7th Weekend After Pentecost (A/RCL): “Weeding Our Faith”
Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43, Romans 8: 12-25
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ
May the meditation of my heart and the words I speak be pleasing to God – Amen.
Good evening/morning! As Pastor Mary noted at the start of worship, I’m JJ Keelan and I’ve been a member of this wonderful congregation for about 30 years. If you’ve been reading the Lamplighter, or noticed in today’s bulletin, I February of this year I became a full-time seminarian at United Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia.
One of the concerns the candidacy committee noted after my entrance interview is that I didn’t have much exposure to ministries outside of Holy Trinity. So, as often as possible, I, and quite often also Colleen, take road trips to attend worship at other Lutheran congregations or other denominations. Last Sunday my road trip took me to hear fellow seminarian Bridget Gautieri preach at her home congregation, Calvary Lutheran, in Cranford (Pastor Mary told me this is the congregation that Barb and Fred Vogel used to be members of before moving down to the Jersey Shore). Bridget’s message focused on the parable of the sower of the seeds.
Later that day I sent her a text message to say I thought she did a great job preaching the gospel. At the end of her sermon, Bridget left the congregation with an assignment. She told them that they were to go out into the world and be bad sowers. She said that God calls us to throw the seeds of faith everywhere and trust that he will nurture and grow those seeds. In my text message, I told Bridget that I was preaching this week. I mentioned that I thought she was the fortunate one. She got to preach on the seeds, and I… get to preach on the weeds.
So, let me ask you a question… why do you weed?
I’m not sure that any of us like to weed. It is an endless task because you are never done weeding. Often I think to myself, there has to be a better way! I receive regular emails from Kickstarter, maybe some of you receive them as well. If you don’t know, it’s a way for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to get people to invest. The financial support enables the company to develop and sometimes launch their product lines. About a month ago one of the products promoted in one of their emails caught my eye. It was called the Tertill. It’s a robot that functions much like a Roomba, which automatically vacuums your house as long as it has power. But this tertill is even better. It’s a solar powered robot that automatically weeds your garden. It maneuvers around the mature plants in your garden and cuts the weeds just below the top of the soil. If you’ve just planted your garden and your seedlings are just beginning to grow, you set up guards/protectors so that the Tertill will move away and avoid mistaking the seedling for a weed and plucking the young plant from the ground. Maybe this is something the property committee might consider purchasing to assist our resident flower girl Karen Olsen.
The manufacturing spells the name of product T, E, R, T, I, L, L. Not sure exactly why, but it made me think of the early Christian apologist Tertullian who lived around 115 – 240 AD/CE. One of his quotes I stumbled across in an assigned reading fits well with this week’s gospel, he wrote, “we weed faith”. When we move our eyes away from the weeds and focus on God, we move past the mundane and experience the marvelous (Noelle Owen).
Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.
At first glance the parable appears to be a story about good and evil. The good that is planted in our lives by God and the evil seeds are cast by the devil. It’s also a story about blame. The slaves know they did their job correctly. They planted the seeds that had been given to them. So, the fact that the field has weeds isn’t their fault. There must be another reason. Either the master gave them inferior seeds or someone, an enemy, planted the weeds along with the wheat. And the parable can also be viewed as a metaphor about judgement. At the time of the harvest the good and the bad will be separated. Jesus will send his angels and they will collect the evil doers and throw them into the furnace. All those who are left, the good doers, will be gathered up into the kingdom of heaven. The danger in this interpretation is that we become the judge. We categorize or group people. We make the decision as to who are the seeds and who are the weeds. But as Jesus says, it is the Son of Man, by way of his angels, that will cast judgement on the evildoers and the righteous.
If we step back we start to see that the parable goes deeper than a story about good and evil in our lives or the world around us? A reflection by Sarah Briggs Amoth published on the app d365 offered this thought on this parable. “What if the “evil one” referenced isn’t a devil, but rather all the things that get in the way of cultivating our relationship with God, everything that prevents that relationship from taking root (Sarah Briggs Amoth, d365 July 11, 2017).
What is it in our lives that becomes the weeds? Illness, job loss, divorce, struggles with depression. Is it an obsession with our jobs, news and current events, busy schedules, or our endless to do lists? What about the weeds in the world around us: drought, floods, famine or war. These are but a few examples of the kinds of weeds that grow up along with the good seed. What are the weeds in your life? What are the things that prevent you from setting time aside to develop a deeper relationship with God through worship, prayer, study and contemplation?
Our faith is planted in the waters of Baptism. At the 10:30 service it will be planted in Liliana Audrey. It is in this life giving and life sustaining water that our faith is planted. We are grafted to the tree of life, and we are rooted in God’s family. As we grow we are nurtured by our parents, families, pastors and Sunday School teachers. Our seeds of faith are fed and nourished when we come to the table and receive God’s gift of grace in the form of bread and wine. When we set aside time to be one with our creator and focus on the things that deepen our faith, we weed out those things which detract us from God or doing God’s work in the world.
In the garden of life, we are as Luther said, Simul Justus et Peccator; we are both saint and sinner; we are both seed and weed. So let’s go back to the question I asked at the beginning of the sermon, “Why do we weed?” We weed to expose the beauty of our gardens. As Christians, we weed our faith so that what has been planted in us, in the waters of baptism, will bear much fruit. So, just as my fellow seminarian gave her congregation a task to be bad sowers, I am giving all of you an action to do when you leave worship. Take time to be good weeders. Set aside time to remove the weeds in your lives that stop you from having a more meaningful relationship with God and that limit you from bearing much fruit for the kingdom of heaven - Amen
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
24[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”
36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”
Mary "JJ" Keelan
Seminarian at ULS