Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Weeds and Seeds

He 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.”

Matthew 13: 24-30

Since Holy Week, I have picked up the habit of reading the Daily Office Lectionary. I don’t always read every passage assigned to each day. Sometimes, I’ve only read the psalms. Sometimes, I skip some of the readings. But I try to read some of it at some point during the day. I started this habit because I was becoming more and more curious about the various parts of the Biblical story, and I have a desire to discover what it all means in my life in the 21st century. Answer: well, at times I’ve been left scratching my head, or shrugging my shoulders, or re-reading to see if maybe I missed some crucial word somewhere. I’m OK with having days where I’m left going, “Huh?” because there are always other days and different scriptural texts that grab me by the throat and pin me against the wall. Such is the case with the above passage.

Here’s what I got out of reading this parable: my eyes immediately fixed on the phrase, “but while everybody was asleep…” I have run across this idea of “being asleep vs. being awake” quite a bit in my study of the Bible. I’m fascinated by the concept of those who are “asleep” or “dead”, and what happens when they wake up. Usually it’s one of those what I call “V-8 moments”. The person or people who had been operating in sleep mode get some kind of jolt of life when they wake up.

And while this parable seems to be speaking to a large number of people being asleep when the enemy came in and planted the weeds among the wheat, I took this gospel passage much more personally and individually. It is during those moments (which have been many) when I have been “asleep” that the enemy (read ‘not of God’) has planted its useless weeds in my heart and soul. Now, I could try to rip out what it is no longer useful, or burn up those things which potentially keep me separated from God. But in this story, Jesus doesn’t have the master panic and scream, “Weeds!! Weeds!! Dig ‘em up!!!” Instead, the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest time. And then, it’s time to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Do it any sooner and there is the potential to uproot what is good and useful in the fields.

Again, on a personal level, I read in this the challenge I face of having those parts of me that are good living along side parts of me that need to go. And I must have patience with this duality until it’s “harvest time”. At that point, if I return to God and recognize what needs to be cast out of me, he will take care to remove what can go, and let what should stay thrive in my heart. My job is to allow the reaper to do the work and trust that it won't result in an empty field.

I’m also aware that passages such as this one have been used to say that God will burn those who don’t belong in the Kingdom. He’ll gather up all the good people, and all the bad people will go crackle, crackle, crackle. Certainly, there is always more than one approach a person can bring to looking at scripture, which is some of what Christopher Bryan in his book “And God Spoke” talks about in how we study and listen to the messages in scripture. I’ll grant that the good vs. bad people is a valid interpretation. However, I also think that it’s dangerous for us to determine who is the “good wheat” vs. the “bad weed”. This is when I see people trying to substitute their wisdom for God’s, and that never works. Never.

I’ll get to more of that in my next entry.

And on a totally unrelated note: Congratulations to Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson and his partner, Mark Andrew, who became civilly-unionized in the state of New Hampshire’s International Brotherhood of Pink and Lavendar on Saturday! May God’s grace and love protect and keep them in everlasting life together.


Anonymous said...

We can only hope that when the weeds and wheat are gathered that most of the weeds will be destroyed, but that doesn't mean that some chaff stays around, so we just do the best we can.

Gene and Mark's day was marvelous and I was out trying to spread the idea of unconditional love in Orlando at the PFLAG Gulf Conference and had on my Red Episcopal shirt.


Anonymous said...

The 2nd time that this Gospel reading is out there is rather amazing as it is from a different Gospel but it still shows what we should be thinking. I like what Fr. Denson said about being patient and waiting until the wheat and weeds have grown to maturity and than harvest the weeds. I think that our ability to pick out the way we sow the good seed and also get rid of the weeds is difficult but with prayer we can do it.