After a hiatus, I am back with some "first thoughts" on the upcoming Scriptures for Sunday. I hope this is a place where you are inspired to also reflect on the Scriptures, to meditate on them, and to bring that with you to worship on Sunday.
Since we are in the middle of a series on Jesus' parables, we will look at the assigned Gospel lessons over the next couple of weeks. Here is the lesson for Sunday, July 23:
"He [Jesus] put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn....Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!"
According to the four gospel accounts, Jesus taught in parables about 40 times; interestingly, only twice did Jesus offer the interpretation to the parable he'd given (the other is the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13). Here, Jesus offers a parable that also uses agrarian images; however, this parable seems to me to be much more intense than the parable of the Sower, as Jesus talks about fire, angels, weeping and gnashing of teeth. What is Jesus communicating in this parable? Here are a few initial thoughts:
1) There is real evil in the world. Indeed, this evil can even creep into the midst of God's faithful. Jesus seems to indicate that the Evil One has influence through people, even in the church. We can easily point to evil in the world - suicide bombers, abusers, drug use, greed. But even among those who are part of the Kingdom? Apparently so.
2) It is God's job to execute judgment — not ours. Do you see how the weeds and the wheat grow together? Ultimately, it is God's job to sort everything out, do pluck the weeds from the wheat. But that will happen someday in the future - the consequences are not quick in coming. For, in fact, both the wheat and the weeds are all bound up together. Apparently, to remove one would also inevitably destroy the other, because one cannot tell the difference right away between the wheat and the weed.
3) We have Jesus’ promise that in ambiguous, challenging situations - when we can't distinguish between weeds and wheat - we have the promise that, in the end, God will sort things out.This doesn't mean everything will turn out just fine. Our decisions have consequences, some good and some hard. Sometimes things go wrong. The promise in the parable isn’t that there is no hardship in the Kingdom of God; the promise is that we are not justified by our right choices but rather by grace through faith. And knowing we have God’s unconditional regard in spite of our poor choices frees us to live in the moment.
Friends, what are your thoughts?