Last week's sermon based on the parable of the sower had the theme "Keep on Sowing." Should this week's sermon based on the parable of the weeds among the wheat have the theme "No Weeding?"
Many think so. The openly sinful are to be accepted in the church. They aren't to be weeded out. Those living together are welcomed at the altar throughout their years of fornicating and then married before that same altar as if nothing is amiss. Homosexuals are accepted in their alternative lifestyle as if men "preferring" men is no different than men preferring brunettes. Though the Lord plainly says in Malachi 2:16, "I hate divorce," the modern church should not.
Not only is there "no weeding' in the Second Table of the Law, there's even less in the First. You have a better chance of being weeded out of our own Missouri Synod for not supporting a synodical program than you do for not supporting a Biblical doctrine. I make this statement based on the fact that every convention congregations submit resolutions that are contrary to our public doctrine and nothing happens. USA Today had a cover story entitled "Believers OK with Many Paths" which said in part, "'Religion today in the USA is a salad bar where people heap on upbeat beliefs they like and often leave the veggies like strict doctrines behind.'the highest authority is now the lowest common denominator."
Based on this parable, people defending, excusing, or embracing sins against the First or Second table of the Commandments aren't weeded out of the church. Jesus tells His servants who want to pull the weeds out of His field, "No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvestThe harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels."
See? We are to let the weeds grow till then. We are wrong for not communing those living together in fornication. We are wrong for closing our altar to those who believe differently than we do. We are wrong for not confirming someone in our faith just because they don't accept this or that doctrine. Let the Lord's garden grow. No weeding. He'll take care of that at the end of the age.
Does a no weeding policy work in your garden? Go beyond your garden to your yard. In the winter when those big thistles show up, do you just let them grow? Now I don't weed the green belt behind my house. I don't weed the vacant fields either. But if you don't at least weed your garden, you won't have a garden for long. Weeds grow faster than the good plants.
Can you think of a parable where the lesson from nature is contrary to the spiritual lesson? The sower sows the word like we do good seed. The mustard seed is tiny and grows huge. New wine does burst old wineskins, and who doesn't weed a garden? Many think Jesus is saying no weeding in the church, but is He?
No, in the explanation Jesus says, "The field is the world," not the church. Just as I don't weed the green belt or open fields the church isn't to weed the world. Some Christians try. They try to weed out abortionists, divorce, homosexuals, atheists, Satanists from the world because these are contrary to God's Word. Yes, they are, but the Church's purview is not the world but the church. We want our government to stop these things because they're against Natural Law and therefore bad for any nation. We petition the government as citizens not as Christians.
Jesus doesn't forbid weeding the church, but He does forbid weeding the world because that takes knowledge only God has. In the world, we have no permission to say that person who's a weed now will forever be a weed. We all started out as weeds; fallen, sinful flesh can only give birth to fallen, sinful babies, i.e. weeds can only produce weeds. God cursed the ground with thistles and thorns, weeds, because of Adam's fall. All Adam could produce is weeds.
It took God the Son descending into the dirt of our flesh and blood surrounded by mud, clay, rocks, and weeds. But God the Son's dirt was holy and clean, and He kept it that way. He was the spotless Lamb of God. Though surrounded by thistles and thorns He didn't become one not in thought, not in word, not in deed. But that wasn't enough. If we were going to be saved from the fate of weeds: pulled out of this life, tied together with the rest of the weeds, and burned forever, we needed to be bought back. Who buys back weeds? Who goes to the farmer's market and pays for weeds? The Rose of Sharon, the Lilly of the Valley, the Vine does. He didn't just live among thorns He was crowned with them. Though perfect, His Father reached down out of heaven and yanked Him off the earth and nailed Him to a cross to pay for our sins, to buy back us weeds.
Look at all the weeds in the world, I don't care what they've done, do, or say, Jesus cried, bled, and died for those weeds. You don't know which of them will be watered by the holy blood, sweat, and tears of Jesus and become wheat. So we don't go into the world to weed but to make disciples. It's another matter in the church. When a church member defends their sin, no matter how big or small, sexual or non-sexual, against neighbor or God, they're saying, "I'm a weed," and everyone, even Jesus, weeds his garden.
But is this parable primarily about weeding at all? It is featured in the parable when the servants ask about it, but did you hear it referred to in Jesus' explanation? Jesus simply says, "The One who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels." Jesus goes on to flesh out the angels pulling out and burning up the weeds forever, but that's at the end of the age.
This parable comes right after the parable of the sower. There the sower only sows good seed, but the disciples see what you do, there are more weeds than wheat in the world. It looks like the sons and daughters of the kingdom will be overrun by weeds. We are tempted to despair. Since only a 1/4 of the good seed produces, how can it fight back the weeds? This is what Satan wants us to do, to despair. He sows his sons secretly in the world, in the midst of the sons and daughters of kingdom so that in the world we see the church divided. In the world, we see people standing up in the church defending every sin, every false doctrine imaginable.
Jesus shows us this is Satan's doing. He is trying to make the Bride of Christ so ugly that you conclude the Groom, Jesus, has got to be a goon too. Satan tries to make the Bride appear so rebellious that we conclude the Groom must be a weakling. He's not much of a redeemer if He can't even save His people from this world. That's how it looks but that's not how it is. We confess each Sunday to believe not see one holy Christian Church. We confess that the Church is neither dirty nor divided though we don't see this anywhere on earth. The Church is holy because Paul tells us in Ephesians 5: Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by washing her with water through the word, to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle, holy and blameless.
We believe in a Church that is holy by Baptism, and since there is only one Baptism, and one Body of Christ to be baptized into we believe despite what we see in the world there is only one Church. Moreover, Jesus assures us by this parable that He knows from all eternity them that are His, and He will return to claim His own. He will one day rid this world, which after all does belong to Him, of all weeds: physical and spiritual. As they wanted to do at Woodstock in 1969 through rock and roll and drugs, Jesus will do. He will bring this world back to being a garden.
Right now it looks like this cannot happen. As David in Psalm 37 says, "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree." Sons of the evil one, the weeds, are like trees in a warm, wet summer bursting with life, strength, even beauty. We are like pecans trees in winter. We look no different than an absolutely, dead, dry one. But it will not always be this way. When the Sun of Righteousness, Christ Jesus, rises with healing in His wings, things are set right. The evil one's trees will drop their foliage instantly while we will burst forth like a healthy pecan in spring. Right now this is summer for the weeds and winter for the righteous. We are ever tempted to make it the "Winter of our Discontent." Jesus would rescue us from this saying, "Don't go by what you see but by what I say."
And so we do. He says we are healthy, growing, green trees, and we believe that we are though we see death, sickness, and age at work in us. He says Baptism isn't just water but a washing of regeneration, and we believe our Baptisms do what the fountain of youth never did. He says, "Though you're surrounded by weeds; I see you as righteous, holy, and forgiven for My sake," and though we feel like weeds we raise are golden heads towards the Son taking our place in His fields of gold. He says, "Take eat; this Bread is really My Body, and take drink this Wine is really My Blood given and shed so wheat can be fertilized," and us former weeds open our mouths wide to be fed, forgiven, and fertilized.
The theme of this parable isn't "No Weeding," but "Don't let the Weeds Get you Down." Not only in your own garden or yard but even in the fields of the world, you don't focus on the weeds but on the good plants: the mimosas, the red buds, the oaks surrounded by weeds. And here in Texas the Lord even goes one better; He brings from plants that are essentially weeds beautiful flowers. Don't think for a moment He does that for anyone but you sons and daughters of His Kingdom. He puts even weeds at your service, so you need not be afraid of them, despair over them, or think you have to go pulling them out of your world. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (20080713); Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43