14 JUL—Why the Weeds?
So now they’re truly launched into the real world—our youngest not only graduated from college, now a real “adulty adult” as she used to say of those grown-ups in the real world (as opposed to young adults still in college). Kristopher moved out again, but I think for real this time, rooming with some guys who are not only good friends, but prayer and accountability partners. I’m not sure how well we’re doing with the “letting go” part, but we’re getting there. Quite the eventful summer—not to mention coping with COVID and emerging new civil rights movement—and its barely the middle of July! No wonder I’m a little tired!
I was just on an interview team for a young Army Chaplain Wannabe, who has already spent years in his still young life, struggling with the big questions of “Why?” Why the awful weeds growing alongside the fruitful grain? (kind of a foreshadowing of what we’ll be talking about Sunday morning—check out Matthew 13 for more). We celebrate kids growing up, but cry when they’re gone. We celebrate God’s mighty miracles in our lives, alongside personal struggles of praying for dying loved ones, as well as our social struggles of the dual pandemics of COVID and enduring racism.
Are we too Calvinist for our own good? I’ve heard it said that faith in America is deeply rooted in Calvinist/Presbyterian ideas about ALL that is, being intentionally fore-ordained by God. In which case the question necessarily comes up when bad things happen, how can a loving God “cause” that?
We Methodists, though, really carry a different theological DNA. In our understanding, God is certainly the all-powerful creator of the cosmos, yet we have been heirs for millennia to a fallen, broken, sinful creation. We don’t claim to understand why, only THAT, as one of our summer favorite hymns says, “through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God…I’ve learned to depend upon His word.”
So for us the question becomes not “Why the weeds?” but “How, in the midst of the weeds, can we keep growing in the fruitfulness of God’s blessings and grace?” No so much “Why did my loved one die?” as “How, in the midst of devastating loss, can I know God’s grace through it all?” Not so much “Why would God allow COVID?” as “How can we be signs and agents of God’s grace through it all, even in the midst of the pandemic?” Not so much “Why would God allow the evils of racism?” as “In the scars of racism, how can followers of Jesus be agents of God’s redemption through it all– both for persons suffering, and for a broken society?
Note an important difference: the Calvinist perspective leaves even Jesus people merely passive receivers or victims of what happens, while the Wesleyan DNA (rooted in Arminianism, if you’d like to look further), recognizes the power of grace, the reality of human choice for good and evil, and the call on all followers of Jesus to be ACTIVE agents of God’s grace in the world.
So even today—how will each of us be praying for God to open our eyes and open our hands to be agents of God’s grace, through it all? In your interactions with your mail carrier, in how you drive and navigate through angry drivers, in how you interact with your loved ones near and far, in how you interact with the waiter, the cashier, the delivery driver, the lawn guy, how can each of us in our choices large and small, be real agents of God’s grace?
Weeding with Jesus—Rev. Jim