This Sunday’s lesson contains the Parable of the Weeds from Matthew’s Gospel. In this parable, Jesus tells the story of a field, sowed with good seed to produce wheat. But an enemy comes along and sows weeds among the wheat. Rather than uprooting the weeds and risk pulling up the wheat with it, the sower waits until the harvest, when the weeds and wheat can be safely separated from one another.
Much ink has been spilled over the centuries in an attempt to discern what lesson Jesus gives for the Church in this parable. In the late 4th Century, St. Augustine used this parable to defend the Church against the Donatists, a sect of Christians who believed the Church must exclude from its fellowship those who betray the community. Others have used this parable to opine on Church discipline and how the Church must deal with weeds among the wheat.
Here’s what I think: we’re all wheat or weed at some point in our lives. At times our actions or words bear good fruit, at other times we fall short and stunt the growth of the wheat among us. The lesson here is found in these words from Jesus: “let both of them grow together.”
It is not our job to weed out the weeds from the wheat. Weeding the weeds from the wheat risks uprooting the wheat itself. Let them grow together. Let God sort it out. Because if we know anything from the history of the Church, we don’t have a great track record figuring out what is weed and what is wheat. We might think we are wheat and someone else weed, and the very opposite may be true!
The truth is, the Church is a place for sinners, myself included. The Church is a place of redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Judgment and condemnation is not our mission. That alone belongs to God. Let weed and wheat grow together.
Jesuit priest Michael Moyhahan once composed a Litany about this very parable, pointing to groups or ideas which might seem contradictory. In his “Litany of Contradictory Things,” Fr. Moyhahan shows how this parable might call our world into a new way of being:
Wheat and weeds: let them grow together.
Arabs and Jews in Palestine: let them grow together.
Documented and undocumented aliens: let them grow together.
Immigrants and Native Americans: let them grow together.
Blacks and whites of South Africa: let them grow together.
Sikhs and Hindus of India: let them grow together.
Rich and poor, humble and haughty: let them grow together.
Those whose thinking is similar and contrary: let them grow together.
Winter, spring, summer, fall; let them grow together.
All seasons of one’s life: let them grow together.
The Reverend Dr. Barney Hawkins has added a few more lines:
Muslims and Christians: let them grow together.
Gays and straights: let them grow together.
Liberals and conservatives: let them grow together.
Republicans and Democrats: let them grow together.
The role of the Church is to be a place where weeds and wheat can grow together.
Trust the One who can do the sorting, loving both weed and wheat for the sake of the world.
The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Rector