PROPER #11…Series A
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (July 22nd&23rd-2017)
Text: Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
Title: Weeds and Wheat…
The “center-of-gravity” and, I believe, the key which unlocks the central meaning of Jesus’ parable (the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds-our Gospel reading for this 7th Sunday after the Great feast of Pentecost) are the two questions posed by the servants in the story. The first question is a theological question: “WHERE DID ALL THESE WEEDS COME FROM?”. It is an age-old question which has puzzled humanity from the very beginning…what are the origins of evil, or, a more contemporary expression of the same question: “How could an altogether Good and Benevolent God …a God of unlimited power, allow so much evil into the good world that He created?”..
In July of 2014, Susan and I traveled to Spain to walk the first 100klms. of the “Way of Saint James”. Before we left, Susan spent several hours in the garden, tilling the soil and planting two pink spirea shrubs and a blue hydrangea bush.. When we returned, ten days later, the spirea was dead and the hydrangea was on “life support” but the weeds…the weeds had flourished in our absence! “WHERE DID ALL THESE WEEDS COME FROM?”
Notice Jesus’ answer to the question of the origin of evil…it is simple and direct and uncomplicated…”The enemy…that malignant/malevolent force which is opposed to God and God’s plan for the redemption and salvation of the world…the Evil One (aka the Devil or Satan) is responsible for the weeds in the field”, and for the evil in the world which continues to plague the human family and to distort and destroy the lives of human beings and the communities where they live to this very day!
The servant’s second question is an ethical question: “DO YOU WANT US TO GO AND GATHER THE WEEDS?” Do you want us to preserve the purity and the integrity of the field by mounting a crusade and waging holy warfare against the evil weeds? And Jesus’ response to the ethical question is surprisingv and disappointing for moral crusaders down thru the centuries: “NO…do not pull up the weeds (because when you pull up the evil weeds, some of the good wheat may be lost)…instead, allow the weeds and the wheat to co-exist until harvest time!!”.
Does the name Anne Askew ring a bell for any of you? Anne Askew was an English poet, preacher and Protestant martyr who lived in England in the 16th century (during the reign of King Henry the VIII). Askew was condemned and executed for rejecting the doctrine of TRANSUBSTANTIATION…Anne did not believe that, at the consecration of the elements during the Eucharistic prayer, that the bread and wine
of the Holy Eucharist turned to the physical Body and Blood of Jesus. In May of 1546 Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London where she was brutally tortured, and on July 16th, 1546 she was burned at the stake in London.
The story of Anne Askew is a vivid reminder of one of the saddest chapters in the long history of the Christian church. The sad but certain truth is that Askew was one of an estimated 50-70 thousand alleged heretics that suffered execution during the 37 year reign of Henry the VIII. And things didn’t improve when Henry’s children (Edward VI; Mary the 1st and Elizabeth 1st).ascended the throne.
My friends, the sad but certain truth is that, in the more than 2000 year history of the church, that thousands of men and women have suffered the fate of Anne Askew…thousands of women and men, created in the image of God, have been abused, tortured and executed in the name of the God of infinite mercy and compassion and the gentle Jesus who preached peace and tolerance and once told a story about a good field filled with wheat and with weeds…
My friends, Jesus’ parable reminds us that we live in a of mercy and tolerance. It reminds us that our primary vocation should not be to root out and eliminate evil from within the church or the world. Our sacred vocation as followers of Jesus must not be shaped and defined by evil…our sacred calling is not to react against evil, but to live lives filled with charity…with goodness and mercy and redeeming love.
So don’t worry…don’t be overly concerned, Jesus said about the weeds and the wheat growing together in God’s field. It is all right when this happens, and, rest assured, that in the end…in the final analysis…when all is said and done, there will be a separation of the weeds from the wheat…and not a single grain of good wheat will be lost…they will all survive and they will thrive and the harvest…the harvest will be rich and plentiful, indeed…