July 26, 2020
1 Kings 3.5-12; Romans 8.26-39; Matthew 13.31-33, 44-52
+ If you are on any kind of social media, you have no doubt seen videos of the so-called “Karen” syndrome.
These “Karens” are a real phenomenon in our country right now.
Maybe you’ve encountered them in your own life.
Or maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of a Karen.
Wikipedia defines a “Karen” as “pejorative term used…for a woman perceived as entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is appropriate or necessary. A common stereotype is that of a white woman who uses her privilege to demand her own way at the expense of others. Depictions also include demanding to "speak to the manager", anti-vaccination beliefs (sometimes in favor of the unproven medical use of essential oils), being racist... As of 2020, the term was increasingly being used as a general-purpose term of disapproval for middle-aged white women.
Wikipedia goes on to say this about Karens:
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the term was used to describe women abusing Asian-American health workers due to the virus's origins in China, those hoarding essential supplies such as toilet paper, and both those who policed others' behavior to enforce quarantine and those who protested the continuance of the restrictions because they prevented them visiting hair salons, prompting one critic to ask whether the term had devolved into an all-purpose term for middle-aged white women. Use of the term increased from 100,000 mentions on social media in January 2020 to 2.7 million in May 2020.”
I want to stress that this is not only an issue about women.
There is also a male counterpart for Karen.
The videos of Karens and their male counter[arts which are called “Kevins” are often people who are suspicious of people of different colors, or younger people, or people who make life miserable for everyone else because they reffuse to follow the rules.
They are complainers, the ones who feel they have a right to say or do anything they please without worrying about the consequences of those words or actions.
They are the ones who believe that what their opinions or what they believe is more important than anyone’s else opinions or beliefs.
I had an interesting discussion just yesterday with a good friend of mine about why these Karens and Kens are so prominent now.
This is what I think:
“Karens and Kevins, deep down, know that their way of life is dying rapidly. It is not white, straight, evangelical Christian America anymore (not that it ever really was) and that scares them. And they are desperate. They are really scared. They are acting out in droves right because of these underlying issues.
“Fear is eating away at the Karens and Kevins of our society. And we are seeing how that fear can be destructive.”
It’s about control—and the fact that there are losing their perceived control in this world.
It’s about control—and the fact that there are losing their perceived control in this world.
And they are afraid.
And because they are, the rest of us have to pay.
But, let’s face it, Karens and Kevins don’t have the market cornered on fear.
No matter where you are politically or religiously or personally, there’s a lot fear at work in our lives right now. .
You can cut it with a knife, it’s that REAL.
But what is most shocking to me is how so much fear, so much anxiety, so much darkness, can come forth from some seemingly small, other-wise insignificant actions.
It doesn’t take much to fan the flames of fear anymore.
It doesn’t take much stoke the fire of our personal and collective anxiety.
A car parked too closely to another in a parking lot.
A simple phone call.
Which is a reminder to all of us: it is not the big things we sometimes need to fear.
It not always the Pandemic and the secret mercenaries that really get our fear factors going—though that’s pretty frightening.
Sometimes—more often than not—it is the small things that affect us most.
In our Gospel for this morning, we heard the Kingdom of God being compared to several small things: mustard, yeast, treasure, pearls and fish.
The gist of these parables is that something small can make a difference.
Something small can actually be worth much.
As I pondered this these last few days, I realized that Jesus really is, as always, VERY right on with this.
When we do a bit of good—like planting a little bitty mustard seed—a lot of good can come forth.
But, as I said, we also realize that a little bit of bad can also do much bad.
A little bit of fear can grow into something out of control.
And I’m not just talking about the news and the government. Or the President
We all live with various forms of fear.
Fear of the future.
Fear of change.
Fear of things that are different, or strange, or that don’t fit into our confining understanding of things.
Our fear of these kind of things can be crippling.
We sow the small seeds of fear that grow into larger ugly plants of fear when we when wallow in that fear, when we let fear grow and flourish into a huge, overwhelming weed.
When we let fear reign, when we let it run roughshod through our lives, we see
bitterness and anger following.
We become the “Karens” and the “Kevins” of our world.
We become bitter, complaining, nitpicky people who by doing so, expose our own fear and privilege.
Our reading from the Hebrew scriptures is a great example of how we should respond to issues of fear.
In our reading from the 1 Kings, we find God telling King Solomon that anything he asks will be granted.
This would be something most of us really would want God to say to us as well.
If God spoke to you and told you that anything you prayed for would be granted, what would you ask for?
I know a few things I would ask for.
And most of those things we ask would be normal.
But Solomon doesn’t ask for the normal things, if you notice.
Solomon asks God for the gift of understanding.
And that is the gift God grants Solomon.
And us too!
When we ask for the gift of understanding, God usually seems to grant it.
As long as we are open to the gift.
The fact is, most of us aren’t open to understanding.
We are too set in our ways, into believing we know what is right or what is wrong.
But when we ask, when we open ourselves to this gift, God gives us the Holy Spirit.
And how do we know when the Holy Spirit is given to us?
We know the work of the Holy Spirit, by the Spirit’s fruits.
Those fruits blossom into real, tangible signs.
But when we resist the Spirit, when we resist the movement of God, we find ourselves trapped—in fear, in bitterness, in anger.
But it is not an option for us as Christians to be stuck and trapped in fear.
How can we fear when we hear Paul say to us in his letter to the Romans:
“if God is for us, who is against us.”
We cannot let fear rule our lives.
After all, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”
Will any of the hardships of life be able to defeat us or separate us from the love of God?
Will pandemics r secret mercenary police or the Kevins and Karens of this world separate us from God’s love?
“No, in all these things we are conquerors through him who loved us.”
Nothing—not “death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, not things to come, not powers, not height, not depth, not anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(By the way, I am convinced that this might be the most powerful scripture we have as Christians!)
After all, when we get stuck in fear, when we let ourselves be separated from the love of God in our lives, that is when we hinder the Kingdom.
It prevents the harvest from happening.
It prevents growth from happening.
It makes the Church—and us—not a vital, living place proclaiming God’s loving and living and accepting Presence.
It makes us into the Karens and Kevins of this world.
Our job is to banish fear so the Kingdom can flourish.
The flourishing of the kingdom can be frightening.
Like the mustard seed, it can be overwhelming.
Because when the Kingdom of God flourishes, it flourishes beyond our control.
We can’t control that flourishing.
All we can do is plant the seeds and tend the growth as best we can.
Rooting our endeavors in God’s love is a sure guarantee that what is planted will flourish.
Because rooting our endeavors in God’s love means we are rooting our endeavors in a living, vital Presence.
We are rooting them in a wild God who knows no bounds, who knows no limits and who cannot be controlled by us.
Rooting our endeavors in God’s love means that our job is simply to go with God and the growth that God brings about wherever and however that growth may happen.
When we do, God banishes our fears.
So, let us help God’s Kingdom flourish!
To be righteous does not mean being good and sweet and nice and right all the time.
To be righteous one simply needs to further the harvest of the Kingdom by doing what those of us who follow Jesus do.
It means seeking understanding from God.
It means to plant the good small seeds.
And in those instances when we fail, we must allow the mustard seed of the Kingdom to flourish.
And when we do strive to do good and to further the kingdom of God, then will we being doing what Jesus commands us to do.
The Kingdom will flourish and we can take some joy in knowing that we helped, working with God, to make it flourish.
And, in that wonderful, holy moment, we will know the fruits of our efforts.
And we—like the kingdom of which we are citizens—we will also truly flourish!
Let us pray.
Holy and loving God, plant in us the seeds of your love so that your love will flourish within us and in all whom we encounter in this world; we ask this in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.