Still Growing, Still Weeding

Heritage Presbyterian Church

July 19, 2020
7th Sunday After Pentecost/16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture reading – Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43

This week’s sermon sure does sound a lot like last week’s sermon.  Last week, the Scripture was a parable from Jesus about the sower and the seeds.  We heard Jesus compare his message to a sower sowing seeds; some grew in good places, and others failed in poor places or poor conditions.  In the end, the message from Jesus Christ would grow in abundance and yield a hundred times over what had been done in the beginning.

Pretty simple to understand.

But this week, let’s talk about the weeds a little more.  To a hard-working gardener, farmer, or landscaper, there is nothing more frustrating than the presence of weeds.

You work hard to put in the seeds, the seedlings, or the plants.  You cultivate and clear the soil.  You fertilize and water and care for the plants, as you have been carefully taught.  You keep an eye on those plants, and you smile with satisfaction, and perhaps some pride, when everything begins to grow.  

Nothing more exciting to someone who works with plants than to see them begin to grow in a healthy way.

But then, here come the weeds!  How frustrating is that!  You thought you did everything right, you worked hard, you worked carefully, but the weeds come and ruin everything.  If they get too bad, you have to almost start over in order to get them out.

And then what happens?  They come back again and again!

Jesus was pretty plain in his parable.  He described the farm workers as planting the seeds and doing everything right, and then some “enemy” comes in the night – always in the night – and sows weed seeds among the good ones.  Now with all the care, good soil, water, fertilizer, and sunlight, those weed seeds will flourish just like the good seeds will.

And there is no way to separate them.  You can’t pull them out without ruining the original crop.

What is the message here?  What is to be done when the good work of Jesus is done by his believers – and then some enemy comes and sows a batch of trouble among that good work…and sometimes not even at night?

The parable has the message: the householder, the master of the farm, tells the workers to go ahead and keep working.  At the end, during the harvest, the good wheat will be collected with the bad weeds.  Then they will be separated into two sets.  The weeds will be gathered first, bundled together, and burned.  That’s pretty clear…

The good wheat will be gathered next and put in the master’s barn.  I think that’s pretty clear too.

And that’s what drives us crazy, isn’t it?

We want those who will cause trouble to get what’s coming to them RIGHT NOW.  We don’t want to wait for the separation and the judgment of the Master in the end.  We don’t want to trust that the Master can identify all good wheat and all bad weeds.  We want to do some judging right now.

We know what’s going on.  We should get a vote.

But we don’t.  We can tend the field, friends.  

But we do not control the harvest.

And we must trust the Master to make the final decisions.  There may be something we don’t know.

Years and years ago, there was a president of a religious organization who was hired and brought in by the board of directors to improve the organization.  The board felt that the organization had grown stale, it was not growing as it should.  Tough action was needed, so this new president was brought in and was given wide-ranging powers to hire and fire at will.

What happened was exactly that.  This new president created a climate of fear.  Meetings, no matter how big or how small, were occasions when attendees would be routinely embarrassed and humiliated if they could not answer questions or if they were not ready.  Some were fired on the spot.  This went on, not for months, but for several years.  Despite the climate, the board continued to support this president, even when he began to fire very experienced and valuable employees.  Some were replaced by a few good people, but others were not replaced at all.  The growth that the organization wanted was not really showing any results.

Finally, the board and the president decided to part ways.  When the president was gone, the remaining workers breathed a collective sigh of relief, especially when the next president was a warm, gentle, friendly, experienced man.

It would seem that nothing good was ever said about that harsh president…except by one worker.

When he was pressed, the worker described how the president came by the hospital every day on his way home from work to sit with the worker at the bedside of his dying wife.  The president, that harsh taskmaster, would sit and pray and spend some time with both of them.  Sometimes the worker would cry as his wife lapsed in and out of consciousness, and sometimes the president cried with him.  When the end mercifully came, the president offered to lead the memorial service, which was only attended by a few people from the religious organization where they both worked.  

The president continued to phone and check on that man long after the president had left the organization and moved away.  He did what any good Christian would do with that one suffering plant in the Lord’s garden…he tended it gently, carefully, and over time.

Perhaps, my dear friends, perhaps the field should be left to the plants.  Perhaps some of the obvious weeds are not so obvious to the Master at all.  Perhaps it is not our duty or our right or our job to determine what will be put in the Master’s barn and what will be gathered and burned.  Perhaps we should stop coming to the Master and telling Him, “I’m going to pull up all the weeds in your garden, Sir!  I know you’ll like it a lot better when I’m done!”

We don’t know enough.  Let’s just tend the garden, the field, the rows, the orchard, and let’s leave the weeding to the Master.