Proper 11A; Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43
We are in the midst of a series of kingdom parables. Chapter 13 of Matthew is the first time Jesus uses parables in this gospel, and it's like he's been saving up these stories until now when they come one right after another. This is a new style of teaching for Jesus, as parables are designed to give new insights to challenge certain beliefs, and are specifically targeted for willing learners. Which could very well be why his first parable of the sower ended with, “the one who understands bears fruit,” and why he says in a couple of places, “Let anyone with ears listen.”
Today we have the second sowing parable. A man sows good seed in his field, but an enemy of his secretly sows weeds, hoping to destroy his crop. When the weeds came up with the wheat, his slaves ask if they should tear out the weeds, but the owner says he'll deal with it at harvest time.
The first thing to notice is that the slaves want to rip out the weeds. They are the ones who want to keep the field pure and undefiled. But the landowner says, “No, let them grow up together. Then the reapers will sort things out.”
Another thing we need to look at is, what exactly is a weed? A weed, by definition, is any plant you don't want. I recently heard that it was due to the advertising of the Scott's lawn products that convinced people to spray for dandelions and other weeds in order to keep a green lawn. So we developed this idea that dandelions are unwanted intruders in our beautifully manicured lawns.
But here are some things you may not have known about dandelions. They are good sources of vitamins A, C, and K, iron, calcium, and magnesium. They contain high levels of beta carotene. They may reduce inflammation, help with blood sugar management, reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, protect against liver damage, slow cancer cell growth, and help with skin care. They are also a necessary food source for bees. And as we have all been made aware lately, if we lose the bees, we lose everything. So we might want to be careful when labeling things or people weeds, because they just might be more beneficial than we know.
Like the slaves only wanted the right plants, we tend to only want the right people.
This desire to only want the right people is part of our human nature. It shows up in religion, politics, sports, business, families, you name it. We want to be surrounded with only those people who are like us, or who are beneficial to us. Because of this, we might be too quick to label some people as weeds.
The Vestry had a work day this past Tuesday. We covered a lot of material, but one thing stuck in my mind that related to today's parable. Our facilitator brought up something called Fundamental Attribution Error. This is when you attribute your best behavior to character while attributing someone else's best behavior to the environment, and then treat negative behaviors the exact opposite.
For instance, when I'm on time to events it's because I'm considerate and dependable. When you're on time, it's because all the traffic lights were green. And when I'm late, it's because traffic was a mess and I hit all the red lights, but when you're late it's because you're lazy and inconsiderate. Weeds and wheat. We see those who don't meet our expectations as weeds that need to be eliminated, while we see ourselves as good, productive wheat. The reality, though, is you don't know their whole story. Like a dandelion whose partial story is that it makes a mess of our yard, we don't realize how healthy and important it is for us and the environment.
The last thing I want to look at is the explanation Jesus gives. The good seed are the children of the kingdom. I'm going to assume that we are all children of the kingdom. We are the good seed. We are not the sower or the owner of the field. Nor are we the slaves laboring in the field. And we certainly aren't the reapers. Therefore it is not our job to pull up the weeds before the harvest; for by attempting to create a pure space without weeds, we would only damage ourselves. Nor is it our job to harvest the weeds at the end of the age and throw them into the fire; that is a job for the angels alone.
What exactly is our job then? Our job is to grow. Our job is to grow and bear fruit.
Last week we heard the parable of the sower and the seed scattered in various places. I pointed out that the parable wasn't about God's bad aim, or predestination, but was about using what we have been given for the kingdom of God. It was about learning, understanding, and doing. When we do that, we reflect seed sown in good soil.
Today there is no doubt about who we are and where we have been sown. We are good seed sown in good soil. And what does good seed sown in good soil do? It grows. Even though it may grow alongside a weed, it grows and produces good fruit.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Even though I grow in a field of weeds, I shall not fear; for the Lord is with me.
Our job is not to create a perfectly pure field without any differences or challenges. Our job is to grow and produce good fruit. In that growing we just might find the weeds aren't as bad as we thought. We might also find they have useful properties that are beneficial to the kingdom. But we will never know that if we spend all our time ripping them up and throwing them into the fire.
Because honestly, for every person out there who thinks they are wheat, I can almost guarantee you that there is someone else in this building who thinks you are a weed.
So let's not spend our time trying to rip out and burn up. Instead, let's spend our time growing and learning. And in that way we will find that we haven't created a uniform lawn fit for an HOA, but we have created a wild, diverse garden that benefits more than we can see.