Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 20, 2014
First Christian Church
I’m going to talk about my garden again.
Well, not about the flowers. No, what I am talking about is something that is a constant problem no matter what I do.
I’m talking about weeds.
For some reason, my garden has been targeted by the weeds. I’ve spent hours pulling them out by their roots, it doesn’t work. Both Daniel and I have contacted an old fashioned mixture of vineagar, soap and water that is supposed to kill the weeds and it does just that; that is it kills the plants that it comes in contact with, but it does nothing to the roots which means in a while the weeds come back.
I’m not crazy about using a pesticide like Roundup, but I am become sorely tempted. My fear though is that it could kill the flowers along with the weeds. Sure, I’d get rid of the weeds, but I would also lose the flowers that I’ve taken years to cultivate. So I’m not going to use Roundup. Maybe.
This Sunday, we find another agricultural parable where Jesus describes the kingdom of God. Last week, we talked about a sower who threw his seeds everywhere, not caring if they took root or not. This Sunday, we find Jesus telling a story about a farmer that planted a field. One evening, an enemy of farmer (farmers have enemies?) sneaks on to the field and plants weeds in the garden. A few weeks later as the wheat that the farmer planted sprouted, everyone saw that weeds were also planted alongside the wheat. The farmer knows who did this; someone that didn’t like the farmer and wanted to see him fail. His farmhands, who were distrubed by the weeds marring this harvest, asked if they could go and pull up the weeds by roots.
You would think that the farmer would have said yes and gladly join in. The weeds could choke his crop causing economic upheaval in his household. Instead, he says to leave the weeds where they are,lest they damage the wheat. The farmer tells his farmhands to wait until harvest. The workers can come in and harvest the weeds to throw them in the fire. All in due time, the farmer says.
Jesus later explains this parable to the disciples. The farmer was Jesus and the field represented the world. The enemy was the devil and the weeds are evildoers and all the evils of the world. Jesus tells them that for now the weeds will remain next to the wheat. But the harvest is coming, and when that happens, the workers will gather all the sin in the world, bind it and thrown into the fire. All in due time.
We live in a world filled with weeds and they have been present this week in the news. In the skies over Ukraine, someone shoots a surface to air missle, striking a passenger jet and snuffing out the lives of nearly 300 people, including a number who were going to an International HIV/AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia. Families around the world are mourning the loss of a loved one and one nation especially, Maylasia, and the national airline are facing a second air tragedy in less than six months.
Palestinians and Israelis are at war again. It began with the death of three Israeli teenagers and then the death of a young Palestinian who was killed in revenge. Now there are rockets striking parts of Israel and the Gaza Strip. Because Gaza is so densley populated, there are more casualities on the Palestinian side, more cries of pain. Any hopes for some kind of peace settlement between the two peoples is shelved, again.
At our southern border, our nation is dealing with a massive influx of children coming from Central American countries where they are threatened. Their arrivals places stress on an already stressed immigration system. It has also for reasons I’m still trying to figure out, has lead to Americans protesting the arrival of these children who are in need of attention and need a place to stay as they are processed through our system.
In North Minneapolis, where I live, there happens to be an increase of crime in the area. The newspaper reports that even if there were a cop on every corner, the violence would not settle unless the community comes together to deal with some of the underlying issues of the perpetrators.
There are weeds everywhere. We try to pull one out and another one takes its place. We keep hoping this government program, that tough on crime measure, this peace agreement and so forth will stamp out the weeds of sinfulness once and for all. It’s been a century since the start of World War One. What was it called? The war to end all wars. Yeah, not so much.
If we only look at the weeds, if we seem them as intractible we can easily lose hope. News surfaced this week about a something a Methodist minister did last month. On June 23, Charles Moore, a retired Methodist pastor stepped out of his car in a shopping plaza in Texas, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. He died hours later at a hospital in Dallas.
Why would someone set themselves on fire? For Rev. Moore, the purpose was to send a message. In notes left behind he was though his hometown and the nation had not repented of slavery. He expressed anger at the continuing policy in the United Methodist Church towards LGBT people. He was upset that the death penalty was still being used. Rev. Moore saw what he percieved as weeds and was upset that he wasn’t able to get rid of them. I don’t think suicide is ever a good thing, even in protest. That said, Rev. Moore is not alone in wanted to get rid of the weeds all by ourselves. I know of many people who are passionate about this or that issue and are always upset that the weeds remain.
For whatever reason, Rev. Moore did not have hope that things could change, that they would change. The parable of the weeds is at its heart, a parable of hope. The workers saw the weeds and wanted to get rid of them. The farmer was not so eager, because it wasn’t time. The farmer knew the wheat could get tangled and chocked by the weeds. The farmer knew that the weeds ran right through the wheat. He wanted to wait until it was time and then had a plan to get rid of the weeds.
God knows there are weeds in the world. Not only in the big actions taking place in our world, but the weeds that grow up around each and everyone of us. But we shouldn’t fear the weeds. We shouldn’t think it is up to us to get rid of the weeds. God has a plan. It was the plan that sent God’s son to Earth in the form of a baby, who grew up, healed the sick, died on a cross and rose again. In Christ’s death and resurrection, sin and death are defeated. It might not look that way on this side of heaven, but at the end of days sin and death will not have the final world. All of the weeds in the world will be taken away and burned.
As Christians, we are called to make disciples and help our sisters and brothers. We are called to tend the garden. There will always be weeds. That doesn’t mean we ignore the sin taking place in our world or try to alleviate the pain. We are called to do justice in the world. But that doesn’t mean it is up to us to get rid of the weeds. The hope we have in Jesus is that the weeds of war and voilence and sadness won’t last forever. They are defeated and just don’t know it yet. All in due time.
Maybe this afternoon I will take to the weeds in my garden. They’ll come back and I will still look longingly at that bottle of Roundup. All in due time. Thanks be to God. Amen.