Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wheat and Weeds: Just an Ordinary Day in the Garden of God's Reign

Matthew 13:24-30
Chatfield United Methodist Church
July 20, 2014
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

It is that time of year around here where farmers are itching to find something to do. One farmer I know is tearing his deck off his house. He is like the farmer in our parable today. The crops are planted, the spraying is done, and now it just all has to grow. Lord willing, if the creek don’t rise. As we say.

In our parable this morning, as the farmer sleeps weeds are sown among the wheat. So one morning the servants awaken to find corn growing in the soybeans, tares among the wheat. The servants gather up their hoes and start out the door to walk the fields.
Ready to attack those weeds and get rid of them.

Before some of the more sophisticated gmo crops I was one of those servants with a hoe in a field of soybeans. Walking the acres cutting out the volunteer corn. It was sorry work. Worse than detasseling. Unfortunately, I never had a farmer say to me, ‘Oh never mind, leave the weeds alone.”

Another way to look at the parable is this way: Picture your garden after a nice two-week vacation. Long stems of quack grass growing in the carrot bed, night shade blooming among the roses, thistles two feet high competing with the tomatoes, clover choking out the petunias.

While you put away the canoe and dry out the tents you fingers itch to get around those weeks to yank them from the ground. You know they are dangerous to your plants, your crop.

But here we have a farmer who does not see to be as concerned about crop yield. Wheat and weeds grow together in his vast fields. Is he just an unskilled farmer? Or worse, a lazy farmer?

Is this field of wheat that is being threatened by weeds your idea of what the kingdom of heaven looks like?

If I were to use wheat as an illustration of the kingdom of heaven I would see perfectly straight rows of perfectly formed wheat. Golden, swaying in the breeze. No weeds in my heavenly fields.

But Jesus paints a different picture for us. And in painting this picture he makes something very clear for us. Something that we tend to forget. Something that if we remember each day could change our lives.
Jesus tells us: The kingdom of heaven is right here, right now. Wheat and weeds growing together. Good and evil in the same field.  The kingdom of heave is right here, right now.

When you wake in the morning do you see the kingdom of heaven outside your window? Do you live as if you are living in the kingdom of God?

Do you remember what the angel told Jesus disciples at the ascension? “Why do you stand looking up into heaven?” Jesus had just told them to go and be witnessed, go and establish the kingdom through the world. And here they were gazing up into heaven.

We are not to be people who sit around waiting for some return of Christ to make the world all right and good. Our job is to live as if the kingdom of heaven were right here, right now.
Our job is to live as wheat among the weeds.

Now we have a choice. This picture of the kingdom can terrify us or we can be comforted.

Those whoa re terrified will come running out of house as the servants did asking permission to rip the weeds right out of the ground. When the farmer says, “No, leave them in the field,” their eyes will register the shock and they will walk away asking the question: “Why doesn’t God just rip out the weeds?” “Why must we live with this evil?” “Is God not caring enough?”
In asking these questions they reveal not only their own fear but also their ignorance of God’s power. For what would happen if God weeded the field?

Listen to a portion of Ps 29:
The Lord’s voice is strong; the Lord’s voice is majestic.
5 The Lord’s voice breaks cedar trees—yes, the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
7 The Lord’s voice unleashes fiery flames; the Lord’s voice shakes the wilderness—
9 The Lord’s voice convulses the oaks, strips the forests bare…

What would happen if God weeded the field If God can rip out and shatter a cedar tree, imagine what God could do to a weed? ? I’m not sure I would want to be around to experience God’s weeding.

“But,” you cry out, “I am not a weed, I am a wheat and I do not like living next to all these weeds. I am not like them. And they destroy my village, my field. Why can’t God get rid of them?”

Well, yes you are, through the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Christ, wheat; but you are also a weed. We may be saints, but we are also sinners, right?

Even when we think we are being wheat sometimes we find ourselves actually acting out of our weed-ness.
Here is an interesting thing about these weeds in this parable. The name for the weeds seeds is ‘darnel.” The interesting thing about a darnel plant is that it looks very much like wheat. Especially when it is newly grown. It would have been hard for the field hands to tell if they were pulling out darnel or wheat. It is hard for us to tell sometimes if our motives are entirely pure and righteous, too, isn’t it?

Wheat and weeds. We are both, until our day of final redemption when the weed-ness in us will be completely destroyed. Gathered up and thrown into the fire so that all that is left is beautiful, worthwhile wheat.

So the farmer says to his servants: Leave the field alone, for if you try to pull out the weeds you will destroy some of the wheat. The wheat will survive.

As Jesus has said: “In the world you shall have tribulation, but take courage my children, I have overcome the world.” (John16: 33)

This is our hope and our comfort. We can live in the field with courage, because we know this farmer.

As God’s children we know that God has firmly rooted us in the kingdom of God right here, right now. And with our roots firmly planted we can use our lives to praise and serve God. We can live in this field as amber waves of grin, brushing up against evil but not being destroyed by it.
For we know, that the enemy who sows weeds by night cannot sow enough weeds to destroy the wheat.

This field this place that we live is the kingdom of God.

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