Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
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 slaves 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?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves 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.’ …..
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.” 37He 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!
Jesus tells his followers the parable of the wheat & the weeds. It is an account that lets the disciples know that the Kingdom of God is not a utopia where sin cannot exist for a thousand miles. The Kingdom is deeply immersed in the world and the world is deeply immersed in the Kingdom.
We mortals have always longed for a world without wickedness and a church without flaws. But Jesus is a realist. He has come to plant a kingdom in this world with the church serving as its cutting edge into the kingdoms of this world. But he is also fully aware that his Church will be composed of people who are citizens of two worlds; with people who are always in pilgrimage; with people who are becoming, but who come to full maturity only on the other side of their resurrection.
It has been the usual understanding to think of the tares as non-Christians and the Wheat as true Christians. We have always acknowledged that the institutional church as presently constituted includes many people who are not true believers.
But I am not sure that that interpretation exhausts the meaning of this story.
He may have been speaking about something more insidious. He infers that wherever goodness exists, so does something insidiously evil. When God is doing his best work, and the church is doing its best work, there is something and someone working just as vigorously in antithesis. And the terrible thing is that sometimes wheat and weeds look so much alike that it’s tough to tell the difference, wheat and weeds are often so intertwined that they cannot be separated.
We know of this in our own lives. Almost everything we do has multiple motives. Some of those motives are God serving, but often they are self-serving.
Church leaders plant and grow churches for love of God and the love of people, but working within mind and heart is often a love of the applause that will be showered upon them as they succeed.
A minister speaks well in public gathering, speaking from deep conviction, but that minister also knows that this may be the open door to further invitations and a way of climbing the ladder of preferment. It is also at the same time a wonderful way to supplement income.
And so the sacred and the profane get intermixed. The human, if not the demonic, is always present to influence the work of God. Even the very best things that God has given, often end up as destructive:
– The gifts of the spirit, given to edify the church, can end up dividing it.
– The call to holiness can drive us quickly toward legalism
– Strong leaders can lead the church, and sometimes lead them astray
But why do I share this with you. Because when we choose this day to do good, evil will be present with us. Our best ideas may be of God, but they may also be coloured by our arrogance and worldly wisdom.
We may speak on an issue from deep conviction, but at that very same moment the deep well of our own opinionatedness or ignorance may be spewing forth.
Martin Luther gave us a title for this human dilemma. Its Latin reading is “Simul justus et peccator” “We are simultaneously justified while remaining sinners.” Not a favourite Wesleyan theme, but true nonetheless in the experience of all who are not overly self-righteous.
So what do we do? Spend the day with our hands on our pulses? Get paralyzed with the analysis of trying to determine what is wheat and what is weed? Oh No. We cannot afford such navel gazing. We cannot afford to be forever second guessing our own motives until we are so afraid of error that we cease to be decisive. So what do we do?
Let us start this day of deliberations knowing our own faultiness, our own arrogance, our own defect of mind and will.
Let us listen to each other with a greater humility. Let us lean more upon the wisdom of the group rather than our own private wisdom.
Let us breath frequent prayers to God before we speak on an issue. Let us ask God frequently to blow upon the chaff that we generate in our wheat production.
As we begin this day’s deliberations would you let me pray for us. Let us pray:
Almighty God, In you there is only goodness.
There are no shadows in your life that cause you to misjudge any issue.
There is no diminishment of your wisdom or your good intent.
We cannot say that about ourselves.
We share in the fallenness of our world.
We are so affected by our personal agendas
that we cannot easily see the wisdom in others.
We confess that persistent orientation of our minds and hearts.
So we ask that you will protect us from ourselves.
Keep us from a willfulness that may hinder your church in its work.
We feel significant responsibility for this branch of Your church,
and yet we know full well that it is not ours to own or control.
We are so glad, however,
that you share the leadership of the church with people like we are.
The honour you show us, is remarkable knowing our weakness.
We resolve to make the best decisions we can for this branch of your church.
Give us your guidance so that the end result of our work
will be your glory, the health of your church, and the good of our world.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.