Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
"Who Did This?"
P Good morning, Friends!
B Good morning, Everybody!
M Hi, All!
P Guess what?
P It’s been 40 years since my class graduated from high school.
B Talk about old!
M That’s not nice!
P It’s okay. I’m sure that seems very old to you, but not to me. There are still people around who are 40 years older than I am!
M Did you all get together?
P We wanted to, and some did, but it’s about nine hours away from here, and with the virus spiking in this area, it would have been reckless for me to go there, and to come back.
M Oh, yeah, I guess so…
B What was your high school like?
P It was much smaller than most of the schools around here. We had only 16 graduating together that year.
M That’s kind of like just a family!
B An extended family, maybe…
P True! Of course, we all knew everyone else, some better than others.
M Are you the furthest away?
P I don’t believe so, but I don’t know where all of them live.
B Tell us stories!
P We’d be here all day! But I can tell one that’s sort of related to Jesus’ story from Matthew’s Gospel.
M You’re going to talk about weeds?
P No. I’m going to talk about a mystery.
B A mystery? What mystery was in the story?
M The mystery was who planted the weeds!
P That’s right! In our story, good seed was planted by the owner, but somehow weeds showed up in the growing, and no one knew how that happened. The owner said it was done by an enemy, but we never really find out.
B So what’s your story?
P Well, one day, the whole school got called down to the gymnasium.
M The whole school? How did they all fit?
P Well, it was really just junior high and high school, because the elementary was still in the old building.
B And with only 16 in your class, there probably weren’t many more in the other classes.
P True! It was probably around 100 students.
M What happened?
P It was the morning after some event, and some time during the event, someone—probably a group of someones—had done something that damaged some property in town—and left a big mess, too.
B Uh oh…
P Right! And the superintendent gathered us all together…
M The superintendent?
P Yes, the superintendent gathered us all together and asked for information on who was responsible for what had happened.
B Who was?
P I don’t know.
M You still don’t know?
P I still don’t know.
B Just like the enemy who planted the weeds!
P Sort of, instead the person or the people who did the damage weren’t really my enemy, they were my friends.
B Did they stay your friends?
M Of course, silly, she doesn’t even know who did it, so how could she know who to stop being friends with?
P That’s just it, even if I did know, they might still be my friends. We don’t throw away our friends because of one mistake. We might have to adjust our contact if what they do is abusive and doesn’t ever become responsible, but we hope to make things better, if we can.
B What did you do?
P We all had to go out and do what we could to make things better.
M Even though you had nothing to do with it? Couldn’t you prove your innocence?
P Maybe, but I didn’t try.
M Why not?
P What’s more important, to prove your innocence, or to participate in making things better?
B The second one!
P Yes, there will always be things that people do that are not right, and we might not ever be able to find out who did them.
M But we always can try to make things better!
B Maybe not always, but lots of the time!
P And remember, none of us is completely innocent…
B (gasp) Was it you?
M If it was her, she’d certainly remember who it was!
P Thank you, Munchie. That’s true. Let’s pray. Dear God, help us to find ways, big or small, to make things better, so that all people will know that you love all creation… in Jesus’ name. Amen!
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
My title today is, “Let It Be.” I did not have the Beatles’ song in mind when the title came to me, but that song has been flowing through me during my preparation because that’s actually what the owner says where we read that the owner says to let the wheat and the weeds grow together until the harvest.
Now, many of you know that such a thing doesn’t work very well, if you want a good harvest. You might also know that there is indeed a risk that good plants may also be damaged or completely uprooted when one tries to pull certain weeds out from among them.
Of course, we come upon this reading in the midst of a time when people are suffering because of the weeds that grow among us. I was speaking recently with a member who has endured discrimination the entire time she’s lived and worked in this city, and she does not believe things will get better. I wanted to reassure her, because I wanted things to be better, and I want things to get better, but I could not, because doing so would belittle what she was telling me, and that would have been wrong.
What she was telling me was that she was living with the effects of the weeds in our society, and that she would continue to do so, because that’s the way things are.
With her words continuing to flow through my thoughts, I heard the story of the Redskins retiring their name, and a related story with a native to this land stating that there are many college and high school teams that should do so for the same reason, and on top of that came another story about the Redskins team, a story of decades of sexual harassment endured by their female employees.
In our parable, Jesus has the owner of the field telling the workers to let the weeds and the wheat grow together in order to protect the roots of the wheat. What does this really mean? What does it mean to let it be? Does it mean that we let anything that is evil happen, with a fatalistic attitude that there is nothing that we can do anyway? Does God really want us to live with evil? What kind of God wills that for what is declared to be a good creation?
I believe the point is something different. I believe that Jesus is stating here that there will always be evils in this creation, but that withdrawing from the world in order to form nice little perfect pockets in society is not what we ought to be about. We will not be able in this lifetime to fully eradicate all evils, but we can put forth what is good, even when evils surround us.
Our problem, however, is that we are not very good at determining what is evil, and what is just different. Why does race or skin color become for so many a marker of evil? That’s just not right! Why does a person’s nation of origin become a reason for incarceration? Why are we so afraid of what is different?
On the other hand, there are things that we must do in society to make it possible for people to live safely together. We are human, and in our humanity we often seek our own individual pleasure and convenience at the expense of others. That’s why certain basic rules are set forth, like honor for those in authority—as long as they wield that authority responsibly. Rules that prohibit murder, and promote honesty. We don’t invite chaos by living within a society that recognizes the evils that exist. Instead, we live in ways that promote order, so that the kind of love that comes from God may be experienced by everyone, even those most influenced by the weeds of evil in our parable.
Be careful, though, that you do not define the weeds simply along the lines of people who look different than you and your family members. Don’t define the weeds along the lines of poverty or class. Don’t define the weeds along the lines of addiction or perceived intelligence. Instead, see if you can find what it is in the person you fear that God loves. We can’t just kill what we fear, because then we are not allowing those we fear to learn the joys of God’s love.
In the portion of Paul’s letter to the Romans that read this morning, he said he did not consider the sufferings of this present time to be worth comparing to the glory about to be revealed. The sufferings of our present time may be different. We are not being hauled before tribunals to defend Christianity. We are, however, living with a virus that induces suffering and sometimes death. We are arguing about the usefulness of wearing masks. We are figuring out the inequity of our economic system as some are kept from the work they’ve depended upon to provide income for living. We are figuring out how to proclaim the love of God in different ways, as gathering together to sing hymns and worship in communion with one another seems to be a good way to spread the virus. Yet, the sufferings of this present time will not break us, because God continues to provide for us. God leads us to love one another, even though our skin colors, our nationalities, and our political parties differ. Evils may be present around us, like the virus that kills and eats away at our communal unity, but we learn how to respond in loving ways, ways that lead to life, while we sing along in different spaces.
Let it be. Don’t worry about the evils, God will in the end eradicate them. Until then, love your neighbor. Care for the least in this world. Trust in God’s love for you and for all creation. In Jesus name. Amen.