The Good News!

Welcome! I am the Rev. Ken Saunders the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson, MD (since May 2011). These sermons here were delivered in the context of worship.

[NOTE: Sermons (or Homilies, are commentaries that follow scripture lessons) are specifically designed to be heard (and are written for the ear) so they may contain sentence fragments and they may be difficult to read. They are NOT intended to be theological discourses or academic papers.]

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Year B - 5 Pentecost (Proper 8) - June 28, 2015

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Church
Towson, MD

Year B - 5 Pentecost (Proper 8) - June 28, 2015

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Mark 5:21-43

The Gospel story this morning is interesting. It’s actually a story within a story or is it a story within a story? For the evangelist, Mark, this is a bit strange. See, Mark most always gets straight to the point and doesn’t usually include a lot of extra details. So if he is giving us this much detail, it’s probably something to pay attention to. So, let’s take a close look at the story within the story within the story.
Jesus and the disciples have just endured the great storm. Remember last week when the storm was tossing the boat around and all the disciples in the boat were freaking out? They went to Jesus, who was on the stern of the boat asleep, and woke him up. And Jesus got up and rebuked the wind saying, “Peace, be still!”

Well, the portion of text we just heard follows that great storm. Jesus is with a great crowd that has surrounded him. His reputation has preceded him... They have heard of his great healing powers and have come out to see for themselves. A leader from the nearby synagogue, a man named Jairus, came by and asked Jesus to come with him and heal his daughter who was very sick. Jesus agrees and started to go with him through the crowd, and that large crowd that was gathered started to press in on him.

Here is where we get to the story within the story... During all the commotion, the mingling and the pressing in on each other, Jesus stops and asks, “who touched me?” The disciples think that he is crazy because they are surrounded by so many, how could they know who touched him. Jesus knew something had happened, even in all the busyness around them. He felt the power go forth from him.

A woman, who was sick with what the scripture calls a hemorrhage, reached out and touched the hem of his cloak because she thought that just touching this amazing healer would be able to make her well. She had been under the care of physicians and spent all her money. (some of us know what that’s like) However, with one touch, she felt that she was healed of her disease.

Who touched me? Jesus says... and the woman who was healed, comes forth with fear and trembling and falls down before him. She explains what happened and he says very simply, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

And then the original story continues... with some who come from the house of Jairus to tell him that it is too late, that his daughter was already dead, not to bother Jesus any longer. Jesus tell Jairus to believe and takes him with Peter, James, and John to the house. When they get to the house, they see lot of commotion, weeping and wailing. Jesus asks them why they are weeping and carrying on like that when the girl is only sleeping.

Jesus takes Jairus and his wife and Peter, James and John into where the girl was and takes the girl by the hand, and as Mark’s story (that is not know for the details) - Jesus says “Talitha cum” ... “Little Girl, get up.” The little girl got up and began to walk around, and Jesus told them to give her something to eat.

A story within a story within a story... So we’ve heard the story, and the story within the story, but what’s the story of the story within the story that I just retold you? What do you think the reason is that Mark spends so much time giving us the intricate details, up to and including the Aramaic words that he spoke when he told the little girl “Talitha cum?What is the significance of having a story nestled within the story?

I think that Mark uses these intricate and interlaced stories to tell us something about the Kingdom of God. First of all, God knows that we have busy lives and that the stresses and pressures closing in on us. The story reminds us that Jesus is there for us and responds to us. Jairus came to Jesus and Jesus responded to his need. As Jesus does throughout the scriptures, he always meets people where they are and responds to their need. 

In the Kingdom of God, God knows what we need, and God responds. God always responds to our needs.

The story within the story reminds us that in order to receive the Kingdom that God has in store for us, we must have faith... and if we are bold enough and have faith enough to claim the Kingdom for ourselves, and then we will receive the healing that we need. The woman that was sick with a hemorrhage was bold and daring... she was a risk-taker, and she reached out in faith knowing if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, then there was a good chance she would be well for the first time in 12 years. Bold and daring... she violated everything that society said was right. She was bleeding, and yet touches another person, a great healer and teacher, risking his ritual cleanliness and her possible ridicule and death... Nevertheless, she knew it was the only chance she had left to be well. She dared to receive the Kingdom of God and was made well.

And in the story of Jairus’ daughter, one would think that all was lost, that Jesus had lingered too long tending to others. That it was too late, she was already dead. But Jesus continues on, forward in mission to show others the Kingdom of God in their midst. He goes into the house and into where the girl was... knowing she was thought to be dead, and then risking everything (ritual impurity by touching the dead) he takes her by the hand and says, Talitha cum! Little girl, get up.

Do we let the Kingdom in? Even after we think all is lost? Even after we have given up all hope? Do we let the Kingdom in and let it takes us by the hand and raise us to the new life that is found in Jesus?

If we are bold enough to reach out in faith and grab the hem of Jesus and let him heal us, then we need to be willing to let Jesus take us by the hand and raise us to new life. We have to be willing to take a risk on behalf of our faith, and let it be proclaimed by our actions in the midst of adversity.
When the stresses of life start to close in on us, pressing on all sides, we must be willing to be bold and ask for help... reach out for the Kingdom of God and grab it by the hem... let it take you by the hand and raise you to new life... A new life of peace & love.

Jesus was present to all the situations that surrounded him, yet stayed on task and purpose through all the chaos that surrounded him. He was the calmness of the storm that surrounded the disciples, and he was the peaceful presence today in the midst of the chaos.

In the Kingdom, there is no chaos, there is only peace, love, and understanding. Reach for the Kingdom, and be willing to let it take you by the hand, and raise you to new life in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Year B - Easter 5 - May 3, 2015

Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Episcopal Church
Towson, Maryland

Year B - Easter 5 - May 3, 2015

Philip the apostle and Philip the deacon are two characters in the apostolic community that have been confused over the years. While some say that they were the same, others separate the two. This account in Acts involves Philip the deacon, therefore the character study in this sermon is incorrect and would have been more interesting if it were Philip the deacon.

Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:24-30
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

In order to understand and be able to unpack the story, especially in Holy Scripture, we need to place ourselves within the action… Within the context of the story… We can do this several ways. We can be an outsider looking in on the action or we can try to place ourselves as one of the characters.

On the surface, our lesson from the Acts of the Apostles looks simple. Almost too simple. Philip is one of 12 apostles… It was this time after the resurrection that the apostle witnesses were sent out by Jesus to proclaim the risen Christ to the whole world.

And we have an unnamed Eunuch from Ethiopia that is an official in the court of Queen Candace. They both are traveling the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Philip sees the Eunuch reading a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Philip helps him understand the scripture he is reading and proclaims the Lord Jesus, the Eunuch is moved and has a desire to be baptized and Philip baptizes him.

The story seems simple from the outside, the characters on the surface are simple enough. However, if we peeled the onion and let ourselves learn a bit and try to understand the characters in the story, we may get a totally different understanding.

Let’s look a little closer at Philip first. Philip is one of the 12 called by Jesus to be a disciple. He is a witness to the resurrection and therefore an known now as an apostle. We know that Philip was from Bethsaida (the same city as Andrew & Peter) which is city of Northern shore of the sea of Galilee in Northern Israel. The name literally means “House of Fishing,” so we can assume, like some of the other disciples, that Philip was a fisherman like Andrew and Peter.

After Philip was called by Jesus he went around with Jesus everywhere. We know that Philip was a Jew and sources say that he was older than Jesus. We know from scriptures that Philip was inquisitive and asked Jesus questions like how he might find enough bread to feed 5000 people. Up to this point in the story, that’s about all we know about Philip.

Let’s take a closer look at the Eunuch. We are told that the Eunuch is Ethiopian, so we can assume he is of a much darker complexion than Philip. He is a Eunuch, therefore he has been castrated, forever damaged physically, never able to have a family and descendants of his own. We can assume that he didn’t volunteer for this condition.

Most Eunuchs were slaves that were made that way for a purpose. His particular purpose was to serve in the court of the Queen of the Ethiopians. We know that regardless of his enslavement, he is put in charge of the KandakÄ“ – the Ethiopian queen’s entire Gaza treasury.

Because the unnamed Eunuch was traveling back home from Jerusalem (after going there to worship) we can assume he is Jewish. What’s interesting is that he took a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to the temple to worship, but wasn’t even allowed to go into the temple. He was “damaged” physically and therefore impure. Therefore, he was not allowed to enter but only be on the outskirt portico or the “hall of the gentiles.” According to Jewish practice, there was no amount of sacrifice or action that would restore him to ritual purity.

None the less, the Eunuch was studying the prophet Isaiah on his return trip from Jerusalem. But he wasn’t just studying Isaiah, he was reading the portion we know as Isaiah 53, that we know as the description of the suffering servant.

"Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth."

In his discussion with Philip, the Eunuch asks about whom is this passage written? Obviously, the Eunuch, in his condition identifies with the prophet’s writing, because he has gone through the same thing…  Led to the slaughter in his castration, humiliated and denied a choice in the matter… Literally having his ability to have a family taken from him. Therefore his life taken from the earth… Once Philip described the recent events that happened in Jerusalem concerning Jesus of Nazareth, and the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, it was very easy for the Eunuch to identify with a God who suffered in the same way that he had.

We can understand, after thoughtful examination, that this Eunuch had a thirst to belong and understand, but because of his condition was not able to be fully part of the community… Not able, of course until he met Philip and heard the Good News…

The Eunuch’s question about what is to prevent him from being baptized is honest… He had been denied full inclusion into the Jewish faith because of his brokenness. Yet with baptism, the Eunuch is fully included into the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

The Eunuch received baptism and was fully restored into full and right relationship with God. Fully restored and made complete… so complete, that when he returned to Ethiopia, he became a witness to others and ended up being a spiritual father to many.

Regardless of his condition of brokenness, regardless of his nation of origin, and regardless of the color of his skin… God restored him.

That’s what God does. God takes us as we are, whoever we are, and whatever we are, and restores us into full right relationship by baptism… It doesn’t matter who we are or what we look like, by faith in Jesus Christ and Baptism we are ALL the same. We are ALL equal!

However, some people think that social class, color, or condition prevents us from sharing that equality. The equality that God points out so clearly throughout scripture. By thoroughly examining the characters in the story of Philip and the Eunuch from Ethiopia, it’s hard not to think about the recent events in Baltimore this week.

It’s not hard to think about a neighborhood community that is in pain, longing to be healed. A community that is viewed by some as incomplete or not worthy of time and effort. A community striving to be accepted for who they are.
Many folks have come together (clergy and lay) to civilly bring attention to the lack of equity by marching in protest, by vying for time with the city council, by publically advocating for them and stating the case for those who lack a voice... for those who lack justice.

Regardless of what you think of what happened this past week, it was the right thing to do… It was the gospel thing to do… It is the way we show others the God we believe in... The God that shows no partiality…

In Jesus the Christ, God accepts us and loves us… But God doesn’t just love us… God loves us enough to die for us. God loves you enough to die for you. Die so that you and I can be fully accepted and have full and complete accesses to the living God. Access, so that we could live in the vine of relationship as branches and vine intertwined together. Us together with the savior, baring the good fruit of relationship with others, lest we risk being cut-off and cast out…

We, as a world, need to emulate that action… We need to bare good fruit. We need to live out the Gospel of restoration in our lives because that is indeed the mission of the Church.

The mission of the Church, the gathered body of the living Christ, is to restore the world to God through Jesus Christ our Lord… May we bear the fruit of relationship in this mission, and seek to serve those who may be different from us, those whom society has put into a hole and forgotten, those whom we may or may not understand…

We are called to listen and provide a path to restoration… and be the prophetic voice of restoration like Philip to the Eunuch, who, regardless of class or condition… and regardless of race or ability, gave the Eunuch complete access and showed him unconditional love.

May we be so bold.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Year A - Proper 21 - September 28, 2014

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Church
Towson, MD

Year A - Proper 21 - September 28, 2014

I’m trying to think about what it would be like to wonder around in the desert for 40 years. It’s hard for us to think of… I’m sure that after just the first few days, we would be casting some serious doubt about why we were there and who we were following. We would be irritable, and hungry and angry… and like Sara called it last week, “hangry.”

I am convinced that it didn’t take 40 years for the Israelites to get out of Egypt. It took 40 years to get Egypt out of the Israelites. They were all in a process of formation and transformation… 

We heard last week that God fed the people of Israel with manna and quail, providing just enough so that everyone got their fill and was satisfied. But today, the story picks up with the Israelites still in the wilderness, journeying by stages and setting up camp where they were instructed. They were in the desert, and there was no water for them to drink. 

When in the wilderness, we should always remember the rule of threes… Which says that a human can survive up to 3 weeks without food (though that would be extremely difficult) – and even less in a harsh environment – but you can only survive 3 DAYS without water, or death is surely imminent.

Water is 65% percent of the human body and is essential to life. Water flows through the blood, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells and flushes waste out of our bodies. It cushions our joints and soft tissues. Without water as a routine part of our intake, we cannot digest or absorb food.

I spoke to a nutritionist the other day, and she told me that I should drink anywhere from 8 to 10 servings of water per day in order to be healthy. So it was an extremely difficult situation for the people of Israel that were wondering around in the desert – not to have any water and they were quarreling with one another and looking for someone to blame.

They were mad at the world, and not trusting God and the path that they were on – even though they had seen the providence of God that gave them the manna and quail. God once again provides for them, he instructs Moses to go to the rock at Mt. Horeb, and take with him some elders and strike the rock with the staff he used to strike the Nile.

Now the elders would remember what happened when Moses struck the Nile… When Moses struck the Nile, it turned to blood. So at this point, I can imagine that they were at least skeptical that this would produce anything at all. But when Moses struck the rock, there came a gush of water, so that everyone could have a drink… 

God provided for them, so that they would know the power of God and be nourished for the next leg of their journey.

The problem with the whole situation was that the Israelites weren’t just famished from not having any water. They were questioning the presence of God among them… God, who promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. God who provided them with Manna, and Quail from heaven, and water from the rock.

I’m sure that some of the Israelites were thankful, or even recognized what a blessing this provision was… But I’m also sure that some were only temporarily pacified because they expected it and they grumbled and wined until they seemingly got their way.

The ones not recognizing the blessings that are being brought forth are sure to continue to grumble and quarrel and not be happy with what they have.

The situation hasn’t changed too much… 

The chief priests and scribes come to Jesus, and challenge his authority. In this case, Jesus asked them a question about the baptism of John. A question that Jesus knew the Chief Priests and Scribes would not answer. A question that Jesus knew they could answer, but the answer would point them in the direction of self-preservation instead of living a life of faith and proclaiming the truth that they knew.

The chief priest were grumbling and quarreling because Jesus was humbly claiming his authority as the son of God, Jesus was always advocating for the poor and forgotten… those on the fringes - demonized by society and they couldn’t handle it.

The chief priests and scribes were not able to recognize the blessings that stood right in front of them because they were on the defensive, and then they were tied in knots by Jesus’ parable of the two sons. See the parable of the two sons is about recognizing the presence and power of God’s transformation of the world.

The first son who says that he will go work in the vineyard and doesn’t is like the Chief priest and scribes with a hard heart. They are first devoted to God and the tenants of the law, but they fail to see and accept the transforming power of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

The second son who says he won’t go work and then later does is like the tax collectors and prostitutes, who have a moldable heart, who have turned from the error of their ways and accepted God forgiveness and are being transformed.

The understanding and power of God came later to them and then they changed their ways and have received God’s forgiveness and salvation. They recognize their blessings.

Today we bring into the body, Quinn Zapata, one whom we will hopefully teach over the years to recognize the blessings that are around her. To recognize and act on the blessings and salvation of Jesus Christ freely given to her.

One who’s parents trust and understand the blessings (the provision and presence) of God and the salvation of Jesus Christ in their lives.

Our baptism, by water, that elixir so important to our physical health and wellbeing, becomes the vehicle for us through which we are made Christ’s own and the catalyst of our spiritual health and wellbeing.

We who have been baptized have nothing to grumble about. We have received a new life, and have been taught to recognize the blessings. The blessings that lead us to live a life in thanksgiving to God, for God’s mighty acts of provision, God’s restoration, and forgiveness.

In a few minutes we will stand together and reaffirm our baptismal vows as Quinn’s parents and Godparents take them on her behalf. As we listen to these readings and again proclaim our vows of commitment, we are able to once again discern and process in our own hearts and souls, the answer to the question, “What do we believe?”

What do we believe – and how do we live as a people who trust in God’s providence? As a people who don’t grumble against God and who are willing to be transformed into what Jesus wants us to be?

I think that living this life, this baptismal life in covenant with God, requires that our hearts be open to one another and with everyone we encounter in our lives. This doesn’t mean that we need to brow beat “evangelize” to everyone everywhere. But we should, as St. Francis, who is credited with saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

What do we believe?

What we believe should be shown in the way we live our lives and the way we relate to one another. Our faith should gush forth like the water from the rock, and be shown in our thoughts, words, and actions.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Year A - Proper 13 - August 3, 2014

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Episcopal Church
Towson, MD

Year A - Proper 13 - August 3, 2014

Click here for the Lectionary Readings

Almost the whole month of July, we heard stories of sowers and seeds, and fields, pearls of great value and fishing nets…  all the images that Jesus uses in his parables to describe what the kingdom of God is like...
Last week, Sara even took us through a wonderful litany of what the kingdom of God may be like… and then challenged us to think about what the kingdom may be like for us, in our day and time… We have heard a lot about what the Kingdom of God may be like – but I like to think of the kingdom as the very best thing that I could ever imagine, actually better than the best thing I could ever imagine.
Jesus takes us away from his parables and descriptions of the Kingdom, away from the phrases ‘the kingdom of God is Like…” to a place away…  he gets into a boat and withdraws to a deserted place by himself. He goes off to get away in order to rest and recuperate.
However, Jesus has gained a reputation as a great healer and the crowds don’t leave him alone. They follow him on foot to the place where he is, and he has compassion for them and heals their sick. We need to understand that this was an enormous crowd, almost of an unimaginable in size = five thousand men plus women and children.
It was getting late in the day, so the disciples came to Jesus and told him to send the crowds away so the people could go and get something to eat in the nearby villages and towns… but Jesus, does the unimaginable and tells the disciples not to send them away, but for them to give them something to eat.
The disciples scurry around and gather up what provisions they can find among themselves. The disciples come up with 5 loaves and 2 fish… barely enough for the 12, let alone a crowd of thousands. And then, in a very simple act, Jesus takes what is given to him, gives thanks, and distributes it among the multitudes.
There was no show… no lightning bolts from heaven or booming thunder. Just a simple act of thanksgiving and then giving…
When we studied this scripture this week in our clergy Bible Study on Wednesday morning, I asked the question. “what is the miracle?” I was trying to go deeper into the scripture and take a story that seems so familiar and try to understand what Jesus wants us to learn…
The miracle could have been just that Jesus simply took what was given and made it enough to satisfy everyone… Or it could have been that Jesus caused more bread and fish to appear… Or it could have been that the gesture was so bold, that Jesus and the disciples were so willing to give everything that they had for the benefit of others… that people gave of themselves to provide for others. Thereby causing the miracle of the breaking forth of the kingdom of God.
However, what I think actually happened is irrelevant. The truth in the act of the feeding of the multitudes was that enough was made out of very scarce resources. Enough for 5000 men, and women and children. Enough, that after it was distributed and everyone got their fill, 12 baskets of scraps were collected.
In the previous weeks, we heard a lot about what the kingdom of God is like… but this morning, we actually get a glimpse of that very kingdom breaking forth into this world.
The Kingdom of God is right here in front of us and we get a very vivid picture of what the world should be as the Kingdom of God breaks forth… and everyone has enough regardless of who they are. There is no more ‘the kingdom of God is like…’Because we are living it and experiencing it through the account of Jesus feeding the multitudes.
The people are gathered together… there, in a deserted place, unknowingly seated at the foot of the creator of the universe… and he makes no claim to his authority or majesty, but he gives up everything he has in order to feed the others around him.
That is what the Kingdom of God is. The kingdom of God is a Kingdom where the compassionate king gives all for us… The king gives up his food so that we might have enough to eat. The king, full of love, gives up everything, even his life, so that we might live and have everlasting life.
Today we leave the parables of the kingdom behind for a preview of the real thing. And once we have experienced the kingdom, once we have encountered God, we are like Jacob, and we are forever changed.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Year A - Proper 11 - July 20, 2014

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Trinity Episcopal Church
Towson, MD

Year A - Proper 11 - July 20, 2014

Lectionary Readings for Proper 11A


When I was a child, I liked the pretty little yellow flowers that were in our back yard. You know the ones I’m talking about… The ones that after they matured became fluffy white balls of seed that with one blow, would go off into the wind and the wind would carry it off. Of course, I was a child… and as a child I didn’t know this pretty little yellow flower… this plant (this dandelion, - otherwise known as an Irish daisy, a bitterwort, or strangely enough, a priest’s crown) was actually a weed… I didn’t know, until I went to the feed and seed store with my father to get some dandelion killer for our lawn… Weed killer so that it wouldn’t choke out our grass. Weed killer… because those pretty yellow flowers were undesirable… they were a nuisance when trying to grow lush green grass.

It’s easy for us to go along in life thinking we know the difference between weeds and wheat. Judging this or that to be a nuisance or worse yet…  this person and that person as undeserving, worthless, or in the way. We are quick and critical as a society to judge – deciding who is in and who is out, based on the color of skin, income bracket, or what school we did or didn’t attend. We think that we are the wheat, and if anything is different from us, then it must be the weeds.

Even in our jobs we come across weeds… We sometimes feel that our jobs are so infested with weeds, that we either hide within them or we let them distract us from our mission. I’m talking about the things that bog us down… e-mail, phone-calls, and those endless meetings… things that can make us look like we are working hard bringing about the kingdom of God, but really, what they really are is indicators of our own souls – torn between the good and evil, right and wrong, normal and not normal.

Jesus uses the parable of weeds and wheat to explain the coming of the kingdom of God, when God will be the final judge between the good and evil of this world, between the weeds and the wheat. He uses the parable to explain a time when there will be no more worry about evil, or death and destruction.

I believe that Jesus’ parable also applies to the church today… it’s an excellent parable for the church to hear, because in the church… in the one body, the church, there are both weeds and wheat. Yes, the gathered church is this crazy mixed bag of destructive weeds and productive wheat.

Destructive weeds that draw the church from the mission of bringing forth the kingdom of God. Damaging evil judging weeds that grow up right alongside the wheat… the faithful, believing, pious, and righteous, children of the living God.

The first kneejerk reaction is do what the servants of the field wanted to do… to do what my father wanted to do… to go pull the weeds, to get them out of there, because they are a nuisance when trying to grow good wheat… when you are trying to make good and faithful disciples, there’s nothing worse than having the evil one around messing up our plan, drawing us from the task that God has given us to do… But that’s not what Jesus says do… Jesus says that if the weeds are uprooted, then the good wheat will be disturbed also, and so we are not to be the judge… the owner of the field… Jesus… the son of Man is the only judge.

Because our propensity is to choose wrongly, maybe it’s more like we are both… both the weeds and the wheat existing together within ourselves, entangled and intertwined in our hearts, in our souls, and in our minds, the balance of evil and good making us both weeds and wheat.

But maybe we are just wheat - because we are all children of God, made in the image of the creator, adopted in our baptism as heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ – inheritors of the Kingdom of God.

Paul gives us a wonderful definition of how we are members of God’s family when he says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption.  When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

So… what are we children of God to do in this crazy world of weeds and wheat? We are to do exactly what Jesus says and remain steadfast and faithful and let God be the judge. But that is admittedly so hard to do, especially if you think that you’re the wheat…

The symbolism found in Jacob’s dream in the passage from Genesis gives us a place to begin thinking about our tasks as children of God: “He dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!” What a great dream!

Jacob realized what a powerful message there was in that dream and so he set up a pillar – an altar made from the rock that was his head-rest, and gave it the name, Bethel (which means house of God), setting that place aside as holy and sacred.

Jacob received a message from God in that dream – the promise of a family and descendants that would stretch far and wide, across the centuries and down through the generations. The promise of family was as important then as it is for us today.

All of us are offered a great message and reminder in the reading from Genesis this morning. The ladder! – that ladder connecting heaven and earth is there for us! and - as those angels that were going up and down on that ladder, joining humanity to heaven… so we…  we who say that we are followers of Jesus… we must be like those angels.

We must be those people who play a part in joining the world to heaven by the way we live our lives. Now that sounds like a lot of work…  But we are human, and living in a very human world full of weeds and wheat… And because we are human, we are guaranteed to have hard days – lots of them – more, it seems, for some than for others.

But, if we are serious about claiming to be Christian... claiming to be the children of God that we are, then we must be willing to accept the angelic role of helping connect heaven to earth. And that activity that sounds like it’s lots of work – is actually our ministry. It becomes our purpose and our passion. It becomes our reason of life.

Each one of us has been given some special talent, some gift of ability or personality or some resource that we can use to help others travel up and down that figurative ladder between heaven and earth. Each and every one of us is called to be a messenger…  an angelic messenger of God’s love to others. And our command from Jesus himself is to love ALL… Jesus says in the lesson this morning that we are not to worry about what’s weeds and what’s wheat, but we should let God sort it out.

If we love ALL then we just might break the mold, and we give that person that we initially think is a weed a chance to become wheat.

As a child, not knowing what I was doing, I blew on the dandelion and made the seeds go everywhere… It is with that innocence that we approach love, love of the weeds of this world not knowing the difference between the weeds and the wheat… knowing and trusting that it’s God that plants the “good seeds,” and they grow up, and become healthy and vibrant grains of the finest wheat.