One of the many parables of Jesus with an agrarian theme is one that deals with the weeds and the wheat (or earlier translations called it the wheat and the tares). The parable describes the dilemma for a farmer who has planted good seed, but now there are weeds growing up with the wheat. His workers want to know if they should try to pull out the weeds, to which the wise farmer replies that patience is required until we see the plants growing enough to discern which ones are wheat and which ones are weeds.

While this may not be the best strategy for gardeners or farmers, the parable clearly is calling for patience during times of ambiguity.

This is a time of ambiguity for United Methodists here in Indiana. Both Conferences have strongly affirmed becoming one new conference, and our Called Special Session of the two Conferences (on Saturday, October 4th at the State Fairgrounds) will celebrate this movement and work out a few final details. In the meantime, I am preparing to name the Transition Team to monitor and coordinate this effort, and they will in turn name several committees and nominate others to help form the new conference. Lots of decisions will be made in the next 18 months as we prepare for the January 1, 2010 combining of budgets, staffs, offices, databases, new district lines, etc. In the meantime, we are all living with some ambiguity. This is particularly tough for the staff in our two Conference offices, Area office, District offices, and others who will be directly impacted by decisions that are yet to come. I invite all United Methodists to pray and remember how stressful this ambiguity is for those persons in particular.

There are many Biblical models for these times of ambiguity, most notably the desert time for Moses and the Israelites traveling from slavery in Egypt on toward the Promised Land. (Hopefully our Indiana journey will not require 40 years!) There are many positive and negative lessons in that Biblical journey – those who handled the ambiguity well and those who did not. The key difference seems to be our ability to trust in God to guide us, even when we don’t see the immediate and quick answers we might desire. Not seeing such answers can lead us to look back to Egypt with longing, forgetting that Egypt was not an ideal situation either.

So what do we do with the wheat and the weeds? How do we traverse the in-between times which may feel like a desert journey? Patience … patience … patience is required, along with a strong trust that God will reveal the answers when the time is right.

May God help us all to deal with ambiguity in such a faithful way.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church