6th Sunday after Pentecost—Year A—July 20, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
As we begin this morning, I want everyone to get up and stretch a little…and while you do that I want all those who would consider themselves the wheat of this parable to sit up front…and if you think you a weed of the parable to sit towards the back…and if you aren’t really sure, sit towards the center.
What we can learn about the world/Christian life from gardening:
– As some of you know I am still kind of a novice in the garden. I have had many mini gardens, but never really one all that successful. For the past two years I have been struggling with some existing raised beds behind the parsonage which are filled with “bad” soil and plagued with inadequate sun…but that discussion is really more for last week’s parable, so let me share with you some other stories about gardening that I think have something to say about the world/Christian life, the way Jesus’ parable about the sower does.
– A couple of summers ago, I showed up at my parent’s house for a visit to find their garden terribly overgrown since they had just been away for a couple of weeks. As I got started on the task of weeding, I found myself unsure of what was actually a weed and what wasn’t. I have encountered this in my own garden when I plant something new and am therefore uncertain about what seedling leaf to expect, but it was especially difficult because I didn’t know what was planted where in my mom’s garden. In today’s parable, it seems to be cut and dry what is wheat and what is weed, but I don’t think it always is, which is why I asked y’all to classify yourselves…to see if you agreed with me. I believe more often than being wheat or weed, we as humans are wheat and weed (simultaneously sinner & saint). At times you might encounter someone you would classify as wheat who sometimes acts like a weed, or someone you would classify as weed who has “wheat-like” tendencies. Thankfully it is not up to us to judge. God is our judge. We do not have to decide whom to uproot and throw into the fire; we can simply just encourage wheat-ish behavior from those whom we encounter.
– On top of that, I did end up doing some damage to the “good” plants in the midst of my weeding. That is one of the points Jesus is trying to make with the parable. Weeding at the wrong time can do more damage than not weeding at all in some cases. So even if it were clear what/who was the weed, we are not necessarily called to kick them out/get rid of them. We don’t know how the weeds in our lives will shape the fruit you will bear in the future in the name of Christ for the better. The reality is that God’s people will bear good fruit regardless of the weeds, so there is no need to threaten the former in an effort to get rid of the later.
– And really, the definition of a weed is a little vague: “plant considered undesirable in a particular situation.” I know that there is at least one LCF garden that has had “volunteer” plants this season. Volunteers are “good” plants that grow from produce left over from last year and sprout in places you don’t necessarily want or expect them. At some point, every gardener has to make the decision: do I let this volunteer (a) continue to grow and mess up my garden plan for this year, (b) move it to a location that better fits my plan, but risk killing it, or (c) uproot and discard it since it is technically a weed this year even though I planted it in the past? Another reason I am thankful we don’t have to make the ultimate decision about who is wheat and weed and their eternal home. However, this could be a parable for volunteers in the church. Not every volunteer is needed at all times, in all places. Not every one of God’s children is best suited to grow in each volunteer opportunity. We are not all uniform wheat; we are uniquely gifted to serve God’s world in a variety of ways.
– I have heard this summer from another LCF member who planted a pack of seeds marked as “mesclun mix,” but after careful care and cultivation, she ended up with a crop of uniform yet uniform lettuce leaves. It was determined by the seed company that the seeds for the mix had not been properly mixed before packaging and sent a new (hopefully better mixed) packet of seeds as a replacement. I wouldn’t call this a gardening disaster or even mistake, but I think the story can serve as a reminder that the fruit our Christian life and work might bear does not always look like what we think it might or ought to look like. The Holy Spirit can work in many and various ways, defying all odds to turn weeds into wheat, or even wheat into some other produce all together. Sometimes our expectations, those we put on ourselves, others, and the work of the church in general can be limiting.
– But then again it is important to have some kind of expectation or definition of the product that might form, so you know when you are totally off. The summer by brother graduated from high school, I put in a small garden at my mom’s house, which included a window box herb garden. As both of my grandmothers were avid gardeners, I was proud to take them on a tour of my garden, including the window box. The basil and parsley had sprouted fine, and so had the marjoram…or so I thought. I had never cooked with or grown or even seen marjoram before, so I had misconstrued a weed for this herb, just because it was in the right spot in the box. It took the wisdom of my grandmothers to set be on the right path to pulling the weed that was stealing nutrients and water from the actual herbs. Sometimes we can lure ourselves into the false belief that any progress is good progress, get to caught up on quantity instead of quality, when it comes to preaching the gospel and serving God’s creation.
When it comes down to it though, ministry/working towards the kingdom of heaven is a messy business, not an exact science. We are constantly making our best reverent guess about what God intends for our lives, our work, our church. But the thing that we do NOT have to guess about is the fact that God loves, claims, and forgives us whether we act like wheat or weed. We do not have to bear the right kind and amount of fruit in order to keep ourselves out of the fire, for it is Christ that does that. Christ’s wheat-iness is enough to cover all our weed-iness. And for that I all I can say is “Amen. Thanks be to God!”