Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 11)

Text: Matthew 13:28-30a
"Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?í the servants asked him.  "No,í he answered, Ďbecause as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them. Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest".

Donít pull out the weeds!

There are people here this morning who have amazing green fingers Ė whatever they put their mind to when it comes to planting and growing seems to happen so beautifully and effortlessly. We just need to look at the plant stalls at the recent Spring Fairs and see how talented people are.

In Jesusí parable we hear about a farmer who sows good seed. He had done all the right things. He plowed and furrowed and sowed a crop of wheat. Then he waited for nature to take its course, which, of course, it did. First came the refreshing spring rains, soaking the land and swelling the seed. Then the warm summer sun drawing the new plants up to the surface of the soil. Everything went just as it had always gone, and soon the ground was covered with green lush growth.

But something had gone wrong. When the farmerís workers inspect the crop they quickly report, "Boss, something else has been sown in with the wheat. Youíve got some other kind of grass in there, spoiling the crop. Weíd better get in there and pull out the weeds".

But the farmer replied, "No, donít do that. If you pull out the weeds, youíll pull out the wheat too. The wheat will be fine. Leave it alone and weíll separate it at harvest time."

Most likely the weeds Jesus is referring to here were the type that looked like wheat in the early stages of growth and whose extensive root system would intertwine with the roots of the wheat. There is a doubly tricky issue here. Pulling out the weeds could also mean pulling up a large part of the wheat crop. It would have been easy for the farmer to get out the Roundup and give the whole patch a good dose making sure every weed was dead and that would also include every wheat plant. Then he could start all over again and sow a weed free crop.

Instead he urges patience. The weeds will have their day when the harvest is gathered and the weeds will be piled up and burnt but now is not the time for judging what are weeds and what is wheat. The farmerís main concern is for the wheat and how any premature action could well lead to it being destroyed along with the weeds.

Wheat and weeds together in the same field Ė thatís a description of our world today. We have the good and the evil side by side and we can hardly tell the difference between the two until some clear action enables us to make a distinction.

Walking down a busy street how can we tell who the good people are and who are those with evil intentions? We hear news items every now and then of con artists who are smooth talkers, nice, gentle, caring, offering help and appearing to be some of the good people in the world while all the time they are wolves in sheepís clothing ready to empty your bank account and take everything you have.
On other occasions we might see someone who looks a bit weird and someone we should be careful of only to find out later that we were completely wrong and had misjudged that person badly. I know I have unfairly judged people and been suspicious of their motives.

When in Turkey a man wanted to help us get us a ticket for a train, told us when to get off, leading us to the right platform to catch the next train and then paying for the next ticket for our onward journey. All the time I was thinking, "What is this guy really up to?" What is the hidden agenda behind all this friendliness?" On this occasion what I thought was a weed was truly wheat Ė a man who genuinely wanted to be helpful and welcoming to strangers to his city.

I guess there is some validity in being wary about weeds among the wheat in the world and in the community at large for our own safety and well-being. Donít we teach our children about stranger danger?

While being cautious we need to be ready to admit that we can get it awfully wrong. A couple of untidy looking young lads were walking up the street and I said to Miriam, "I bet they come in here for a handout". Sure enough they turned into our gate. You can see I had already formed an opinion about these two guys. They spun a story about being Lutherans travelling from South Australia through Queensland. They had lost their wallet and had just enough change in their pockets for one night at the caravan park in a tent. Could I give them some money? I sent them on their way not believing one bit of their story saying I would drop by the caravan park with some food later in the day. I had made my judgement. These guys are weeds sucking the goodness out of anyone who would listen to their story.

Not long after they left I had a phone call from South Australia. It was the pastor of the congregation where these lads came from, asking if I had seen them, and if they turned up could I look after them as their parents were terribly worried. On this occasion everything turned out well, but I wonder how many times we are quick to judge and so miss opportunities that God is placing in our way to show his love and compassion to those who to all intents and purposes look very much like weeds.

No doubt there are times when we need to give someone the benefit of the doubt because the compassion of Christ compels us to at least give them that much. There will be those who will take us for a ride but there will also be those who will be appreciative and forever grateful for the time and help given to them.

I think this is what Jesus is talking about here when he says donít pull up the weeds because you will also pull out the wheat. As I said the farmer could have cold heartedly sprayed the crop with Roundup but instead he knew that in amongst the weeds there were genuine wheat plants and he was going to give them every chance to grow and bear heads of wheat. He is saying to us not to be too quick to judge Ė leave that to God Ė but be patient and compassionate and give the struggling person every chance to get on with life.

We have talked a lot about wheat and weeds in the world but Jesus starts the parable like this, "The kingdom of heaven is like this". He is talking about the people in God's Kingdom Ė the people in the church in the widest sense and in narrow sense meaning this church Ė the people sitting around us here this morning or who should be here but arenít.

But letís face it, church people are some of the worst offenders when it comes to making judgements about others. Just look at history Ė there have been inquisitions, trials, witch hunts, heretics burnt at the stake, excommunications, exiles Ė the church has been very good at pulling up the weeds.

Then there have been those who have tried to live in a weed free environment and shut themselves away in monasteries, convents or lived as hermits in seclusion away from any possible contamination by weeds sown by the evil one. In fact, there are those today who hop from church to church looking for a weed free church. This parable emphasises that in the Kingdom of God wheat and weeds live together. There is no room for pulling out and putting down; only time for mercy and compassion, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for acceptance and understanding. Judgement is God's business and that will come all in good time but in the meantime we need to be super mindful that there are some plants that might look like weeds but in actual fact they are wheat.

Everyone thought Zaccheus was a weed and he was a weed in stature and in morality but Jesus saw that the true Zaccheus was wheat ready to burst into a golden head of good deeds.
Everyone thought the thief on the cross next to Jesus was a weed only fit to be thrown into garbage dump of Jerusalem, but Jesus saw otherwise Ė a man who would be with him in paradise.
Every Christian thought Saul was a weed hunting down Christís followers, watching on as Stephen was stoned to death, but Jesus saw in him wheat that would be scattered throughout the world as he took Gospel far and wide.

In each of these examples a hasty and early judgement by God would have meant they would have been cut off from his grace, instead Jesus didnít ignore them or disregard them as hopeless. They may have looked like weeds but in actual fact they were wheat.

The parable is telling us to write no one off as hopeless, lost, irredeemable, worthless because he/she looks like a weed. That person may look like a weed and our gut reaction is to treat that person as a weed but in truth he/she is precious wheat of Godís kingdom.

Thatís the way God views each one of us. We readily admit that we are "weeds" Ė the evil in our hearts and minds takes control. But God refuses to write us off. He refuses to write off even that person who at this moment defies God, denies his existence, and allows evil to run his/her life. There is always grace. While we are here on this planet, God is always reaching out to every person regardless of how good or how evil they might be. Every time we judge hastily and unfairly, he forgives us. Every time evil takes control in our lives, he graciously invites us to come to him, to receive the forgiveness that he is offering through his Son Jesus, to welcome the Holy Spirit who will gladly guide and lead us down the path of right living.

What do we do when all we can see in a person is weeds and in our judgement thatís all they are - weeds? We donít yell at them. We donít look down on them. We love them. We pray for them. We donít rip out the weeds. We let them grow because they might actually be wheat and not weeds after all.

In this parable Jesus is calling us to patience, compassion, understanding and grace. He is giving us the opportunity to be a powerful influence of love and kindness to enable every wheat plant to reach its full height and, to use Jesusí words, "shine like the sun in their Fatherís Kingdom".

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
17th July 2011

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