Today we listen to Jesus talking about weeds growing among wheat , and we hear His counsel:
“Let both of them grow together…”
Let the weeds grow? Don’t pull them out! Let the thistle and poison ivy and kudzu grow and grow and grow,
pulling all the moisture out of the soil and chocking the life out of crops planted to yield a much-needed harvest?
What kind of counsel is that?
That’s ridiculous…until we listen to the lead-in line that introduces Jesus’ story about weeds and wheat
that is a sequel to last week’s Sower and Seed
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.”
This Sunday we hear Jesus talking about the “weeds” growing in the soil of our life, in the garden of our soul.
The backdrop for His teaching moment in His outdoor classroom is a field with weeds growing among the wheat,
not any weed but the specific WEED identified as bearded Darnel, Lolium temulentum, (for those who what to know its botanical name), a species of rye-grass, which grows prolifically in Syria and Palestine. “Tares” – “Darnel” resemblances wheat till the ear appears bearing seeds that are a strong hypnotic poison; only then the difference is discovered. (Quoted from Todd Weir, “Wheat and Tares”)
And then its roots are so entangled with the wheat it cannot be removed without destroying the good grain and ending up with nothing to harvest.
“Tares” – “Darnel” which, as Roman law at the time of Jesus, indicates might have been intentionally cast by a maliciously-minded person (Jesus’ word: “an enemy’) to contaminate the wheat and render it unfit to eat or sell, and thus a financial disaster for the farmer.
“Let both of them grow together …,” Jesus orders His “good soil” followers who are receptive to the seeds of the Spirit cast by our extravagantly generous Sower-God. “Let the tares grow among the wheat!”
Early in the ministry I was awakened by a 6 AM phone call and a man’s voice asking, “Do you believe in practicing what you preach?” “Sure,” I said. “Then don’t pick beans on Sunday!”
I thought of the church member who could look from his house and see our garden, got dressed, marched up to his door, knocked, and when he greeted me, said, “I think you just called and I am here to talk about what you said.”
I could tell by the bewildered look on his face, he wasn’t the person who had called, and there I stood fumbling for words to work my way out of trying to uproot what I thought was a Tare-like weed growing among the wheat of our church family!
Right there and then I learned why Jesus said,
“Let both of them grow together…,” remembering how hard it is to identify a young crop of weeds among the wheat.
The Russian novelist, Alexander Solzhenitsyn turns our sight inward in his words:
"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." Quoted from: Collected Sermons, William A. Ritter, ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc.
The Tare-weed, that grows in the garden of our souls, and when we set out to uproot it, in others or ourselves, what we think is bad but might be good, and easily trample down both weed and wheat, leaving no good grain to harvest.
“Let both of them grow together until the harvest ,” orders Jesus; for the reason Martin Luther turned into a humbling confession:
"…we desired to force others to believe; the Turks with the sword, heretics with fire, the Jews with death, and thus out root the tares by our own power, as if we were the ones who could reign over hearts and spirits, and make them pious and right, which God's Word alone must do. But by murder we separate the people from the Word, so that it cannot possibly work upon them and …thus, with one stroke a double murder,…we murder the body for time and the soul for eternity, and afterwards say we did God a service by our actions, and wish to merit something special in heaven."
Luther ended his confession with the words:
"although the tares hinder the wheat, yet they make it the more beautiful to behold". The Sermons of Martin Luther. II. pp. 100–106 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1906).
His words remind me of the "weeds" of addiction that take many forms, so many most of us must confess we are addicts - addicted to alcohol, drugs, food allergies, prejudices, uncontrolled anger...to name only a few. And we know those "weeds" are entangled in the good intentions and deeds, s that like the person addicted to alcohol or drugs and when in treatment, says "I am in recovery." not I am recovered, cured, for the that "weed' is always there. But when named, it makes all the "wheat" as Luther said, "more beautiful to behold"
A sight Paul’s letter personalizes for each of us:
…For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. I consider that the sufferings of this present time
(including the addictions from which we may be suffering) are not worth comparing with the glory
about to be revealed to us.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God..;
“Let both of them grow together until the harvest ,” orders Jesus; “Let God Who casts the Seed, be the God Who will pull the Weeds.”
and while waiting, live the Wheat-like life of the Spirit, live as children of God, doing the good deeds of the Spirit of God at work in us.
When a church in Wingate, North Carolina, began a ministry to the children of a nearby trailer park, they could have chosen to work on rooting out all the drug dealers, confiscating handguns and arresting child abusers. Instead, they chose to build a basketball court, to tell stories from the Bible, to put their arms around little children, and sing songs about Jesus. Two years after they started that every Saturday ministry, the pastor got a note in his box at church with five words on it: "Adrian wants to be baptized." Adrian. The terror of the trailer park.
That little girl who had made their work most difficult.
Instead of working to uproot the Tare-weeds in the field where she lived, they tried hard to be wheat, and somehow Adrian saw that gain growing in them and fell in love with it and wanted it for herself.
After she was baptized, there was a little more wheat in the field. And because she was there, soon, there was even more. Adapted from James Somerville, A World Full of Weeds
“Let both of them grow together until the harvest ,” orders Jesus; “Let God Who casts the Seed, be the God Who will pull the Weeds,” “the harvest” for which we pray:
Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring thy final harvest home;
gather thou thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified, in thy presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels, come, raise the glorious harvest home.
Until then we leave the weeding of our soul’s garden to the gracious Sower Who is God;
until then, wheat-like people nurtured by God’s Spirit to grow as God’s children, are heard singing Charles Wesley’s hymn:
My gracious Master and my God, Assist me to proclaim,…
Jesus! the name that charms our fears, bids our sorrows cease—breaks the pow’r of canceled sin, sets the pris’ner free; …and list’ning to His voice,New life the dead receive,
Our gardening song … “until the harvest.” AMEN.