PENTECOST 6, A – July 20, 2014

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:18-27; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

 

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” Matt. 13:24

 

            Jesus is the master of simplicity, of making the complex simple. In today’s parable He reduces all of the world’s activity and history to a simple story of two farmers: God and Satan. Both sow their seeds in this world and both crops grow. How similar these farmers seem! At the end, however, a great difference between them is seen, for only one farmer’s crop – God’s – bears good grain and is harvested and brought into the barn. The devil’s crop is burned up.

 

Heaven… or hell. Gathered and stored up in safety… or discarded and destroyed. Shining in glorious splendor... or burning like a torch. This is the end, finally, for the people of this world – including you and me. It’s all so simple!

 

Simple doesn’t mean easy to deal with and accept, however. Living in this world in which God can seem rather distant and uninvolved – the enemy is allowed to sow his seeds over God’s crop, for it is untended, His servants sleeping – is not easy. It is hard to trust in God as your good farmer when you are enduring the sufferings of this present time. It is also hard to see Him as present and active in your life when your life, including your faith and worship, is routine and boring. Jesus therefore tucks within His simple summary of humanity’s history and end clues that help us to deal with the routines, as well as the difficulties and sorrows, of life.

 

It all begins with this: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.” Jesus tells us that the field is the world, but keep in mind that He first calls it “his field.” God doesn’t just own this world, you see. He cares for it and works within it like a farmer does his field. Now, Jesus acknowledges that God often doesn’t seem to be doing so. “While his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat,” He says, and he forbids his servants to do anything about it. God allows Satan to be active in His world, and we suffer many sorrows. The apostle Paul says in Romans 8 that “the whole creation is groaning in the bondage of decay.” Its decline and decay is felt in our very bones as we ourselves age. Even so, in spite of terrible storms and natural disasters; in spite of the presence of evil people, with their godless and God-defying actions and teachings; this world is still “his field.” The evils and sorrows of this world don’t just happen. God sometimes sends them, while at other times He allows them. He even allows the enemy to sow weeds among His wheat. He always has His purposes, however, and will bring them about in the end. “The creation was subjected to futility,” St. Paul says. It didn’t just start collapsing on its own. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God and turned away from Him God subjected this creation to futility “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” It is “groaning in the pains of childbirth,” Paul says, and we know that, in spite of all of the difficulties that can come with pregnancy, the end is glorious! Glorious also will be this world when Jesus returns and remakes it. “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Oh, we have so much to look forward to!

 

God’s good wheat believe this and are comforted by this. His good wheat trust Him, whether they are enduring sufferings in this present time or life is simply routine and boring. “God is with me and is working out His purpose for me!” Saying – and meaning – this is the challenge before you in your life. Never lose sight of the fact that this world is “His field” and you who trust in Jesus are His wheat! No matter how things may appear your Lord will never abandon you in this world. He and His angelic servants may appear to be sleeping after He sows, but He fills heaven and earth and is actively with you. “He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep,” promises Psalm 121. Jesus tells us that the enemy sowed his weeds “and went away.” Not so the good sower! He eyes are on His field. His wheat is precious to Him. He will fulfill His good purpose for your life. Trust Him!

 

The Teacher of this parable is the reason you can do so. How can Jesus speak so simply about God and His work? How can He reduce all of the world’s activity and history to a simple story of two farmers and hold before us such a glorious end? He can do so because he sees and knows it all. Jesus stands above and before this world with God, as God, for He is the owner of the field. “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,” Jesus says. He is the Man who owns the field, the world. He declares and prepares its beginning and its culmination, and that of its wheat. And yet, our Lord Jesus not only stands above and before this world. He also stands within it, for He was sown in it as one of the wheat. He is the true seed, the true wheat which God intended us to be, and from Him – cut down on the cross for our sins, planted in the ground, and then harvested and raised up into heaven, we grow and bear fruit.

 

Trust in Jesus. This will reveal you to be good seeds. Your God chose you with care. He planted you with care into Christ in your baptism, and He now tends you with care so that you will produce a good crop. Believe this and proclaim this! This is above all how you show yourself to be good seed.

 

For, in most ways the weeds look like the wheat. In the parable the weeds were not distinguishable from the wheat until heads of grain appeared. The weeds bore no grain, and this revealed them to be unfruitful plants.

 

What distinguishes a Christian from one who is not a Christian? What does a Christian do that a one who is not a Christian does not do? As a Christian, you must try to do what is good, for God expects this. And so, in the Collect of the Day we asked God to “so rule and govern our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that we may be stirred up to holiness of living.” But, you don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person. Thanks be to God! Imagine how awful our world would be if only Christians were good people! No, it is not doing good that distinguishes a Christian from one who is not a Christian. Faith is what distinguishes us; specifically, the trust that God is with you to love you and do you good, no matter how contrary to this your life may be. God is never punishing you in anger, for Jesus bore for you your sins and God’s anger because of them. Because Jesus died for you God looks upon you as His beloved child! Trust in God because of all that Jesus has done for you: this is what sets you apart as a Christian. This is what identifies you as His wheat.

 

It’s that simple, finally. Trust in Jesus, the beloved Son of God who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and your beloved Brother in the flesh! All things are His: this world, with its past, its present, and its future… and you! “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”