There’s a lot of dust about.

Signpost for Sunday 20 July 2014: Gen 28:10-19a; Ps 139:1-12,23-24; Rom 8:12-25; Matt 13:24-30,36-43

I’m not sure if the lectionary intends us to see the readings in pairs this week, but that’s how they struck me, so I’m sticking with it. Neither of the pairs was at all apparent at first sight because all four readings are so iconic and familiar, but that’s when I usually discover that I don’t have ears to hear something.

When I forget about how famous the story of Jacob’s ladder is I hear the poetry more clearly. What jumped out this time was Gen 28:14 – in particular, ‘your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth and you shall spread abroad to the east and to the west and to the north and to the south,’ as it says in my Bible. I like the rhythm of that translation. Of course here’s YHWH not only repeating the promise made to Jacob’s grandpa, but saying he’ll have even more descendants because, as we can imagine, there’s even more dust in the world than grains of sand.

But what struck me was of course that each one of us is a speck of the dust that’s come to settle on earth since that promise was made.

So when I came to Rom 8: 15b-17 I saw the metaphor extended across 3,000 years from descendants to children and heirs. Maybe Paul’s secretary, Tertius spotted it too as he wrote the words down. Maybe not.

I know quite a few people whose favourite psalm is Psalm 139. Verses 7-12 are particularly popular. But verses 19-24 are less so and you can easily see why. Too much talk of ‘perfect hatred’ (v 22) for my liking anyway. But right at the end the songwriter says, “see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (139:23-24). What interests me about those words is that they appear to be suggesting that YHWH won’t find any wicked ways. In the context that may well be what I’m supposed to think, but could it also mean that God can deal with the wicked ways as he sees fit and still give me a chance to find the right path?

That brings me to the parable of the weeds (Matt 13:24-30). Of course it comes straight after the parable of the sower (13:3-23) and I wonder if that’s why I hadn’t noticed the crucial difference between the weeds that choke the seeds in the first parable and the weeds in this one. You see, I’ve heard it read out lots of times in church and what sticks in my head is usually Matt13:30 and Matt 13:41-43 and I bet I’m not alone in that. Which means I usually go away thinking about the awful consequences of the bad things I’ve done, but what if I haven’t had ears to hear after all? What if I should have been listening harder to Matt 13:28-29 when Jesus says, “No, don’t pull up the weeds.” That’s certainly what John Petty thinks and I like his point that we may be trying to be good servants but pulling up the weeds, dealing with evil, is God’s job, not ours. Because if we make it our job, we end up as a bunch of self righteous moral crusaders and as he puts it, “They’re on a mission, after all, to root out evil and get people to straighten up. Such people are dangerous. They’re quite liable, in one of their moralistic crusades, to go into the field and start tearing up the whole dang farm.”

Paul

P.S. By the way, if you’re interested have a look at what else John Petty has to say about Matthew 13:24-30,36-43.

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