Posts Tagged ‘Wheat and weeds’

What Did You Do 7-23-17

In this sermon, based on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, I explore the parable of the wheat and the weeds. We find that there is good and bad all mixed up together in this life, as well as within us as individuals. It is not our job to remove it, but simply to live our lives. We trust, even in the midst of questions, that God will act.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-did-you-do-7-23-17

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

There comes a time in the life of every young person, somewhere within the transitional years between childhood and adulthood, when they come face to face with an often times painful reality. If you cause a problem, then you’re responsible to help rectify it.

I myself learned this lesson at about age 12, and it had to do with apples and broken windows in an abandoned farm house, but I’m not going to go into that today…rather I’d like to share the story that my dad told me of when he was just a couple years older…and he learned this same lesson first hand.

Now what you need to know about my dad, is that he’s the second of six kids, and his older brother Jim is about 3 years older. And shortly before this story takes place, my grandfather, their dad, had some pretty major reconstructive surgery on a bad hip…and so grandpa was pretty well laid up for most of this particular year…and so the bulk of the farming fell on Jim at about 17, and dad at 14.

No it goes without saying that in those days, probably far more so than now adays, the kids started in on the farm work pretty young, and so my uncle Jim had a pretty decent handle on how things needed to happen, even though he was still a high school student…and one morning, he’d mentioned to dad that the young corn shoots out in the field were due to be cultivated.

I’m pretty sure Jim was just mentioning that in passing, because at that point, Dad hadn’t tried cultivating yet…but as with any young whippersnapper…he was pretty sure he could pull it off…so dad got home from school, while Jim was still at football practice…and my 14 year old father hopped up on the tractor and started cultivating…and he’d made several passes back and forth across the field before Jim got home.

Now here’s the thing…dad was ever so slightly off in his placement over the rows…and while he didn’t uproot the corn…he was somehow managing to cover it up with soil…and you can imagine just how happy big brother was when he saw what dad was up to.

Dad saw his brother storming out towards the tractor…all red in the face…and while my uncle’s exact words are not very appropriate for me to repeat today…it can be best summed up “WHAT DID YOU DO?” (pause) Now dad learned that hard lesson of responsibility to clean up your mistakes by spending the next couple of hours uncovering each corn plant by hand, while Jim finished up the cultivating. (pause)
Now the idea of farming shouldn’t come as a great shock today as we consider yet another parable of Jesus…this time, the parable of the weeds in the wheat.

We hear of the master of the house going on to sow his field…and while the idea of sowing a wheat field might seem a little foreign to those of us who are used to seeing row upon row of corn or soybeans out in the field…its not that difficult to figure out…wheat is a grain, actually its in the grass family…and a wheat field is seeded just like a lawn…you just scatter the seeds out over the surface…and it all grows up like a carpet.

But as we hear…once the master has done the work of sowing the wheat seed…an enemy comes along in the night and plants weeds…actually something called tares in the original language…a plant that starts off its life looking an awful lot like the wheat that its in the midst of…and its only when both plants produce their seed later before harvest that you can actually tell the difference between the two.

The tares grow right up with the wheat…and since the individual plants…the individual stalks are grouped so closely together, the root system is all tangled up together…doesn’t matter if it’s a good plant or a bad plant…its all mixed up. (pause)

So that being said, in our parable today, once the plants have all sprouted…the wheat and the tares…some of the master’s sharp eyed servants do spot the problem…and they find themselves utterly confused…there’s tares in the wheat…how’d that happen…how’d that lousy seed get mixed in with the wheat…and then they think back to who sowed the field in the first place…the master…and they come to the obvious conclusion…He did this.

And so they march themselves into the house….Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? (pause) They might as well have been asking “What were you thinking?” or “What did you do?” or maybe “Why did you do this?” (pause)

Now I’m gonna stop right there…because I think that this is a pretty common theme…a pretty common question that comes up in the midst of our lives isn’t it? Stop and think about it for a moment. And place yourself in the position of the servants. Somethings going wrong, I think its instinct to blame the highest authority that we can isn’t it? (pause) We do that don’t we? And I’m pretty sure that its isn’t limited to some screw up out in the field is it? (pause)

Earlier this week, I found myself in that position…and it might seem a little odd, but its true. Thursday news broke of the death of a musician about my age…the lead singer of a band that I’ve listened to since my early college days…and it really threw me for a loop…and then a little later on the information came out that it was death by suicide.

And with that in mind I started asking a lot of the same old questions…questions of why and how…and yes I’ll admit it, even the question of Big Guns Upstairs of “why’d you do this? Why didn’t you step in? Why didn’t you stop this somehow?” (pause)

Those are the types of questions that tend to come out in conversation in and around tragic events…and here in our little community we’ve had more than enough events in the past few years that fall in this category…and I’ve heard those same questions from many of you…and while it is important that we recognize the truth that God did not cause these different tragedies to occur, I think it is perfectly acceptable, good even, to cast those questions and emotions and anger and sadness towards God, because God can take it…and if different parst of the Bible like Lamentations and quite a few of the Psalms teach us anything, its that blasting God with these raw emotions of grief is nothing new. (pause)
But at the same time…we also need to recognize that the parable doesn’t stop at that point does it? The servants of the master come at him with questions about the work that he had done, and the master points out the truth…an enemy has done this. (pause) An enemy.

Whether we recognize it or not…there are forces at work in our world that go far beyond our ability to comprehend or see or recognize…and those forces are at work in opposition of the work that God is up to in our reality. God has sown good seed in the field…so these enemies come along stirring up trouble.

Now we can call these enemies a lot of different things…Jesus calls it the devil at one point…but it seems that the powers of darkness and sin and death also fall under that category…they are present in our reality whether we chose to recognize them or not…these powers are here with us…entwined within us…rooted among us.

And perhaps upon recognizing this our reaction is the same as the servants…should we go pull them out? Should we remove that which is evil…that which is bad? (pause) But the master says no…the master tell us to leave it alone…and I think for a couple of different reasons.

Keep in mind…wheat and tares…hard to tell apart…so maybe when Jesus tells us no, he’s posing the question “are you able to judge what good and what’s bad? That’s not your place.”

But secondly…its all mixed up together…and so if you try to remove that which is bad…that which is evil…that which is toxic…you’re going to pull up a bunch of the good shoots as well. (pause) Now admittedly, when I’m in my garden pulling weeds, I don’t bat an eyelash if one of the good plants gets uprooted in the process.  But God?  God won’t risk so much as a single solitary life of that which he has called good…not one.

Why did you do this? (Pause) A common question that we throw God’s direction when this stuff happens…and yet today, perhaps we are receiving a very gentle rebuke as we are reminded that it is not the master who has done this…but at the same time, we are also assured that in the end, the separation of that which God has called good and that which is bad will occur…but its not our job to make it happen…we’re not called to clean the field…we’re called to live in it…or maybe, just maybe, to recognize that we ourselves…ARE…the field.

We profess ourselves to be simultaneously saints and sinners…both at the same time…not 50/50, but 100/100. Fully forgiven and justified saint, and fully twisted and broken and sinful and rebellious…we are both the wheat and the weed…and so maybe just maybe, when Jesus tells us that in the end, that which is considered bad…that which is broken within us will be bound and burned away with fire, leaving behind that which is good and valued and loved by God…and I don’t know exactly how that’s gonna work…but I do remember John the Baptist saying something about Jesus baptizing us with fire…maybe this was what he was talking about.

Now if that’s the case…that’s good news, but its sure not safe news is it? It sounds invasive…harsh…painful even…in short…it sounds a lot like life…and life’s not safe is it? But that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

And so, if you find yourself in a period of life that doesn’t make any sense…when you are asking those big question of Why God, don’t beat yourself up…because sometimes life deals us some pretty lousy cards, and it’s a choice between lousy and lousier…and its in our nature to question it…to react to it…maybe even get mad about it…so we own that…and then we find some grace in it…because the good news tells us that we are not alone it…and throughout all of it…God calls us good.

Amen.

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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:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/stop-pulling-weeds-7-20-14

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.

(pause)

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.