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Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Today’s Reading | Matthew 13:36–43
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” (NRSV)
It’s interesting how a parable that Jesus told earlier about weeds and wheat growing side by side in a field gets boiled down to a warning about ultimate consequences. Asked to explain the parable, Jesus reduces the message to this: at the end of time, weeds will be separated from wheat. “Children of the evil one” will be separated from “children of the kingdom.” Evildoers will be burned up with fire, and the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of God.
The imagery is stark. The consequences of doing evil and being righteous couldn’t be more dramatically imagined. Images are powerful; they have a way of affecting our psyches immediately, and once imprinted in our imaginations, they have a way of lingering for years, even from childhood into adulthood.
I think that is why we have to take care with the religious images at work in our lives. The images upon which we most readily rely make a difference in how we make sense of the world and of our lives. So it may be worth asking ourselves which religious images come easily to mind, and upon which images do we easily fall back either in daily life or at critical moments in our lives?
The Bible and Jesus offer a wealth of different images from which we can draw, not all of them as stark and scary as that of evildoers being burnt up in a furnace of fire. It is unfortunate, I think, that sometimes the church has selected certain images, like this one, at the expense of the many other images in the Bible. In doing so, it has risked perverting our religious imaginations to view this amazing life of ours with fear rather than with wonder. Perhaps all we need to do is widen our eyes with wonder and take in more of what God wants us to see.
God, forgive us when we fasten our view on things that make us fearful. Open our eyes to see more—more of your wondrous grace, love, and providence. Amen.
Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life
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