This week’s Gospel reading from Matthew is the familiar passage about the wheat and the tares or as the newer Bible versions translate it: the parable of the wheat and the weeds.
Sue is the gardener in our family. She tells me what to pull, what to leave; especially in the early spring. I am just as likely to pull the good stuff out. In fact I did that this spring thinking I was pulling up weeds where in reality I was pulling out the new growth that was coming up. I can identify with the first century farmers who had trouble identifying the weeds from the good plants.
Ancient writers referred to this particular weed as a kind of “fools wheat”. In the early stages of its growth, it looks very similar to real wheat. This was one of the reasons the owner told his workers to wait until harvest time so that they wouldn’t pull up some real wheat, thinking it was this fools wheat.
Jesus as usual, wasn’t really caring about agricultural tendencies. He was talking about the church in the world.
Many commentaries and sermons have attempted to use this story as an illustration of the condition of the church, noting that there are both true believers (the wheat) and false professors (the weeds) in both the church at large and individual local churches. While this may be true, Jesus distinctly explains that the field is not the church; it is the world (v. 38).
Jesus is teaching here about “the kingdom of heaven” in the world (v. 24).
In the agricultural society of Christ’s time, many farmers depended on the quality of their crops. An enemy sowing weeds could have sabotaged a farm. The tares in the parable was likely “darnel” because that weed, until mature, appears as wheat. Without modern weed killers, what would a wise farmer do in such a dilemma? Instead of tearing out the wheat with the tares, the landowner in this parable wisely waited until the harvest. After harvesting the whole field, the tares could be separated and burned. The wheat would be saved in the barn.
This week reflecting on this parable; I think the church has been thrust into the field of the world. Maybe more today than in it has in decades. You use to drive by the churches of our community on a Sunday and see cars parked around the church. You could go out for lunch at the nearby restaurants and see folks ordering their lunch dressed in their Sunday going to meeting clothes, and you could say…. “those people are Christians.” “Followers of Jesus.” But today there is no quick distinction between believers and non- believers. Due to the pandemic we are all mixed into one. There is no way to tell between believers and non-believers. The field is indeed the world!
In the explanation of the parable, Jesus declares that He Himself is the sower. He spreads His redeemed seed, true believers, in the field of the world. Jesus last command before ascending into heaven was for us to go into the world making disciples. For too long we have had a mentality that if we build it, they will come. That may have worked at one time but not any longer.
Through His grace, Christians living in the world bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Galatians 5:22-24). Our presence on earth is the reason the “kingdom of heaven” is like the field of the world. When Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17; Mark 3:2), He meant the spiritual realm which exists on earth side by side with the realm of the evil one (1 John 5:19). When the kingdom of heaven comes to its fruition, heaven will be a reality and there will be no “weeds” among the “wheat.” But for now, both good and bad seeds mature in the world.
It will be a while yet before we open St Andrew’s for worship services. We are very conscious of opening safely. There still is concerns about meeting in public places and the Corporation thinks that we should be looking at mid-September as a possible opening date. We will keep everyone informed as to when and how that will take place.
So I guess the challenge for us, is how do we live out our Christian lives in the world about us. How do we mature where there is no Sunday morning services. There is no fellowship, no Christian community per se. How do we become/remain wheat amidst the tares?
The collect for today says:
Your Son has opened for us,
A new and living way into your presence.
Give us pure hearts and constant wills
To worship you in spirit and truth;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever.
Through this trial we call Covid-19, The Lord has opened for us a new way into
His presence and we ask for pure hearts and constant wills to worship Him in spirit and truth.
I am reminded of the old chorus, they will know we are Christians by our love. It has been months since we have seen each other. If you haven’t already: Pick up the phone and call one another; check on your neighbour. Pray for one another. Pray for an end to this Covid-19 pandemic. Pray for our kids going back to school in the fall. Pray that we will someday soon be able to worship together again. Pray that even though we maybe in the world, we are not of the world.