Sun. July 19, 2020 8th Sun of Pentecost Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat

          May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Today continues a summer sermon series based on the lectionary’s use of Jesus’ parables.  Jesus loved to use short stories to illustrate deep spiritual truths.  He did this because stories are so much easier to remember than dusty and dull doctrines of faith.  Stories also lend themselves to being understood by differing ages at different levels. Stories also perhaps most importantly, Good Stories,… meaningful stories,… lend themselves to be retold again and again.  And Jesus wanted us to share these stories of faith to encourage our faith in God to be shared and nurtured.

          Today’s short story by Jesus is the story of the Weeds and the Wheat.  I don’t know what farmer or gardener has not encountered the occasion of looking out across their field or just that tiny little garden plot and wonder “Where did all these weeds come from?!”  Jesus’ story is such a common place occurrence among those of us that try to grow flowers, vegetables, or crops that we can easily commiserate with the landowner in the story.

          I had a chance to be gone on vacation for two weeks to enjoy my oldest son’s wedding and some time away in the Colorado mountains.  My dad stayed here and took care of the garden- which had become very happy with his attention, the hot weather and the bits of rain.  But you know what else was happy- the weeds!  They were everywhere, accept where my dad had beat them back. They were in every flower garden around the house, under every pine tree, along the road in front of our house- (nothing grows along Rt-165!! Nothing, that is except weeds!!) Some weeds that hadn’t existed two weeks prior were now two feet tall!  How did this happen?! 

Here is where Jesus does a good job of getting our attention... he changes the normal response…most of our stories about how do weeds happened have to do with neglect (I was gone for two weeks) or with its just nature’s course.  So, of course it would be in some way our fault and in another way our problem to solve. Yet Jesus with his explanation of the story of the weeds says, “No.”  Jesus tells us in this case it was an enemy up to no good.  Which basically means:  Satan is the one to blame. It’s God’s problem to solve. It’s our responsibility to have faith.

Too often we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to affix the blame for the problem of our churches on a particular person or particular policy when in truth its better just to recognize that Satan has been able to slither his way in among us and sow his seeds of discord and distrust in the sneaky surprising ways that Satan does.

God hates weeds- hates injustice, hates lies, hates bigotry, misogyny, racism.  So why does God put up with this kind of weedy stuff in his garden, among his crops? Because God loves his harvest, his children, more than he hates Satan’s weeds.  God does not want to toss it all out, just plow under the field.  If there is a way he can redeem his children, he will. His solution is give it time,- eventually at harvest time the weeds will show themselves so different from the wheat it will be easy to separate them.  And by that time the wheat will be tall enough, healthy enough to not only tell it apart from the weeds but to harvest and enjoy it.

So, it’s Satan’s fault- we don’t need to spend our time and energy on the blame game… ok good.  Its’s God’s problem to solve so we don’t have to be tearing out things at the roots, plowing fields under, burning weedy acres, crop dusting by the dozen. What’s our action item we walk away with?  Its our responsibility to have faith.  Have faith that God sees what’s going on and has a plan.  Have faith that God will bring it out right in the end.  In the meantime, we’re to keep tending the field- doing what we can to nurture the wheat- make sure it gets water, make sure it gets nutrients, fertilizer etc.

Yesterday I had a wedding at GLC.  It was a wonderful occasion as one of our kids that grew up here- Lane Bowman married a wonderful young lady Cierra.  What wasn’t wonderful was all the stress and strain that comes from having a wedding during the COVID 19 pandemic.  Here we have this wonderful event celebrating love and weedy COVID 19 conversations kept coming up:  “Wearing masks is silly cause COVID is a media hoax!” “Wearing masks is absolutely necessary cause we’re all gonna die!”  “If you’re a true republican you won’t take COVID 19 precautions!” “If you’re a true democrat you won’t leave your house for fear of succumbing to the pandemic.”  Really folks?!

I’m totally convinced that the left end of the spectrum and the right end of the spectrum have a few screws loose and don’t need to be the ones deciding whats a weed to be pulled and a wheat to be saved. I’d rather hear from the middle, that “Silent majority” that over the years of the life of our country has steered us through thick and thin with a firm grip on reality, a heart full of faith, and a head willing to think outside the box.  The Silent Majority needs to be less silent- get us away from being a country founded on fear and instead return to being a country founded on faith- faith in God and faith in each other.  We need to remember our responsibility is to encourage the harvest, nurture the fields, amend the soil with goodness and water with God’s love.

This weekend at the wedding I had a conversation with a woman so worried about our country and our next generation.  She confided in me that those supposedly representing the left have devolved from protesting injustice which she agrees with and instead become violent mobs scare her.  Then she shared how scared she is of those supposedly representing the right denounce not just the violent mobs but vilify and spew hate at anyone pointing out injustice.  I told her my opinion that the Silent Majority needs to get more vocal to show there is another option than these two dysfunctional directions.  I showed this woman our little sign made up by our Stewardship committee… “Humankind… Be Both.” 

Meaning in this time of stress and strain lets act more humane rather than beastly with each other.  Lets be humane and kind rather than judgmental, hateful and violent. She immediately asked if she could have one.  I said sure.  So if you see a sign on Main St in Canfield its one woman trying to nurture the fields, amend the soil with goodness and water with God’s love…even when she is having a hard time telling the wheat from the weeds.

That’s what Jesus’ story is about- at times in life we won’t be able to easily tell wheat from weed but we’ll know Satan’s at work. Remember God is also at work, God also has a plan, a plan for good (Jeremiah29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future) we don’t need to be God’s enforcers- he’s got an army of angels for that.  What God needs is faithful people, encouraging the harvest, nurturing the fields, amending the soil with goodness and watering lavishly with God’s love. Like we learned with last weeks short story- God’s got plenty of good seed and he’s more than willing to share it.

So, what do we do in this awful convoluted state of weeds and wheat all mixed together?  First off, realize sometimes the enemy, Satan, slips into our midst and plants a whole lot of chaos and discord in places that should be full of shared purpose and peaceful relationships.  Second, admit it’s God’s problem to solve.  We don’t need to be God’s police force, he’s got an army of angels that when the time is right will be very good at separating wheat from chaff.  So, unless you think you’re some kind of angel don’t be telling God, or anyone else, you can identify and get rid of all the chaff. Instead recognize its Satan’s fault, admit it’s God’s problem to solve and finally, accept that it is our responsibility to have faith. 

We are to have faith, not play the blame game.  We are to have faith, not be God’s police force. Now having faith doesn’t mean sit on our heads and shake our head and go “tsk, tsk, tsk.”  Faith is active- in making sure that the fields still get life giving water of God’s love, the nutrients of God’s word and amending the soil with God’s forgiveness.  Faith means to stop letting the very ends of the spectrum of super ultra conservative and super ultra-liberal dominate the conversation and step up and make the silent majority today- the vocal majority!

BE A vocal majority that’s not caught up in the blame game- we know its Satan’s fault and we’ve all got a little of him in us. BE A vocal majority that’s not caught up in being able to pick out the differences between people: what makes one wheat and what makes another chaff,- that’s God’s responsibility.  We need to be a vocal majority that IS caught up in spreading God’s love through Christ Jesus.  That’s our responsibility… to have faith… faith that God can do this and God will do this.  Faith means being active- in making sure that the fields of our church and community still get the lifegiving water of God’s love, the nutrients of God’s word and the soil amended with God’s forgiveness. 

Jesus told a simple story, with a strong truth… now go speak the truth in love.  Amen.