Archive | July 2014

Are We Wheat . . . Or Weeds?

Today’s Gospel is from Matthew 13:24-30. In it, Jesus tells another parable, one of his many stories that has special meaning. It says:

    God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. hen the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too. The farmhands came to the farmer and said, ‘Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn’t it? Where did these thistles come from?’ He answered, ‘Some enemy did this.’ The farmhands asked, ‘Should we weed out the thistles?’ He said, ‘No, if you weed the thistles, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvesters to pull up the weeds and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.’ (Matthew 13:24-30)

Now, I come from a long line of Illinois farmers and I know the parable of the wheat and tares (or weeds) very well. Often the bags of wheat seeds you buy to plant your wheat crop contain seeds from a type of rye grass, which when it sprouts it looks exactly like wheat. In the days before weed killer that could target only weeds, we nieces and nephews were ‘hired’ to pull out the weeds in the wheat fields. Unfortunately, unless you waited until the plants were mature, you often also pulled up the wheat instead of the weeds, which, needless to say, did not make my uncles very happy.

This parable of Jesus’ is also about letting things sprout and grow until they show their true nature before you decide what to keep reap and let grow, and what to remove.

The farmer in this parable planted good seed; that is certainly what he intended when he bought the seed and carefully prepared the field and planted it. But something went wrong. Weeds suddenly appeared among the wheat stalks – robbing the wheat of rain and sun and nourishment. But the farmer was not surprised – anyone who buys and plants seeds knows that there are all kinds of other things in the seed bag. He also knew what to do to ensure that he had a good harvest.

Jesus’ disciples were troubled by the parable, and asked Jesus to explain it. Jesus told them – and us – that He, himself, was the one who was planting the good seed, and that the field where the seed was being planted was the world — the whole world. The wheat is those of us who follow Jesus’ teachings and try to live decent lives of love, services and justice. Jesus told the disciples that an enemy of goodness – or in reality – evil actions and thoughts that occur in our lives separate us from God. These evil things always get mixed in with the good seed. Jesus advised his followers to wait until the harvest to pull the weeds. That then, God would separate the good from the bad – the wheat from weeds – and the good wheat would be saved for the Kingdom of God.

Today you and I live in a world where good seed and bad seed co-exist. This world of ours is a great field, a field just waiting for good seed. But just as good seed is sown, so is bad.

When we try to eliminate every weed, we forget that we have weeds within us. Not only do the weeds and the wheat grow together in the same field; they grow together in our own lives.

There are no purely good people or totally bad people. As much as we love the old-time westerns where there were good guys and bad guys, and they were easy to tell apart by their black or white hats, the world just isn’t that way. We often judge others and their shortcomings, but we do not see our own quite so clearly.

We often make judgments about our community and those around us

    this person is a liar;

    this person is going to cause trouble;

    that person is manipulative or bossy.

Sadly, it is human nature to judge and compare, but try to remember that the judgment of people should be left to God. This is what the parable is saying.

Don’t judge too hastily, don’t harm others in your zeal to rip out the weeds; wait until the harvest.

So, how does this parable tell us to live now?

The parable says to let the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest. Let them grow; wait until they mature. With the weeds, if you let them grow long enough, they show themselves for what they are. The early sprouts of a weed can look like the beginning sprouts of a wheat plant. It’s only with time that we are able to distinguish one from the other.

In this parable, weeds and wheat are not plants but people. And the good part of that is that as children of God, the weeds can change their nature. Someone who is viewed as a ‘weed’ can repent of those things that make them a weed to society and become a positive member of the Kingdom. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.

There are times when we are all wheat – and then weeds. We change and grow.

Are you following the good parts of yourself or are you settling for the “weeds’ in you?

Don’t pull out the weeds.

Don’t judge others around you.

Instead, build up the community. Make sure you are not becoming a weed yourself! Be alert.

So what are you?

    Are you a stalk of wheat. . .

    or a weed?

As I look around you all, I see only a beautiful field wheat – you all are beautiful children of God.

Delivered at In The Garden Community Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church On Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 20 July 2014

Are You Fertile Soil or Rock Hard?

    And Jesus told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!” (Matthew 13:1-9)

In this parable, Jesus is talking to Galilean farmers who knew the practices and experiences of farming in the Galilee. They know about regularly sowing a lot of seed and not getting much from it; it is discouraging to see sprouts break through the soil and then watch them die.

Although Jesus appears to be talking about seeds in this parable, He is really talking about bringing people to the Kingdom of God. Jesus compared the spreading of the Gospel to a sower going out and spreading seed. Some of it falls upon hard ground and doesn’t take root. Some of it falls on shallow ground, and although it initially sprouts, it later dies. But some seed falls upon good rich fertile soil and grows into a harvest.

We need to understand that the sower is God, the seed is the spreading of the Gospel, and the various types of soil represent us—

    you and me.

But this parable is not really about the sower or the seed. A seed, no matter where planted, can grow and mature and produce a harvest. It is not the seed that determines how it will or will not grow.

This is a parable about different types of soil, or the responses of different types of people have to the hearing of the Gospel (the seed) to join the Kingdom of God (the harvest).

We can all be different types of soil as we go through life.

We can be:


    Some of us are like soil that had become packed down under the feet of men, so hard that it would take a jackhammer to break through. Soil so hard that seed could never take root. Any seeds sown on hard soil are eaten by the birds that come along.

    It is easy to become hardened in life. It is easy to become hardened when you watch the nightly 6:00 news: we see bombings and murders, car crashes, man doing horrendous things to other men. We can become desensitized to the inhumanity so that we become hard-crusted, just like the soil in this parable.

    And the seed of the Gospel cannot take root in the hardened heart.

We can be:


    Weedy soil is choked with weeds, and briars and thorns and rocks. You can hardly see the soil for all the rocks and things we consider weeds. These are the distractions in our lives that keep us from looking to the Kingdom of God.

    We have lots of distractions or ‘weeds’ in our lives: finances that either makes us think we are better than the rest of the world or poverty, which makes us feel we are not as good as others. We are so busy ‘doing’ our lives or so worried about our lives that we can’t enjoy our lives. We have lots of things that we stumble over just trying to make it through the day. We don’t have time for reflection and prayer; we don’t take time to pray or thank God for our blessings. Even if we think to water and tend the seed, because of everything else competing for sun and food and water, the seed of the Gospel doesn’t have a chance.

    So the seed of the Gospel may sprout, but withers and dies because of lack of care and attention.

But more importantly, we can be:


    Jesus said there was some seeds fall on fertile soil. He says that no matter how much seed is sown, there is going to be some that finds fertile soil and grows and produce a harvest. . . in fact, a harvest 100 times more than was planted.

    Think about a single kernel of corn: when planted in fertile ground and tended with care, that single corn seed will produce one corn stalk. Each stalk then will produce one ear of corn. The average ear of corn has 250 kernels, so that a single kernel of corn, under the right conditions will yield a 250% return on investment.

    When good seed falls on good soil in our hearts, wondrous things can happen. All it takes is a tiny seed of Gospel. . . and a soil that will nurture the seed.

It only takes one little seed to grow!

We are the soil. We can decide if we are going to be hard, weedy and rocky or fertile. We can decide that we want the Kingdom of God; that we are willing to accept and nurture the ‘seed’ that will grow in us when we welcome God and Jesus into our lives.

Or we can be hard, or weedy or rocky, and not enjoy the love and fellowship of the Kingdom of God.

It is up to each one of us to make that decision.

What kind of soil are you going to be?

Will you be part of the harvest in the Kingdom of God?


Last Thursday and Friday, Americans all over the globe celebrated the Fourth of July – the official American holiday marking the founding of our country. People celebrated with picnics and BBQs and fireworks. Some people view the Fourth of July as a time to be off work and relax or maybe spend time with their family and friends.

But the Fourth of July is much more than that. Listen to a part of the Declaration of Independence – the document which established the United States as a country apart from the British empire:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

The Declaration of Independence stated that we had certain unalienable rights – rights that cannot be surrendered, sold or transferred to someone else – not the government nor another person. They are not given to us by the government and therefore cannot be taken away or controlled by the government. These rights belong to each one of us; given to us by our Creator.

We have a right to have a life, to live in this country – we do not have to fear that the government will come and impound us or imprison us without cause. We can live that life as we see fit as long as it does not violate any laws.

The right to liberty is an extension of the right to life – the freedom to live our lives as we see fit, without violating any established laws. The right to liberty was originally intended to allow the United States to become a melting pot, a conglomeration of people from many countries living in the manner they were used to.

Lately, I’ve heard a lot about people concerned about protecting their own freedom, their own liberty. They don’t care that they are giving themselves unequal freedom by denying the same freedoms to others. Some of these are religious freedom to practice a faith different from Christianity or access to adequate and equal healthcare. They feel that only their freedoms are guaranteed and ‘devil may care’ about any other people’s freedom.

In order to have a country where we all have the same rights and freedoms, each one of us has to stop judging, separating and rejecting whole groups of people based on our own personal prejudices and commit to ‘liberty and justice for all’. We have to stop rejecting anyone who doesn’t look, act, think, behave, or believe just like us. We have to quit defining ‘normal’ by gathering our friends and associates around us, describing our common characteristics, and then demonizing everything else. That is not liberty for all.

Our personal appreciation of liberty – and our respect for people who express their freedoms differently than we do – is greatly enhanced when we take time to build relationships with men and women who are different than we are.

The Declaration of Independence DOES NOT GUARANTEE happiness. All it says is that we are guaranteed the chance to be happy, the ability to pursue whatever it is that makes us happy. But WE have to find that happiness for ourselves. . . and within ourselves. Or, we can choose not to find happiness in our lives. It is up to each of us what we do.

Our founding fathers said ‘all men are created equal.’ At that time, however, this was meant only for white males. . . people of color and women were not considered to be covered under ‘all men are created equal’. And unfortunately, even today women and people of color and other minorities are still not considered ‘equal’.

    The Emancipation Proclamation put an end to overt slavery, but today slavery exists in forms of human trafficking or workplace discrimination.

    The Civil Rights legislative of fifty years ago went a long way in ensuring that all people would be treated equally under the law. But every day we see or hear news that we are not there yet.

We all need to keep striving to treat everyone the same.

    The country has yet to pass an Equal Rights Amendment legislating that women be treated the same as men – there is still a seventy cents on the dollar discrepancy between men’s and women’s pay. And with the recent political environment, more and more healthcare decisions, which women should be free to make with their doctor, have been greatly restricted or taken away completely.

    And minorities are still light years away from being treated equal. Some people can be refused housing or fired without cause because of who they are. Just recently some immigrants were viciously attacked because they ‘weren’t from here’.

We need to remember Martin Luther King’s statement that

    “no one is free until everyone is free’”

We, as a country are not doing a very good job of providing freedom and pursuit of happiness. In some areas such as equal housing and employment, immigration and education we have gone backwards.

As the nation has matured, the social and political climate has changed much from what the Founding Fathers imagined when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. Some of the content has been modified to include specifics which should equalize rights. But we are not there – and we have a long way to go.

But, nevertheless, the United States is a beacon of freedom and liberty. We are lucky to be living in a country that still clings to the principles of

    ‘Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness’

Let us give thanks that this is where we live and for the foresight of those men a long time ago by singing God Bless America.

    God bless America, land that I love.
    Stand beside her, & guide her,
    Through the night, with the light from above.
    From the mountains, to the prairies,
    To the oceans, white with foam;
    God bless America, my home, sweet home,
    God bless America, my home, sweet home.

Delivered at In The Garden Community Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, 6