Sunday, July 17, 2011

Going Against The Grain

We had as our text today in worship the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds from Matthew 13:

‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn."’

Jesus apparently was not much of a farmer. Most farmers likely would do their best to keep the weeds away from their crop. It's almost as if Jesus were saying that the weeds might have some potential for good. Indeed, at least they could be used for fuel, a precious commodity in such an arid environment.

Of course, many of us pew people automatically assume we are the good guys in the parables of Jesus, so we're surprised when he says "let the weeds grow along with the wheat." Surely, the weeds -- those who aren't "saved" like we are -- need to be dealt with, and NOW. That will make life better, and certainly must be pleasing to God!

If the truth were told, a lot of us "wheaties" have weediness about us. And, lucky for us, God loves, relates to, and even works through weedy people -- at least according to scripture. Check out Jonah who refused (at first) to preach to those losers at Ninevah, whom he despised, because he knew that God would grant them new life if they heeded the call to repentance. Think about the stinking shepherds who received the message of the birth of God's son. Consider the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well, that no good, bed-hopping, half-breed heretic who became one of the first evangelists, telling others about Jesus; or Mary Magdalene, also of ill-repute, who was a witness to the resurrection while Peter and the other insiders played it safe behind locked doors and shuttered windows.

So, we might not be so smug. Or judgmental.

I think it was the summer I was 13 years old when I visited cousins in Ohio for a few days. They owned some horses, and likely it was the only time I rode. We clip-clopped around the area, just slowly, because we didn't know what we were doing. I remember riding along a canal, through the grounds of a camp run by the Y, and maybe a couple of other places.

Coming back to my cousins' property one day, the horse I rode caught sight of the stable, and he took off running at full speed. I couldn’t do anything but hold on for dear life, both hands tightly gripping the horn of the saddle. I honestly thought that horse would run right into the stable, but at the last instant he slammed on the brakes.

Inertia made me lean way forward, and I almost fell off, right over the horse's head. Little stones, dirt clods, and clumps of grass flew over me from behind, slamming into the wall of the stable. But, I was safe.

Seems to me that's kind of like how it is with God’s people in the parable --the "wheat" collected into the barns. It's beyond our control, there are lots of dirt clods, and rocks, and clumps of grass along way. But if we can hang on for the ride, the ride of following Jesus, wherever it takes us or whatever it calls us to do, we can make it safely to the barn.

By God's grace.

In spite of ourselves.

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