I want to start with a question this week: What is the Gospel inside the Gospel for you? What are the particular verse of Scripture, the words of Jesus or the Hebrew scripture, the left or right side of the book, the good news, that speak to you in your life, your journey right now? And be assured that they can change for us, for the core of the good news, that central proclamation, where we understand the goodness of the gospel, of God with us, can differ depending on the seasons of our journey, where we're coming from, where we're going, who we're with and how long we’ve been traveling.
When I started out my walk as a baptised member of the Church, almost a half-century ago, the line that spoke to, opened up, my heart was, "God is love." In a particularly trying time after that the words that gave me hope were, "You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.” While another time the phrase that carried me was, "Be still and know that I am God.” And one time, paradoxical as it might seem, I received a deep comfort, a place for healing and going on, in breathing the words, "My God my God, why have you forsaken me?"
So our journey to know God following the way of Jesus in the light of the Spirit can go through many seasons, and different facets of the Gospel can enlighten us in different times. This is because it's not a one word, one phrase, one size fits all and all times kind of app. Our Bible functions like a great library, a Biblios, where certain stories can come to kind, can encourage us in different times, giving us refreshment and strength according to our varying and unique circumstances, and that’s nothing new.
The early historian Tatian, writing in the first part of the second century, said that the Gospel of Mark came to be written when John Mark, as an old man, remembered and gathered and wrote down the stories he remembered Saint Peter sharing with the disciples in their community, "as they had need” to hear them. So the gift of a particular Good Word speaking to us according to our unique circumstance has deep roots in our tradition.
There have been some tough stories this week with the plane crash in the Ukraine and the tragic casualties in the Holy Land. And I know several people and families who are going through tough times too. And the temptation in moments like this can be to ask God for a clear and lasting response to what appears to be a clearly evil occasion: to ask if good will speedily prevail, if the righteous will receive their reward soon, if we will see those who inflict pain find their just punishment.
But perhaps the deeper question is this: in light of the large library of the scripture, biblios, is this: can we, should we, make a quick and clear judgement about good or bad, right or wrong, us versus them, or should we, like the landowner in the parable we heard in today's Gospel, do what we can while we wait until that final harvest gathering?
For Scripture shows us that Jesus shares other good words that might make problematic our tendency towards quick judgements: lines like "love one another," “don’t resist evil,” "do not judge,” and “bless those who persecute you,” all can make us catch our breath. And Jesus does even more than speak out or write down these words, he lives his teaching out to the end; peacefully walking into injustice and intolerance, reaching out his arms in love in the midst of violence, allowing himself to be the victim of great pain, even to death. So it looks like living like Jesus, sharing in that lasting love, that lack of judgment, can cause us pain some days.
And then the question is this, where can we find some peace in this trying journey, where can we hold on to Christ’s promise of ultimate Good News when he seems determined to take us on such a wild ride without quick and easy assurances?
Jesus did give the disciples a clearer explanation after he shared the parable of the weeds and the tares, and that helped them in some ways, though I think they still need to go on learning; but I tend to go back to a bumper sticker I saw in the 1970s which said, “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.”
For it has been the same with the community gathered together for the last 3000 years. From the story of the death of Abel to the deep tragedy of Job, to the death of the Christ on the cross in the centre of our vision, in all these times, the church, Gods' body, stands for the costly truth of love, through the witness of martyrs to the troubles of the present day, and each of us as baptised members of God’s body still witness tragedy and pain in our families and our neighbour-hoods as well as our newspapers and television screens.
So there has been no conclusive answer to the question of why there is evil all ‘round our lives, other than the ongoing unfinished answer that God is love, that faith will find a way, that hope will bring us home, and maybe the others too. So,without a clear answer coming soon, can we let ourselves wait, to go on the way with enough humility to lean on God in this unfinished pilgrimage?
I have friends whose main statement of belief consists of these eight words, “There is a God and it’s not me!” So maybe an unfinished hope can open a light at the end of the tunnel and show us the way to the bare belief that God is both before and beyond us, not just with us, but still not finished, but still working, still speaking, still letting love lean into our lives, and the lives of others. And this can allow us to hang on with the hope that reconciliation will come round further on and peace will finally prevail for each and all of us. It might not make it much easier here and now, but as a member of my family often used to say, “Nobody ever said it was always going to be easy.” For even here and now love offers us a strong and Godly hope to hold on for the time being: the faith that God’s word of love which was from the beginning, is willing to meet us here and now in the middle of everything, and, in the end will bring us to a home where Jesus will be all in all.