Weeds and Wheat

Matthew 13:24-30

The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat

24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the servants 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?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 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.’”

Matthew 13:36-43

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds

36 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.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

You’ve heard me talk about our huge garden that we had growing up.  We shared it with my uncle and aunt that lived next door.  It was probably around 1/4 to 1/2 an acre.  We would always have tons of food, and would share it with folks in our community and in our churches (my aunt and uncle were Methodists, we were Baptists).  

I remember having several rows of corn.  Every season, we knew we’d have some good and bad corn, but, of course, we would not cut out the bad cobs or cut down the stalks that produced them, we would simply wait until we harvested the corn, and throw out the bad cobs.  

This morning’s passage about the wheat and weeds is a parable that has dome good things for us to hear.  

Parables are shared, again, as we’ve discussed before, to draw attention to something in an openly subversive manner.  

We are drawn into the story, something is planted inside of us, an idea, thought, or notion, and it grows within us.  Jesus is the master storyteller and gardener.  He is planting these things within us and cultivating them through God’s spirit to effect maturity and growth in us.

When this story was told, Jesus could have been drawing attention to the purity culture of the time.  Much like today’s purity culture, there was an attempt to make faith in God dualistic, black and white.  To take mystery out of it, and even relationship.  It was about separating folks from others in order to exert some sense of control.  

Jesus is reminding us with weeds and wheat, to not separate them while they are growing, and that it’s up to God to judge, not us.  And, God’s judgement is radically different than ours, and based on a deep, inclusive love.  

But, weeds are weeds, they can prevent us from seeing the good wheat.  In this passage, the weeds probably even looked like wheat.  Hard to tell the difference.

The weeds are planted in the night.  The phrase in this passage, “asleep”, could be characterized as spiritual sloth or laziness.  The farmers have let their guard down and allowed weeds to come in.  

I’d say it’s similar to where we are today as a culture.  As an American culture, we’ve let our guard down when it comes to this pandemic, and it has grown, like weeds, out of control.  

In a similar way, our culture has let the weeds of racism be planted in every institution that we can think of, not just the police, but schools, churches, businesses, government, all of it really.

We have let voices tell us with covid and racism that some lives simply don’t matter as much as others.  These voices have divided us and we now have the hard work of loving the people behind the voices, while listening to God’s voice that is planting good wheat amongst us.  

Friends, I do believe that we live in “apocolyptic times”.  Now, as we’ve said before, this does not mean the end of the world, but as the band REM would sing it may be the end of the world as we know it, or some parts of the world.  When scripture talks about apocalypse, such as in Revelations, it is referencing events that mostly happened already but simply trying to give meaning to them.  

Could God be trying to get our attention?  Could God be working in 2020 through Covid, BLM, and social unrest that the way we have been living needs a pause and that we have to think and act in a different way towards others, especially from those who have been considered “outsiders”?  We all have different thoughts and opinions, I’m sure, but, if we believe that God is everywhere, working in and through all things and people towards the common good eventually, then maybe we should be praying about this time, this season, and asking different questions, and listening.  

Our world is not going to end in our lifetimes or in children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes, but what we leave for them, how we have sought to understand our times, how to deconstruct and give the tools and shared lessons to generations after us to build a better, more equitable and empathetic world, is our important task at hand.  

Jesus is not directing this parable to “outsiders”, to folks being drawn to him…he is directing it towards his disciples, those who have decided to follow him.  

When I was in Young Life, a few lifetimes ago it seems!  Ty Saltzgiver and Randy Eberhard were two people that had a huge impact on me. They invested into me and listened. Ty was a regional director at the time and had a big influence while I was going through Young Life training.  One of the things he told me was to embrace the good and the bad.  To understand the wrong in my life, I would need to embrace it as I embraced myself in order to better recognize who I am and who I want to be.

This passage is saying something similar to us.  We have to let the weeds and the wheat to grow until the harvest.  And, God is the harvester.

Now, remember my story of growing up around corn?  We didn’t cut down the stalks if they produced bad corn, because there was some good corn there as well.  We would use the bad corn to fertilize the ground or mash it up for feed for stock animals in my uncle’s case.  

When we read passages like this, as we’ve said before, the weeds are evil outcomes or actions.  They will be burned up, thrown in the furnace, and their ashes spreading in the wind.  But, they are still useful for fertilizer to give something else a chance to grow.  And, the good wheat is useful for nourishment and growth.  

God’s wisdom and love for us, allows mixing the good with the bad…look at our communities, our families, even our churches.  What we cannot do is judge, but we can embrace and cultivate, and when we notice the weeds, to not stress, work towards the good, and trust that those weeds will be made known and not given more oxygen, and will someday wither into the wind…whild the good will last forever.  Evil is temporary, only the good endures.

I believe that this passage is an invitation to the church to live into the best version of itself…to remember that the church is not the kingdom of God, but it is to give testimony and a foretaste of the Kingdom and of God’s presence…which, if we do that, then we can’t judge the tax collector, the prostitute, the protestor, the police officer, the liberal, the conservative, black culture, etc.  But, we can grow and learn together as a diverse, but one humanity working towards the common good as Kingdom people.  

We are one, we have weeds and wheat in us, let’s recognize that we all have work to do…and to seek God’s kingdom, presence in everyone.

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