painting of medieval church in summer

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In class this morning, we went through as many of the possibilities of meaning of the three parables we’d read in Matthew 13 as we could think of. Lots of different things occurred to us: we should be careful about just taking whatever “comes up” – maybe it isn’t good for us! Recalling that Jesus tells Peter to “feed my sheep,” maybe the idea of the kingdom of heaven as being like leaven encourages us to share the goodness and kindness and grace of God we have found ourselves – so, to make it grow, the way leaven makes bread grow.

When it comes to the gathering in of the weeds, God seems to know just the right time – the weeds and wheat have been spotted as different after they begin to bear fruit (aha!), but the householder/Son of Man still wants to wait till the time of “harvest.” None of us really seemed to like the idea of irredeemable weeds, and kept raising questions like “well, but don’t weeds have a purpose?” and “why did Jesus come, then, if nothing is going to change, the weeds are going to stay weeds and the wheat is going to stay wheat …?” Probably good that Jesus doesn’t just tell ONE parable in Matthew, but several; we might feel a lot more dismal if the only one in the chapter were the wheat and the weeds, but there are others that may take the message in a more hopeful direction.

What all this means for us is still, perhaps, rather uncertain.

However, in church we were asked to think about Rahab, in Joshua 2, and what it might mean for Rahab to be “kin” – in light of Jesus’ statement in Mark 3:31-34 about his sister and brother and mother being “those who do God’s will.” At that moment, in the context of Mark’s gospel, “doing the will of God” seems to have been those who’d made time to go listen to Jesus. This is comforting, since we can easily see ourselves in that number – gee, we’re doing that, too.

In Joshua 2, Rahab seems to fit the description of someone who “does God’s will” – at least, from the Hebrews-about-to-be-Israelites’ perspective. From the Jericho-ians’ perspective, it might be hard to see her that way. Is she a protector (of the spies, of her whole family), or a traitor (of her town-people-government)? How unashamed would we be to claim someone like Rahab as our kin, given her profession, and her role in that story? (There was probably a time when at least some of her family members thought of her as “weed-y”.) The Bible embraces her kinship to Jesus – pretty clearly, since she shows up in Jesus’ scriptural genealogies (Matthew 1:5, and by extension Luke 3:32).

So, our pastor says, think about what a modern-day Rahab might look like. Stephanie Clifford, trying to protect her daughter, e.g.? Who never gets named in the news without being identified as “Stormy Daniels, porn star”? (And we could ask ourselves, why?) But let’s face it, If she is doing the will of God, trying to take care of her daughter, that makes her, according to Jesus’ definition, a sister. And if a sister of Jesus, then a sister of the brothers and sisters in the church “family,” our sister, our kin.

This same reasoning makes a lot of people kin that we probably don’t ordinarily think of as kin. White people like mostly our whole church might not ordinarily think of African Americans as “kin,” but according to Jesus’ definition, we are. Similarly LGBT folks who are doing the will of God. Similarly Muslims who are doing the will of God. Similarly all the people who are doing the will of God, affirming life over death, who Jesus would claim as his sister and brother and mother.

After church there were a lot of meetings, including one of the task force that is working on relaunching the church website. We feel like we’re making progress. We want people to look at it and realize at first glance that they would have a place at the table here – the way there’s always room at the table for “kin”.

painting of medieval church in summer

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