Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sermon for Pentecost 7: "Wheat or Weeds?"

Dear friends in Christ, dear people of Grace, grace to you and peace from God our creator…

            I’ll confess – one of the things I love to do in a Bible study is to discover and point out the way God confounds our expectations
            – the ways that God acts totally differently than we would act.  So I love the parable of the sower which you heard last week, and how the sower sows seeds EVERYONE, even on the path and places where seeds can’t possibly sprout. 
            We would never do that, would we?
             It just shows how generous, how extravagant, God is.  So different than us….   “God’s ways are not our ways….”

            And I remember sitting down at a Bible study with today’s parable and a group of farmer’s wives one day. 
            We read the parable together and I said what I thought:  isn’t it weird that the farmer would tell the workers to leave the weeds alone?             We would pull the weeds wouldn’t we?  We would want to get RID of those evil weeds, because (I knew this from experience) if you didn’t pull the weeds they would take over the field.  
             This does not make any sense!  The ways of God – so different than ours.

            And my farmers wives told me that I was wrong.
             This made absolute sense to them.
             In fact, this was the way it was for farmers back before there were chemicals to kill the weeds. 
            You see – they told me patiently – unlike corn, wheat is not a row crop.  You can’t get between the rows and get rid of the weeds. 
            You had to sort it out at the harvest.  That was the way it was done.

            In the parable, the master is concerned that not one stalk of wheat be lost. 
            For some reason for the longest time I did not notice this.
             I was thinking about the weeds, and the idea that the weeds would endanger the field. 
            But the farmer is concerned that he might lose a few stalks of wheat if he pulls the weeds to early.  
            In our lives, there is such a thing as collateral damage.  It’s the idea that in the pursuit of good, sometimes we make mistakes and some people are hurt, even lost.  It’s inevitable. 
            Because we are human.  But in the kingdom of heaven.  No collateral damage.

            I think back to the prophet Isaiah, and one way he describes the Messiah, “A bruised weed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.” 
            In other words, he’s going to protect the weak, and not throw away someone or something when it’s broken. 
            And lately I’ve been thinking – there’s one way that God is so much different than we are.

            Maybe this is because we are moving and we are doing so much sorting right now. 
            We have done so much sorting – which is really what this parable is about. 
            It’s not a huge statement about why there is evil in the world – although it’s true, there is evil in the world. 
            Also in the church.  The church is God’s creation, and yet with all of the grace and goodness and abundance, in the church there is also sin and grieving and conflict too.  We are God’s field, but there are weeds.     And sometimes we are tempting to do some sorting – who’s in and who’s out. 
            To try to figure out who and what has value and who doesn’t.

            That’s what we have been doing during the past couple of years, and even more so in the past couple of weeks, and it’s hard.
             I’m sure there have been a few times we have thrown out things that we will end up regretting, and there are times we will say ‘why did we keep this?” when we unload the truck.   

            There have been times we have found things that we thought we had lost – (I’m sure that’s another parable!), and there are times I have thrown away something just because it was broken It made the decision easier. 

            But God’s ways are not our ways, and God does not throw something away just because it’s broken. 
             God does not cut off the plant just because it’s weak.  God doesn’t want to lose even one precious stalk of wheat.   
            That’s one message of the parable.   God doesn’t want to lose any wheat.  At all.  Even if you’re bruised.  Even if you are broken.

            But what if you are not sure whether you are weed or whether you are wheat? 
            You know, sometimes, because of the things that have happened to us in life, or even because of the things we have done, we aren’t sure.  Am I one of the beloved ones, or am I a weed?
             In the parable the weed is a very specific one – it’s called ‘darnell’ and it actually resembles wheat, especially when it is young. 
            You can’t always tell by looking what is a useless weed and what is a useful stalk of wheat.  You really do have to wait

            Oh, sometimes you can tell..  Sometimes it’s obvious. 
            A few years ago I found this in my yard. 
            It’s very obvious that this did not belong there! 
            So, we cut it down.  Then we found out – who knows what this is?  It is milkweed – and even though the name says “weed” in it – it is a home to butterflies, not to be thrown away, but to be preserved and protected and valued.

            Like you.  Like me.

            God’s ways are not our ways. 
            We like to sort, and sometimes we think we know who is valuable and who is not, who to welcome and who to turn away. 
            But we don’t.  Only God knows. 
            And God does not want to lose even one of us.  God will not lose even one of us.
             I think that is one of the reasons that Grace put in our new mission statement that we welcome everyone, no exceptions.
             Because we know that, right?  God does not want to lose even one of us. 

            A few years ago I remember reading about the crisis with immigrant children coming here unaccompanied. 
            They were fleeing violence in their own countries, and some of their desperate parents were sending them on their own, which was creating all kinds of crises for us, too.
              What to do with them.  How we should treat them.  Who they even were.  And I remember reading that someone called them “refugees” and another person commented back:  “They are not refugees.  They are criminals.”
             And at the time, I wondered, “But how do you know?  How do you know?”

            God’s ways are not our ways.  We like to sort, and sometimes we think we know who is valuable and who is not.  But we don’t. 
            After all, it was us who put Jesus on trial, judged him and sentenced him to death. 
            But God said no, He was the  Holy one, the one through him we are all saved, all preserved, all named “worthy”, all saved.
            Thanks be to God.


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