A Sermon for Series A Proper 11 2017 “A New Parable”

 

Old Testament Lesson  Isaiah  44:6-8

Second Lesson  Romans  8:18-27

Gospel Lesson  Matthew  13:24-30, 36-43

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the gospel lesson just read.  [Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43]

What a year this has been.  A long wet winter, a short, cool, and wet spring; just the right environment to encourage every kind of weed and grass to grow and thrive.  I got rid of the moss right away, but then came the grasses and the flowering weeds.  It got so bad I finally decided to just dig in and remove all the grass under our tree by the drive way.  Never mind the bulbs that were there too.  Some of them would survive; and if they didn’t, we could just start over next year.  But, for sure, the tall grass and the weeds would be gone.

That all happened about a week before I read the gospel lesson for today; and as I read, I realized, God often gives us visual reminders of the wisdom he teaches in his word.  My frustration with the grasses and weeds; and my slash and burn response to that frustration was one of those reminders.  God’s wisdom is beyond our understanding. God’s response is nothing like my response; and, I suspect, nothing like any of our responses.

With that in mind, I have a parable to tell you today:  A man prepared his garden for planting.  He amended the soil.  He made it rich and he personally chose the seeds to plant in this rich fertile soil; but there was one problem; this soil was also great for growing weeds, and weeds and weed seed was all around the garden plot.

He planted perennials and he planted bulbs; plants that would return season after season; and as the plants began to grow and mature, he saw that the weeds were growing right alongside of them. He could see the weeds and he could even distinguish the weeds from the good plants; but the weeds were growing so close to the good plants that the man was sure that pulling the weeds would result in pulling out some of the good plants too.

Now, this man was a Master Gardener.  He knew all the best techniques for removing weeds from a garden.  He had just the right touch, and he could loosen the soil just right so that the weed roots that had intertwined with the roots of the good plants could be untangling from the good roots without harming the good plants.

But even so, he knew that there was always a chance that the good plants might be harmed as he forced the weeds out, and so he left the weeds to grow alongside the good plants.  He knew that the good plants wouldn’t get choked out by the weeds.  He knew that the good plants would survive even though the weeds would suck many of the nutrients out of the soil, nutrients meant for the good plants.

As the season began to come to an end, the perennial good plants dropped their seed, the bulbs became dormant and the weeds died back.  The weeds that season had made the garden look a little rough around the edges, but they didn’t destroy the garden; in fact the good plants grew back the next season, still resisting the weeds, and their seed had made them multiply!  The bulbs came back hardy and had split, multiplying themselves too.  And the number of flowers in the garden grew despite the weeds.

That’s the parable I have for you today.  It differs from the parable we heard in the gospel reading doesn’t it?  The garden in this parable was filled with flowers; the field in the gospel parable was filled with grain.  The weeds were distinguishable from the plants in today’s parable, but the weeds were tough to identify in the gospel.  At the end of the season, the gardener let his plants go to seed or go dormant, waiting for another season; but the gospel parable ended in a harvest.

In the gospel parable, at the harvest, everything was picked, weeds and plants alike.  Everything was cut off from the earth and the fruits of the harvest were brought in to become the sower’s possession.  The weeds were separated from the good grain and they were burned.

That sounds pretty final; because it is final.  It’s Judgment Day; the day all mankind will be called to account.  But that’s not how the garden in today’s parable works.  That’s not how our garden works here at Peace Lutheran Church and School.

We have perennials that seem to die as they sense the soil is getting cold, but then come back when the soil warms up again.  We have weeds that crop up for a season, but then die … and yes some of those weeds reappear the next season.  Those weeds remind us that we still have work to do; new work, new challenges.  We have a lot of gardening to do before that final day.

The gospel parable, with its angelic harvest, is meant to encourage us; to point out to us that although we live among the weeds, weeds that we don’t even recognize as weeds, weeds that try to choke the life out of us and steal the blessings that were meant for us, in the end … on that final day, they’ll be seen for what they truly are; and they’ll be harvested; not to become the possession of the Master; not to be the possession of God, but to be separated from God and from the faithful and to be sent to the fire that burns for all eternity.

That parable reminds us that it’s God who distinguishes between the weeds and the good seed … not us.  It reminds us that what looks like a weed to us may, in the end, be good; and we should never assume that someone is a weed and destined for the fire.  Our job is not to judge our brothers and sisters, but to show the love of Christ to all people, no matter what their appearance may be; no matter what kind of attitude they may present.

Today’s parable is meant to encourage us too; to point out to us that although we live among weeds, the kingdom will continue to grow among us.  This garden we call Peace Lutheran Church and School is only a part of a much larger garden called the Kingdom of God.

That garden is filled with all sorts of good plants; annuals that last for just a little while and then are taken to be with the Lord; perennials that are with us for a season and then drop their seed, moving on to another part of God’s garden, but leaving behind their fruit, their seed, so that next season, new plants appear; and our garden has bulbs that stay put right here, and continue to produce, right where they were planted, season after season.

In this part of the garden there are also strange new plants.  Plants that look different than the plants that have been in the garden for oh so many years.  Plants that we might mistake for weeds if we judged them; but that’s not ours to do.  God alone can look into the hearts of sinners.  God alone can know when we’ve been crushed by our sin and we’re ready for the gospel.  God alone calls a weed a weed.

So don’t worry about how the garden is growing.  It grows in ways we don’t even see, because the Peace Lutheran Church and School portion of God’s garden isn’t just inside this building.  Its perennials have scattered seed all over God’s garden, while its bulbs are bearing fruit and beautifying his garden in this place, in Bremerton and Silverdale and Port Orchard and Poulsbo.

God is patient; and he’s willing to let weeds grow among us.  Who knows, maybe the one we think is a weed will just turn out to be a late bloomer.  Who knows, maybe you or me are ones that looked like weeds but bloomed later.

God has given us a parable to live in … and it runs in cycles; a parable that God renews and refreshes season after season.  Let God take care of the harvest that will surely come in his good time.  Trust in him and work humbly where he’s planted you, showing the love of Christ to all people.  It’s enough to know that you’re in his garden and that he cares for you.  It’s enough to know that he’s the one in charge of the garden and the harvest too.

Be patient and grow in Christ; remembering that although we may only be plants in the garden, we’re producing for the Lord of the Harvest himself.  The weeds will not triumph.  God is working out his plan.  We have God’s promise on it … and he will surely do it.  Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle