Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY

There’s a game we play with the older youth at our church called Mafia. If the title has you already a little perplexed, buckle up. It gets worse. It is a social game played in a circle. All of the players are “residents” of a town, and a couple of them are members of the “mafia.” Each round of the game consists of a night and a day. During the night, the mafia members strike and remove someone from the game. During the following day the remaining members of the town try to figure out whodunit. If the townspeople uncover the mafia, they win. If, however, the mafia kills all the townspeople first, they win.

I was thinking about that game recently in light of a parable we read at church. It was the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like someone who sowed good seed in his field, but, while he was sleeping, an enemy came and sowed in some weeds. When the field hands discover the weeds among the wheat they have one thought: We have to take care of this problem. They immediately think they have to get out there and start ripping out the weeds. And we should note, they want to do that because they think that would be helpful. But the householder reminds them that could have a devastating impact on the field itself and on the wheat plants they hope will continue to grow. The householder says, “We will sort it out at the harvest. For now, just let the plants grow.”

That brings me back to the game I mentioned above. The goal of the game is to identify and rip out the weeds—in this case mafia member. But the thing I did not mention about the game is that while playing it is fun, every time you play the game the town ends up absolutely in shambles. You do not know who will win each game, but one thing is clear: the town will lose.

When we hear about wheat and weeds our first thought is which am I? Our second is to start identifying everyone else. Then we take that information and think we need to weed out God’s field so that only the righteous are left—you know, like a game of ‘mafia.’

But as we already discovered, nobody really wins a game of mafia, and the householder already warned us when we attempt the same things in the field, all the plants suffer.

The lesson of the wheat and the weeds is to resist the temptation to think it is our job to weeds God’s field. Even more, it may be inviting us to stop judging one another in the first place. Jesus reminds us that is God’s job and he doesn’t need our help. Too often when we do help, even with the best intentions, we end up doing more damage than good.

Our job is to live and grow, as we leave the sorting to God.

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.