Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Weeds among the wheat

"The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat"

From a marvelous sermon by Kevin Bean:
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a field mixed with both wheat and weeds, and about the owner of that field, who would not let his workers uproot the weeds from the wheat until the final harvest. Weeds among the wheat—an apt description of our fields—whether that field is our workplace, our neighborhood, our church, our nation or family of nations, or within the interior landscape of our own psyche.
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Barbara [Brown] Taylor cites an example of this from an earlier day: “In one of the first crusades, knights from western Europe blew through an Arab town on their way to the Holy Land and killed everyone in sight. It was not until later, when they turned the bodies over, that they found crosses around most of their victims’ necks. It never occurred to them that Christians came in brown as well as white.” So because of the fact that we often can’t tell the wheat from the weeds, and that they are so often intertwined, we see that the landowner seems more interested that things grow than he is in a pure or clean or uniformly tidy field.

And it’s by living with wheat and weeds together that we who think we’re wheat, or think we need to keep it all neat, instead learn to live with a messier reality, one that calls for some humility and a slower rush to judgment. That calls for the growth it takes to live and work alongside those whom we wouldn’t otherwise choose to have in our field or garden, as it were.

So letting the weeds and wheat grow together may, in fact, be useful to the growth of all. In this parable, everything is useful—the grown wheat for making bread, and the weeds for fuel to bake the bread. In a messy field, in a mixed community, we can’t just take everything for granted, or assume that one person or group is useless. We see in a mixed community that it takes greater effort. We all have to grow up a bit more and discover in that maturing process just who each of us is, and who we are as a community, what we believe, and how we are to act in such a mixed multitude. By being with others not like us—who have different perspectives and identities than our own—it calls us all the more to seek and find and grow into our own identity, an identity which can then, with a clearer sense of self, love all the more the neighbor who is not like us, as we love ourselves all the more.

So if we devote ourselves to being the wheat we are, rather than spending all our time attacking the weeds, that is what the landowner intended. If all we do is try to attack the weeds, we run the risk of turning into weeds ourselves, becoming full of prickles or poison—good people who turn into bad people trying to put the bad people out of business.

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