Let Them Grow Together

CALL TO WORSHIP: The Lord is the first and the last. There is no god beside Him. Let us proclaim this truth out loud: There is no one like our God.

Lord God, we come as Your people to worship You today. We have already declared that there is none like You.

You are greater, more awesome, more powerful than we can imagine; but Your word tells us that You say to us ‘Do not be afraid.’

Thank You Lord that we can come to You without fear, and with confidence, knowing that we are loved, accepted, and welcome. Amen

HYMN 439: ABBA FATHER, LET ME BE-StF

PRAYER OF ADORATION: Your Spirit tells us that we are Your children.
Abba, Father, we worship You.

In Your great love for us, You made this world. Everywhere we look, we see Your handiwork, from the tiniest flower, to the furthest star. You give us a place to live and work to do, and people to love.

Your Spirit tells us that we are Your children. Abba, Father, we worship You.

You sent Jesus to live with us, to die for us, and to teach us many things. From Him, we learn that we can call You Father. We can follow His examples, and one day come to live with You forever.

Your Spirit tells us that we are Your children. Abba, Father, we worship You.

Because You love us so much, we can live as hopeful people, and we do not need to be afraid. We can cry out to You in praise and thanksgiving, because through You we have everything that we need.

Your Spirit tells us that we are Your children. Abba, Father, we worship You. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: PLANTING GOOD SEED (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

Do any of you plant gardens? If you live on a farm you may have a large outdoor garden and if you live in an apartment you may have plants growing in pots on your windowsill.

How do the plants get started? Yes, they grow from seeds. We usually think of seeds as being very small. Some are no bigger than a grain of salt or a speck of sand.

Now something interesting: Did you know that a coconut is a seed? Yes, this big, shaggy, brown coconut is actually the seed from which other coconut palm trees grow.

You may have seen pictures of how coconuts hang high up in a palm tree. When the coconut is ripe it falls from the tree unto the ground below. The coconut may stay there for months and it may look very dry and brown, as if nothing is happening, but eventually a green leaf will poke out of this hole, near the two eyes of the coconut.

After some time the coconut puts out roots and a coconut palm tree grows right where the coconut landed. Because there are air pockets inside the coconut it will float. Stories are told about coconuts that have been picked up by waves and float across oceans to land and grow on distant lands.

Jesus said, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man” (13:37). Jesus uses the story of seeds to teach us that he is the one from whom love comes. When we receive God’s love we are like “good seeds” which grow and produce more love that we can share with others, even those who live in distant lands.

HYMN 249: ...-JESU, JESU StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING:  Lord of all the world, in the Bible story, Jesus tells us that a field where crops grow with weeds can be like people growing together.

We want to be like the corn that produces a good harvest, but sometimes, we know that we can be more like weeds.

Some weeds can grow big and strong, and stop good plants from finding the sun. Forgive us Lord, when we crowd other people out, or don’t give them a chance to know You.

Some weeds have tiny hairs on them that sting those who touch them. Forgive us Lord, when we do or say things that give others pain.

Some weeds can look pretty but not be of any use. Forgive us Lord, when we think so much about ourselves that we forget the needs of others.

We thank You, Lord, that when we turn to You and say that we are sorry, You forgive us. Help us to turn to Jesus, so that we may grow in the right way and be a blessing to those around us. In His name we pray. Amen

READINGS: MATTHEW 13: 24-30, 36-43

HYMN 696 FOR THE HEALING OF THE NATIONS-StF

SERMON: LET THEM GROW TOGETHER: (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

I don’t know about you, but of all the parables Jesus tells, this one about the weeds growing among the wheat irritates me the most. In many situations, I want to know what the farm hands in this story are ready to do: pull up the weeds, throw the bums out, see the world free from the latest set of scumbags, and do all this immediately. But that is not how the story goes. The landowner won’t allow such direct action. In the face of this, maybe we need to look at the story more carefully.

Two topics deserve more explanation than this parable itself is able to give them. The first is the weeds. The second is one of the landowner’s words.

Let’s look at the weeds first. The gardeners among us may raise a suspicious eyebrow at not pulling out the weeds until harvest time. Certainly this is no way to run a farm.

But consider the weeds that have grown up in the wheat field are an annual grass that looks very much like wheat. Distinguishing one from another in the early stages of growth is nearly impossible. As the plants mature, the roots of weeds and wheat intertwine and become almost inseparable. Yet separating them is necessary. Unless the weeds are removed, then flour made from the wheat will be ruined by the weeds, which are both bitter and mildly toxic. The usual solution is to harvest the plants, spread them on a flat surface, and then remove the weeds, which by this stage are a different colour than the wheat.

So the weeds can be separated from the wheat only at the proper time, following the harvest. This brings us to something the landowner says. “Let both of them grow together until the harvest.” This may make sense to us in the context of growing wheat in a field where there are weeds.

From our perspective, who are the weeds growing like crazy in the wheat field of the world? These are the plants we want to yank out by the roots.

— These are the people we want to lock up and then throw away the key.

— These are the people we want to strap in the electric chair.

— These are the people we want to bomb into oblivion.

There are times when many of us, at least momentarily, see this as the obvious solution. We want the wheat field of the world to flourish with wheat, and not to be scarred by weeds.

Or we may sublimate our rage, our impotence, our despair into a question about God. Why doesn’t God do something about those people (whoever they are)? Where is God when they commit their horrible crimes?

The parable does not deny that there are weeds in the wheat. It does not suggest for a moment that the world is free from evil. Instead, the weeds are all too visible. The landowner knows what’s happened — “An enemy has done this!” (v. 28). Yes, the world is a terribly broken place. What is meant to be a wheat field is hosting countless weeds.

And so we hear from the landowner, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” This may perplex us. This may baffle us. It sounds as if the landowner is resigned to letting his fertile field become little more than a weed patch.

As we have looked carefully at the weeds, so we must now look carefully at a word. The word is the one which, in this translation, is rendered as “Let” as in “Let both grow together until the harvest.”

If so, then this parable invites us to costly discipleship. The very real evil that others do is not to be answered by pulling out the weeds, by attacking and destroying the people responsible. Doing so only adds to the harm. Instead, our response is to be forgiveness, and a willingness to trust in the purposes of God.

In this view, God the landowner practices forgiveness and patience. And by his example the same approach is recommended to us. Certainly this patience and forgiveness appears to be how God functions in the world. Look around you, and see everywhere in the world the weeds and the wheat growing together, sometimes in dramatic, horrible ways –sometimes in ordinary, ugly, everyday ways.

And you and I — sometimes we are wheat and sometimes we are weeds. St. Augustine, in commenting on this parable, makes the same point when he says: “There is this difference between people and real grain and real weeds, for what was grain in the field is grain and what were weeds are weeds. But in the Lord’s field, which is the church, at times what was grain turns into weeds and at times what were weeds turn into grain; and no one knows what they will be tomorrow.”

God gives us all amazing atitude to make choices, to do right, even to do wrong to the point of inflicting grievous harm on others and on ourselves. And God does not pull people out of the mire of their mistakes by condemning them, but by forgiving them. It’s a strange way to run the world, I tell you, and sometimes it seems scandalous. Often we would like the Lord to hurl thunderbolts — only at our enemies, of course. But the record indicates God works differently than that.

The most convincing entry in this record is the story of Jesus. What does he teach? Nowhere does he even suggest that in this life we get paid back in kind for the evil we have done. Instead, he goes around telling strange and scandalous parables about patience and forgiveness, like that one today about a landowner who suffers the weeds and wheat to grow together through the many months leading up to harvest.

But Jesus doesn’t rest content with parables. When his enemies nail him to the cross, he forgives them. Risen from the dead, he forgives those disciples who skipped out on him during his hour of need, and sets them up in the business of spreading his forgiveness to anybody who needs it, which is to say everybody.

Once the harvest is in, the weeds will be recognized for what they are and thrown into the fire. There is mercy, but there is also justice. There’s a God who welcomes us with open arms, and there are some of us–just maybe–who will always insist on keeping our distance. Wheat and weeds. Who’s one and who’s another? Augustine reminds us that no one knows what they will be tomorrow.

Yes there is something greater than justice here. There is divine forgiveness, the willingness to let weeds and wheat grow together for a season because they are somehow inseparable, the recognition that revenge resolves nothing, but only increases evil. Whether we are always capable of living in the light of that truth, it is clear from this parable, clearer still from the cross, that forgiveness and forbearance are God’s way of working with a broken world. This approach may leave us profoundly uneasy, even at odds with God, but without this forbearance, this forgiveness, not one of us stands a chance.

Our preoccupation with the weeds must not prevent us from recognizing the wondrous conclusion of the parable: how indeed the harvest happens, an abundance of wheat is gathered in, enough to make landowner and farm hands rejoice together. The weeds in the field have no power to stop the realization of this bounty. The seed was good, and it bore, through adversity, a fruitful harvest. And so the parable ends on a note of brilliant triumph about that harvest: “the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (v. 43).

Evil is real, but it is not ultimate. It never has the last word. Greater by far are those who shine in their Father’s kingdom, those who mirror the bright light of divine compassion. Such was one person who, amid the horrors of the Ravensbruck concentration camp, found faith and hope enough to write a prayer. This prayer points us past the enemy’s evil action to the wonder of the harvest. It attests that landowner’s forbearance is not foolishness, but wisdom. Let us now dare to pray this prayer.

“O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will,
but also those of ill will.
But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted;
remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering —
our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity,
the greatness of heart which has grown out of all of this,
and when they come to judgment,
let all the fruits which we have born be their forgiveness. Amen.”

HYMN 685: IN CHRIST THERE IS NO EAST OR WEST- StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Remembering that Jesus speaks of the whole world as being like a field, let us bring our prayers to God for the church and the world. Let us pray.

Lord, the world is Your field; Show us how to grow together in love.

The farmer was responsible for the whole field. We pray for those with big responsibilities in the world; for leaders of nations; for people in charge of big businesses. Help them to think of the needs of all, so that people may be treated fairly.

Lord, the world is Your field; Show us how to grow together in love.

The servants were concerned that not everything in the field was growing as it should. We pray for the church everywhere. We ask that it may be a place where people may come to learn from You, and to become more like Jesus.

Lord, the world is Your field; Show us how to grow together in love.

The weeds would have made it difficult for some plants to grow. We pray for those who are going through difficult times; for those who are tempted to do wrong; for those who are worried about loved ones; for those who are finding it hard to trust you.

Help them to reach out to You in their difficulties.

Lord, the world is Your field; Show us how to grow together in love.

The field would have been a place for all kinds of wild life to live; for birds, insects and small animals; for creatures living under the ground; we thank You for the variety that there is in creation. Help us to remember that we share the world with all kinds of other creatures, and show us how to treat them properly.

Lord, the world is Your field; Show us how to grow together in love.

Now we think of the field, and imagine ourselves living and growing in one little corner. We pray for the places where we live and work, and for the people who share this corner with us. Show us how to live unselfishly, sharing the good things that You give us, and growing in the way that You want.

Lord, the world is Your field; Show us how to grow together in love.

We ask this prayer in the name of Jesus. AmenThe Lord’s Prayer

HYMN 620: THOU GOD OF TRUTH AND LOVE-StF

BLESSINGS: Thank You Lord for all that we have learned today. Help us to keep looking to You and learning from You all the time, so that we may grow together in love. And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen