7th Sunday after Pentecost

  1. Pentecost 7.20 “Weeding” Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43

This parable, and Jesus’ precise explanation of its meaning (he doesn’t always do that) exposes the great misconception of our age (actually, a couple misconceptions; “among our many weapons are such diverse elements as fear, surprise…”) as to the purpose of Christ’s Church.

The first misconception is that weeds aren’t bad; and that we should not only tolerate them, but appreciate them, learn to love them. Here’s the modern doctrine of missions—which those who know me will know has zero biblical support. Nowhere are the Apostles called to love weeds, nurture and tend them. Far less are they called to uproot them and replant them in such a way that they become wheat and we all live as one weedy/wheaty hybrid family at last.

This is a misconception as the parable itself shows. Jesus says an enemy planted the weeds(!), not a friend. The weeds choke out and destroy the wheat in the parable right before this one. He says the weeds are sons of the evil one, and the wheat are sons of God. We don’t uproot them—not because God loves them, but because the uprooting would harm the wheat. But you see: in the End, God will uproot and burn the weeds with eternal fire.

Which leads to the second great misconception of Modern Christendom: that the goal of Christianity is winning friends when, actually, Scriptures have our aim as opposing enemies. It’s not about learning to love weeds. No, it’s learning how to love God and hate our enemies with perfect hatred—as David says in Psalm 139: “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? I hate them with perfect hatred.” When Jehoshaphat goes out to help wicked King Ahab (who died in the battle) Jehu the prophet went out and told him: “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD.”

Jesus tells the Apostles to avoid Gentiles, Samaritans, but to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Don’t water weeds. Nourish the wheat. Paul tells the Corinthians “not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with wickedness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? So, come out from them and be separate…

The point of Christianity is not friendship with the world, but rather, the purely passive contemplation of Christ. The world would block our view, cut us off from Jesus, and thus destroy us. The contemplation of Christ sounds easy and meek, but it’s really quite athletic. It involves keeping our eyes fixed on Christ’s distant shore while the boat is battered by storms, and enemies are shooting at us, trying to sink our ship. Not for the fainthearted!

Only this view makes any sense of the parable and our Lord’s explication of it.

The parable is simple: the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping (the Master gets no help from his men—a sleepy lot in general) his enemy (he has enemies, he doesn’t love everyone, in the End, but must fight to hold his field) came and sowed weeds (I sometimes translate the Greek as “land mines”) among the wheat and went away. When the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared. The servants are confused. “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have land mines, I mean, weeds? “An enemy has done this.” See the oppositional nature of the story?

So, the servants said: “Then do you want us to go and weed the field, mine-sweep the place?” And the Master goes (all Christian Bale Batman): “No… lest you step on the mines and blow everything up including yourselves. Leave ‘em alone; I’ll send angels at the End to sort it out.” (Martin Standard Version 🙂

Jesus explains: the Son of Man is the one sowing Good Seed. The field is the world (no one is neutral in the Great Conflict). The good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are killer angels—who will, at the end of the age, gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace, so the righteous shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

A couple observations. Notice the servants do… nothing! (how beautiful that is, right?). Their efforts to defeat the enemy will only harm the wheat. Their mission is not to do any saving; rather to be saved, to endure in the Faith on a hostile and difficult battlefield.

Notice—there is no transformation of weeds into wheat, or vice versa. All is as it was sown from the Beginning. It’s predestined. In the Greek, the weeds are ζιζανια—which looks very much like wheat. There is no explanation as to why God permits weeds and wheat to grow alike. He just does. If you’re worried that you might be a weed—and that troubles you—not to worry! This shows you’re a wheat seed, because weeds don’t want to be wheat. If we could turn weeds into wheat, we would. If we were God, we might turn weeds into wheat. But we’re not, and we can’t, so we don’t! God’s ways are not our ways, and not for us to figure out, but to contemplate with joy.

Finally, the angels (my favorite part). Most assume these are heavenly beings, cherubim, seraphim, who at Armageddon, World’s End, do the “reaping/minesweeping”. But the Greek αγγελοθς simply means “messenger”. And the New Testament frequently uses this word “angels” for the pastors of the New Testament! Now the twister comes; here comes the twister! Paul tells the Church in his day, 1 Cor 10:11, that we are the ones upon whom “the end of the ages has come.” This thought is repeated many times in the NT! The End of the Ages began when Jesus died and rose. The great sorting is going on right now!!!

Changes your perspective, little bit?

I am one of those angels. It is my calling (Christ’s work that he uses my hands, mouth, feet to accomplish) to weed out all causes of sin and all law-breakers from the Kingdom.

I’m not here to chew gum and make everyone feel good; I’m here to show Christ’s power over all thrones, dominions, principalities that oppose his. I’m not here to teach the world to sing, but to feed Christ’s lambs, tend his sheep—to guard you from the wolves. I’m not here to help you help the wicked be nice, or love those who hate Christ’s Church. I’m here to teach you to hate with David, that perfect hatred that Christ’s love always kindles. I’m here as a Resistance leader, calling you to the fight, leading you in rising up, resisting, rebelling against the Kingdom of the Weeds—lighting a little fire, making the wheat shine like a field of eternal gold.

Hmm… how would I do that? By preaching the Word, administering the Sacrament—which reveals things as they truly are; infuriating, exposing the weeds as enemies of Christ, while delighting the faithful in the contemplation of the Crucified’s eternal Victory. Every prayer office, every pastor’s class, every Mass, is like the sorting hat in Harry Potter: for some, it is a golden crown revealing us as sons and daughters of the King, Gryffindor’s glorious. For others, it’ll be a burning coal on the head sending them slinking off to Slytherin’s shame.

Much is at stake here, now: as, by grace, through faith, Peace, surpassing understanding, guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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