Are you wheat or weed? by Pastor Noel

July 23, 2017       Proper 11 A,       7th Pentecost


      Are you wheat or weed?

      Do you joyfully recognize God’s presence in your life and give thanks, or do you feel so unworthy that there is no positive connection with God?

      Do you count your blessings or your sins?

      Those feelings are not strictly differences between wheat and weed, but they will probably color your hearing of this parable and your response to it.

      There are a couple of words I’d like you to be keeping in mind as you ponder the parable with me: universality and similarity.

      The parable is about the universality of God’s kingdom. The wheat is sown everywhere in the field, just as the seed in the parable last week was sown everywhere—thorns, rocks, path, good soil.

      So we don’t have to look far for God’s kingdom, it is everywhere.

      We also don’t have to look far for the power and influence of the evil one—the weeds, also, are everywhere in the field.

      So, we have the universality of God’s kingdom and evil, since the wheat and weed are everywhere, and the parable also tells us that there is a similarity between the wheat and the weed.

      The weed in Jesus’ story is darnel—a very nasty weed that looks just like wheat while they are growing. Only when they reach maturity can the farmer tell the difference between them.

      And, to make matters worse, the roots of the darnel wrap around the roots of the wheat, so if you try to pull up the weed, you get the wheat, too.

      So, what sounds like a very bad farming technique, is actually the best way to have a harvest.

      The farmer says that trying to pull up the weeds will make things far worse than leaving them alone for the time being.

      I’m reminded of the early missionaries who thought that naked bodies were sinful and made the native people put on clothing and cover up.          

      Their actions against what they thought was sin brought disease and death instead of new life in Christ.

      Is Jesus saying that we should just ignore evil and let it be? Is he telling us to allow the laws to be broken? Should we just allow robbery and stealing and murder?

      I don’t think so—but Jesus IS saying that only God (the farmer in the parable) only God knows how to deal successfully with evil.

      For example, we have a higher percentage of people in prison than any other country—and it

doesn’t seem to have made much of a dent in crime.

      Robert Capon, in his wonderful book on parables, says, “The parable…does not say that resistance to evil is morally wrong, only that it is salvifically ineffective.”

      Fighting back won’t bring in the kingdom.

      But fighting back may change the worldly culture and the political structure that we live with. And that is how we deal with evil.

      How does God deal with evil? If you are thinking– earthquake, disease, war…I invite you to think again.

      Look up at the altar. That’s how God deals with evil—with the Cross.

      The message from the Cross was not “I’ll get you for this!”

      The message from the Cross was “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”

      If we were early Christians, or Greek scholars, we would hear a form of the word “forgive” in the parable. 

      “Let both of them grow together until the harvest,” the farmer says. 

      The Greek word for “let” is connected to what we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us…as we forgive others.”

      We can forgive others because we know God has forgiven us, and God will call us all to account for our lives at the end of them—the harvest.

      This brings us back to that first word I asked you to be  thinking of—universality.

      The problems caused by the evil one are not only found in the weeds in the field.

      The problems caused by the evil one are not only found in the obvious places where there is hunger, fear or oppression.

      The problems caused by the evil one exist in each one of us. As Paul says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

      So each of us has within us the glory of God and the pain of separation from God which is the power of the evil one in our lives and world.

      Everywhere, every person.

      But that’s hard for us humans to deal with—and it was hard for the first followers of Jesus just as it is for us today.

      So we have another story given us by Matthew that shows how the early church reframed the story Jesus told. Jesus’ story is about universality and similarity, about forgiveness and trust.

      The early church said “whoa!” to those ideas, and the sin of judgment, pride and revenge took over as folks wanted to trust in themselves and not trust God.

      This second telling of the parable completely contradicts what Jesus says, so the words of condemnation and judgment cannot be his.

      Even though they make sense to us because we tend to be more critical and condemning than God—they are not what God’s kingdom is about.

      God’s kingdom is about redemption of all creation and our salvation. God is stronger than the power of evil. God’s goodness, forgiveness, redemption, will prevail.

      One of the messages I get from this parable is to be the best wheat that I can possibly be, loving and forgiving, to be strong in following Christ and in turning my back on the power of the evil one.

      I invite you to think of the wheat and weeds as we try to make sense of current events — who or where are the wheat, and who or where are the weeds?  Sometimes it’s hard to tell. It’s complicated, isn’t it?

      Instead of judging, let’s ask how can we live as wheat, so that will we will shine “like the sun in the kingdom of (our) father.”

            That’s the most important question.

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details