Sermons from St Faith's     

The Wheat and the Weeds
Jackie Parry, 20 July, 2014

Iím looking forward to going to the Southport flower show this year.  Actually, Iíve never been but Iíve heard wonderful things about the beautiful flowers and plants on display and I hope to have some inspiration for my little gardens, when they are eventually tidied!

Mind you, have you seen my front garden?  To say itís a bit of a mess would be an understatement; the grass has grown so long and the bushes so large that my neighbour recently joked with me that he thought there may be some lions hiding in there, because it looks more like a jungle than an English country garden!  Iím waiting for my son's friend, who is a landscape gardener, to come and sort it for me, but as usual, he is taking his time and in the meantime, my garden is getting more and more out of control!  But he has promised that he will sort it soon.  All I can do is wait and be patient.

And that is exactly what the farmer in todayís gospel reading has suggested to his servants; donít pull up the weeds, wait a while longer!  This probably caused confusion because the bad weeds may well destroy the good wheat, and possibly nothing will be saved when the time comes to harvest the land.  But that is what they do; they wait.

Iím not a very good gardener, but I do appreciate the beauty of flowers and the hard work which goes into nurturing the plants.  Beautiful plants which have grown from tiny seeds.  Seeds often so small that when you drop them into the ground they seem to disappear, but if carefully looked after, they will germinate and grow stronger.  Then, when fully grown into glorious flowers, these will also produce seeds which can be planted which will grow against into beautiful plants the following year, and so on.  The journey, the cycle of life, continues.

The kingdom of heaven can come into a personís life through something as relatively tiny as a seed: a very small kindly action, a brief word of encouragement, an insight shared leading to a moment of seeing things differently.  We might also keep in mind that seeds grow in their own time and space. I remember when my sons were at primary school, the children planted some tiny seedlings and the teacher told them these would grow into wonderful trees and they hoped to encourage squirrels to nest in their branches. 

Unfortunately the children didnít understand that time was needed for this and they became very impatient when, after a whole week, the seedlings had only grown about an inch, and there wasnít a squirrel to be seen anywhere!  Their teacher explained that it takes time for things to grow, and a lot of nurturing was required during this time to encourage the trees to grow to maturity and their full potential.

Only time brings things to maturity.  Similarly, the parable suggests we cannot hurry the growth of the kingdom.  When a seed of faith has been sown, people need time and, given all that may go wrong, that weeds, or temptation (sin), may sneak in, people continue to need tender care, love and support, in order to grow and develop in their faith, and trusting in a loving God. As we know, Jesus used parables, ordinary stories, to teach about spiritual truth, although some parables were not always clearly understood by the listener.  However Jesus does in fact explain to the disciples the meaning of the parable regarding the wheat and weeds, making it very clear that, come the day of judgement, the good will be collected together and the bad will be cast away.
But, looking deeper, itís not all that this parable means.   We can see that there is another dimension to this story.  I noticed that the farmer doesnít say to pull the weeds out straight away, but to leave them there and let them grow amongst the wheat.  The good and the bad are mixed together.  What good would this do, you may ask?  Jesus is, in fact, referring to the fact that evil can be found anywhere and everywhere, in the world.  Good and evil will always be mixed together until the end of time, and can be found in individuals and institutions alike.  Evil, or sin, often creeps in during the darkness of night, hiding in the shadows, silently growing and destroying the good. 

Once discovered, the urge is to immediately cut it away, but in the parable Jesus warns that sometimes it might be best to wait until the time is right.  If the good roots are still young and delicate, then they could easily be destroyed by the thorns which are nearby.  He wants us to trust in his judgement, and give the good seed time to grow stronger, even though there is a risk they might become entwine with something thorny.
But remember, Jesus is the one who went around Galilee setting people free from the power of evil spirits which were dominating their lives; He is the one who cast evil away, and people around witnessed this and were able to recognise the power of God in personal transformation. 
God respects and loves ALL people.  He knows that temptation is often stronger than good intentions and that time is sometimes required to enable the good to shine through, and the weeds to be transformed into something beautiful. Understanding this helps us to see the importance of patience, support and pastoral care of ALL people, and not to cast away those in society who do not yet understand that the Kingdom of God is close at hand.
The Kingdom was present in Jesus and this was his gift to his followers then, and to us now.  But we know only too well that, even in our own time, here and now, the kingdom is not yet complete; there are still weeds and rocky grounds to contend with.  There are many divisions in our world and evil exists, but with the power and grace of God we, as the church today, the body of Christ, are called to spread His word to all people, allowing His love to shine through us, and revealing just a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, which He promises for all those who to turn to Him.

Jesusí prayer is that Godís kingdom will come on earth.  The challenge to us is that we must not retreat inside our walls, but respond to Him with two commitments. The first commitment is to God, to let the seed of his love grow in us as we seek to follow him every day; and understand that we may have to face our own rocky ground, our own weedy temptations, and the crushing tread of opposition.

The second commitment is to the world.  We, as the church, are those who are called to show that Godís word is faithful and cannot fail.  That He will accomplish His purpose and in time will transform many weeds into plants which will bear fruit for His Kingdom.
We shall know we are doing the work of the kingdom when we see kingdom things happening:

    a person being healed;
    a child being fed who might have gone hungry, and being protected and not abused;
    a law being changed in response to work with a pressure group to defend a personís rights;
    an act of neighbourliness that gives joy where there might have been none;
    a campaign so that a person living in a distant country will be treated with justice;
    more people recognising God as the Saviour of all mankind.

It is through a thousand ordinary activities, acts and words (seeds) of love in the world, which reveals Gods Kingdom amongst us, on earth today. But when Christians fail to express their commitment to God, and their commitment in the world, then they (we) may become as weeds in the world.  The Kingdom is a process of transformation on earth today, which requires our time and effort to help create a better society for all people.  So let us also have patience and encourage the good to grow, even amongst the bad, but in the power and glory of our loving God.

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