Transcript of the Sermon given by Reverend Anne Kennedy.
YrA P7 2017 Wheat and Tares
Wisdom of the ages, open our hearts to your Word this morning. Let those who have ears, hear. Amen
Last week we heard the parable of the Sower whose seed fell on the path and was trampled underfoot. The seed that fell among the rocks quickly withered in the hot sun. The seed that fell among thorns was quickly strangled as the plants grew. But some seed fell on good, fertile soil and grew strong and gave a bumper harvest.
And we heard how Jesus described to the disciples how that seed was the Word of God, falling into the hearts of people who were at various stages of being able to receive that Word. There were those who weren’t interested in even giving a second thought to what they heard. There were those who received it with joy and excitement, but without someone to support them in their faith journey, they quickly became distracted with other interests. There were those who put more value on worldly ambition and popularity, and the fledgling message they heard was quickly strangled by greed for wealth and success.
But there were also people like us – fertilizing the good soil of our hearts by reading the scriptures. We are encouraged by those around us here today and we are all nourished by the Eucharist which we will soon share.
The landscape and nature are often the subject of Jesus’ parables, and today we have another about the sowing of seed. Bread was then, as it is now, a staple food for people. It comes in many different forms, but it is basically ground up grain, mixed with liquid, with or without a raising agent, kneaded, shaped and cooked in an oven or over a fire.
Bread is such a basic thing, that this was what was used at the Last Supper to remind us about the Body of Christ, broken for us. It is something that people would see at every meal, even if it was just a scant meal in times of famine, and as they broke it to share it around, they would recall the death of Jesus.
So sowing and reaping, praying for good weather and good rain, were an important part of the daily lives of the people to whom Jesus was telling today’s parable. Remember, a parable is something to be ‘mulled over’, to be thought about, to be dissected until a deeper meaning is revealed.
Today’s sower plants his seed in the fertile soil, but a nameless enemy comes and over sows the land with tares – weeds that look just like wheat as they first break through the soil. The word “Enemy” signals someone with the opposite intention of the sower of the good seed.
Although the wheat, the good grain, was sown first, the weeds join it immediately. They do not lie side-by-side, but from the beginning they are interwoven. The “enemy” then leaves, having done his work, but the work of the householder, the true owner of the field who wants to bring the wheat to harvest, has just begun.
So, as the plants grow, and the disaster is discovered, what should he do? Should he rip out all the bad seedlings? No, because it’s too hard to distinguish the difference, and he might sacrifice his whole crop.
But he has a plan – let the two crops grow together, until they mature, then it will be easier to distinguish between the good plants and the enemies plants. He will have the bad plants removed first and burned, and that will leave the good plants ready to be harvested and stored, providing the grain for food and seed for the next season’s crops.
As a story at face value, it seems quite a probable tale – person does something good, something goes wrong, person overcomes and good prevails.
But of course, there is an underlying story here which Jesus explains to his disciples – He is the sower and his field is the world. The good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.
The harvest represents the end of the age, when angels come as reapers, and gather all the causes of sin, and evil doers, out of the world and throw them into the fire amidst great anguish.
But the righteous, the children of God, will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. And then we hear that phrase again – Let anyone with ears listen!
We are surrounded by weeds (and not just in our gardens in the middle of winter when it’s too cold to venture out to do anything about them). The weeds we are surrounded by are the things that try to stop us being faithful followers of Jesus Christ, working for the kingdom of God.
Last week, I mentioned how the media tries to tell us what to believe, tell us what to wear, what to eat, what to drive, how to live, how to think – and we could fall into believing that the media is the moral compass for our community today. Small but vocal groups use the media to influence our opinions on current issues, telling us that their way is the only way.
We may or may not go along with this coercion, but it is important that we look deep into our hearts before we come to conclusions that affect not only us, but those who have no voice in our community, or are too afraid to use it.
As a young adult, I was a member of Rotaract, a group for 18-28 year olds sponsored by Rotary International, which encouraged us to get involved with the community on a local, national and international scale for the benefit of others. We weeded pensioners gardens, built a traffic school at the old Orana Children’s home, we had social functions to raise funds for charities – but most of all, we learned the four way test of everything that Rotary does;
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
It was a great rule of life.
But when we place the four way test beside the new covenant of Jesus, we are called to a much greater challenge in our lives as Christians – we are to love one another as much as Jesus loved us, that is, to be ready to lay down our life to save another.
We probably don’t think we’ll ever face this situation – but here we are today, being asked to stand up for what we believe in. If you look in Abundance, there is a letter from Archbishop Philip, asking us to stand up for what Christians believe in – the sanctity of life.
Archbishop Philip is asking us to stand as wheat among the weeds – for good over evil – in the case of Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide, expressed by the media as “Assisted Dying”.
You may or may not have strong views about this, but you are urged to express whatever view you have, so that our parliamentarians are exposed to a wide public opinion about this issue.
At the end of the service, you will have the opportunity to write a letter to a Member of Parliament – guidelines are in Abundance – and I have a list of addresses, envelopes and paper and stamps – which you can use here, or if you wish, take them home and send them personally. Just remember, handwritten letters have more impact than a quick email.
Because of the apathy that has overtaken our community, we have to stand up and let people know that a basic moral foundation stone which our Western civilization is built on, is that life is precious, and we cannot take life away from anyone – in the terms we oldies grew up with “Thou shalt not kill”.
So take up the armour of Christ – in this instance pen and paper!
We are children of God, subject to his laws, and inheritors of his kingdom. We didn’t just join for a 3 year term, with a possible extension of one year if we liked the lifestyle.
When we became children of God, through baptism, we were adopted by God, given an amazing place in his family and were invited to call him by a most intimate name “Abba”, Father.
And who gave us that invitation? Jesus, our brother and friend. We, you and I, are inheritors of the kingdom of God, and we are responsible for the keeping of God’s laws in that kingdom.
Sometimes it’s a tough gig – but we have the Holy Spirit beside us to support and encourage us. And we have 2.2 billion fellow Christians around the globe, who also share the vision of a world of peace and understanding.
Don’t let us loose that vision – the weeds, the evil doers, will be harvested and burned, but the good grain, the children of God, will stand firm in the face of evil and will overcome it.
The Lord be with you.