"Don't Sweat the Weeds!"
The following homily was preached today in chapel at the International Center. A similar homily was also preached last week at the National LCMS Worship Conference held at Concordia University—Nebraska.
Weeds. If you grew up as a farm boy like I did, weeds were definitely not your friends. There’s absolutely nothing attractive about them, and when you’re out there working in the hot sun, weeds are a constant reminder of the curse of sin on our first father in paradise, and on every human being since: “. . . cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you . . .” (Gen. 3:17–18).
But then they invented Roundup. I remember when Roundup first came out in the mid-70s. I was a teenage farmhand back then, and Roundup was so cool! Crab grass, Johnson grass, and all the other rugged, broadleaf weeds that could only be hacked at with the end of a hoe, miraculously withered and died within two weeks of application—dried up at the root. Excellent, Smithers!
And then they invented Roundup-resistant corn and soybeans, so that you can plant your field, and when your planted seeds comes up along with the weeds, you spray the field, and the corn and soybeans live, and the little weeds die! Judgment Day, Roundup style!
Farmers do get obsessed with weeds, I must admit. I was recently talking to a grad student from Iowa State whose studies involve soil quality and agribusiness, and he was telling me that basically farmers tend to “over Roundup” their fields—that studies have shown that they could get by with fewer applications of Roundup. Their yield would be less, but their profits would be higher when you factor in the cost of the extra applications.
So I asked him why farmers tend to over apply Roundup, and he said that he thought it was because of image. A good farmer wants a field with no weeds in it, and he’s afraid that if other farmers see his field with weeds in it, they’ll think less of him as a farmer.
In our text for this morning, Jesus tells of a different kind of farmer—a farmer who doesn’t sweat the weeds, but actually allows the weeds and the wheat to grow up together until harvest time. Then, and only then, will the weeds and their weed seeds be separated out and cast into the fire, and the wheat will be gathered into the barn. So, what’s the point of the parable for us today, who live in between planting and harvest? “Don’t Sweat the Weeds!”
But we do, don’t we? We see the problems in the world around us—the weed seeds of the evil one “overseeded” liberally throughout the field of God’s creation. From that twisted terrorist in Norway, to the suicide bombers of the Middle East; from the genocide of Darfur, to the scourge of abortion-on-demand in our own country; from the increasing advocacy of a pro-gay agenda by our state and society, to a growing societal hostility toward the church and her mission of witness and mercy—the world we live in is decidedly overrun with noxious weeds of every variety, and more still to come.
And we can begin to get obsessed about the weeds growing in the church, too, can’t we? I mean, when you think about it, the church has so many problems. Somebody recently told me that the problem with working here at the IC is that all the problems going on in Synod—wherever they may be, whatever they may be, however bad they may be—eventually come to roost here, in one way or another. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when you work here, isn’t it? But when you start to focus on the weeds, you lose the point of the parable: “Don’t Sweat the Weeds.” Because if you try pulling up those weeds, their roots are so entangled with the wheat, that you will do damage to God’s good seed. No, the weeds and the wheat must grow alongside of each other until the end of time. It’s messy. It’s uncomfortable. It’s imperfect. But it is what the kingdom of heaven is like.
You see, our Lord Jesus Himself came to live among the weeds. He didn’t apply some kind of cosmic Roundup to the world, sanitizing it before he became flesh among us. No, “the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . . .” (1 Tim. 1:15). As the Pharisees declared: “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Mt. 11:19). Friend of sinners, indeed! That’s our Jesus. For “greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Jesus laid down His life for you, dear friend. At His Incarnation, Jesus immersed Himself into the grit and grime of this weed-infested world. By the sweat of His brow, he lived a perfect life, flawlessly spending it here, in and among the weeds, in your place. And at Calvary, He took all of your sins upon Himself. All of your unrighteousness, and the unrighteousness of the whole world, was laid on Jesus. As St. Paul declared: “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). At your baptism, he poured out that perfect righteousness into your life. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5–7).
So, don’t sweat the weeds! Yes, life among the weeds is often confusing, confused, and flawed. But hope remains. For the farmer of this field knows exactly what he’s doing. At the time of harvest, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear” (Mt. 13:39–43).
Rev. Jon D. Vieker
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