St John the Baptist Parish Church

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Sunday Sermons

Sunday 23rd July - Proper 11

Theme: The Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat

Readings:   Isaiah 44:6-8

                  Romans 8:12-25

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

During a PAUSE session at Edgbarrow School, one of the pupils asked me why God allows evil people to continue to exist in the world. It is a question that is often raised. Why is it that some people literally get away with murder while others suffer as a result of their actions? The challenging parable of the wheat and the weeds is a response to this concern.

Last week's parable of the sower and today's parable of the weeds are parables about God’s kingdom - about the field that God plants in the hope of gaining a rich harvest. However, we discover God's method of farming is different than ours.

The field can be interpreted on different levels, on one level it is the world, and on another, it is the church containing a mixture of good and not so good. What God creates is good, like the wheat sown in the field. Unfortunately, an enemy has sown seeds of sin and suffering into the world. The parable does not elaborate upon the role of the enemy or contest his presence, but rather focuses on two responses to the effects of his work. First, the workers are alarmed at the sight of the weeds spouting among the wheat. When they are told that an enemy is responsible, they want to take matters into their own hands and pull up the weeds to maintain a pure crop. Second, the householder doesn’t seem surprised or agitated about the weeds, but urges the workers to be patient. At harvest time, the weeds will be turned over to the reapers, who can properly separate them from the wheat. Any premature weeding will damage the wheat as well.

We are the field of God: we are the ground he works, the plants he nurtures, the people he rests his hopes upon. Like the farmer's servants in today's parable, people are worried that there are weeds among the wheat, that the harvest might not turn out right and that God’s good purpose might fail. But the injunction to patience about the presence of evil in the community remains. It's hard to wait and to understand, especially when we see terrible things happening; but when it comes to dealing with other people, both in the church and outside of it, God calls us mainly to plant and not to pluck up, at least for a while.

We are to resist evil of course, in ourselves and in others, through God’s power. We are called to recognize evil and to name it and to pray to God that he will take care of it, as the farmer told his servants in the parable that  he would take of it. It seems that there is a divine plan, that God does have a system, but in the dim light of human wisdom, in the eyes of human doubt and human pride, it is hard to fathom why God allows the evil one to cast bad seed in his garden. However, in this strange system of divine agriculture, in this field that is so mixed and cluttered with weeds, we might be glad that God waits a while and that he tells his servants to hold back because we can be weeds as well.

We have to face up the presence of the weeds among the wheat in our lives; our own fallenness and mixed motives. As we reflect on our lives past and present, we become aware of the things we have done or failed to do that were more of the devil, or our own selfish instincts, than of God. Knowing that and knowing what God can do with us and for us when we let him, we might be content to have the weeding put off to the end. God is so merciful that he allows evil to exist so that what is good might grow. He allows it exist because sometimes he can turn it into good.

The Parable of the weeds and the wheat is a cause for hope. God will take care of the weeds in God’s own time. In the imagery of the apocalyptic tradition, the parable confronts hearers with the final judgment. A time will come when we will all be called to account.

In light of this, the present is not a time for anxious and fearful paralysis, but a time of boldness and risk, of discovering what is really valuable, of a persistence in pursuit of the reign of God.

There is a saving truth, a healing truth, to be found in that mixed up field, in the love of Christ, who gave himself over to death so that we might live. Before receiving communion, we recite the words of the Agnus Dei, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” – Jesus came to remove the weeds – but we still live with the now and the not yet. We still have to live with the consequences of sinful actions – our own and those of others. In his letter to the Romans, Paul declares that those in whom the spirit of God dwells are in tune with the pain of creation. The suffering of believers is seen as part of the suffering of the whole creation until it is perfected in Christ.

As we await the final perfection, the duty remains to bring about God’s kingdom on earth in as far as we can.

The question is: Is the world a better place because we are part of it?

Our presence within the community needs to make a difference.

The presence of Christ within us makes a fundamental difference.

Most of all, Christ teaches us to do good instead of evil:

   - to bless instead of curse

   - to praise instead of criticize

   - to help instead of turn a blind eye

   - to love instead of hate

   - to forgive instead of resent

   - to tell truth instead of lies.

May we be wheat, not weeds, and may we have the patience to endure the failings of others.

I’ll conclude with a prayer by St John of the Cross:

O blessed Jesus, give me stillness of soul in Thee.

Let Thy mighty calmness reign in me;

Rule me O King of gentleness, King of peace.

Give me control, great power of self-control,

Control over my words, thoughts and actions.

From all irritability, want of meekness, want of gentleness,

dear Lord, deliver me.

By Thine own deep patience, give me patience.

Make me in this and all things more and more like Thee.

Amen 

Rev Lisa Cornwell