The first time I engaged in the spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth was when I was entering seminary. My class traveled to a Catholic retreat center that had a labyrinth on its grounds. It was an 11-circuit, Chartres-style one with larger stones around the path and gravel on which to walk. After a brief explanation by one of our retreat leaders, we were released to give it a try.
I've walked a labyrinth many times since, with mixed results.
I was walking through an unfamiliar residential neighborhood to get some exercise, going at a good clip when I was brought to a sudden halt because the sidewalk disappeared. A certain establishment had not installed sidewalks along its considerable property line. The name of the establishment? Health Network. I could not continue my healthy walk past the Health Network, but had to turn around.
Sometimes I think this is what the church must seem like to people outside the church—an establishment that says one thing on its sign, and another thing by its behavior.
On first reading, the two parables in today's Gospel text seem to make less and less sense. In the first, a sower seems to leave the seed to fend for itself. In the second, a tiny mustard seed becomes a bush large enough for its branches to provide shelter for birds. (In Matthew's telling, it's a full-size tree!) When we stop to think about it, both parables are preposterous.
Yesterday I was reading about Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian, and his continuing effort to be in dialogue with evangelical Christian leaders about the acceptance of LGBTQ people in the church. He was invited to a conversation with Caleb Kaltenbach, an evangelical pastor whose parents split up because they were both gay. Kaltenbach has tried to find scriptural support for being OK with gay people generally, especially since that group includes his parents.