As you might imagine, the gospel reading for this morning has inspired me to think about wheat and weeds. Gardeners and famers all know that they don’t want weeds in their flower beds or fields. They take the good nutrients from the soil and they make it harder for the stuff we want to growing to grow. My front lawn, much to Scott’s chagrin, is a testament that very principle. We want grass but there are dandelions everywhere. For several years we even waged a battle with gout weed in our flower beds.
Here is my problem. I like weeds – well maybe not gout weed. Some weeds have beautiful flowers. A field of dandelions is a glorious shade of yellow. When I come home from work and see that field of yellow, I smile. Queen Anne’s lace has a delicate flower. The thistle is beautiful shade of purple and green. The lilies of the field that Jesus talked about – beautiful red weeds that grow in every crack in the concrete. I’m not alone. The Iona community published a whole book called Dandelions and Thistles. My favourite poem from the collection is called Dandelions and Thistles.
In the beginning
God saw the cheerful unrepentant weeds:
Thistles and dandelions—
They were fruitful and multiplied.
They bloomed on poor soil
And in the barren wilderness;
They brought colour into a solemn world.
God, knowing the secret of life and death,
Created green shouts that spring up after rain,
flowers that follow sun
fruits that will only grow
if they fall in the earth and die.
These weeds – as down-to-earth as you or me
are parables of the wisdom and work of God.
Jesus parable for us today is as complex as our relationship with weeds. Don’t get confused with last week’s parable of the Sower. This different. Jesus is talking about wheat and weeds. It is another kingdom of God parable. There once was a farmer who sowed good seed but at night while the hired hands were sleeping, an enemy came and sowed weeds. When the wheat started to grow so did the weeds. The farm hands came and asked the master if he used good seed. He says, “An enemy has done this.” (Matthew 13:28) When they ask if they should pull up all the weeds. The farmer says, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:29 – 30)
This is a parable of God’s grace. It is easy to miss if we focus the weeds being bundled and burned. Pay attention to some other details in the parable. The person who planted the seed was the boss – the master. In Jesus’ day that was unheard of. The master doesn’t plant, the workers do. Then, the master instructs them to let the wheat and weeds grow together. Elizabeth Johnson says, “What Matthew most likely refers to, however, is darnel or cockle, a noxious weed that closely resembles wheat and is plentiful in Israel. The difference between darnel and real wheat is evident only when the plants mature and the ears appear. The ears of the real wheat are heavy and will droop, while the ears of the darnel stand up straight.” https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=979
Here is the challenge of the parable and for us in our daily lives. You can’t always tell the difference between the wheat the weeds and God looks on things very differently than we do. Maybe we humans are a strange mixture of wheat and weeds; good and bad. Sometimes we do wonderful things and sometimes we turn from God’s ways. The master, God, lets them both grow together because you can’t always tell who is going to be bear the fruit of the kingdom. That’s the beauty of this parable. God is telling is it not up to us decide who is the wheat and who is weeds – who is in and who is out. God is saying – leave that to me. Because sometimes – maybe most of the time – people will surprise you.
That was certainly true of Jacob. God did not choose Jacob but not because he was perfect or even at first glance a good human being. Jacob is a liar and a cheat. He stole his brother’s inheritance and blessing and now his on the run from his rightfully angry brother. After a long day spent fleeing his brother’s wrath, Jacob find himself alone in strange place. God comes to him in a dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder. As he dream, God makes a promise to Jacob that echoes the one made to Abraham and Isaac before him:
“I am the Lord... the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:13 – 15)
Then Jacob changes. Love has a way of transforming lives. Jacob says, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, ... so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house.” (Genesis 28: 20 – 22)
This is the heart of the good news. It is for all of us. God’s love transforms our lives. God takes the broken or missing pieces in our lives and makes us whole. Jacob was a strange mixture of wheat and weeds and yet God made him the heir to a promise. God says “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” The same is true for us. God is with us no matter what. God knows our hearts. We too can pray Psalm 139, “O God, you have searched me and known me. ...How deep your designs are to me, O God! How great their number! I try to count them but they are more than sand. I come to the end – I am still with you.” (Psalm 139)
God’s kingdom is beyond compare. God searches our hearts and knows us – the good and the bad – the weeds and the wheat and loves us and walks with us. That is God’s amazing grace to us. We do not need to worry about who is in or who is out. Our calling is simple – follow in Jesus way of compassion and love. Then leave the rest to God’s infinite and amazing grace. Amen.