Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wheat AND Weeds

Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43

Like many people in the US, I was stunned and saddened to hear that Senator John McCain has brain cancer. I immediately said a prayer for his healing. And I looked on Facebook for a place to record that I was praying for him.

As I read some comments other people had left, there were many prayers for healing, which I expected. But, I was stunned to also read so many negative comments about his views and positions. Some people even wished that he would die.

Now, I often have different opinions than Senator McCain holds, but his views have nothing to do with my respect for him as a man of integrity and courage. And they have nothing to do with his need for healing.

Lately in our country, people express very negative comments about other people. I know there is a lot of dissatisfaction. The middle class and the poor are having a really hard time managing, especially since 2008. Those who are hurting are more and more vocal about how hard things are.

I understand the need to express feelings about financial conditions, the lack of medical care, and so forth. But I have a harder time understanding the way one person or group of people regularly expresses hatred and disrespect for another group of people.

… Which takes us to our Gospel text.

In the parable, Jesus reminds his listeners of similarities between wheat and a weed called darnel. Once they were both established, it was really difficult to pull out the darnel without harming the wheat. Plus, they look so similar, some of the wheat would be lost.

It was preferable to wait until harvest time, when the plants looked very different. Then the weeds could easily be pulled out and the wheat could be harvested. 

We love to hate someone else. We love to put “them” down as less than us, and raise ourselves up as better than “them.” We love to call those we put down “weeds” and refer to ourselves as “wheat.” But Jesus reminds us each time we read this text that weeds and wheat are inextricably intertwined. Only God can separate weeds and wheat in us humans.

We are always and ever both saint and sinner, filled with both good and evil, convicted and righteous. The parable reminds us that judging others is not our job, it’s God’s job. Only God can distinguish between wheat and weeds in a person. So, mostly, it is up to us to focus our attentions on loving God and God’s people without judging them.

Now, there are exceptions to people judging people. It is our job to stop those who are hurting others. It is our job to protect those who are vulnerable. It is our job to be aware of the potential for harm and take measures to prevent people from being hurt.

For example, we have rules in society to protect against crime and murder, and rules about how criminals will be treated. We have rules for the protection of children. We have programs in the schools and elsewhere to attempt to stop bullying. And so forth. We do need to assess and take action when someone or some group is being hurt. But in the US, and in the Church, we must also be grace-filled in our actions.

Newspapers and magazines, TV, and social media like Facebook and Twitter are filled with images and stories in which people make fun of other people. It is hard not to judge sometimes.

We forget the stop sign we missed when we yell at the driver who ran a red light. We wonder why a beautiful young woman messes up her skin with a tattoo, without knowing that the image gives her courage. We criticize the slow grocery cashier but we don’t know that she has a bad back that slows her movements.

We love to laugh when people are being less than logical.  

In our everyday lives, we have little reason for judging others, and every reason for respecting and uplifting others. Let’s make it a habit to avoid judging people, and instead doing whatever we can to be kind and grace-ful to those we encounter.

For the closing story, I have a video you may have seen on TV. A child was caught stealing some items from a store, and told to never come back. He was judged to be a thief. But the owner of the store next door judged him differently. He asked him a question, paid for the items, and had his daughter add some items from their own store. Thirty years later, the child is a doctor and repays the man’s kindness. The video is from Thailand with English subtitles. But you can just watch the action to know what is happening.

Here is the video .

Please pray with me. Gracious God, you know our hearts are filled with love for you, and with love for our neighbors. But we are also filled with thoughts that hurt others, that are less than kind. Lead us to be more kind than hurtful today and always. Amen