Today, another parable! Frankly, I would have preferred last week’s Gospel to the one we have today. The thing about parables is, you either love them or hate them, but either way they’re bound to grab your attention.
For any of you who may have planted a garden a couple of months ago, you surely are confronted with weeds sprouting faster than those vegetables. I would guess that most gardeners would rather stay ahead of the game by getting rid of the weeds, thus allowing the tender plants room to grow and take full advantage of the nutrients in the soil.
But the parable tells us that it’s better to allow the plants to grow side by side, both wheat and weeds, so as not to disturb the roots of either. Now the disciples seem to be just as confused as we are at the first reading of one of Jesus’ parables and they approach him saying, “Explain to us this parable of the weeds of the field.”
And Jesus gives this picture, “The Son of Man is the sower flinging the pure seed all over the world. From that good seed comes the children of the kingdom, the weeds are the children of the evil one from seeds sowed by the devil.” Now suddenly we’ve moved from weeds and wheat to good and evil, all coexisting then all being judged at the end of the age.
Even though the Genesis story declares all that God created is good, even very good, this parable reminds us that evil exists in the midst of goodness and we wish it were not so. We pray for peace in the world yet fighting continues. We pray for wise decision making from our leaders around the world, yet many serve themselves before others. We pray for healing and wholeness, yet disease ravages many.
Couldn’t God make himself known with some dramatic gesture like ridding the world of evil, if not all evil, at least some evil? If not all the pesky weeds at least most of the more noxious ones?
This parable tells us no, let weeds and wheat grow together. God waits, God wills goodness for all people, and he gives us time to try and try to get it right.
We live in an imperfect world, heroic goodness and unimaginable evil, times of deep pain and also great joy. This parable points to the promise that in the wisdom of God the weeds will ultimately be destroyed. Evil is temporary, only good endures. We are to trust God to work it out at the end of time.
In the scripture from the Wisdom of Solomon, which was not read today, but is one of the possible selections for the first reading, we hear words of assurance. “For your strength is the source of justice and it is because you are Master of all, that you are lenient to all. But you with strength at your command, judge in mercy and rule us in great forbearance as the power is yours to exercise whenever you choose.”
Is it actually possible to neatly divide the world into “Christians” and “non-Christians”, when experience shows us that such categories are very fluid and difficult to determine. Most of us are not purely one or the other. How does one make these judgments? The good news is that’s not our job and now is not the time to presume to know these final outcomes.
As the parable says, “The Son of Man and the devil plant the seeds, humans are the plants which get to grow in God’s Kingdom. Like it or not, we are surrounded by all kinds of others who may not be pleasant nor desirable with which to coexist. We must not even try to get rid of those we perceive to be evil people. We are to live beside them, be the wheat we are, let the angels handle the weeds as God directs.
Weeds and wheat together is God’s will for the kingdom at this time for the common good. Be wheat. Live with and amongst the weeds. And trust God’s angels to sort it out in God’s own time. As we recite the Apostle’s and the Nicene Creeds, we say, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead and we look for the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.”
So as followers of Jesus then what are we to do? Our presence in the world is to be good. To live the Gospel. To be the light. To be the salt. Because we are, says Jesus to his disciples. And as Matthew closes his Gospel story Jesus says, “Lo, I am with you always to the close of the age.” AMEN