Monday, July 18, 2011
Sermon - Matthew 13:24-30,36-43 - Pentecost 5
July 17th, 2011
We're in the green season of the church, and the parables are showing it. Last week we heard the parable of the sower – about how the Word of God is spread to all sorts of different “ground”, and received or not received by various people. Some reject, some believe and then fall away, and some receive it and produce a great harvest. By the grace of God alone we count ourselves as part of that harvest, and pray the seed we spread will find more good soil.
Today another agricultural parable about seeds – and this time the point is different. This time more attention is given to the weeds. Again, Jesus decodes the parable for us, he tells us who all the elements represent. And the parable helps to explain to us why things are the way they are in his kingdom. And the parable gives us hope that Christ will sort it out in the end. So let's look at it more closely...
Why so many weeds? I often wonder that when mowing my lawn. I understand the dandelion is an invasive species that came over from Europe – so maybe we can blame it on them. Or maybe I can look into a neighbor's yard and see the creeping charlie creeping over to mine. But what if someone was sneaking into my yard and actually, purposefully, planting them there at night? That's the ridiculous scenario Jesus paints in his parable. It's laughable, but it's true. It's not just an accident of nature that there are weeds in my field. There's an enemy. And he's out to make my life miserable.
Your life is the same. There is someone out to get you. Someone who doesn't like that you belong to Christ. Someone who can't have you, so wants to make your life bitter and painful. Oh he would uproot you and choke away your faith if he could. His misery loves company. But since he can't, he'll settle for what misery he can get for you. He is the old evil foe who seeks to do us deadly woe.
I don't say this to make you paranoid. Nor did Jesus. Nor did St. Paul, when he said, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood”. No, we contend with the spiritual forces of evil. Sin, death and the devil – spreading their seeds of weeds into your life. So the pain may be physical, but the danger is spiritual.
And we look around and are amazed. There's so many weeds around us. But then we wonder, why doesn't God just spray the lawn? Why doesn't he just make sure all the bad people get what's coming to them? And why doesn't he get rid of all the trouble and hardship? Why doesn't he take away my bad memories? Why won't he make my boss treat me nicer? Where's that job I've been praying for? Why won't the cancer treatments work? When will I get over the death of my spouse? Why is it so hard to get out of bed each day? Why doesn't he just stop all evil right now?
Life is short and full of misery. Man is like a flower of the field that comes up one day and is cut down the next. And to make it worse, there's all these weeds around and about. Yes, even in the church, in the kingdom of God.
You'd think that here, at church, would be a haven from weeds. That the people here would always get along and treat our neighbors with love. But we don't. You'd think that only the true believers would hang around, get involved and run the place. But you never know. Sometimes the weeds grow right alongside the good plants. And the thing is – you can't even tell them apart! Only the farmer can.
What's worse is that we all have quite a bit of weed in us. And really what is a weed, anyway, but a plant that you don't want? That which is undesirable. It's an apt metaphor for sin. There is much in us that we don't want. We do the evil we hate, and not the good we desire. Until that final day, the weeds are so close to us, they adhere to us, they are in this sinful nature that constantly struggles against the Spirit.
There is much in us that God doesn't want – and can't stand. He hates sins, and will have no part of it. In the end he takes the sinners - the weeds - and throws them into the fire.
But we are not cast away. Instead, he changes us. He forgives the weed out of us. He washes the sin away from us. He plants the good seed in us, the seed of his word, the seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He waters us in Holy Baptism. He feeds us with Holy Communion. And by his Spirit he grows us and makes us fruitful. We're a changed plant. We are ready for the harvest.
So the new creation begins with us, even now. Jesus Christ dies on the tree of the cross to save us from the pile of weeds to be burned. He endured the fire of God's wrath for all. And his life reclaimed is our life restored. We will never be uprooted, when we are rooted in him. We are grafted into the true vine, who always sustains us.
But there are still weeds. There are those who reject Christ, and persecute his people. Troublemakers and evildoers, yes, even appearing in the midst of the church. Sons of the evil one. God will deal with them when the time is right. And yes, there are the devil and all the spiritual forces of evil. And these too will receive what is coming to them. When we feel the injustice of it all, when we wonder why the wicked prosper while the child of God suffers. Remember this parable. The farmer has a reason.
In the parable, the farmer planned to separate the harvest from the weeds at the end, so as not to accidentally uproot any good plants before the proper time. And in the kingdom, our wise Lord has his reasons for dealing with evil in his way, and on his timetable. We don't know all the whys and wherefores, but we believe that God knows best. Faith trusts him to do all things better than we could. Rather than look at the weeds and despair, trust the sower to grow us and harvest us and keep us always in his possession. He has his reasons, and we have his promise to make it right, at the right time. Trust the farmer. Don't worry about the weeds. In Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.