July 20, 2014

Rector’s Reflection – July 20, 2014

Sometimes ruminations about reflections have nothing to do with the readings assigned for a particular Sunday, and then there are those times when the craziness that is the world we live in and the words of Scripture seem to be on a collision course. (Don’t get me wrong. I think Scripture informs all aspects of life every day, but some days I can be denser than others, and then I have one of those thump-on-the-forehead, ‘Wow, I coulda had a V-8′ moments.)

When I was teaching in Montgomery, AL, some Jeff Davis students went over to arch-rival Robert E. Lee’s football practice field and carefully sowed seeds of a different grass variety. With gentle rain and good weather cooperating, the Lee Generals eventually had ‘GO JD VOLS’ flourishing on the 50 yard line. Kind of a clever, pretty harmless prank.

This week’s gospel entails not a prank, but a potentially devastating act: the parable of the wheat and the tares. It’s another agrarian setting where Jesus talks about a man who sowed top-notch seed in his field, but an enemy, under cover of darkness, sneaked in and planted a weed called darnel. The nature of the weed was that it was almost indistinguishable from wheat in its early stages, and by the time you could tell friend from foe (so to speak), the two species were wound and bound together to the extent that you couldn’t get rid of the weed without losing the wheat.

That’s where I had my V-8 moment. What is going on at the US-Mexican border with the influx of thousands of undocumented children presents us with a human enactment of the wheat and the tares. Now please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that we are the wheat and the illegals are the weeds. If anything, I suspect that there’s more potential wheat there than darnel. But what do we do? We are faced with a dilemma not unlike Jesus’ farmer. He decided that waiting until harvest was his best strategy, but time is not a luxury that we have to respond to this situation.

Politics and charity have almost become the wheat and the tares of this very human crisis… and whether one is wheat and the other darnel is purely in the hearts and minds of the beholders. Draconian solutions run up against ‘live and let live’ proposals. Those who want to provide humanitarian assistance are threatened by those who want the people gone, and those who want everybody sent packing are taken to task by those who want to let them stay. It all makes for very heated conversation – do we weed them out or let them take root. The debates rage and fingers are pointed.

This is, of course, a huge economic issue. Housing, education, food, clothing, medical care. For a country with certain protocols for childhood vaccinations, what are the risks of diseases of epidemic proportions? Where will these people live? Who will feed them? Where will they go to school? I cannot think of a single town that could absorb a few thousand extra people – mostly children – without straining already tight budgets to the breaking point. Do we weed them out or let them take root?

Unfortunately, for Christians, weeding them out or letting them take root has to be a secondary concern. Weeding or rooting are concepts. They are strategies, just like the farmer’s decision to let the wheat and weeds grow up together. But there’s a pronoun that we have to consider first: them. Them are people made in the image of God; Them are our brothers and sisters in Christ; Them are people who need nourishment and clothing; Them are people who shouldn’t have to live in fear.

Will we feed some weeds? Probably. Will we clothe some tares? Yup. Will we house some darnel? Without a doubt.

The government will have to come up with the ultimate solution, but in the meantime we have to take care of the crop we’ve been handed, remembering Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Or the far more chilling, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’