Pentecost 6 – St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Life is like a wheat field.
No, that is not a reprise of the infamous Forrest Gump line, it is a reality; not just for the farmer, but for the Christian as well.
In your wheat field, or flower bed, or front yard, you only want what is supposed to be there. The only thing that belongs in your wheat field, is wheat. The only thing that belongs in your flower bed, are the flowers you put there. The only thing that belongs in your front yard, is the grass that is supposed to be there.
Needless to say, anything and everything else that sprouts up is a weed, and needs to be removed; not just because it does not belong there, but because it poses a very real and very dangerous threat to what is supposed to be there. As we heard in last week’s Gospel reading, the seed that is planted among the thorns and the weeds, grows up, but is soon choked off by that which surrounds it.
And so for the sake of all that is good and holy and proper; the weeds need to be removed, no matter how innocent and appealing they might be. And the quicker they are removed, the better.
And so life is like a wheat field.
For in your wheat field of life, you have what the Lord has given to you in First Article gifts of food and clothes, house and home, land and animals; as well as Third Article gifts of the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. And you receive these gifts not of your own merits, but by virtue of your baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.
And you are not alone, for surrounding you are the other stalks of wheat, the other flowers, who likewise have been gifted these First and Third Article gifts by virtue of their baptisms into Christ; and who likewise would be severely damaged by the weeds of temptation should they grow up alongside them.
So anything that is not wheat, is therefore a weed; an agent of Satan; and needs to be removed, lest it choke off the wheat, the faithful, you.
That problem student in the classroom, needs to be removed, lest he cause the other students to likewise cause trouble. That neighbor who gossips about everyone, needs to move away, lest others likewise join in on the gossip. That clueless leader, who causes you to disrespect those in authority, needs to be voted out, so that you are not tempted to dishonor. That friend who pushes you toward sins of the flesh, needs to be punished, lest you fall away.
For these weeds pose a very real danger to your salvation.
So getting rid of the weeds is your solution, just as it is the solution of the hired men working for the landowner in the parable. After all, the primary concern for everyone here is the health and vitality of the wheat.
And yet the landowner does the irresponsible; he tells the hired men not to uproot the weeds until the harvest. This is an act of total disregard for the wheat; the entire harvest is now in danger of being lost due to the absurdity of the landowner.
No one acts in such a manner.
Yet, he does not say this because he does not want to pay for the work, or because there are seemingly more important things that need to be done; he orders the wheat and the weeds to grow together for fear that in pulling up the weeds, some of the wheat is also pulled up.
Now surely that is a small price to pay for the greater good of the rest of the field. Would not the abundance of the faithful wheat more than make up for any losses incurred in the pruning of the weeds? Is this farmer not risking more than any reward he might find in a few extra kernels?
That is after all your solution to the problems of the world: wipe the slate clean. No good can come from those countries; no benefit can be found in that community; no faithfulness is found in that household. So forget about them; let the Lord sort them out on Judgment Day; for now they should go away, so someone more worthy could come in, so the wheat might remain faithful and prosperous.
That is your solution to the weeds in your field: wipe them out, and if some wheat must be sacrificed in the process, then so be it.
And yet that is where life in not like a wheat field.
In the fields, in your flower beds, in your lawns, weeds do not become wheat, and wheat does not become a weed.
And yet in the world, there are those weeds, who despite a history of despising the Word of the Lord, repent and are baptized, and become wheat. And there are those stalks of wheat, who despite a lifetime of worship and Sunday school and VBS, become weeds.
You say it can never happen? You say that weeds and wheat will never change?
Look in the mirror.
For in the mirror, you will see the face of one who was born a weed; one who was rebellious and fought against God every step of the way; who has more often than not, succumb to the temptations of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil.
That reflection in the mirror is your own; for you were once a weed, and now you are wheat. Not through anything that you have done on your own, but through the innocent sufferings and death of Jesus, who claimed you as His own.
The Landowner, your heavenly Father, spared you when you were a weed, so that you might become wheat. He did not bind you up and throw you into the fiery furnace; instead He put you in the midst of the faithful wheat, where you were brought to faith through the waters of Holy Baptism; where you heard the Word proclaimed each Lord’s Day; where you read, marked, learned and inwardly digested the Word through Sunday School and VBS and Midweek and daily devotions; where you were fed the body and blood of Jesus to build you up in the one true faith.
You were a weed; but now you are wheat. You were condemned; but now you are an heir of eternal life. You were sentenced to death and hell; now you are clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all your sins.
And this is the hope and prayer of the Church for the weeds that now surround you today. The weeds that surround you, the weeds that hate the Word of the Lord, the weeds that despise the preaching and teaching that is done in this place; are not bound and thrown into the fiery furnace; at least not yet. For from now until the Day of Judgment, the weeds are called to repent and receive the forgiveness of sins; to become wheat.
But the Day of Judgment is coming for both the wheat and the weeds, the faithful and the unfaithful. The day is soon coming, when Christ will come to judge the heavens and the earth, and those who are weeds will indeed be rooted up and thrown into the fires of hell; and those who are wheat will receive eternal life.
But there will be those, who were long determined to be weeds by others, who will find themselves counted among the wheat; for the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; desiring the all might be wheat, that all might come into His kingdom at the final harvest.
And so the work of the Church, the faithful, the wheat, is to stand ever ready to call the weeds to repent and be baptized; that they too might become wheat.
For that is what happened to you: you were a weed, but now you are wheat. You were condemned, but now you are redeemed. You were not a people, but now you are God’s people.