Romans 8:12-17 and Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
(Quoted Scripture is NIV Life Application Study Bible)
Last Saturday Bishop Bard and Julie were supposed to spend some time by themselves, hiking in the Porkies before having dinner with Joe and me in the evening. Instead, they spent time with a 4th grade girl from the school in Superior where Julie had taught. Julie was part of a mentoring program and she mentored this little girl from the first grade until they moved last year to Lansing. They have kept in touch with her because they know she comes from a very dysfunctional home, and they have compassion for her. Julie agreed with me when I said, ‘Some children just grab hold of your heart and don’t let go. They continued to be the ‘good seed’ in this child’s life by loving her and not judging her by the family she comes from.
Last week Bishop Bard talked about planting seeds; seeds of grace; hope, joy, love. He gave us the vision of the farmer scattering these seeds of grace wildly, on poor soil and good soil, hoping they will be received and grow.
God does scatter his seeds of grace over the entire world, hoping they take root and that all people will come to him, receive the grace he offers and be saved for eternal life with Him. The Apostle Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:4-6a, “–God our Savior wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity-the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.”
This week we’re talking about pulling weeds. Planting and weeding go together. Every gardener knows that planting seeds is the easy part of having a successful garden. It is much more time consuming and hard work to weed that same garden. When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it begins to come out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. If it is hard to pull, it’s a weed. The weeds seem to have roots that are long and tenacious, winding their way under the surface of the soil and choking the life out of the vegetable or flower plant.
It is difficult, at times, to recognize the weeds in the garden of our lives, but if we don’t recognize the harmful evil weeds in our lives, the abundant life God created us to enjoy will be choked out and die.
I have come to understand, recognizing the weeds only comes with reading the Bible and spending time prayer.
Pastor Johnny Dean shares what happened to him when he was a seminary student. He writes, ‘She was the church organist, the mother of two beautiful children. Her father called me and gave me the news. “We’ve had to have her committed to the mental ward at Baptist Hospital. She was okay when she was taking her medicine. But she didn’t think she needed it anymore, so she stopped taking it last week. Please go up and see her. We told them it was okay to let you in.”
Pastor Dean writes, ‘I was just a seminary student, a minister in training, not a psychiatrist. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t know what I could say that would make any difference. But I was her pastor.’
‘As I entered the room, I saw her huddled over in the corner, gazing off into space, her eyes hauntingly empty. I called her name softly, not wanting to startle her, but got no response. I walked over and knelt in front of her, placing my hand gently on her shoulder. She looked at me then, but gave no sign of recognition for a moment. Then she whispered, in a shaky voice, “Preacher, the bad people are winning, and there’s nothing I can do.” I managed to make it all the way back to my car before I broke down in tears. The next day the chairman of the elders said, “You need to tell her to find another church. We’ve got enough problems as it is.” In other words, weed the garden, preacher. ———– But which one do I pull out? They both look the same. What a mess! *
Who was the evil weed in Pastor Dean’s story? The suffering woman or the judgmental church member?
One of my favorite theologians, Mr. Rogers, used to say: “Have you ever noticed that the very same people who are bad sometimes, are the very same people who are good sometimes?” It reminds me of a story called, “Two Wolves.” It goes like this:
The two wolves inside of us – “An old Cherokee once told his grandson about a fight that was going on inside of him. He said it was between two wolves. One was evil: Anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, gossip, resentment, and false pride. The other was good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf do you think will win?’ The old Cherokee replied, ‘The one I feed.’” (Anonymous)
We need to feed on the love of God through Jesus Christ His Son; by reading our Bible and spending time with Jesus in prayer; or the evil wolf wins! Evil weeds of this world are planted among us, and they will sneak up on us. Sadly, in many cases, the evil weeds win.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:12-14, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
We all have both good and evil within us. When someone hurts us through words or deeds; is it not our immediate reaction is to retaliate, to hurt them? When someone points out a wrong we have done or a mistake we have made; is it not our immediate reaction to point out something wrong they have done, or a mistake they have made, preferring to not recognize, and admit the sin in our life? We are quick to recognize the sins of others, but not so quick to admit the sin in our own lives.
The revelation in Jesus’ words in today’s parable from Matthew is; it is not our job to weed out the evil in other’s lives. Jesus will take care of that! Our only job as Christians; is to discover what it means to be children of God, by humbling ourselves before Jesus and surrendering to His will; and then to be the good seed in the world, that God’s kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus says, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.” Matthew 13: 37-39)
When a church in Wingate, North Carolina, began a ministry to the children of a nearby trailer park, they had to decide what kind of ministry it would be. They could have chosen to root out all the sources of evil in that place; to chase down the drug dealers and the deadbeat dads, to confiscate handguns and arrest child abusers. Instead, they chose to put up a basketball goal, to tell stories from the Bible, to put their arms around little children, and sing songs about Jesus. And two years after they started that ministry, two years of going out there Saturday after Saturday to do those things, the pastor got a note in his box at church with five words on it: “Adrian wants to be baptized.” Adrian, the terror of the trailer park. That little girl who had made their work most difficult during the previous two years. Who would have guessed?
Instead of pulling weeds in the field where she lived, they just tried hard to be wheat, and somehow Adrian saw that and fell in love with it and wanted it for herself. After she was baptized, there was a little more wheat in the field. And because she was there, soon, there was even more. **
It is not our job to recognize the weeds of evil in other’s lives. It is our job as the children of God to first deal with the weeds in our heart; to ask and receive forgiveness from Jesus. Then to go into our families, friends, communities and the world, to be the good seed.
We do that through loving, not judging. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit will take care of that.
I challenge you today to recognize what is growing in your own heart, wheat or weeds, or both? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what must go. Then be the good seed in our broken and hurting world, that the Kingdom of God may continue to grow, spreading God’s seeds of grace; hope, joy, and love.
Resources; *Johnny Dean, “It Just Doesn’t Work That Way”, www.Sermons.com
**James Somerville, A World Full of Weeds