JULY 19TH 2020
The reading that we have just heard is one that was often used by fire and brimstone preachers. I was very tempted but decided to spare you that this morning. This parable is only told in Matthew’s gospel and would have been readily understood at the time. But what relevance does it have for us today? What do wheat and weeds mean to us?
It is a very uncomfortable parable and as I researched, it became even more difficult to think about! The wheat and the weeds are growing side by side in the field, the weeds having allegedly been put there by the enemy. But until the harvest is ready there is no way of distinguishing one from the other. They look the same until the ears appear when the wheat is a golden yellow and the ears of the weeds are black. If they are not destroyed then the flour will be toxic. At harvest the weeds will be separated and burnt. Hence the fire and brimstone if we accept that the weeds are the sinners.
And we all know who they are, don’t we? The murderers, the rapists, the robbers, the fraudsters etc. and we wonder why God hasn’t zapped some people already. But we go to church and we are good people. I used to know one lady who had her place in heaven booked and had no doubt that it was reserved for her! But what did Jesus teach about the fruits of the Spirit? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) This is how we are supposed to live if we follow Christ. It is at this point that everything becomes very tricky.
We are very quick to judge others but we need to look at ourselves and compare ourselves to Christ. The result is not easy to bear. In the Confession we state: we have sinned in thought, word and deed. It is not enough to say that glibly and then go and not even try to produce the fruits of the Spirit. It would be lovely if we could buy Indulgences as in times past but we know that it is our hearts that need to be changed and we know that Christ died for us so that we could be saved from ourselves.
But all of us are part saints and part sinners and although we would like to think that the saintly bit has the upper hand it is up to each one of us to look deeply at ourselves. I began by stating that this parable is uncomfortable! If we all honestly examined ourselves, rather than each other and all the sinners had to leave, the church would be empty.
So why is this situation allowed? Why do we all have to grow together until the end? The servants wanted to pull up the weeds before the harvest was complete, when the crop could be first recognised with the weeds growing but the Master told them to wait for the ingathering. He told them to wait!
We are not used to waiting; we want things to happen when we want them to. God’s timetable is not the same as ours; but he is in control of the harvest. If we look at the people Jesus loved they included tax collectors, a hated group, and those who were regarded as not fit society members. His disciples were lowly folk, not great intellectuals; they didn’t understand, they doubted; they ran away, they lied about knowing him. They were like us and Jesus loves us warts and all!
Many people that we would discount on first glance, change their lives. In later
stages of his life Saul lead major persecutions against Christians, he did everything
within his power to stop the growth of Christianity by destroying groups of Christians,
putting Christians in prison in Jerusalem.
It was when he was on the way to Damascus to persecute more Christian believers,
that Christ appeared to him, which caused him to repent and become one of
the greatest evangelists of his day. Michael Franzese was born into a life of crime in
Brooklyn, New York. In 1985 he was indicted on 14 counts of racketeering, extortion, counterfeiting and was sentenced to ten years in prison but was released from prison after serving 43 months. In December, 1991 he was sent back to prison for his involvement in tax fraud. During his time in jail, he claimed he found Jesus and he summoned up the strength to walk away from the Colombo family which is a cardinal sin in the mafia. He now spends his life keeping teenagers out of a life of crime.
We would have pulled these people up as weeds and thought we were right to do so. But God never gives up on people and that includes us, which is very fortunate; we are given time to come close to our Saviour. But patience is needed and God shows that to us. He knows everything about us. These few verses from Psalm 139 show this and the rest is worth reading later:
Lord, you have examined me and you know me.
2 You know everything I do;
from far away you understand all my thoughts.
3 You see me, whether I am working or resting;
you know all my actions.
4 Even before I speak,
you already know what I will say.
5 You are all around me on every side;
you protect me with your power.
6 Your knowledge of me is too deep;
it is beyond my understanding.
We do NOT know what is in the hearts of others and sometimes don’t know what our own hearts are like. We should be utterly thankful that God gives us all time to become more nearly the people he created us to be and we should ask to be more wheatlike than weedlike! A short poem to end by Annonymous
I dreamed of death the other night,
And Heaven’s gate swung wide,
An Angel came with halo bright
To usher me inside.
And there! To my astonishment
Stood folks I’d judged and labelled
As “quite unfit”, “of little worth”
And “spiritually disabled.”
Indignant words rose to my lips,
But never were set free.
For every face showed stunned surprise –
Not one expected ME!