Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 – Psalm 139 – Romans 8:12-25 – Matthew 13.24-30; 36-43
Anyone who has been looking at our lawn on the cathedral side on Av. Union will have been wondering what is going on.
As the construction zone dedicated to the restoration of our spire finally moved out, new fences were erected to protect the area. A new construction zone appeared, towards the St Catherine area, to store equipment for the rebuilding of the Union entrance to the mall.
For the rest, a strange green layer was spread over it a few weeks ago, a new technology in lawn sowing – in the hope that there would soon be rain. Of course, we went through a few hot weeks, and there was not for a while, during which time pigeons had a field day. And then there was too much rain at once on various days, washing away some of our new paths though at least helping growth of some long awaited grass.
The area currently looks like a mixture of barren patches in the midst of overgrown grass mixed with weeds, a bit of a mess. It needs mowing and it needs fixing. If anyone has a large mower and time to spare, you would be welcome!
Our gospel reading today might help us to reflect on best practice for tending our garden but – following on from the parable of the sowers and the seeds which we heard last week – it is part of a long series of parables in which Jesus is trying to describe the Kingdom of God to those who listen to him, to try and get them to understand as they are able something of the nature of God.
Because Jesus had been steeped in his own Jewish religious tradition of the time, and he knows his Jewish scriptures inside out. If there is something he has no doubt about, it is that some religious leaders have hi-jacked the narrative in order to make it suit their own purposes, for power and greed.
Jesus also knows that telling things as they are is dangerous both because truth can hurt and is often not likely to be believed. He is a storyteller, and he is used to finding ways to tell eternal truths about God and humanity by using similes and metaphors that may make it easier for his listener to think those through.
And so you are likely to be very familiar with the many parables that punctuate the active teaching life of Jesus in Galilee two thousand years ago, stories that leave the listener wondering what it is that Jesus is getting at, allowing them to find their own meaning at their own pace in order to grow in the process, while being not direct enough to avoid any danger from those who would want him harm.
Omitted from the Gospel passage that we read today, inserted in the middle of the story of the weeds of the field, St Matthew includes a short statement about Jesus’ use of parables (v. 34-35), without which he told his listeners nothing – which was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.’
And there are also another two very short parables about the kingdom of heaven: that of the mustard seed (v. 31-32) – the smallest seed that turns into one of the largest bushes which itself turn into a trees where all birds can come and find rest – and that of the yeast (v. 33), which has the power to turn flour into leavened bread, ready for a feast. These remind us that the smallest most insignificant things can have the most magnificent and life changing consequence.
When we listened to today’s text, I wonder what were your thoughts. Where did you place yourself in the story? Did you see yourself as a good seed, a bad seed, the householder?
And how did you understand the wisdom of the householder to not go after the weeds immediately for fear of uprooting the wheat along with them, and instead to wait until the harvest when they could easily be sorted out and burned?
As we ponder this parable, I wonder whether Jesus is trying to tell us that it is easier to sort out good from bad at the end, or because what might look good at any one time might turn bad and vice-versa? Could it be that good seeds can turn into weeds, and bad seeds into worthy plants? After all, someone has said that a weed is simply a plant in the wrong place.
I wonder whether you might even find any more meaning into this text if you read it a few times and sit with it.
For instance, could it be that the garden – as well as the kingdom of heaven – is also each and everyone of us individually. That we receive good seeds, but also sometimes bad ones. That we sometimes let the bad grow at the expense of the good. And which wins in the end?
It is unlikely that any of us can easily contemplate with ease the idea that Jesus introduces of the end of times, when ‘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’.
Because on the one hand, it is human to want to see punishment on evil, yet it is also human to see the evil in others rather than ourselves. Are we to be doomed also?
In this parable, Jesus may be showing us again the vast measure of patience, love and forgiveness that God – the great gardener – is prepared to give in order that we might all together be the field of the Kingdom of Heaven, the field in which the Kingdom of God grows in all its kaleidoscope of plants.
In our first reading, the passage from the Wisdom of Solomon, we heard:
‘For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people, to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly; For your strength is the source of righteousness, and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.
For neither is there any god besides you’.
When you hear these words, are you reminded of any time in your life, even now, when you have turned to other gods?
Think why did you turn to them? Maybe because of doubt, uncertainty, pride or rebellion?
But the writer of the Book of Wisdom speaks of a God who reassures us. This is the God who cares for you, whose sovereignty spares you rather than condemn you to damnation, who judges you mildly, and who governs you with forbearance. A God whose very last thought is on vengeance and retribution. Instead a God who loves all that he has made.
A God who ‘has taught us that the righteous must be kind, and whose children are filled with good hope, because he gives repentance for sins.’
As we marvel at this God, and take this image with us today, be encouraged as you ponder the choices that are set before you? And don’t be afraid. Speak to the Lord, frankly and humbly asking for whatever you need to dedicate yourself totally to him and to the mission he has for you. Amen