Parable of Weeds and Wheat

THE KIRK OF KILDAIRE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

CARY, NC

www.kirkofkildaire.org

A sermon preached by Joseph Welker, Jr.

Parable of Weeds and Wheat

Matthew 13:24-30;36-43

August 26, 2018

After worship today we are going to be hearing more about the new Educational year… many, if not all of you have begun a new school year and the time has come for us to begin our own “school year”… where we seek to learn together the ways of God as taught in Scripture and through the life, ministry and person of Jesus Christ.

I grew up going to Sunday School… some of my great memories are going to Sunday School… stopping on the way to get donuts at the Penny burger (dip my chocolate donut in coffee… doesn’t get better than that)…and then going to be with friends in Sunday School. Along the way I learned some scripture… but I don’t remember learning this one. And I wish I had. It would have come in handy.I wish I had known this passage when I was a child. It would have come in handy when working for my landscaper Dad and he said,

“Jody, I need you to go weed at the nursery today” … or when I’d visit my Baptist grandmother and she would send the grandchildren out to weed among the tomatoes and squash….  Or that day the Principal of my elementary school decided to punish me for some offense (I do not recall) by sending me out to weed in the lawn of the school. I went home with grass stains on my pants. Didn’t exactly make Mom happy.

If I had just known a little more Bible, and this parable in particular, I could have told them, “Oh, I’d like to weed… but Jesus said, don’t do it.” And they may say, “what?” and I’d tell them about how the servants of the master in this story are told they are NOT to gather up the weeds among the wheat…  Remember?

Jesus tells them the story about how someone sows good seed in a field… then, overnight his enemy sows weeds among that good seed… which we know to be darnel… a poisonous weed that looks like wheat… they discover this after the first shoots appear… and the servants want to know if they should go gather the weeds.

And Jesus says, “No” because if you do, you might just uproot the good wheat among them.

If I had known more Bible… I would have tried that tactic on my Dad, my grandmother and principal. But I doubt they would buy it… because who allows the weeds to keep growing in their garden… what farmer would not want to kill the weeds choking out the crop? Especially a poisonous weed.

So, once again, Jesus tells a puzzling parable meant to catch out attention and teach us a lesson about the kingdom and especially about what we are called to be and do in a world so full of weeds sown by the evil one.

Jesus acknowledges the reality of evil in the world… that affects everything from politics… to our communities,  to the church… and even every one of us at some level. I mean, who does not have a little bit of the wheat and weed within our souls.

So, what are we to do with the evil we see around us and within us? The temptation is to fix it, isn’t it? The temptation is to weed it all out until we are pure. To seek out and purge sin and evil from the world.

And indeed many Christians and many people of other religions see that as their mission in life.  Root out evil. We know the Taliban and other fundamentalist extremists in most religions believe that. They make it their job to root out evil in their religion and in their world. They believe if only we could root out evil, everything would be okay. Heaven on earth!

Some Christians believe that. Some denominations believe that.  Do you know how many church fights start because someone decides it is their job to root out evil or troublemakers?

Do you know how many people leave a church and how denominations are born because people think they cannot belong to a church with so many weeds?

So, we look for a church with no weeds and if we cannot find one, we’ll start one!

Reminds me of that old story that takes place in the South Pacific.  A navy ship Captain spots some smoke coming from a deserted island. They go to shore where they find a shipwreck survivor who is so happy he’s been found. He said, “Thank you! I’ve been alone here for more than 5 years!” The captain looks around and notices three huts. He says, “Why are there three huts here?” The survivor says, “Oh. That. Well, I live in one and I go to church in the other.What about the third? Asks the captain.Oh, that’s the church I used to go to.

You know, if you make it your mission in life to root out evil… you can spend most of your time doing that. You will always find problems and problem people to deal with.

And interestingly, you are never the problem. Almost always, you are never the problem. And if the problem is not with you but with others… you will have plenty to do.  That’s a full time job.

And it is tempting, isn’t it. I mean, Do you ever think the church would be better off without those other people who are so wrong-headed and argumentative and with whom you vigorously disagree about important matters? Wouldn’t the church be better if we excommunicate people like we used to in the good old days when the church was pure? Get rid of those sinners and problem members?Clean up the place. Or maybe if we told them nicely to go somewhere else? Wouldn’t we be better off without THOSE weeds?   You can spend your time thinking like that and trying to weed out such people if you want.

But it is not what Jesus wants. And I don’t think it will do much to promote the good work of the kingdom. I think Jesus is trying to make we keep our focus on the main work he has called us to do … which is proclaiming the kingdom of God to the world. Bring a little of heaven on earth through the life and ministry of the church. That’s why he called us here.

In effect he is saying: leave the separation of weeds and wheat to God. God will take care of that in due time. God will discern and decide who and what needs weeding out.

Because if you try to do it… you are likely to mess it up… and pull up some wheat with the weeds. Just leave that to me.Instead, I want you to pay attention to planting the good seed of the kingdom. I want you to show people a better way to live… Leave the judging to God… get on with the work I’ve called you to do… which is about sharing the good news of God’s love for all people… it means keeping your focus on things like forgiveness… reconciliation… redeeming people from hurting themselves or others.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “God’s purpose is not wrathful judgment. God’s purpose is redemption, and the road to redemption is by way of reconciliation. Only in that way will the world finally be saved.”

Jesus, whether we realize it or not, is giving his disciples a great gift. Do you know how hard it is to tell who is the wheat and who is the weed? In fact, somedays, truth be told, I am wheat and sometimes I am weed and I usually don’t know when I’m being either. There is a little wheat and weed inside of me. Some of the things I do that I think are so good and holy turn out to be more about me or my desire to please others than about my desire to please Christ. It’s hard to tell. It’s hard to tell the motives of others.

Not to mention, The church has a poor track record of separating weed from wheat. We’ve burned people at the stake trying to sort it out. Some innocent have died at the hands of God’s holy people.  The Pharisees thought they had it figured out and they ended up crucifying Jesus. Let that be a lesson!

Instead, Jesus would say, leave the judging to God which is good news for me. I don’t want to sit in the seat of judgment… I’d rather leave that to God.

Instead, Jesus would say, I’d rather you spend your time focusing on the joyful mission I have given you to do: love the children who I love so much… they are the most vulnerable among us…  Love them. Teach them. Care for them. That’s where I need you. If you find someone who is hungry… feed them… when someone is grieving or sick, care for them… you’ll be doing the work of the Kingdom. If someone makes you mad or hurts you… don’t try to get even… seek to forgive them… it is a far better way… If you see an injustice taking place in the world… speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves… seek justice for them… that’s what we should be about.

Leave the judging to God. He’ll take care of the weeds. You just worry about sharing my good news.

One of the things I’m grateful for is that I was raised in a church that taught me that. My parents took me to Sunday School and worship…  I attended youth group and the seed of faith was planted there. It was there…not in the world where the evil one seems to thrive… but it was there that I learned how God loves me, forgives me, wants the best for me… and how God loves not just me but everyone in God’s world…

It was at church I learned God desires peace in a broken world among broken people.  We didn’t spend a lot of time rooting out evil in the sense of trying to make us the perfect church. We spent our time pursuing going about the work of the Kingdom. We left the judgement to God.  I think it is exactly what Jesus wanted us to do. Amen.

 

Thanks to Joanna Adams for a couple of insights on the passage.

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