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2023-07-23 Pentecost 8

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

How’s your garden growing?! We’re deep in the swing of the growing season now. I remember the very first garden that Regan and I planted as a married couple. We had a beautiful black patch of dirt in the Okanagan. Sunshine definitely wasn’t an issue! But the ground hadn’t been worked in quite some time so we got out the shovel and went to work. As with all gardening, there is a lot blood, sweat and tears poured into it, but it’s a labor of love so you don’t mind the blistered hands and aching back. The Okanagan grows vegetables so very well that in no time at all our carrots, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, broccoli, beets and lettuce were sprouting forth into jubilant joy! As I irrigated those tender little shoots, I could almost taste the organic goodness that would come from all of this delicious produce. Mmmmm! Nutrient rich! I was so proud! These plants were like my own children! I gave birth to a bunch of leafy greens! But then, one day, almost over night, there were more plants that showed up in our garden. This time they weren’t delicious organic vegetables – no, they were hideous, insidious, disingenuous weeds! I didn’t plant them, I didn’t want them, but yet there they were! Chickweed, Portulaca, Dandelions, and a whole host of other uninvited guests! Oh the agony! They soon took over our poor little garden and choked our various vegetables to death! Like fiery arrows into my heart of hearts they were! Oy vey!

I know you feel my pain with your own horror stories with weeds in the garden or weeds in the field. Our Gospel lesson shares a similar horror story about the wheat and the weeds or the tares as some of you will remember them being called. Obviously, this parable was written well before “Round Up” came along. But, like all of Jesus’ parables, they use simple images of every day life to represent and communicate the deep things of God. All parables give us glimpses of Him whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways!

In some middle eastern areas and others in the world, there is a weed known as the bearded darnel and this sneaky weed looks exactly like wheat, especially when the just start to emerge! So, as both crops are growing from seedlings to full maturity, it is extremely difficult to tell which is which because they look so similar. This is most likely the weed that Jesus was talking about as He tells this parable. This story that Jesus uses to teach about the kingdom of God drives home a very solid point – that yes, there IS evil in the world! This is not God’s doing but rather the sneaky work of the devil. The deceiver, the accuser, the prince of lies. He is God’s enemy, the enemy of the church and every Christian that has ever been, is now or will ever be. He is the author of thorns.

When you think about gardening, crops and farming, the point is that the crops grow up and produce more seeds right? Seed for the sower and food for the eater just about sums it up, doesn’t it? Well what about weeds? All weeds do is … make more weeds! They grow so fast and they are so adaptable too. They grow up and choke out the good crops. This is also the point that Jesus is making in the parable. As the world stands right now, the wheat and the weeds grow side by side. Good along side evil. This means that true Christians and true Christianity grow right alongside hypocrites and false theology and teachers of heresy. For those of us in God’s church we often wonder why such evil and false doctrine are permitted to exist. And people who are outside the church often jest “if God is so great and loving, why does evil exist anyways!?” Today we know. Evil is a reality that is not God’s will but rather the work and will of the devil. But why does God allow it grow and thrive!? Because God is patient and compassionate and it is His hope that His Word gets to evil, sinful people that they may repent of their sin before it is too late!

Just look at verse 25. “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.”” While the men were sleeping. This indicates that heresy, lies and corruption creep into the world, the church and into our lives when we get apathetic about our faith. “Sleeping on the job” comes with disastrous consequences. This is why the scriptures constantly warn us to be awake and watchful. The parable of the virgins with their lamps, prepared and waiting for the bridegroom is just one example. Be watchful, be ready. Don’t be like the disciples who fell asleep when Jesus asked them to watch and pray in the garden of Gethsemane. This is one of the biggest problems we have with our society today. Everyone is asleep, oblivious to the evil all around us. People even start believing that evil is good, just as weeds appear similar to wheat. But the devil fashions his lies to resemble the truth. He hides them in plain sight. St. Paul also keys into this in 2 Corinthians: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2Cor11:13-14).

And, like weed seeds in the garden, it all starts out small. “It’s summer time, it’s OK if we skip out on going to church.” “If I take the Lord’s Name in vain, He will forgive me anyways.” “I just can’t stand the way that other people do things so half-heartedly, I’m the only one who does it the right way!” And so the weeds spring up in our lives, and we water them and tend them and pretty soon, we don’t come to church at all. And we constantly curse the God who died for our sins on the Cross. And we degrade our neighbours without even being conscious of it! Perhaps many of us have been asleep?

As I mentioned before, God allows and permits evil to happen – for the time being. However, the time is drawing close when such won’t be the case. But for now, evil and righteousness grow side by side. And this can be difficult for Christian people to palate. When we encounter gross injustice that is permitted in our world, we want God to “get those people!” We want God to clean house and take out the trash. We demand that God smash down the “smite key” on His Divine Heavenly keyboard and zap these suckers into oblivion. We want the wheat to survive and thrive! But weeds seem to be abounding. And they are! The parable doesn’t deny that fact. It is another reminder that the world is a terribly broken place.

This parable points us to the deep things of God, especially His mercy and patience. His long-suffering. “Let both grow together until the harvest” says Jesus. Perhaps this is because Jesus knows that from time to time, we are both weeds and wheat. As Christ was denied by Peter, we see exactly the spiritual battle in the life of the disciple. Had God hurled lightening bolts at Peter for his sin, he never would have repented! He never would have been restored and forgiven by Jesus. He never would have become a Bishop of the church. He never would have been called a child of God. When Christ’s enemies nailed Him to the cross, He forgave them. Risen from the dead, Christ forgave the unbelief of the Apostles. And in place of wrath, condemnation and judgment, He sent the Apostles out to proclaim forgiveness, mercy and healing to a dying world full of weeds.

We must not become so focused on weeds that it prevents us from the glorious ending of the parable. There will be an abundant harvest, a bumper crop! The weeds will have nothing to do with the wheat in the end. The seed that the Son of Man sowed was good seed. And it grows in the midst of adversity and becomes a bountiful harvest, while the weeds are gathered and burned with fire. So the parable ends with triumph and victory!

Evil is real, we experience it every day, and in our sin we even commit evil! It is real, but it is not ultimate. Evil never has the last word. Greater by far are those who shine in their Father’s kingdom with the righteousness He gives to all who by faith believe that Christ has forgiven their sin. By faith in Christ, we are God’s Holy people. By our Baptism into Christ we now wear the robe of righteousness. And by God’s grace on the day of the Resurrection of all flesh, we will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of God. Amen!

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