Friday, July 21, 2017

Lectionary Thoughts for 7/23/2017

About the only thing the Revised Common Lectionary and the Catholic Sunday Mass readings have in common this week is the reading from Matthew 13: 24-43. Interestingly, if it the Catholic Mass readings that have the entire passage without redaction, and the RCL omits several verses from the middle of Chapter 13.

There are several good parables there, continuing last week's theme of sowing and growth, although the twist this week is more on the harvesting of the wheat from the tares at the final judgment. The opening parable of which very clearly says the tares are sowed by the enemy, and Jesus clearly labels the enemy as the evil one when queried about the meaning of it by his disciples later on in the passage, which is typical of Matthew to have Jesus clearly explain the meaning of the allegorical parables. Other gospels tend to leave the interpretation more open ended.

There are any number of allusions or allegorical interpretations a preacher could pursue or use, given the parables presents. Who are the wheat? Who are the tares? That could be touchy but an interesting exercise in thought, seeing as the tares and wheat grow together and only the angels at God's behest can separate them at the end. So, the argument could be made is it even our job to try to discern the tares or do we go all inclusive and welcome everyone, even if we suspect them of being tares? Again, a preacher would have to be very careful going in that direction because the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. We can be all wheat, but we can also be tares if we delude ourselves.

The second option will likely be over looked by many preachers, as it is a very short second parable that is not as eye catching as wheat and tares being winnowed by angels throwing things into fire. However, the little parable about the mustard seed has an interesting little twist at the end: the smallest of seeds grows into a big bush, and even  'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'

I think that might be a more productive parable to focus on: building the Church so that birds WANT to come and dwell in our branches. Sometimes, Churchy people turn people off, despite their best efforts, because of hypocrisy or the use of bizarrely esoteric Church-language and theology that unchurched people don't even understand what we are talking about.

Two incidents that happened this week that immediately come to my mind. One is the constant sniping of conservative Catholics seem to delight in online at Pope Francis because he is too liberal, whatever that means exactly. I am a member of several Catholic facebook groups, and the level of sanctimonious acrimony and name calling at Pope Francis is truly staggering. The man is not perfect, nor does he claim to be, but he is not the pinko commie that some American Catholics are convinced to paint him as. In terms of evangelism as Catholics, I loathe people who continue to bash the current Pope. I don't always agree with everything the Pope says or does, but he is still the Pope. Who wants to join a church full of people who bash their leaders?

The other thing that comes to mind is the resigning of an Ole Miss football coach, who basically brought the football program there into scandal of all sorts and NCAA investigations. This, in itself, is not news, as it happens all too frequently. What is interesting is that the coach in question was notorious for sanctimonious bible thumping and holier-than-thou attitudes at press conferences that turned a lot of people off in itself, and with scandals involving recruits and escort services and all the filth being alleged by investigators, I came home to read a torrent of blogs and sports commentary on hypocrisy and the supposed downfall of "Christian coaches" who make a big deal of waving the faith flag in their public personas only to fall from grace a la Jimmy "I have sinnnned" Swaggert and other TV Evangelists from the '80s whose careers ended in ignominy.

Simply put: No birds to this day want to roost in those kind of branches.

Is you deportment and what you say and do building a church that people want to join and know more about? Or is it pushing people away? I think that would be the direction I would go in a homily. Personal Christian behavior does not operate in a vacuum. It has effects, and evangelism is the first casualty of Christians behaving badly.

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