Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving girl.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
Sermon. July 19, 2020
Rev. John Steitz
Psalm 86 is a prayer seeking help. Many have seen this psalm as a model for prayer. Prayer as a voice of dependence on God. Prayer as a voice of trust. Prayer as a voice of commitment.
- Clinton McCann in his reflection on Psalm 86 for The New Interpreter’s Bible states, “In teaching his disciples to prayer, Jesus also taught them to submit their lives – ‘thy will be done.’”
“As in the psalmist’s case, such submission is possible, because we trust that God rules the world – ‘thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.’
“Like the psalmist, we attempt to live out our faith in a broken world that opposes us and opposes God. This reality means that we pray – ‘thy kingdom come.’”
Psalm 86 was most likely written during the Babylonian Exile. This was a period of captivity, with the Temple destroyed and the future of the people Israel in doubt. There were many peoples who were conquered in ancient times. One thing that stands out here is that despite great odds this people continued as a people of faith. Those who believe in the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, proclaim as in Psalm 86, verse 10, “you alone are God.”
Guided by God, there is this core faith within the people that will not be extinguished, regardless of the circumstances. We too have this core faith. The situation we now face will not cause our faith to evaporate.
All of us are facing difficult choices. Just this week my wife Catherine and I had to make some hard decisions about keeping our granddaughter Penny. We have been taking care of her three times a week, and essentially being in a “quarantine bubble” or pod with her household.
This weekend Penny will be at a party and we feel there needs to be a quarantine period before we have her over again. We don’t like this decision, but both of us have at-risk factors. I’m not going to go into the details except to say that this decision involved lots of discussion between us, and with Penny’s parents, over several weeks.
We are all adjusting to the new reality of living in a pandemic over an extended period of time. It is this context of adjusting to our new reality that Psalm 86 might be of help.
I don’t believe that God unleashed the coronavirus and that this is all part of some larger plan. A virus is part of nature, and this means that pandemics happen.
What I do believe is that God is with us now and will be with us throughout the pandemic. Nature, as beautiful as it sometimes is, can also be brutal. The forces of nature continue on without any concern for the survival of one individual creature or even a species.
God is Love. God’s love for us, and for all of God’s creation, transcends the impersonal, uncaring forces of nature. God is with us now during this pandemic.
And this moves us to lift up to God our prayers, our praise, our thanksgiving, and our commitment. We belong to God. We put our trust in God.
There are many ways to pray. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in her classic book,
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us
lists more than sixty (60) spiritual practices that can take us into a deeper prayer life.
That there are more than five dozen spiritual practices is not that any one of us would attempt to master each of them. Rather, there is a diversity of practices making it likely that each of us will have at least one practice that we connect with.
This flexibility is an important point as we seek to be a faithful people during a pandemic. We are familiar with one way of being the church. We are comfortable with this way, and we want to go back to that way as soon as possible.
I too want to go back to the way I know.
Just as I want to be able to take care of my granddaughter Penny without needing to worry about being put at risk, or Catherine being put at risk. I want to be able to rough house with her again. And I don’t want to have to be in quarantine away from her.
But here we are. I am sure that the author of Psalm 86 wanted to go back to the way it was before. To not be in Exile in Babylon. To be able to worship in the Temple, that was whole and had not been destroyed.
So too I am sure that the generations of Jewish people who have worshipped God in their homes, passing the faith to the young even as it was not safe to gather and worship together in public, would rather be able to worship God both at home and also together in public.
The early Christians gathered in house churches to celebrate Christ’s presence among them in Communion, and also to share a full meal so that everyone in the community had food to eat.
They met together in house churches for practical reasons. One reason is that they needed to hide from Roman authorities who would arrest and sometimes execute believers.
There are places in the world today where it is illegal and unsafe to gather publicly as followers of Jesus Christ. Where proclaiming the gospel puts one at great risk.
Yet God’s people persist. People of faith face the challenges before them with radical and patient perseverance.
We will persist through the pandemic. We will persist because God is with us. God is making away where there seems to be no way. God is blessing us with flexibility and resilience. God’s love sustains us, just as God sustained the people through 40 years in the wilderness, through 50 years of Exile, through generations of repression. God will sustain us through this pandemic.