Listen to the sermon here:
Scriptures – Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:12-25; Psalm 86:11-17; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Today we are talking about physical weeds as in nature and creation as well as the symbolic weeds in our lives. It is easy to think of the temptation that we face every day such as eating too much, drinking too much, or foolishly spending money on a short-lived pleasure or object.
It is hard to resist these weeds – these temptations – until we find our focus. If we really envy the slim people we see around us or in pictures, if we remember how good it felt when our abdomen was not in the way as we pull the weeds in nature or as we want to bend to retrieve something from the floor, when we think how much easier it was to climb stairs, we need to keep our focus on becoming that shape again. As we read how each pound we add to our bodies, damages our bodies in some way, we find our backs turned to the temptation weeds.
Maybe our weed is impatience. Actually, if we look at the nine “fruits of the Spirit,” found in Galatians 5:22-23, our weeds would be just the opposite. These nine qualities are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So our weeds would be hatefulness, being revengeful, looking for the negative. We would be sullen, depressed; we would display agitation, impatience, rudeness, selfishness; We would be frivolous with our loyalties instead of being faithful, our nature would be rough instead of gentle, we would lack control.
Paul has something to say about controlling his behavior which was at odds with his self-determination. Romans 7:21-25 gives us this reality.
The Law has shown me that something in me keeps me from doing what I know is right. With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me. So with my mind I serve the Law of God, although my selfish desires make me serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25 CEV)
Are not these words of Paul “right on” with our own reality? Paul found the way to overcome. He said, “Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die?” Immediately he informed us that Jesus Christ will rescue him! If Jesus Christ will rescue Paul from the weeds of temptation, how much more or less will he rescue us? I believe that Jesus Christ will rescue us according to our needs, according to the strength of the weeds and our willingness to be rescued!
In the summer, I find myself spending several hours a week in our yard trying to rid the landscape of weeds. As you probably know, depending on the weed and the moisture content of the soil, some weeds readily allow themselves to be pulled, root and all. Then there are the other weeds whose roots think otherwise. They are there to stay. It may have been easier if I had tried them early in the season. But that did not happen. Here we are on a hot summer day having a fight with the roots of a very determined weed. Not only that! Some weeds have thorns. Other weeds have thistles that stick to our clothing which only serves to spread the seeds from those disgusting burrs.
So it is with the stubborn and ugly weeds in our lives; some more so than others. It is not only that these unhelpful, unpleasant, damaging weeds are there; they crowd or choke the good plants, the good qualities of our personalities. Should we be focusing on the weeds, to be rid of them or should we be focusing on the good plants of our nature in order to be molded more completely? Should we be determined to overcome the weeds or should we allow ourselves the freedom to enjoy the good qualities, the good experiences? What a balancing act this is!
Well, there is an answer. Paul declared, “Jesus Christ will rescue me!” Paul has more wisdom for us. In Romans 8:12-17. It is better to read directly from the scripture for today than for me to paraphrase what Paul said. I read.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:12-17 NRSV)
We have heard that Jesus Christ will rescue us from the weeds. We have heard the words, “Abba! Father!” Paul also includes the Spirit in this passage from Romans 8. The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit. We become children and heirs of God. However, apparently, we need to suffer with Christ before we are glorified with Christ. Hence, the weeds, the suffering, the struggle to resist.
People are not alone in our struggle with weeds. Creation has its share of suffering. Paul uses these words in Romans 8:19-25.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, … in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:19-25)
We have this hope! The good news is that we can commit these weeds to God’s handling. Paul is saying that there is hope for us in our struggle against the weeds. There is hope for creation also. Creation may be groaning now but our hope includes the restoration of nature to its full intention during creation. Can you feel that creation happening? It could have been dramatic in slow motion as well as in immediacy. Feel the strength. I prefer the slow way as in a slow-motion movie or video. I picture the earth itself, as well as the galaxies, watching as it was happening. I picture the mouth of the sky and the mouth of the land open in awe. “Do you see what is happening!” I hear the ocean say. “Absolutely awesome!” say the gently rolling hills.
Can you picture the first earthquake where the settling levels of the firmament complained by succumbing to whatever was causing pressure, something like a camel carrying too heavy a load when the last straw added broke the camel’s back? Can you picture a hot spot which became just too hot and the liquid at a certain spot started to bubble from the heat. What is the result? Yes, right, a volcano, with this mass of hot liquid bubbling right through the layers of soil and rock and into daylight. Uncontained, a mountain has formed and the volcanic liquid rolls where it will. Right over people, right over houses, and right over weeds. Then there is the groaning of the flood – the great flood. Why do these seemingly bad things need to happen hurting both Creation, capital C, of God as well as the Children, capital C, of God?
Where is the hope which Paul declares. In Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43, Jesus has the words of explanation about “hope.” But this hope will not be fulfilled until the Kingdom of God comes in all its fullness. Jesus is explaining the Kingdom of God to a crowd gathered by the sea. Jesus tells of the farmer who sowed good seed – wheat seed that would yield food. While the farmer and the world slept, an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat seed. When asked if the weeds should be pulled so as to keep the wheat pure, Jesus said, “No! Do not pull the weeds because in so doing the wheat will also be destroyed. At harvest, the weeds shall be pulled first and burned. Then the wheat shall be harvested and used for its intended purpose.”
After Jesus and the disciples left the crowd, the disciples asked Jesus to explain that parable – what it had to do with their own lives. Jesus proceeded to compare the weed/wheat parable with the Kingdom of God. Until the Kingdom of God comes in all its fullness, there will be weeds, or evil, mixed with goodness. Furthermore, the Son of Man, meaning himself Jesus, sows the good seeds. The good seeds are the children of God. The weeds are the children of the evil one. The sower of weeds and evil is the devil.
Then Jesus gives this declaration which causes ongoing conversation and fear even now in 2014. At the end of the age when the Kingdom of God comes in all its fullness, the weeds will be separated and will find themselves consumed with fire; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The righteous, meaning the good plants, will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears, listen! (This parable and explanation are written in Matthew 13:36-43.)
We wonder if we are weeds or wheat. We wonder if we are children of the evil one or the children of God. We wonder and wonder. It is even very tempting to guess if other people are weeds or wheat. Never mind! Let it go! Hear this!
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” You know the reference: John 3:16. Now, let us know the truth and accept it. Believe and we will not go the way of the weeds. Believe and be part of the full Kingdom of God forever and ever. Amen