The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
The Very Reverend Torey Lightcap

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Some weeds were sown in with some wheat by the enemy of a farmer.
What a mean thing to do, but oh well: Why not just go and uproot them?

Well, from botany, we learn that the word used for “weed” in this reading is the Greek term zizania, and it refers to what we call bearded-darnel, or cockle.
Cockle is a weed that tends to grow wherever wheat grows.
But again, why not go and pluck it out?

Because darnel looks just like wheat.
Someone looking at darnel might easily confuse it for wheat, or for wild oat.
Darnel and wheat are indistinguishable until both plants come to full maturity,
And only then may the difference be told between them,
And only then can that difference be acted upon. “We know them by their fruits.”
A good farmer in Jesus’ day would know to wait,
But a neophyte or an overzealous hand could be unable to resist,
And so by weeding early would risk ruining the crop.

What’s more, in heavy enough doses, darnel can be lethal.
If you tried to harvest without careful discernment or patience,
You’d spoil the flour and maybe end up poisoning someone you loved.
So, of the more than one hundred different kinds of plants mentioned in the Bible,
Surely darnel is one of the most troublesome.

Remember what the master says in Jesus’ parable?
He tells his servants,
“Let both of them grow together until the harvest,”
After which time the wheat will be collected
And the weeds will be uprooted and burned together.
“Don’t touch them just yet.”

You know, every once in a while you’ll be traveling some place,
And you’ll see a sign on the side of the road that says “Do Not Mow.”
In this scripture, thinking about that kind of sign makes me wonder:
Whose business is it, to judge the human heart?
Who has the ultimate possession of our times and lives?
According to this passage, these are not ours, but rather God’s.
And if you live with any overzealous weeders or mowers,
Then you know that you may stand to lose something precious –
Like, let’s just say from my own mowing experience, I believe I owe my wife a peony bush!

The discernment, power, and judgment are ultimately God’s;
In the meantime, we are called to love one another and look after one another
As best as we can.

Not that there isn’t evil.
Not that action isn’t demanded in the face of it.
Not that there aren’t some things that need to be called for what they are.
Hunger, for example, or rank poverty … systemic and institutional racism …
A lack of education in a system capable of providing education … the violence we do …
Often unjustifiable wars for which good young people are asked to die …
The way companies exploit people for profit …
The way the earth is robbed of life-sustaining resources …

Standing close enough to them, we can see the difference.
We may not judge them with some holy fire, but we can be honest about what we see.
We are counseled by Jesus – by the way he lives his life.
We are counseled not to act as judges, but as lovers of humanity, fellow-travelers.
We are the workers of the farm, not the reapers.
On the one hand, God alone is and will be judge;
Yet if we stand close enough to the crop, we can help the harvest along.
We can say to those who wander by, Look out! Poison! Don’t eat that! It could hurt you.

We can also say to those who have power, Stop sowing weeds. Stop exploiting people.
Stop using others’ bodies and lives for your own personal gain.
Put the interests of the greater good before your own.
Even in a pandemic, we can work for something that moves society along in a better direction.
We can keep asking why we can’t do better.

If we listen, this passage can have us seeing today
Through eyes of wisdom and prayerful discernment;
And speaking the truth, which is uniquely powerful.
Then letting God judge the lot.
And lest we grow too lax, too moralistic, too puritanical:
In the end, it’s also a parable about us. I have gardening of my own to do.
And in the end, let God judge that, too.

All of which is to say that one day these questions will be taken care of.
For now, we have work.
May we be blessed in it.