Pentecost 7 2017, Proper 11
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 23, 2017
Psalm 119:57-64, Isaiah 44:6-8, Romans 8:18-27, Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
Full Service Audio: bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship
Most summers I plant a garden in hopes of being able to harvest cucumbers and tomatoes and watermelon and beans and sweet potatoes. I have such a great picture of my garden in my mind of what my garden will look like as I plant the tomatoes just after Mother’s Day. There will be these big, beautiful green plants standing tall in their cages contrasting with the clear black soil. Stunning plants offering up their juicy red and yellow fruit.
But it doesn’t take long for the reality of the garden to show itself. The rich garden soil does not grow just the tomatoes and cucumbers and such, it also is a great place to grow weeds. Big, tall grassy weeds. Low, small-leafed, spreading weeds. Weeds with thorns, weeds with flowers, lots and lots of weeds. I fertilize the garden and this helps the weeds grow. I set up an automatic watering system for when I am away on vacation or servant event and this helps the weeds to grow to amazing heights. There is nothing quite as disheartening as coming home from vacation to see the garden overgrown with weeds. I have to search through the weeds to try to find the vegetables I planted.
Too often this is how things are in life. You are a baptized child of God. You have been set apart to be kept safe in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers. You are a child of God made pure and holy by Jesus. But you live in a world that is full of sin and evil. You are redeemed by the blood of Jesus but you live amongst such great evil.
It is hard to listen to or watch or read the news without becoming depressed at what is going on in the world. War, terrorism, poverty, famine, disease, violence, anger, drug addiction, overdoses, hatred, broken families, abortion, abused children. A short time spent with the news and it becomes clear that there is great evil all around us. Why?
Why doesn’t God take care of this? Why doesn’t God change all of this? Why doesn’t God make it all stop now? People ask, “How can a loving God allow so much evil in the world?”
An article in the Huffington Post summarizes the question well, “A classic question in theology asks how can a loving, yet omnipotent God permit evil and suffering in the world? The argument goes as follows: A God that allows suffering to continue is either a) not all-powerful (not omnipotent) and is thus unable to prevent the suffering; b) not loving because this God has the power to prevent suffering but is unwilling to do so; and/or c) not all-knowing (not omniscient) because God only is aware of the suffering after it has already occurred and it’s too late to prevent it. This problem of evil and God’s inability or unwillingness to do anything about it is known in theology as “theodicy.”
Why does God allow anger and hatred and violence and abuse and disease and death continue to operate? Why is the world so full of evil?
Why doesn’t God get rid of the sons of the evil one? Why doesn’t God just eliminate all the evil and suffering in the world?
In this parable today, Jesus addresses this very issue. Weeds have been planted in amongst the wheat. God planted only good seed, but the devil planted weeds. There are children of the kingdom and there are sons of the evil one. Why doesn’t God just pull up the weeds? Why doesn’t God get rid of the sons of the evil one? Why doesn’t God just eliminate all the evil and suffering in the world? O Lord, do you want us to go and gather up the weeds?
Jesus answers, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.” The Lord is patient and longsuffering. The Lord does not want anyone to perish and so, for now, He allows the wheat and weeds to grow up together. The harvest is coming, but for now we grow together. There is a desire to try to have an untainted church with no evil influences; a church with all the right people. There are some in the church at large who want to practice much more frequent excommunication as a way to try to purify the church and keep it from bad influences. But we see in this parable the need to be careful about trying to purify the church by somehow eliminating those we perceive to be weeds. By trying to eliminate the weeds we may…we will… end up damaging the wheat. We would like to think we can tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds, but that is above our pay grade. I think that in our own personal struggles we may even have trouble at times determining wheat or weed with the person in the mirror. There are a lot of hurt and broken people in the world and Jesus wants them all to come to a knowledge of the truth.
When we see so much evil in the world we want it to end and can get angry with God about how He is handling it. We think we know better how Jesus should handle things in this world. We don’t like that He lets evil continue to exist because evil makes life very difficult, very sad. Life in this world is hard. There is great suffering in the world. The whole creation groans along with each of us. We groan because of the evil in the world. We groan waiting for these degrading bodies of ours to be transformed into imperishable bodies. We groan inwardly as we wait for all the evil of the world to be taken away. We groan because of the evil that clings to us. We groan and the Holy Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words. The Lord knows how hard life is; he has not forgotten you or forsaken you.
Living in this world is hard. Life is hard. Life in this world is a struggle against rot and darkness and decay and weeds. As a follower of Jesus; as a baptized child of God you are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Christ’s love shining through you as you interact with people in your everyday life helps battle the rot, push back the darkness, slow the decay, but it isn’t easy. It is an on-going, exhausting battle. It is a long, hard walk on the narrow path. There are so many weeds in the world; so much evil. How do you get through it? You persevere. You push on. You put on the armor of God and stand your ground. And you know that you are not alone.
That is why it is so good to be here. It is good to gather together to lean on one another when the going gets tough. It is good to be here and know you are not the lone stalk of wheat in a world of weeds. The Lord did not sow just one seed. You are not alone. It is good to be here together to hear Jesus’ forgiveness for your sins and be fed with very Body and Blood of Jesus in communion. You live out your calling to be salt and light to the world and look forward to the great harvest to come.
The day is coming. The day is coming when all evil will be eliminated. The day is coming when the weeds will be gathered up and thrown into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The day is coming when Jesus will return and these degrading bodies; these decaying bodies; these broken and hurting bodies will be raised up in perfection. The day is coming when the great harvest will take place and the Lord will gather you into His barn for all eternity. The day is coming when the Lord will come for all those sealed in the waters of Holy Baptism who wear the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. The day is coming when the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The day is coming when all will be made right.
Until then, support each other, pray for each other, work with each other as salt and light to reduce the evil and decay in the world. And look forward to the coming harvest when evil will be finished forever. Amen.