Got Wheat?

July 20, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Proper 11 – RCL Year A
Genesis 28:10-19a; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

In today’s gospel we have another parable from Jesus to the crowds, and as Matthew seems kind enough to do, we also have an explanation of the symbols in the parable, shared only with the disciples… and us, it seems.

Like the sower and the seeds parable we heard last Sunday, Jesus continues to use farming imagery familiar to his audience. But in this parable the seeds no longer represent the spreading of God’s word. Instead we have two kinds of seeds. The seeds of wheat are the good seeds sown by the Master. The other seeds are weeds, sown at night by the enemy. We are told that the good seeds represent the children of the kingdom, while the weeds represent the children of the evil one, sown by the devil.

Now, some might look at this text and conclude that one’s goodness or evilness is predetermined – that when we come into this world, we are either cast as a seed of wheat or as a weed, and there’s nothing we can do about it. I don’t believe that this is how things work. And, for the purpose of Matthew’s gospel, this parable is more likely about Jesus’ hope to expand God’s kingdom in the world.

Through this parable, Jesus is beckoning the crowd to be WHEAT… that is, to hear his message about God and live into God’s call to love others. The alternative is to fall under the influence of those who act contrary to God’s message of love; those who focus on, or get distracted by, worldly things.

Now, what’s interesting, but hard to see in the New Revised Standard translation [which we read today] is that being able to distinguish the wheat from the weeds isn’t easy. I don’t know about you, but when I think of weeds, I think of something that looks very different than the wheat. But in this parable, the words used in the original text paint a different picture. I discovered this by accident.

You see, each week as I prepare the Children’s Worship liturgy, I look for a coloring page to include in their bulletin. The one I found for this week’s text was entitled “The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.” It didn’t say wheat and weeds. So, in doing more research I found that most biblical translations more accurately use the word TARES instead of weeds.

wheat and taresI have to admit that I didn’t know what tares were, so it was Google to the rescue! I found that it’s a weedy rye-grass that resembles wheat in many ways, except the color of the seeds are darker. As tares develop, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the wheat and the tares, so using this comparison in the parable is significant and intentional. In the same way, it can be difficult for us to know who is living a God-inspired life and who is not. And since tares are poisonous to humans and some animals, it’s also important that they be harvested out when the time is right.

That said, we see in the parable that the job of discerning what is wheat and what are tares is not for the workers in the field to decide. It is instead something God will figure out.  I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that to not have that responsibility. It is God who knows our true motivation and intention. It is God who knows our heart.

So, the parable provides, perhaps, a picture of the consequence of the choices we make in our life. Consider that within each one of us there are elements of being WHEAT and elements of being WEEDS. There are things in each of us that can be life-giving, and there are also things that are temptations and struggles.devil-and-angel-cartoon

So, instead of thinking of the cartoon image of the little angel sitting on one shoulder and the pitch-forked devil on the other, perhaps we can change the image to wheat and tares. Then, with each choice we make, each action we take, we reveal a life outcome that results in being WHEAT or being TARES.

In these choices it is the intention with which we act that counts. Getting direction from God – that is, allowing ourselves to be sown by God – results in the growth of wheat. While letting worldly desires, or life-limiting fears or anxiety dictate our actions, oppose God’s purpose for us, resulting in tares.

Each time we act in a life-giving way, we deepen our WHEATy roots.

And the good news is, God doesn’t rush to judgment. The parable reveals a patient God. One who is willing to let the seeds grow fully, mature completely, before making judgments about the quality of the grain. God provides each of us with ample opportunity to live into our WHEAT-ness.

God is loving. God wants us all to be wheat, and in the end, the hope is that when the harvest comes and it’s time to separate the wheat from the tares, that very few tares will exist. That God’s love will provide such grace, that all will be moved to become wheat.

But remember, it isn’t an outward image, but an inward essence, that produces the wheat-ness. We are all sown into this world with the potential to be wheat. All are invited by God to be children of the kingdom! And though we all begin with this same God-given essence, each condition we are born into, whether it be wealth or poverty, for example, has responsibilities that emerge.

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Photo by Jody Greenwood

Those born into poverty, struggling generation after generation to put food on the table, face a society where the deck is stacked against them – yet they must continue to strive to meet these challenges trusting in God and seeking God’s guidance to live a wheat-inspired life.

And for those who were born into or who have achieved a place of advantage in this world, it’s incumbent upon these people to care for those in need, not only by material assistance, but also to use their influence to fight the systemic injustices that create an uneven playing field and marginalize others.

Emmaus House is one such ministry in our diocese. It has a particular focus in helping those affected by poverty – providing aid and being advocates for change. Ann Fowler is the new director of the Lokey Center, and is here this morning to tell us more about their work, helping to sow wheat in God’s field of Peoplestown in Atlanta.

IMG_5824

Photo by: Jody Greenwood

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