Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: July 23, 2017

Rev’d Mark B. Stirdivant, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Yucaipa, California
✝ sdg ✝

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Jesus does not tell you the parable about the wheat and the weeds in order for you to worry about the weeds. And yet, according to human nature, we tend to focus on the weeds. We are right along with those twelve disciples, disturbed about false believers whom the devil has planted all around us in this world and what is going to happen to them. We cry out to our Master in desperation along with the workers in the story, saying, “If You, Lord, sowed good seed in the field, then why are there weeds?” We even plead with Him to take them away, just so we don’t have to deal with such people, whom we see every day. Even if there’s a risk of so-called “collateral damage,” at least those nasty hypocrites are gone.

Now, if you walk around in a beautiful garden, you could feast your eyes on many colorful and well-arranged flowers, shrubs and trees. But it’s that big, prickly, ugly old milkweed stuck right in the middle that’s going to command your total attention. Or do you notice how the neighborhood seems to change about-face when you drive by that perfectly manicured lawn, then see next door to that an overgrown forest of tumbleweeds?

In Jesus’ story, those weeds sure were a nuisance to the workers in the field. The kind of weed he mentioned in this parable sprouts and comes to a head looking just like the wheat for most of its life cycle. And then when harvest time comes, those “hypocrite” weeds prove themselves to be worthless, even poisonous, and their only purpose is to be in the way. That is why the workers ask the Master if they should uproot those weeds now. It would only make good sense and save the trouble of sifting through them during the busy harvest time. However, the Master wouldn’t hear of it. He goes against what appears to be good sense in order that He might save the wheat from being uprooted. He is so concerned for his precious wheat that He is unwilling to sacrifice even a few of them so that the field would finally be weed-free.

There is hardly any person more despised and hated than a hypocrite. You can probably all think of someone who had at one time acted as though he were your friend, played the part beautifully, only to double-cross you when all was said and done. The same could be true of an unbeliever in the midst of Christians. This false Christian may do all the things true believers do, including praying, reading the Bible, leading a morally upstanding life, going to church and so on. In fact, they may do these things even better and more regularly than genuine Christians do! That’s why some people who have not been coming to church try to justify their decision by saying, “I’ve run into too many hypocrites going there, I don’t want anything to do with them.”

Wouldn’t you just love for God to find out such people, root them out and give them the punishment they deserve? Wouldn’t the Church and our Synod be more effective and holy if people who say one thing and do the opposite were kicked out permanently? Getting back to the parable, wouldn’t the work of harvesting wheat in the kingdom of God be much easier if all the weeds were bundled up and thrown into the fiery furnace? Doesn’t God our Father know what the consequences will be for us His children when He says, “Let both wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest?” Isn’t he aware that may be a big reason why from time to time we run into problems in our church in the first place?

Dear Christian friends, do not focus all your attention on the weeds. It is actually for your benefit that God has allowed both wheat and weeds to grow together in the field of this world. For you, too, have said one thing and done the very opposite. You, too, have acted as though Christ were not your Lord and Savior. Instead, you have trusted in how good you looked before others, what good things you’ve done and how you’ve put those people around you to shame. I have fallen to temptations like these as well. What you and I deserve is to be rolled up right now and bound together with all the other law-breakers like ourselves and cast out of His kingdom forever. The mere breath from His mouth is all that is needed to make us sinners wither away. But the Lord Almighty has waited in his divine judgment so that you could be spared. God has let the wheat and the weeds grow together until the harvest so that you would not be thrown into the fiery furnace, but would instead escape untouched by those flames, just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who walked miraculously out of the furnace of persecution in Babylon.

For the one who endured the flames of God’s furnace of wrath was Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. For your sake God the Father addressed Him as though He were the cause of all sin and put all the blame on that holy, innocent Man who was nailed to the cross. It was at great cost to the Son of Man that He planted His good seed in the field. In fact, it was watered with the very blood that He shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins and for the remission of your own hypocrisy.

Though you may have acted at times as though you had forgotten Him, He did not forget you, thanks be to God! By His unbelievable grace, you are not weeds, but rather His precious wheat, and He assures you that He will never let you be uprooted or cast away. Your destination is the barn of heaven, the storehouse of our merciful Lord, far from the scorching flames of the fiery furnace. For He Himself on that great harvest day will send His angels to gather you, not with the weeds, but with the wheat, meaning the believers whom God has planted with His Word, watered and brought to maturity in Jesus Christ.

Listen to the Almighty Master’s promise to you, His wheat, given through the Apostle Paul: “We ourselves, [even though we have] the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” And next week you will hear the very comforting words:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, that is why our Lord Jesus does not want you to focus your attention on the weeds. False Christians and believers falling from the faith will always be in our midst, because God in His infinite wisdom will not pluck them out of the field before the proper time. Martin Luther said in one of his sermons on this parable that wherever God builds for Himself a church, the devil sets up his own base of operations also, in order to taunt and hassle those who are not his. But that should not be a cause for you to despair, for Christ has promised to be with you in any time of trial or persecution. In fact, He says you will conquer through it all especially during those trying times. And even as you groan with a curse- burdened creation and fight against the weed-like nature of your own sinful flesh, the Old Adam that still fights against God, you will still be given the victory most decidedly.

Aloe and Jerusalem Sage

Aloe and Jerusalem Sage

Because of the amazing love of our Lord, among all those weeds there still is wheat! Believe it: The Son of Man has sown good seed. He’s guaranteed that. Children of God are still born into His kingdom, despite the discouraging things we often see. The Father’s will continues to be done among us, even in spite of us. We have Christ’s own pledge right here in His Word that this is so. He says, “All things work together for good for those who love God.” His very Body and Blood, given for the sake of His precious wheat, is here for us and for our salvation as well. With such assurance as this, we look forward to the coming of the end of the age, without fear, because that will be the day when we break forth like the sunrise along with our Risen Lord and Savior, and we will rejoice forever in the kingdom of our Father in heaven. He who has ears, let him hear, and you shall believe, and be saved, for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the ✝ Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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