Sunday, July 20, 2008

Let The Weeds Grow

Today Jana and I worshipped with the Second Baptist Church of Lubbock, the beloved fellowship I served from 1989-2001. I was the guest proclaimer, the third such privilege I have had in recent months.

My text was the gospel lection, Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds recorded in Matthew chapter 13. In this story, the rule of God is said to be like a carefully planted field in which wheat and weeds grow together and are harvested together, with the angels (not us) separating the wheat from the weeds at the end of the age (not now).

It was a timely text for my visit.

This splendid congregation took a chance on me when they called me as a still-unformed 31 year old minister. In short, they had more weed than wheat in their inexperienced pastor. But, they embodied the wisdom of today’s gospel lesson in letting this weed grow along with the wheat. They were longsuffering and gentle with me, allowing me to stumble and blunder my way into pastoral development. As a result of this “tender mercy,” we had a marvelous journey together that we will always celebrate before God.

My oft-repeated refrain to my seminary students is this: it is good churches that make good pastors, and not the other way around.

I think today’s sermon was something of a self-coaching talking point for the way I hope to conduct pastoral ministry from this point forward. I am recognizing more and more that our faith communities are fragile entities, easily beset by fears and insecurities, not given to instinctive capacities for change and adaptablity. I have made my share of leadership mistakes by advancing agenda for congregational change that were simply too pungent for immediate implementation.

After the service, those beautiful people of God at Second B waited patiently in a receiving line to offer their blessing to me, to remind me that long ago they saw wheat instead of weeds in me, and to admonish me, as I reenter the pastoral ministry I so dearly love, to go and engage in this imaginative act of seeing too.