What?! You Messin' Up My Garden?

He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.  Matt13:31-32

The lectionary passage for today was a warning.  Meant to make us stop and reconsider that biases we hold in our hearts, the plans we aspire to, and the brokeness to which we've become too accustomed.

We jumped into Matthew's gospel just after Christmas, beginning with the Sermon on the Mount.  From the outset, we established an interpretive filter through which everything we read in Matthew must pass.  That filter is hospitality, radical welcome, and removal of the walls separating insiders and outsiders.

The Filter is Hospitality

When Jesus reoriented the disciples with his, "you've heard it said...but I say unto you," (Matt 5:17-48) each time he used that rhetoric, his point was welcome.  You have heard that there are those who because of one thing or another are not to be included on the "inside", in our group, or on our side the wall.  But with each "but I say unto you" Jesus dismantled the wall and created the possibility of welcome. 

How do we welcome weeds?

In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus tells a story of a weed growing in someone's garden.  In the garden grew food for the well-being of the household. This was not a hobby garden for pretty flowers, but a field in which grew food.  It would be precious, and protected. 

Then comes a breeze and in blows a seed.  As the mustard seed takes spouts and takes root, it grows.  It grows large enough to become a home for birds.  To gardener, the weed becomes a home for pests.  Birds will nibble on seedlings, young sprouts, or simply dig up the seed that the gardener just planted.  Aside from the pesky birds, the weed grows, taking light, water, and soil.  The weed robs space in the garden.

That annoying weed - that thing which takes over our plans, our garden, our agenda - that is what the kingdom of heaven is like.  An intrusion. A challenge. Something which may oppose us.  Even good folks like us.

 

I love this song by The Brilliance, Turning Over Tables. I'd love to use it in congregational worship. Besides having a good message, if we sang things like this, we'd be more familiar with the idea that Jesus and his reign and realm enter our lives by turning things over - and not just little things like gardens.  But Jesus enters to topple everything which separates us, and which we use to separate others from the gift of God's reconciling love.  

 

Turning over Tables (Abridged lyrics)

Fear runs deep
Spreading like a virus
Hate is cheap
From afar it cost you nothin'

Sister take my hand
Brother we will stand
Open up your heart and find
Love is turnin' over tables
Breakin' off chains
When I see you in the stranger
I'm no longer a slave
Turnin' over tables
Tearin' down walls
Buildin' up the bridges
Between us all

Let courage be
My willingness to listen
So I can feel
The wound inside my heart
Let seeds of peace
Grow in hearts around us
That trees of hope
Give shade to all mankind
Sister take my hand

Brother we will stand
Open up your heart and find
Love is turnin' over tables
Breakin' off chains
When I see you in the stranger
I'm no longer a slave
Turnin' over tables
Tearin' down walls
Buildin' up the bridges
Between us all

Jesus brings a reign of grace, mercy and peace, even when we have other plans. It comes without merit; shared without restraint or distinction or bias.  Grace, mercy, peace, and acceptance is the form and substance of this amazing weed in our gardens. Perhaps, this weed is even the tree whose fruit will heal the nations (Rev 22:2).