Matthew 13:24-30. 36-43
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who will sort everything out. Amen
So It’s always a fun week
when the gospel mentions sinners
burning in a furnace of fire and weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It’s a dramatic image
that captures our imagination
and there is a certain tradition of preachers
who use such images to invoke fear in their audience
with the idea that fear of such an end
or time spent in eternity
will lead heretofore unrepentant sinners to accept Jesus and salvation
and therefore avoid the eternal sauna of dental abuse.
It should not come as a surprise to you
that I am not one of these preachers
it seems to me,
as I have read the scriptures
particularly the teachings of Jesus
that while he did address the question about what happens next
his main concern, the focus of his teaching
is how we live, in this life, now.
And the focus of the parable of the weeds and the wheat
is actually a call to patience and trust in God.
let’s look at this parable again,
Jesus sets up the reality of the world,
that even if what we do is all good
there will always be times when bad is mixed in with the good
just like the weeds get mixed in with the wheat,
and that sometimes it takes awhile for us to notice
because they look so similar,
the weed referred to in the parable
is one that looks so much like wheat
that the distinction only comes when it’s time for the wheat to produce grain.
We have a hard time telling the good from the bad because they look similar.
So it is surprising to us
when it is revealed
that not everything we’ve let grow in our lives is good
just like the slaves who come to the master and exclaim
“did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?”
Again and again we rediscover
that the world is not as trustworthy as we think it is
and it shocks us.
And our next reaction
is often very much that of the slaves
who now that they realize an enemy has sown weeds in with the wheat
want to go into the field and rip out the weeds,
eradicate the false plants,
the bad plants that are intermingling with the good wheat.
And having set up how the world is,
Jesus then tells us his response,
how he works in the world.
The Master in the parable tells the slaves
who are all fired up to go rip out the weeds
to leave them be.
“For in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.”
and he counsels them to let the two plants,
remember they look very similar until the very end,
to grow until the harvest
and in the end, at the harvest
he will have the reapers, the experts
sort out the weeds from the wheat
and only then will the weeds be discarded
as the grain is gathered in.
Jesus wants us to leave the sorting to him
because there are times when the bad looks so similar to the good
that we confuse the two and rip up the wrong plant.
If our lives are any judge of our ability to tell the good from the bad
we don’t have that great a track record
so why would it be any different when sorting with vengeance in mind.
Sometimes plucking out the weed
causes more harm than good,
it uproots the good plants around it too
when, if left alone the good plant matures just fine alongside the weed.
Jesus counsels us to have patience
and to trust that he will take care of everything in the end,
that evil is temporary
while good lasts forever,
all he asks is that we let him do the final sorting.
So where does that leave us in the meantime?
Are we to stand idly by as evil works in the world?
part of our calling is to work for justice and peace in the world
following the example of Jesus
who when he fed the hungry fed everyone,
when he healed the sick healed all the sick,
who when he died on the cross died for everyone.
And it doesn’t always make sense to us,
we have trouble understanding why someone
who may not appear to deserve help
or be appropriately thankful
should be taken care of along with those we deem to be good,
and once again we’ve fallen into the trap
of trying to tell the weeds apart from the wheat.
In this case Jesus doesn’t expect us to understand,
and in fact it’s probably good in a way that we don’t.
as Paul said in our reading from Romans today
“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
In the same way, if we claim to completely understand God,
what we understand is not God,
but we trust that God is good
and we wait for the kingdom of God
where all will live under that goodness.
Until then the reality is
that there will always be weeds mixed in with the wheat,
in our society and in ourselves
and we can’t always tell the difference,
which is why we need Jesus
who is all good,
who promises that evil is temporary
while good lasts forever
and who we were joined to in our baptisms
and for Jesus’ sake
God counts us as good
and promises that we will last forever.
We don’t know about others around us,
all we know is that God has promised us life everlasting
and that promise is open to others through Jesus as a free gift.
So focusing on what we know,
we are called to share this joy with others
and leave the judgment to God. Amen