Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 19, 2020

Texts: Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
We would all like to think of ourselves as good children of God’s kingdom, which Jesus came to bring. But then certain…behaviors… make us realize that there’s more complexity to this kingdom picture than we had realized or hoped. At least one contributing factor is that most creatures, and particularly us humans creatures, don’t behave well under stress. Like, for example, now.
​Paul the Apostle said, we’re better than this. We’ve been adopted and infused with the Holy Spirit. We know how to confess, and so die to our sin. We know the redemptive promise of Jesus Christ: our spirits are set free to follow a new path. But somehow these bodies of ours are slower to follow.
Sin and evil are not alien forces. In some ways this is more evident to us than ever before. Cell phones have put cameras in the hands of most every citizen in this country, and the internet makes it easy to expose the breaking of every single commandment. Over and over again. We’re not so good as we think.
But it’s not only individual. Our sin becomes institutional as well. How is it possible for us to receive forgiveness from God and then to judge others as unworthy of not only God’s help, but ours? Yet sin shows up in decisions that make our health care among the most expensive in the world. Sin shows up when children anywhere go hungry. Sin is allowing people to be trafficked through the internet and no one is held accountable.   
Calling someone inhuman has always been a heavy judgment. But it’s conceivable that that just being human is the problem. So the parable of the weeds of the field is an unfortunately accurate description of what life is really like.
Why does God tolerate this? The writer of the book of Wisdom argues that God is not answerable to anyone. God’s righteousness is not up for review. God does not unjustly condemn anyone and judges with mildness and forbearance. In short, Wisdom says it’s wise not to put God to the question.
But Jesus was never one to dodge the hard questions. The parable today is all about the way and wisdom of God. Judgement is not delayed. Only the imposing of the sentence.  The wheat is still growing toward its harvest.  And the difference between wheat and weeds is something the master will wait to discern. It is too soon to uproot the wheat, just to deal with the weeds.
What is not in dispute is that the seed is sown in good faith. Jesus adds the interesting detail that the bad seed is sown by an enemy of the master “…while everybody was asleep.” There it is again – the body fails to be vigilant and the damaging seed is sown. It’s a reminder too that this is a community responsibility – every body.
Within this parable is a question which seems to haunt the disciples. Whose children are we?  Are we God’s children, or children of the shadowy Enemy? Even if God’s judgement is delayed from, say, not right this very moment, until we each approach God face to face, how shall we tend to the field now? What is growing within and out of us?
A legend attributed to the Cherokee tells of a grandfather teaching a child about life one day, saying, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you.” The child thought for a minute and then asked, “Which one will win?” The grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”
A classic Christian view of the parable is to understand the good seed as our baptismal identity. In our baptism we renounce three things: the devil and all the forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and the ways of sin that draw us from God.
After washing in baptismal waters that signify a clean, new start we make five promises: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the world.
So, how’s it going for us with keeping these promises?
Most of us will recognize the need for some grace from God. In this parable what Jesus offers is time. Whatever our weedy reality is, we have the opportunity to face it honestly and go after the source of our trouble before we have to account for ourselves.
In the parable of the weeds Jesus teaches us about God’s gift of patience with us. And of course we need to be patient with ourselves as we wait for God’s kingdom to fully come. But it’s not a gift to be kept for ourselves only. Practicing patience with one another is also a matter of faith.
We should hope, in the end, to be called righteous. And to shine before God. But remember, even the fire of God destroys only for the purpose of cleansing creatures and creation. It is God’s good will to make all things new. Amen.

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