Jesus presented another parable to those gathered: The Kingdom may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field.
Last week we read the Parable of the Sower, and I had you imagine God as the sower, and now this week we are told that the seeds that God recklessly throws all over creation (literally), as God dances about the universe, are GOOD seeds.
How wonderful it is to think of God constantly and lavishly pouring the seeds of hope, the seeds of love, the seeds of compassion, the seeds of justice, and the seeds of wisdom and vision into our very souls. This metaphor is but a picture of what the great philosopher Alfred North Whitehead called God’s initial aim for all of creation. That is, in each moment we are reborn, God plants the divine vision into what we can become – we only have to choose to follow!
But Jesus cannot only talk about the Good Sower sowing only good seeds. Jesus cannot stop after the sentence: The Kingdom may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field. It is out of necessity that Jesus turns his attention to the Weed Pullers in the Kingdom. Those who are so intent on uprooting those that seem undesirable that they are willing to sacrifice that which is desirable.
Jesus does not talk about the weeds in order to launch a discourse on the pain of hell. Yes it is true that the weeds are burned at the end of the story, but that is not the main point of the story, any more than the fact that the wheat will end up being threshed and finally digested is the main point of the story. Preachers who make hell and punishment the main point of this parable, or any of the parables of Jesus, are more in the business of selling fire insurance than spreading the Gospel.
The fact is that the Sower does not want the weeds pulled. The Sower knows that we are not very good at identifying weeds. Unfortunately, from the origins of humanity to the present, people, both in and out of the church, have been far more concerned with the possibility of weeds than they have ever been with the amazing fact that good seed is planted every minute of every day, 24-7, by a God of amazing love!
All too often we would prefer to see the bad seed get struck by lightening. Anytime you are tempted to turn any of Jesus’ Kingdom parables into a diatribe about hell and divine punishment, I would urge you to go another course, or as Archie Bunker used to say, Stifle yourself! Jesus didn’t tell this story because he wanted us to know more about the pain of hell. Jesus told this story because he wanted us to know more about the joys of acceptance and the uselessness of prejudicial rejection.
There was once a trapper who lived deep in the Alaskan wilderness with his two-year-old son. On one occasion their food supplies had run out, and the trapper was forced to go and hunt for food. The weather outside was so fierce he reluctantly decided to leave his son behind, entrusted to the care of his faithful dog.
When the trapper returned the next morning, he found the cabin door open and the furniture overturned. It was obvious that a fierce struggle had taken place. There was no sign of his son and his dog lay in the corner looking up at him, with blood all over his mouth.
The trapper was deeply distressed, and quickly figured out what had happened. The dog, without food, had turned on his son. Grabbing his axe, in a fury the trapper killed his dog.
He then set about searching frantically for some sign of his son, placing all his hope in the faint chance his son was alive.
As the trapper continued his emotional search, he heard a familiar cry, coming from under the bed. He tipped the bed up to discover his son. He was unharmed, without a scratch or drop of blood upon him. The trapper, flooded with relief, gathered his son in his arms.
When he turned around, he saw a dead wolf lying in the corner of the cabin. Then the trapper realized why his faithful dog had been covered in blood. The faithful dog had saved his son.
Let’s face it. We in the Christian Church have never been very good at pulling weeds. The stereotype of the church in the minds of far too many is that we are an institution dedicated to the mission of weed-whacking and the ministry of improving the field.
I believe this is why there are so many people who feel like the church has exiled them or left them as orphans. Let’s be clear, God does not call us to the ministry of cleaning up the field. God calls us to be faithful in the field, to love all who share the field with us!
I have heard the story of many a child of God who were nearly mortally wounded by some form of excommunication in churches that don’t show their weed-whackers until it’s too late. Churches that wouldn’t baptize, or marry, or give communion to them because they weren’t judged to be faithful enough or because they had a failed marriage or. . . well. . . you fill in the blanks.
When you see one of those familiar signs, as you enter a town, that says The Episcopal Church Welcomes You, there is no asterisk after the word You.
I have been told that in the Native American languages, there is no word for weed because they see the possibility in everything that grows. I suspect Jesus would like that.
If you remember, Jesus had watched his own disciples engage in the ministry of pulling up weeds. They tried to keep little children from getting close to Jesus. They tried to isolate Jesus from women, especially sick women; and from Samaritans, especially Samaritan women; and from others they considered to be weeds in their holy garden.
They believed that only clean, sensible and upright people should get an audience with the Savior. People like them!
JESUS REBUKED THEM!
Weeds are plants that are not valued where they are growing.
As Christians, we should be finding some value in everyone around us, for everyone is an image of God! We should never price people like they are items in a Thrift Store!
Our parable this week is a story about God’s grace that is so radically and recklessly given away, that it will likely offend many of our sensibilities. The Kingdom is at hand we are told, and yet, we have lots yet to sort out, do we not?
That’s why we do church, that’s why we pray, that’s why we form communities of faith in dialogue, that’s why we study the Bible and the great theologians. We do so in the hope that one day our vision for the Kingdom and God’s vision for the Kingdom will intersect, and that we too will be able to see clearly that seemingly impossible picture of the lion lying down with the lamb.
Jesus tells us that the Sower in the parable, went to sleep at night, apparently without any difficulty. The Sower trusted in the seed sown. The Sower trusted that in the end there would be a great harvest.
So let us put away our ecclesiastical weed eaters, and begin the long process of trusting in the Sower and the harvest.
For the Kingdom may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field.