Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Matthew 13:24-30:
being appointed here to Mesa View, we served two rural congregations outside of
Clovis. We worshiped in House, New
Mexico at 9 am, and then I quickly got into my car for a 30 minutes to drive to
the larger of the two churches in Melrose, and that’s 30 minutes going much
faster than the speed limit posted on the county roads because there was
nothing in between except farms and ranches.
One day as I was driving out to House, I saw a man who was just standing
out in one of the fields. I thought it was
a little unusual, and on the way back to Melrose he was still standing there. Again I thought that was a little strange,
but what do I know about farming?
Perhaps there was a perfectly reasonable excuse for what he was
doing. But the next week he was out
there again, just standing there, and so now my curiosity got the better of me
and I had to stop, and so I got out of the car and yelled over to him and he
smiled and waved, and I said, “I just have to know what you’re doing?” And he said “I’m trying to win the Nobel
Prize” and I said, “The Nobel prize,” and he said, “Yeah, it’s pretty
prestigious, and I heard that if you win one they give you more than a million
dollars.” I said that was true but
didn’t really understand how he was going to win the Nobel prize, and he said,
“we’ll what they say is that to win the Nobel prize, you have to be outstanding
in your field, and since I’m the only one standing in my field, I think I’ve
got a pretty good chance.”
week we began a new sermon series in which we are looking at what we can learn
about growing our faith based on lessons from the farm, and idea I stole from
Rev. Adam Hamilton, and today we continue with another agricultural parable
from Jesus. There are only two times we
have Jesus talking about weeds. The
first is in today’s passage, commonly called the parable of the wheat and the
tares, and the second is in the passage we heard last week in the parable of
the sower. In that passage, Jesus says
that a sower went out to sow seeds and some fell on hard ground, and the birds
ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground,
but the soil wasn’t deep enough for the roots to take hold, and so when the son
came up the plants withered and died, other seeds were planted among the
thorns, or weeds, but the weeds grew up along with the other plants and choked
them out, and finally some of the seeds fell on the good soil and those seeds
grew into a bountiful harvest. Now the
analogy that Jesus is making in that parable is that the soil is supposed to be
our hearts, and the seed is the word of God.
And we should ask ourselves how prepared we are to receive God’s word,
to have it take root in our lives.
is my contention that we are all four of these soil types throughout our lives,
that sometimes we are hard as clay and can’t receive the word of God, other
times our faith is shallow and it withers, and sometimes we are fully prepared
to receive the word of God into our lives.
Hopefully we are more often like the good soil than the hard soil, but I
can tell you that that is not always the case in my own life. And regardless of where we are, the way we
prepare ourselves to be receptive to the word and to be a disciple of Jesus
Christ is to accept who and where we are and realize that only someone more
powerful and stronger than we are can pull us out of the mud of life, then
surrender our lives and begin to follow Christ.
Accept, surrender and follow are the first steps to discipleship.
today’s story, we again have the sowing of seeds but this time, rather than
being different types of soil and with only one type of seed, instead there is
just one type of soil but two types of seed.
There is the seed that is planted by God, and there is seed that is
planted by the enemy. But, no one knows
this other seed is there until the plants start growing up and they are able to
make a differentiation, until that point they all look the same. If you’ve grown a garden you know that when
it first starts, sometimes it’s impossible to know which are the weeds and
which are the real plants and so you can’t really pull them out until you know
for sure which are which.
from Jesus’ telling of this story there are no botanical descriptions given,
some have said that these weeds, or tares, are the bearded darnel, which grows
throughout the world, but is found particularly in the middle-east, which is
why some speculate that this is the weed Jesus was talking about. The bearded darnel looks a lot like wheat
until it is time to harvest, at which time it’s easier to identify, because
wheat bends over a little when ripe, whereas the bearded darnel keeps standing
up tall. But, just like we are all four
types of soils in our receptivity to the word, we are also both types of wheat,
(the holy and unholy, the potentially fruitful and potentially destructive)
just as the disciples also were both.
And it’s not just Judas, who we might instantly say is the bad wheat,
but what about Peter and his denial of Jesus, or even with the apostle Paul and
his famous quote, which we also heard last week, that he does not do the things
that he wants to do, but instead it is the things he does not want to do that
he does. And the same is true with the
gardens and crops of our lives, “we do not grow the things we want to grow, but
the things we do not want to grow is what grows.”
the biggest problem with wheat, and also with a community, is that because
wheat is planted close together, pulling it out will indeed harm the real wheat
if you were to pull it out. In addition,
what the bearded darnel also does is to wrap its roots around those of the real
wheat insuring that if you were to pull it out, you would pull out the good
plants. But the biggest problem with
these weeds is not simply the fact that they threaten the wheat around them
because they fight the other plants for nutrients, water and sunlight, but
that, because of a fungus that grows on the bearded darnel, it is actually
poisonous, and delivers a toxin to whoever eats it that can cause drunk like symptoms,
hallucinations and even death. While this
is more common in livestock than in humans, there are recorded deaths from
people accidentally eating bearded darnel.
what brings in these bad weeds, what allows the seeds to be scattered into our
lives? In today’s parable, it happens
while everyone is sleeping. In Matthew
and the other gospels, when Jesus talks about sleeping, it usually has the
connotation of spiritual sloth or neglect, after all Jesus chastises the
disciples continuously to what? Stay awake.
When we are sleeping, when we are neglectful of our spiritual lives,
then we are liable to be sowing seeds, or allowing seeds to be sown, into our
lives that we would rather not have present.
Now some will argue that it is the devil that does these things, and
certainly some can make that argument from today’s passage, but I’m of the
belief that I am quite capable of sinning all by myself, I don’t need the
devils assistance in doing it for me.
And here’s the absolute truth, Satan, no matter how you understand that
term, cannot make you do anything, and when you try and place the blame
elsewhere, say it’s someone else’s fault, do you know what will happen? We will never learn from our mistakes because
we have never taken personal responsibility for those mistakes, and we will
also never be able to truly figure out what the weeds are in our lives.
are the weeds that are destroying our spiritual lives? What are the weeds that are growing up and
choking our faith? What are the weeds
that are taking away our nutrients and water and sun? What are the weeds that are distracting and
distancing us from God? What are the
weeds that are destroying our crops and stopping us from bringing in the
spiritual harvest that God is calling for us?
Sometimes we might not even know what it is because we might, in fact,
think we are doing just fine and we don’t know that our fields are full of
weeds until it’s too late, because we are distracted and not paying attention,
or we’re paying too much attention to other people’s fields, and so we let
things into our lives that we shouldn’t, and sometimes we can’t tell the
difference, because the truth is that weeds are entirely in the eye of the
beholder, based on what you want. I like to harass Linda that the state flower
of Texas, which is the blue bonnet, is actually a weed, which she doesn’t find
very entertaining. Instead I should see
it as Ralph Waldo Emerson said that a weed is “a plant whose virtues have yet
to be discovered.” If you want to grow
strawberries, then grass is a weed, but if you want a nice lawn, the
strawberries growing there would be a weed.
What’s the difference? Our
intentionality. The intentionality is
the most important part. If we just
scatter seed and hope for the best, what’s going to happen? We will invariably end up with some of what
we want, but we will also end up with lots of weeds and things we don’t
want. We have to be intentional about
sowing, cultivating, watering, yes even weeding, our spiritual lives in order
to produce the harvest that God has called for us.
of the prescriptions that we have been called to undertake as part of the Healthy
Church Initiative is to set up an intentional path of faith development, not
just for us as individuals, but for what it means about us as a community. What does it mean to be a disciple of
Christ? What does that look like? What
does it require? What is the pathway to
that, a path that doesn’t end but continues for our entire life? As we begin to work on this, and doing it
intentionally, it will allow us to keep from falling asleep in our faith, of
having weeds scattered in our fields, or from allowing them to grow up.
But, as we as a congregation begin to try and answer those questions, do we
have to wait before we make sure we are only growing spiritual wheat in our
fields, rather than weeds, or to make sure that we are not sleeping and allowing
the wrong things to grow? The answer is
no, and just like last week we went back to John Wesley, the founder of
Methodism, and saying his covenantal prayer, I think we have to go back again
to John Wesley and his general rules.
anyone remember what those three simple rules are? The first is to do no harm. To do that we
have to take a step back and evaluate everything that we do, everything we
think and everything we say. It is to
recognize that everyone else is a child of God just as we are, to treat them as
such, and to let God be the one who does the judging and the sorting. The second step is to do good. This is when we take a step forward and engage
with the world, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving hope to the
hopeless, walking with each and everyone one of God’s children through the
journey of life. This is a key one
because if you are spending all your time doing the right thing, then you won’t
have any time doing the wrong thing. And
the third and final rule is in Wesley’s language, attend upon all the
ordinances of God, or as Bishop Reuben Job said, stay in love with God.
has six things to do to help us do that, and here is the good news for all of
us today, we are doing several of them today.
They are attending the public worship of God, check, the ministry of the
Word, either read or expounded, which we are doing both today through the
reading of scripture, and then me trying to expound upon that word,
participating in communion, although we only do that once a month, it was
something that Wesley encouraged us to do as often as possible and to follow
his example which was to take it usually 3-5 times a week, next is family and
private prayer, which we will do today.
The other two are to search the scriptures, which you might do today, and
finally is fasting or abstinence, which since the NFL has begun you could be
practicing by being in worship. But we
need to also make sure these are things we do more than just on Sunday, because
if we only do it once a week, then we are sleeping on our spiritual lives and
we can be sure that we will begin growing weeds.
is the old saying that you are what you eat, and you are what you watch, and
you are what you read, and you are what you say, and you are what you do. We are called to be ever diligent and
attentive to the soil of our hearts, to prepare it for receiving the word of
God, not to sleeping in our faith so that we don’t allow the wrong types of
seed to take hold. And that begins
here. It begins by gathering to worship
God every week, it begins by reading the Bible every day, it begins by engaging
in individual and collective prayer every day, it begins by searching the
scriptures, it begins by participating in small groups, it begins to being a
part of a spiritual formation class, it begins be serving in our community, and
it begins by participating in communion.
says you shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the
mouth of God, and he says that whoever eats of this bread shall never be
hungry, and whoever drinks from the cup shall never be thirsty. The Christian life begins with accepting,
surrendering and then following, and we continue on the path by being ever
diligent in our faith life, in seeking to avoid situations in which we allow
weeds to grow in our life which can grow choke out our faith, and we do that by
first doing no harm, second doing good, and third by staying in love with God,
and when we do those things then we keep our soil fresh, we keep it watered, we
keep it filled with the right nutrients, and we keep from allowing the weeds to
even begin to grow and we then produce the harvest that God has called for
us. May it be so in our lives my
brothers and sisters. Amen.