Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sermon for 17 July 2011, Proper 11a

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43
The Sower…
Proper [11] (A), 17 July 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When the lectionary was recently revised for Lutheran Service Book, it was no accident that Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the weeds was selected for mid to late July, just in time for wheat harvest.
24[Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Has this ever happened to you? Do you have an enemy that hates you so much that he goes and sows weeds in your field or garden? Who would do such a thing? Again, it is helpful to meditate on a parable like this and wrestle with the details that don’t make sense. It’s easy to see Jesus as the sower. That’s consistent with His parable last Sunday. Last time the seed was the Word of God. It appears to be different here. You probably have a guess as to who the enemy may be. That helps unlock the identity of the weeds.
Another thing about parables. Don’t dig too deeply. There isn’t always a comparison intended with every tiny detail. In fact, rather than torturing ourselves to try to figure out the intended meaning of the parable, let’s hear Jesus’ own interpretation. He’s always right, after all. As He did last week, Jesus interprets this parable’s meaning very clearly.
36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”
It’s important to note that the interpretation wasn’t intended for the crowd—only the disciples. As fellow disciples, we get to listen in.

37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.
Our guess is correct. Jesus is the Sower. He is the most important figure in the parable. He directs the planting and He directs the harvest.

38The field is the world, and the good seed is the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.
In this parable, Christians are the good seed. Is that surprising to you in some way? As Lutheran Christians we sometimes act as if Lent lasts all year round. We are willing to confess with Paul, Luther, and the hymnwriter, “Chief of Sinners though I Be,” but we are often reluctant to confess with Scripture that we are also saints. Luther said that Christians are, at the same time, saint and sinner. That boils down a lot of Bible into one brief, truthful, and profound statement. Christians are, at the same time, saint and sinner. Christians are the good seed in the world. We are salt and light. Therefore, we are given to shake and shine!
The weeds are the sons of the evil one. The enemy, of course, is the devil. This is no surprise once we know that Jesus is the sower. Weeds are sons of the evil one.
This parable is not a complete teaching about salvation, conversion, election, or predestination. Here the weeds are always weeds and the wheat is always wheat. Jesus focuses our attention on the major action: Judgment Day.

The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
The weeds were not pulled up immediately. Why? In prematurely “gathering the weeds you [may] root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest,” the Sower says,” and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Jesus knew his plants. Jesus knows the difference between wheat and the weed known as bearded darnel. This weed looks remarkably like wheat when both are young, but the differences become obvious later on.
So to with the good seed and the sons of the evil one. At other times Jesus criticizes hypocrisy and false believers. His focus here is upon the stark contrast between believers and non-believers. Even though Christians live side-by-side with people of the world and sometimes you can’t tell the difference now, on the Last Day it will be clear.

CPR Illustration: Biosphere 2 was a scientific experiment to create a man-made environment on earth that might be re-created to sustain life on Mars. The scientists created a rain forest, as well as ocean, tropic, and desert environments. Eventually, they observed that the trees growing in the biosphere began to fall down. The problem? In this manufactured environment, there was no wind, and without the stress of the wind, the trees did not grow strong roots. Our suffering and groaning in this life can strengthen our faith and draw us closer to depend on our God in our weaknesses, as we wait for the future glory He has promised us. As Paul says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us…But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:18, 25).
And so we wait. But we are not alone. As sons of the kingdom, all Christians, male and female have one another and the Sower Himself for support. We grow by faith while in the world, but we are not of it. At the harvest we will be gathered into the barn of heaven.
In the meantime, Jesus gathers us around His gifts. Wheat needs water, sunlight, and nutrients to grow. Jesus not only provides you with daily bread, but everything to support this body and life, physically and spiritually! We daily confess our sins and ask that the Lord would forgive us our trespasses. We are absolved and kept in our baptismal faith. We hear the Word of God and gladly do it. We are gathered by the Lord to His house on His day where He gives His gifts. And we bring others with us. At His table this Sunday, Your Lord will satisfy your hungry heart with gift of finest wheat. We pray, “Come, give to us, O saving Lord, The bread of life to eat” (LSB 641 Refrain). Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.