2023-12-31 - Silvester - (EN) - Pastor Dieter Lilje

( Mt. 13: 24 – 30 ) - [ Deutsch ]

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.  “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time, I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Lady Nancy Astor was the first woman elected to Parliament in England. Known for her scathing wit and her outspokenness, she exchanged some sharp comments with Sir Winston Churchill. One story has it that she was seated next to Churchill at a dinner party when they were having a particularly sharp difference of political opinion, which angered her. “If you were my husband,” Lady Astor declared, “I’d put poison in your tea.” To which Churchill replied, “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

This little incident illustrates the impatience that many of us have with people or ideas that we don’t like or disagree with. We are eager for the quick solution. We think we know what is right, and we are ready to confront anybody who disagrees. This is particularly true of religious people, quick to accuse or condemn. This is nothing new. Jesus dealt with it in the people of his day: Pharisees who avoided contact with sinners and the unclean; Zealots who used violence to oppose the Roman occupation; the self-righteous who were ready to stone a woman who was guilty of adultery; those that accused and hated Jesus because of his fellowship with thieves, prostitutes and sinners and those that opposed almost everything he said and did.

This self-righteousness is exactly the attitude Jesus addresses in this parable. The Kingdom of Heaven, he says, is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. Under cover of darkness, his enemy came and sowed weeds. The servants wonder where it came from— “We thought you planted good seed!” they tell the master. He replies that these weeds are the work of an enemy. Immediately, in their enthusiasm to serve him suggested to pull out all the weeds.  Much to their surprise, the Master responds, “No, for there’s too much danger of pulling up the wheat along with the weeds. Rather wait, let both grow together until the harvest; then they will be separated.” In fact, it is hard to tell the weeds and wheat apart and that is part of the problem.  The word used for "weeds" here as zizonia.  This is a type of weed that is often confused with wheat because it looks just like wheat as it grows.  Only at the harvest time could you tell the difference. 

It’s our human tendency, to want to pull out the weeds. Imagine their surprise when the Master’s answer is an unhesitating “No! Let them grow!” The Master’s solution is different. Instead of an immediate attack, he advocates patience. “Let both grow together until the harvest.” That is not what the servants had in mind! 

Doesn’t the church have to give an account to God for how it has dealt with his gospel, whether as wheat or as weed? This also includes regular interim balances. It is no coincidence that our parable has been suggested as a sermon text for today. New Year's Eve calls for society to take stock of the past year. This is done through government speeches and through inventory of all companies in the country. So, should we not report how we pulled the weeds?

“Judge not, lest you be judged!” That is exactly what our parable is about. Pulling out the weeds means passing condemnation on people who, in our opinion, have no place in the Kingdom of God. That's not our place. That does not need to be our worry. Only God can make a final judgment on a person.

The problem is that when we look at today's parable, we see ourselves as the wheat and others are the weeds.  We do point fingers at the other. Do we really see ourselves as we truly are? Our eyes deceive us. When we take a photo of us in the reflection of a window, there will be a good picture of ourselves, but there will be much more in the picture of which we were not aware. All the stuff inside the window will also show in the photo. So, it is with our life.  We see ourselves as the "wheat" and the others as "weeds". We so easily point fingers at others. We see the evil outside ourselves and not the weed. 

See, we are always both, wheat, but also weed.  Martin Luther expressed this in Latin: We are "simul justus et peccator", at one and the same time both sinner and righteous. God has made us righteous, but we still live as sinners. 

It’s our human tendency, to want to pull out the weeds, by pointing away from ourselves, accusing others.  It’s what we might call the “servants’ solution.” Go in and get rid of what’s wrong or at least point a finger at what we see as wrong. You can almost imagine the servants offering to make this raid with some enthusiasm. But Jesus answers them with a clear NO! Why should we not pull out the weeds?

The parable suggests several answers to that. It tells us, that we servants are not really equipped to do the weeding we would like to do. It is hard to admit such limitations, but in the parable, it is very plain to see. The servants are completely clueless! The master gently points out that they will not be able to distinguish between the wheat and the weeds, and if they go through the field pulling up plants, they are going to pull up some wheat and leave some weeds. Isn’t that how it is with us? We’ve got such certain opinions about things, about what is right and wrong, but often those opinions just mask ignorance, prejudice, and self-righteousness. The roots of the wheat and the weeds are so intertwined, that they cannot be separated. And so, the Master says, “No, don’t try to do it yourselves right now. You’re not able.”

Secondly, it is still true what Jesus said to the Pharisees, when they wanted him to condemn the women who committed adultery: “He who is without sin among you, cast the first stone at her”. Nobody did because they knew they were not without sin. If we judge others, we are at the same time judging ourselves. If it were time right now to pull out all the weeds, to separate the wheat from the weeds, which pile would we be on? Good and bad is intermingled, as the roots of the wheat and the weeds are intertwined. We cannot separate them.

In front of us we see the disciples who gathered with Jesus around the table in the hall for communion. They, even they, were a bunch of weeds! One had already agreed to betray Jesus, another would soon deny him, others would abandon him. Nevertheless, he gathered them around him and called them friends. What a picture of God’s patience! – his patience with evil, his patience with failures, his patience with you and me! And when we gather at his table, it is the same. We come not because the weeds in our lives have been rooted out. Far from it! We come because he is patient with us, much more patient than we normally are with each other.

This is the third point in our parable. Let the wheat and the weeds continue to grow, says Jesus. The weeds are not our problem. I sowed the good seeds, he says. I give you time and space to grow. We should focus on growing the wheat and not the weeds. We should be patient with the other person and not always seek to prove him wrong. We should also be patient with ourselves, just as Jesus is patient with us. Our mission is not to root out the weeds, but instead to focus on growing the wheat, on doing good and cultivating the divine, and letting God be the judge. It means growing in His Word and celebrating at His table, where His patience flows over us like cleansing water and where goodness and mercy are poured out. That is why we are invited to his table tonight to share in his love, forgiveness, patience, and cleansing.   Amen


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