A Story about the Kingdom: The Weeds

This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, July 20, 2014.

Reading: Matthew 13:24-30

This morning we’re continuing to hear stories about God’s Kingdom.  These parables, or stories, were meant to give us glimpses of how God’s Kingdom—glimpses of how the reign of God Jesus came to usher in might come on earth as it is in heaven.

Last week we looked at the parable of the soils.  We were reminded that the seeds of the Kingdom are graciously given to all; and, it’s our responsibility to “nourish the soil” so that the seeds God scatters might grow and bear fruit, bringing forth God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

This week Jesus tells another story about a sower, but this time, Jesus isn’t so worried about the soil.  In this story, Jesus has something surprising to say about the weeds.

“Everyone who has ears should pay attention” (Matthew 13:9, Common English Bible).

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Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

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Morning Glories are one of my wife’s favorite plants.  Morning Glories are easy to grow and will cover just about anything.  It will take an ugly looking mailbox at the end of your driveway, and turn it into a viney, flowering, beautiful depository for your daily mail delivery.  In cooler climates, like northern Indiana and Connecticut, morning glories are annuals: go from seed to plant to seed in a single season.  The vines die and in the harsh winters so will the seeds.  In warmer climates, where the seeds fall to the ground, survive, and grow again, morning glories can be a nuisance, a prolific weed.  For instance, in Bermuda, morning glories are not planted, they’re uprooted, considered a pesky weed.  It’s interesting to me how something so beautiful and valued can also be something so despised; how something treated as a thing of beauty can also be looked upon as an ugly nuisance.

“Weeds are,” one writers notes, “wonderful plants growing in the wrong place.”[1]  Plants that grow in the wrong place can be invasive, robbing the plants planted in the right place of the nutrients they need to survive.

The lolium temulentum is one such example, and it is the weed Jesus is most likely referring to in today’s parable or story.  Commonly known as the darnel, poison darnel or cockle, this annual plant grows thick deep roots that intertwine themselves with the surrounding plants, stealing water and vital nutrients.  Lolium Temulentum grows in the same regions where wheat is grown.  The plants look very similar, so much so that this weed is sometimes referred to as “false wheat.”  Its seeds are poisonous.  False wheat creates bad fruit.  A wise farmer would do well to protect his crop.  But, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between wheat that is true and false wheat.  The difference is known only at harvest time after the fruit has ripened. And besides, even if you can identify false wheat early, by weeding the field you will most likely pull up the good wheat with it.

What’s the diligent farmer who wants a successful harvest to do when false wheat appears in his field?  Jesus suggests in our Gospel lesson for today that you do nothing.  By letting the weeds grow, you’ll reap a larger harvest.

Let the weeds grow.

After Jesus told the story, he left the crowds and went into the house.  In private, the disciples asked him to explain the story of the weeds.

37-39 So he explained. “The farmer who sows the pure seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the pure seeds are subjects of the kingdom, the [false wheat] are subjects of the Devil, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, the curtain of history. The harvest hands are angels.

40-43 “The picture of [false wheat] pulled up and burned is a scene from the final act. The Son of Man will send his angels, weed out the [false wheat] from his kingdom, pitch them in the trash, and be done with them. They are going to complain to high heaven, but nobody is going to listen. At the same time, ripe, holy lives will mature and adorn the kingdom of their Father.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?[2]

When we read this story I think we need to be careful not to get pulled into a false dichotomy.  That is, when reading this parable, we can easily assume that Jesus is suggesting that people are either purely evil or purely good.  To read the parable this way oversimplifies a fact each of us knows all too well that while we all want to be like the wheat—plants that nutritiously gives itself to others—we can more often than not be more like the weeds—plants that greedily take for themselves.

We know all too well, that the words of the Apostle Paul are true.  He writes in Romans 7:21 (Common English Bible): “So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.”  We each have as much opportunity to do good as we do evil.

Using the images of our parable for today, we can be either weeds or wheat.  It depends on whether we use our gifts to serve ourselves (like the weed) or we use our gifts to serve others (like the wheat).  The weeds and the wheat look identical.  We won’t know the difference between them till they bear fruit.

We can be either weeds or wheat.  It depends on how we use our gifts (our time, talent, and resources).  Using our gifts to selfishly serve ourselves makes us more like weeds than wheat.  When we prioritize ourselves—taking for ourselves what was meant to be share with others—we’re more like weeds, false wheat, than real, true wheat.  Rather than helping others mature and grow in the love of God and neighbor we think only about ourselves and what we want.  And so the weeds indulge in the luxuries while the poor go without the necessities.  The weeds want to feed themselves while others starve physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I’m sure we can all think of times when we, perhaps individually or corporately, have been more like the weeds than the wheat.  And in those times, we all thank God for the grace that allows the weeds to grow.

It is only by grace that the weeds are allowed to grow.  God provides an opportunity for the weed—the wonderful plant that is planted in the wrong place—to uproot and find its place in order that it might bear fruit in service to God and those around it.

When we use our gifts to serve others—when we sacrificially give of ourselves that others might be fed and nourished (physically, spiritually, and emotionally), then we, by the grace of God, become more like true wheat bearing fruit for God’s Kingdom.

Therefore hear these words of Jesus from John’s Gospel:

If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love…. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.[3]

Be the wheat, says Jesus.  Love others.  Give yourselves that others might come to know of God’s great love found in Jesus Christ.  Give of yourselves that others might be at peace with God and one another.  Give of yourselves in order that God’s Kingdom might come on earth as it is in heaven.  Be the wheat; and, when your life feels like it’s filled with weeds, lean on God’s grace.  Allow the love of God to uproot you.  Allow it to transform your life, planting you in a place where you can be productive—sharing and living the Good News of God’s love found in Jesus Christ—bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God.

Let’s pray:

Give us courage to let the weeds grow that your grace might uproot them and turn them into something good.  Help us to be patient, to allow your grace to work in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Help us to love even the weeds that your grace might abound, that the harvest of the Kingdom might come in all its bounty.  It’s in Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

 

[1] “Are morning glories pretty plants? or invasive weeds?” GardensAlive.com <http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=1131&gt; Accessed July 19, 2014.

[2] Matthew 13:37-42, The Message.

[3] John 15:5b-