My brother, sister-in-law, and I planted watermelons in one of our fields recently. The melons had been sowed in containers by members of The Gateway Clubhouse who have brain injuries as part of their work and skill development program.
Typically, folks sow a few melon seeds per container to ensure that at least one plant per container spouts. Once the plants have sprouted, the best plant is kept while the others are pruned away. When we got the containers, they had not yet been pruned. So each container had 2-3 melon plants.
We thought we could separate and save every plant. So, we carefully took the plants out of their containers to separate them and replant them. This would double or triple the number of watermelon plants the Gateway Clubhouse members were expecting.
The work was tedious, we lost a few plants that were just too small to save and a few others simply had to be pruned because their root systems were far too intertwined. But, for the most part, we were successful. The watermelons are now about the size of a soccer ball now and we are anxiously anticipating the final harvest!
The point: when crops are growing close together, every farmer knows you prune the smaller, weaker ones along with any weeds to ensure the most healthy plants have the best opportunity to survive and flourish.
Jesus, on the other hand, is either a really bad farmer or has something altogether different in mind when he tells the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. (Note: tares were a particular kind of weed called Darnell that looked like wheat but were useless and poisonous.) In Jesus’ story, the master instructs his servants to “let both of them [the wheat and weeds] grow together until the harvest.”
What? Who does that?
Jesus’ listeners would have been startled at this twist in the story. They, like the servants, would have expected the master to tell them to pull up the weeds so that the good seeds would have the best opportunity to grow and bear fruit. But Jesus has other plans for this story.
The shocking twist within the parable does two things:
- It sends a message that both wheat and weeds (that is, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous) must coexist in the world symbolized by the field. That is an important message for us today when we want to separate and divide people into neat categories of right and wrong, good and bad, faithful and unfaithful, sinner and saint and so on. Jesus says the solution to our separation and division is to live together, to coexist, to realize our livelihood is connected, and to learn to depend on one another.
- It sends a clear message that judgement is neither for us nor even for the present age. Separation of things from one another is for a future time by forces that are not human. This too is an important message to people of faith who attempt to judge wheat from weeds in our present time. Jesus, solution to human judgement is to stop it before it starts.
You know, its funny that the master in this parable never goes out to check on the field himself after the servants come in proclaiming weeds have arisen. If the master took enough care to plant the good seeds himself, then one would think he would go running out to check on his seedlings once told that weeds had sprung up. But this doesn’t happen in Jesus’ parable. I wonder:
- Could the servants be wrong in proclaiming weeds had arisen? (After all, wheat and takes look very similar and can easily be confused!)
- Might the master know they were wrong (or at least that they might be wrong)?
- And, could it be that the master’s plan all along was to stop the servants from judging and misjudging the plants?
Perhaps the master knew that nothing would be accomplished by simply telling the servants they had mistaken the wheat for tares. In fact, showing the servants how and why they had mistakenly judged the plants to be weeds might just cause the servants to feel more secure that with corrected knowledge they would judge rightly next time.
So instead, the master’s plan is to put an end to judgement altogether by saying “let them grow together” and “the weeds are collected at the end of the age (at a time and by a force other than you).” The effect is that the master addresses the problem of judging right at its foundation. After all , just a few chapters earlier, Jesus proclaims: “Do not judge” (Matthew 7:1).
I like to think we did a bit better with those watermelons than the servants in the parable. That is, we judged every single plant to be valuable and worked intentionally and diligently to save each one and plant them all in the same field. One thing is for sure, we’ll have more watermelons because we cared for every plant instead of pruning some plants out. And that sounds a whole lot like the kingdom of God.
If You Missed Sunday’s Sermon….
Stay tuned…it will be posted online later this week!
Genesis 28:10-19a– Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back… (NRSV, v.15)
Psalm 139:1-12,23-24 – …even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. (NRSV, v.12)
Romans 8:12-25 – I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. (CEB, v.18)
Mathew 13:24-30, 36-43 – “…if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them. Let both grow side by side until the harvest. (CEB, v.29-30a)
This Week at Hood
Tuesday, July 18, 11:00 am – Office Closed (Pastors Jason & Joanie meet with Commission on Ministry in Raleigh, NC)
Wednesday, July 19, 11:00 am – Celebration of Life for Mary Hardison (Visitation at 10am)
Thursday, July 20, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm – Pastor Jason at the Cellar for drop-on conversation (108 N Wilson Ave)
Sunday, July 23, 11:00 am – Worship
September 24, 2018
September 12, 2018
September 11, 2018