Year A Proper 11, 19 July 2020
Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Let God Sort Them Out”
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Jesus put before the crowd 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!”
This week we have another sower parable, just with some major differences. Last week we looked at the recipients (how people received), this week we look to the outcomes. So try and let go of the Path, the Rocky Soil, the Thorns, and the Good Soil if you can. And hear what Jesus is saying. “Let anyone with ears listen!”
A landowner did everything right. He planted good seed, and expected a good harvest. An enemy showed up, and we are not told why except that he was an enemy. There are always people who think it is their job to tear down and destroy. Always. They will rationalize and justify in all kinds of ways, and sometimes, though rarely, are they honest enough to claim that they are just stinkin’ bad. They often think they are upholding standards, or giving someone their due.
Jesus does not tell us the Why of it all. But all we have is the outcome. Now I am guessing that the enemy expected the landowner to burn the crop and lose it all, but here we see a beautiful picture of Grace, a stunning portrait of the ways of God.
The landowner does not want any that can be saved to be lost. He goes through the long and hard journey of having to work around the evil that was done to him.
The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather [the weeds]?’ 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.’”
The landowner knows that it is best to suffer through this calamity, so that every grain possible can be saved. There are those that will be lost, but not at the wish of the landowner. We all make choices. We all have the Free Will to select, “Choose this day whom you will serve!” But the landowner waits as long as he can.
So it is with God. As Jesus said,
“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.”
God does not want to lose anyone. God does not want anyone to burn.
This is very different from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” that famous sermon from Jonathan Edwards. While good rhetoric, it is bad theology. God does not want to dangle us like a spider over a flame. God wants us brought home, or as Jesus put it: “Gather the wheat into my barn.”
God wants us all to come Home.
I remember as a child growing up in the South making road trips. When we would stop at a gas station or a Stuckey’s, there would often be bumper stickers and other tchotchkes. One I saw a lot was a bumper sticker with a confederate soldier holding the battle flag with the words, “Kill Them All, Let God Sort Them Out!” Horrible. Even as a child it made me sick. And in light of today’s parable, it could not be further than what God wants.
In fact, what would be better, and more like God in this parable would be a slogan: “Love Everybody, Let God Sort Them Out.”
And the sorting, any sorting that there is to be, has nothing to do with us. Ever.
I remember about twenty years ago I was working on a church plant, trying to start a church from the ground up. Gathering leader types, raising funds, and all that is involved in birthing an organization like that. It is hard, hard work. And anything can derail a project. It is in a tender place, like all newborns.
One of our leaders let it be known one service that she was a lesbian. She shared it, matter of fact-ly, and there was no response during or after the service. But as soon as I got home I started receiving a string of calls. People were wondering how I was going to “handle” this. Now remember, the world was in a very different place almost 20 years ago, and this was not an everyday occurrence. So on the phone calls, the synopsis came down to this. “Rock, what is our policy on this?” I was taken aback the first time. Thankfully, God gave me these words. “Our policy is that we love Adele.” Immediately, the person on the other end of the phone said, “Well, yeah, of course, but what is our policy?” And again I said it, “Our policy is that we love Adele. If there is anything that we say other than that we love Adele, then we are not being like Christ.” I had that conversation at least four times that night.
Our wanting to pre-sort and save God some work comes out in so many ways. I am sure we can make a list as long as our arms as to why churches split, or people leave angry. God does not want that. God wants us loving, not sorting. If our policy is anything other than loving every stalk of wheat and every weed, and helping them to grow we have tried to put ourselves in God’s place. God forgive us. We do it so often.
Never forget: EVERY SAINT has a past, and EVERY SINNER has a future. THANKS BE TO GOD!
As we continue in these days, there is the Devil sowing his weed seeds hoping to bring the whole thing down. Division is the work of the Devil. Since Day One.
Loving and Growing is the Work of God, and it is to be our Work in the Kingdom. May we Love Them All and Let God Sort Them Out. Amen