Sermon: Pentecost 6 / Proper 11 – “Weed or Wheat?”

ChosenThis 85 year old couple, having been married almost 60 years, had died in a car accident. They had been in good health the last ten years mainly due to her interest in health food, and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite and Jacuzzi. As they “oohed and aahed” the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost. “It’s free,” Peter replied, “this is Heaven.” Next they went out back to survey the championship golf course that the home backed up to. They would have golfing privileges everyday and each week the course changed to a new one representing the great golf courses on earth. The old man asked, “What are the green fees?” Peter’s reply, “This is heaven, you play for free.” Next they went to the club house and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisines of the world laid out. “How much to eat?” asked the old man. “Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven, it is free,” Peter replied with some exasperation. “Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol tables?” the old man asked timidly. Peter lectured, “That’s the best part, you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven.” With that the old man went into a fit of anger, throwing down his hat and stomping on it, and shrieking wildly. Peter and his wife both tried to calm him down, asking him what was wrong. The old man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault. If it weren’t for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!”

There is a good bit of speculation on what heaven will actually be like and quite a bit more speculation on who actually gets to go, but I was wondering, would you allow me choose whether or not you get to go to heaven?

When we were younger I suppose we all had to endure that humiliating ritual of choosing sides, especially when it came to sporting events during recess or P.E. The teacher always chose the captains of the teams and it seemed that the captain was always Mr. Jock and he always had his jockettes that he would choose first. When the good picking was over, you knew that he and his buddies were no longer choosing who they wanted on their team, they were instead choosing who they would rather be stuck with. If it were up to them, they would likely not choose the losers, but force them to sit on the sideline, which they did anyways because there was no way on God’s green earth they intended on jeopardizing the balance of world power which hung on the outcome of this particular bout of dodge ball.

Now, perhaps you wouldn’t mind me picking or not picking you for a dodge ball game, but again I ask you, would you allow me choose on whether or not you get to go to heaven? If you are smart, you will answer that question with a resounding, “NO!” I am so desperately in need of God’s grace myself that I don’t want anyone or anything getting between me and it; however, what I find so curious, is that we don’t want someone choosing for us, but we are quite often more than willing to choose for others.

In our parable today, Jesus tells us that he is the sower of the seed and that the seed are the righteous – the children of God. The weeds that were sown with the good seed are the unrighteous – the children of the father of lies. And on God’s appointed day, He will send his angels to clear the field of weeds and throw them into the fire.

Unfortunately, there are days when we mistakenly believe that we are either God or the angels. That we have the knowledge, the right, and by golly the responsibility to go into that field and pull some weeds, because we know who they are. If God is too busy taking care of other business, then we will happily step in. Sometimes we step in for what we consider noble reasons, “That person is a heretic! Burn them at the stake!” While at other times our reasons aren’t quite so noble.

Author Stephen Covey tells the time that he was taking the subway through New York City on a nice quiet Sunday afternoon. There were a few other passengers on the car with him, but not many and all were simply enjoying the peace of the day. However, at the next stop a man and his two sons burst onto the train raising all kinds of ruckus. The boys ran absolutely wild up and down the car, screaming, shouting, wrestling – destroying the peace of that Sunday afternoon. I guess Covey thought the father of these two terrorist was a weed that needed pulling, so after a particularly noisy moment he turned to the father and said, “Sir, perhaps you could restore order here by telling your children to come back and sit down.”

Have you ever been in that place? So certain that you were right and the other person wrong? That you could look at someone with all confidence and judge them? Of course you have. We all have. We mistakenly think that we have the infinite knowledge and wisdom of God to make these sorts of snap decisions, but how often are we wrong?

After Covey told this weed to get the terrorist under control the man said, “I know I should do something. We just came from the hospital. Their mother died an hour ago. I just don’t know what to do.” Covey had not snatched out some weed worthy of the fires of hell, instead he had only further bruised a broken heart that was in desperate need of the love of God.

Consider the fact that Jesus knew all along that Judas Iscariot was going to betray him. He knew that Judas was a weed among the wheat, but Jesus never through him out. Instead, Jesus washed Judas’ feet, just as he had washed Peter’s, James’, John’s, and all the rest. Judas betrayed Jesus unto death, yet Jesus never condemned him, but how many have we renounced for offenses that were far more trivial by comparison?

In the parable that Jesus tells us today we are neither God nor angels. Because we are not God, then we are not the judge. Because we are not angels, we are not the ones called to go into the fields and pull the weeds. We are however, the grain of wheat and if our work is not to judge or reap, then what is it? Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

What is our work? Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” One of the desert fathers said, “If a man settles in a certain place and does not bring forth the fruit of that place, the place itself casts him out, as one who has not borne its fruit.” For me, this brings to mind a rather unpleasant thought: if we are not producing good fruit, could be that we are the weeds? I don’t like that thought.

St. Josemaria Escriva writes, “The Lord’s field is fertile and the seed he sows of good quality. Therefore when weeds appear in this world of ours, never doubt that they spring up because of a lack of correspondence on the part of men, Christians especially, who have fallen asleep and have left the field open to the enemy—Don’t complain, for there’s no point; examine your behaviour, instead.” If the weeds are truly growing amongst the wheat, we must consider that the fault might be ours. That we are the ones not producing the good fruit.

Only God chooses who goes to heaven and thanks be to God for that! But we do have a role to play and that is to produce good fruit. The person that you’ve discounted, cast off, considered a weed in this world that must be yanked out, might just need someone – and not just any someone, but you. They just might need you to help them produce the fruit in their own life; therefore, be brave, have patience, and persevere in loving them, bringing glory to Our Father in Heaven.

St. Francis stated our work best when he prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. Amen.”



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