24 February 2019 The Mystery of Gardening Martin Baker
24 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, "Master, did you not so good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' 28 He answered, "An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, "Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29 But he replied, "No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' " 31 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." 33 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened." 34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. 35 This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world." 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." 37 He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
Let us pray
We have some fantastic gardeners here. I’d like to be able to grow things. But gardening remains a mystery to me. I’ve tried and tried to grow basil but I just can’t do it. About a year ago I put in a whole lot of seeds to grow various types of salad plants. And a year later all the salad plants are coming up in the rock path beside the garden. The tomatoes I carefully staked in October didn’t come to much this year but the tomatoes that were self-sown have done really well. An avocado tree seemed to have just appeared from nowhere. And the lemon tree has turned into a scary thing - mass of thorns, it’s like a big nasty rosebush and there are no lemons on it. It draws blood every time I go near it.
Why do all these things happen?
Jesus in our reading is talking about things and experiences that remain a mystery. Living in a world where we can live in trust and faith but where we do not have all the answers. Why aren’t those who follow Jesus perfect? Why is it, that the groups of people who came to be called the church, why are we made up of such a mixed bunch of people? That person over there, we know about her background, we know what he is like, how come they are at church? The followers of Christ came from all sorts of backgrounds. The great mystery that God’s spirit could move among all people, the whole world, and not just among those first century Jews.
24 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.
This enemy that comes and sows the weeds. The weed in question here is darnel. As you may know, darnel, is a very problematic weed. It grows in the same places wheat grows. It looks like wheat until finally it matures and the seed heads appear. Wheat appears brown when it is ripe. Darnel appears black. Also while wheat seeds give us bread, darnel seeds are highly poisonous and can be lethal. Darnel roots are invasive, wrapping around the roots of good plants.
Jesus says an enemy came at night and sowed darnel among the wheat.
Sometimes it is not that clear. Separating the darnel from the wheat. Its only when the harvest comes that we can tell the difference.
"Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29 But he replied, "No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn
Wheat and darnel. Not only among us, but within us. Paul says I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 9 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. He concludes 24 what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
And Jesus tells more parables that draw us in the nature of faith the kingdom of heaven.
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches
Again Jesus leaves us a story that we are being asked to ponder.
A tiny seed that grows into a great bush.
But, then Jesus using the image of a mustard tree. Why not a cedar tree. The ancient symbol of power and conquest. A mustard tree has lots of uses when cultivated but also grew as an invasive species. A bit like finding a wild kiwi fruit vine in the middle of native bush. And the farming people, would nod and know that yes mustard seeds are tiny and do grow into great bushes. But there can be problems with them as well.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast. And again like the appearance of weeds amongst the wheat, the transformation of a tiny seed, the use of yeast. There is mystery about how all this works. Like mustard seeds, yeast is also a complex image. So important for raising bread but also prohibited for use before Passover. Times in the year where you were not allowed to have yeast in your home.
People back then would have been engaging at all these levels with these stories.
These stories that Jesus tells. They take us on a kind of journey. A kind of art. Like following a piece of music or poetry. Can we embark on a mystery around the why questions without having to have the answers?
40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth
People are listening to stories and find themselves placed in different roles. The darnel and weeds. The mustard seed and field. The yeast and flour. Where are you in all this?
Weeping and gnashing of teeth. If someone came up to you and said that they had been weeping and gnashing teeth, what would you think was going on for them?
When the religious elite, the Sanhedrin, in the book of Acts are confronted by Stephen with their involvement in the rejection of Jesus, they gnash their teeth at him. You stiff-necked people! You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
This furnace of fire, filled with teeth gnashing people. I know people who grind their teeth. But teeth gnashing? If you read your scriptures, in almost every reference to teeth gnashing we find it is about the religious leaders of the day. This fiery furnace full of religious hypocrites busy gnashing their teeth. That’s not a fun place to be. But listening to Jesus, could we be one of those people?
The why questions. The sometimes senseless and sometime unexplainable things that happen around us, and sometimes to us.
And the mystery we discover, when we are facing those questions, or supporting another who is going through tough times, is that seldom in there an explanation. No one back in Jesus’ day knew the chemistry of yeast or the science of seed propagation.
‘Bad things come in threes,’ being punished for some past sin, or the assurance that some grand plan is being worked out in the suffering of someone we love. Those kinds of phrases often speak more to our sense of helplessness and confusion than they do to our faith.
What we find in following Jesus, is that the mystery in answering the why questions is most often found in celebrating the wonder of our diversity, we are not a club, or being there for another, in praying, in acts of kindness and support, in challenging the injustices that perpetuate suffering for this innocent. The answers are found, as Jesus says, not first in having it all sorted out, but in doing the will of the Father. That is the answer that makes a difference.
The wheat is harvested. The seed grows into something great. The tiny amount of yeast ends up transforming the flour.
The cross with its glory proclaims the most profound mystery of all – God’s love and power most fully expressed in service and sacrifice . The proclamation of resurrection. The stream of hope that flows through the Good News.
At the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans. A small faithful community surrounded by all the gods and powers and strength of the empire. The challenges and threats of Roman society.
Pauls says to them and to us: With all the things we face today. To the good gardeners and the strugglers. With the unsure and the certain. With those who allow for mystery and for those who want all the answers.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. AMEN
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