WHEAT AND THE WEEDS: STORY OF OUR LIVES (Matthew 13:24-29; 36-42)
The Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara, Holy Apostles, St. Paul, MN.7.20.2014
SACRAMENT: A new church goer asked me one Sunday during announcement and Q & A:”Father, I noticed that some people, when they enter the church, they dip their fingers on the water and make the sign of the cross. Why do they do that?” I first asked the people who were doing that and they did not know the answer. Well, I said, “that is to remind us of our baptism.” And what is baptism? “Baptism is a sacrament.” And what is a sacrament? “A sacrament is an outward and visible sign with an inward and spiritual grace.” So what are the signs of baptism? Water and the words, “I baptized you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And what is the inward and spiritual grace in Baptism? That we are received as children of God and members of His Body, the Church. In baptism, we are united with Christ in His death and we rise again to new life in the Spirit. The baptism by immersion drives home the point very well. When we are submerged in water, we are drowned to our sins; and when we are pulled back into air, we breathe in the resurrected life. At baptism, we also vowed “to seek and serve Christ, loving our neighbors as ourselves... to strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being.”
PARABLE: A parable is similar to a sacrament. It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It is a material story with a spiritual meaning; an ordinary story with extraordinary significance. Jesus spoke in parables to teach about us heaven and the kingdom of God. So what is the meaning of this parable of the wheat and the weeds?
I learned that many Hmong are expert farmers and so there is one thing in this parable that should not escape you. You know that when there are weeds in the rice fields, you have to immediately remove them, because they will choke the rice stalks and eat up the nutrients or fertilizers that should go to the good seeds. You have to weed them out. Remove them. Eliminate them. But in this parable, the owner of the field said to the farm workers, “Leave them alone. Let them grow alongside the wheat but on harvest time, we will gather them and put them into the fire.”
1. 1. The Lord lets his sun shine on the just and the unjust and sends rain to both the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5: 45. In other words, God allows both good and evil to exist in the world. So to the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people; and why do good things also happen to bad people?” The answer is simple: “God allows it to happen.” And why, we ask? It maybe that God allows the bad seed, time to repent, to change ways, so that and when they realize their evil ways, they can turn to God and be forgiven? Do I question God’s wisdom about this? No, who am I but dust and ashes to question His will?
Do you remember another parable called the “Parable of the Prodigal Son?” Others call it the Parable of the Lost Sons, for there were two of them. One ran away, the other stayed at home. But it was not really the Parable about the stupid younger son and a narrow-minded older son. It was really a Parable of the Forgiving Father. The parable goes that the younger son demanded his share of the inheritance. The Father, instead of being upset (“why are you asking for your inheritance? I am still alive!”), gave him all his share of the property. Readily he went into a far country and squandered his money in wine, women and parties. Very soon, he got bankrupt, became so destitute that he had nothing to eat. He was in the pig pen, the lowest place where a Jewish boy should be. Then finally, he came to his senses and decided to return to the Father. He was ready to be punished, to be treated as one of the servants, but when the Father saw him, the Father ran and met him half-way, embraced him and gave back the ring, signifying that he was being forgiven and received as a son. Then the Father threw a big party, had his cooks kill the fatted cow and made a barbecue dinner, like what we had last night. When the older son returned from the farm and saw the festival and learned about the return of his brother, he got upset and scolded his Father. “What are you doing? All these years, I served for you and you never killed a goat or threw a birthday party for me. But this son of yours, who squandered your money among the prostitutes, and he returned, you killed the fatted cow and gave him a Fiesta?” The Father again, instead of being upset, spoke pastorally: “Son, you have always been with me; everything that is mine is yours but you never asked for a goat barbecue. But now this brother of yours came back; he was lost and is found; he was dead and now he is alive.” To us, human beings, we can forgive the sinner but we can’t forget their sins, which is another way of saying, we never really forgive. To the heavenly Father, when we are forgiven, our sins are also forgotten.
Now back to the parable of the Wheat and the weeds: Could it be that God allows both the good and the bad to exist so that the bad will have time to repent and if the good would stray, he could always return home?
2: God knows everything and everyone. God knows the wheat and the weeds. He is omniscient, all knowing God. Even when we were fashioned in secret, He already knows us. He knows the just and the unjust; the righteous and the unrighteous.
There was a story of a woman who was hit by a car and was brought to the hospital. As she lay dying, she saw the Lord and she asked to be given a second chance. Her prayer was answered and she miraculously survived. So as she was strong and healthy as a youth, she decided to change her image. She engaged a plastic surgeon to give her a make-over. She had her nose and face shaped like that of Princess Diana; she had her lips like that of Angelina Jolie; and had her hair blonde like Marilyn Monroe. When she got out of the hospital, she was so happy that she rushed out. Unfortunately, she was hit by a speeding ambulance and she died. Up in heaven, she asked the Lord, “Why?” And the Lord said, “I did not recognize you!”
This story is funny but it is not biblically and theologically correct. The truth of the matter is that God is omniscient and God knows us, no matter how cleverly we change our appearance. Men look on the outside but God looks in the inside. Remember the story of Jonah? He was called by God to Nineveh but he did not want to obey God so he went the other way. He hid in a ship bound for Tarsus, believing that in the ocean, God would not find him. But alas, God caused a storm to the point that the ship was about to capsize. The crew found out that Jonah was the jinx that caused the storm so they threw him overboard. In the bottom of the ocean, Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and then spat him out right into the beach of Nineveh!
So we can run away from God but we can’t hide from God. Psalm 139 says, “If I take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost part of the sea (Borneo), God is there. If I go down into the deepest part of the ground (Death Valley, California) or if I fly to the highest heaven (the moon), God is there.” So God knows who the weeds and the wheat are--- and He allows them both to grow together---until Judgment Day.
3. There is a Judgment Day, a Day of Reckoning. It is very clear to the Apostle Paul when he spoke to the Athenians at the Aeropagus in Greece. In Acts 17, St. Paul said: “The God, who made the world and everything in it, is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.”
There is a Judgment Day but judgment belongs to God alone. It is not for us his servants to make the judgment of uprooting the weeds. This was the error of the Jews who called for the crucifixion of Jesus. They thought that because they were called “the chosen people,” that they have the right to execute what they thought God’s judgment. They forgot that they were called to servant hood and not of being judge of the others. They maybe God’s people but God also have other peoples. God is God of all. God is God not only of the Jews, not only of the Christians, not only of the Muslims. God is God of the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Taoists, the Shintoists, the agnostics and the atheists---whether they acknowledge Him or not. God is a universal God and His salvation is universally offered for all.
So the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds is a story of our lives. We all are wheat or weeds or both. The field is the world and all of us are seeds of God. But God allows us all to grow, so that we may be transformed to the image of His Son, from one degree of glory to another.
Let me end with this story of a man in Boston whose son was killed by another man. As the criminal was put in jail, the man sought to revenge. He discovered that this criminal also had a son, just as old as his own son. Because this murderer’s son was now without a parent and he himself is without a son, he decided to adopt him and treated him like his own son. This extraordinary gesture created a tremendous change in the man who is in jail. How could he not? This example was an extraordinary work of God? Is it possible that the even the weed would someday become a wheat? Yes, for there is nothing impossible for God, who can do exceedingly more than we can even hope or imagine. Amen.