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Pentecost 7A Sermon
Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
July 23, 2017

 

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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our father be with us, in the name of his son, our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

Jesus tells a parable in today’s gospel lesson about wheat and about weeds. Have you ever wondered why Jesus tells one particular parable at one particular time? Have you ever wondered the circumstances that inspired Jesus to throw one of these stories alongside of the lives of the crowds gathered around him? Remember that last week I told you that the Greek word, “parabole” literally means, “thrown alongside of.” Also remember that this whole episode of Jesus’ teaching with parables in Matthew 13 happens while he is sitting on a boat, and great crowds of people are gathering on the beach to listen to him. So how do you think that Jesus came to use farming imagery for God’s activity in the world when he is on the water? I could understand it if they were still on the mount where he gave the sermon a few chapters ago, or walking past some fields where he would get inspired to use them as visual aids. There must have been something going on, something that is not reported in or before this chapter that led him to share these agricultural stories.

Personally, I think people were having the same conversations that I have heard countless times in ours and other churches as well as in society in general: If God is such a wonderful, generous, loving God, why is there evil in the world? Why is there the heinous type of evil that will make people do horrible things to other people? Why doesn’t God tear evil people out of our society in the harshest way possible so that we good people can live in peace? You’ve heard that before, haven’t you? I bet you’ve even said it before once or twice while watching the news. When a story comes on about someone hurting or killing another person, especially someone vulnerable like a child or an elderly person, we like to make judgements like, “There is a special place in hell for THAT person!”

It’s a problem, isn’t it? We don’t understand – I don’t understand – why God allows evil to exist in the world! It makes me angry, frustrated until I get to the point where I’ve witnessed too much, and I just want to lock up everyone who has done anything wrong and throw away the key.

So Jesus takes some time to talk with these folks in terms that they would know – farming terms. Most of them probably made their living off the land, and they knew what it meant to raise crops. They knew what it was like to look over a field of good soil into which they had scattered seed like the sower in the parable we heard last week, and notice that growing alongside the grains of where are weeds. The weeds about which Jesus is speaking were known as darnel or cockle. When they first spring up, they look identical to wheat. They are as plentiful in Israel as dandelions are plentiful in Ohio. Only darnel is poisonous to people or cattle who may eat it. Their presence is only evident when the grains start to appear on the stalks that the wheat begins to be weighed down, and the darnel stands tall and proud. Jesus says that the noxious weeds are not the intention of the sower, nor are they in the field by accident. Someone – an enemy – has sown them. But he also said that it is not the time to go ripping them out of the ground, for in so doing the roots, intertwined with those of the stalks of wheat, will also rip out the good, fruit-bearing plants. The sower lets them grow, promising that at the right time – at the harvest – he will send out his reapers to collect and burn the weeds and to gather the wheat into the barn. The reapers are to be the agents of judgment on the field, getting rid of those plants which are not good for food, while gathering up the fruit of the field for the harvest.

This parable does two things for me. First, it makes me uncomfortable by reminding me of reality that I don’t like. There is evil. It exists, intentionally. The enemy of the farmer sows toxins which infiltrate society and ruin things for people. Not only that, it appears that God sometimes doesn’t do anything about the presence of evil. It just keeps growing and growing and making us all more and more vulnerable to becoming victims. And it will be like this until the very end. It may even get worse before it gets better. That stinks!

But the second thing this does for me is to remind me of the promise of the harvest to come. There is judgment, and that judgment is taken care of by God, not us. Not matter what we might want to do to punish people who commit crimes or that we just do not like, it isn’t in our hands … it is in God’s; and that is good news. Because if we are left to our own devices, we might just rip out the roots of some pretty good stalks of wheat while we think we are ridding the world of all of the evil.

I was reminded of this when I saw a story out of Cleveland about a man who is being deported to Mexico after living here as an undocumented immigrant for 17 years. He has lived in Willard, Ohio raising a family, working, paying taxes, owning a home and contributing to society all this time, continuing to get permission to stay under the previous administration’s immigration policies. But under the current administration’s policies, there is a push to get all undocumented immigrants out of the country. We’ve all heard the term, “bad hombre” used recently, which paints a pretty wide stroke of those folks. Are there evil gang members who should be found and either kicked out or imprisoned – absolutely! Are there people who are burdening our country’s resources and who only want to take advantage of us – yes there are! But there are also people like Jesus Lara Lopez who is now in another country while his 4 children – all US citizens – are here trying to figure out how to live without their father or how to get him back.

Now I know that immigration is a touchy, political issue that many of you have different opinions on, and I respect them. But I also hope that you can see that from a faith perspective, the story of Jesus Lara Lopez is a lot like those who want to tear out all of the weeds recklessly, not caring if some wheat is uprooted in the process. It is not how God would go about removing the presence of evil in the world.
How will God do this? We do not know. We only know that God has promised to do this at the right time, when it is time for the good wheat to show itself and produce the fruit of the harvest. While we anticipate the separation of the evil from the good, we have the promise of hope and life from God to keep us going. May that promise be fulfilled in our lives through Christ our Lord. Amen.