6th Sunday after Pentecost, year A, 2014 (preached July 20, 2014)
first reading: Isaiah 44:6-8
second reading: Romans 8:12-25
gospel reading: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus offers us a parable about the Kingdom of heaven. In fact, all of chapter 13 in Matthew is devoted to parables that tell us what the Kingdom of heaven is like.
Last week in worship we read the parable of the sower who sows seed in different types of soil. After our gospel passage for today we find other classic parables of Jesus such as the mustard seed and the pearl of great price. Each of these parables tell us something different about the Kingdom – the character of God, the roles we play, and today, about the presence of evil and our response.
A person might read today’s parable and be worried about whether they’re wheat or weeds. No one wants to be thrown into the furnace of fire. We all hope that we’re the wheat that will be gathered into the barn.
But when we spend our time worrying about that, we miss the point of the parable. We miss what Jesus is trying to teach us.
What Jesus is explaining in the parable is the reality of evil, and the reason God allows it to exist alongside faith. Just like the parable of the sower last week was more about the character of God the sower than the different types of soil, today’s parable is also about the character of the sower.
The question our parable answers is NOT, “Am I wheat or weed?” The question it answers is, “Why is there evil in the world?” The question it answers is, “Why doesn’t God get rid of it all?”
And here it is. We find it in the response the sower gives the slaves (servants) when they ask if he wants them to go out and gather the weeds. He replies, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest…”
God loves each of us SO deeply, so completely, that God is unwilling to suffer the loss of even the smallest speck of wheat in the process of separating out the weeds. With Jesus, collateral damage is utterly unacceptable.
This parable is good news for us in two ways. Number one, as wheat, we don’t have to worry that we’ll end up being destroyed unintentionally. We all have a place in the barn.
Number two is a bit more subtle. When we look at the parable Jesus clearly explains all the characters involved – but NOT the slaves (or servants) of the sower/householder. Curious. Who could the servants be? Well, I think WE are them TOO.
It makes sense, because as children of God, as disciples of Christ, we ARE called to work for him, to serve him in the world and to serve each other, bring others to faith, to be a community of growth and nourishment where faith can flourish.
This is good news because it means we don’t have to worry about being judge and jury for other people. When the slaves as the householder, “Do you want us to go and gather” the weeds – he says no, and later explains the reaping is the job of the angels.
There are a lot of people in our world, a lot of believers in Jesus, who think their job is to be the reapers. Individuals and groups who almost take joy in proclaiming who they are SURE is going to heaven and who’s going to hell. People like those who belong to a certain church group that picket funerals proclaiming God’s judgment, for example. People who seem to get some perverse pleasure in pointing out how others are going to hell, while they of course are headed for heaven.
Sometimes when people find out I’m a pastor they ask me questions about this very thing. I’m happy to answer them, “That’s not my job.” THAT job doesn’t belong to any of us.
Looking at the field, knowing what’s wheat and what’s weed, focusing on weed-pulling, that’s not the work Jesus has for us. He tells us the harvesting and sorting is the job of the reapers, and the reapers are the angels. The job of the servants is to care for the land and the crop, to “Let both of them grow together until the harvest…”
The householder/sower tells the servants to concentrate on the wheat. After all, wasn’t that the purpose of the planting? We are NOT in the business of weed-pulling. Our business is wheat-growing.
Wheat growing means proclaiming God’s love – offering on another the food that will nourish our souls – not weed killer. Wheat growing means showing compassion and kindness, wheat growing is letting others see the love of Jesus shine through us. Wheat growing is telling those who feel or even act unlovable that Jesus loves them all the way to the cross.
Wheat growing also means praying, not just for those who think “deserve” our prayers, but praying for the weeds too. After all, Jesus told us to pray for our enemies and to bless those who curse us. (Matt. 5:43)
Wheat growing is opening the Church to all those who seek to know God and experience God’s love. Wheat growing is taking the time to nurture our OWN faith, to feed and water it so it can grow and flourish in us. Taking the time to pray and worship, time with scripture and treasuring the sacraments.
Wheat and weeds grow together. That is the reality of our life. The presence of evil is NOT a sign of God’s displeasure, but of God’s overwhelming love.
Right now it’s our task, our call, to be the best wheat and the best servants we can be – and leave the rest to God.