When the Growing Gets Tough (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

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Anyone who has ever had a garden knows about weeds. No matter how much trouble you may have getting your tomatoes or cucumbers to grow, you will never have any trouble producing an over-abundance of those pesky little plants. Weeds come in all shapes and sizes (especially when you can’t get into the garden as often as you like!) They are also remarkably adept at growing in any type of soil this planet has to offer. A purely practical man might ask that if they grow so well then why don’t we just wise up and start harvesting these plants instead of such finicky things as tomatoes and cucumbers? The answer is very simple. A weed is a weed because someone has determined that it has nothing to offer. It produces no flowers fit to be looked at. It produces no fruit, vegetable, or nut fit to be eaten. Despite their monumental capacity for growth they are otherwise completely unproductive. But the world is so good at nourishing weeds! This world is a wonderful place for a weed to live. It receives everything it needs, and more. In fact, in many places in this world weeds can live out their natural lives without fear of being pulled up. Due to my usual lack of attention to detail, I know that the weeds in many of my previous gardens must have felt that way.

 I suppose that from the text it is pretty obvious what we’re talking about today is not merely a few plants in the patch of ground beside the house. When Jesus explained the parable to his disciples he said very plainly that the wheat refers to “the sons of the kingdom”, while the weeds are “the sons of the evil one.” Much can be taken from this parable, such as who the sower is, who the enemy is, what the harvest represents, and so on and so forth. But what I would like to do today, is to stop for a moment and look into that field during the time that the weeds and the wheat are growing together because that time is now and that field is here.

 In the case of humans as well as plants, the world is a great place for producing weeds. A human “weed”, much like the plant based variety, is someone who produces nothing of value in the owner’s eyes. That does not mean that human “weeds” do not multiply and live well in the field of this world. On the contrary, they thrive! Often, in fact, they seem to do much better that the wheat, which was so carefully planted. The weeds crowd out the wheat, they dominate, they intimidate, they choke off their productive counterparts. For the wheat growing in this world is tough. We see it all the time in the world around us. Corruption, greed, and lust for things of this world are hallmarks of our society. There is abuse or neglect of most everything good in the world. These are the works of the big weeds as they crowd out the smaller plants.

 There is a much more dangerous weed, however. It is a subversive weed. One that strangles the wheat by choking off the roots. This is the type of weed who works with thoughts and ideas. The kind of thoughts that say God is relative; God is what you make of him. There is no right or wrong only me. Virtues are passed off as weakness, while vices are proclaimed to be positive personal expression. Think about it for a moment and I’m sure you can come up with many more like: All your hard work over the years has gotten you nowhere. There is no future for older congregations. Small churches can’t survive.

 Worse than all this, however, is the fact that because of our fears and doubts we often find ourselves buying into these lies. We start to judge our churches by numbers, not people. We predict the worst to happen and feel almost justified when it does. We wait pessimistically for our futures to be taken from us. Often we go so far as to make these ideas part of ourselves. The church may have to fold, it just has no future we might start thinking to ourselves. We stop believing in the power of God at work in our lives and start believing the lies of the weeds; maybe even cultivating them ourselves. And in that very act we see an event unprecedented in nature, it is as if the wheat tries to become a weed it self. And yet we know that no matter how much “stuff” a weed might produce it will never be harvested. As we saw in the parable, it is all collected and burned no matter how much of it there is. “All that causes sin and does evil will be removed.”

 However, we also know from the parable that the opposite is true. No matter how little fruit is produced by the wheat it will all be collected, down to the last kernel. No matter how much or how little there is, it will all be highly valued by God. That is more than evident in the time and care that our Lord has put into us, his crop.

 God the Father and Creator is like the Gardener who prepares and tills the soil, and picks the seeds. It is God the Father himself that in the beginning created everything we, the wheat, would need to live and grow in the world. It is God our creator that provides us with shelter, food, water, and safety each and every day. It is God our Father who sets up governments and countries to provide us with support, framework, and protection. It is God our father who gives us skills to use, money to manage, and the very days of our lives to be good stewards of. It is God our father who has blessed us with property and a building in Collingwood. As our Old Testament lesson has shown us, God is the first and the last, the one and only owner of the field. From the beginning he has proclaimed and foretold through the good and bad times of our eternal blessings. Like the Gardener he has laid out the field in rows and sections according to a plan. It is God the Creator who blesses us daily through that plan he has set out for us in our lives.

 It is God the Holy Spirit, that is the seed of faith within us, making us to grow as wheat and not a weed. It is God the Holy Spirit that continues to abide with us as we grow, continually giving us support like a tomato cage or a system of lattice work. God the Holy Spirit gives structure to us weak plants that would otherwise be over powered by the weeds of this world. It is God the Holy Spirit that binds together the wheat of this world into supportive communities like our little congregation. God the Holy Spirit, lets us see through the lies and evil of this world, to know which fruit is good fruit. He then makes us capable of producing such fruit. As we saw in our epistle lesson, it is God the Holy Spirit that pleads on our behalf when we are too weak or are unable to express in words what we need to say to our Father, thus helping us get through the times when the growing is tough.

 And most importantly, it is God the Son who took it upon himself to become frail like we the wheat, and suffer the punishment that we deserved for all the times that we are more like a weed than wheat. It was God the Saviour who though he was a perfect, spotless shaft of wheat; was weeded out, was pulled up and burned like an unwanted weed so that we never have to be. Through his sacrifice we are now made a perfect, spotless, and bountiful harvest in the eyes of God. A harvest with limitless value in the eyes of the Master. It is God the Son, Jesus Christ, who is the sower of the field. It is he who not only founded the Church but is its very cornerstone. Through the sacraments God the Son promises to be with us and see us through, no matter how tough the growing may get. His own body and blood given in the Lord’s Supper is the food that helps us grow strong in the faith. The water of Holy Baptism gives us life and staying power. And finally, it is God the Son who will come again to judge both the weeds and the wheat, portioning the first for the flames and the second for eternal life with him.

 In this world it is very easy for us to become discouraged by all that we see around us. The growing is tough. When things start get us down, to hold us back, God tells us to look at all that he has done for us, all that he is doing for us and all that he will do for us. Throughout the life of this church God has been actively at work spreading the seed of His Kingdom in your lives and in this world. God is now actively loving, guiding, and supporting Christ Our Hope Lutheran Church, and everyone it has touched. And God has also promised that He will always love, guide, and support you. Despite our struggles now with the weeds of this world, we can joyfully look to the harvest that will come just as God himself does; for there we have the sure hope of “shining like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.” A kingdom of Easy Growing, a kingdom of eternal growing, a kingdom without even one single weed.

Amen.

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About kenmaher

When I'm not working I enjoy Astronomy, Camping, Comic Books, Epic Fantasy Novels, Games (both playing and designing), Hiking, Juggling, Sci-fi, and building strange things out of pvc pipe. I also enjoy being an honorary pre-schooler with my four great children ... much to their mother's dismay.
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