Sermon by Reverend Dr. John Mann | July 19, 2020

Matthew 13: 24-30

When I was growing up, the girl next door was named Teri. Teri and I were friends and there were seasons in life where we off and on. We were in the same 8th grade classroom. I was a typical 8th grade boy in many ways. Sometimes clueless and careless. 

Class pictures were taken and we shared the wallet sized photos with our friends. Teri gave me one of her class pictures. In my clueless and careless frame of mind I drew a moustache on it. My friends thought it was funny and since I got a laugh, I didn’t think much more of it. 

Until my mother caught me. Teri’s mother had talked to her and told her how much my antics had hurt her feelings. My mother drove home the point of how cruel and thoughtless my actions were. I could see her point. I felt bad for a brief moment. I tried to be nice to Teri after that. 

Maybe we think this Christian life is about smoothing out the rough spots. Some people think that if you love God and try to follow Jesus, that nothing bad should happen. But bad things do happen, to anyone, and it can make us feel like God has left us. 

Jesus told stories about life, about what life is like, what God is like and how our hopes and dreams about life connect with God’s expectations. These stories are called “parables.” A parable is a way of re-imagining. 

When Jesus told parables about re-imagining life it was a way of saying that God’s intentions don’t always meet our expectations. If we depend on God for responsibilities God has not taken on, then we will be disappointed. Why bother with a God who can’t do anything? We give up on God altogether as a way of saying, “I can’t believe in a God who allows such bad things to happen.” 

Jesus told a story about growing things. A fellow planted a field of grain. He did all the right things to ensure a good crop. But one night soon after the crop was planted, an enemy came by. Some joker who under cover of darkness, went through the field with a bag of weed seeds scattering them everywhere. The nasty part of it was that no one would notice until both the weeds and the good crop came up together. 

When the crop started growing it became apparent that the field was infested with weeds. A servant of the farmer wanted to pull them up. But the farmer said to just leave them be. He would harvest the whole mess and sort out the good from the bad then.

The story is a picture of life. Sometimes in spite of our best laid plans the weeds crop up. 

It is only human nature to want the bad things in life to go away. During the years I lived in Iowa there was a great expansion in the growth of intensive industrial farming. Some of the older farmers talked about a time when a family could live off the proceeds of a 90-acre farm. Now farms are measured in the thousands of acres. Pigs are raised by the tens of thousands and chickens by the millions. 

Fields of soybeans or corn stretch as far as the eye can see and there is not a weed showing. Weeds are the enemy of good farming practices. Weeds in a field are like an insult to one’s character.

The story about the weeds sprouting up seems to be saying that life, even life as God intends it, is not like a well-tended field. In God’s garden of life, good and bad exist side by side. Life is not uniform and smooth. Maybe even weeds are essential to God’s landscape. Sooner or later, we all end up with a few weeds. And the weeds we can see aren’t half as bad as the ones we can’t see. 

In the parable Jesus told he said an enemy planted the weeds. Is this a way of saying that in order to explain the existence of weeds, we need an enemy to be responsible? Sometimes we contend with actual enemies. But in the absence of actual enemies, do we need to create them? Someone to blame for what goes wrong – a scapegoat that means we don’t have to take responsibility. 

I’m also aware that I could be the weed in someone’s otherwise pristine garden. 

The power of re-imagining the life God makes possible is found in the words of Jesus who said, “Love your enemies.”

Ultimately faith in God is not about being perfect in a perfect world. Faith in God is about living in an imperfect world, with an awareness of spiritual realities. Realities that show us there is more to life than we can see and touch for ourselves; realities that give us a sense of hope. 

All the little weeds of life – They appear in the form of regrets; those things you wish you never did or things you would do differently if you could go back and do it over. 

The weeds are all those little nagging things that you don’t like about yourself, all the things you wish you could change, but don’t.

The weeds are the co-worker you’re stuck with, the difficult relatives, and all those people who bring trouble into your life and without whom you think you would be so much better off.

Why does it have to be that way? Can’t you do something about it God?  

God says, “Leave them be. If you go digging around too much and you’ll hurt the good growth. We’ll sort it out when the time comes.” That doesn’t necessarily imply a kind of cosmic, “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord.” It’s more like the good and bad grow together and often what we think of as a bad situation, experience or people in our life, is actually an essential part of what makes us who we are. Besides, we might be the weed in someone else’s otherwise perfect garden. 

More than twenty years after the 8th grade, I ran into Teri at a friend’s party. We were outside talking, and I told her that I never properly apologized for marking up the photo she gave me. I realized much later how much that must have hurt her feelings. I said if I could back and do it over, I would not have done that. 

She said to not give it a second thought. It was what it was at the time, but from her perspective, it was one of those things that made her a stronger person. We talked about how life is not all good things and how difficult experiences go into making us who are. But that’s often the way life is. You can’t change the past.

I think what Jesus is trying to get us to imagine in parables about the realm of God’s possibilities, i.e. “the kingdom of God,” is that life is not perfect. Which also takes some of the pressure off of us, because God doesn’t require us to be perfect. Instead God invites us to both ponder the mysteries and imagine the possibilities of life. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s