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    Jul 23, 2017

    Pentecost Proper 11A, July 22-23, 2017; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

    Preacher: The Rev. Joan Mason, Rector

    Series: Rector

    Category: Weekly Sermon


         My mother told me a story from her youth:  Her mother would comb out her hair every day before sending her off to school.  She would always do this by the front door.  There was a framed poem on the wall, so my mom ended up reading it every day, over and over again, to the point that at age 87 she was able to still recite it out loud. 


                   “Let me live in a house by the side of the road
                   Where the race of men go by –
                  The men who are good and the men who are bad,
                  As good and as bad as I.

                   I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
                  Or hurl the cynic’s ban;
                  Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
                  And be a friend to man.
                  …. Excerpt from a poem by Sam Walter Foss, 1858-1911, adapted


         In the Gospel for today, we hear Jesus’ parable of the weeds.  It is a story about good seed, wheat, which has been sown in a field.  And then when everyone is asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat.  The Greek for “weed” is darnel, which looks just like wheat as it is growing. 

         Let’s look at the context of the occasion of Jesus telling this parable.  Chapter 12 of Matthew’s Gospel, the chapter immediately preceding today’s Gospel, seethes with conflict.  In Chapter 12, Pharisees criticize Jesus for allowing his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath.  When Jesus heals a man with a withered hand, they “conspired against him, how to destroy him.”  When he heals a demoniac, they accuse him of working by the power of Beelzebub.  Jesus calls them a “brood of vipers” and “an evil and adulterous generation.”  Chapter 12 forms the foundation for Chapter 13, which offers hope in the midst of evil.

         Chapter 13 begins with the parable of the sower which acknowledges that some seed with be lost, but promises a stupendous harvest from the seed that falls on the good soil.  The focus is not on the little that is lost, but on the promise of the harvest.  We read that parable last week.

         The parable of the weeds, today’s Gospel reading, comes next and uses the same agricultural motif, but it deals with the problem of the bad among the good in the world.  There are a number of parables in Chapter 13 that follow the parable of the weeds.  You will hear some of them next week.  All of the parables encourage the disciples. They deal with the reality of opposition and evil, promising that evil will not define the ultimate outcome.  In the end, these parables tell us, God, and those faithful to God will win.

         Leaving the weeds to grow with the wheat is very much against our human nature.  For any gardener out there, you know what weeds mean.  They have to be pulled out; they don’t look pretty.  But consider that the weeds that have grown up in the wheat field are an annual grass that looks very much like wheat.   Distinguishing one fro another in the early stages of growth is nearly impossible.  As the plants mature, the roots of the weeds and wheat intertwine ad become almost inseparable.  Yet separating them is necessary.  Unless the weeds are removed, then flour made from the wheat will be ruined by the weeds, which are both bitter and mildly toxic.  The solution then is to harvest the plants, spread them on a flat surface to dry, and then remove the weeks which by this time are a different color than the wheat.

         So the weeds can be separated from the wheat only at the proper time, following the harvest, which is why the landowner says, “Let both of them grow together until the harvest.”  This may make sense to us in the context of growing wheat, but it can dismay us when we consider situations elsewhere in the world, where we want to clean house, or at least expect God to do so.  Enemies among us, or in the world at large, that we think should be yanked out so the good people can flourish.