Monday, July 21, 2014

Wheat and Weeds

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds [3] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants [4] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)  Matthew 13:36-43 (ESV)
“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
It’s the perennial question, how can there be a God,  a creator who is all good and all powerful, how can this God we Christians speak of who loves the poor and the oppressed, how can he exist when there is so much evil in the world? Why doesn’t he put an end to it all? And here Jesus, this all powerful all good God who put aside all the glory, finding equality with God not a thing to be grasped, all in order to take on the form of a servant, to become one of us and suffer this world of death and betrayal with us, to die on the cross for our sins, to rise from the dead for our justification, this God gives us an answer: “An enemy has done this.” An enemy has broken into this world, he has sown the field with weeds and corrupted it so that the weeds can’t even be torn up, and tilled without also tearing up the wheat that these very same weeds choke out, and starve for sunlight and water. At least we can’t do it, and God chooses to wait and patiently extend grace and mercy to the world with every passing day.
 We can neither separate the weeds from the wheat or the wheat from the weeds in this world, inside or outside the church. When we try to do this, we are like little children trying to help grandma in the garden with her weeding.  All of us have received the kingdom of God as little children and we share the same discernment. We are just as likely to pull the flowers as we are the weeds. In doing so, we only add evil to evil, as we try to do what we think is good. We think we know what repentance looks like and therefore who is or isn’t repentant. We’ve seen the gospel work one way in our lives and we think it must work that way in everyone else too. If it doesn’t, they must be a weed. We start going to task removing all the fornicators and adulterers, the drunkards, the good time Charlies, those on the extreme right and then those on the extreme left. When we are all done? We are left with a barren field. Or perhaps we are left with a church full of people too old and worn out to get into any trouble anymore. We begin to have articles showing up in the Reporter and Lutheran Witness complaining about the aging nature of our congregations and all the gray hair in the pews.
But God asks us to be patient. God bides his time, waiting for the gospel to work, to bring repentance and work faith, to change the weeds into wheat as it has done with each and every one of us here who were baptized into his death and raised to walk in the newness of life.  He’s not willing to weed until the harvest hoping that as long as his gospel is also sown in the world, they too can come to faith. But at the end of time, when the fullness of time has come, then the wheat and the weeds will be separated, the weeds gathered up and thrown into the fire.
It happens. It’s natural for us to react in this way. To want to weed out the world, or at least the church.  But what comes of our nature is not often good, corrupted as it is itself with the seed of Satan, the sin that corrupts all of our being. It has a way of blinding us to our own sin, and showing us the sins of others.  We see the weeds everywhere, because most often they look just like the wheat. We can’t discern the one from the other, whether inside the church or outside the church. We should remember that it always seemed to the Pharisees that Jesus lacked this discernment too. For he insisted on receiving sinners and eating with them, and neither would he avoid their company if invited to dinner. He was always ready to share the good news of the kingdom with those who had ears to hear, to sow the good seed without discernment on the stony ground, on the path, and in the field, and even among the weeds. For it was precisely the ungodly weeds he came to justify with his death, and raise to new the newness of life in him, the kernel of wheat that died that it might bear fruit.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds with Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

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