Pentecost 7 Why does God allow evil?

Prelude: This Little Light of Mine,   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKkbIZtqhyQ

Blessed be the holy Trinity, +one God,  whose steadfast love is everlasting,                                             whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation.  Amen

Confession and Forgiveness:

Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God, whose steadfast love is everlasting, whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation. Amen.

Trusting in the mercy of God, let us confess our sin.

Reconciling God, we confess that we do not trust your abundance, and we deny your presence in our lives. We place our hope in ourselves and rely on our own efforts. We fail to believe that you provide enough for all. We abuse your good creation for our own benefit. We fear difference and do not welcome others as you have welcomed us. We sin in thought, word, and deed. By your grace, forgive us; through your love, renew us; and in your Spirit, lead us; so that we may live and serve you in newness of life. Amen.

 Absolution:

Beloved of God, by the radical abundance of divine mercy we have peace with God through ☩ Christ Jesus, through whom we have obtained grace upon grace. Our sins are forgiven. Let us live now in hope. For hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Amen

 Gathering Hymn: ELW 597 My Hope is Built on Nothing Less https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ev5ziwiOhc

Greetings: The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And also with you.

 Kyrie:

Have mercy on us, Lord, and hear our solemn prayer. We come to hear your living word; it saves us from despair.

Have mercy on us, Christ, and wash away our sin. Pour out your grace and make us whole that new life may begin.

Have mercy on us, Lord, make sun and shame depart. Renew us with your saving pow’r, create in us new hearts!

Prayer of the Day: Faithful God, most merciful judge, you care for your children with firmness and compassion. By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom, that we may be rooted in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

 Selection of the Faithful: ELW 731 Earth and All Stars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ4mjh2U-wk

HEARING GOD’S WORD

First Reading: 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.

Psalm: 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. 

Second Reading: 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.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. My word shall accomplish that which I purpose,* and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Alleluia. (Isa. 55:11)

Gospel: 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!”

 

Children’s Sermon: “This Little Light of Mine, “ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKkbIZtqhyQ ) Lead the congregation in humming however many verses of this song we learned as children,

This light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Let us pray: Lord may the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen

SERMON

         Today our text is another parable by Jesus explaining different aspects of the kingdom of heaven. The first half of the text gives a parable. A farmer sows good seed in a field but his enemy came and sowed weeds so that when the seeds sprouted, the servants saw wheat and weeds. The servants immediately go to the farmer and ask if they should pull the weeds. Contrary to secular wisdom the farmer tells the servants to wait because in pulling the weeds, the good wheat might be uprooted. No WEEDING and no THINNING. Wait until the harvest and the farmer will order the tares to be collected first and then the wheat will be gathered into the barn.

The second half of the text gives Jesus’ explanation to his disciples. Last week, the seed was the word of God, and the soil was people. The idiom has shifted. The sower is the Son of man or Jesus. The field is the world. The good seed are the children of the kingdom. The tares or weeds are the children of the evil one. The enemy is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world and the reapers are angels.

Martin Luther gave a whole sermon on this parable that I shall borrow heavily from today.   Luther struggled with the Turks about to overrun German areas. Why did God allow such evil to threaten Christian kingdoms? Why does God allow Covid to threaten good lives? We know this dilemma and join his cry, why do you allow evil, God? Perhaps your cry is a history of abuse, illness, struggle, wayward children, what or what. We all lament evil. Certainly our God of power and might could deal with this!

Because Jesus himself gave an interpretation to this parable, Luther felt it would be dangerous to go far afield from Jesus’ explanation. This is one of those times when like Joseph in the Old Testament, who specifically interpreted the dreams of the baker and wine taster, we do must stick to Jesus’ explanation. The facts of the parable are specific.

Jesus is explaining to us how the kingdom of God fares in our world, how the teachings of Christianity challenge us as we live out our faith. First, Luther turns to 1 Corinthians 11:19 where Paul laments about the divisions in the Corinthian church. He sees the differences within Christianity, people we perceive as hypocrites vs. “real Christians,” as challenges that drive us to find the truth of God’s teachings. This parable, Luther admonishes, is not the differences of Christian maturity or differences of interpretations of teachings ie I’m a Lutheran and you’re a Baptist so “I’m saved” or I’m better than you. That is not what this parable is about. This parable is about Satan’s attempt to undermine the kingdom of heaven and defeat us. Therefore it is the servants, the angels who are the only ones capable of differentiating who is working for evil and who is of Christ. That is not for us to determine – or accuse.

Interestingly, God does not send his angels to weed or thin the field. Why? It is God’s will that the good and the evil grow together. Jesus warns that in uprooting people who disagree with us, we are in danger of uprooting people young in their faith.   I will share again during hospital visitation I heard the story from an old man who as a child was the spectator of his father being excommunicated on the church steps by the priest because his wife left him. The man had no time for God or church. The point is not guilt. The point is the impact on an observer who experiences faith through seeing our lives. When the church indulges in gossip and backbiting, innocent people are hurt. When our public faith heroes get caught in adultery, we all are under doubt. When financial or marital infidelity occur, we all hurt. We know these stories in our lifetime.

Luther says, “this Gospel teaches how we should conduct ourselves toward these heretics and false teachers. We are not to uproot nor destroy them.” None of us know when the word of God touches a person’s heart. It is possible for the lost person to be touched by the word of God and turn around. Uprooting people whether by war, inquisition, or gossip is a double murder. The body is killed so the person never has an opportunity to hear the Gospel and the death of the soul for eternity. Not only that, we think we deserve a reward in heaven for our heroic actions. Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord

Secondly, Luther says “today’s Gospel also teaches by this parable that our free will amounts to nothing, since the good seed is sown only by Christ, and Satan can sow nothing but evil seed. “As we also see that the field of itself yields nothing but tares, which the cattle eat, although the field receives them and they make the field green as if they were wheat.” Our faith is a gift. Next week we will baptize baby Alexander Martel, a beautiful example of the gift of Christ coming to us.

That the tares are sown when no one is paying attention reminds us of the disguises and sneakiness of Satan. Truth is twisted slightly, distorting and leading many astray. We must not think that God is enthroned on high and Satan is a thousand miles away. Example in our lifetime, I think of is David Koresh who played a central role in the Waco siege of 1993. Over 76 people died in the fire that resulted. Jim Jones, leader in the Peoples Temple, resulted in the mass suicide of 918 people. Charismatic leaders twist truth and many are hurt.

Often we cannot tell the difference but healthy vines produced healthy fruit. “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Gal 5:22” James 3:13-17 differentiates wisdom from God from earthly. Earthly wisdom “harbors bitter envy and self ambition” but wisdom from above is “first of all pure, then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakes who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

The text also assures us that at sometime there will be a judgment that executes justice. We do not know the day or the hour but God sees the evil that is done and He will bring justice and some day we will not live with evil. I find that comforting.

Ultimately we are told to leave evil in God’s hands to deal with. He knows the truth. He knows who is good or bad. He has the power. He is prepared. Luther concludes that the existence of evil, of tares, gives a contrast enhancing the beauty of wheat and the goodness of God’s teachings. So that brings us back to the children’s song we sang. “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” Our task is to shine for Jesus and love our neighbor and enemies. God holds our lives in his hand! Thank you!

Hymn of Day: ELW 681 We Plow the Fields and Scatter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nUElntecrEzs

 The Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,  was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and  the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Or you can listen to the Creed in vocal form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuDI-sk2nJU

Prayers of Intercession: Confident of your care and helped by the Holy Spirit, we pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

God of the harvest, you sow the good seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ into your field. Help your church throughout the world to be both diligent and patient, full of resolve and gentleness, that our witness may be faithful to your intentions. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of all space and time, your whole creation groans in labor pains, awaiting the gift of new birth. Renew the earth, sky, and sea, so that all your creation experiences freedom from the bondage of decay. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of the nations, teach us your ways, that we may walk in your truth. Mend the fabric of the human family, now torn apart by our fearful and warring ways (regions and nations in conflict may be named). Guide us by your mercy, grace, and steadfast love. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of hope, you accompany those who suffer and are near to the brokenhearted. Open our hearts to your children who are lonely and abandoned, who feel trapped by despair, and all who suffer in any way. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of the seasons, in the midst of summer, give us refreshment, renewal, and new opportunities. We pray for the safety of those who travel. We pray for those who cannot take the rest they need. Lord, in your mercy,  hear our prayer.

 God of life, those who have died in you shine like the sun in your endless kingdom. We remember with thanksgiving the saints of all times and places and saints close to us (especially). Gather us with them on the day of salvation. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In the certain hope that nothing can separate us from your love, we offer these prayers to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 Peace: If you are worship with someone else, turn and share, “The peace of Christ be with you always.” Response, “And also with you.” You might use your finger to mark you children or loved one with a cross on their forehead. If you are practicing social distancing, put your palms together blessing of them. Peace!

SHARING GOD’S MEAL

Offering Prayer: God of goodness and growth, all creation is yours, and your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. Water and word, wine and bread: these are signs of your abundant grace. Nourish us through these gifts, that we might proclaim your steadfast love in our communities and in the world, through Jesus Christ, our strength and our song. Amen.

 The Great Thanksgiving:

The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We left them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.

 The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come. thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Communion: I invite you to talk a little piece of bread and eat it. Christ is as close to you as the bread in your mouth and stomach. Always remember. Now take a sip of your drink. Christ is as close to you as the blood in your body, strengthening you. Always remember.

Prayer after Communion: God of the welcome table, in this meal we have feasted on your goodness and have been united by your presence among us. Empower us to go forth sustained by these gifts so that we may share your neighborly love with all, through Jesus Christ, the giver of abundant life. Amen.

 THE SENDING

Blessing: Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God, the creator, ☩ Jesus, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the comforter, bless you and keep you in eternal love. Amen.

Sending Hymn: ELW 679 For the Fruit of All Creation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bppvo-OI_Sw

Dismissal: Go in peace. Christ is with you. Thanks be to God.

 

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