SCRIPTURE READING Matthew 13:22 The Message
22 “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
LEADER The Word of God that is still speaking.
ALL: Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE Summer is the he fluffy time of the Year. A perfect time to lighten our burdens. TIME TO UNTANGLE
What’s got you tangled up? Prevents you from acting the way you want to act? Focusing the on the things that matter?
Jesus described this feeling. In the parable of the sower, the person hears the Good News – the news that God loves them and Jesus is there to show them the way to eternal life on earth as it is in heaven, but the person is so strangled by the weeds of worry and wanting more worldly stuff that he can’t do anything about responding to the message of Good News. The person can’t untangle, un-strangle his life.
At Bible study on Thursday, I asked, what keeps us tangled up? Several notions were offered.
- Tangled politics. You see it this way – she sees it the opposite. Over time, the differences of opinion escalate and we can’t find common ground.
- Tangled job situations. The boss thinks this is the best way, the worker has other ideas, and over time the conflicts escalate.
- Tangled expectations. Disappointments with each other pile up. Instead of sorting them out, they are allowed to fester.
- Tangled relationships. Fights between family and friends, often starting with small matters.
- Other suggestions offered by the congregation of things that tangle us up: laziness, tiredness.
I don’t think anyone is free of the problem of being tangled up by broken relationships. A best friend lets the other down. Instead of talking it out, hurt feelings begin to pile up. Suddenly the friendship is a tangled mess.
Or in families, here is especially where we can get entangled so easily. As the old saying goes, we can choose our friends but not our families, implying that we may not have a lot in common except inheritance. Now, I would argue that this IS the most important thing, but this would be ignoring one of the central reasons for family disagreements. We may be related by blood, but that doesn’t mean we see everything from the same angle.
Take me, for example. I’m a persister – pushing for what I see as the right solution and persisting if others don’t immediately recognize my brilliance in coming up with “the” solution. Yet, more than one of my children are rebels at heart and react badly when I get into my persister mode. The fireworks fly! If I’d only remember to issue a challenge on finding a solution to a problem instead of telling them what to do.
Like instead of saying, “take a flight on this day,” saying, “can you figure out how we can have the best time together for Thanksgiving, given our complicated work and school schedules?” If I’d just taken that approach, it could have avoided an argument. And, when arguments and hurt feelings happen, if we don’t sort out them out then, they begin to build up, and are much harder to untangle later. Keeping our relationships untangled is important.
What can we do to keep hurt feelings from building up?
Maybe one way might be called the parable of the jewelry. Marsha Simpson came up with it as a solution for keeping her necklaces free of knots when she is traveling. She takes each necklace, stretches it out in a foil wrap, then wraps it separately to keep them from tangling together. Brilliant idea Marsha!
And what is even more brilliant about it, once one starts to tidy up the necklaces, the jewelry box is easier to keep it tidy in the future. By preventing tangles from getting started, a growing mess is prevented.
However, as you and I know, keeping our jewelry, or other easily tangle prone objects like yarn, rope, fishing lines or even Christmas tree lights, free of knots is a challenge. But not nearly as hard as keeping our relationships untangled. We have to be constantly working at this.
And this is easier said than done.
Last week I slogged through a torturous novel about relationships, culture and conflict. Its title was Small Mercies. It was set in the time when schools were being desegregated in Boston in the early 1970s, which may have been one of the most tumultuous of all school desegregations. The author may have been writing a fictitious novel that just happened to be set in Boston during desegregation, but as one who lived there in those years, so much of what he wrote rang true.
If you are not familiar with Boston, you may wonder why desegregation was so bitter there? It had to do with culture and relationships.
The culture – Boston was no melting pot. It was a city of little enclaves. The Irish in the South End. The blacks in Roxbury. The Irish protected their enclave at all costs. Loyalty to the neighborhood was paramount.
The relationships – The main character was a mother, Mary Pat, whose son had died from a drug overdose and then her daughter disappeared, which the novel linked to the crime bosses in the neighborhood. At the heart of the story are a few lines of dialogue with the cop who is working her daughter’s disappearance case. It captured Mary Pat’s despair that came from an accumulation of tangles from growing up in a violent family, a violent neighborhood where protecting one’s own was the chief value, and trying to raise her children to be loving instead. Here is the conversation.
“ ‘Mrs. Fennessy, please go home.’
“ ‘And do what?’
“ ‘Whatever you do when you’re home.’
“ ‘And then what?’
“ ‘Get up the next day and do it again..’
“ She shakes her head. ‘That’s not living.’
“ ‘It is if you can find the small blessings.’
“She smiles, but her eyes shine with agony. ‘All my small blessings are gone.’
“ ‘Are you sure?’
“ ‘Oh, I’m sure.’
“ ‘Then find new ones.’
“She shakes her head. ‘There aren’t any left to find.’
Her tangled life had led to the loss of all that was dear. She had no hope. It was as if the weeds of her loss and broken relationships prevented her from hearing Good News. Nobody would want to be heartbroken and hopeless like her.
So we return to Jesus’ warning: Don’t let the weeds strangle our hope in the Good News. Where do you feel the urge to untangle? Please give it some thought. Amen.
 Dennis Lehane, Small Mercies:A Novel, (Harper:AnImprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2023).
 Ibid. 154-55.