Rev. Susan’s Sermon 7/19 Pentecost 7/Proper 11A
In the midst of summer, parables about planting seem really appropriate. In last week’s parable, we heard how the sower liberally spreads seeds on every kind of ground, from rocky to fertile, with mixed results. This week’s sower presumably uses good ground, but also gets mixed results –this time because of the actions of another, an enemy.
Today I want to focus on the sower in these parables. Usually, the soil and the weeds take center stage. Yet, we can’t overlook the one who is taking such a risk to cultivate the land, to plant, to expect something positive to come out of this exercise.
But listening to these parables leads me to wonder about them, for if the best you can hope for is mixed results, should they be in this business at all? Why not do something else that has better results, a chance at success?
I can relate to the sower though, because I, too, am a somewhat gardener with mixed results.
Perhaps my results are mixed because I really don’t like gardening. I don’t like getting dirty, don’t like the bugs, don’t like working in the sun, and I most especially don’t like weeding! If only someone else could do it!! So why garden? Because hope springs eternal. And in my case, hope is a pack of seeds or a tray of seedlings.
Shopping for supplies every spring, I can’t help but look at a rack of seed packets and imagine how wonderful it will be to have a growing in a garden: tomatoes, corn, radishes, carrots… in my mind’s eye, I can go from a little envelope or a tiny seedling, to a bushel in a matter of seconds.
Truth be told, I don’t have what it takes –a green thumb– to guarantee success. Among my many shortcomings is that I can’t always recognize a plant from a weed. To me, they look pretty much the same. Often, it’s the weed that gets going sooner, looking taller and healthier, crowding out everything else, adding insult to injury. Meanwhile the seedling struggles.
So when the householder says, “Leave the weeds,” I wonder what that garden, that field is going to look like in a month. The weeds will take over. I know that because my garden plot often reaches that stage: weeds taking over all the real estate to be had.
This agricultural version of God is confusing, he’s unconventional to say the least. If you know the soil is bad or rocky, why even bother to sow seeds there? If you know the enemy has planted weeds, why not clear it out and start over?
He explains himself, but not to our complete satisfaction. Let the garden grow together and mature. Then, what needs to happen will happen. Again, a harvest of mixed results! But perhaps also, a sparkle of hope.
Our understanding of the way things work means we want the weeds out, but letting them stay may be the only hope we have. Who’s to say, at this early stage who we are: good seeds or weeds. Maybe God is waiting for us to mature into one or the other. Maybe he’s waiting for something to take root in us. Maybe he’s waiting for us to grow ‘ears that can listen.’
Mixed results are not for the impatient. In a world that wants either/or answers, a ‘maybe’ is too unsettling. We want confirmed, established, positive results. We want to fix things, we want the enemy dealt with, eradicated; we want to mow down the field and burn it to the ground, if necessary. We want straight answers and declarative sentences. We want to be incharge of who is in and who is out. We want to know why evil exists and why bad things happen to good people. We want to know for certain that we are “children of the kingdom” and not the “children of the evil one,” that we are the wheat, not the weeds.
The issue is that as Jesus has stated, all will become clear, just not necessarily in our time frame and not on our terms. Things will happen when the time is ready and not sooner. The harvest will take place according to God’s will, and not otherwise. It will happen and all will be well for the good seed, and the weeds will also reap their reward.
But we are not patient people.
Who among us has not questioned why God allows evil to grow and thrive? Who among us has not wanted to take matters into our own hands and root out the wrong in our midst? Why doesn’t God do this? Doesn’t He get it? Can’t He see it? Doesn’t He care?
The parable tells us that it is not so easy to tell the weeds from the wheat, and for another, their roots are intertwined below the ground. At this juncture, the parable says, they both look alike. Think about that, sometimes the good seed and the wicked weeds look almost identical.
That means that it takes time for both goodness and evil to make itself known. That, I think, means that there’s hope for us yet: can we live up to God’s expectations of us? Can we flourish and blossom as we make our way in the world? It may very well depend on how we respond to what is planted in us. Let anyone with ears, listen.
One thing is for sure, if the mixed results are only going to be fully revealed at the harvest, then it’s going to take twice as long to bring it in. That, too, may be a source of hope: we are still a work in progress.
God’s hope and God’s grace is like a pack of seeds: they –we– are full of potential right from the start. Filled with God’s imagination, love and nurture, how will we respond?
So it’s time to tend our spiritual gardens, to make ready for God’s harvest, when the mixed results of our lives will be brought forward: the good, the bad, the wicked and the just, things done and left undone. As we go, keep looking for the angels who are in charge of the weeding.
In Jesus’ name.