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Weeds and Seeds

As I prayed with the scripture text, here is where my mind went.

First I was drawn to the line - Let them grow together. The plant and the weed.

And then. There is Temptation to get rid of what is bad or doesn’t agree.

What do we see? The plant or the weed.

What do we focus on? Our work or distractions? Hope or despair only? Our dream for justice or all the naysayers and reasons why it can’t work or won’t help?

Jesus points to a 3rd way. Not either-or but both-and. Is it up to us to judge or to focus on our mission, our calling?

During our time at General Synod promoting the Guns to Gardens Resolution, Kathy reminded us over and over about our mission to plant seeds. You can’t have a garden without first planting seeds. I think for many of us in this congregation God planted the seeds to do something to address gun violence in our country long ago and after that March massacre in 2021 some sprouts began coming up and they continue to grow. We keep listening and discerning despite the weeds that might also sprout.

During our time at Synod, we allowed ourselves to trust that the spirit is working to help us address the epidemic of gun violence in our country. We had a singular message. God calls us from scripture to turn swords into plowshares and each congregation, association and conference can do something in their context to do just that. We did not stray. We did not let weeds or distractions sway us. Weeds like the voices from society saying nothing can be done or it’s always going to be this way or no one will listen or I have the right to own a gun or how do we raise money, or is it safe?

There were some weeds or distractions during the hearing time. One was about the title of our Resolution Affirming Guns to Gardens because some felt that it sounded too soft or something and then a debate about the verbiage member vs individual. And then another - Someone came in late - like over 90 minutes and demanded “What did I miss?” Any of these weeds could have derailed the whole thing. Have you ever been in a room where one minor petty thing steers the conversation the other way and then the group never gets anything accomplished or it trashes what the topic was? I have.

But you know what happened here? By the end of our committee hearing time the distractions or weeds were not just funny but one was discarded and the others transformed. The other thing that happened was that the seeds of hope we planted that indeed we can each do something sprouted and took a strong hold. By the end of the committee time, the 60 some people in the room owned that resolution as their own. They were already thinking about what they would do when they got home. On the floor of the plenary after the committee chair & I presented our case for why the resolution should be passed, as I looked out onto the sea of people, several of the committee members got up at the green microphone to speak in favor of the resolution. They started planting more seeds. It was something to behold. Not one person went to the red “against” microphone and as you know the resolution passed by the widest margin of any resolution at the event.

You can’t have a garden without seeds. And maybe there will be weeds and distractions but as Jesus says in the parable, we must keep focused, and let the good seeds take hold, sprout, grow and thrive. Pulling them sometimes is counterproductive - in the parable he implies, let the good seeds do their job.

And so about the weeds. I found myself thinking literally about some common weeds I deal with regularly and I’m guessing many of you do too. I don’t use chemicals to deal with them so they can be prolific.

Dandelions. I have a hard time calling them weeds. I know it’s controversial. I love them. I find them to be pretty. The bees love them and these are often the first flowers of the year they can get food from. My horses also love to eat them! The blanket of yellow just brings me happiness after a winter of blah.

Bindweed on the other hand … drives me nuts. It is pretty but they make a huge mess in my round pen and take over making it look like a disaster. But again - the horses love eating it. And bees and ladybugs thrive with it. Those little flowers are really pretty and intricate as well. If they bring ladybugs to eat other nasty bugs, then I try to live with it as long as I can.

Thistle - not just a weed, but a noxious one. I cannot keep up with it on our property. I dug out 5 large bags of them with my good arm in May but now, they are everywhere and in full bloom! And the bees and hummingbirds - well, they go crazy over it. I have one thistle that has grown about 4 and ½ feet tall and I watched a huge bumble bee fly from flower to flower the other day doing her thing and I was mesmerized. Who needs television when I have that to watch?

I have given up this summer trying to do anything with the weeds. It’s too much for my injured arm and I’m too tired to do anything about them now. As the Call to Worship referenced, Dandelions are resilient and persevere to grow in harsh conditions. So do thistle and bindweed.

Is there something we can learn from the literal weeds in our gardens and property or the weeds that pop up to try and stop us from a calling or something we are focused on? Do they have some gifts for us? What if we take the good and the bad and learn from them instead of trying to eradicate them? Might that be the third way that Jesus was talking about - making room to learn from them and not just dismiss, destroy, ignore or get rid of them? Maybe yes sometimes and maybe no.

When I sang in Resonance one year we sang a song that went like this - Make some room for the left out. Make some room for the angry. Make some room for not knowing how to make room. Make room.

What if like the parable we made room for the weeds, things we don’t understand or the distractions. What might happen?

Another thing happened at Synod that I haven’t talked about. It was definitely a weed. A noxious one at that. For those of you who think that homophobia is not real or isn’t a thing in the United Church of Christ, I’m here to tell you that homophobia and transphobia is alive. Synod passed two resolutions - ACTIVELY AFFIRMING THE HUMAN DIGNITY OF TRANSGENDER AND NONBINARY PERSONS and A Resolution Supporting Public School Educators, Academic Freedom, and Equity Efforts in Schools. Both resolutions passed with no problem and addressed injustices facing LGBTQ+ people and addressed efforts to silence the teaching of history from points of view of historically marginalized people including people of color, calling on the UCC to speak up and be active in these movements for justice. And still in what appeared to be a welcoming and affirming event, I was approached by a guest of Synod, like us in the last plenary session. I realized later that he chose me and not Kathy or Nicole even though we were all near each other and easy to approach because of the stickers on my water bottle.

He introduced himself to me like any other person I had met over the time there. And then the conversation took a turn. He is a member of the Faithful and Welcoming movement in the UCC. They represent a more conservative and evangelical view of the Bible and theology and choose to remain a part of our denomination. I felt myself immediately tense up and then I breathed and decided to listen and engage with him. Plus my 2 mama bears were there and hovering in case things got out of control. He shared his view that he could love the sinner and not the sin. I shared that people like him who read the Bible as excluding and condemning LGBTQ+ people have hurt me and many others and have caused people to walk away from God and the church. He said “you are making me cry.” I said, well, I have cried many tears in my years and have done a lot of work to undo the damage done. Some I know have not been so blessed. He said a few other things and then put his arm around me without asking permission and said quite patronizingly, I pray to God for your healing. At this point I’d had enough of this weed, and I stepped away, looked him in the eye and said I pray for God to open your mind and heart, and now I’m going to listen to the speaker. He walked away.

For me, he was a weed I could tolerate alongside me for a while. He reminded me that I am strong and resilient. I have voice and am not a victim and can set boundaries. It was not up to me to try and change his mind but to share my experience and plant seeds of a different way to view the world and God’s abundant love. The seeds might never take hold. I trust God to do what God will do.

I acknowledge that for others and for me years ago, this would have been a devastating and harmful interaction so I did report the incident to our new General Minister. And Kathy & Nicole could not have been more supportive as I processed the interaction. Maybe some folks would have plucked the weed out and that is a decision that is completely legitimate too. We all have to make the decision when we encounter the weeds in our lives. Pluck them out or keep focused on the truth that God loves me and is guiding. I also could have let him ruin my experience of Synod, but I choose to not let it do that. Overall it was a good and healing experience for me and that seed is now flowering and thriving.

And I’m reminded - You can’t have a garden without seeds. And there will be weeds and distractions but as Jesus says in the parable, keep focused, and let the good seeds take hold, sprout, grow and thrive. Pulling them sometimes is counterproductive - let the good seeds do their job.

What are the seeds being planted within you right now? Or what seeds are you planting? What weeds are coming up and what are you learning from them? Will you leave them alone or pluck them out? What seeds are we as a congregation planting? Will the weeds of naysayers overpower us? Or will we stay focused on our mission to be a welcoming community of spiritual seekers, with an ever-evolving progressive view of the Holy, that is actively engaged in building a world with justice for all creation? Which one will thrive and grow?

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