God has gathered us into a community of care and worship. As we come together to praise God, author of a good creation, we are a community ready to help each other through hard times and celebrate together in good times. Let us worship with love, thanksgiving and praise.
First Reading Wisdom of Solomon 12:13. 16-19
A reading about God’s forbearance. There is only one God, who is strong, lenient and all powerful.
Or Isaiah 44:6-8
The God of Israel is the only God; the first and the last. There is no other like our God, and no other rock on which to build our lives.
Second Reading Romans 8:12-25
We are the children of God and co-heirs with Christ. We suffer like Christ, so that we can also be glorified with him.
Gospel Matthew 13:24-30. 36-43 The parable of the weeds among the wheat.
SERMON “When the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as
well.” (Matthew 13:26)
White with daisies and red with sorrel
And empty, empty under the sky!—
Life is a quest and love a quarrel—
Here is a place for me to lie.
Daisies spring from damned seeds,
And this red fire that here I see
Is a worthless crop of crimson weeds,
Cursed by farmers thriftily.
But here, unhated for an hour,
The sorrel runs in ragged flame,
The daisy stands, a bastard flower,
Like flowers that bear an honest name.
And here a while, where no wind brings
The baying of a pack athirst,
May sleep the sleep of blessed things,
The blood too bright, the brow accurst.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) was an American poet and playwright, a feminist activist who explored themes of female sexuality and women's rights. Her poem, ‘Weeds’ concludes with a theological nod to Christ and the Cross, whose brow was pierced by a crown of Thorns. Weeds in this context, adorning the King of all time and eternity. Yes, weeds are a real pain – ask any gardener. I feel like I am forever weeding the Vicarage rockery. And if I don’t get those little weeds out I will soon regret it – as the weeds seem to flower more quickly, and form seeds much more efficiently than other plans. They are intent on survival, whatever I do.
In a wider theological context, the Gospel parable today makes sense. We have to live with the weeds that grow around us and they take various forms, but the most obvious are suffering and evil. These weeds can overshadow our lives and impact upon or relationship – our very faith. So why doesn’t the one who sows the good seed allow the field to be weeded – why doesn’t God, through his Son Jesus, deal with those weeds once and for all? Often the why question is a big stumbling block to faith for many. “Why does God let that – or this – happen to me – or them?” Jesus explains that the process of clearing the weeds could cause the wheat to be uprooted too, and God will not be the cause of any evil and suffering. That’s right – the creator is not the cause of the suffering – for the one who comes ‘in the night’ (a biblical metaphor for evil – things hidden in darkness) and plants the weeds goes away. “…but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.” (Matthew 13:25) This should be contrasted with Jesus - the one who sows the good seed (in daylight) who remains. The field might have weeds growing among the good seed, but the sower isn’t about to go off or give up on their crop for he keeps his eye on this field and refuses to let the weeds be removed in case the wheat is uprooted too. It is better to wait and separate them out at harvest time.
For there is a consequence to evil and evil acts: “Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” (Matthew 13: 40-43)
Of course, the temptation here is for us to judge the weeds and endeavour to pull them up, as if purity will secure our future. But we are firmly warned not to do so. The parable is clear. The time for judgement is coming and that decision-making rests with God and not with us as individuals, the Church or society.
I have no doubt in my mind that God is passionate about His creation. We are part of that – God has a plan – and God has never and will never abandon us, even when it feels to us like the weeds are growing all around us and threaten to choke us. But with God’s commitment to us, confirmed by his coming among us in human form, his very presence with us in Jesus, the new creation, action is required on our part. We are to be wise stewards of all that is created, and if truth be told, we are not very good at dealing with the weeds and caring for God’s greatest achievement – the world in which we live, teeming with life. As disciples, we need to develop an active theology of creation and our response as Christians to climate change and our need to act responsibly and justly is very important. We need to bring issues of injustice out from the darkness into the light – in my view the decisions last week at the General Synod of the Church of England, especially surround support for trans and intersex people are evidence of the Church, at last, doing just that – striving for justice for all.
Friends in faith, God is with us, watching over us and present at times of suffering and persecution. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, we suffer, just as Christ suffered. Paul’s understanding is that we have to share in Christ’s passion and death if we are to share in his resurrection. “…the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8: 21) For Paul, suffering is about imitating Christ, which makes us more Christ-like – righteousness. The Gospel for today concludes with words of reassurance, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father”. (Matthew 13:43) Amidst all the weeds, may we never lose our faith that, as disciples, God is at work in our lives and the world for the good of all. May we then have the faithfulness to play our part in His plan. Amen.
One reason that God might not intervene to rid the world of evil and suffering is that uprooting the evil weeds would also uproot the good wheat.
God is with us in our suffering, and when it is time for the harvest, will gather us safely in. We are invited to share in Christ’s glory.