God’s reckless, determined love
By Megan Rohrer
Summer Scripture readings, in most congregations, feature stories about farming, parables about lost and tiny things, and unexpected group feedings. Upon hearing them, many shift in their pews and display confusion similar to the disciples.
As a child living in South Dakota, I loved the farming texts because they connected the Bible to the scenery outside my front door. When the parables were read, I felt like I could smell the fields and feel them growing.
Now, when I preach about the same texts at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco, the farming parables seem as far away as pregnant Mary’s ride to Bethlehem on a donkey.
Hoping to bridge this gap, my stepfather Dave Heard and I filmed some conversations about Jesus’ farming parables for my congregation. Dave explained that it’s the farmer’s job, not the seed’s, to ensure that seeds are planted in good soil. Also, after planting, farmers continually work to keep the soil healthy and free of weeds. Dave explained that, if he let the weeds and his wheat to grow in the same field, the weeds will kill his crop.
The more we talked, the more convinced I became that God is not a very good farmer. Or, at the very least, farm parables told by a carpenter don’t make very much sense. But, it’s not the only illogical parable: the mustard seed is not the smallest seed in the world; succulents grow between rocks and in bad soil; abandoning a herd of sheep to go in search of one is not good sheepherding.
Dave, however, remained convinced that God is up to something beyond farming, growing bread and sheepherding. As the summer continues and each Sunday brings a new parable, I am starting to understand what Dave was talking about.
Though often illogical, parables remind us of the nagging, ridiculous love of God. Each week, the parables illustrate God’s willingness to sacrifice profit, comfort, and eventually the life of Jesus in order to give us confidence that nothing, nothing, nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.
A counterbalance to the world, family and work (where we might be nagged in hopes that it will make us more practical and financially prudent), God is reckless and determined to love us even after we hit rock bottom. This surprising God judges us, not on our worst moments, but on our intentions and efforts to turn back to God whenever we can.
Preaching in a time when stewardship and fiscal responsibility may be the only thing that enables us to keep the doors open each Sunday, the future of our church depends on our ability to dance between future-oriented saving and reckless, evangelistic generosity.
During this long season of Pentecost, I pray that our church, its leaders, pastors and pew sitters will find ways to translate God’s nagging, ridiculous love in ways that are equally obsessed with forgiveness, compassion and hope. After all, nothing is more ridiculous than God’s continual reaching out to us in all of our stubborn, forgetful, distracted loveliness.
Megan Rohrer is pastor of Grace Lutheran Evangelical Church, an ELCA congregation in San Francisco. She is also the executive director of Welcome, a communal response to poverty.