Monday, July 21, 2014

Pentecost 6 Sermon: "The Problem of Weeds"

+ Pentecost 6 – July 20th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A, Proper 11: Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:18-27; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you think about it, Jesus has some rather strange farming habits. Last week he tells us a parable about a reckless sower who scatters his seeds everywhere – hard-packed turf, rocky soil, weedy dirt, good topsoil – it doesn’t matter. Jesus treats the proclamation of his merciful, gracious word of forgiveness the same way too: spreading it with abundant, joyous abandon.

This week Jesus’ parable starts off the same way: the kingdom of heaven – in other words, the rule and reign of heaven, the gracious action of God in the world to save us through Jesus crucified – that kingdom of heaven; is compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
Then while the servants of the field were sleeping the enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. The shocking thing is that where we’d prefer to apply the Caddy Shack treatment and soak the entire field in pesticide, pull of all the weeds, and then nuke them with some radiation just to be sure those weeds are gone, Jesus simply replies: “Let both grow together until the time of the harvest.” 

But of course, Farmer Jesus has the whole field in view here. And though his farming methods may seem strange and backwards to us his gracious rule and reign, the kingdom of God in human flesh, works among us precisely by such strange and backwards methods: his incarnation, his humble life, his more humble death.
So, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, stop and think: what’s this parable all about? And don’t say: “Duh, pastor, Jesus gives us the explanation. Just read that.” True enough. But what’s Jesus teaching and declaring to us? How would you summarize this parable for someone else? What’s the parable primarily about: judgment or joy? God’s justice or mercy?

Now, before you jump up and raise your hands, be careful. Think about your answer to that last one.
And while you’re thinking about that question, let’s hear the parable again.

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
Now, the sower of the good seed is the Son of Man, Jesus. The field is the world or literally the cosmos. The good seed is the sons of the kingdom – God’s children, heirs of Christ, who like Paul says in Romans 8 are adopted by grace and receive the Holy Spirit. The weeds are the sons of the evil one. And the enemy who sowed the weeds is the devil: he who was thrown down out of heaven and he who throws accusations and sin in our face.

In this parable, the good seed are doing just fine. It’s sown by the Son of Man and grows automatically. Faith and the fruits of faith follow wherever Jesus sows his Word.
But this is a tale of two sowers. The devil has also been busy planting weeds all over. And the weeds also seem to be thriving. We’ve all echoed the words of the Psalmist: “Why, O Lord, do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper?”

This problem of the weeds is made all the more difficult by the fact that the weeds don’t have neon signs flashing: “Open for business!” They don’t stick out like a patch of dandelions on a perfectly manicured putting green. In fact, Jesus says the weeds look identical to the wheat until the harvest.
Weeds and wheat are only known by their fruit.

So it is with the Christian faith. The fruit of evil is parasitic, destructive, and deceitful, while the fruit of faith in Christ is mercy, forgiveness, and love – sown in abundance like the parable of the sower. As we sing in the great Reformation hymn “Salvation unto Us Has Come”:
            Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
            And rests on Him unceasing;
            And by its fruits true faith is known,
            With love and hope increasing.
            For faith alone can justify;
            Works serve the neighbor and supply
            The proof that faith is living. (LSB 555:9)

But that’s not what’s on the mind of the servants in Jesus’ parable.
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’

The devil sows corruption, confusion, and chaos. Reminds me of Alfred’s words to Bruce Wayne when talking about the Joker: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
That’s why we join Paul and all creation in groaning with expectation for the revealing of the sons of God.

We groan as we see a world full of weeds; we groan in anguish at the abortionist’s instruments; we groan in sorrow when planes are shot out of the sky for no good reason; we groan in frustration at the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ; we groan at injustice and inhumanity spoiling God’s creation.
And groan we must. Truth be told, there’s a weed patch as deep as the grave in each of us, a weed patch is full of the hypocrisy of sin. It’s not just the weeds that look like wheat. We, God’s good seed, have a rather nasty habit of thinking, doing, and saying weed-like things. Sin wrecks everything.

Looking at the world around us it might be tempting to come to the same conclusion the master’s servants came to in the parable:
The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ That’s us alright. Impatient. Call in the weed wackers. Root em up. Pull em out. Exterminate. Like the disciples we want to call down fire. We want judgment. Thankfully we’re not the ones in charge of the field, otherwise there would be nothing left, not a single living plant left standing, we included.

‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest…
Jesus’ words are shocking. Let both grow together. Let it be. Permit it. Suffer it. Jesus reveals God’s very nature. Where we would call down judgment, Jesus calls for patience; long suffering is the word. The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Jesus’ words teach us how we live with others. God is patient and longsuffering towards us; therefore we are patient and longsuffering towards others. Or as C.S. Lewis once said, “We can forgive the unforgiveable in others because God has forgiven the unforgiveable in us.”
That’s Jesus’ answer to the problem of the weeds: “Let it be.” The Greek word is aphete and in many parts of the New Testament this word has another use. To release. To let go. To forgive. That’s right. Jesus’ answer to the problem of the weeds is forgiveness.

And this really is the only satisfying solution to the problem of evil. How does God deal with all the evil and weeds in the world? How does God deal with all the weeds and sin in man? In us?

God made him who knew no sin to become sin for us. Jesus became the weed for us. Jesus took all the seeds sown by the evil one and planted them into his body on the cross. Jesus took all your weeds, all your sin, and your death and he died for it. Jesus died for you, to make you his precious wheat, God’s own good seed, sown by Jesus and sown into Jesus, planted in his wounds.

For there on the cross God poured out both justice and mercy. The cross is both judgment and joy. Judgment of your sin. And joy because Jesus was judged in your place.
Above all, this is a parable of God’s patience. Yes, there’s judgment over sin. Jesus’ parable is a warning as well. The world will be set right. Indeed, all is right in the cross of Christ.

Fear not, then. The field of the world is his. Today the Lord of the harvest takes the seed of his word and spreads it to you his good seed. He takes the grain and grape and gives you his body and blood to eat and drink. Jesus takes the first fruits of his death and resurrection and washes you with them, feeds you with them, and forgives you all your sin. No more weeds.
You are the Lord’s good seed. And he will guard you until the harvest as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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