TRINITY 6 - SUNDAY 23 JULY 2017 – WING CHURCH
Rod and Mary—two weeks ago contemplating Parable of Weeds—problem of Good and Evil.
Why did God sow the fields himself? Who created the Evil One, who contaminated the crop with darnel and vetch?—Why did God not order the weeds to be removed, as was usual, when it was possible to do so and leave only the good seed?
Invitation to Confession
Christ our passover lamb has been sacrificed for us. Let us therefore rejoice by putting away all malice and evil and confessing our sins with a sincere and true heart.
May almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to everlasting life.
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
Reading Romans 8: 12—25
Present suffering and future glory
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Gospel Matthew 13: 24—30,36—43
The parable of the weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.26 When the wheat sprouted and formed ears, then the weeds also appeared.
27 ‘The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”
28 ‘“An enemy did this,” he replied.
‘The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”
29 ‘“No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”’
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’
37 He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 ‘As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Parable of Weeds—Matthew 13. About Good and Evil in our world. Exist side by side. Uncontrolled. No checks and balances. No judge or adjudicator limiting the scope of either. No attempt to keep order—for time being. Not everyone plays by same rules. Nor do we share a common moral compass or conscience.
Where did evil come from?—one of most challenging and problematic issues in history of theological thought.
Surely God cannot create evil—evil can come about through the allowance of freewill—what was once wholly good but having freewill has chosen the path of evil.
This does not explain the presence of “evils” in our world—cruel diseases; natural disasters; suffering of innocent babies—and so on. That is for another sermon, another time.
Bible OT generally invents alternative being alongside a good God—call him Satan. We did not create him. It’s not our fault. We are not to blame. Yes we share in the presence of sin in our lives—but Satan has tempted us and we fell for it—or rather, our remote ancestors did.
Does this provide a wholly satisfying rationale to ease our minds and explain some horrific evils, many not even the responsibility of humans?
NT Jesus gives an alternative illustration to the problem of evil in the Parable of the Weeds. But it is only an illustration, not a fully satisfying explanation. We have to admit the difficulties, inhabit the discomfort, and resist any superficial explanation for what we observe in the world.
Parable of the Weeds
· One of few parables that Jesus explains—Jesus himself is creator of a good world—healthy and productive seeds producing abundant crops. These are people of Kingdom.
· At night, evil one comes—his people sow weeds— vetch which grows and resembles the good seed, or darnel that winds its tentacles around the crop and competes with it.
· Servants of the Son of Man ask whether they should pull the weeds up—normal practice. Jesus says no—leave both growing side by side and separate them only at the end of the age—harvest time:
‘The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”
29 ‘“No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.
· Our present reality is that the Son of Man cannot, or will not take steps to conquer evil—at least until the end of time. So we have a world with good and evil people—it would be possible to destroy the evil people, but not at the risk of hurting or prematurely judging some of the potential people of the Kingdom
· So we wait for the harvest—doing good and resisting evil—until Jesus comes again
Warning—this parable is in one sense a warning—if you think you’ve got it all worked out, think again. If you are sure of good and evil, and have identified those responsible, you’re probably misjudging the situation.
Our job as people of the Kingdom is not to judge between good and evil but to live our lives in the love of God and for our neighbours—whether they are weeds or main crops—not to look around us and judge, for that is to elevate ourselves unjustifiably and open ourselves up to the judgement of God and others.
The difficulty of this parable is that the righteous take no responsibility for the presence of the evil one. The parable perpetuates the alternate being, not created by God, but somehow a fallen being, who is ultimately responsible for sin, when we know that we are all sinful beings, and the careful division between good and bad crops does not hold water. We as humans are a mixture of good and bad, constantly challenged by failure and seeking forgiveness. We ourselves share the blame for most of what is evil in our world, by the way we have acted, by our arrogance, by false judgement, by selfish greed, by neglect of this good world, by emulating the powerful and discriminating against the weak.
So we have to be careful not to push the analogy too far—but the essential truth of the parable told by Jesus casts new light on the co-existence of good and evil, and the need for us not to judge but live as people of the Kingdom.
That leaves unanswered the big question—why is the world the way it is?—why did God not remove evil before it took hold, when it was still possible to do so? These are questions for us to ponder.
But the essential truth—the message of the parable is this. When it seems we are overwhelmed by evil, and no one is in control, still we know there will come a reckoning in the fulness of time when justice and peace will hold sway in God’s realm.
In every service and at home, we pray for God’s kingdom to come, in the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus—we are your harvest—the people of your realm. Amen