In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We know weeds. Growing up in the midwest on the farm in a house surrounded by almost 8 acres of grass one learns the difference of weeds rather quickly. Surrounded by that much green grass and fertile soil, made sure that there were plenty of those little yellow flowers dotting our verdant carpet. Dandelions were the play thing of many days growing up on the farm. Many times they were plucked for a lovely little yellow bouquet for my mom or grandma. Next to gathering them for the important women of my life at the time, the best was when they went to seed and were these little white puffs on a stem. Holding them, we made a wish and like the wind blew until all those little seeds had blown all over the grass. I’ve since learned now why we had so many dandelions. As I got a little older, I remember gathering dandelions with my friends. We’d hold one tightly between our index finger and incant, looking back on it a rather dark and morbid saying, “mama had a baby and her head popped off.” As soon as the word “head” was recited we’d flick our thumbs and pop off the dandelion’s golden mane and watch it tumble to the ground.
From there play turned to pursuit and mission. The days of childhood games gave way to chores. Dandelions were no longer a toy, but an enemy. An enemy that threatened the very verdant blanket around our house that we prized and cherished. Weeds became pests in need of chemical warfare. From Roundup to other more potent things, the grass would be sprayed until not one little yellow bouquet remained. If chemical warfare didn’t do the trick, then we brought in the heavy artillery, especially around the house. Indeed one of the very signs I knew I had reached manhood was when my grandfather handed over to my care our gas powered Weed Eater! Pulling the trigger the cords of that head would dice up weeds better than any samurai sword. For more strategic and selective targeting, there was of course the harder and less fun work of using the weeding fork and uprooting them by hand. Weeds in Iowa, like I am sure they are in California, were only good for one thing, their removal. We see them, in our grass, in our garden, and we terminate with extreme prejudice.
In Jesus’ parable this morning we hear again about the farmer, who seems even more careless than last week by allowing weeds to invade and permeate his wheat field. Let them both grow together until the harvest, he tells his hired hands. Farming today, we’d say that’s a terrible idea for protecting your harvest and at the very least it just looks bad with wayward weeds jetting out from a perfectly and strategically lined row of beans. The one thing we don’t do with weeds, is leave them be. Yet that is the order our farmer issues to those who work in his field. Don’t uproot them. Don’t spray them. Don’t pull out the heavy artillery and weed eat them. Let them be. Let them grow. Let them remain in place for now in the wheat fields of Galilee.
For there is a weed prevalent among wheat fields in that part of the world, very likely the same weed our Lord speaks of today, called the darnel weed. It, unlike the bright yellow dandelion, is a much more subtle and deceptive weed. So much so that while growing it looks no different than ordinary wheat. The plants are so closely related in appearance that it is given another name, “false wheat.” It isn’t until their ears open that the difference between them is revealed. Wheat, ripe and ready for the harvest is as we know brown. Darnel is black. There only at the last, when its fruit is revealed is the wheat so readily distinguishable from those pesky weeds, sown by the evil one. In the wheat fields of Galilee the foolish farmer is shown to be wise and discerning in his patience, in his endurance, in his long-suffering of the enemy’s dirty tricks. For in doing what we would do with weeds, he would lose his precious wheat either mistaken for weeds or because the root systems of the both are intertwined beneath the surface. In removing weeds, He would lose that good seed that He had planted and he would rather suffer the weeds than allow even one ear of his grain to perish. Thus no arial support spray, no weed eater, no plucking just for fun only patience, mercy, and long-suffering for this Lord of the harvest.
Though He knows about Galilean wheat farming, our Lord really isn’t talking about that today, nor of fields, nor of wheat, nor weeds. He speaks of something much more precious than the clothing of the field, the withered grass, or fading flower. He speaks of His good creation, the world, the people He fashioned before the foundations of the world. Those born anew of water and the spirit and those awaiting their adoption as sons and daughters of God. He speaks to us and of our life in the church and in the world a place of both wheat and weeds. As wheat we know the weeds of the world, the dandelions with their bright and unmistakable displays of sin, evil, and lawlessness. Those who persecute the Church and try to silence the Gospel’s proclamation by force. Those weeds who harm their fellow brother or sister for the sake of their own selfish use. Those who shoot down planes from the heavens and take innocent blood upon their hands. We know the weeds and our weed-like nature knows what to do with them. Yet every generation has encountered such evil from the foundation of the world. So that in every generation it is asked why does the Lord permit this to be so? The answer to that is found in the parable and it was there proclaimed in the psalm. You, O Lord, are gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth. The Lord is patient, merciful, and long-suffering with his whole people with his whole creation. He suffers the weeds of this world, not only for the sake of the wheat, but for the sake of the weeds themselves. Where we would rush for the spray can or weed-eater, God showers down rain upon both the evil and the righteous, the waters of His mercy and of His forgiveness. Yes, even for those most heinous of dandelions.
For He can do what we can not, where we see nothing but weeds destined for our attack, He sees the potential for new wheat. Not only does He sees that potential, it is His gracious will that all might come to know His goodness, lay down their evil ways, and receive His forgiveness. It is the very reason He planted His good seed Jesus Christ into the world. By the cross of Christ He forgives all and has forgiven all. It is the work of the shed blood and broken body of Jesus in the flesh, that redeems all flesh both the wheat and the weeds. For the wheat and for the dandelions the Father has offered up His Son, thus our God suffers. He suffers with patience waiting, hoping, and longing for their redemption, the day when they will be wheat and shine like the sun in the Father’s barn.
As it is for the dandelion so it is for the darnels. Those unassuming weeds that grow hidden among the wheat, those who are like the wheat in every way except for one. One that only the Farmer in his keen and fatherly heart can see, discern and judg: their fruit, their faith. Looking out in the congregation I see such wheat and weeds, indeed looking to my own heart I see such wheat, such weeds. Good seed planted in his Kingdom, nurtured by water and Word, Wheat and Wine for growth, maturing, and fruit bearing for the harvest. Yet more often than not I look not unlike that darnel weed growing its own way, in need of mercy. In need of the patience and long-suffering of a good and gracious Farmer who is swift to forgive and wait, and rain down upon me, up on us all, the salvation of his life-giving baptismal water again. Thankfully He does, restoring we errant weeds to fruit bearing wheat. For He indeed is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth. He is with the weeds, and he is with the wheat, and he calls his servants to be the same.
He calls his wheat to show mercy, to be long-suffering, and to forgive. Not to be like our fallen nature and destroy the weeds throughout our life in this field but allow both to grow together. That is the word he speaks to the servants in the parable, interestingly enough though that is not exactly what the word in Greek is. The word is actually aphihmi, the word means “to forgive.” Forgive them to grow together until the harvest. As we live in the Church and in the world we are reminded to be like the wise and good farmer. We are called to forgive as we have been forgiven. For if God can forgive the dandelions and he has by the blood of His Son, and if he can forgive the darnels and he has by the blood of His Son, then surely we too can forgive one another for our weedish behavior and tendencies here in His field, His kingdom. God has forgiven us our sins, surely we can forgive and bear with one another in their weakness as well. Surely too, we like the wheat of the Lord of the Harvest can shine the graciousness, compassion, kindness, patience, long-suffering and truth of the one and only Son to the wheat and weeds around us.