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Matthew 13. 24-30,36-43
Parable of the Seeds and Weeds

 This week we’re continuing with the seed theme we started last week, today the parable of the seeds and weeds.  Interestingly this parable is unique to Matthew.  Matthew’s gospel was most likely written between 80 and 90 AD, probably by someone writing within that specific church community, in Matthew’s name. Written at a time when that church community was forming, attracting a diverse group of people, both Jews and Gentiles.  They were coming together to form a like-minded community of followers of the ways of Jesus.  And as this community was coalescing in those early days, there would no doubt be a variety of differing opinions about what was the right way to do this, or the correct way to do that, how to interpret Jesus’ teachings and how to live as Christ’s believers.  No doubt much discussion on who was right, and who was wrong.  Times of new development are full of stress as people find their way, and determine the baselines of their belief systems that guide their conduct.  There might well have been difficult discussion about how to deal with those whose behaviours and beliefs just didn’t fit the bill-so who was in and who should be out!  And so, it seems, we have this parable about right and wrong, good and evil, and how to deal with it.  Our story of seeds and weeds tells us that the farmer’s wheat field has been sown, and while everyone was sleeping, an enemy has sown weed seeds in the field, which would of course substantially reduce the harvest. The farmer’s workers notice the weeds, and question his choice of seed quality.  And the owner says the weed seeds were sown by an enemy.  The workers want to rid the field of the weeds, but in pulling the weeds out, the wheat would be damaged and then there would be little crop left to yield anything.  So, it would be better to wait until the wheat was ripe, harvest the field and then separate and destroy the weeds.  When Jesus explains the parable, he tells his listeners that he is the farmer who sowed the seeds—and they are the people who are of his kingdom.  The weeds, well, they are those who follow the way of the evil one, the devil, who sows the seeds of evil everywhere.  The evil working in others is the enemy, those who work against the coming of God’s kingdom, those who promote the things that get in the way of a life following Jesus, or lead us away from him.  Weeds that are uncontrolled have a way of taking over a field or garden.  Have you ever gone past a grain field or a vegetable garden that’s been overtaken with weeds?  What do you see first?   The weeds--they generally tower over the crop, fill in the spaces between the grain or veggies.  But when you stop and take a closer look, you see the heads on the grain or the tomatoes and beans between the weeds, its like finding nuggets of gold in a rock pile.  A number of years back now, I was working at the head office of Saint Elizabeth Health Care.  I’d stay in a hotel through the week and go home on weekends.  The hotel I stayed in was on the edge of the city, in an industrial district.  In the evenings, the area was very quiet, everyone had of course gone home and I would go for longs walks.  One spring evening I found an abandoned golf course which had become badly overgrown with weeds after years of neglect, and as I wandered the paths, I found one spot where the thistles were extraordinarily high!  I looked more closely and was surprised to find flowers among the thistles, early spring perennials valiantly blooming away.  As I looked more closely, it was evident that this was a former flower garden that had been planned, planted and taken care of before it was abandoned.  And the thistles had obviously benefited from the care that the garden had been provided in the past, because they were the healthiest and biggest thistles in the entire golf course.  Both good and evil will benefit and indeed even thrive under the same situations.  The gardener in me wanted to tidy that garden up, but even if I had tried to pull out those massive and very healthy thistles, the beautiful spring flowers would have been uprooted as well, destroying them in the process.  Evil thrives and lives among us, sometimes even seeming to get the upper hand.  But that doesn’t mean we have to stop blooming!    However, weeds are easier to pull before they get big and the roots spread too far and deep.  So it behooves us to remain aware of the evil that can seed itself and grow in our midst, and pluck it out before it can get a real toehold.  Better yet, try to prevent those seeds from even being sown!    So who or what are the thistles in our lives?  And how do they get there?  Our bible story said that the weeds were sown while everyone slept.  So these weed seeds, those things that get in the way of a full relationship with God, prevent us from hearing God’s word, or living Christ’s way.  They sneak up on us, catch us unawares, get good and firmly rooted—and grow really quickly before we know it.  They can be things that we have become a part of the fabric of our society, things we’ve grown quite accustomed to. We have learned to live around the weeds—the evil in our midst and don’t even see them anymore, for example rampant consumerism, easier than ever access to gambling, the increasing destruction of the environment under the guise of progress, massive conglomerates whose sole reason for being is profits, to the detriment of all but their stockholders.  We can readily justify those things, “It’s the cost of progress” we say.  We have become desensitized, or even apathetic, and accept those things as part of modern life and a “necessary evil”.  And there are other things that can take control of our personal lives, cigarettes, food, drugs/alcohol, shopping, gambling, pornography, social media to name a few.   I have no doubt that each one of us, given a bit of time, could come up with a few weeds that have taken root within us, or those whom we love, things that keep us from hearing God’s word or living the way of Jesus.  They sneak up on us, taking us unawares, we don’t even realize it; it’s as if we’ve been sleeping.  It is good to every now and again take stock of the weeds in our own gardens!   The parable ends with an apocalyptic message—a message for the end of times.    39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the             world, and the harvesters are the angels.40 “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so   it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his      Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery     furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the        sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! (Mt 13).   So, how are we to understand that?  Well, God knows full well what is happening on the earth.  Matthew says in chapter 5:  “For God gives the sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”(vs 45) Evil has been around as long as people have been around!  It’s the story of Adam and Eve, and good and evil is a constant battle, back then and still!  None-the-less, there is great comfort in knowing that God really is with us, is aware of what’s happening, and is there supporting the growth of the good, the growth of God’s kingdom continues in the midst of the evil that also grows all around it.  And the example of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection tells us that evil doesn’t succeed; good always trumps evil, and God wins in the end.  And it is God’s decision when that time of final harvest will be.   And when the time comes, God will deal with the weeds, with the evil, in God’s good time, in God’s good way. In the meantime, we do our best to tend to the wheat, ourselves, and the garden we grow in, not despite the weeds, but in spite of the weeds.  We’ll root out the weeds when we can, when they’re small enough to handle, and continue to grow and bloom among the weeds, knowing that God’s tending to us too!  And even if some of the weeds get too large for us to handle, we will continue to bloom and grow and so produce as much fruit as we can for God’s Kingdom.  Amen.