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"From the Pulpit" - July 23, 2023

"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church, Vero Beach, FL

Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 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?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 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.’ ”

36 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.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” our gospel for this Sunday, July 23rd, 2023 from Matthew's gospel

A Monster Among Us?

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.

The gospel this week hits especially close to home for me. If you can get past the imagery of wheat and weeds, and so forth, Jesus is talking about wheat (good seed), and weeds (that choke out the wheat) being mixed in together as they grow, not unlike last week's gospel of seeds on different types of soil. Except this week, both wheat and weed grow together, right next to each other, until the harvest.

Jesus is reminding his listeners to let both wheat and the weeds to grow together. To live together. To have patience and not hurry to try to separate them. Because we don't always know which is which. The message here is that both evil and good exist side by side in our world, and it's hard to know always which is which. Think of the quiet community wracked by a murder suicide in a neighbor's home, for example. We've all seen these kinds of things in the news before. One spouse comes home and murders the other, and then turns the gun or weapon on him or herself. When interviewed about the tragic event, neighbors recall how quiet and unassuming the couple/family were. Never any trouble, or any indication that such a thing could happen in this quiet neighborhood. And yet, it did, and it does.

I'm thinking in particular of the tragedy in NY this day, with an alleged mass murderer, an architect, family man, community-minded, successful in his business, hiding secrets about his past, living a normal life in his community. And his community had no clue as to what went on in another part of this person's life. If the case proves to be true, it's a real tragedy.

Some of you know that I had a homicide in my first congregation in Bucks, County, PA, in 2008. A woman in our own congregation, in a fit of rage, entered the church office one Wednesday in January, and killed a fellow parishioner who was volunteering to answer the phones and man the office while I was away at a church function.

For weeks, the state police, the local authorities, and members of our congregation couldn't imagine who might have committed such an act, in a church office, no less. And then, it began to become more clear that it could have been one of our very own who committed this awful act. The words I used in the beginning of this article were words I often heard as we wrestled with what to make of all of this. "Could a monster be living and worshiping among us?", some were asking, and the case unfolded. She continued to worship with us, participate in social activities, and even served as a sentry during worship, to watch for potential harm as we worshiped. Go figure. Evil, or however you choose to describe it, was right in our very midst, and we didn't even know it.

Now this example is a dramatic one, but Jesus' point is that evil and good exist together in the world, and in our local communities (think wheat and weeds.) Think of the attorney who looks the other way when it comes to a shady financial move "for the good of the firm". Or the medical student who cheats on his boards in order to get into a medical practice. Or the local politician who takes a bribe in order to get a large contract for one of his or her cronies. You can think of your own examples here, where evil exerts its influence on otherwise regular people like you and me.

Evil exists not just in spectacular cases like some of the above, but in our everyday lives. It's all around us, and Jesus reminds us that it chokes the life out of us all. But, he reminds us to be patient, and to allow both the good and the evil (wheat and weeds respectively) to grow together. That God will do the winnowing. That God will do the sorting out. "Let both of them grow together", Jesus says to his audience. Good advice for us. Good advice for our evangelism efforts in any church. Let God, in other words.

I always think of the Reformers when I read this text. We're reminded of the "two kingdoms" - the heavenly kingdom, where God will reign and mete out justice; and the earthly kingdom, where we are called to punish evil. To bring justice to those who do us and society harm. Through our penal system, the courts, and the like. Two kingdoms.

So, Jesus' message here for Sunday is that good and evil exist together in the same community, and we are not to rush to try to sort out one from the other, but to let them grow together, letting God be the sorter outer, so to speak. After all, it is God alone who is both creator and sustainer.

I'd be interested to see/hear how you view this text for this Sunday. As we move into the summer, we will be looking at the parables of Jesus. Practical applications of his teachings. Real life lessons for us all as we live and move in this life.

Amen. Thanks be to God.

"Shall We Gather at the River?"

"The Reign of God Like Farmer's Field"

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