SERMON:  Seeds and weeds. 

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

Psalm 20

Mark 4:26-34

 

Prayer

Holy, Creating, Creative God:  We sing from the depths of our sorrow.  We sing from the abundance of our joy.  We sing in voices separate and unique.  We sing in voices as your body.  May the words of our mouths, whether in speech or song, and the meditations of our hearts, whether in prose or poetry, be pleasing in your sight.  Amen.

 

The Hebrew Scripture reading for today, from 1 Samuel, reminds us, “for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

 

God sees things differently.  God does things differently.

 

Within this scripture, we hear that when all the fine specimens of men were paraded before God, none of those assumed to be fitting to be the new king, were actually found to be fitting by our God.

 

This is because our God sees things differently.  This is because our God does things differently.

 

You might even say, that the God presented within this scripture is actually a rather “queer” kind of God.

 

And what do I mean by “queer?”  Webster’s Dictionary definition suggests that “queer,” as an adjective, is that which is questionable or suspicious, or that which is eccentric or unconventional.  Further, it suggests that to be queer is to be “differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal.”

 

For God to see things differently and for God to do things differently, could God’s seeing and doing be considered as being rather “queer?”

 

Could God be considered as being rather queer?

 

I would like to offer a quote.  This is the same quote that I provided for you all in this morning’s bulletin.  It is a quote from my favorite theologian, Carter Heyward.  It reads:

 

“This is because the most dynamic dimension of Queerness—And Christ—is the holding together of qualities which only appear to be contradictions, qualities which are not in fact contradictory or oppositional, qualities which taken together are, well, simply ‘queer.’  Each brings out something in the other, revealing it more fully for what it is: humanity and divinity, anger and compassion, the struggle for life and the letting go of it, a capacity to wrestle fiercely against the enemies of justice and to love them concretely…”

 

You see, Carter Heyward understands that the God of her faith is a God of paradox.  Humanity and divinity come together in perfect harmony, to create our Christ.  For Heyward, Christ is rather queer.

 

After all, aren’t human beings a rather queer phenomenon?  We, as human beings, complete with both bodies and souls, we present the ultimate paradox.  Just like our Christ.

 

We are human, complete with all of our human frailties and messy imperfections.  Yet our humanity is not our sole identity.  It never has been, and it never will be.

 

Please allow me to draw upon the secrets of the rabbinic tradition of Midrash, as I try my hand at the ancient art of proof-texting.  In other words, let me draw upon that which we already know from other scriptures, in order to illuminate our scripture reading for today.

 

Let us draw upon the wisdom offered to us from the creation narrative of Genesis 1.  Consider how this scripture suggests that we are made in the image and the likeness of our God.  We were created to be like our Creator. 

 

This is an issue of Theological Anthropology.  Who we believe our God to be, will directly impact who we believe ourselves to be.  Made in the image and likeness of our God, we are similar to our God in some amazingly fundamental ways.  Theological anthropology suggests that the ways in which we imagine our God as Creator will significantly impact the ways in which we imagine ourselves as our Creator’s Creation.

 

Further: Consider that in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, it is suggested that in the beginning was the word and that all things were created through the word.  And the word was with God, and the word was God.

 

The Gospel of John portrays Christ as the word, present at the beginning of all creation, through whom all things were created.

 

Therefore, if we so desired, we might conclude that we are made in the image and likeness of our God, in the image and likeness of our Christ.

 

Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine.  Jesus provides the perfect reminder that we, too, are complete with the complexities of both humanity and divinity.  These two components are not in opposition within us, just as they were not in opposition within our Christ.

 

Within the chaplain office at the hospital I am interning at, you can find an insightful reminder posted on the wall by the main door.  Written by Gerhard Frost, this reminder reads:

 

“Of all the facts I daily live with, there’s none more comforting than this; If I have two rooms, one dark, the other light, and I open the door between them, the dark room becomes lighter without the light one becoming darker.”

 

I invite you to again consider the first chapter of the Gospel of John.  It suggests that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

 

I suspect that the realities of our queer embodiments is a bit like this.  Complete with both body and soul, we are brilliant creations, made in the image and likeness of our brilliant Creator.

 

And perhaps we are a little bit queer.

 

I believe that the human phenomenon is a bit questionable or suspicious.  That our human reality is a bit eccentric and unconventional.

 

I believe it all to be a bit queer.

 

For example, consider the queerness of faith.

 

Consider the prayer that is often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi.  Within this prayer, it reads:

 

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

 

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

 

Within the twelve step fellowship programs, this shift of intentions is referred to as “a spiritual awakening.”  A desire to console rather than being consoled, a desire to understand rather than being understood, a desire to love rather than being loved, all this might simply seem like a good moral ethic, or an ideal code of conduct by which to live.  Within many of the twelve step rooms, this is all considered to be something so radically different because the members in those rooms have spent so much time focusing on the far opposite end of this specific holy spectrum. 

 

Personally, I know.  I have been there.  I spent so much time wanting to be understood, and so much energy trying to be loved.  But the paradox is, that if we ever really even hope to accomplish these holy goals, then we need to begin by first offering those same divine blessings to others.

 

How might the principles of this prayer apply to us, here in this community of faith, as people of faith?

 

Written within the words of this prayer, we find the wisdom that it is only in understanding that we are best understood, that it is only in forgiving that we are best forgiven, and that it is only in loving that we are best loved.  These are some of the many paradoxes of our faith.

 

But why is this so?

 

Consider the paradox presented by Christ.  There is something divine about humanity, and there is something human about divinity.  The two can come harmoniously together, never opposing, always enhancing.

 

What does it mean to be made in the image and likeness of our God? 

 

It means that we are made in the image and likeness of a God that took on the flesh of humanity, all the while maintaining perfected divinity.  Jesus came to earth to stand with us, and to stand for us.  He suffered from the violence done to him by his fellow brothers and sisters, done because he was so radically different, an “other” so far outside of the norm.  He suffered and he died, and yet death could not stop God’s movement of radical difference.

 

What meaning might this hold for us, as people who follow in the Jesus’ footsteps, in Jesus’ movement of radical difference?

 

I see our God as a queer God, and I see our faith as a queer faith.

 

I used to think that God had to be all powerful.  Yet, if God is all-powerful, and all-knowing, and all-present, and all-loving, then why does suffering seem to persist?  Here enters the theodicy problem.  Many theologians have considered the need that perhaps one of the components of our omni-God simply has to be surrendered, in order for our faith to make sense.

 

One of the component of the omni-God, simply has to give.  And personally, I have come to suspect that perhaps God can’t really be all powerful, especially if God has shared Her power with us, creating Her creation in Her own image and likeness.  God empowers us.  We are made in the image and likeness of our Creator God, and we are made in the image and likeness of our creating Christ.

 

The Creator created us to be creating people.

 

I believe that God doesn’t have all the power, because She has intentionally shared it with us.

 

What kind of God do you believe in?  Do you believe in a queer kind of God?

 

Clearly, I believe in a queer kind of God.

 

And this is exactly what our scripture speaks of today.  

 

Consider the Gospel reading of today.  Think of the mustard seed. 

 

Our scripture suggests that Jesus said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

 

This morning, I shared with the children of the congregation a few pictures of the mustard plant.  Biblical imagination has led some to creatively imagine the mustard seed to grow into a mighty and massive tree.

 

Mighty and massive.  Surely those are components that we want to embrace when we conceptualize our God.

 

But, my New Testament Professor suggests that characteristics like “mighty and massive” were probably never the point of Jesus’ message.  The mustard plant often grows more like a weed.  It grows out and about, spreading and sprawling.  It grows where least expected.  It grows when least accepted.  It is like a weed.  It shows up wherever and whenever it desires.  Jesus is comparing God’s kin-dom to a bothersome, spreading and sprawling weed.  How amazing is this!

 

Mighty and massive weren’t the characteristic that God preferred from the potential kings in the 1 Samuel scripture, and mighty and massive aren’t the characteristics that are preferred here in this story from Jesus.

 

Jesus speaks of the kin-dom of God as being radically different from that which is often expected or anticipated.

 

God’s kin-don is not some grand destination, a mighty fortress of lofty strength.  God’s kin-dom is on the ground, right here, right now, spreading and sprawling.  It shows up unexpectedly, and it stays around resiliently.  God’s kin-dom is like a weed.  God likes weeds.  The Use of Parables

 

 

Surely God is questionable and suspicious; surely God is eccentric and unconventional.  God is different, in rather substantial and odd ways, different from that which is considered usual or normal.

 

What do you believe about your Creator?

 

And, how do these beliefs impact your beliefs about yourself as the Creator’s creation?

 

I believe that God is really rather queer.

 

I pray that we may all strive to be the same.