Kenora St. Alban’s
Proper / Ordinary / Lectionary 16 – Pentecost + 7
19 July 2020
Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
O God, patient and forbearing, strengthen our spirit when we are slow and temper our zeal when we are rash, so that in your own good time you may produce in us a rich harvest from the seed you have sown and tended; through Jesus Christ, the promise of a new creation. Amen.
I’m fascinated by Jesus’ parable today, about the wheat and the weeds. After all, its summertime, and those trying to grow gardens know all about weeds, right?
I’m fascinated by the notion that the enemy seeds the landowner’s wheat field with weeds, fully anticipating the response of the slaves of the householder and their desire to see only good grain grow in the fields.
“When the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Mt 13:26-30)
So, Jesus response, today is both logical, and yet, at the same time, it is utterly fascinating.
When we contemplate Jesus’ words, in our minds eye, we see a beautiful field filled with luscious, nourishing wheat just sprouting, gaining full height, and maturing into a great crop. At the same time, we’re able to see the invasive weeds right along side.
Throughout the growing season, then, both receive the same amounts of sunlight, rain or irrigation, and fertilizer. Yet the weed remains a weed throughout all of this application of agrarian love and care, only to face the fate of weeds when the field is harvested.
So, then, what does this mean for us? How do we, mostly non-agrarian folk with our backyard gardens, interpret this parable for our lives?
What if we look at it, in a similar way to last weeks parable of the sower? After all, as we heard from Sandra, the parables are straight forward, but at the same time, they’re not at all straight forward, are they?
So, then how can we apply this parable to our lives, in and throughout society.
Looking at it through the lens of the structure of today’s society, the children of God, then are the wheat, and those influences that seek to pull us away, or interfere with our lives as Christians living out our baptismal promises, then, world be the weeds.
If we pull the weeds, as the farm workers desire, to give the wheat optimum growing space, and no competition for the nutrients of the soil, then some of the wheat is pulled as well, lost forever to the fires all because they had the misfortune to have weeds grow up next to them, and entangle their roots.
But this isn’t what Jesus is talking about.
In Jesus’ model, where both the wheat and the weeds share the field until harvest, we see that the wheat is able to grow to its fullest potential. At the same time, we see that the weeds, also grow to their fullest potential, but they meet the fires of the harvest, when all is said and done.
And really, we all know people, or influences, or unjust structures all around us that can be seen as ‘weed – like’, that strive to cut us off from our Christian families, from our efforts to make the world a better pace, to live out the Word of God in our daily round of tasks and errands.
Equally, we can apply this parable to our own lives, and to our individual journey’s as Christians in the world, as well.
Looking at this from the point of view of our own lives, from the perspectives of our own hearts and minds, especially in this time of pandemic, then, its easy to parse out, to see where the metaphor of the situation fits with our lives, and our own journeys in and through this world.
Or is this too predictable? Which means we may be missing something.
The difficulty, here, naturally, is the weeds, as it is in all gardening stories.
It’s the negative ideas and concepts that attempt to choke out the good actions, ideas, and thoughts that enrich our lives, that lead us into paths of depression, addiction, or even worse.
But it’s not just thoughts that have the ability to negatively or positively affect our lives, there are, into all of our lives, people who are or act as weeds, in our lives, as well.
So Jesus, then, encourages us to look within, as well as without our lives, and hearts at the same time. He encourages us to focus on the wheat, on the sunshine, the water, the fertilizers that help us, encourage us to grow and to produce fruit of the Spirit, fruit of the gospel in the world around us, every day.
And more often than naught, what we find in our lives and in our hearts is this same ‘wheat – weed’ mix as we noted with Paul’s letter to the Romans. We are in a constant struggle to encourage the wheat to grow instead of the weeds. Yet, those weeds are pernicious.
Paul tells us: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:14-17)
Now doesn’t that sound like the wheat striving to survive with weeds in the same field?
And yet, Jesus tells us the home owner is willing to wait until the harvest to deal with these darn weeds, that were sown by the enemy, so that absolutely none of the wheat is affected.
And really, this is huge for each one of us, for all of our lives, and even for our communities.
We all dream of utopia, of the garden of Eden, of absolute heavenly peace, but there is always a serpent in the garden. (Gen 3)
Now, I have to admit, I’m not much of a gardener. I do alright with my houseplants, or with a container garden format. But as to an actual garden, I’m more than happy to leave that to the green thumbs and the talents of others.
What I do remember, from my childhood, is helping to pull weeds in the garden, or to ‘thin out’ the carrots and the radishes to encourage the remaining plants to grow larger because they’re not as crowded together in their rows.
But this isn’t what we’re seeing, here. Here Jesus is describing a wheat field, not a backyard garden, but when it comes to things that grow, such as wheat, and each one of us, the model still fits.
Rather, this is able to be seen as an extension of last weeks parable of the sower, where the enemy is striving to sabotage the good grain.
Where the sowing of weeds has been done to encourage the wheat to not produce far more than was sown. To encourage the action of the farm hands who desire to pull the weeds, and sacrifice the nearby grain.
Jesus, knowing the impact of producing more than we’ve ever imagined is even enough to overpower the negative influences of the weeds that brush up against us, that attempt to infiltrate, or cross pollinate our lives with habits and ideas that don’t make the world a better place.
So, Jesus knows the struggle that takes place in our minds, in our heart, even in the structure of our lives. He knows our desire to produce good fruit, yet, in spite of everything, of every effort we make, weeds spring up and block, distract, pull our attention away from what it is we desire to do as children of God, as members of the body of Christ.
So, then, if we are the wheat, or if our communities are the wheat, then we have to acknowledge the weeds in our midst. When the weeds have been named, then we can continue to produce good fruit, to continue to produce more fruit than we’ve ever imagined.
When we know what the weeds look like, whether they are unjust systems, laws that restrict rather than liberate, personal struggles, or even attitudes that prevent us from reaching our fullest potential. Those are our weeds. And when we deal with them, it has to be delicately so that none of the wheat on all sides does anything more than continue to be all that it can imagine itself to be.
Jesus tells us: ““The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.”” (Mt. 13:37-40)
So, Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit know that we have challenges. And they strive to encourage us to continue to grow, to blossom, and to produce good fruit, not just today, but every day of our lives.