Whole Wheat Christians

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Proper 11/Year A ● July 19, 2020
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Whole Wheat Christians

10:30 a.m. Mass. Celebrant & Preacher: Mother Adrienne Hymes. Sermon, “Whole Wheat Christians” (Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).Serving in worship: Music: Ms. Gina Spano, Ms. Katherine KnippelLay Ministers: Mrs. Herfa Roach, Dr. Jeanette Rollins, Ms. Keitra Waterman, Dr. Greene Thompson; Ushers: Mr. Pete Soto, Ms. Karen Bauer; Altar/Flowers: Ms. Christine O’DonnellWorship with us next Sunday online or in-person (seat reservations close at 5pm on Saturday. Sign up at www.wcepiscopalchurch.org).

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, July 19, 2020

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

When the pandemic first began to gain serious traction in March, the world, for humankind, slowed down; for those who died this world stopped. For those living in this world and, for now, with this pandemic, the existential questions of purpose, suffering, death, and beyond death—tend to rise to the surface igniting individual and collective anxieties.

About that same time, I stumbled upon a preacher’s sermon online who shared that his congregation was really wound up about the end of days saying things like, “This is it. These are all signs that the end is near. We need to be reading our Bibles. We need to be looking out for each other. We need to be praying.” The preacher scratched his head and wondered what his flock had been doing prior to the pandemic? Weren’t they supposed to be reading scripture already, caring for one another and rooted in prayer, already? It begs the uncomfortable question, “When Jesus comes back at an unexpected time, will even his faithful believers be prepared on the day of judgment?”

In our Gospel today Jesus uses another agricultural parable to talk about the Day of Judgment when, not “if,” the Son of man will return to separate God’s children from those things that are not of God, and to gather them into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Within the field there were “good” seeds scattered which were destined to become grain.  As the seeds began to fulfill their purpose of bearing grain, the weeds, sown by an enemy, began to grow amongst them, competing for the same nutrient sources, and potentially threatening the abundance of the future harvest.

The slaves, eager to save the field from being overrun with weeds, said to their master, “Do you want us to go and gather the weeds?” and the wise master, knowing that the roots of the weed plants and the roots of the wheat plants were inextricably entangled said, “No…Let them both grow together until the harvest.”

Why spare the weeds? Certainly, the master was conscious of the havoc weeds caused in the field, but he also knew the destructive impact that gathering them in haste would have on the wheat’s maturation for the coming harvest, and indeed its very survival.   The master allowed the whole field to just “be” without the tampering of well-meaning laborers, who thought that they knew what action needed to be taken.  But if those laborers had not consulted their master and gathered the weeds as they thought best, their actions would have jeopardized the crop. Woven into their identity as slaves was obedience to the master, making no decisions without first asking what the master would have them do.

I imagine that many of us may recognize ourselves in the laborers, eager to separate the good from the bad—more specifically separating ourselves—the “good seeds” from those we have judged as evil weeds living and growing amongst us.  On any given day, at any hour of the day, one could be judged, by another, as a useless, dangerous weed that must be gathered up to be destroyed.  Thanks be to God, dividing the kingdom between those who are considered wheat and those who are considered weeds, is not at the mercy of the handicapped human judgment and the emotions of the human heart; it is under God’s grace.

Within the field of the human heart, grow the weeds of anger, fear, unforgiveness, jealousy, greed, hatred, resentment and apathy.   If ignored or unmanaged, the heart can become overrun with the weeds of sin, starving one’s soul from the abundance of the life-giving bread that is Jesus Christ.  The weedy heart, which we all have in lesser or greater degree, makes loving one another as God loves us a disciplined and challenging choice.

Christians would love to claim that we are 100 percent whole wheat, but such a claim would deny who we are.  This parable reminds Christians not to become too comfortable in assuming that we are, of course, the protected wheat.  Just as one can identify the “weed-like” characteristics in others, so too can one’s own “weediness” be judged by those whom they encounter. But if one is faithful to reading the scriptures; cares for others as Jesus cared for all people; and remains rooted in prayer—not only in times of crisis—but as a pattern of life, they are nurtured in Christ—and mimic or imitate Christ—over a lifetime.

The time of growth from seed to harvest is not unlimited—the time for harvesting will come. During that growth period, the reflection of Christ, showing up in this broken world with insidious weeds all around, exists to transform those things which are not of God into divine wheat of the field to be harvested and taken up to the heavenly kingdom.

There’s a phenomenon called “crop mimicry” or “weed mimicry” in which the weed comes to share one or more characteristics of a domesticated plant through generations of artificial selection.  It is an agricultural practice that has been used since Neolithic times to selectively kill the young or adult weed. The weeds, which inevitably grow back, subsequently mimic the plants among which they grow.  And, over the course of several plant generations, the weeds appear to be like the original plant. They mimic the plants’ characteristics such that its own weed characteristics are difficult to distinguish from the original plant.

While the weeds around us—and in us—will always be present, we can learn from the weeds’ mimicking ability.  Human beings have a weed-like, sinful nature. But, through baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, human beings also have His divine nature.

There is hope for all weeds and for all who have weedy tendencies.  And, it is only with God’s help—and only through baptism—that those who believe are able to grow into the full stature of Christ—no longer indistinguishable from those things that are not of God in the world. Marked as Christ’s own forever by the Holy Spirit, God recognizes God’s children as surely as He recognizes his own Spirit. As St. Paul said in our Epistle today, “…All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Rom 8:14).

As faithful people who, by the grace of God, continue to move through this pandemic—it is necessary to remind each other that all of our times are uncertain and that in all times we are already supposed to be reading and digesting scripture, caring for one another and rooted in prayer. And, if we aren’t growing into the full stature of Christ, while we have this very limited time,  it begs the uncomfortable question, “When Jesus comes back at an unexpected time, will even his faithful believers be prepared on the day of judgment?”

The good news is that God is actively working in the hearts of humankind transforming weeds to wheat so that on the Day of Judgment all of creation may be reconciled to God’s self.  And, on that day, the imitators of Christ will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (v.43).