Seeds and Weeds Together

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Anyone who is a gardener knows what it is like to have the weeds take over -especially if you happen to take a vacation during the springtime.  A couple of weeks away from your garden in the springtime can set you back for the whole summer.  Isn’t it amazing how weeds grow!  They seem to come from nowhere. 

In our scripture text for today, Jesus tells us about a farmer with a weed problem.  Let me revise that.  Our English-language Bible uses the word: “weeds,” but Jesus actually said “darnel.”  Darnel is a nasty weed. 

• First, darnel looks like wheat, so it is hard to distinguish darnel from wheat. 

• Second, darnel is bitter, so it tastes bad. 

• Third, darnel is poisonous.  It wouldn’t likely kill you, but it would make you sick. 

In today’s Gospel, the workers came to the farmer, saying, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where did this darnel come from?” (v. 27). The farmer answered, “Surely an enemy has done this!” 

The farmer wasn’t being paranoid.  In that time and place, it wasn’t unusual for someone to sabotage a neighbor’s crop by sowing darnel in the neighbor’s field.  The Romans even had a law to punish anyone who would do that. 

Why would anyone sabotage their neighbor?  Give it some thought.  Have you ever been angry with your own neighbor?  Has your neighbor ever:

  • offended you by painting his house fluorescent green
  • or by having late-night parties that keep you awake
  • or by running his lawnmower while you are trying to sleep? 
  • Or have you ever been jealous of your neighbor?  
  • Does he drive a high-end car you’re jealous of?  
  • Is his boat bigger than yours?

Hopefully, none of us would sabotage his or her neighbor – but I can understand how it might happen.  We all know neighbors who have trouble with other neighbors.  It happens in every neighborhood.

In Jesus’ story, the workers discovered darnel in the wheat field, and the farmer said, “Surely an enemy has done this!”  What should they do?  The workers offered to go through the field uprooting the darnel, but the farmer stopped them.  If they did that, they would uproot the good wheat too. 

So the farmer responded:

“Let both the wheat and the darnel grow together until the harvest,

and in the harvest time I will tell the reapers,

‘First, gather up the darnel weeds,

and bind them in bundles and burn them;

but gather the wheat and place it safely in my barn'” (v. 30).

The people of Jesus’ day would have nodded their heads at Jesus’ wisdom.  They knew that only after the plants were mature that was there any hope of distinguishing the poisonous darnel from the wheat.  They had to harvest both the wheat and weeds and then separate them one by one, by hand. 

Why did Jesus give us this parable?  

Why did Matthew bother to write it down?

Jesus gave us this parable because He knew that the church would be a mixed bag. 

Jesus knew there would be: 

– good and bad people in the church

– kind and mean people

– honest  and dishonest people

– generous and stingy people

– people whom we love to love and people whom we love to hate.

Jesus knew that the church would include all kinds of sinners.  We’re all sinners here.  I’m a sinner.  You’re a sinner.  Some of us have sinned small sins, and others have sinned great big bad sins – but none of us is spotless.  None of us is without some stain of sin. 

So what should we do as a church? 

• Should we go through the church taking each other’s spiritual temperatures? 

• Should we try to determine who belongs here and who doesn’t? 

• Where would we draw the line? 

• How could we determine who is good enough and who isn’t? 

• Should we post a guard at the door to keep out the riff-raff?

By the time Matthew wrote his Gospel, that was getting to be a serious issue in the church.  There were good and bad people in the church.  Matthew didn’t like that. 

So the question arose for Matthew, what should the church do with the people in its midst who were not leading good lives.

Someone might have said, “Hey, Matthew, we’re all sinners!  We’re all unworthy!”  That would have been true.  It might have helped.

But instead, Matthew remembered this parable of Jesus.  An enemy sowed poisonous seed in the field––just like the devil sowed sinful people among the pews.  

What should we do, Mr. Farmer?  

What should we do, Jesus?  

Jesus responded:

“Let both the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest,

and in the harvest time I will tell the reapers,

‘First, gather up the darnel weeds,

and bind them in bundles and burn them;

and then gather the wheat safely in my barn'” (v. 30).

In other words, Jesus was telling us not to give people an entrance exam at the door of the church.  He was telling us that we need to tolerate people in the church who don’t seem to fit.  

The person with an alcohol challenge in the pew next to us might be praying for strength to quit drinking.  

The shoplifter in the pew next to us might be asking forgiveness.  

The cheater in the pew next to us might hear a word from the pulpit that will change his or her life forever. 

That doesn’t mean that we have to be stupid.  

We don’t have to put the person with the drinking challenge in charge of the communion wine.  

We don’t have to put the shoplifter in charge of the money offerings.  

We don’t have to invite the adulterer to be our youth group sponsor.  

But we do have to be careful lest we throw out the baby with the bathwater––or, as Jesus put it, lest we “root up the wheat along with (the weeds)” (v. 29). 

Jesus assures us that God will sort out everything on Judgment Day.  

Judgement is God’s job––not ours.  

If we want a saintly church––and I hope that we do––we might ask God to start with us––to give each one of us saintly patience ––to forgive our own sins.  And to forgive the sins of others.

None of us is perfect.  But, as imperfect people ourselves, let’s all be loving and patient with the other imperfect people sitting beside us in the pews.  And let’s focus less on the sins of our neighbors––and more on our own sins.  Lord knows, we all have work of our own to do.  I’d suspect enough work of our own to keep us busy for a lifetime!  Right?! 

Know that you are loved dear friends.  I miss you and can’t wait to see you soon. 

Peace, chuck.

Spirituality The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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