A Revolution of Hope by Allie Papke-Larson
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
This sermon was preached at LCM|Canterbury on July 19, 2020. You can also find the video of the sermon at the bottom of this post.
Today I am looking at our two New Testament texts, Romans 8:12-25 and Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43. These two texts are talking about our human spirits and how our spirits are liberated through hope.
Talking about the spirit can be a foggy experience for us. It can feel like once we are beginning to have a clear understanding of it, the fog thickens and we lose sight. This is one of the reasons I love the Bible, it is a book filled with story, metaphor, and images to help us understand concepts that live in the fog.
Looking to the Romans text we have Paul writing to us about the body and the spirit. He tells us that to live by the body alone is death, so we should put our faith in our Spirits. And, rightly so. We all know we live in a world where everything is born, grows, lives, dies, and then decays. So to only put our care and faith into our physical world is to choose death when inevitably that physical world ends, however, the Spirit continues.
Paul goes on to tell us, to reassure us of the goodness and hope that lies within our spirits, by saying our spirits have been adopted by God. Our spirits belong not to slavery and fear, but to God. Our spirits are God’s heirs, we are to inherit all that God loves. But Paul does not stop here, he goes on to say that we are co-heirs with Christ! It is always powerful when the authors of this Holy text place humans alongside the divine. I am reminded of the book of Genesis when we are called to be co-creators with God in this world. This inheritance is a profound reassurance that our spirits are powerful, good, and are loved.
In our Gospel text today, Matthew is writing about a parable Jesus told to his disciples. The parable goes: there is a farmer who has sowed wheat or “good seed” into his field. In the night “the enemy” comes and sows in weeds. By the time the servants notice the weeds growing and bring this to the attention of the farmer, he tells them it is too late to pull the weeds, that to do so would also mean the death of the good seed because already their roots have grown together and have intertwined.
This text has often been interpreted in a way that doesn’t offers us much food for the soul. It has been looked at as if the seeds are people: there are good people/good seed, and bad people/weeds; that there are the people of God and everyone else, creating a dichotomy and division between people.
It is much more interesting and offers much more nutrients to our spirits, however, if we are to look at this text as if our lives are the field, and each of us has good seed and weeds as part of us. Our lives have weeds, each of us has weeds within us. We have all experienced this in one way or another. The farmer, in his wisdom, tells the servants they cannot pull the weeds, not yet. He knows to pull the weeds too early would harm the good seed. Human’s have both good seed and weeds within us, and as it appears throughout this text, it’s not as simple as choosing which to water, but that we need both for growth.
In the Romans text Paul has told us to live by our spirits, and not to worry because our spirits have been adopted by God and are heirs to hope and all God loves. In verse 18 it says “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…” We, humans, have glory within us. He goes on to talk about this striking image in verse 22, writing that all of creating is “Groaning with labor pains…” and so is the human spirit, he writes. There is so much life in this image! Our Gospel text, too, is full of life. Wheat growing in a field, waiting to be harvested to be made into bread to feed the people of God. Both of these images hold so much hope for what is about to be born. To “groan with labor pains” of course means that you are pregnant and about to give birth, and Paul is sharing with us that there is so much hope in what is about to be born, creation is waiting for something to be born within the human spirit, waiting for hope to be born.
Babies are not born without pain, however, and fields do not grow without weeds. These images do not shy away from the labor and suffering that help bring about exquisite life. Seed, like our human spirits, need to be nurtured to grow, they need to be cared for and adopted by the farmer, and like wheat in a field and the birth of a child, pain and weeds are part of the process. These authors know that our spiritual lives have pain and weeds, too. The mother, the farmer, and Paul know the labor put into the child or the field do not take away from the beauty and hope of a newborn baby, or the life-giving fuel of wheat. It is through these stories that we are learning weeds and pain are part of the growing process.
Paul tells us that the creation of our human spirits comes through this forging, they are pregnant with the hope of what is to come. Again in verse 18: “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Like a pregnant mother growing her child within her, we too are growing something inside of us… even now during this time of crisis, uncertainty, and unrest. We have societal weeds: COVID, loneliness, unemployment, police brutality, a divided country, and we have weeds that are perhaps even more painful, our personal weeds and pains. There are so many weeds to pull…
In Matthew once the wheat the weeds are separated, the farmer has the weeds burned. Later, Jesus says in verse 42: “They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” How is this hopeful? After our own weeds have grown it will be painful to pull them. Think of a woman in labor pains, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is painful work sorting out and burning your own sins and the sins of society. It is easier to look away and let them grow forever, even if they harm the wheat.
But it is in the looking at and the picking out the weeds, that we will be in a right-relationship with our own spirits, with God, each other, and creation. And as people of faith, we believe that we are more than our weeds.
We believe everything that has a spirit is pregnant with the hope that creation is waiting for, and which God has given us, to be born. It is through our spirits that hope comes, this is why Paul writes, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us!”
Each of us, with our spirits which God has adopted, are giving birth to the revolution of hope!
A graduate of Augsburg University, Allie Papke-Larson has served as our Program Coordinator since July 2019. Beginning this academic year, she will be preaching every third Sunday at LCM|Canterbury.