Stop Pulling Weeds 7-20-14

This week’s sermon is based on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. This is the parable of the weeds in the wheat.

You can listen to the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the sermon here.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

It is possible that I might seem a little distracted this morning…if not, great, I’m covering well…but if in fact I do, I blame the fact that the final round of the British Open, the third golf major of the year, is currently underway across the pond…right now, as we speak.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love golf. I love it. I think it’s the greatest sport in the world…and while I certainly don’t have the game to rival the professional out there competing for the Claret Jug today, I do have a little bit of what they call…native ability.

But like all amateurs, I recognize my limitations…and when I play I aim for bogey golf…for 9 holes, that’s shooting mid-40’s…though throughout my time, I’ve always aimed to break into the 30’s…and I can still remember the very first time I did it. I was playing league on a Thursday night at Brook’s National Golf Course in Okoboji, IA, and somehow…someway I had managed to keep myself even par through the first 8 holes. I made some bogeys and managed to drain a few bombs to make some long distance birdies…and as I came up to the tee of the final hole I thought to myself. I’ve got this all figured out today…everything’s clicking…one more good hole and I’ll not only break into the 30’s, but I’ll shoot even par…and with that…I shanked my drive into the trees…flubbed a couple approach shots…and finished up my round 3 over…with a 39. I didn’t shoot par, but at least I made the 30’s. Small victories.

But I got to thinking about how unpredictable golf is…and anyone out there that’s a fellow golfer will agree with me…the micro-second you think you’ve got it figured out…you don’t. Period. The game or the weather, or your swing, or something throws you a curveball.

And you know what…our faith life can be the exact same way. If you were here last week, we heard the parable of the sower and I think we agreed that parable, was really one for us…a farming community…familiar with agriculture…Jesus was speaking our language….but just like the game of golf…the moment we think we’ve got it figured out…here comes the curve.

In today’s story, we hear yet another parable…and for the second week in a row…its about farming again…so this one should be easy right? (pause) NOPE!!!! CURVE BALL.

The parable of the weeds in the wheat. And at least for me personally, my farming background trips up at the thought of a wheat field. Because wheat is not really something we do in abundance here in the upper Midwest is it? Granted some, do…but not many…and so perhaps…today’s parable needs a touch of background…and we need to think for a moment to wrap our heads around a weedy wheat field.

First things first…throw out any notion of row crops, because that just doesn’t apply here. Wheat is planted like a lawn…it’s a grain…a grass…and so the planting style of a wheat field can best be compared to a lawn…edge to edge…and the wheat grows up, blanketing the field, as the individual stalks grow up very close together….the roots of each individual stalk tangled up with those around it.

And that right there, is where we jump into today’s story. Jesus tells us that the master goes out and sows good seed in the field…but then in the night, the enemy comes and sows weeds among them so that when the crop comes up, the weeds come right up with it…intermixed right in with the wheat plants.

Now some scholars believe that the weeds that Jesus is talking about are a specific type of plant…actually a mutation of regular wheat that looks very similar to the good plants…they grow right up together, difficult to distinguish until the actual grain is produced later in the season…perhaps this is why the servants in the story fail to recognize the weeds until…apparently, its too late to do much about them…and the master instructs them to just leave well enough alone…and at harvest time, the reapers will divide out the good from the bad. (pause)

Now in normal fashion…as Jesus is teaching with parables, we know that he’s attempting to teach us truth about the kingdom of heaven…and so we stop and ask ourselves the question of just what truth he’s trying to teach us today. And when we listen to his explanation we hear that the field is the world…and the wheat is the good and the weeds are the evil…and so in a nutshell…Jesus seems to be telling us that here in the world…even in the presence of the kingdom of Heaven which we know is already here…right here and now…within the kingdom evil is still present. (pause)

And I don’t think any of us would dispute that would we? All it takes is turning on the evening news or opening a newspaper…and we are blasted with bad news…and I don’t think any of us would venture to think…even for a moment, that evil is gone from this world…but not just in the world either…but even within us as individuals.

When we stop and take an honest look at ourselves, I think we each feel the presence of evil…of sin within our own existence…and so perhaps when we are honest ourselves, we see that the field that Jesus is talking about exists right here…within each and every one of us…and when we realize that, we recognize that within each of us lies wheat, interspersed with weeds…and that’s a humbling thought…but it goes beyond us as individuals as well…because as Jesus tells us, the field is the world…and so we must realize that while Jesus speaks of the presence of good and evil within the lives of individuals, he’s also speaking about all of humanity…because we’re all in this together.


And when we start breaching the subject of good and evil within humanity…within our regular day to day life…I think the initial tendency is to do exactly what the servants in the parable did…blame God…Master…did you not sow good seed in your field? Where then did these weeds come from. (pause)

How common is it that we blame God for the presence of evil within the world? We blame him for all kinds of stuff don’t we? It’s human nature as we seek answers to the questions of why. Why did this accident happen? Why does she have this disease? Why did I lose my job? Why did you let this happen God…if you really loved me…this wouldn’t have happened. (pause)

And while I think that the presence of those questions is to be expected when we encounter hardships…perhaps what we’re really doing is passing judgment…judging something to be evil…and even going so far as to judge God as guilty because of it. (pause)

Isn’t that what the servants are really doing in the parable? First judging God as guilty of creating the evil…for planting the weeds…but then going beyond that and judging the weeds themselves…Master, do you want us to go and gather the weeds?

The servants are ready to place themselves in the judgment seat…to distinguish between that which is good and that which is evil in the field…but Jesus tells us…that it is NOT our place to do so. First of all, judgment doesn’t occur until harvest time, according to Jesus…and when it does…the servants are not the ones to do it…that’s up to the angels…Jesus tells us that.

And here’s the important part…when it comes to the notion that there is evil in the world mixed right in with the good…we need to remember the exact same thing…it is NOT our place to try and distinguish between the two…because humanity is completely tied up together…as we know the presence of good and evil lies intermixed among humanity and within every individual.

And Jesus tells us that when we take it upon ourselves to judge what is not worthy and tear it out, then we end up doing damage to that which is good and surrounding it. Just as the roots of the weeds in the parable are intermixed with the roots of the wheat…and to pull one will result in pulling out the good with the bad…we know that when we try to pass judgment on what we deem to be evil is going to harm others as well.

Its not up to us…and yet there are times when we as individuals…and we as the church make mistakes in judgment. We do…and the examples throughout history are far too many to try and list…but just this week I read a story about an individual that was excommunicated by their congregation…he was kicked out for what the congregation viewed to be sinful behavior. The article didn’t go into specifics, and I don’t know any details…but this is a clear example of humanity…flawed humanity passing judgment on who is and who isn’t worthy of the kingdom…for in the letter, the individual is told that they are now outside the church and outside the church there is no forgiveness of sin. (pause) In short…the congregation is playing God because only God alone…is worthy to pass judgment on who is worthy of God’s grace.

That’s not up to us people…and you know what I’m glad…I don’t want that responsibility…because I would mess it up…and you know what…I do mess it up. Sometimes with the best of intentions…when faced with a choice of how to respond to a situation or an individual or a request…I make the wrong call…we all do, whether we mean to or not, we pass judgment…precisely what Jesus tells us today that we are not called to do.

And in those moments…in those times when we fail at this command of Jesus to just leave well enough alone and let judgment fall to the one worthy of it…then the world which includes good and evil…its in those moments that the world shrinks all the way down until it encompasses just one person. You…and right then and there we see that Jesus is right…and we see that there is evil in the world…even a world of one.

But…evil does not have the last word…judgment for our failings does not have the last word. God does…and I believe that through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our sins…our failings…the part of us that is inherently evil is bundled up and thrown into the fire leaving the good fruit…to be gathered into God’s barn.

When Jesus speaks of the world of one…when he speaks to the individual, he assures us that through the power of the holy spirit and only by the grace of God, that our sin is no more…and the field that is the individual is cleansed from all evil…and you know what…that sounds a little like baptism doesn’t it?

When we are washed in the water…cleansed of the power of sin in our existence through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…purified of that which is evil…because God cares enough about each and every one of us to walk through our fields…and pull our weeds.

So let’s stop pulling weeds people…because it’s not up to us…praise the Lord, its up to him…and he’s willing to do it…and more importantly he’s worthy to do it. Amen.

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