July 19, 2020 Seventh Sunday after Pentecost The text is Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43.
24 [Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome this morning he refers to waiting, hope, patience, and adoption. In the Greek; apekdechomai, elpis, makrothumia, and huiothesia. I’ve been practicing this pronunciation for the last week; I hope I came close! Paul writes that all of creation and all the heirs of God’s promises are patiently waiting, filled with hope; for adoption into God’s family of redeemed children. And in week two of the “seeds and weeds” allegories, in Matthew’s Gospel this morning, we read that Jesus tells the crowds the parable of the good seed and the weeds growing side-by-side in the field. Later he explains the parable more deeply to his disciples. We are in the middle of three weeks of Jesus’ parables explaining God’s kingdom using agricultural metaphors.
Now, we shouldn’t focus too much on the part of the story that speaks to the weeds, but more on the good seed that is also patiently waiting; growing among the weeds to become the harvest that will “shine like the sun” in the Father’s kingdom. There is surely a parallel to Paul’s letter to the Romans to be found in this morning’s gospel reading. The farmer in Matthew waits patiently, with hope, for the final sprouting of his crop; when the good seed will be harvested to fill his barn. In the letter to the Romans, the people wait patiently to be adopted, accepted and redeemed by God. In Matthew’s gospel, God waits patiently while the crop, God’s people, mature in the midst of the evil of this world, before God welcomes them into the coming kingdom.
In both Paul’s letter and Matthew’s gospel, we encounter a sense of waiting for what is to happen in the future. The people wait for inclusion into God’s family, while God awaits the harvest; when God will reap the yield of the good seed that Jesus has sown, the weeds notwithstanding. Yet in both instances, although the focus is on the future, the underlying message is that things are happening now. Creation has already experienced the first fruits of the Spirit. And the good seeds are already growing, developing into righteousness among the weeds that are attempting to choke them out.
Yet, it’s obvious that our God works on a rather longer timeline. Geologists agree that the Grand Canyon is about 17 million years old. It is thought that our Sun began to shine around 5 billion years ago.
And the Hubble telescope has been peering out at stars at the edge of the known universe; the light emanating from them left their local neighborhood nearly 14 billion years ago. It’s therefore safe to say that God is patient. He will likely bide God’s time while waiting for us, his children, to grow into the good seeds that are our potential and God’s will. Now, to be honest, patience has never been a trait of mine. For example, who remembers when logging onto the internet required a telephone modem? We had one of the very first ones. I remember the sound it made as the modem made contact and the connection was established. It sounded rather like someone was trying to clear their throat. Who remembers? Ccccchhhh, wwwhhhooee! That was not a good time for an impatient person like me. Even today, when I download a huge video file, if it takes more than about two seconds, I’m beside myself with impatience. Thanks be to God that he is extraordinarily patient with us. God is waiting, apekdechomai; patiently waiting, as only God is able to.
Jesus explains to the disciples that when the good seed has fully matured it will be harvested, along with, and separated from, the weeds. Note that God’s harvest time refers to, in Jesus’ words; ‘the end of the age’. The Greek for ‘age’ used in Matthew is ‘aion’, not unlike the modern English ‘eon’. And in different verses in Scripture it refers to various periods of time; some precise; others, more indistinct. In more than one instance the word translates as ‘eternity’, or ‘forever’. In others, it means a finite period of time, ‘an age’ as it were. In yet other verses aion refers to ‘all the worlds’, in modern vernacular, the universe. Thus, Jesus may be referring to the end of a limited time period when he speaks to the coming harvest at the ‘end of the age’. But if we consider God’s infinitely patient timeline, we find that the most accurate translation is the one that speaks to ‘the end of the worlds’; eternity, forever.
It seems unlikely then that the good seed will be harvested any time soon. Later, in Matthew 24 Jesus tells us that ‘no one knows about that day or hour, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’. Note that in today’s reading Jesus tells us that these same angels will be those who reap the harvest of the good seed, the righteous children of God.
Another example of how we might view unspecified time through the eyes of the God who actually created time; Jesus’ ministry on earth encompassed around three years. Yet, in John’s gospel, we are told that Jesus, the Word, was with God from the beginning, before time began. Jesus was present when the universe was brought into being through the Word, the ‘logos’, the very thought, the unspoken Word of God.
Rob Bell is the author of the Nooma series of devotional DVD’s aimed at youth and young adults. We’ve watched and analyzed Rob’s videos many times with young people on Mission Trips and at other Youth Group events. I must admit that I generally find his insights fascinating, yet often a bit disturbing. While his theology is aimed at teens and his dogma is a bit ‘evangelical’, I nonetheless find myself, as an adult, occasionally drawn to his theological perspective. In his book ‘Love Wins’, Rob suggests that, since God is the God of love, God would not condemn people to eternal damnation based on their behavior and actions in the short space of time they have lived in this life.
The ‘three score and ten’ years we are allotted in this earthly realm are miniscule when compared to the ‘aion’ that Jesus refers to when describing the time of the harvest of the good seed. Again, in his book, Rob asserts that the God who is described as the personification of love itself would not condemn God’s children to an eternity of suffering based on their actions over a few short years of life in this world. I think the key to this may be our understanding of God’s timeline. Is it possible that since Jesus refers to the harvest time as the’ end of the worlds’, the end of time itself; that the ultimate hour of God’s judgement might also extend to eternity? Perhaps God’s ultimate judgement happens long after we’ve departed this life. Again, we find God patiently waiting.
After all the ultimate judgement of our sins is God’s alone, not ours. It would make sense then, that the timing would be God’s also. So as Paul tells us, we are waiting. We have no idea when the ultimate judgement will happen. But we also have Christ Jesus. We must live in this world, among the evil that exists. But we have Christ. God’s children are surrounded by the weeds that seek to choke out the good seed, to pull us into sin. But we have Jesus.
Humanity can surrender to the negativity of this world and wait idly until the harvest, when they will meet whatever awaits them at the end of the age. Or God’s children can choose to ‘live among the weeds’, but do so as citizens of God’s Kingdom. Recognizing that Christ’s light overcomes the ever-present darkness in this world. Remembering that we are brothers and sisters of the Son of God and that very relationship makes us children of the Creator of “all the worlds”. Living lives, as best we can; of faith, hope, and love. Striving to rise above those things that would have us become weeds in the garden instead of the vibrant harvest that God has planned for us. All this while we are patiently waiting.
And if we endeavor do this every day; with a deliberate intention to focus on the present only, we can disregard tomorrow. Because through faith in Christ we are promised life eternal with our God. Tomorrow, and the day after, and all the days after that. God works on a very long timeline. We are waiting for God; and God is waiting for us.
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious God, help us to remain “good seed” as we struggle to live grace-filled lives, alongside the weeds of sin that surround us. Reassure us that you patiently wait for us to grow into the faithful harvest that you long for us to be. And that by your mercy, you will exonerate your children at the end of the age. And we pray these things the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man; the sower of “good seed”. Amen.
God is Good, all the time. All the time, God is Good. Amen.