Proper 11 (2023)

Pentecost - What is a Christian  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:51
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The Weeds Among the Wheat
Last Sunday the readings reminded us that God's word works. It is supernatural; it is efficacious; it accomplishes what God desires and brings forth life and fruit. Today's readings are an interesting contrast. God's Word always works but sometimes not in the way you want it to work. Sometimes it seems like it's not working at all. We want to live in a field with nothing but good wheat, with nary a weed and sight. Jesus just told us that the Word works, but what happens when you find yourself living in a as a Christian and a world full of evil?
The Church today seems to be going through a tough time in our culture. It seems like we are losing ground. The weeds of unbelief are sprouting and growing apace. There are those who are now telling us Christians that they want us not just to be quiet but to be gone, attacking the very heart of our doctrine and faith and even rejecting it as evil and damaging to society (cf Carl Trueman’s book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self). While this will inevitably distress us, it should not surprise us.
There is nothing wrong with the good seed that Christ sows.  The pure gospel produces faithful Christians.  But the devil deliberately sows bad seed where the good seed has been sown.  He does so out of malice and spite.
Jesus and the Early Church knew of the existence and work of the devil and resisted it, as we, too, must. As I just noted, the devil deliberately sows bad seed where the good seed has been sown, and he does so on purpose. He sows weeds in the world, in our own communities that grow up and seem to threaten our very life as Church.

The weeds are growing (vv 24–26).

Besides the growing love affair people have with their possessions and wealth, there is the growing challenge of godless and evil ideologies and false beliefs that seek to unravel God’s created order for sexuality, the family, and marriage—the very fabric of our society through which God continues to provide and curate our world. And what is even more concerning perhaps is that these ideologies are believed and embraced by more and more people. The weeds seem to be overgrowing the whole field!
There are also the weeds growing right in the midst of the Church. In the parable, these weeds have their roots insidiously intertwined with the wheat: false and misleading teaching, causing confusion, heterodox spiritual movements that may look healthy and helpful at first glance, but which turn out to be wrong pathways that ultimately lead us away from Christ and his work.
Possible examples abound:
The false teaching that the Gospel is merely the acceptance of all diversity, including toleration and even celebration of sexually immoral and deviant behavior and lifestyles.
Those who under the shelter of the Church’s roof have molested, abused, or mistreated others, causing terrible spiritual and psychological scars that may not heal for a lifetime.
Perhaps more familiarly, those who cause confusion and conflict in congregational or synodical life through seemingly concerned yet unfair and unloving church politicking, putting at risk the witness and mission of the church.

How do we deal with the weeds (vv 27–30a)?

It can be very tempting for us as we see all this to try to become “weed-whacking” crusaders. Evil and damaging influences in the church need to be weeded out, gotten rid of once and for all. Our spiritual lives depend on it. We need to act to eradicate these weeds, don’t we? It’s up to us, isn’t it?
There’s no question that we must not aid and abet or passively accept the evils we experience and see in our society and the Church.
We are called to speak the truth, to witness to Christ and the Gospel as they are revealed and explicated in Scripture and the Confessions.
But in this parable, Jesus warns us against taking the forcible removal of the weeds into our own hands, tempted though we may be to do so. That is not up to us.
In the parable, the householder tells his servants to leave the weeds and the wheat to grow together until the harvest, because the situation is not so simple as it may look.
As we valiantly uproot the weeds, the wheat will be pulled up too—so closely entwined are their roots. When we think we can ever completely purge and cleanse the Church of its false and evil influences, it always turns out badly.
This work requires wisdom, justice, and insight which we, still imperfect as we are, do not have. The wheat gets pulled up with the weeds.
Historical examples abound:
The fifteenth-century Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, better known as the Spanish Inquisition, was begun with great hopes to rid the church in Spain of false and misleading teachers. But, as we know, it became a misguided and ultimately fanatical, paranoid, even murderous force that did untold injustice and violence to the Church.
In the Reformation era in Europe, the radical reformer Thomas Müntzer saw the great evils at work in the Church, and he called on all true Christians to join the armies of God and put all unbelievers and false Christians to death with the sword. This demonic crusade resulted in the unjust deaths of thousands of people.

The harvest is coming (vv 30b, 39b–43).

Jesus’ answer is not always what we want to hear. We want God to take care of evil now. But he tells us to wait for the harvest for him to root evil out of our lives. We may feel understandably anxious that if we do not try to intervene in some way, the Church's cause will be lost. Once we understand that we need to wait for the harvest, it informs our expectations and outlook on the broken world in which we live. We aren't surprised by it; We expect it.
But here in this parable we find the gracious wisdom and comfort of God for us as we struggle and suffer under the weight of the weeds. The harvest is coming when God himself will justly and truly judge. It is he and he alone who is able and who will do the weeding. He sees all, knows all, and will bring all into the light.
After all, he is the one who from eternity devised the plan, the only plan, that could save any of us!
We all deserved to be uprooted and thrown into the fire, but God sent his Son, Jesus, to suffer the fiery torments of hell for us on the cross.
And since Jesus paid for everyone’s sins, God will allow no one to be uprooted until the last stalk of wheat has been brought to saving faith.
Here is assurance and comfort for the Church as it struggles through history with the work of the devil in the world and the Church. The day of resolution and redemption is coming. God will not tolerate evil indefinitely, and it is up to him, not us, to bring in his harvest and sort out the weeds from the wheat. The reformers, who had to struggle against falsehood and evil in the Church even more than we do today, refer to this very parable of Jesus in AC VIII (“What the Church Is”). They, too, recognize that there are hypocrites and evildoers mixed in with true believers in the church communities in which we live on earth, and it is not up to us, but to God, to judge who they are.
Though Tempted to Eradicate Evil Opposition to Christ,
Jesus Teaches Us to Wait Patiently,
Knowing That His Harvest Is Coming.
We are called to trust, to be faithful in our lives of daily repentance and faith. Jesus teaches us to be patient in suffering and live with the evil and opposition around us, sustained by the hope of what we cannot yet see. We know that the glory which will finally be revealed by God’s victory in Christ will outshine all we now have to bear (Rom 8:18–25). For this God is the reigning Lord of history and all its players and events, the Lord who has announced in advance the things that will happen (Is 44:7) and on whose word and power to fulfill it we can utterly rely.
So, let God settle things in his own time.  The day is coming when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.  He will separate the true Christians from the false.  He will vindicate the faith of the faithful.  He will do it.  We don’t have to. 
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