Matthew 13., Paradox

Wheat and Weeds.

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

 

Many of us I believe can identify with this parable that Jesus told.

Over the last couple of weeks with the Turning Mission I have seen God do some amazing stuff, yet also have seen Church politics get a bit unpleasant and been struggling a bit with my depression/ability to cope.  In my life it feels very much like wheat and the weeds growing together.

I was recently reading the amazing book “Dirty Glory” and was struck by how Pete Greig talks about how he is in a place where God is doing amazing things and the mission that he (Greig) was instrumental in is snow-balling when his own world is collapsing as his wife is fighting for her life with a brain tumour. Wheat and Weeds growing together.

Some days it might even feel as if there is loads of weeds and the wheat isn’t always as visible, your eye is drawn to what shouldn’t be there, it feels wrong and out of place.

We as Christians have to live with this paradox, we believe in the ‘already and the not yet’ of the Kingdom of God. A fallen world -with pain and brokenness- but yet with signs of the Kingdom breaking in around us too.

I remember at college there was a big debate around “Original Sin versus Original Blessing” which basically could be condensed into one basic question “Are people basically good or bad?” -and the truth is BOTH. We are made in the image of God and something of his nature can never be squashed out of his creation, yet we are also clearly fallen people, we sin and are sinful.

In fact the fact that wheat is growing is the reason the weeds are growing too, the enemy would not waste his time in sowing weeds into a redundant field.

Pastor Yinka spoke on Sunday about “The greater the favour, the greater the warfare”, this echoes with scripture when it tells us that “anyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.

There is a song “I never promised you a rose garden” and yet people think that as Christians we should expect and easy ride and life will always be plain-sailing with a perpetual car parking space every time you visit ASDA(L!).

We all want a weed free world.

Yet this isn’t the reality of life for us as Christians.

Too often we sell the Christian faith as a pleasure cruise-liner when actually it is a battle-shop.

If there were no ‘weeds’ in our life, no challenges or struggles, would we grow? Would we become all we could be? Would we miss out on seeing God’s grace and answers to prayer?  Would we be able to bless those around us as effectively as we do know?

We cannot have the wheat without the weeds.

When Jesus and later St. Paul, talked about following Christ as being the narrow way, a struggle or a fight they weren’t joking.

The Bible says “In this world you will have trouble…”

And then it goes onto say “but take heart I have over-come the world”.

I was talking to someone at Church on Sunday who quoted Julian of Norwich who said “all will be well”, which made me think about “all things work for the good of those who love him” and think of Joseph who moved from the pit to the prison to the palace, and was able to save the nations around him -Joseph himself said “what was meant for evil God turned around for good”. God who can redeem messy situations, and use broken bricks to build a wall (cf the story of Nehemiah), is able to keep good on his promise to bring good out of bad.

Alongside this I thought of another quote I had heard which said “It’ll be alright in the end, and if it is not alright it is not the end”. This resonates with the story Jesus told because eventually there is a harvest and the weeds are taken away and the wheat harvested. It is comforting to know that even thought the weeds may look many, and may look  fearsome one day “every knee will bow before him and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”, the weeds/sin/pain/Satan/evil does not get the last word but instead Jesus does. Jesus has the last word.

There is a harvest.

And the harvester is trustworthy.

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Acts of Service, Discipleship, Mission, Paradox, prayer, Spirituality

Falling off the tightrope.

Some Churches are very good at being spiritual, they have a wonderful programmes of in-depth Bible studies, great expository preaching and prayer meetings… but less good about actually living it out in their corporate life together.

Where is the mission?

Where is the works of justice?

Where is the community engagement and power of Christian presence in the community in which God has set us?

Yet I have seen the other extreme too, where Churches have programmes total logged jammed with good and worthy (mostly) activities until you look a little closer and say:

 “When do we pray together?”

“Where does our community gather around scripture?”

“Do we share communion together?”

The problem is some Churches are great at going deep but are lousy at putting it into practice, other Churches are really busy putting it into practice but lose sight of why they are there in the first place.

It is easy to fall off the tight-rope on either side of the rope, but much harder to walk the tension in deep corporate shared prayer, scripture and sacraments alongside real and authentic shared lived out faith with those God calls us to love.

Worrying some Churches and Christians have been off the tight-rope from years.

Somehow we need to hold both in tension, it is not an either or option, rather both working together seamlessly (like Ernie Wise’s hair!!).

Who we are and what we do need to be joined us, need to be authentic, and is not something we need to apologise for or be embarrassed about.

In fact I believe that in God’s economy, the more we pray and go into his word we should naturally be propelled by his Spirit into action, into love and service, deep births breadth. Conversely when we encounter the brokenness of the world that should draw us to our knees and as we pray we see God at work it reminds us of out Christian destinctiveness, and breadth draws us deeper.

When can go deeper when we have greater breadth in our outreach.

We can have greater breadth in our outreach as we go deeper with God.

These things are meant to be complimentary and yet too often as Church we have made them separate.

I long for a revolution of a Church which goes deep into the things of Christ and reaches out with great breadth to those who are on Christ’s heart, particularly the marginalised and disenfranchised and all this is seen as normative Christian behaviour.

Go deep to reach out with greater breadth.

Reach out with great breadth to be drawn deep into the things of God.

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Paradox, Salvation, Theology

You wouldn’t take a cockroach to the vets.

I was reading a Blog today which called this week, traditionally known as Holy Week as UNholy week.

After-all the first Holy Week, was far from Holy, with its central event was a massive miscarriage of justice, politician maneuvering, dodging responsibilities, a really unhealthy alliance between State and religious extremism… We see state sponsored torture and barbarism, voyeurism, officials dodging responsibility, a friend betraying a friend for money, cowardice in the face of adversity, lies and denial for self preservation…

And we see the mob, this fickle group of people who turned from shouting ‘hosanna’ to ‘crucify’, showing blood-lust and hunger for violence and death.

Yet n the midst of all this truly ugly, horrible behavior we see the most beautiful self giving love.
Here Jesus saw humanity at its very worst.
Jesus must have looked around at this degenerate people, in a depraved society and a dysfunctional religious/political system… and it is amazing that he did walk away and say “they are not worth saving”.
God knows each of us better than we know ourselves, all our mixed motives and sinful behaviors, he sees us at our worst, and yet amazingly he still loves us.

This is at the heart of what I find most amazing about the gospel, it was when we far from God, his enemies, that Christ died for us.

Just take a moment to think of “dying for your enemy”.
I heard someone say on the radio once that ‘you wouldn’t take a cockroach to the vets’… why would you show love to something that has done nothing to earn it, in fact has only caused pain by its rebellion from God.
The amazing thing is that we are all worst sinners than we all realize… and yet at our worst and least lovable, Christ still died for us…
There is a famous song which talks about the cross and it says “it was my sin that held him there until it was accomplished” but that’s not quite true, Jesus wasn’t compelled to die by my sin, he chose to die for me.
It was HIS LOVE that held him there.
He loved me, and he took my sin, upon his shoulders.
He died in my place.
We forget sometimes that we did nothing to earn this.
When we take communion we kneel before God, empty handed, because we bring no bargaining chips to the table.
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Paradox, Uncategorized

Paradox: Hold Loosely OR Hold Fast.

This week at the Re.Ignite book club (reignite is a fab book by Ian Parkinson) we had a fascinating discussion about holding loosely to things.

The idea is that so often we as Churches and Christians keep going with things that maybe we should have put down possibly years ago. Also, often it is through various adaptations and refinements that end up -often in a very different place- that we discover the place of fruitfulness. The recommendation of Ian Parkinson in his book was to hold loosely to things.
Yet yesterday at Pints Of View conversation moved to Bill Wilson (leader of the worlds largest Sunday School) has a very different mantra, which is “Christians often quit before the miracles kick in” and cites the inspirational Jackie Pullinger who was 7 years in the walled city in China (a hot bed of drug addiction and prostitution) before she saw anyone come to faith… I wonder if I had been in her situation whether I would have had the grit to stay faithful without the encouragement of fruit for 7 years (a little less than I have been in Kingswood) and yet now she is running a massively fruitful mission in China and seeing many, many lives transformed.
My worry is do I hold fast on what I should be holding loosely?
Do I hold loosely on what I should be holding fast on?
How do I know which is which?
Ultimately my greatest desire is simply to be faithful and do what God is calling me to do and not do what he is not calling me to do.
I don’t think that there is a simple formula about how to know which is which, ultimately it’s not a out formula but relationship,  I believe it is about walking closely with our Heavenly Father, learning to hear and heed his voice.
Yet I would suggest that perhaps those who are more flakey perhaps the spirit of God, the refiners fire, is calling you to hold fast and preserve more?
Maybe are too focused maybe the God of all fruitfulness is call you hold things more loosely?
I also wonder whether we look at fruit too much as a guide, we often don’t see the fruit in people’s lives at the time anyway!
We often underestimate how long things take to embed themselves into any new situation, being a culture of instant coffee and broadband we expect results to happen in a flash, and also anything -even the most wonderful of things- normally hits an 18 month wall when the new has become normal, and the exciting has become routine.
Yet too, I think sometimes we are proud people too, and admitting that something isn’t working anymore, especially if it has been wonderful, is a hard thing to admit. We often hold on to the good (or even the okay) when I believe often God is calling us to lay it down in order to pick up the great.
So I believe sometimes we are called to hold loosely, and sometimes to hold firm and persevere, yet we need the wisdom to know the difference and as the epistle of James reminds us “if anyone lacks wisdom they should ask God who gives generously”.
“Whether you turn to the left or the right you will hear a voice behind you saying this is the way walk in it”

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