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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 13:24–30

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (NRSV)

The kingdom of heaven may be described as a field in which both good seed and bad seed have been planted. The weeds described in this parable are probably what’s called false wheat or cheatgrass. It’s also called darnell or even poison darnell. The seeds have a kind of fungus in them that can make humans and animals very sick or even kill them. You have to burn the plants to make sure the seeds don’t replicate. As a metaphor for good and evil mixing, cheatgrass makes a good antagonist. You can’t tell it apart from the good wheat until the fruit, the grain, matures.

This Gospel of Matthew was written at a time when early Jewish Christians were living in a religiously diverse urban setting, struggling over questions of identity: who is “us” and who is “not us.” Who is in and who is out? Who is good? (We are.) And who is bad? (They are.) But the parable says you can’t make that distinction. You might make a terrible mistake by trying to divide people like this. Leave it to God. Leave it to the angels. If we step in and try to be God, if we try to judge people’s ultimate worth, we can end up destroying some really good things.

Modern interpreters have noticed that this parable could also describe each human being as having both good and bad seed in each of us. The cheatgrass is in us, and it’s challenging to try to sort that out. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with this when he said, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19). That’s cheatgrass running rampant in a field of wheat. Life, individuals, and even communities are more than dualistic. We’re mixed, on many levels.

Loving God, give me compassion for myself and for all others. Knowing that we all struggle to do what is right, guide me to at least do better. Help me to trust in your persistent love and compassion for me, no matter what. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Minister for Congregational Life

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