Thesis 11: A Time For Every Season
This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.
I'm not going to pretend to analyze Catholic polity here, but I did Google what a "tare" is. It's basically a weed.
I love that Luther chooses a metaphor here involving agriculture: a small plant growing to create a larger problem because of the inattention of those supposedly in charge.
When Jesus describes the Kingdom of God, he frequently uses imagery involving a feast, banquet, or party. But in every Gospel except John, he also has a startling comparison between the Kingdom and a mustard seed, a tiny seed that could grow in rough soil despite the intentions or attention of those in charge.
Poor leadership and mischievous selfishness can sneak up to cause problems in the exact same way as selfless openness to the movement of the Spirit and her inscrutable ways.
Other thoughts that should obviously be considered here as a parallel for a Methodist context: Are our bishops sleeping while our priests change canonical law to benefit themselves? Is our law constricting our churches' ability to act out the Gospel? Do we have canonical penalties akin to refusal of communion?
Are we putting gay couples in purgatory while we decide whether their love for each other is acceptable to God or not?
Here's the thing about weeds, though: Even if they completely take over other, more sought-after plants around them, winter eventually comes. All dies. Spring arrives. All begins again.
I believe the Church is sowing a fascinating mixture of tares and mustard seeds, and that most of them are dying right now during this time of the Church's winter. But not all of them. Which ones?