19th July 2020

6th Sunday after Trinity
Genesis Chapter 28 verses 10 – 19a
Romans Chapter 8 verses 12 – 25
Matthew Chapter 13 verses 24 – 30 and 36 – 43
Maggie Cogan -Reader

I trust you have been enjoying this weather and I hope you have all got your hands dirty in the garden or as Tom and I do, on the allotment. I know most of us have enjoyed a few days of rain, the smell of fresh air and the joy of watching the garden bloom and the weeds, of course. As a child I remember the wheat and barley in the fields being as tall as me and walking through the fields, you could hide very easily. If you picked a head of wheat and rubbed it in your hands to get rid of the husk, then you could make yourself something that resembled chewing gum. Happy hours chewing and hiding in fields. People use to be employed to pick out the “wild oats” as they were called, so the crop would not be strangled and would grow stronger. Today, the crops seem to be very short and there is no room for hiding and having fun. But at least the chances of getting “wild oats” in the crop is not as regular as it was, as science and technology for a purer crop has been devised to feed the millions throughout the world. In Jesus’s day the crops would have had all sorts of wild oats and different weeds in it, which is why he used the parable of the seeds as an example to explain it to his disciples.

You will notice in verse 25 that Jesus said the weeds showed up “while everyone was sleeping”  I’m sure you know how quickly a neglected garden can become overgrown. Well our spiritual lives if left unattended can become choked out by the weeds if we let them. This parable of Jesus’ is also about letting things sprout and grow until they show their true nature before you decide what to keep and let grow, and what to remove. The farmer in this parable planted good seed; that is certainly what he intended when he bought the seed and carefully prepared the field and planted it. But something went wrong. Weeds suddenly appeared among the wheat stalks – robbing the wheat of rain and sun and nourishment. But the farmer was not surprised – anyone who buys and plants seeds knows that there are all kinds of other things in the seed bag. He also knew what to do to ensure that he had a good harvest. We say in our house, that the seeds and plants have one of two chances.

Jesus’ disciples were troubled by the parable, and asked Jesus to explain it. Jesus told them – and us - that He, himself, was the one who was planting the good seed, and that the field where the seed was being planted was the world — the whole world. The wheat is those of us who follow Jesus’ teachings and try to lead decent lives of love, services and justice. Jesus told the disciples that an enemy of goodness – or in reality – evil actions and thoughts that occur in our lives separate us from God. These evil things always get mixed in with the good seed. Jesus advised his followers to wait until the harvest to pull the weeds, and then, God would separate the good from the bad – the wheat from weeds - and the good wheat would be saved for the Kingdom.

Today you and I live in a world where good seed and bad seed co-exist. We’ve seen that in the last 100 or so days, as Covid19 spread to family and friends leaving those who have lost loved ones, grieving and wondering, where is this loving God they all talk about. This world of ours is a great field, a field just waiting for good seed. But just as good seed is sown, so is bad.
When we try to eliminate every weed, we forget that we have weeds within us. Not only do the weeds and wheat grow together in the same field; they grow together in our own lives.
There are no purely good people or totally bad people. As much as we love the old-time westerns where there were good guys and bad guys, and they were easy to tell apart by their black or white hats, the world just isn’t like that. We often judge others and their shortcomings, but we do not see our own quite so clearly.

We often make judgments about our community and those around us
• This person is telling porkies;
• This person is going to cause trouble;
• That person is manipulative or bossy.

Sadly, it is human nature to judge and compare, but try to remember that the judgment of people should be left to God. This is what the parable is saying.
We must not judge too hastily, don’t harm others in our enthusiasm to rip out the weeds; wait until the harvest.
So, how does this parable tell us to live now?

The parable says to let the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest. Let them grow; wait until they mature. With the weeds, if we let them grow long enough, they show themselves for what they are. The early sprouts of a weed can look like the beginning sprouts of a wheat plant. It’s only with time that we are able to distinguish one from the other. In this parable, weeds and wheat are not plants but people. And the good part of that is that as children of God, the weeds can change their nature. Someone who is viewed as a ‘weed’ can repent of those things that make them a weed to society and become a positive member of the Kingdom. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. There are times when we are all wheat – and then weeds. We change and grow. Are we following the good parts of ourselves or are we settling for the “weeds’ in us? St. Augustine, in commenting on this parable, makes the same point when he says: “There is this difference between people and real grain and real weeds, for what was grain in the field is grain and what were weeds are weeds. But in the Lord’s field, which is the church, at times what was grain turns into weeds and at times what were weeds turn into grain; and no one knows what they will be tomorrow.”

Evil is real, but it is not ultimate. It never has the last word. Greater by far are those who shine in their Father’s kingdom, those who mirror the bright light of divine compassion. Such was one person who, amid the horrors of the Ravensbruck concentration camp, found faith and hope enough to write a prayer. This prayer points us past the enemy’s evil action to the wonder of the harvest. It attests that landowner’s forbearance is not foolishness, but wisdom. Let us now dare to pray this prayer. Let us pray:

“O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will,
but also those of ill will.
But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted;
remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering —
our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity,
the greatness of heart which has grown out of all of this,
and when they come to judgment,
let all the fruits which we have born be their forgiveness. Amen