Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; Thanksgiving Eve; November 24, 2010;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It’s Thanksgiving, that warm and wonderful holiday where we give ourselves permission to overeat. There may be a better holiday meal than turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry salad, and sweet potatoes, but I doubt it. The holiday does bring us lots to think about. Abraham Lincoln established it as a time to repent of our sins and to express to God our thankfulness for all the blessings that have been given to our nation. It is an appropriate time to do just that.

Thinking about the harvest, and being thankful is also very appropriate on Thanksgiving. The harvest is now in and done, maybe this year it could have been better but none the less we have a lot to be thankful about. So tonight we’ll look at this harvest parable.

Here Jesus tells us a simple story, as is the case with most of the parables, but this is one of the most unique parables because Matthew records for us Jesus own interpretation of the story. The story goes like this:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” ” (Matthew 13:24–30, ESV)

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to 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 is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. ” (Matthew 13:36–43, ESV)

It seems a pretty simple story, Jesus himself is the farmer, we, his children are the good seed. Satan plants his children, among us in the world. We all grow up together until the end when everything is cut; the good grain to the barn, the kingdom of their Father, and the bad to the fire of hell.

God sows the wheat. It’s good seed. He has plans for it to prosper and grow. It is indeed good news that God plants and take care of us. Think about the 1st article of the Apostle’s Creed, and especially how Martin Luther explained it. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. Jesus himself says Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:44-45 In order that the good seed might reach its full potential, God takes care of the field as if it were all full of good plants. He is gracious, not wanting any to perish. The seed that is planted produces “Children of the Kingdom.” God is the one who makes us His children, just as the farmer waters the field so God uses water to make us his children. And He promises to protect and keep us. In Baptism God promises to send us the Holy Spirit. He guides us and keeps us in faith. the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Romans 8:26

But, the parable is clear that not all the plants are good plants. In fact, in one place in the parable some of the plants are called “scandleon” that means things that cause others to stumble. The Evil One has sown weeds all around us. We live in a world of believers and unbelievers. And often it’s difficult to tell the difference. The weeds look just like the wheat. But it is bad seed. Sin that is planted takes root and grows. The roots of the weeds tangle up together with the roots of the good plants. The field that God intended to be only good is infected, overnight. God’s greatest gifts are poisoned. Life becomes difficult. The scandal of sin causes destruction and death.

What’s to be done? Can the weeds be pulled up now? No. That’s impossible because everything is tangled all up together. Jesus says, “Wait! The time for separation is coming later. Right now is a time of grace, a waiting period, a time for Him to do some more work. It is a time for Him to turn weeds into wheat.

That is, after all, just what he did with you and me. We are surly weeds. The grain that we would naturally produce isn’t the kind that should be stored in the barn. It’s the kind that comes from our own sinful desires and actions; the kind that chokes our hope and life and causes pain and suffering. All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. If we had been left to our own, we would have been bundled up and cast into the fire to be burned.

But God doesn’t burn us. Not because we are producing good grain, but because Jesus Christ died, and rose again that we could rise up by his power and be changed from weeds to wheat. God reached out to you and me and saved us from our just end. In the same way he offers that same gift to all. But those who are deaf to his call will not receive His gift but be burned… in hell.

Jesus Christ was burnt for us. He took our weed-ness, our sins, and bore them to the cross. There God turned away from him and he suffered the very fires of hell. And when it was all over he rose un-charred to a new life. And he gives that new life to us instead of the fire.

There will be a harvest. There will be a day of sorting. Sheep from goats, good fish from bad fish, wheat from weeds. The sorting is all focused on the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is there where people either say, “Jesus be cursed!” and reject him, or shout with joy, “Jesus is Lord!”

It’s a harvest story. Is it simple? Yes in a way, it is because it shows us that Jesus alone provides what is needed for weeds to become wheat and escape the fire. It’s a Thanksgiving story too. This holiday as we gather with our family and friends it’s a great time to consider how weeds like us can be called the children of God… and give thanks. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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