This blog will include the sermons I have preached as a lay minister with the Anglican Parish of South Queens in the Diocese of NS and PEI in the Anglican Church of Canada. Because my preaching schedule varies, the frequency of postings will vary.
I hope that these sermons will enrich your spiritual life as much as they have enriched mine.
Saturday, 19 July 2014
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43 Separating Good from Evil
of you who have tended lawns and gardens know how important it is to keep weeds
under control. You have to pull them out or use chemicals. It’s a lot of hard
work, especially if you have to figure out what is a weed and what is a good
flower or blade of grass. After all, sometimes the difference is not obvious
because some weeds look like good flowers or grass and vice versa. At times
like this, don’t you just want to say, “The heck with it!” and let someone else
do the dirty work?
parable of the wheat and the weeds talks about a similar situation. In Jesus’
day, it was common for a mischief-maker to sow darnel over the original crop.
Darnel looks almost identical to wheat until harvest time, and it is mildly
toxic. The servants wanted to uproot the darnel immediately, but the landowner
insisted that it grow with the wheat until harvest time. Otherwise the wheat
would be destroyed along with the darnel because the roots of both plants would
be interwoven. At harvest time, the darnel would be separated from the wheat
and burned as fuel.
story is a metaphor for the harvest of the good and the bad that is coming. The
bad will be burned like the darnel, and the good will be gathered into the barn
or, in the case of Christians, taken to heaven. Jesus taught that on that day
God will judge or reward the people. The lawless will suffer in hell, while the
righteous will rejoice in heaven. The righteous are those who come to Jesus in
faith to be cleansed from their sins. Jesus will clothe them in his
parable of the wheat and the weeds answers two questions: How can good and evil
coexist in the world and what can we do about it. There are two planters, two
plants, two plans and two prospects. The meaning of the parable is that as
Jesus introduces the kingdom of heaven into the world, Satan and his followers
will do everything they can to resist the kingdom. In the end, the kingdom will
triumph. In this story, the field represents the world, not just the church.
the enemy-Satan-makes our job as sowers of the seed called the Good News
harder. We are to spread the news of Christ’s love, but sometimes we are
hindered by Satan and the world. Sometimes these evil plans are disguised as
good plans or good people. It’s not always easy to distinguish the good and the
bad. Sometimes a person we think is good turns out to be bad and vice versa. We
must not be quick to judge others. Patience must not be confused with condoning
evil. Evil, especially evil that is disguised as something good, will become
recognizable at harvest time.
do not live in an ideal world. We are constantly faced with decisions to which
there is no clear answer. Some decisions we’ll get right, others we’ll get
wrong, and still others we won’t know if we were right or wrong for months or
years, but we still have to make them. No matter how we did, God loves us
anyway and promises that he will hold all of our choices and our lives together
and evil exist side by side in our world, including in our churches. It is not
our job to weed them out because we can’t see the hearts of the people. The
true sower of salvation is Jesus. Only Jesus has the power to transform hearts.
He is the one who saves sinners through the preaching and witnessing of
believers. Our job is to see that we remain true believers and not become
hypocrites. It is also not our job to weed evil out because our standards and
God’s standards are not the same. Out standards are not perfect, but God’s
standards are perfect. What we decide is evil might be good in God’s eyes, and
what is good in our eyes might be evil in God’s eyes.
make things worse, we have both wheat and weeds in our own lives. We have our
good points and our bad points, and all of them combine to create who we are as
people. If we get rid of the weeds in our own lives, we get rid of our own bad
parts, but we also change parts of who we are as people. Removing the weeds
might make us more Christ-like, but we also end up removing a part of
ourselves. Besides, as I mentioned earlier, we might end up removing parts that
are good in God’s eyes and keeping parts that are bad in his eyes simply
because our standards and God’s standards are not the same.
know better than to judge others, but we do it anyway. We judge people based on
how they look, social status or where they live. For example, when I was a
teenager I had a paper route for several years. One time my supervisor asked me
to take on a new customer who was a member of the lower class. My parents did
not want me to accept her as a customer because they were concerned that she
would not pay, but my supervisor convinced them to change their mind. Their
concern was based on the customer’s social class, but this customer was one of
the best I had in terms of paying for her newspapers.In fact, I can count on one hand the number
of times I had to go back to her house to collect her money and still have
fingers left over.
might have the desire to be perfectionists, especially when it comes to other
people. If we find ourselves dwelling on their faults or wondering why they
don’t act and feel and think like we do, or if we find ourselves getting
frustrated or annoyed by their weaknesses, perhaps we are expecting too much of
them. Also, we might be failing to respect the differences we have in terms of
culture, experience, background, character, personality or temperament.
teaches that God’s kingdom doesn’t come all at once. It was started when Jesus
was born, it continued after his death and resurrection, and it will end when
he returns to judge everyone. God doesn’t tell us why he lets good and evil
exist together. We can only conclude that somehow it glorifies God to allow
evil to exist. God’s kingdom is a mixed bag of good and evil, and it’s not
always clear which is which. As such, we’d do well not to try to judge people.
We must not judge others because we could destroy the good with the bad. Jesus
has set high ethical standards and is troubled by Christians who do not live up
to them. Unlike God, we do not know the hearts of people.
story invites us to costly discipleship. The very real evil that exists is not
to be answered by attacking and destroying the people who are responsible for
it. Doing so only adds to the harm. Our response is to be forgiving and to be
willing to trust in God’s purposes. We
are not to tolerate anything that can’t be tolerated. Sometimes we do have to
deal immediately with people who are obviously evil such as dangerous
criminals, but at other times we must not rush to judgment. If we want to
receive grace, we must be willing to extend grace. In the final act of
salvation, the tensions that exist within us and with all of God’s creation
will finally be resolved and put to rest and we shall live in peace with God
and each other for eternity. Until then, they coexist even within us, so that
to root out the one would be to destroy the other.
the sinner and hating the sin means being tolerant of those who are different
from us. Loving the sinner and hating the sin means holding people accountable
for their actions, but always being willing to forgive. It means affirming the
good in people instead of always looking for the bad, and of all places, this
ought to be true in the church because it is seldom true in the world.
can still see weeds in ourselves and others. Instead of being discouraged, we should
be hopeful. Good seed has been planted in us and is growing. The burden of the
struggle isn’t ours alone. We get help from Jesus the landowner. He knows what
is happening and helps us sort things out.
are not the final judge of the world-that is God’s job. We are to remain
faithful to God’s word even during hard times, but if we do go astray, we have
opportunities to mend our ways. We have the time and the grace we need to make
the changes we have to make.
David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood,
TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)