Sermons

Sun, Jul 23, 2017

Living with mess

Series:Sermons

I have a confession to make--

I'm not the tidiest of people.

Most of the time my house looks like a bomb has hit it.

Take my study, for example.

My desk is piled high with papers and books...

and accumulated stationary objects;

while there is scarcely a spare patch of floor space from the piles of old bills and documents waiting to be shredded...

and all of the assorted bits of freediving equipment and paraphernalia.

In the bedroom, there are several piles of clothes beside the bed:

dog-walking clothes and lounging-around-home clothes...

and, in another area, there are usually piles of clothes waiting to be washed.

In the dining room, there are also piles of papers...

boxes and bottles...

and the odd tool or two... 

cluttering up the dining table.

But, before some of you start to shake and shudder in horror--

let me say that I'm not a complete and total slob.

I do try to keep the bathroom tidy.

And I am quite particular about the kitchen.

I don't like having an untidy kitchen.

I don't like having cluttered benches and workspaces.

I'm very particular about where things are kept...

and I'm always packing things away after I have used them.

I take great care in stacking dishes in the dishwasher...

and I always clear up my veggie scraps.

 

All of us have different attitudes towards mess and tidiness.

I know some people who couldn't care less--

people who never put anything back where it came from...

and whose houses are far worse than mine.

And I know some people who can't bear it if the slightest thing is out of place--

people who spend all of their time and energy cleaning, and tidying, and straightening.

And there are some, like me, who are selective--

who can cope with mess and clutter and untidiness in some places...

and under some conditions...

but who can't cope with it in others.

There are some people who have messy homes but meticulous workplaces;

or vice versa.

In part, our attitudes to tidiness reflect our upbringing and conditioning.

For example, I grew up in a messy house...

so, I guess, I'm simply repeating what I learned;

while other people may be messy in response to a parent who was overly fastidious.

But, in part, our attitude to mess--

and our need for tidiness and order--

also reflects our personalities...

our priorities... 

our values...

and our expectations in life.

All of us have different levels of tolerance for mess and

disorder...

and differing levels of need for tidiness and order--

at work or at home...

in our personal lives... 

and in society.

 

"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat"

In this parable we have a simple story of weeds growing among wheat.

But it's not about just any old weeds--

rather, a particular sort of weed... 

one that's actually related to wheat and that appears like it in its early stages... 

such that the two can only be differentiated when both are fully grown and ripe...

because the weeds don't produce any useful grain.

That's what made them such a nuisance--

because it increased the workload at harvest time...

when care had to be taken to separate them...

which, of course, slowed down the harvest.

So, naturally, the slaves in this story wanted to pull the weeds out...

because it would make their life easier.

And, while that seems reasonable...

they had reached the point of obsession.

For, in the original Greek, it suggests that they kept asking their master.

They didn't just come and ask once.

They did it time and time again.

"Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?"

"Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?"

"Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?"

But the land-owner kept saying, "No!"

Because the wheat and the weeds looked so much alike...

it would have been hard to tell them apart...

and they would have ended up pulling out good wheat along with the weeds...

doing more harm than good.

In effect, what their master seemed to be saying was: "Stop trying to sort out the mess...

and stop stressing about it...

leave me to worry about that...

and get on with what needs to be done now".

 

Another parable.

Another simple, everyday story pointing to a deeper reality.

And, despite the author's elaborate interpretation of it, it's not meant to be an allegory.

It's not meant to be a story where every little bit is symbolic... 

or representative of something else.

It's a simple story meant to make a profound point.

And what is the point here?

 

The point is that, as a community of faith, we're not perfect.

We never have been. 

And we never will be.

The church always has been-- 

and always will be-- 

a messy mix of people:

people who come from very different backgrounds... 

from different races...

from different cultures...

and from different socio-economic positions...

with different levels of education...

with different experiences in life...

and different orientations.

The church is a messy mix of people who come with different gifts and abilities...

different beliefs and understandings...

different expectations and needs...

different hopes and dreams...

and different ways of doing things.

The church is a messy mix of people whom we like...

and with whom we feel comfortable...

and with whom we share much in common--

people like us--

as well as people whom we don't like;

people who can be difficult and who make us feel uncomfortable.

And, of course, there are some in the church who are like the slaves in the parable.

They want a "pure" church--

neat and tidy.

They want the church to be a group of like-minded people...

or perhaps, rather...

they want it to be a group that thinks just like they do.

And they think that it's up to them to decide who can belong and who can't.

There are some who think that it's up to them to exclude those whom they think don't fit...

those who don't measure up to their expectations...

those who don't obey their rules...

those who don't believe what they believe.

And don't we all know about people like that.

We hear about them, frequently, in the media:

the 'fundamentalists'--

like Lyle Shelton and the Australian Christian Lobby.

And yet, if we're honest, we 'enlightened' Christians can be just as judgmental.

And this parable says to us all, "NO"!

It's not up to us to decide who is in and who isn't.

It's not up to us to decide who is acceptable and who isn't.

It's not up to us to decide who are-- 

metaphorically-- 

wheat and who are weeds.

Rather, like the slaves in the parable... 

let's focus our energy on the things that really matter;

let's focus on what's important for us to be doing now.

And, perhaps--

borrowing some agricultural images in keeping with the parable--

our energies would be better spent...

preparing the ground...

sowing seeds...

mending fences...

and making sure that everyone has enough to eat.

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