7/20/2014 Sixth Sunday after Pentecost The text for today’s sermon is Matthew 13:24-30, 35-43.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Every time I read this gospel, I take a trip down memory lane. I remember all the ragweed and Queen Ann’s Lace and buttercups and mayflowers and dandelions I picked as a child and gleefully brought into the house to give to my mother (who, of course, was fraught with allergies). I also remember the little, neatly fenced flower garden outside my bedroom window and my father’s pride when the irises and tulips and gladiolus bloomed. To this day, those flowers are among my favorites and are planted in my yard.
My first lessons about gardening came from my father and the flower beds which outlined the house on Wyllys St. I don’t remember how old I was the first time my father took me out into the yard to weed the flower bed, but I do remember how excited I was on that day. I remember the feeling that welled up inside, a feeling that told me that I was no longer a little kid as my father now trusted me to help him.
I remember that I did exactly what he told me as I sat next to him and watched him. His large fingers became very nimble as he reached in and plucked clover and grass and all sorts of assorted weeds. As he removed each type, he carefully pointed out to me what I was to look for and how each weed was different from the developing flower. With little fingers, more nimble than those of an adult man, I went about pulling up the smallest of weeds. And when the day was done, we had finished sprucing up the flower bed outside my bedroom, and it was pristine and beautiful.
The next day, I couldn’t wait to get back outside and begin weeding the beds that lined the foundation of the house, but my father didn’t have the time. It was Monday and he had to work. But, knowing me as he did, before leaving the house, he wanted to make it very clear to me that I wasn’t to go out there and weed the beds myself as the flowers planted by the house were different. They weren’t as easy to distinguish from the weeds which grew alongside.
Now, of course, I was a typical, precocious child. That means, of course, with an inflated ego which told me that I was now a big girl who was filled with all knowledge, I ignored my father’s warning, and as soon as he was out of sight, I went right back to work. I looked at the beds surrounding the foundation and everything looked the same to me. Sure, my father was right – the flowers there were different – but, I was sure that I knew what a weed looked like. So, carefully, with the dexterity to youth, I began my task, thinking about how proud my father would be of me when I showed him what I had done.
Of course, you know what happened. When my father got home that night, I went running up to him and excitedly dragged him over to the flower beds in the back of the house. His face turned ashen and then began to get red. That’s when I knew I was in BIG trouble. For what I had so carefully done was remove all the young flower plants and left the weeds growing. What was weed in one bed was actually the shape of a flower in the other. OOPS!
The problem that I had was not just a problem of youth. Our perception is often flawed, especially when it comes to what we discern about others. Our standards for judging are based on what we see or hear through human senses. Our standards for judging are based on the lessons passed down through the generations, lessons that are often filled with misconceptions and prejudices. So, we don’t see each other, or even ourselves, through the eyes of a grace-filled God who creates us to be unique and wonderful just as we are. Sadly, there is no place where this happens more often than within a family and among those whom we know best. This happened to a young man from a good family in Massachusetts. As a boy growing up, he was fond of all boyish things. He seemed to enjoy school, but it didn’t show in his grades as he was easily distracted.
As it happened, the boy’s family had a little money and a little influence, and when time came for him to go to college, Harvard was their choice. But, as fascinating as college was, and as exciting as many of the classes were, none could compete with the winsome delights of the opposite sex and the pursuit of a rousing college party. He was still inquisitive and did very well when he applied himself, but by his own admission, Harvard was a very expensive way to meet women and drink beer. “I can do all that at home,” he said, “and without costing my parents a fortune.” Harvard seemed to agree, having kicked him out twice. So, leaving is exactly what he did and he never finished formal schooling.
Needless to say, not all among the family felt as carefree about the matter as our young man. Even the neighbors wondered what would become of this boy who simply turned his back on what he ought to be doing. No one really knew whether he was weed or wheat until much later in his life when his lifetime achievements in naval life saving equipment, engine and vehicle design, ecologically sensitive architecture, and the like became known. It turns out that this young man who loved doodling and was easily distracted was R. Buckminster Fuller. No one would have guessed from the weedy beginning what this one flower would achieve.
Thank God for a discerning eye and a patient heart. And thank God that our job is not to go about deciding who is a weed and who is a valued member of our community. Jesus makes it clear that if we go about trying to decide who is in the kingdom and who is not, we run the risk of throwing out the good with the bad. The judgment is not ours to make. It is God’s and God’s alone.
Now, Jesus is not implying that there will be no judgment. In fact, he makes it just as clear that, in the final day, all causes of sin and the children of evil will be judged and cast out of the kingdom. But, how that will take place, how our God of grace will judge between weed and wheat is not for us to determine. Our job is simply to sow the good seed, to tell the good news of our God of love and grace, and then to tend to the field we have planted, nurturing and caring for all people. As we do this, we will discover we are really helping each other grow and mature, until we produce the good fruit of the kingdom. Until that time, the weed and wheat grow side by side.
We have a responsibility for molding disciples, but not for judging some to be valuable and others not. Disciples are molded by the examples we give as we love others as we have been loved by the God who has planted the seed of life within us. Salvation and judgment belong to our God whose fingers are nimble, whose eyes are clear, and whose heart is filled with mercy.
So, may we not be as bold and as precocious as I was as a youngster when I went to weed the flower bed in the back of my childhood home. May we slow down and judge less. May we be as patient with others as God has been with us. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.