Dealing with Weeds (Eighth Sunday after Pentecost)

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This week, we all had a great time at Vacation Bible School! But, it was a lot of work, and at least for me, I didn’t have time to get a bunch of stuff done at home. And on one of those days, as Phoenix and I were playing in the yard before heading in, I told him, “you know, I really gotta cut the grass when VBS is over.”  Or at least, as I often refer to it at this time of year, I need to cut the weeds!

There are indeed patches of my yard where the grass is high. But there are plenty of others where the grass is just fine, but the weeds are taking over. And I honestly need to get the lawn mower out just so I don’t have to look at the weeds.

I’ve got a big yard, and so I have a lot of weeds. And at this time of year, I’m reminded of weeds not only by my yard, but also because I get Bible readings like this one to preach on! And weeds aren’t just annoying. They can really be a problem. Weeds are a problem because they:

  • distract you from whatever is supposed to be growing and thriving … (it’s the weeds that stick up and make the lawn and the flower beds look bad; and sometimes, the weeds are the only flowering plant in my yard that the deer and the rabbits WON’T eat …!)
  • sap the energy from the roots of the plants that you want to grow … (the weeds don’t simply take up space. Underneath the soil, their roots wrap around the roots of the other plants and can choke them out …)
  • don’t produce anything useful for you … you plant things because you want plants that look good or that produce fruits and vegetables; but weeds just grow without doing anything that contributes to what you want to happen …

And that’s probably why Jesus uses the image of weeds growing in a field of wheat in today’s parable. This parable is almost surely a story that Jesus told because his disciples wondered why the world was such a “weedy” place – that is, a place often filled with evil and people who enjoyed evil. And they wondered how they were supposed to be able to live and thrive as God’s people in a world so full of such weeds.

And the “weeds” that bothered them were worse than the weeds that were growing in the fields around them.  Often, as for us, the “weeds” that those first disciples experienced may have been:

  • people who hated them, or at least disliked them enough to make their life and work really difficult … (they even got thrown out and rejected by the very people they were sent to help; wouldn’t it be great if everybody liked us and was nice to us, but that’s never the way life has been …)
  • situations that they couldn’t control … (sometimes the “causes of evil” aren’t so much the insidious plots against peoples’ lives, but end up being simply the stress, the chaos and the hectic pace of life that sucks the energy and joy out of us, just as weeds sap the strength away from the wheat… )
  • their own deep, inner-selves … (sometimes, the worst “weeds” in my life are the fears, hang-ups and left over anger and frustration from past situations that wrap their roots around me and also suck the energy out of me …)

Probably, those first disciples wanted Jesus to tell them that God was going to take away all the weeds in their lives, and make a nice, weed-free life possible. Or at least, tell them how to get rid of the weeds. And in this parable, Jesus does promise that eventually, God will deal with all the weeds, and that the disciples will be able to live in spite of the weeds.

But probably, the main reason Jesus told this parable was to help us to learn how to live with the weeds in the meantime. Jesus told his first disciples, and he tells us, too, that our calling to live as his people in the world is a calling to live in the midst of weeds.

And Jesus’ parable isn’t so much intended to explain why the weeds exist, as much as it is to give us guidance in living with the weeds in our lives. As much as we might like it, God is not going to magically take away the weeds. But Jesus tells us that it’s still possible to live and grow in spite of the weeds.

But living effectively with the weeds takes a different kind of:

  • perspective – basic to this parable is the need to focus on the wheat, instead of the weeds. That’s the first thing the householder does. His servants are hung up on the weeds, but the householder never stops focusing on the wheat that’s still growing in spite of them; and that’s often hard for us, especially when so much of the news around us wants to call our attention to the latest tragedy or outrage; but if that’s all we pay attention to, we’ll miss the “wheat”; indeed, many people as why there’s evil in the world, but do we ever ask why there’s love, or the desire for peace or any kind of goodness?; and are we looking for those things?  That’s the beginning of having the kind of perspective Jesus calls us to have that can help us live with the weeds…
  • attitude – the householder doesn’t like the weeds and more than the servants, but he cares about the wheat more than he hates the weeds; and that’s Jesus way of saying that we should focus on God’s love for us and the creation he’s made instead of dwelling on our dislike of the weeds …; never once in the Gospels does Jesus ever tell us who God hates; instead, he tells us who and who God loves – that’s the attitude he wants us to have)..
  • action – nowhere is being wheat more necessary than in a field full of weeds; even so, Jesus calls us to focus our action on being the life-giving grain of God’s love where’s there’s hatred; on being the life giving grain of hope where there’s despair; and on being the wheat of the tangible signs of God’s goodness in the lives of people who think God is either fake news, or just a theory or a concept…

And Jesus also makes it clear that getting rid of the “weeds” in the world is finally God’s job. We do indeed need to struggle against the weeds, but if we think that we can get rid of them, as the servants in the parable thought, we’re not focusing on what Jesus calls us to do and to be. And, honestly, if I can’t even get rid of all the weeds in my lawn, it’s not ever going to be possible to get rid of the weeds in the world.

And so in this parable, Jesus voices the reality that the world is full of weeds.  And sometimes, the worst weeds are the weeds that dwell inside of us.  But rather than wish for a world without weeds, Jesus instead calls us to focus on the power and presence of God, instead of dwelling on the evil of the weeds. Jesus calls us instead to put our efforts into being life giving grain, in spite of the weeds around us.  And most importantly, Jesus calls us to trust in the promise that our efforts are not in vain, because in the end, even if it doesn’t look like it now, God promises us that weeds won’t win out.