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MIND WHAT YOU CRUSH
July 19, 2008
 
This morning's eMo is a meditation on a text that will be read in many churches this Sunday. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
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No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.
Matthew 13:29



I passed a nice rosebush this morning, on my back to the house from getting the newspaper. It is Japanese Beetle season; during these few weeks, I inspect the bushes each time I pass one, to pick off offenders. I regret to report that, when I find one, I crush him or her between my thumb and forefinger. Two or three of them at a time, sometimes; they stack themselves upon each other in clusters -- mating, I think, although I am not sure about that. I regret even more to report that I find the lethal crunch of their insect bodies between my fingers satisfying: a pair of Japanese beetles can strip a rosebush in no time at all, and I love my roses. So I murder them with zest. I must work on that.

Not only is this murderous streak a dangerous thing for my soul; it is dangerous for the garden, as well. This morning, for instance, I spied a pair in insect legs curled around the shiny side of a rose leaf; its body was on the dull side, hidden from view. Aha! I said silently, and reached for it. Before the unfortunate bug knew what hit him, he was with Jesus. And I was devastated to see that what I had taken for a Japanese beetle wasn't one at all. It was a bee, the genial and beneficial pollinator of everything. I had killed an insect I want in my garden because I had thought it was something else. I had executed an innocent bug.

So be careful what you throw out. Or exclude. Or kill. What you think is a demon may be an innocent. We're not always the best judge of that.

Perhaps the greatest gift of the Anglican understanding of Church is this: the Church is like not a garden in which only one kind of plant or animal is permitted. Such a garden can't grow on its own: diversity is integral to the survival of all animal and vegetable life. Plants grown in an over-controlled environment might grow as individuals, might bloom and fruit, but they do not do so vigorously. They grow up weak, incapable of protecting themselves against disease -- incapable, even, of seeding their next generation in the normal manner. They, like all life, need the rough and tumble of competing claims in order to grow strong and ensure the endurance of their kind. And of other kinds, as well.

Historically, the Anglican way has been to understand and provide for this way of living in the present and growing into the future. It is not necessary for everyone to rejoice in everything; diversity can be hard work, fraught with misunderstanding, and it is not necessary to pretend that it is not. We don't need to wait until we are emotionally ready to embrace the one we have cast in the role of Other; not every human ethical action can be hostage to our emotions. None of the great ones have been: not the liberation of India, not the defeat of Apartheid, not the civil rights movement in the United States. None of them depended upon unanimous emotional readiness for their power to take root and grow.

And one more thing: we can count on the embrace itself to begin its work. Familiarity does not always breed contempt. Sometimes it seeds an unaccustomed love. We do not know what the future will bring; it is best not to cut new things off at the knees before we even understand what they are.

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Pentecost 10, Year A, Proper 11
Genesis 28:10-19a or Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 or Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23 or Psalm 86:11-17
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

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