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Growing the Wheat
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Old Testament: Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalter: Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24
Epistle: Romans 8:12-25
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Psalter: Psalm 86:11-17
Epistle: Romans 8:12-25
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
O God of Jacob, you speak in the light of day and in the dark of night when our sleeping is filled with dreams of heaven and earth. May Jacob’s vision remind us to be open and watchful, ready to discover your presence in our midst. Amen.
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field, but while everybody was asleep an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 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?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 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’” (Matthew 13:24-30).
Of our four Gospels, the parable of the wheat and the weeds is found only in Matthew. Central to this parable is the fact that the weeds are intentionally planted by a secretive, scheming neighbor. The weed, probably a local variety known as darnel was a poisonous plant that looked very much like wheat when young. Thus, the malicious neighbor’s deed isn’t visible until the weeds and wheat are both well developed.
In verse 27 the focus of the parable shifts from the state of the field to the reaction of the householder and his servants. The servants are mystified by the weeds’ appearance. At first they surmise that the seed their master had planted was no good. But the householder makes it clear that the weeds are the work of an outside evil force. Immediately, the zealous hands want to rid the field of weeds, excising the evil from its midst. While their enthusiasm is motivated by concern for the wheat, they have failed to take into account what will happen to the wheat if they pull the weeds. It takes the householder to point out that such an action would destroy some of the wheat along with the weeds.
Instead of reacting against the evil once it is discovered, the householder instructs his workers that they should respond for the good’s benefit. To the community of Christians first reading this Gospel, the message suggests that the task of the disciple be not to be viewed only negatively— even if that negative behavior involves destroying evil.
In verse 30 the householder proclaims that the weeds will indeed be destroyed, but only at harvest time. The master, not the servants, determines when the weeds and wheat will be separated—the weeds to be burned, the wheat to be safely tucked into the master’s barn. The moment of judgment is surely coming, but that time is not for the servants to determine. The harvest of judgment will come at the end of the age and Jesus, the Son of Man, is the master of the field who will pronounce his righteous judgment.
Taking this approach not only concentrates energies on the positive; it also helps safeguard from bad judgments. The task is to render good and honest judgments, and Jesus’ parable gives us an approach to aid in making good judgments: Grow the wheat, don’t kill the weeds.
Jesus intends for his church to live in the world, among the weeds, learning how to survive and flourish in the presence of their negative impact and energy. Our business in the church is not pulling weeds but growing wheat, growing bread for the world, growing souls. This is the church’s task.
Jesus reference is not simply to weeds in the church, but weeds in the world. Jesus did not promise to isolate his people from society. We as God’s people are to be in the world but not part of it. We must not live the life of weeds, but we must be prepared to live in the world with them.
Moreover, since the wheat and the weeds grow in the same field they must expect to share the same experiences— rain, drought, heat, and cold. By the same token the children of the kingdom must expect to share the same experiences as is common to, as Jesus calls them, the children of evil. Life is filled with varied experiences, good fortune and bad, sickness and health, trials and triumphs. The wheat cannot expect to enjoy the good without enduring the bad. Our Lord does not seal us off from the stern realities of life. Being a Christian does not constitute an automatic insurance policy against any of these things. What Jesus promises us is not to protect us from evil and misfortune, but that he will always be present with us in its midst. Christians must expect to endure the same hardships which befall non-Christians, but through it all we never act like weeds. We must be wheat, for this is our very nature.
Since Jesus did not identify the “servants” we must assume that they are his servants. That includes all of us. Every one of us knows the temptation at times to call the wrath of God down upon the children of wickedness, especially upon those perpetrators of evil who seek to destroy everything which is sacred and holy, even to destroying the children of the kingdom or their efforts to bear fruit. How often do we wonder why God doesn’t intervene and crush the evil so prevalent in the world?
But here in this parable we learn that the master is more patient than his servants. He does not work by some divine thunderbolt. He chooses to work through his servants. How difficult it can be at times to tell the wheat from the weeds. Is it possible for us to uproot the weeds without injuring or destroying the wheat? “No,” says the master, “Be patient. When the harvest time comes, all things will be made right. Then the fruit of each will be revealed.” The master knows best, and we can leave the harvest and separation to him at the time and place of his own choice. In the meantime the children of the kingdom must go on bearing fruit for the glory of the master—Jesus Christ. Our task is not to harvest the wheat. Our task is to plant and grow it.
PRAYER: Faithful God, you care for us with compassion and firmness, urging us to grow in love for you. Through Christ, may we hear more deeply your call to be rooted in your way. Amen.
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