+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +
Text: Matthew 13:36-43
Theme: Growing To Maturity
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God allows us to live in ambiguity and uncertainty. But how magnificent will it be when we enjoy the clarity and certitude of His unveiled presence! Paul encourages the baptized, saying, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above…set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”1 Christian hope is nothing less than the confidence that these things will come to pass.
But we are not spectators in this divine drama we are participants. Chapter 13 of Matthew is a collection of parables that together give a sweeping view of the mission of Christ and the consummation of His kingdom. Jesus was not a simpleton. His use of parables was not a way to simplify the truths of the kingdom for the illiterate or uninitiated. Instead they often revealed truths that weren’t easily digestible. The disciples themselves often struggled to comprehend. Again today they asked Jesus to explain it to them. The parable of the weeds and the wheat echoes the parable of the sower. It is, however, more confronting because it draws the listener past the human time-line to the final judgment and the consummation of His kingdom.
Jesus changes the points of comparison slightly. Now the good seed is the “sons of the kingdom”2, that is, believers. The weeds are the wicked, children of the devil, sown by him. Both are growing together and until the harvest nears and look much the same to the naked eye. The pivotal question of the parable is what should be done? The servants ask the master if they should go pull up the weeds. He says no “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.”3 God suffers an evil world to endure for the sake of the elect. But in the final measure, the angels will come to reap and everything will be sorted.
Meanwhile, life for believers is not tidy. Satan sees to that. The devil’s plans are not haphazard. His work is focused and intentional. And His troops are not always marshalled in clear and obvious distinction to the saints of the kingdom. Often they are scattered as spies or undercover agents in the midst of God’s people. Christ warns us not to make us panicked or paranoid but so that we have a sober and authentic understanding of spiritual realities that are often hidden from plain sight.
The good things of life, the blessings of God are often so inextricably enmeshed and entangled with the evil things, with those things Satan poisons and controls that they cannot be easily separated in this life. We persevere in the midst of evil. We are not objective observers standing aloof or watching from the outside. Your baptism clothes you with a spiritual armor. You don’t sit idly by in some separated enclave. You rub shoulders with the people of the world. We are always in the fray.
But, dear friends, we should never think that we have a leg up, some inherent spiritual advantage over any other person that exists. We are all equally sinners. We are all equally under the demands of the law. Any transgression of God’s will invites judgment. The dilemma is serious. The scripture is unequivocally clear that we are to love God above all things. Yet if we seek to love God strictly out of fear of hell or hope of going to heaven we are not really loving God at all. What we are actually doing is loving ourselves; looking out for our own best interests. Under the guise of piety we are seeking to save our own skin. The good news is any fear of judgment shows there is evidence of contrition in the heart. It’s in this kind of soil that the seed of the gospel grows. Only a repentant person is ready to hear the gospel.
The Holy Spirit sings a sweet tune for ears that are aching for the comfort of God. Christ has made known to us the Father’s unconditional love. In the clarity of His grace we see that our sins have been paid for because we see the cross. We see in the blackness of the crucifixion the light of His profound mercy. He forever rules as the risen Lord to continually intercede for us. Our lives are often marked by greyness and shadow but His presence ensures that we are never alone. Christ can never lose His own way so we need never fear being lost in the chaos of the world.
The parable today teaches us that the world is moving towards the final judgment. We cannot expect humanity to be characterized by truth and light or even civility. As we anticipate the advent of the Son of Man coming in glory we have confidence that the most heinous crimes committed in the history of humanity will be brought into the light and divine retribution will be rendered. We have no illusions of creating a utopia on earth. While we are salt, light, and leaven in the world we have no power to convert anyone, let alone control an evil society. St. Paul says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”4 God is the judge. We have confidence in this.
So how can the faithful be distinguished from the wicked in the here and now? A superficial glance often won’t reveal. But faith does have fruits and God can discern our motives. Faith is evidenced in the desires and efforts of Christians to look to the well-being of others. Excluded, of course, are all efforts to gain notoriety through ostentatious generosity or hidden pride in our own charitableness. Both reveal perverse motives. We are transparent before God. But from faith flows concern for the spiritual well-being of others which is substantiated by our support for the proclamation and dissemination of God’s truth at home and abroad.
We must expect and prepare for increasing resistance to Christian truth. Christians can easily be overcome by a sense of injustice. Horrifying things go on in the world and often with the approval of the highest authorities. We may feel powerless to help, disheartened, and even begin to lose hope. The instantaneous nature of communication makes us more aware of evil in the world and gives focus to our prayer. But it should also make us mindful that we have limitations. We cannot take on the burdens of everyone. Christ bears the sins of the world on His shoulders, we don’t. We gather here because here God gives strength and life to His people.
Today the patriarch Jacob laid his head upon a stone and there God met him. Jacob set up the stone as a memorial and called it Bethel. Every place the Spirit gathers His people in worship could rightly be called Bethel. Bethel means ‘house of God’. The residents of God’s house receive the blessings of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jacob said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”5 Every time you are absolved of your sins you are at the gate of heaven. Each time you take Christ body and blood upon your lips you have a foretaste of the heavenly feast. God’s word brings to pass what it promises. Yes, the weeds continue to grow all around us. And that will cause us strife. The testing of our faith will also be necessary. But take heart in the words of the apostle who says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”6 Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
1 Colossians 1:1-4
2 Matthew 13:38
3 Matthew 13:39
4 1 Corinthians 5:12
5 Genesis 28:17
6 Romans 8:18
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
20 July 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt