Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to come one who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 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?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 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.’” Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
The best sermons reflect their scripture. If you preach on a Psalm then the sermon should be poetic and prayerful. If you preach on a genealogy then sermon should be historic and cover the breadth and trajectory of time. If you preach on a narrative, then the sermon should contain stories to help enlighten the scriptural narrative. And if you preach on a parable, then the sermon should leave people scratching their heads on their way out of church.
Jesus put before his disciples yet another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a gardener who planted good seeds in his field. However, while others were sleeping someone else came and planted weeds among the wheat. So when the plants began to grow the weeds appeared with the wheat.
The workers of the garden were confused and worried, “Master, what kind of seeds did you plant? Where did all these weeds come from? Would you like us to go out and remove the weeds from the field?” But the gardener replied, “No; if you remove all of the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Instead, let both of them grow together until the harvest.”
Parables are strange things. They are often found on the lips of Jesus, told in such a way that a point of a lesson can be illustrated from the narrative. For those of us familiar with Jesus’ parables we might think of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan or The Mustard Seed. In the parables, Jesus uses a simple and memorable story to convey a deeper and important theological point. He refers to common and everyday things that can find connection with the crowds as he shares with them the beauty and mystery of God.
Though told with a simple style, parables often left the disciples scratching their heads while Jesus addressed the crowds. In our scripture today it was only when they retired to the house that the disciples were finally given the opportunity to ask Jesus what this parable was all about.
The gardener is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seeds are the children of God; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who planted them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.
The beauty of the parable, its mysterious quality, has been explained and presented to the disciples succinctly and clearly.
This morning we are going to do things a little differently. Instead of just standing up here proclaiming the Word, instead of just sitting our there absorbing the Word, we are going to live it out in our worship.
Let us pretend that this sanctuary is God’s Garden and all of us are the crops. At first we are planted by the Son of Man and are nurtured in this place to grow into disciples of Christ. Whereas a true garden needs sunlight and water, we are sustained through the Word of God and through the Bread and Wine of communion. As we make it through the weeks, months, and years we continue to grow into our faith and become the beautiful wheat of the field. So, as you are able, would you please demonstrate this growth by standing up.
As any good gardener I am now going to inspect our crops… It is clear that we have some incredible wheat this morning!
Leah Pack! I see your growth and am reminded of your dedication to our lectionary bible study, feeding those who are in need at the free clinic, and your willingness to visit those from our church community.
Marshall Kirby! I see your stature and it is definitely clear that you are strong in your faith! I am reminded of your willingness to serve the needs of our church through your leadership with the men’s club, your stupendous diction while reading the scriptures for worship, and your chiseled muscles from years of Christmas tree sales.
Grace Daughtrey! Though still young and maturing into a wonderful wheat it is clear that you are full of faith. I see you standing and I am reminded of your challenging questions during confirmation, your desire to serve our church by carrying in the light of Christ for worship, and the future of our church as you blossom into a remarkable Christian.
Brothers and sisters we have a garden full of God’s wheat, full of faith and trust! To God be the glory! (You may be seated)
But you know, the more I think about it, maybe I wasn’t looking at God’s crops close enough…
Leah Pack, for as strong as your faith looks on the outside I know that you become frustrated with others in the community who do not live out the tough calls of our faith, I know that sometimes you wish you could ignore certain parts of the bible. Leah I’m sorry to say this, but when I look closer it seems that you appear more like a weed than a wheat (Remove Leah from the pew and bring her to the front).
Marshall Kirby, who could argue with your faith? But I know that sometimes you listen to the voices of the world more than the voice of God and you might be too weedy for our garden. (Remove Marshall and bring him to the front)
And Grace, sweet sweet Grace, still so young in your faith, I know that there are times when you would rather sleep than come to church. I’m not sure we can let you stay in our garden (remove Grace and bring her to the front).
I quickly see two things for us to learn from the pruning of God’s Garden:
Before too long I’m sure that we would be able to find a sin in every person sitting in the pews this morning, and eventually we would have to remove all of the weeds. We might have good days, even months, or perhaps years where we can fully live into our discipleship of Jesus Christ, loving God and neighbor, serving the needs of the community, but all of us eventually fall short of His glory. We look at someone and we lust for what they have, we lie to protect ourselves, we love our possessions more than God; whatever the sin is we quickly move from being one of God’s wheat to one of God’s weeds.
God’s Garden is imperfect. Even with all of the proper nurturing, good preaching, splendid teaching, and holy eating, it will never be enough to prevent us from sinning. We can have mountaintop experiences here at church but before long we are tempted to fall back into the familiar rhythms of evil. On the outside we want to look like God’s perfect crop of wheat, fully matured, and ready to be harvested for the kingdom, but in reality, when we look inwardly, we see that all of us at some point or another appear more like one of the weeds in God’s Garden.
The other element of this Garden that strikes at our hearts this morning is that we are not the ones who are called to judge. Lets pretend for just a moment, if we can, that Leah, Marshall, and Grace truly were weeds within this community of faith. Can you imagine what would happen to us if we uprooted them?
Leah has taught so many over the years about the way God has interacted with God’s creation. If we removed Leah, all of her students in the ways of faith, myself included, would begin to wonder what this thing called faith was all about. At some point many of the people connected to Leah’s life would stop coming to church at all when they realized that she was the one who embodied the love of God for them and their lives. Without Leah being here, they would miss getting to experience God’s grace.
Marshall lives out his discipleship everyday. He it absolutely committed to following Christ here at St. John’s and in the community. Even with his big and tough exterior, he is one of the sweetest men I have ever met. If we removed Marshall, our community would suffer. All of us that have been encouraged by Marshall over the years would lose our sense of identity when he is no longer able to affirm our worth. Without Marshall being here, many of us would miss getting to witness God’s grace.
Grace sees the world the way that God wants us to see one another. Without judgments, without preconceptions, without fear, Grace loves the people around her with a pure heart. Even though Grace is very much a part of the church right now, she also embodies for many of us the hope of the church in the future. If we removed Grace, our vision would suffer. All of us that have been touched by her singing, or her discipleship, or even just her smiles, would no longer see the joy of worship and faith. Grace gives us the hope for committing ourselves to the ways of God. Without Grace being here, we would fail to enjoy God’s grace.
I’m sure that God’s Garden would suffer if any of them were removed, and I am sure that God’s Garden would wither and disappear if any of us were removed. We are not the gardener, that role can only belong to the triune God. When we look out on the abundance of produce in this church we are called to see one another the way God sees us, as the great grains of discipleship.
In Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds there is a tremendous emphasis on patience: let them both grow together until the harvest. Our church is made up of sinners and saints, weeds and wheat, and God has called us to grow in faith with one another. As we make our way through the years of communal living, we must be patient with one another.
On the surface level, Jesus’ parable can sound frightening and even disconcerting. The idea of the weeds being gathered at the harvest to be thrown in the fire scares me. But when I look out on God’s Garden here in our church, I am reminded that this is a story all about grace. In the strange world of the parable, in the strange world of being a Christian today, God prohibits our separation and calls us to live in love.
In the strange world of faith it may even be possible for weeds to become wheat.
Thanks be to God that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord who sows the good seed that becomes the church. Thanks be to God that we are nurtured and fed by the Word and the Spirit growing everyday in our fruitfulness for the kingdom and one another. Thanks be to God that we have been raised in faith, surrounded by such a wonderful community of witnesses, and rooted in the deep and rich soil of God’s grace.
Be patient with one another. Do not judge by outward appearance, or inward behavior. Look around at God’s Garden this morning and see the good seed that is growing, see the wheat of faith, see your fellow disciples that will one day shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father!