Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Lord's Harvest. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 7, Proper 11A, preached on Sunday, July 18, 2020, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    We want the Lord to establish heaven on earth.  We want Him to do away with all the sin and evil in our world.  We want Him to get rid of the “weeds.”  And more than just wanting it, we expect it, we demand it.  We expect God to get rid of the “weeds,” not only in the world but in His Church.  That’s how it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?  Isn’t the Church supposed to be the one place we don’t find sin?  Isn’t the Church supposed to help do away with sin?  But Jesus’ parable today paints a different picture for us. 
    A master sowed good seed in his field.  He planted the right stuff that would produce the best crop of wheat.  But while he was sleeping after a long day of farming, his enemy snuck into his field, unnoticed, and planted weeds.  These weeds grew alongside the wheat, indistinguishable until the wheat started to bear its grain.  Confused, astonished, surprised, maybe even a little appalled, the servants went to their master.  “Didn’t you sow good seed?  ...  Do you want us to go out and gather them up, to weed the field for you?” 
Just like us amateur gardeners who quickly get rid of the weeds in our gardens, the servants thought it best to get rid of that false wheat.  They wanted to get rid of the bad.  After all, you don’t want that bad stuff affecting the good.  But the master said no.  He told the servants to let the weeds be.  If they zealously went out into the field pulling up the weeds, they’d also pull up the wheat, and the master wouldn’t risk any of his crop.  It was best to wait till harvest time.  Then the reapers would be able to deal appropriately with the weeds.  Then the weeds would be burned and the wheat brought into the barn. 
When we listen to Jesus’ parables we put ourselves in them.  We try to figure out who we are.  And in this Parable of the Weeds, we can quickly want to identify ourselves with the servants.  We want to be faithful servants of our Master, helping the Lord get rid of the weeds in the Church and in the world.  We look around us and easily identify sin and evil and we zealously want to get rid of it...at least the sin and evil that we see in others.
How easy is it for us to look around and identify the “weedy” sin in other people’s lives?  How easy is it for us to find the speck that’s in our neighbor’s eye?  How easy is it for us to point out all the faults of our spouse and children and co-workers and friends and pastors and our brothers and sisters in Christ?  It’s very easy.  Unlike those weeds that were indistinguishable from the wheat, we have an easy time distinguishing the sin of others.  And we take it upon ourselves to get rid of it.  We give ourselves the job of reaping, separating the good from the bad, deciding who’s a wheat and who’s a weed.  But that isn’t our job, just like it wasn’t the servants’ job.
Jesus explains what this parable is about, and it’s not about how we’re to seek out weeds.  No, it’s about how OUR LORD PATIENTLY ENDURES THE “WEEDS” UNTIL THE END.  It’s about His harvest.  It’s about us being good seed that produces fruit.  It’s about us being sons and daughters of the kingdom.  It’s about us being brought into God’s kingdom at the end of the age. 
It’s not our job to weed the field.  It’s not our job to get rid of the sin that we see in the Church and in the world.  It’s not our job to decide who enters heaven and who doesn’t.  Our job is to be wheat, to grow in faith and to bear the fruit of that faith.  Our job is to recognize the “weeds” that we have, the sin and evil that resides in our hearts.  Our job is to repent of this sin and to seek out the life transforming and life-giving forgiveness of Christ and His cross.  Our job is to patiently endure “weeds” just as our Master mercifully and graciously endures them, just as He has mercifully and graciously endured our sin.  Our job is to forgive those who’ve sinned against us.  Our job is to reconcile with one another.  Our job is to bear with one another.  Our job is to faithfully endure the suffering and brokenness that sin has brought into the world.   Our job is to confidently hold on to the hope of everlasting life that Christ has won with His resurrection and that He has promised to us in our Baptism. 
Does that mean we don’t speak up when we see sin and evil in the world?  Does that mean we don’t speak the truth of God’s Word when we hear the lies of the evil one proclaimed?  No.  We do speak at these times.  We do speak God’s truth in the face of lies.  We call sin a sin…but we do it with love and compassion.  We do it not with the goal of “burning weeds,” but with the prayer that the Lord will work through His Word to transform weeds into wheat, just as we’ve been transformed.  We pray that they too would repent and seek the Lord and be brought into the kingdom at harvest time.
    The master in Jesus’ parable wouldn’t risk his crop.  He wouldn’t let the servants pull the wheat up with the weeds.  He did everything to preserve the wheat.  And the same is true for our Lord of the harvest.
You are God’s crop.  You are God’s people.  You are the sons and daughters of His kingdom and He will not abandon you.  He’s promised to bring you into His kingdom and He won’t let the “weeds” of this world, He won’t let Satan and his demons root you up.  He’ll preserve you until the end.  He’ll continue to nourish the seed of faith that’s been planted within you.  With His Word proclaimed, with His absolution spoken, with His Holy Supper eaten, He makes that seed of faith grow.  And this faith holds tightly to your Savior.  Rooted in His death and resurrection, rooted in His promised salvation, you endure all the suffering and brokenness in our world and you will endure until that end of the age when He will faithfully bring you into the glories of heaven. 
    Our Lord has sown good seed, but Satan has brought sin and temptation into the world.  His weeds and sin are everywhere, in the Church, even in ourselves.  We think we can get rid of it, but in the process of weeding we destroy what God has planted.  It’s not our job to weed out sin.  It’s our job to bear fruit.  The Lord patiently endures weeds until the end; and when that harvest time comes, we have the promise that He’ll bring us and all the faithful into His barn, into His kingdom forever.  In Jesus’ name…Amen.

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