Vicar David Sivecz
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Another parable. Another story about sowing seeds. Another explanation from Jesus. Last week we heard Pastor Randy tell us about the sower who went out to sow seeds. Without any care in the world, the sower threw seeds everywhere. It didn’t matter where they landed.
Some fell on the path where the birds could come along and eat them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground where they sprang up quickly only to be scorched by the sun. Other seeds fell among thorns where they were choked. Lastly, some fell on the good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
The sower had an abundance of seed. It didn’t matter where or how that seed was scattered. There was plenty to go around. So, just as God has sown an abundance of grace-filled seeds in our lives we too should go and sow grace-filled seeds in the lives of others. We don’t know who, what, when, or where those seeds will sprout. That doesn’t matter to us. What matters is that we be seed sowers.
At the very end, Jesus said, “Let anyone with ears listen.” It’s as though Jesus was being the new Sprint or old Verizon guy. Instead of asking, “Can you hear me now,” he’s saying, “Did you hear what I said?” He’s saying, “If you didn’t listen carefully you might have missed something. I hope you listened because what I told you was important.”
Today Jesus asked the same question at the end of our Gospel lesson. “Let anyone with ears listen,” or “Did you hear what I said?” It’s so easy to overlook what was said in these parables, especially when we don’t listen.
Throughout my seminary training, listening was one of the most useful skills I was taught. This might sound ridiculous. You might figure it was biblical studies, church history, or worship. But listening has been by far the most useful skill I’ve picked up along the way.
Listening to what the Scriptures say, listening to others, and listening to the world. That’s the part of communication that many of us need to work on. This isn’t meant for just the people who we are sitting next to us, but rather it’s meant for all of us. It’s meant for us who do most of the talking. That’s what many counselors teach their patients, especially when they are having relationship problems, is to listen.
There is so much we miss out on when we talk and don’t listen. Whether its instructions, certain details, or the main point of what someone said. In the case of our parable, if we didn’t listen we might miss out on something even more important. What we might have missed out on was what wasn’t directly said.
This completely changes what we heard Jesus say this morning (evening). If we didn’t listen carefully this parable could cause some anxiety and fear. Jesus talked about a sower who went out and sowed good seed. Then, in the middle of the night, someone came and planted weeds. When the slaves of the householder came and said there were weeds planted among the crop, they wanted to know how this happened.
He answered that an enemy had done this. If we weren’t listening, we might perceive this parable as a clear indication that we should decide what’s good or evil, moral or immoral, right or wrong. This is what we are accustomed to in our world.
We live in a society that does everything in its power to bring separation. Think about how often we separate ourselves in groups. Whether it’s democrat or republican, conservative or liberal, rich or poor, Christian or atheist, it’s one of the first things we do when we encounter someone new or different. It’s natural for us to notice the differences between ourselves and others.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing that all of us don’t think alike, act alike, and believe alike. We aren’t all the same because of our experiences. Sometimes acknowledging our differences can help us understand who we are as people. Sometimes acknowledging our differences and learning from others can help us get a greater sense of the world around us. We can only see as far as our eyes can take us.
However, too often we don’t look at our differences as something that can be useful and constructive. Instead, we use our differences to pass judgment, to determine who’s in and who’s out, or what’s good or what’s bad. But what’s the standard we use to make these determinations? Is it based on some form of ignorance? Is it something we saw in the news, or something that’s been indoctrinated in us, or through one bad experience?
When we start going down the road of making our purpose about selecting what, who, or where is good and evil we may very well discover that others will make similar conclusions about us. Every time we create a line on who’s in and who’s out we will be surprised to discover that Christ is on the other side.
So, we don’t know. We don’t know who, when, where, or what will sprout wheat. We might be so quick to make determinations that we might mix up the weeds and wheat. That’s why the householder didn’t want his slaves to uproot the weeds immediately.
It’s really difficult to tell the difference between weeds and wheat. I noticed this a few weeks ago. If you’ve driven around the outskirts of Clarence, or into Akron, you might have noticed how some of the farmers have been mowing their fields. This is the first time of the year where they were able to remove their first sets of crops. Some of them planted corn, others hay, and a few wheat.
As I was driving down County Road, I’ve noticed who planted what crops. Yet earlier this summer and into the spring everything looked relatively the same. It was really difficult to tell who planted what crop when I was going fifty miles per hour. At this point during the season everything looked the same, to my untrained eyes. However, I’m sure some of the farmers here could easily tell the difference.
Even when it came to hay, wheat, and weeds, on the side of road, they all looked the same to me. They had the same height, same color, and same density. But as I said, it’s only been later in the season when I could tell the difference. I could see the golden yellow of the wheat and the emerald green of the hay. I could also see many different types of weeds. For my untrained eyes it took some time to tell the differences.
For as much as we want to immediately determine the wheat from the weeds, it’s difficult to give it time. That’s the difficult part about our faith. There’s so much ambiguity around that we long to make those determinations immediately. Yet it’s not up to us; it’s up to God to decide. Furthermore, it can be difficult to have patience that God will act.
This is what we might not have heard in our parable. What we might not have heard is the need for patience. That we should have patience with others who don’t look like us, act like us, or believe like us. That we should have patience in those situations where we want to take immediate action.
This is something all of us are in need of today. We are so anxious to make determinations about what’s right and wrong, who’s worth our time and who isn’t, as well as when we will see fruits, we forget about the bigger picture.
Having patience in the midst of seeing the bigger picture was what happened to Adrian. It began one evening during a bible study at a church in Adrian’s community. This study was being led by Pastor Mary. In the middle of their discussion Pastor Mary randomly asked the people sitting there a question. She asked them, “What would happen if we adopted a policy of weed-pulling?” Everyone just sat there in silence staring at her as though she was from another planet. She said listen, “What if we drew a circle around our little town and made a vow that no evil would cross that line, or weeds would grow within that border?”
As they all pondered what she said they looked at one another and nodded in agreement. “So, here’s what we will do,” “ We are going to spend the rest of our lives protecting that boundary.” “We will stand shoulder to shoulder with pitchforks and clubs, making sure nothing gets in.” One of the parishioners chimed in, “Yeah, we will keep out drugs, alcohol, outsiders from those other neighborhoods, and people who don’t have jobs.”
“That sounds like a plan.” “It will take all of our energy and most of our time, but I think it’s possible.” Then Pastor Mary asked, “What if we did it? What if we succeeded? What would we have?” Another person said, “We would have a town without evil” “But is that the same as a town enveloped by the presence of good,” Pastor Mary asked?
After that meeting, they began to look at their church, community, and their lives a little differently. Before, many of them wanted to root out all the sources of evil in that place. They wanted to chase down the drug dealers and the deadbeat dads. They wanted to confiscate handguns and arrest child abusers. Instead of just preventing bad things, they started doing some good. They got outside of their building and comfort zone. They began a ministry for the children at the nearby trailer park.
They put up a basketball hoop, they told stories from the Bible, they put their arms around little children, and sang songs about Jesus. And two years after they started that ministry, two years of going out there Saturday after Saturday to do those things, the pastor got a note in her mail box at church. There were five words on it: "Adrian wants to be baptized.”
Adrian, who was the terror of the trailer park. Adrian, who was the little girl who had made their work the most difficult during the previous two years. Adrian, the one who really tested their resistance to weed pulling wanted to be baptized. Who would have guessed? Instead of pulling weeds in the field of where she lived, they just tried hard to be wheat themselves. Somehow, Adrian eventually saw that and fell in love with it and wanted it for herself. After she was baptized, there was a little more wheat in the field.
Years later when Adrian was in her late twenties, she never forgot this story. It’s the story she carried with her throughout her life. It was the story that she asked Pastor Mary to share during her ordination. This terrorizing little child, who could’ve been uprooted and cast out, remembered what Pastor Mary and that church did for her and she wanted to do that for others.
Maybe this was what Jesus meant all along. Just as we don’t know who, what, when, or where those seeds will sprout, perhaps we don’t know who, what, when, or where we will find wheat among the weeds in our lives. This is the reality that bad things, sin, or evil does exist in our world. But that’s not for us to decide; that’s up to God. Knowing that God is the One who decides, we focus on taking care of where we live.
In reality we might be surprised to discover that all of us are both wheat and weeds. Who has shown us patience when they could’ve given up? When have others continued to love us when our weed-side came out? Furthermore, who do we see on a daily basis that needs a little wheat of love? We should listen and have patience as we participate in God giving grace and mercy. We should listen and have patience with others, as God is in the midst of forming them into wheat and ridding the weeds in their lives.
This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in our day to day lives. This is how and why coming to worship on the weekend makes an impact through the rest of our week. It’s not to live in fear of being thrown into a furnace of fire. It’s listening, having patience, and participating with God in bringing the kingdom of heaven here on earth. It’s a kingdom where there won’t be any pain, suffering, or injustice.
It’s a kingdom, where God, the same God who judges, brings grace, mercy, and acceptance. That’s the kingdom of heaven we find through Christ’s death and resurrection. That’s the vision God desires for us to live. A vision where we are not the ones who judge, but rather love and care for all.