Messiness, Messiness, Is All I Long For…

29 Nov

My brain (and my fingers) have been feeling paralyzed, and thus the soil of this blog has gone untilled for too long. So I’ll let someone else do the writing. Like this bit from William Willimon – forwarded by my friend and mentor David whose wife Carolyn came across it. I’m thinking it has application to more than church and ministry settings. Good life application across the board. And, finally! Someone who understands the true benefit of learning biblical languages…

They asked Jesus, “Show us the Father.” And in response, he portrayed a messy, divine recklessness at the very heart of reality: A farmer went out to sow and he carefully prepared the soil, removing all rocks and weeds, marking off neat rows, placing each seed exactly six inches from the other, covering each with three-quarters of an inch of soil?

No. This sower just began slinging seed. Seed everywhere. Some fell on the path, some on rocks, some in weeds, and some, miraculously, fell on good soil, took root, and rendered harvest. That’s what the Word of God is like, said Jesus.

A farmer (as I recall, it was the same farmer) had a field. The servants came running in breathlessly: “Master, there’s weeds coming up in your new wheat.” “An enemy must have done this!” cries the farmer.

Enemy, my eye. You get this sort of agricultural mess when you sow seed with such abandon.

“Do you want us to go out and carefully root up those weeds from your good wheat?” asked the servants.

“No, let ’em grow. I just love to see stuff grow. We’ll sort it all out in September.”

And Jesus said, “That’s God’s kingdom.”

In his commentary on these parables, Calvin sees clearly that they are meant for clergy, concluding his interpretation by warning that it is vain to seek a church free from every spot.

Aquinas spoke of the “divine economy,” and that’s fine provided we understand that it is exorbitant economics for a woman who would tear her living room apart until she found her stray quarter, a father who plows ten grand into a welcome-home party for a prodigal, a shepherd called “good” for his willingness to lay down his life for a $3.95-plus-postage sheep.

Forsake all thinking that is categorical; let go all theology that presumes to be systematic, but is an affront to the way this God runs a farm ….

“Point us to the kingdom,” they asked Jesus. And he replied, “A man gave a feast, spared no expense, got the best caterers in town, hired a band, sent out invitations to all his friends and cronies, and they began to make excuses.” They are busy, cleaning out the garage, sorting their socks. They refuse.

And the Lord of the banquet gets real mad. So he sends out his servants a second time, telling them to bring in the poor, the maimed, the blind, the lame-in short, those with nothing to do on a Saturday night.

And they came.


And Jesus says the kingdom of God is like that. God’s idea of church is a party with people you wouldn’t be caught dead with on a Saturday night.

So you and I can give thanks that the locus of Christian thinking appears to be shifting from North America and Northern Europe where people write rules and obey them, to places like Africa and Latin America where people still know how to dance.

And I think it’s wonderful that most of you have spent time learning Greek, a marvelously useless language. You can’t use Greek to build a “mega church,” nor will it fold out into a bed. We make you learn Greek (now the truth can be told) not because knowing Greek has anything to do with successful Christian ministry, but in the hope that we will thereby render you so impractical that, having wasted so much time with a dead language, you may not balk at wasting an afternoon with an eighty-year-old nursing-home resident, or spending a Saturday listening to the life of a troubled teenager, or taking hours to write a sermon that no more than twenty will ever hear. You can’t be a pastor and be neat.

“She could have gone to law school. Best undergraduate I ever taught,” he said, as we veered off the main highway and made our way down a narrow country road in West Virginia. We pulled before the little white frame Presbyterian church, with the sign hanging from a rusted chain, peeling paint, with the name of the church and, underneath, painted poorly, “The Rev. Julie Jones-Pastor.” And my friend said, “Damn, what a waste.”

But the reckless farmer who slung the seed and the woman who pulled up her carpet and moved the living room furniture into the yard in pursuit of her lost quarter, the giver of the banquet for the forgotten, and the shepherd who threw away his life for the sheep, laughed with disordered gospel delight.

1 Comment

Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Doctrine & Heresies, musings


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One response to “Messiness, Messiness, Is All I Long For…

  1. retroillini

    December 8, 2012 at 12:44 am

    Each time I read this I like it betterer and betterer! Amen and amen! Thanks for relaying Willimon.


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