Stones, Wheat, and Weeds, Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 23, 2017

Proper 11

[RCL:] Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Today’s readings offer us a wonderful opportunity to focus on stories. The stories we tell both illuminate and teach the virtues that our communities respect. Stories transmit culture, values, and ethics. Stories often include images and actions that raise questions and confirm values. In our church communities, we tell concrete stories that illustrate our beliefs, rather than using abstract language to try to explain our theology. The book of Genesis contains the foundational stories of our faith, while the gospels contain both the story that Jesus lived and the stories that Jesus told his community of followers.

What does the story of Jacob’s dream tell us about our faith? What does the parable of the weeds of the field tell us about what we value as a community? How do these two stories work together to paint a rich and nuanced picture of the ideals explicit and implicit in our stories?

Both stories contain angels! We might define angels as spiritual beings who possess powers and intelligence superior to humans. Angels are intermediaries between heaven and earth, between God and God’s people. They are God’s messengers.

There is quite a lot going on in today’s passage from Genesis, a rich source for questions. Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, has fled from his home, where he has just tricked his brother Esau out of his birthright, deceiving his father in the process. Journeying to the home of his mother’s people, Jacob stops for the night and puts a stone under his head for a pillow. Why a stone for a pillow? The answer to that question is revealed later in the passage after Jacob wakes from his dream. Jacob takes the stone from under his head, sets it up as a pillar, and anoints it as a sacred place, which he calls Bethel, or “house of God.” Thus the stone signifies a sacred space, and sleeping on it induces Jacob’s dream, his message from God.

The first thing that Jacob sees in his dream is a ladder from earth to heaven, with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. The sacred nature of the site is confirmed, as it is the earthly place of connection to heaven. And what are those angels doing, going up and down? Certainly, they indicate our connection with God, a connection that seems to go two ways. In the Greek and early rabbinic traditions, ladders are associated with judgment. We might explain it this way: God makes ladders. Some folks are raised up; some are brought down. In the words of Psalm 75, verse 7: “It is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.” Having recently used trickery and deceit to steal his brother’s birthright, and fleeing from his brother’s anger, Jacob might well wonder about God’s judgment upon him. But God appears to him and repeats the covenant that God made with Abraham: the promises of land, descendants, and blessing. God confirms the blessing that Isaac had previously given to Jacob. He is to be the new patriarch of God’s people.

Further, and even more awesome, God assures Jacob that God is with him wherever he goes. At a vulnerable moment, fleeing from home, sleeping rough on the road to a foreign land, Jacob receives knowledge of God’s divine presence and help. Jacob, a man on the run, is transformed by God’s grace into a man who is blessed to be the new leader of God’s people.

What has the story of Jacob’s dream taught us about what we value?

  • We value sacred spaces,
  • We value our connection with God, and
  • We acknowledge that fortune moves up and down, but God is always with us.

Implicit in the story of Jacob is the ever-present possibility of redemption. We are reminded that God’s grace, like God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants, is unconditional.

What about the parable of weeds among the wheat? Jesus is quite specific about explaining what is happening in the story, but what are the implicit values transmitted to those who have ears to listen?

Jesus lived in an agrarian society, so it isn’t surprising that he used farming metaphors as concrete images to explain the mysterious nature of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of heaven is like someone who has sowed good seed, yet an enemy has come and sowed weeds among the wheat. The kingdom of heaven is messy and complicated and will encounter opposition. In fact, evil exists in the world, and may not be easily rooted out. As the householder wisely advises his slaves, it is not a good idea to pull out the weeds, for their roots are entangled with the wheat and pulling them out will damage the crop. Jesus explains that at the end of the age, the angelic reapers will collect the weeds and throw them into the fire, while the wheat will be gathered into God’s kingdom.

We wonder, along with the slaves in the story, where these weeds came from. Why does God allow evil to grow in God’s kingdom? What can we do about it?

Scholars tell us that the weeds in the parable are likely darnel, a weedy grass that looks like wheat until it matures. While the plants in the field are young, the good wheat and the invasive weeds are indistinguishable and intertwined. Then the heads of the wheat droop over, while the heads of the weeds stand up straight. The image is of humility and pride. Is it up to the humble, true followers of Jesus to identify and destroy their proud, hypocritical neighbors? Is the destiny of wheat and weed fixed, or is there a possibility of redemption? There is a difference between weeds and people. We might argue that weeds are weeds forever, while people, if not torn out by the roots, might be redeemed by God’s grace. We cannot be certain who is good and who is evil.

In the parable, the householder says, “In gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest.” He counsels patience and faith in God’s justice. It is important not to damage the roots of the wheat. A good steward must do what is best for all, even if the weeds will survive in the short term.

What does this narrative tell us about the values and culture of the storytellers?

  • We acknowledge the presence of evil in the world,
  • While evil may be redeemed, that redemption may not happen in this world,
  • It is not our job to judge, and
  • We believe in God’s judgment at the last day.

Does Jesus’ parable encourage passivity? Are the children of God to wait for those end-of-time reapers, for God to take care of the weeds? Or is Jesus offering guidance on how to live in a complicated world? While we wait for God to judge at the last day, how are we to live? Knowing that evil seed grows, that evil roots are allowed to flourish, how are we to live?

These two stories come together in our hearts and our communities in the season of Pentecost, when we commemorate the beginnings of the Church. From Genesis grows our awareness of the sanctity of consecrated sacred space and the certainty of our eternal relationship with God. Through the parable of the weeds among the wheat, Jesus reminds us that we live in a hostile world, that good and bad are intermingled, that we must live cooperatively for the good of all, and that we ought to leave judgment to God. We are to live in awe, as Jacob did on that morning in Bethel, in the presence of a just God who meets us where we are, who is with us and will keep us, wherever we go.

Let us close with a collect from the Book of Common Prayer, a prayer that might have been written by the householder in today’s parable:

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Susan Butterworth is a Master of Divinity candidate at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her area of special competency is Anglican, Global, Ecumenical and Interfaith Studies. She is currently an intern with the Lutheran Episcopal Ministry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she leads weekly Taizé prayer. She is writing a book on the anti-apartheid work of the Anglican Dean of Johannesburg Cathedral, Gonville ffrench-Beytagh.

Download the sermon for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost (A).

Groaning: The soundtrack of creation, 6 Pentecost, Proper 11 (A) – 2014

July 20, 2014

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

If you go into any gym and find the section where people are pumping iron, you will hear a lot of grunting and groaning. Weightlifters often groan. They groan as they strain to push weights off of their chests, or over their heads, or pull and heave them off the floor.

Engines straining also groan. If you strap a heavy trailer to a pickup truck and point it uphill, you will hear the engine groan. Gears push against gears, the engine revs, and the truck groans as it strains forward.

This is the sound of creation. Groaning is the sound of creation. As St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.”

This is a vivid image. Perhaps it isn’t such a fantastic metaphor for women who have actually experienced labor pains, but it reminds us of the difficult work of creation. That work can be hard. That work can be groan-inducing.

Groaning happens in a gap – a gap between what we are trying to do and what we hope to do. Groaning reminds us that the time spent in the gap between what is and what could be is a place of hard work.

Our readings from the New Testament today are about living in this gap. We hear about the gap between creation as God intends and wills it, and where we are now. Paul describes how to, somehow, live in optimism and hope in a world that so often doesn’t fulfill what God has promised to us. He calls this life in the Spirit. Paul’s whole ministry, in a way, was driven to close this gap.

Paul felt that he had seen the fulfillment of creation in Jesus, he knew that fulfillment was within reach. He also knew the communities he preached to still lived with injustice, war, poverty and suffering. He knows both the glory that is to come and the very present sufferings of the present time.

He exhorts the Christians in Rome to live in the Spirit, because he also sees the glory that is just beyond the gap. A life in the Spirit is a life characterized by the confidence that through Christ we have been freed from all the things that can increase our suffering. A life in the Spirit is a life lived free of hatred and violence, and instead filled with joy and reconciliation. A life in the Spirit is a way to live in the gap between what is and what shall be, in joyful exertion, not in desperation.

The gospel parable also speaks to life in the gap. The Reign of God – a reign that Jesus preached was here and now – is described as glorious. Jesus compares it to a grain field. A field of grain is the source of not just one loaf of bread, but an abundance of bread. This is an image of an abundance of what was, and for many still is, the basic food, the basic source of life. Yet, in the midst of this vision of an abundant life, there are weeds. The weeds gum up the works. They cannot be removed easily. The parable today is about having to wait in the gap – in a world of both abundance and weeds. The parable is there to comfort those who live in the gap with the assurance that at the end, the weeds will not ruin the harvest.

It is extremely difficult to live in a gap. It is difficult to see the glory beyond the horizon and still live in a place that is not yet fully glorified. The first Christians must have felt this very strongly. Those who actually knew Jesus had known in their minds and felt in their souls the goodness and love of God in creation, the Reign of God in the here and now. Paul had seen the glory of the risen Christ, and his conviction, faith and excitement must have filled the minds and souls of the people in the churches he planted. Yet, just outside the door of each house church, every time the communion meal ended and people returned to their lives, they were confronted by the realities of a world that did not meet that vision.

The parables Jesus told about the end of time, the words Paul gave to his communities, were written to help those communities understand and overcome the gap between what is and what ought to be.

They are also words written for today. Christians still live in the gap. Many know the feeling of God’s love and have experienced it in their lives. Many have seen it in grand acts of compassion and small daily acts of kindness. Christians rejoice when justice triumphs and celebrate when sickness turns to health. These are signs of the Reign of God come near. Yet, people everywhere also wake daily to news of war and rumors of war, of violence in homes and communities, of soul-crushing poverty in every country, of injustice, and all the many ways the dignity inherent in every person is neglected.

As Paul reminds the Christians in Rome, Christians are reminded now – we do not hope based on what we see. Christian hope is based on the confidence and assurance that the risen Christ is present in the world, bringing all things to what they are meant to be, closing the gap. God’s focus is on closing the gap between what is and what ought to be. This is the work of God from the beginning of creation. To be Christian is to join in this work, for all people are children of God, part of that creation coming into being.

The way to join in this work is to live a life in the Spirit. This isn’t a life that tries to ignore the gap. It is a life that can stride confidently into the gap – angered at injustice, grieving at suffering, striving and straining and groaning.

Groaning is the soundtrack of creation. It is the sound of the gap closing, of the Spirit overcoming resistance. Life in the Spirit strains and groans to close the gap. It is a good, honest groaning, the soundtrack of what will be coming into being.

Life in the Spirit is a life that closes the gap between the weight on the chest and the weight lifted high and triumphantly overhead. Life in the Spirit closes the gap between the engine straining against the gears and finally reaching full speed, running like a well-oiled machine.

Christians are to be gap closers. Christians are to see the distance between what should be and what is, and strain, and heave, and work, and lift to close that gap. It may be necessary to groan, but the groans sing the soundtrack of creation.

May we stay true in the struggle, groaning if need be, laughing at our groaning when we can. The gap is closing, let us hear the soundtrack of creation as we raise our voices in work and strain and joy.

 

— The Rev. Matt Seddon is an archaeologist-turned-priest who focuses on multicultural ministry, social justice and care for our environment. As of this sermon he is living in a gap. He is currently transitioning from serving as vicar to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in West Valley City, Utah, to serving as priest-in-charge for St. John’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.

I can feel them in there fighting, Proper 11 (A) – 2011

July 17, 2011

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

In a classic strip of the famed “Peanuts” newspaper cartoon, Lucy explains to her little brother Linus about the existence of good and evil. She tells him that he, like others, have inside these two forces. Linus looks at his stomach with a distressed look on his face and declares, “I can feel them in there fighting.” Humorous, but true.

In today’s gospel, we find Jesus telling a parable that uses a similar image – good wheat and evil weeds, fighting it out in a farmer’s field. It’s also the same story in whatever newspaper any of us read this morning – good and evil fighting it out in the world. There is a force at every level of existence that works against what is good and what is God. There is a force that seeks to destroy the loving nature of creation. There is a force that exerts every effort to suck the lifeblood out of everything that promotes prosperity and health and hope and peace and joy. Throughout the ages, the faithful have personified this sinister force by many names: Satan, the devil, Beelzebub, Lucifer, or “the evil one.” By whatever designation we choose, its intent, its nature, is to un-make what God has created and to deface, distort, and destroy whatever good it may latch onto, as it eats away at it with parasitic intensity.

Through today’s parable, Jesus gives us an illustration of the power of the evil force that can invade every aspect of life. He makes this clear by painting a picture of weeds growing alongside wheat, imitating the good grain and intertwining its roots and growth with what was planted by the farmer, who stands for Christ. And how did the weeds get into the field? Jesus says simply that the weeds came from an enemy, the devil, the evil one.

“An enemy of God” is as good an answer as we will ever find for the source of that which works against God. In the service of Holy Baptism, we know this enemy as “all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God,” or as “the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God,” or as the source of all that draws us from the love of God. We recognize at the very beginning of our life in Christ that we are constantly invaded by the “weeds.”

And though we renounce the evil that the weeds represent, we also recognize something else in our baptismal vows. We see that our lives, like the field in the parable, grow with evil intertwined among the grace, love, and godly obedience that we promise to trust and employ in our Christian living. And we know from experience that no matter how intent we are to follow our vows, none of us will ever totally avoid the corrupting influences and tempting thoughts that lead us to go against the values of God.

Maybe that’s what makes so many of us anxious to do something, anything, about perceived forms of evil in our close communities and in the wider world. In today’s parable, Jesus has the slaves ask almost immediately whether they should destroy the weeds. That sounds like a natural reaction, doesn’t it? What farmer would not seek to destroy weeds that suck vital nutrients from a well-planted crop? Wasn’t that our first reaction when we experienced the evil of the 9/11 attacks? When human beings think they know the source and reality of evil, they almost always want to pinpoint it and do away with it as swiftly and certainly as possible. Seeing with what we assume is a crystal-clear view of what is good and what is evil, we move ahead, absolutely certain that we are right and just in eradiating what seems obviously ungodly.

But history shows how often this is folly. Any number of “witch hunts” reveal that they were more about making the hunters feel secure than actually doing something about evil. Still, we often have a strong urge, when threatened and fearful, to find something to cut out, weed out, push down, crush, or otherwise stop and destroy. Should we not admit that this kind of behavior often simply functions as an escape from a more complex reality? That’s the argument Jesus seems to be laying out in his response to the slaves who would dig out the weeds. Wait, he has the farmer insist, until time for the harvest, because the process of ripping out the weeds will certainly destroy the wheat in the process. Doesn’t this ring true in the depths of our confessions? Don’t we really know this truth – that the evil is strongest when it disguises itself as good and manages to incapacitate the creatures of God with the resulting confusion?

This truth is hard to accept, as we find Jesus telling us something we really don’t want to hear – to leave the judging until later, to recognize that throwing the weeds into the fire is God’s job, not ours. When we encounter what we see as evil, we want to find the source and destroy it. We often are impelled by the false wisdom of, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” But as he so often does, Jesus uses this parable to make us rethink our human reactions, and he turns us in an opposite direction by having the owner say, in effect, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” Wait to let the nature of the godly prosper and prevail in due course. Profoundly, Jesus is leading us to cease chasing after the bad, and rather concentrate on the good.

The farmer could tolerate the actions of his enemy because he knew he would make it all right in the harvest, reaping the good and destroying the bad. Jesus is saying to us that we can relax in knowing that we don’t have to be in the judging business or in the business of destroying that which would work against God, because the owner of the farm, God himself, will make it all come out right in the end.

So we are left, finally, with a teaching that we would do best by paying less attention to the weeds – the evil in life – and simply staying away from it. Better for us to spend more time tending the wheat – the good in life – fostering its growth and putting it to use as Jesus would have us do, following the values of God’s Kingdom.

Like Linus of the Peanuts cartoon, we certainly recognize in ourselves and in the complex workings of the world in which we live the conflict that Linus experienced as a fist fight in his gut. Yet in the unlikely teaching of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus leaves us with a counterintuitive approach to dealing with this anxiety. What it means to respond in this way to any evil – ranging from the horrors of terrorism to the selfishness of not caring for a neighbor in need – leaves us fighting against the very nature of our worldly humanity, fighting against nearly every instinct we feel, and against nearly every example we learn from history. To even suggest such an approach is bound to lead to harsh and bitter disagreement, if not utter disbelief, on the other side of the debate. In the conventional wisdom of the world, the teaching of this parable seems crazy and impossible.

Yet we know that it is possible from studying the leadership of those like Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, who chose not to tear at the weeds, but to nurture the wheat. They learned what they practiced from our Christ. Jesus reminds us, too, that those who choose to use the sword ultimately die by the sword. Indeed, at the decisive moment of his ministry, Jesus left the ultimate exclamation point on the meaning of today’s parable. Dying on the cross, he did not seek to destroy his enemies who sowed the lethal seeds that choked out his life. Rather, he forgave them. He looked to God to sort it out in the end. And we can – in the best moments of living out the vows of our baptisms and as we faithfully look at the end of the passion story – discover that the power of the Resurrection proves the truth of the parable of the wheat and weeds. In so doing, we will recommit ourselves to leaving the weeds to God. In so doing, we will, in ourselves and in the world around us, turn all our hearts and souls to nurturing the wheat that God has given us.

 

— The Rev. Ken Kesselus, author of “John E. Hines: Granite on Fire” (Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995), is retired from full-time, active ministry and lives with his wife, Toni, in his native home, Bastrop, Texas.

Who are your people?, Proper 11 (A) – 2008

July 20, 2008

Genesis 28:10-19a and Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23 (or Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 orIsaiah 44:6-8 and Psalm 86:11-17); Romans 8:12-25Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Who are you? Who are your people? Who are your kin?

These are questions we’re asked in many different ways every day. Culturally, in the South, “Who are your people?” is an essential question – usually the first question a new person in town, or a new boy or girlfriend is asked.

Think about it. We ask this type of question in so many different ways of just about everyone we meet, that it’s become habit. We assume the person we’re talking to has a family, a place to belong, to talk about, and we’re often taken aback or don’t know how to respond if a person says, “I don’t know, I was brought up in foster homes,” or “My family doesn’t care about me anymore, I just got out of drug rehab.”

If we’re caring people, we feel for people who find themselves adrift and alone for whatever reason, because that sense of belonging is so important to us as human beings.

You remember the old song, “People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.” But if we’re honest, hasn’t each one of us has had a time in our lives when we felt completely alone – cut off even from family and friends?

What happens to us when all we see or feel is darkness? What happens to our sense of self if we feel that the darkness is our own fault? What happens when it is our own fault – a bad decision, sin, deliberate selfishness? There’s no one there to reach out to.

Have you ever felt that way? It’s really hard. What do we do? Some despair, others stay wrapped in anger, others hang in with hope. How do we choose?

Lots of questions. These questions may be overwhelming or they may be questions we’ve never really thought about, but the mere asking makes us think about some of our more difficult days.

Are they unanswerable questions? Not at all, because all of our readings today give us a reason to hope. All of our readings today give us ways to have relationships with others, even when we’re not kin.

Being part of a family is what each reading today is all about: God’s family. Paul gives a wonderful definition of how we belong to God’s family.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

There we have it! None of us ever need to fear being completely alone even if we don’t have an earthly family. We all are part of God’s family. We can cry “Abba!” We can be absolutely sure that, as the spirit of God is within every single one of us, we are brothers and sisters of Christ and heirs of God’s glory. Paul also reminds us that this family connection doesn’t break down when we suffer. Christ suffered – we suffer, but we are not left alone as he was not left alone.

But then we wonder about suffering, don’t we? When people get sick or we see that people’s suffering is not of their own doing, we often hear things said like, “God never gives you more than you can handle” or “This suffering will make you a stronger person.”

But think about how some folks react to suffering they think is brought on by a person’s bad life choices. A homeless person asks for some change, a single mother with children is getting welfare, a young man who’s just gotten out of jail can’t find a job – that’s their problem, isn’t it? We often hear some folks say, “It’s their own fault,” or “They’re lazy,” or “My hard-earned taxes have been supporting that bum in jail, he doesn’t deserve a break.”

If we’re really honest about it, it’s hard to imagine a loving God living in us, calling us children, and yet deliberately giving us something to suffer in order to test us or make us stronger. If we’re honest about it, the homeless and poor and those who have made bad choices are still children of God, our brothers and sisters, and we must be willing to love them and reach out as we’re able.

What Paul shares with us is that God is with every one of us through whatever happens in our human lives, whether we acknowledge God’s presence or not. Thomas Keating in his teachings on Centering Prayer says that God is present no matter what and waits for us to say yes to that presence. God is a very patient and loving God.

Now we might be thinking that this all sounds too easy, that we don’t have to worry about anything but knowing God’s spirit is within us and we’re all set. Of course, we know better.

The wonderful symbolism found in Jacob’s dream in Genesis gives us a place to start thinking about our responsibility as children of God:

“He dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!”

What a wonderful dream! Jacob realizes what a powerful message was in that dream and so he set up a pillar – set up an altar – and gave it a name, Bethel, setting that place aside as a holy place. Jacob received his own message from God in that dream, the promise of a family that would reach far and wide, even down through generations. The promise of family was as important then as it is for us today.

We’re also offered a message in this reading. That ladder connecting heaven and earth is there for us. As those angels are going up and down, connecting humanity to heaven, so we who say we are Jesus’ followers, must be like those angels. We must be people who play a part in connecting the world with heaven by the way we live our lives.

Now that sounds like work, and of course it is. Being human, living in a very human world will have its hard days – lots of them – more, it seems, for some than others. If we’re serious about claiming to be Christian, then we must accept that angelic role.

What it means for us is that what sounds like work is actually our ministry. Each one of us has been given some talent, some gift of personality or ability that we can use as we travel up and down that figurative ladder between heaven and earth. Each of us is called to be a messenger of God’s love to others. That may be something like speaking to a homeless person, treating that person like the loved child of God he or she is. For some, doing missionary work is their gift. For others, it may be sharing a talent or offering hope to someone with problems. There are certainly millions of ways, each way pleasing to the God who lives within us.

Hard work or easy, whatever our gift, whatever our own suffering may be, we can be sure we’re never alone. God’s promise is all through both the Old and New Testament, but the way it’s described in Jacob’s dream is especially lovely:

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.”

We might look at that land God promises us as eternal life. Here God promises to be with us and keep us. God promises to stay with us until we are with God in eternity. That’s a promise and a source of strength for us that’s as awesome as Jacob’s experience of God was for him.

We are all very fortunate because when someone asks us about our family, we can all say, “My family is all God’s people and we have God’s promise that we will never be alone.”

 

—  The Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz is executive director of the Center for Ministry in Small Churches at the School of Theology, Sewanee, Tenn., and assistant professor of Contextual Education. She is also publisher of Tuesday Morning, a quarterly journal of ministry and liturgical preaching.