Weeds and wheat; refusal and refuge

Posted by brianmaas in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest (Matt 13:28b-30a)

wheat-and-weeds

This week’s gospel lesson struck home in new ways as I encountered again Jesus’ ancient but timely instruction to slow down our haste to play God in our judging, and to put our energy into bearing fruits rather than ripping roots. While Jesus certainly does not ask us to stand idly by in the face of injustice or evil, he seems pretty clear in reminding us that it is God who has the last word, and that our role is to be the good grain that we were sown and gifted to produce. Because let’s be honest – at any given moment, our glance in the mirror might show us a weed just as likely as a stalk of wheat. That mixed-crop field isn’t just the human race; it’s the human heart. Good and evil, right and wrong are ever present within as well as around. God’s grace alone lets us “grow until the harvest.”

This teaching is true and eternal, but struck me as timely this week as we continue to hear of the confusion and conflict resulting from the increased number of unaccompanied minors seeking refuge along our southern borders, and the responses, passionate and compassionate, that this surge is provoking. The human impulse to respond to new developments with fear, to strangers with suspicion, is a strong one and an impulse that scripture is forever encouraging us to overcome. This week’s gospel is a case in point. “Let anyone with ears listen!” As good seed, as those bearing grain, as those with ears (doubly meaningful in a corn-growing state), we are to listen carefully to the call to resist judgment and put our efforts instead into good.

Immigration in this nation is a complex and emotionally-charged matter, and citizens have every right to communicate, educate and advocate about their concerns. But believers have an added duty to practice compassion wherever suffering is encountered. Attention to policy is essential. But attention to people is critical. While the policies are wrestled with, people still suffer. As a church, our priority is addressing the suffering, quite apart from judging who gets to stay and who must go. To that end, we are active in ensuring that those who await immigration determinations are housed in adequate, safe, clean and hospitable facilities, and that access is available to needed services.

The media are filled with competing voices whose clamoring provides much more heat than light. I am grateful for trusted colleagues, sisters and brothers in Christ, who are actively present to witness, listen and act. Because he serves as bishop of the ELCA synod in which so much of the current activity is taking place, because he is a perceptive observer, because he is fluent in Spanish, knowledgeable of life along the border and articulate in sharing his reflections, I am especially grateful for the communications of Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, and I commend to you his blog posts, particularly this one from a few days ago.

Weeds – events, situations, people, temptations to react hastily – are a certain feature of life until the end of time, when God will set all things right. Until then, our call is to bear the good grain for which Christ has sown us, in hopes that such a yield might of its own choke out the weeds that threaten.

“Let anyone with ears, listen.”

8 Responses to Weeds and wheat; refusal and refuge

  1. Linda walz says:

    Thank you, bishop, for timely and deeply compassionate words.

  2. Barb says:

    Thank you so much, Bishop Brian, for this useful information and for helping us put recent news reports into the context of our faith.
    I am grateful.

  3. Paul Coen says:

    Thank you for your vision of this text. I took the same tact and was a bit concerned how the folks would hear it. Particularly since I did not avoid the immigration issue as well as racism. It was good to know I was not alone in this approach and I appreciate our many partners in mission who boldly act and proclaim the Gospel for the world to see and hear! It is a privilege to serve God and our neighbor in Christ Church.

  4. Pastor Kim Osborn says:

    Thank you for these wise words, Bishop. I am grateful to know I am not the only one to think these things. God bless you and your leadership!

  5. Jim Elrod says:

    Good morning Bishop Maas, I hope and pray that things are well you today. I just wanted to say thank you for our interim pastor Gary Harris and his wife Lynda. We had our VBS( Vacation Bible School) last week and it was AWESOME to be a part of. We did the Wilderness Escape and our fellowship hall in the basement was transformed into the wilderness. Pastor Gary and Lynda created a fantastic atmosphere for everyone! There should be pictures of it on our Messiah Lutheran Church, Grand Island website. We had around 40 to 43 kids each night, a lot of whom had never visited us before! We also were blessed by all of the outstanding VOLUNTEERS to help put this on, as we had around 30-people helping each and every night. It was truly amazing to see it all come together. If you get a chance, take a look at the pictures, it was just GREAT! Thanks for all you do, Jim Elrod

    • brianmaas says:

      Jim–it does look like it was fun. Glad to see you’re posting photos of your group out here in NJ helping with Superstorm Sandy cleanup, too. These kids are working hard and making a difference, just as it sounds like you’re doing in Grand Island. Blessings!

  6. Donna Durrette says:

    Thank you! Your message is so refreshing. In a world of Rush and Co, we’re all becoming more and more afraid, leading to more hatred and violence.

    At one time, I was a foster mother-but I don’t speak Spanish, and live a long ways from a center-I think. It won’t work for me now. If someone from here visits the pastor in the link, I’ll go along. Actually, I may go anyway.
    Donna Durrette

  7. Jacob Krueger says:

    This reminds me of a recent article that the Lincoln Journal Star posted the other day (http://journalstar.com/news/local/education/lps-superintendent-has-seen-immigration-crisis-before/article_62c2ac78-1ea7-5de4-8018-818e8fa938db.html). In 2006, then superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools and now superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools, Dr. Steve Joel, stated, “The schools will be a safe heaven and we will guarantee that.” This message he gave to the community of Grand Island in 2006 is hopeful for about 200 children placed in Nebraska by the Federal Government. At the very end Joel says, “When they show up at our schools, we’ll educate them and do whatever we can to help them be successful.”
    These young refugees are like the Mustard seed that we heard in today’s Gospel, “Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” The children are small and young but when given the opportunity such as an education and hospitality while waiting to hear about their immigration determinations they can be grown into something big. What Dr. Joel has done is set an example for not only the Lutheran Church but for the whole catholic and apostolic church. We get to be a safe heaven for those afflicted by violence or those who hunger and thirst.

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