(Isaiah 44:6-8, Psalm 86:11-17, Romans 8:12-25)
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
(watch here: https://youtu.be/TMZD1R8DJjM)
24He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And 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?” 29But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let 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.”
36Then 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; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears* listen!’
Our readings for this morning end with a parable that sounds awfully familiar to last week’s parable. Both parables talk about the hazards of planting. Sometimes seeds fall on hardened soil and are easily swept away. Sometimes seeds land on rocky soil and are unable to properly take root. They, too, quickly die off without the ability to gain the proper amount of water and nutrients from the soil. Sometimes seeds find themselves among thorns who steal the water and nutrients and choke and kill the growing seeds. Sometimes seeds are planted in just the right soil without any hardening or rocks and thorns. The seeds properly take root and grow and grow and grow until they blossom into mature plants. This is the ideal situation for seeds to grow—no rocks, no thorns, just lush, nutrient-rich soil with nothing to impede seed growth. Jesus explains that the Father is the sower, scattering seeds throughout his creation and hoping that they take root and grow and blossom in the soil they find themselves in. Implied in the parable is the notion that we are the soil. We are the ones who receive God’s blessings day in and day out. God indiscriminately scatters his seeds of hope and love and faith all throughout the world. Sometimes the seeds take root, sometimes they don’t, but Jesus uses the parable to warn us to keep our soil soft and without rocks and thorns. Our lives and how we live them make up the soil. Are we living lives that are receptive to God’s blessings? Are we living lives that nourish and grow God’s blessings? Are we living lives that use God’s blessings to create blessings for those around us? What does the soil of our lives look like?
But today Jesus expands the parable to address the issue of weeds. Ask anyone who has ever tried to plant something out in nature and they’ll attest to the inevitability of weeds. We can prepare the best soil, softened and without rocks and thorns, and weeds invariable find their way in among the plants. Weeds, like thorns, steal the water and nutrients from the plants and they produce little to no fruit. They’re sole purpose is to steal the life from other plants. And for what? Simply to steal life. If they can’t blossom and provide fruit, then nothing else should be able to either. A weed is an insidious, selfish, hopeless, loveless product of creation. It is not without purpose…nothing in God’s good creation is without purpose…but a weed sure makes life difficult!
Just think about all the “weeds” in life. Think about all the things in life that keep us from staying connected to God, the source of all life. Broken relationships, unfulfilled dreams, unmet goals, broken promises…these are all weeds that can creep up in life. And before long, they’ve sapped us of our hope and love and faith. They’ve stolen from us all that we need to enjoy life, all that makes life worth living. More importantly, they’ve pulled us away from our life-sustaining relationship with God. The weeds of life have made us doubt God’s love, God’s provenance, God’s guidance. Without an assurance of these gifts, we simply shrivel up and die. We need assurance of God’s love and provenance and guidance! God DOES love us! God DOES provide us! God DOES guide us! God has always loved and provided and guided us! And God will continue loving and providing and guiding us! Our God is a good and gracious God. Our God is a merciful and just God. Our God is a compassionate, loving God. All the broken relationships and unfilled dreams and unmet goals and broken promises in the world can’t ever take away from who God is and will always be. We mustn’t allow these weeds into our lives. They’re insidious, selfish, hopeless, and loveless.
Instead, we must take comfort in the wisdom of our other readings assigned for today. In our first reading from Isaiah, we heard how our God boldly proclaims, “I am the first and the last; besides me there is no other god” and dares to ask, “Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.” Our God IS a god like no other god! He loves us in unimaginable ways. He provides for us whenever we are in want. Maybe not in ways we’d prefer or expect but certainly in ways that are appropriate. Our God leads us through the hardships of this life. He walks with us into situations that are filled with weeds and goes to work finding ways to get us out of them. Our God frees us from the wicked snares of weeds. He frees us from the fear and doubt that are created by weeds. He frees us from the suffocating, strangling, relentless grasps of weeds. Our God IS a good and gracious God! With David, we cry out, “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love towards me; you have delivered me from the depths of Sheol…but you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” THIS IS OUR GOD!!
The weeds may come…yes, they are inevitable…but that doesn’t mean they will overrun us and snuff us out. Jesus assures us that, just as the weeds of life are inevitable, so, too, is the reaping of the Father. Our God will one day send out his angels who will collect all the weeds of this world and throw them into the fires. As Matthew explains, “they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” We have hope that the weeds of this world will be addressed. God sows his seeds, God allows weeds to grow up among his plants, and God removes the weeds in due time. We can place our hope and trust in this promise. It is not our responsibility to be the “weeders.” We are terrible weeders anyways! Only God can adequately remove the weeds of our lives to ensure necessary growth.
God wants us to be righteous. God wants us to grow into our full potential. God wants us to blossom and bear fruit for each other. Why else would He remove the weeds if not to grow and blossom and bear fruit?! Yes, God wants the seeds He has planted inside of us to grow and blossom and bear fruit. God wants us to prepare the soil of our lives to enable growth and blossoming of his seeds. That’s all He wants! Provide the soil and let his seeds do the rest. Unlike weeds, his seeds want to grow and blossom and bear fruit. Let us prepare our soil during this season of Pentecost. Let us be assured that though the weeds may come, his seeds are…planted to live.
I want to leave you with a profound story I found that helps illustrate the importance of preparing the soil. There was a young man was eager to grow in His Christian life. He got a piece of paper and made a list of all the things he would do for God. He wrote down the things he would give up, the places he would go to minister and the areas of ministry he would enter. He was excited. He took that list to the church and put it on the altar. He thought he would feel joy, but instead he felt empty. So he went home and started adding to his list. He wrote down more things he would do and wouldn’t do. He took the longer list and put it on the altar, but still he felt nothing. He went to a wise, old pastor, told him the situation and asked for help. The pastor said, “Take a blank sheet of paper. Sign your name at the bottom. Put that on the altar.” The young man did, and then peace came to his heart.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.