16th Sunday OTA

Wis 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43

By way humor, let me explain the modern day weed and wheat. In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and populated the Earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.  Then using God’s great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Krispy Creme Donuts. And Satan said, “You want chocolate with that?” And Man said, “Yes!” and Woman said, “and as long as you’re at it, add some sprinkles.” And they gained 10 pounds. And Satan smiled.

And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat, and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 6 to size 14.

God then said, “I have sent you heart healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them.” And Satan brought forth deep fried fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.  God then brought forth running shoes so that His children might lose those extra pounds. And Satan gave cable TV with a remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering blue light and gained pounds. Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And Man gained pounds.

God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald’s and its 99-cent double cheeseburger. Then said, “You want fries with that?” And Man replied, “Yes! And super size them!” And Satan said, “It is good.” And Man went into cardiac arrest. God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. Then Satan created HMOs.

We all know, our world is not the way that God made it. God made a good and perfect world but then evil entered creation. The present condition of our existence, then, is a mixture—a mixture of evil and good, of selfishness and generosity, of violence and of love or (as the parable states it) a mixture of weeds and wheat. God has promised us that on the last day the weeds will be destroyed. They will be burnt up. But until that time, the weeds and the wheat grow together, and anyone who would be a disciple of Jesus must learn how to live and how to serve in such a world.

As followers of Jesus, we cannot ignore the weeds in our world. We have to admit and recognize the presence of poverty and injustice and violence and greed. These realities influence much of our experience. We know that all of them are opposed to God’s will and we are called to fight against them. But even as we do that, we must not forget the wheat. We must remind ourselves of the presence of the goodness that is around us, the vision, the service, the generosity, the courage, the love that we can find in so many places and so many people. All of those examples of goodness are a reflection of God’s presence. Seeing God’s presence is a cause of energy and hope.

You see, it is all too easy for all of us to center on what is wrong, to focus on the weeds. We can easily say, here are the things that are wrong about my parents, or here are the things I want to change about my children. We can all point out the flaws in our marriage and the people who drive us crazy at work. We can come up with a list of the injustices in our world or the imperfections in our church. We are always aware of the burdens which we carry, the sickness, and the grief that we must bear. All of these things are real. They are the weeds of our life. We must recognize them and confront them. But if the only thing we focus on is the weeds, we will not be able to find a way out.

We must look up! We must see the wheat among the weeds. We must recognize the goodness and grace in the circumstances around us. When we recognize that goodness and grace, we find the strength to oppose what is evil and the joy to live as God’s servants. As long as we focus only on the weeds, we live a life of bitterness and die of exhaustion. But if we can see and embrace the wheat of God’s presence, then we will find the freedom to build God’s kingdom and the hope that comes from living in God’s love.

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