Worship for Sunday, July 19, 2020

Isaiah 44:6-8

6Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
  and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
 I am the first and I am the last;
  besides me there is no god.
7Who is like me? Let them proclaim it,
  let them declare and set it forth before me.
 Who has announced from of old the things to come?
  Let them tell us what is yet to be.
8Do not fear, or be afraid;
  have I not told you from of old and declared it?
  You are my witnesses!
 Is there any god besides me?
  There is no other rock; I know not one.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 86:11-17

11Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;
  give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
12I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
  and glorify your name forevermore.
13For great is your love toward me;
  you have delivered me from the pit of death.
14The arrogant rise up against me, O God, and a band of violent people seeks my life;
  they have not set you before their eyes.
15But you, O Lord, are gracious and full of compassion,
  slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.
16Turn to me and have mercy on me;
  give your strength to your servant, and save the child of your handmaid.
17Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame;
  because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Amen.

Romans 8:12-25

12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and 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.

  18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

24[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

  36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Last winter – long before COVID-19 turned our lives upside down and inside out – I was sitting on the bleachers at one of Jack’s archery tournaments doing what I do whenever I sit still for more than 16 seconds.  Yes – that’s right – I was knitting.  As I sat there happily knitting away – another archery mom sat down next to me and started chatting.

She said to me – “I’ve noticed you before.”

To which I replied – “Yeah – it’s the yarn – right?  It’s always the yarn!  I am the crazy yarn lady at everything my poor sons and husband do.”

But – to my great surprise – she said – “Nope – it’s how Zen you seem at these things.  No matter how long they drag on for – you just don’t seem to care.  You never even look at your phone!  You are so patient.  I could never be that patient.”

Why yes – I am knitting at Mayan ruins while looking at ants. Doesn’t everyone? See how patient I look!

Once I stopped laughing hysterically – I replied – “Oh it’s definitely the yarn.  There is nothing Zen or patient about me.  If you were to take my string and pointy sticks away from me – I would start to act like a caged animal in about 60 seconds!”

I am soooo not a patient person or Zen.  (Can Lutherans even be Zen?) 

I rarely leave a room without taking my knitting with me – let alone the house.  Because I know that it is knitting that makes me bearable.  Knitting makes me patient.  Knitting helps me sit still and behave myself in waiting rooms and during meetings and at school concerts and archery tournaments. 

Honestly – I knit so that other people will let me stay in the same room with them!  I wouldn’t dream of inflicting myself on the rest of humanity without a heavy dose of yarn.  Without yarn I am twitchy – impatient and even more annoying than usual (just imagine the horrors of that)! 

There is knitting in that blue bag in my hand.

I have noticed that I am not alone in having issues with patience.  Just this week I glanced in my rearview mirror after I dared to come to a complete stop before turning right on red at a stop light.  And as I did so – my eyes beheld – a man in great psychological and physical distress.  He was flailing about in his car like he was being attacked by a swarm of bees.  Apparently – the 15 whole seconds of his life I wasted by obeying a traffic law was just a bit too much for him!  The poor man needed to get to McDonalds IMMEDIATELY!

I found that poor flailing guy hilariously funny – but honestly most of us just plain stink at waiting.  Waiting makes many of us impatient at best and complete wild animals on our bad days. 

Patience is a virtue most of us are still trying to improve.  (While I am pretty sure other folks have given up entirely!)

And that is one of the reasons why I think that these last few months have been so hard on all of us.  We have been asked over and over and over again to be patient.  To do something that is foreign and uncomfortable.  We have been asked to do something that we don’t like to do.  To do something that we don’t WANT to do!

Will is trying to be patient but it is soooo hard some days!

Slow down.  Don’t be in such a hurry.  Be cautious.  Be patient.  Stay home to save lives.  These are all messages that we have heard over and over and over again. 

We have heard them from our governor and from our mayor.  We have heard them from doctors and nurses and epidemiologists (I never thought I would use that particular word in a sermon).  I have heard them from our bishop and from the presiding bishop of the ELCA.

As parents many of us have said these words to our children when they have been impatient and frustrated with the constraints that COVID-19 have placed on their lives.  And some of you adult children may have said these very words to your impatient (and perhaps ever so slightly stubborn) parents!

But we don’t want to slow down.  We don’t want to be patient.  We don’t want to wait. 

We have waited long enough – thank you very much!  We are done waiting.  Actually most of us were done waiting in March.  We are all out of patience.  We ran out of patience a very long time ago!

We want to hug our friends.  We want to sing in church.  We want to stand close to people again!  We want to go someplace without worrying about getting sick or making someone else sick.  We want to ditch social distancing.  We are done with staying safe at home.  We are ready to burn our masks and toss our stockpiles of hand sanitizer.  We wish we had never heard of NTI!

It seems like a million years ago when we were all this wildly carefree!

We want our lives back!  It is just so hard to keep on keeping on when your patience is wearing so thin. 

When Saint Paul talks about waiting for hope with patience it seems almost laughable.  How can we do that?  Is it even humanly possible?  We feel like we are barely clinging to hope and Saint Paul thinks we can hope for things we cannot see with patience!?! 

Most days our past lives feel like a vague memory.  And we are impatient and frustrated and exhausted by our current circumstances. 

They are smiling behind those masks!

Hope can seem like a rather strange concept during days like these.  It is hard to have much hope when words like global pandemic and surge and being tossed around all of the time!

Honestly it is hard to keep on hoping for those things that we cannot see.   Let alone waiting for our hopes to come true with patience.  It is hard to keep on clinging to hope.  It is hard to remain hopeful – at all.  Especially for a bunch of people who don’t exactly excel at patience!        

But the Good News for us is that we don’t have to do this on our own.  Our God has promised us that he will strengthen us and help us and walk with us.  God will be our rock and refuge.  The Lord of Host is with us always and forever! We can do this.  Truly we can – because we do not do this alone.  Our God is with us always.  AMEN.

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