Weeds and Seeds
“Just you wait, ‘enry ‘iggins, just you wait!” Do you remember that song from My Fair Lady? “You’ll be sorry but your tears’ll be too late!” “Just you wait, you… you weeds growing among us. Just you wait until the end times, when the Lord sends down heaven’s angels among us, reapers of the great harvest. A time when they will bind you all up and cast you into the eternal flames where you will gnash your teeth and weep for all of eternity.”
Whoa, Matthew, take a chill pill buddy. Where’s all this anger coming from? Sounds like you have some real anger management is- sues. So, let’s get Matthew to lay down on the psychologist’s couch for a moment and figure out where all this vengeance is coming from. First, we’ll discover that these words were uttered near the end of the 1st cen- tury. The height of the Christian persecution. For 100 years those who chose to follow the way of Jesus were ostracized, oppressed, beaten, imprisoned, sold as slaves, and often thrown to the lions simply because they believed in another way of being in the world, where the hierarchy of power meant sacrifice, service, giving, loving, caring as opposed to hoarding, segregating, and oppressing.
So we get it, Matthew. We still live in the same world as you. Nothing much as changed. We still cry out, “When will those who cheat and steal and manipulate be stopped from taking all the toys in the sand box? When will people say enough to a President who still refuses to pay the income tax he owes and calls it smart business, who hires mi- grant workers to work on his job sites, and still has over 1,300 lawsuits outstanding for unpaid wages, and then has the gall to travel to the US Midwest to champion the cause for the workers of America?”
“When, O God, will this world become place where good, decent, hard-working people like the people sitting here today stop being jerked around by the system, where hydro rates sky rocket, water rates dou- ble, taxes keep rising while services decease, where the poverty level is climbing and more and more people are slipping under it. Our region is being flooded by young people who can’t… who will never be able to buy a home in Toronto. When will this country stop laying its expecta- tions on the backs of the middle class? Isn’t life hard enough dealing with intrusive illnesses, the strain that needing double income families is placing on relationships, and the increase of mental health issues be- cause of the increased stress in life?” Where’s the less work, more lei- sure time we were promised back in the fifties. So we are apt to lash out as Matthew does, “Just you wait, ‘enry ‘iggins, just you wait, God will
not allow this to go on forever. Someday,… someday, there will be jus- tice and you are going to have a toothache for a very long time.” ******
And I wonder if citing this parable of the weeds and seeds is Mat- thew’s way of working through all this. No question about it. Wherever you go you meet some very fine people; good people, hard working people of integrity. People who support their families, support their lo- cal church out of a humble response to the goodness they feel in their lives. People who give back to their community. Really good people.
And along side them you’ve got the weeds; the selfish, the takers, the attention seekers, those who can never seem to fill the hunger of their own empty souls. And together we grow in the same field. The confusing thing here, I think, is the fact that Jesus seems to imply that we need each other, since he says, “That if we pull out the weeds it will damage the good plants.” The destruction of bad will lead to the demise of the good.
I’ve been scratching my head all week over this one. Nancy asked me in the silence of teeth brushing other night what I was thinking about. That’s what was I been thinking about. What’s the gospel truth in this story that I am supposed to get? I realized this. The weeds in Je- sus’ story represent the oppressive Roman Empire. Jesus represents God breaking into the world, illuminating for us an alternative way to live in God’s creation, a creation made in the image of God. The em- pires of this world are often the furthest things from reflecting God’s image. So the question laid before us is, “Which empire will you partici- pate in?”
We must understand that the act of loving as Jesus loved is always a choice. We choose whether to love or not. In the way St. Paul de- scribes love, love is always an act:
“Love is patient and kind;
is not envious nor does it boast; love is neither arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice in wrongdoing; but rejoices in the truth.”
Those are all things we choose to do. However, if there we no
weeds in this world, if there was no Roman Empire, then where is the choice? The real choices, the hard choices which require sacrifices be made in order to love. Very few of us will ever get to the place where Jesus came in his life to choose to lay down his life for those very same priests, Pharisees and Romans who nailed him to that cross and then stood there and watched him die. Yet, that is the spiritual height we should strive for because Jesus asks us to love even those who revile us, persecute us, and hate us. Could you choose to love like that?
I think we need to be careful of interpreting what Jesus is saying here as a stringent division between ‘weeds and seeds’ between ‘them and us’, between the ‘good and the bad”; a division which, in my opin- ion, has been exploited throughout our Christian history and has been used to excuse all kinds of hostilities performed by Christians.
Is it a loving act to say to someone, “Are you a real Christian? When were you saved? Do you know Jesus?” I have to admit that this is when the hairs on the back of my neck begin to stand up. Too many people claim to speak for my Christian faith. Self-identifying Christians whose ways of ‘knowing’ Jesus is not my way, yet they believe there is only one way to know this omnipotent God.
I will never forget the time when I was about to preside over the tragic death of two of my parishioners, both young women who had been killed by an elderly driver at night. Just before the service, I was downstairs in the church going through the final checklist with the fu- neral director when a brother of these two sisters, a man I had never met before, came roaring into the room and declared, “You bury my sis- ter proper here. I don’t want none of this liberal teachings of the United Church polluting this service. They were both born again on Sept. 24th, 1964. They’ve been cleansed by the blood of the lamb. You talk about Jesus. You talk about salvation. You talk to them folks out there so maybe some good will come of this and people will come to know the Lord and be saved.” His spittle was showering my gown.
I assumed he had already entered the anger stage of grief. As much as I wanted to defend myself and my beliefs from this obvious gesture of assumption and judgment, I also didn’t want to add to this ugly history of division and judgment by judging him myself. Make no mistake here. I’m no saint and my initial instinct was to show him the strong right hand of justice. But, in time, with reflection and prayer, this parable of Jesus helps me to understand that it is not my place, to judge who are the weeds and who are the good seeds. God alone will send
God’s angels to discern the hearts of all people, hearts that God alone truly knows.
What I do know is that what goes around, comes around. That if a person sows hatred and discord, then rest assured, this is what they reap in their lives. Good things do tend come to good people. As I used to say to my kids, “You can’t always control what happens to you in your lives, but you can control how you respond to it. And maybe throwing a fit in the grocery aisle is not the most appropriate response.
The bottom line is, God has planted us in a world where it is our choice to grow as weeds or as seeds. Our actions alone will proclaim just how deep we understand God’s love.