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July 19, 2020
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
It’s such a tidy parable of Jesus’, isn’t it. It’s the kind we like: no guess work, not a whole lot to figure out. It’s pretty clear. Clear, because it fits our world view, on most days. There are good people – the wheat. There are bad people – the weeds. In the end, the wheat people get rewarded with heaven, and the weed people burn in hell. Simple as that. Too bad the whole Bible isn’t just this clear.
As the parable is told in Matthew, we even get a retell, a reinforcement of our way of separating the good from the bad. Matthew has the disciples ask Jesus to explain it, so we get the story a second time, just in case our own way of seeing things didn’t sink ALL the way in the first time we heard it.
It ends cleanly. The righteous shining like the sun. Let the others weep and wail and gnash their teeth. Here we are in the barn with Jesus. In the dominion of God. The end.
But seriously. Is the baptized life of the person of God that binary, that clear? Have you lived a day of your life – EVER! – either all wheat or all weed? And besides, even if you answer, “Oh, yes, dear Pastor, I’m a wheat alright. I’m on the God team. I’m a righteous one, shining like the sun…” Even if you can say that, and I doubt that you can with a straight face, then what are you going to do with a verse of Scripture like this one: I came NOT to save the righteous, but sinners. So just who is shining in the sun now?
This text will only make sense as one holds it up to the light of Isaiah and Paul as they also come into our assembly to speak to us their Gospel truth today. Isaiah, first, assuring us that God is God. And God alone is God. The prophet bears witness to the absolute sovereignty of God. I am the first and the last, says God. Who is like me? Is there any other Diety, I know not one! And while these words were not spoken to Israel in a time of pandemic, they were spoken to them in a time of exile. A time much like ours where the certainties of life were not so certain any longer. In a time when it might not be so clear just who are wheats and who are weeds, the prophet declares the most important truth of all: God is God. Do not fear or be afraid.
And then there’s Paul. Who but Paul can take a deep dive into the complexities and uncertainties of life so quickly? Here in the 8th chapter of Romans, he gets right to it. Those 14 verses are about as filled with life’s ambiguity and uncertainty as one could imagine. They are about as far away from Matthew’s binary, clear-as-crystal convictions about the world and how it works as one could get.
But my world, and I bet your world, too, is a whole lot more like the world that Paul describes than the world we find in Matthew. My world, especially in these days of summer 2020, is a world that groans. A world that longs to be set free from bondage and decay. A world much more familiar with futility than simmering in certainty. The world that Paul describes is a world I know. It is a world where one day I’m wheat and one day I’m weeds and most days I’m a little of both within a matter of minutes. The mercurial human family is the one with which I am most familiar, the people—even the people of God—who swing from compassion the one moment to contempt the next, from faith to fear, from conviction to suspicion… Those are the people that I know who Jesus came to save. People like me. And people who I bet are much like you are, too.
So instead of being whole wheat, I find that most days we in the human family are a pretty predictable mix of wheat and weeds. And because of who Jesus is, because of his love for us that is unconditional, and eternal, and sealed in resurrection hope, I’m going to count on Christ to do just what that farmer does in the parable Jesus tells. I’m going to count on Jesus to take even the most stubborn, tenacious, weedy parts of me and burn them up in an unquenchable fire. And as unbelievable as it may seem, I promise you this. Since Jesus loves us so, he will at the end of the day gather us up into his barn where, we will shine like sun, reflecting to a groaning, aching, longing world the love that makes all things new.
In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.