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Seeds and Weeds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGood morning to you all and welcome to St. Luke’s. Today I bring you greetings from the newly appointed Arch Deacon for Deacons of the diocese, the Venerable Jane Miron, whose home church is St. Thomas in Lancaster. We are here on back to back Sundays talking about seeds and weeds. Similar stories, yet different intentions. Last week we briefly touched on the Gospel focusing on God being the sower. It wasn’t so much where the scattered seeds grew as much as we knew that the word must be spread in every corner of the world. Today we’re given a parable with a question as to who the cast of characters are. In this one, the sower is the Son of Man. Keeping that in mind, let’s not get the two parables mixed up. And let’s not allow the difference in who the sower is to keep us from getting to the heart of the meaning behind them. As long as we know we have two different parables, with two different meanings, we’ll be okay.

Rather than compare them side by side, we can first establish that we know how in last week’s Gospel a main point is “where” the seeds are sown. The seeds represent the spreading of the word of God. God’s word is sown everywhere, giving all the chance – no matter how slim – to grow and mature. Today’s Gospel differs because rather than the seeds representing God’s word, the seeds represent His disciples. We can broaden that representation and say that the seeds represent the entire church, all of us being members, all of us being the carriers who take that Word into the world and do some sowing of our own. But in the midst of us who call ourselves disciples and as the text says “children of the kingdom”, there’s another seed going about trying to cause trouble. The “children of the evil one” also walks among us with their own agenda.

This is a point many people shy away from these days and I’m going to lay it all out here once and done and then move on. I’m talking about the existence of evil in the world. Maybe it’s because the concept of evil and satan has been hijacked by certain believers who use it most harmfully as a means of igniting fear and guilt in people to coerce them into going to church: “Watch out, or the devil will get you! He’s hiding behind that corner, waiting for you to slip up and then he’ll grab you and haul you away!” Even more unfortunate that that sort of evangelizing also tries to get you to see God as the chief punisher of the world, who, instead of having his loving and caring eye on the sparrow, has his eye on you with a big pen marking down your every mistake. I’m not one who thinks the latter way is how Jesus came to have so many disciples and followers. I’ve always been taught and teach that the Gospel – the Good News – is about bringing others into the kingdom of God by our words, ways, and actions. Yet I won’t sit back and deny what is written time and time again in the New Testament that, yes, satan has taken on a different role since he was written about in the book of Job. But the fact that he is presented in our Gospels and Epistles shouldn’t be ignored by us or anyone who won’t acknowledge he exists outside of our scriptures then or now. To me, it is only our job to understand that according to the gospels evil does exist in the world; but understanding something exists and allowing that understanding to take control of your life are two different things. The key to how we operate around the situation is in how we treat this matter of good and evil. Not that we look at every person to our left or right and wonder who belongs to whom, but that we focus every aspect of our lives on the words and actions of the Son of Man. That is the difference between those of us who live in the kingdom of God, those who live in fear of the kingdom of God, and those who live in the kingdom of everything else on earth.

Speaking of the kingdom, so often we hear the words “the kingdom of heaven is…” or “the kingdom of God is like…” and then we are presented with a view of the common things in life that most everyone can relate to. Jesus spoke in parables for a reason. The reason was to allow people to see that what he and the prophets of old were talking about, was not to be found in some big theological seminary where scholars met to debate the substance of being. The words and experiences Jesus used were those used and met by everyone in day to day conversations. You didn’t – and still don’t – need a Masters of Divinity to be able to participate in and be a part of the realization of the kingdom of God on earth: As it IS in heaven. And yet we continue to miss what is right in front of us as the real kingdom.

I’ll get back to that in a minute but first let me say this; nowhere in my wildest dreams did I ever think my final sermon to you would include so much about evil. Maybe as Flip Wilson would say “the devil made me do it!” But it does give me the opportunity to give you my take on this, and further underscore my views and beliefs about the kingdom of God. So if we are, as the text says, “children of the kingdom” then surely we can see the things that have been intended for us to see. Why would we be heirs to such a thing and not be aware of what it is we are receiving? It’s like what I talked about in my sermon on the Ascension of Jesus when I talked about celebrating the day of Pentecost; how we are celebrating the fact that the day actually occurred, some two thousand years ago! The Holy Spirit IS with us and so is the kingdom of God! Right here right now! We can stop waiting. It’s like we’re standing on the platform of a subway station. The train marked “Kingdom of God” keeps moving around and around on its route, and we keep standing on the platform saying “yep, there it is! Yep, there it goes.” We need to take that big step, get on board, and let it take us wherever it goes. There’s no other way to understand the kingdom unless we’re all in and all on board.

A final word as we come back to talk about the wheat and the weeds. One of the weeds farmers the world over have to deal with is called Bearded Darnel. It’s a weed that looks exactly like wheat until it starts to bear seed. When it ripens, the seed of the plant is poisonous and deadly. Jesus proves again his mastery of the parable by using weeds and wheat. As I said, he uses things that are commonly known to his audiences. It may take some thinking and research for those of us who aren’t farmers or gardeners to relate entirely to the story. But when we add the part about the weed being toxic, it makes more sense. In the normal process of growing; whether it be our faith or our bodies, there are disciples of all kinds roaming about, all looking the same, all acting the same. Some may seem a bit different here and there and some of the things that come out of the mouths of a few may have a tendency to go against the grain (so to speak). We know in our hearts that the direction they are trying to lead us is wrong, and the first thing we want to do is cut them off in their tracks. Imprison them. Kill them off. But God says “No.” That is not our job to do. We may be children of the kingdom of God but Jesus lets us know we aren’t the ones who have the responsibility or the authority to make the call that deals them their fate. It reminds me of a cartoon I see frequently every time a war breaks out and people are asking “how can we tell who the enemy is? And someone yells out “kill them all and let God sort them out.” That doesn’t quite fit the bill of what the Gospels tell us to do, does it?

As difficult and opposing it is to some of us, the way of the Gospel is not to eradicate everything that goes against the norm or appears to be different. Wary and alert? Yes. Annihilating everything that moves in the wrong direction? No. Because in doing the wrong thing we inevitably don’t allow God’s work to be finished. We’re told to wait … allow the disciples, the seeds and weeds to bear fruit … and then it will be shown who belongs to the kingdom of God and who doesn’t. Besides, there’s always that chance of turning someone in the direction of God’s kingdom. God’s ways always take care of things in the end. As we’ve seen over and over in the Old Testament it may take generations for that to happen, but, we will see Truth prevail in the final hour.

We have our job cut out for us. We must maintain our identity in this world where so much looks alike, where the wrong things can easily be mistaken for good, and where so much is at stake in keeping the Gospel of Jesus alive in today’s world. We’ve taken our Baptismal Vows and renew them time and time again where we promise: To realize that we ARE children of the kingdom of God and we ARE to spread the Gospel, the Good News, to everyone, even if it’s merely through our actions. So let’s open our eyes and being the children of the kingdom that we are, see that kingdom surrounding us with all its goodness here on earth as it IS in heaven. Amen

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