professional through the darkness and into the light. It took me 19 years to take that advice seriously for myself. That step was the beginning of healing for me.

Even more than that, it was important for me to take off the mask I was wearing before the Lord and truly ask the Lord to search me and know me. The Lord already knew me, but I had to take that step and acknowledge that I was a field of wheat and weeds. Only then could the healing begin.

Shouldn’t we, as Christ-followers spend less time judging others and more time seeking to live like Christ? Love God, Love ALL Neighbors… do justice, love mercy/kindness, walk humbly… If more people would do that, can you imagine what this world would be like? If you and I, dear reader, did that, can you imagine? Search us and know us, Lord… weed out the wickedness within us… and lead us in the way you would have us to walk… the way of love, grace, mercy, and peace!

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