Keawala’i Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)
“An Ongoing Journey”
I have no fondness for weeds. They inhabit my yard. They are everywhere.
Late in the week I went out and counted the number of different weeds based on how they looked – the shape of their leaves, the size of their seeds and the color of their blossoms. At the moment they are not doing too well. It is summer, after all, and the ground is dry and barren. But once the winter rains come, the yard will explode into a weed-infested landscape.
I counted at least seven different weeds. Except for what I call Spanish needles and dandelions I cannot tell you the Latin name or common name for each one. I cannot tell you if they are of any benefit to us or if they have any redeeming qualities. What I can tell you is that there are a lot of them.
Some have thorns and are difficult to handle. Others have seeds that attach themselves to shoes and clothing. Some smell bad; some smell okay; some do not smell at all. Some have yellow blossoms, others white, others a shade of maroon.
Despite their distinctive characteristics they are all still weeds. Some have managed to invade a section of the yard that is planted with grass.
I have been tempted on more than one occasion to launch an all-out assault on the weeds but I know getting rid of all of them would mean that some of the grass would be destroyed in the process. Eventually it may be what will need to be done. But for the moment the weeds and the grass co-exist.
Our readings from The Gospel According to Matthew pairs the parable of the Weeds with the parable of the Sower. Jesus responds to those who were concerned about why the response to the good news of the kingdom of God so often seems unproductive.
There are Biblical scholars who contend that Matthew was not written by someone who was an eyewitness of Jesus, but by someone writing in the early church in Antioch sometime between 80-90 during the Christian Era. We know that the church in Antioch began as a church of Jewish Christians following the initial persecution in Jerusalem.
Those within the church reflected the ethnic diversity of the city of Antioch and following the destruction of Jerusalem, the church struggled with those who also seem to reflect a religious diversity common to such an urban setting. (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 3, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2011, page 263) The changes are not unlike what many other churches have had to face down through the centuries.
David Waugh, a pastor in Madison, Mississippi, points out that the question for the early church became, “How are we to deal with those who initially seem identical to us but over time are revealed as different from us in their expression of faith and/or their actions?” Or as he says, “To put it more bluntly, ‘It seems to us that some of our number are as worthless as weeds, so how and when are we to rid ourselves of them?” (Op. cit.)
The question is not unique to the early church. It is also a question succeeding generations have had to ask themselves, including our own.
There is always the danger that our churches will become exclusive enclaves for like-minded people. We mistake our discomfort with anyone who has a different point of view – whether it is political, social, economic or religious – as a sign that something is amiss.
So our inclination is to draw lines in the sand to determine who is in and who is out. Our inclination is to ask the following questions: Whom can we afford to let in and who must be kept out? Who is accepted by God, and why? Who is not accepted, and why not?
We assume, by the nature of the questions, that we are the ones to determine who is welcomed in our churches and who is not. We assume that we are the host and therefore it is our responsibility to “weed out” those whom we deem unacceptable.
If the parable of the Sower and the parable of the Weeds have any value for us today, it is in recognizing that that responsibility is not ours and the decision to do any kind of weeding is not ours to make. Any attempt on our part to separate the weeds from the wheat – those who are in versus those who are out – can only end with a loss of both.
Jesus warns that “in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest.” (Matthew 13:28-29) Those who heard Jesus’ warning knew about weeds and wheat, especially about the bearded darnel.
It is said that above ground the bearded darnel looks identical to wheat until it bears its seeds. It is said that the seeds themselves can cause everything from hallucinations to death in people.
Below ground the roots of the bearded darnel surrounds the roots of wheat and other good plants. The weed draws on the nutrients and water of wheat and other plants making it impossible to remove.
Jesus sought to point out that in our impatience with others, “we often want to bring matters to a head and so determine whether others are in or out; but the God who is glimpsed in this parable models for us an infinite patience that frees us to get on with the crucial business of loving . . . ” (Op. cit., page 26) There will come a time of future judgment when God will separate the weeds from the wheat. For now we love and live knowing that God is pleased to let all of us “grow together until the harvest.” (Matthew 13:30)
Patrick Wilson, a pastor, writes:
“Jesus did not say that the kingdom was like a rock, fixed and solid and firm and unchanging. Jesus did not say that the kingdom was like a giant machine, that you put some things in and you get some things out and that what you get out depends upon what you put in.”
“He said it was like an enormous tree that all the birds of the air can come and find shelter in its branches, even strange ducks like you and me. He said that God was like a housewife who puts smidgen of yeast in the three measures of flour and that yeast yields its life into the whole batch of dough.”
“That is the way that the kingdom is, growing from the very beginning into all that God intended . . . from the foundation of the world, the very first moment of creation, it is the kingdom that has been on God’s mind” (not the church as an institution) “and God is infinitely patient as it grows.” (“God Is Not Finished,” Patrick J. Wilson, Grace Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas, August 9, 1981)
So it is that we must demonstrate that same patience with one another. We may not like someone else’s point of view or opinion? Not to worry they may have others with which we agree.
We don’t like long hair or short hair or no hair! We don’t understand all the fuss about beatniks or hippies, yuppies or yippies, generation x and generation y!
We may not like someone’s lifestyle or style of life? That’s okay. There was a time when bell bottom pants were in fashion.
We may not like someone’s political point of view. But then they may not
To be of like-mind is to draw the lines in the sand of who is in and who is out – in our own lives and in the church. But to be of the same mind that was in Christ Jesus is to realize and to recognize that there are no lines.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul offered words of encouragement to the Philippians that we may also take to heart: “If . . . there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sympathy . . . be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind..”
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:1-5)
Such is the journey we are on. The decision of who is within and who is beyond God’s attention is not ours to make. Instead, we are called to remind one another and to proclaim to the world that everyone belongs – the birds and ducks; the yuppies and the yippies; the elephants and the donkeys; the wheat and the weeds.
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