July 24, 2023

July 23, 2023, The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

July 23, 2023, The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Jesus tells a parable about the coexistence of good and evil in this world. God’s judgment will remove all evildoers and causes of sin, but not until the end of human history.

24[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And 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?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let 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.’ ”
36Then 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.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

Sermon for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who dont.   Dear Abby weighed in on this: There are two kinds of people in the world – those who walk into a room and say, There you are!’ – and those who say, Here I am! Have you noticed how often people try to divide the world into, well, two kinds of people??  In todays gospel lesson, we are dealing with people who believe there are two kinds of people in the world, the wheat and the weeds, the good and the bad, the righteous and the evil.

And these people who believe in two kinds of people also believe, with all their hearts, that not only are they themselves the wheat, the good people, the righteous ones; they also believe that they know who the weeds, the bad people, the evil ones are.  And what is more, they apparently believe that it is their job, their responsibility, their holy obligation to rid the world of the weeds.  And to all this, God says NO!

First of all, (and I admit Im going to be real Lutheran about this) there arent two kinds of people in the world.  In reality there are two kinds of people in each of us.  Luthers phrase was simul justus et peccator.  It means we are both justified and sinful, saint and sinner, all the time.

The great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it like this – “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

To separate the wheat from the weeds, the good people from the bad people, the righteous ones from the evil ones; would, as Solzhenitsyn says, require us to destroy a piece of our own hearts. And the Master does not wish for us to do that.  Purifying our hearts is God’s job.  Secondly, sitting around worrying about whos good and whos bad, whos in and whos out, whos really righteous and who is a pawn of the evil one; distracts us from the real work God has called us to, the work of proclaiming and living the Kingdom of God.

However.  Evil exists.  Weeds exist.  What is a weed but something growing where it does not belong.  Some alien plant threatening to take resources, to invade, to take over where the rightful plants have been planted.  Yes, weeds exist and sometimes you can tell exactly what does not belong.  And sometimes you can’t.  When you can tell something is growing that doesn’t belong, you tend to the garden.  You can go right ahead and remove that growth.  Perhaps translated into people as Jesus did – you remove that behavior, remove that action, that idea, rumor, gossip, or force, that is contrary to God’s will.  So that the fruits of the spirit are not choked out.

Yes weeds exist, but unless you are the weed expert, its mighty hard to tell a new shoot of a weed growing from a tiny seedling.  The weed named here is a particular kind, known for its confusing resemblance to wheat in the early stages of growth.  You’re just as likely to tear out beneficial growth if you start trying to pull those weeds.

The landowner is smart.  And pretty confident in the seeds he planted.  He believes they’ll grow, despite the weeds.  He knows that the wheat is strong enough to tolerate the weeds’ competition for nutrients and irrigation.  In fact more than one preacher has pointed out that he’s beat this evil weed planter just by doing nothing, because now after the harvest he’ll not only have a crop of food, but a crop of fuel as well.  The landowner has the last laugh.

Do we trust that goodness is stronger than evil?  Jesus says that his angels will ultimately put an end to ALL causes of evil.   “The causes we condemn in others, and the causes we complacently excuse in ourselves.  The causes that are personal and the causes that are systemic.  The causes we know about and the causes we don’t.”  “In short, all that chokes, staves, breaks, distorts, poisons and harms God’s beloved will burn away.  Not because God hates the world, but because God loves it.    (Debie Thomas)

In a world where we are so bent on judging, condemning, and pointing out the flaws in others, do we truly believe that God will have the victory?  Or are we just putting all our attention into weed management and forgetting to tend to the good growth itself.   Our task is to grow the good, not burn the bad.  The field is not ours, it’s God’s.

Imagine how different our world — even our churches would be — if every time we saw something that we didnt think belonged, every time we perceived a weed among the wheat, we took the Masters attitude rather than the servants.  Or if we put our energy into feeding and watering, rather than weeding and judging.  If we focused on the healthy instead of the unhealthy behaviors.   Ignored gossip and spread truth like fertilizer?  Admitted when our weed identification had been wrong and apologized?

In the Masters garden, The Master errs on the side of growth rather than punishment. The Master is more concerned with everything growing than just the right things growing. But our tendency is to read a great deal of punishment in all this; the eventual burning of the weeds becomes for us a metaphor for the fires of hell and judgment. The introduction of flames in the last few sentences colors the entire parable.

But, to me, its not a promise of judgment. Its a promise of harvest. Harvest is about feeding people. Its about sustenance. It is about bounty and abundance. Our rapture-warped minds and end-times infected spirituality, however, have turned the theological idea of a harvest into something to be feared, a terrible separating of those who belong and those who dont.

The ones who are so concerned with the weeds are those who can’t see the joy of the harvest.


Pastor Erin



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