Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, AD 2020

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; Romans 8:18

This isn’t how we thought it would be. Graduation, summer vacation, the plans made with family. Put aside even the thoughts of viruses and government lockdowns – how often do our plans actually come to pass in the way we imagined in our minds? Things almost never turn out the way we hoped. Dream of a new car and the fun it will be to have, then you buy it and it soon becomes an old car usually stuck in traffic. Envision the perfect Hallmark Christmas with every event planned to guarantee maximum holiday cheer, and inevitably it feels about the same as any other day.  Or picture the church – it should be great. The service powerfully moving, the preaching convicting and edifying, the fellowship with other believers sublime as all are in perfect harmony. Yet, no matter what church you are in, this isn’t the case. We know about the kingdom of heaven, we understand Jesus is working, but it doesn’t look like it. Yet Jesus tells us, keep following, keep listening. God is reigning right now and to follow Jesus is right.
Of course whenever expectation does not meet reality often the problem seems to be “other people.” While this may not be the case in all circumstances, we can’t discount that sinful, selfish people in the world generally make things worse. Just sit on the Stevenson for an hour trying to get a couple miles to the next exit while some guy buzzes down the shoulder to get past. Really would like to see a state trooper right about then. And that’s how Jesus describes the world in the parable of the weeds. Those who are sons of the Kingdom, Christians, are planted by God. Those who are sons of the evil one are not. The devil sows these weeds all over the same field. And it is obvious to everyone that there are good seeds sprouting into wheat, and bad seeds sprouting into weeds.

The laborers come out and are supposed to work in this field full of weeds. They can tell there is a huge problem, so they go to the boss, and first blame him for the weeds. “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” They thought they were dealing with good seed here. These laborers are the apostles, ministers, preachers, or even any Christian working to further Christ’s kingdom. They look at the state of things and say, I thought this was a good gospel. I thought Jesus really did something.

In the same way, we often look at circumstances and question God’s work. We are told to love enemies, especially those close to us like family, but that love isn’t returned. We forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ, but they continue to hold grudges and treat us poorly. We tell people about Jesus over and over, but they don’t listen. And these people seem to do nothing but succeed. They even succeed in the church itself. For the field where the seed is spread is the world, but the home, the church, places of work, everywhere is in the world and everywhere weeds and wheat are found to be growing very closely together.

The master does not rebuke the laborers for the question. God does not rebuke us for our questions, for our anger, for our crying out to God and asking why things aren’t the way they are supposed to be. In His Word, He answers us. He hears the complaints, but he does not admit fault. There is no fault in God for planting bad seed. He does not thwart his own plans. All evil is done by enemies of God and are not part of His purpose. But He is not powerless against it. He works it toward His purposes.
“Then do you want us to go and gather them?” the laborers offer. If the weeds aren’t meant to be there, if they aren’t part of your plan, let’s root them up! We can have a perfect field of grain here if we just get our gloves on a start pulling! It’s noble to want to improve things as the Lord would want, but He stops them, lest with their removal of the weeds they also destroy the wheat. The desire of the laborers may be in the right place, but not what God requires of us.

We see this in the world all the time. This is the cult mindset – anyone untrue must be removed so we may have ultimate purity! And when the purity comes, usually they will achieve enlightenment, or Jesus will return, or we will finally have peace on earth. This is the same mindset of those who stump for political or social justice - remove anyone from society who says anything they think is wrong, it is holding us back! And the definition of wrong is wider and wider and the few who are pure get smaller and smaller. It’s the mindset of their father, the devil, because he loves the mounds of bodies the search for purity creates. After all, he planted the bad seed to create this confusion.

So when people say Jesus is called a revolutionary, that he overturns the way the world works, or that we need to get rid of this political system or that economic method to solve our problems, don’t believe them. There is no pure world we can achieve, or even a pure church. All our efforts are tarnished by sin without Christ, ultimately set against God and neighbor, spreading bad seed. The only one who is pure is Christ. His is the purity we need, his is the only perfect life ever lived by a man. He sacrificed himself on the cross for us, so that the only body needed to be lost is his own. He was buried, the first good seed, and rose from the dead, the first of many good seeds to grow. For his purity is freely given to us. Christ’s kingdom is not working as a bloody revolution, or a cult, or any way that we might expect. But it is working, because Christ is risen from the dead and is master over all creation. In our baptism we have died with him already and we will rise again with him on the last day. His pure church is the one gathered around His Word, believing, partaking of His body and blood. With everything we have in Him, there is no need to remove anyone else.

So for now we deal with the weeds. Now this is not to say that there is no discipline in the church. Scripture clearly states that those who teach falsely or live blatant and openly sinful lives need to be removed in good order. This is not only to protect others, but to teach them the seriousness of their sin so they can repent and return to Christ. But these are not the weeds. Because sometimes you can tell the weeds, and sometimes you can’t. The laborers knew enough to know there are weeds. No one doubts that there are people in the church that aren’t saints, that is, true Christians. Even the very first churches had these. People who are baptized, who seem to be godly but in their hearts are not. Yet like the weeds and the wheat it is often difficult to figure out which is which. The sin that still clings to us makes that even worse, as our own experiences and prejudices may cause us to judge too harshly those who are innocent.

We follow Christ’s command, then, “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” We cannot live in judgment of one another, but in reconciliation, forgiving and speaking well of each other, and putting everything in the kindest way. If you think this will remove the weeds, you will be disappointed. But this will preserve the wheat, wheat that maybe you thought was a weed when it was first growing. You never know, and for now it is not for you to know, but to follow the Master’s instructions, for He gave everything for you.

For now, you can suffer this and more, because the Kingdom is working.  It is not only working now as Christ rules the world, but one day, in His perfect timing, Christ will return and this world will end. The angels will finally come for the harvest and remove the weeds and the wheat. Suffer evil and disappointment now, because the weeds will be burned, and all ungodly will be destroyed forever, but you who suffer will not be burned. Christ has already faced all the torment, all the wrath for your sake. As St. Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  Trusting in him, you will be gathered safely into his barns. There is true peace and rest for eternity in the life of the world to come, shining like the sun in the Kingdom of our Father. Amen.
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