Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sermon - Pentecost 10 - Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Pentecost 10 – July 20th, 2008
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

I hate dandelions. If you have a lawn, you almost certainly have them. They grow in the little cracks and nooks where grass won't. And they will boldly take up residence right smack in the middle of your lawn. I have a special tool for pulling them up... to make sure I get the root and all. I have my kids help me go on “dandelion hunts”. And in the spring when you can see the yellow take over the median strips here in town, I just cringe. Weeds. What an unsightly, bothersome bunch of things.

For the ancient people depending on agriculture, and even for modern farmers – weeds are still a problem. More than just an unsightly nuisance, weeds cost the farmer. They cut down on productivity. They choke the crops you want to grow. They are invaders that don't belong in the field – and so something must be done about them!

Jesus has much to teach in his parable of the weeds. Like all parables of Jesus, the earthly story leads us into the heavenly meaning. For Jesus isn't really talking about weeds and farmers and harvests. He's talking about life in the kingdom – how to understand what we see, and what we can expect in the future.

We just heard, last week, the parable of the sower – in which the seed, or the word of God, is cast onto all sorts of soil – hard, rocky, thorny, and good. And so we saw that God's word is rejected by many for a variety of reasons, but that when it hits that good soil, when it is received in faith, it produces an abundant harvest.

As soon as Jesus finishes explaining that parable, he tells this one, about the weeds. And there are some common elements. For one, the seed stands, here too, for the word of God. And the wheat, the good crop of those seeds, for those people of faith who have heard the Gospel and believe in Jesus Christ. The sons of the kingdom. Great. So what about the weeds?

They are sown by the enemy. And this can only be the Devil himself. Yes, the Old Satanic Foe, the Father of Lies. He comes with a different seed – a different word. And he sows it into every little nook and cranny he can. He sows false teachings. He sows troubles and persecution. He sows doubt and temptation. He generally causes whatever mischief, trouble and grief he thinks he can get away with.

And those who are born of his seed are the weeds. The faithless, the ungodly, the evil ones. Those who reject the Gospel and the work of Christ for them. And thus, they have no place in the kingdom.

Now, knowing the farmer is wise and good, naturally the servants wonder, “why is he tolerating all these weeds?” And it's a similar question asked by God's people throughout the ages. Why did God do it this way? Why didn't he do it another way? Why doesn't he do it my way? Why do the wicked prosper? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is God really just? Is he really all-powerful and all loving? Can you really believe what he says?

Life in this field can be chaotic. But Jesus is the wise farmer. He knows what he's doing. In the parable, the farmer explains that he doesn't want to endanger the good crops when he pulls the weeds, but that he'll sort it all out at harvest time. Our Lord knows what's what and who's who. And he has a plan for dealing with the weeds.

There will be a day of harvest. But it's in the future. All of our readings today have that forward-looking angle. In Isaiah, the Lord who is the First and the Last declares what is to come. And in Romans, Paul reminds us that the sufferings of this present time aren't worth comparing to the glory to be revealed. In other words, God makes it clear that with him, in Christ, there is hope for the future. No matter how full of weeds and thorns the ground around you. He will sort it all out in the end.

That was his promise, long ago, when the enemy first came to sow his disastrous seed in the Garden. Yes, after Eve and Adam believed that false word and trusted the enemy, after they ate the forbidden fruit, God came to the garden to sort it out. And he told Adam that thorns would infest the ground – an outward sign of the corruption of creation that Adam's sin had brought. Life would be tough. Weeds were a-coming.

But before God even got that far, he already promised a Savior. The seed of the woman, which would crush the head of the serpent. That seed is the Living Word, the Son of Man and the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus, who, in the wilderness, didn't fall for the deceptive seed of the Devil, but set him straight by correctly applying the word. Jesus, who spread the seed of his Gospel to all sorts of people – turning weeds into wheat and bringing a harvest of faith where there was none.

Yes, Jesus, who wore a crown of thorns as he completed the work of salvation. Who died on the tree of the cross to graft us into himself the True Vine, and make us thrive, connected to him forever.

The Lord who has done all this - for you - certainly can handle the weeds. So don't think that he's forgotten you – when the prickly weeds invade your little corner of the field. Remember he has a plan, and he will bring in his harvest in due time.

And don't think it's your job to pluck the weeds out. The Lord, the farmer, is the judge of what plant are for saving and what plants are for casting into the fire. He will send his angels to sort the good from the bad.

The parable of the weeds reminds us that in the kingdom of God – things don't always look perfect. There are liars and troublemakers and there is discord and sometimes disaster. But the farmer is wise, and patient, and knows his plan. And he will reap a harvest in the end, sorting it all out.

So trust the Lord – trust him to forgive your sins, trust him that you would grow in the field of his kingdom, nourished by the word, thriving under the Son. Trust that the Spirit will strengthen you in faith and holy living. And don't fear the weeds – the lies of Satan, or the fruits thereof. For the harvest is coming, and with it, great joy for us and all the people of Jesus Christ.

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