Summary: Using Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares, this sermon looks at the miraculous way weeds can turn into wheat when God’s in charge.
Around Timothy Lutheran, there are a number of you who have incredibly green thumbs. You know how to identify plants and what the different flowers look like. You know how to coax flowers and vegetables from seeds planted in the soil. Some of you are quite amazing when it comes to the garden. And then there’s me. I plant seeds and water and seem to forget some important details. Like…what did I plant? Where did I plant it? What is it supposed to look like? So I water the ground because seeds need water. But somehow, when I water the seeds I planted, the weeds always grow too. I’m sure I’ve let some weeds grow too long, and that I’ve pulled some perfectly good plants, all because I had trouble distinguishing between persistent weeds and intentionally planted growth.
This year, I finally gave up on the little flowerbed on the side of the house, so we purchased some wildflower seed mixture. For a gardener like me, this mix means I might just be able to have a garden of varied color flowers, with minimal work. Very tempting. So we spread the mix, watered the ground, and waited. It seemed to take so much longer than what the package said, that when little sprouts started coming up, I was sure that the weeds had finally just pushed themselves up through the wildflower seed mix. I got so mad that I was going to have to go back out there and pull the weeds again. I couldn’t believe that this no-fail wildflower seed mixture had failed after all.
But my husband, being much more patient than me at this particular moment, said, "Wait." Much like the farmer in today’s parable from Jesus, Darryl said, "You don’t know if those are weeds or flowers, so let’s just wait." In today’s parable from Jesus, this farmer says, "No, don’t pull out the weeds. You might accidentally pull out some of the wheat." The farmer did not want to damage the intended harvest simply because the weeds were planted there. Instead of spraying Roundup and killing everything in the path, the farmer asks the servants to be patient and see what grows. This farmer is not willing to separate wheat from weeds until harvest time when you can tell the two apart.
Jesus’ parables are artful word pictures. We cannot take parables too literally, that’s not typically Jesus’ point. In this parable, Jesus is drawing us a word picture of God’s mercy. God doesn’t just go out and chop down the weeds with a machete; God waits in hopes of a change. God has mercy and patience, letting each of us find our own way, in time. Botanically speaking, if I plant a sunflower seed, I’ll get a sunflower. If I plant a tomato seed, I’ll get a tomato plant. Whatever the seed is when it goes into the ground determines what it will be when it reaches maturity. We cannot make a lettuce seed produce blue fescue grass. It is not possible.
But what is not possible in the world of seeds occurs frequently in the world of human beings. Though a columbine seed cannot change, a Columbine student might. Though a daisy seed will always produce a daisy, a woman named Daisy might change. Botanically speaking a seed is a seed. Seeds do not change. But people do. Though a trained gardener may be able to judge between wheat and weeds early on, it’s hard to say how a person is going to turn out from what they look like in the early stages of growth.
Throughout the Bible, God’s people sometimes look a lot like weeds, until they grow to maturity and somehow blossom into beautiful flowers. Remember Moses? He stuttered and couldn’t speak well. He was unsure of his ability to get a clear point across, but with God’s help, he flourished. In fact, Moses became the most well known spokesperson for God in the history of the world. Or consider Saul, who persecuted Christians. He rounded up people who believed in Jesus. Christians feared coming in contact with him. But one day he saw a blinding light on a road, and soon he was the most fervent missionary God has ever had. When God gets a hold of a worthless weed, it can often transform into a beautiful blossom.
In our world, we are called to resist evil, to try to fight against the insidiousness of the devil. But unfortunately, it’s not always as clear-cut as we’d like. People don’t usually wear signs identifying themselves as ne’er-do-wells. That person who looks like a weed, just might produce some beautiful flowers if given enough time and attention. "It would be nice to be able to label with little name tags: ’HELLO, I’m a terrorist.’" (Harvey Mozolak) Or to look at my kids’ friends and suddenly know which ones are bad seed and which ones will produce mature flowers. But it’s not that easy.