Updated: May 16, 2019
Sermon for May 12, 2019
Texts: Psalm 111; Romans 12:9-19; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Sermon: "Growing Together"
Our life journeys, particularly our faith journeys, are at once joyful and challenging, at once glorious and dark -- the ups and downs, certainties and uncertainties, and all the slippery slopes we climb or try to climb and sometimes with no success at all.
One day we feel that God must be very near. Things are going well. We simply give thanks for good times and good blessings. The next day, we wonder -- has God abandoned us here?
"An enemy has done this," Jesus tells us as he relates the story that we know as the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. "An enemy has done this." Why are there weeds growing among the wheat in the field where the farmer claims he planted only good seed? "An enemy has done this."
In those times when we think God has abandoned us, when faith gets so thin that we cannot find a place in our heart where it will help us to know God's presence, yes, an enemy has done this.
The beautiful field that God has planted indeed is filled with the good seed that has grown into the wheat, Jesus tells his disciples. But there, too, Jesus says, the weeds grow, the work of the evil one himself.
Be assured, however, the evil one is no creator. The evil one is a spoiler. God sows good seed. The devil comes into the field and sows the weeds.
Just so, God creates us in his image -- good, beautiful, full of promise. The evil one sows fear and envy and ugliness in hearts to spoil God's goodness.
With the power of Jesus Christ in our hearts, our choices can show to the world what Jesus meant when he preached "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field, but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away."
Our choices can show what Jesus meant when he taught that we are to be patient.
God watches and waits in the kingdom of heaven, but God is not idle. God always is patient but aware. God in Jesus Christ through his Holy Spirit wants to nurture and coax us through our lives.
As God waits patiently so we are, too, to be gracious and generous as we respond to God's love in love for all those who are struggling to find their way to God. We ourselves may struggle, too -- up the slippery slope and down again, trying to find that perfect Way of Jesus Christ that we know we are called to follow. We fail and we fall. Jesus picks us up again and renews us if we only remember that it is HE that we follow.
Jesus names the enemy who sows the bad seed, the devil. And he explains that at the end time, angels will come to reap what has been sowed. "They will collect out of the kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers," he said. "And they will be thrown into the furnace of fire."
But Jesus has said very clearly: "Let them grow together, the weeds and the wheat. Let them grow together. Wait for God. Be hopeful. Live as kingdom people." We are called to witness to the kingdom of God in the world. This is a time fraught with evil. But it has been so from the beginning, from the first days of recorded history between God and God's people.
Bearing witness to God's way in the world requires that we, like our God, be patient and merciful and just; it requires that we share the good news of God's grace in Jesus Christ in the hope that we will do our own part to win over those who are walking a dangerous way, those who are lagging in their faith, and those who have not yet heard about the grace of our Lord.
Bearing witness to God means that we must again and again renew and strengthen our faith through God's Word, in prayer, and in seeking God's Spirit to guide us in our faith journey. We come to this place called church -- gathered to worship the One who created us and all the world; and to strengthen our spirit and our faith; to hear God speaking through his powerful word; to pray together; and to figure out how we can show the world God's love through our own small acts of hospitality, love, and kind deeds.
It is a lonely thing to feel that God has stopped caring. But I know people who feel that way, and I imagine that you do, too. It is a terrible thing to believe that God has left us to our own devices and will not come and tend the garden and cultivate strong and faithful and fruitful disciples and remove the weeds from the garden where he has planted us.
Hold on for dear life, my friends. New graduates and nearly new graduates: Be resolved to hold fast to all that you believe about God's charge over your life. Hold on to the sure and certain knowledge that God has given us Jesus Christ who through the Holy Spirit died on that cross, took the darkness of the world upon himself, and gave us in return, love and life.
Hold on to Jesus. Hold on for dear life.
Jesus calls us to love, as he has loved us.
Jesus calls us not to judge. He calls us to let the weeds and the wheat grow up together. We are not to rush to judgment. But we are to walk the way of Jesus and do everything in the power of his Spirit to bring along with us those who need us to help show them the way to Jesus.
We see and know evil and opposition to God's way. We do hear and see coarse language and behavior that is being modeled for our children and for those whose hearts and minds have grown weak and vulnerable. We see it every day.
Jesus tells us what to do. Filled with the powerful Spirit through prayer and attention to God's Holy Word, we learn that we can lift our own voices to protest what is going on in the world around us by living the life Jesus Christ has called us to live.
God moves at his own pace, making sure that there will be plenty of time and abundant grace for all who need his nurturing. God will not give up on you, on me, on our neighbors, on our enemies -- until all efforts have failed.
And we must not forget that but for the grace of God we are a weedy bunch. Only through the grace of God can we claim our "hang-on-at-all-odds" kind of faith -- our knowledge that we must indeed hang on for dear life.
When God doesn't seem near, when enemies are all around, when there are dry periods when the soul seems to dry up, we fall on our knees in prayer and ask God to renew us, to reboot our faith and put an end to the dry spell. And God will respond.
Yes, we, too, may lose our way. But in God's good grace, we will lift our heads again. We will hold on to the One who will take us all the way to the end.
And that's the Good News today.
The One who will take us all the way to the end does not want us to make that journey alone. God will lead us to the harvest.
And let us never fail to give God all the glory, praise, and honor. Amen.