St. Simon’s on the Sound
July 22, 2017
Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
Good seeds and bad weeds. That is what Jesus is teaching us about today. Sow good seeds in good soil, but don't be surprised when you discover bad weeds taking advantage of the nutritious soil, the nourishing environment that has been prepared. Bad weeds are inevitable. Bad weeds are greedy and tenacious. Bad weeds can so easily engulf and wipe out our well-being and our life as a disciple of Christ.
Today, Jesus, once again, is teaching his disciples about what I like to call "the way of the cross." The way that Jesus expects his disciples – that means you and me, as well as Simon Peter and all the others - the way that Jesus expects us to live our lives when he says, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matt 16:24)
In this parable, Jesus, once again, warns us of the perils that we will encounter as we take up our cross and follow him. He uses the metaphor of good seeds and bad weeds to help us understand the challenges that we face as we journey as disciples of Christ.
The concept of weeds choking out good plant growth is fairly simply. Contending with weeds is nothing new to us. We have all experienced the hot and dreary work of pulling them time and again just to get space for our flowers and vegetables to blossom and grow. But, in today’s parable Jesus advises, leave the weeds. Let them grow up beside the good crop, he says. Don’t worry, in the end the weeds will be destroyed, and the product of the good seeds – God’s children - will grow and flourish.
Jesus closes this parable with the warning, “Let anyone with ears listen.”
We have now heard two parables about seeds – one last week and one today. Each parable framed by the distinct warning, “Let anyone with ears listen.”
What is it that we need to listen to this week – certainly not just a gardening lesson on weeds and seeds. What is today’s allegory – today’s teaching.
Our lesson today: don't be choked out by the bad weeds that will inevitably grow up around you...the distractions and the temptations placed before us every day in this chaotic world. A world filled with temptations of every sort. Don’t give into greed, overindulgence, envy, and bitterness. Don’t let the evil that surrounds us deter us from maintaining strong roots in the good soil provided by Jesus.
In other words, we must commit to focusing on God as the center of our lives despite all distractions. We must ensure that our hearts, our minds, and our souls are continually being fed by and growing in the good soil prepared for us Jesus. The good soil - the compassion, the light and the love that is foundational to finding our way into the gift of God’s Kingdom.
The bad weeds are the world - the chaotic and negative influences that surround us each day. The distractions and temptations that lure us and lead us astray. The distractions and temptations that have the power to weaken and perhaps kill the roots that have been so carefully planted in the good soil – the way of the cross.
Jesus prays, “Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” Listen to my warning, he says. Do not let the bad weeds overtake you. In the end, they will be destroyed – collected and burned with fire - and those who have resisted their temptations “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Jesus’ warning to us, and his promise of the glory that we will discover in God’s kingdom – if we heed his warning.
I don’t know about you, but I have encountered plenty of bad weeds in my life journey. Some of those weeds got the best of me. They stifled me. They grew rampant around me. I found myself disoriented and unable to find enough light to see my way up and out of their tangle. It was, I suppose, what we might call hell on earth.
Then one day, as I was walking down Main Street in Portland, Maine the red doors of the Episcopal cathedral shouted out to me, “Come in.” I was totally startled. I stopped walking. I looked at the doors. I started toward the doors. I stopped and said to myself, “This is silly. The church is probably locked, why would I even try the doors.” I started walking down the block – two steps, and then I stopped again. I turned back. I went up to the doors and timidly tried them. They opened.
The church was dark and totally empty, and yet I felt compelled to take a seat. I made an attempt at a prayer. Tears started. I stopped praying and just stared at the altar. A priest sat down beside me. “What brings you here, he asked.”
And so, the weeds of my life began to loose their power and my good seed roots took firm hold in the good soil that I had been given years before when I was baptized as a child of God. I had ears and I listened.
I would imagine that many, if not most of you, have similar stories of weeds overtaking your growth as a disciple of Christ. And that, like me, somewhere along the way your ears heard God’s voice and you listened.
In today’s world, we are the few – the few who still keep our ears tuned for God’s voice. The few who are keenly aware that there even are weeds that must be contended with every step of the way.
However, as disciples of Christ simply clearing away the weeds for ourselves is not enough. We also have the responsibility of helping others to understand the effect of weeds in their lives. We, as disciples of Christ, are appointed to be the bad weed parable bearers to those who have either lost their way, or who have never been blessed with hearing the good news – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
St. John of the Cross said, “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of .” I pray that we, who are so blessed and whose good seeds have overcome the bad weed challenges of this life, are now able as disciples of Christ to go forth into our world as companions to those still lost in the weeds.
Our world needs us. It is our mission in Christ to help those in darkness understand that, “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.”