Summary: A sermon on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God calls us to be wheat in a field full of weeds rather than judges of one another.
Sermon on Matthew 13:24-30
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost-Year A
July 17, 2005
Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
While serving as a Methodist minister in England, I was privileged to know a man named Bernard who was on fire with the gospel, burning with the desire to tell people about Jesus. Everything that the man said was about accepting Jesus into your heart. Bernard didn’t go a day without witnessing to somebody. Every conversation he had with somebody he could turn into a conversation about accepting Jesus. He would always catch me after the service on Sundays and ask me if I had the time to go around and visit some people with him. As the pastor of 5 churches I never had the time, but I made sure to take the time one Wednesday. I called Bernard up and told him that I had Wednesday cleared off for visiting some people with him.
He was ecstatic and told me that he wanted to introduce me to about 20 different people. But, we only got to visit about five or six. We visited some of the faithful members of Dedham Heath who for health reasons were unable to attend anymore. We visited Mrs. Armstrong in her little cottage and drank tea by a coal fire in May, just a few weeks before her passing. All my visits with the people in those small, English towns will forever be etched in my memory. But I remember most vividly a visit that I went on with Bernard to see a man who had never been to the little chapel. He had never even been to the 600 year old Anglican Church around the corner for a worship service.
Bernard told me that he wanted me to meet his friend that he had been visiting every week for the past 2 years who was an atheist. We drove down this narrow country lane surrounded by fields of yellow oil seed rape in bloom and we finally got to the man’s house about lunch time. Bernard knocked on the door and the man invited us in. Bernard mentioned that I was the vicar (the British equivalent of our term preacher). The 94 year old man said, “Oh, you are bringing out the big guns now huh, Bernard.” The man told me that Bernard came by every week to try to get him to accept Jesus and come to church. But he said he didn’t believe in all that stuff. And he asked me how I was enjoying England. I told him that the countryside was just so beautiful right now with the fields all covered in yellow oil seed rape. Then Bernard decided this would be a good moment to tell the aged atheist about the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Bernard told him that Jesus once told a story about the harvest and about how at harvest time the weeds are pulled up and burned and the good crops are taken into the barn and how that was what was going to happen to each and every one of us. Bernard told his friend that Jesus was going to come and judge all those who weren’t his followers and throw them into “the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The old man looked at Bernard with a smile, and said he still wasn’t scared of that. Bernard asked him how he could hear that parable and not be terrified of a place of so much pain that it was known as a place where people were tormented so that all they could do was gnash their teeth! The old man chuckled and said to Bernard, “I don’t have any teeth left to gnash!” Bernard quickly retorted, “Ah, my friend, teeth will be provided.”
I must confess, my first instinct when I read this parable was to preach on the Romans passage that was appointed for this week instead of this parable of the wheat and the weeds. I don’t like to read about final judgment or hell anymore than you all like to hear about it. It is very unpopular for a minister of a mainline Protestant church to preach about Hell, especially when this is just the third sermon you have ever heard me preach! It is unpopular to preach about Hell or even to say the word. We much prefer to call it “H-E-double hockey sticks,” or the place “down there.” It isn’t popular to tell people that they are going to be punished or to try to scare them into believing the same things you believe. And it is right, and a good and joyful thing always and everywhere to disagree with those who think they are the one who have the authority to tell if someone is bound for flames of H-E-double hockey sticks or the bliss of heaven. Nobody on earth has that authority, only God.