Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Wheat and Weeds, Redux

On Sunday I preached the parable of the wheat and the weeds, the one where there is good seed sown by a good sower and an enemy that mucks things up by sowing weeds while everyone is sleeping.  And before that, on Tuesday evening, when we had read this parable and its explanation at an online Bible study, there was silence afterward we finished reading.  And someone said, "I don't like this parable." And I think that part of it was just that the parable itself ends with the image of the weeds being burned and the wheat being gathered, and the explanation has that line about casting out evildoers and the weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So, it's not (in some ways) what you would call a "feel good" parable, although I wrestled a blessing out of it, pointing out that God lets the wheat and weeds grow together because God doesn't want to lose even one shock of wheat, and as well pointing out that the presence of the weeds does not mean God has abandoned the field.

Afterwards my husband asked me why I had not used our own yard as a sermon illustration:  with our many weeds that we struggle to control, and our St. Augustine grass (which we had never heard of up north) which we THOUGHT was a weed, and were merrily trying to pull out.  I said that I had thought about it but I had way too much material for one sermon.  So the St. Augustine grass did not make it into the sermon.

But he also told me afterwards that the one thing I mentioned that he had never noticed before was that the reason the sower doesn't want to dig up any weeds is that the wheat would be uprooted at the same time.  In other words, their roots are too close together, even entangled.  He had never noticed that.  Frankly, neither had I.  I had always focussed on the interesting idea that this particular weed looked a lot like wheat.  But the fact that it might not even be possible to uproot weeds without uprooting some wheat along with it -- that never made an impression on me.

But I'm thinking more and more about that entangled wheat these days.  Maybe it's COVID 19 and our attempts to quarantine and protect ourselves from the virus.  Maybe it's the fact that there are many gated communities around me, or the fact that we seem to live in bubbles defined by our race or class or even our politics.  We surround ourselves with people who think like us, whether or not they look like us.

But the truth is, we are all tangled up in each other, and our fates are intertwined.  Even if we live in gated communities.  Even at our most segregated.  I remember that some people would say:  why should I care about the public schools?  My kids are grown up now.  And someone else would say:  I care, because the children who go to those schools will be the teachers and police officers, and custodians and politicians in my community, and I want them all to be well educated.  We touch each other's lives, whether we want to or not.

Our fates are intertwined.  We belong to each other.   That's God's honest truth, although some days it may make us weep and gnash our teeth.

But someday, when all of the weeds inside us are burned, perhaps we will rejoice in this.  Perhaps we'll see the beauty in the dandelion and stop trying to dig up the Augustine grass, and notice that the wheat is springing up and bearing fruit, to share.

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