Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 7 [Proper 11]

"Don't Pull the Weeds!?"

Matthew 13:24-30.

July 23, 2017

Despite the muggy weather this week, I was out in the garden weeding. What can you learn from weeds? Here's a thought. If you pull the weeds, they come back. If you pull the garden plant, it doesn't come back. Interesting? The weeds are always there. This means you must be careful weeding, because if you pull out the garden plant by mistake, it's gone. Maybe this will help us understand today's Gospel parable.

Read Matthew 13:24--30, 37-43. 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.'"

The world we live in is like that wheat field. The wheat and the weeds were so closely intertwined that it was hard to tell them apart and impossible to uproot one without pulling out the other as well. In spiritual mattes only God can judge whether the heart is weed or wheat. Since faith is invisible, we can't judge the hearts of others. The Lord tells us that the believers and unbelievers will grow and live together but in the end, the weeds will be separated from the wheat. Thus, Jesus said, 'don't pull the weeds!" The angels will do it on the Last Day.

What does it mean, "don't pull the weeds?" First, it's a sobering reminder to us that we can't eliminate the evil in the world by ourselves. Be honest, you can't even change yourself, how do you expect to change others? Evil is always going to be with us. Good intentions are not enough. We need the Lord.

Sin in so intertwined in the world that it is impossible to root it out. Yes, we can try to pass laws to keep sinful behavior in check but that isn't going to eliminate the behavior. There are laws against stealing but there is still theft. There are laws against killing but there is still murder. Our nation tried to outlaw the consumption of alcoholic beverages with prohibition. That law actually led to more drinking and alcoholism. Sin is always with us. No matter how many laws are passed, it still will not be uprooted from society.

Secondly, Jesus didn't allow the weeds to be pulled because He came not to destroy but to save. External appearances can be deceiving. Tares and wheat often look so much alike we can't always tell which is which. We don't want to keep anyone from hearing the Word and taking it to heart. The Lord continues to sow the seeds of faith into the weediest of sin-ridden hearts.

The weeds of life are sin. Jesus never tells us to ignore all the weeds of life. Even in the wheat field, the workers were aware of the weeds. The question was to decide what to do about them. We need to be aware of the weeds of evil in the world. When Jesus said, "don't pull the weeds," He was speaking of the judgment of the soul. He isn't saying that we are to sit back and let evil have its way. Think of what a horrible place the world would be if we don't stand up to terrorist bombers. Think of how much worse the world would be if we didn't put to evil people in jail. Who would want to live in a lawless society? Common sense tells us we need continue to pull the weeds that would choke off our very society.

The bigger problem is our own sin. If you're a good gardener, you're careful to keep the weeds pulled. Not only do weeds grow among the wheat in the world, they also grow in our hearts and lives. We all struggle with the weeds in our lives. Sin is so intertwined in our human nature that we can't get rid of it. That's why we all must pay special attention to our own hearts. Each is filled with weeds of personal sin that need constant attention. None of us will ever eliminate sin from our lives. For this reason, we must pay close attention to our heart lest it be overrun with sin and evil. With the help of God we can begin to deal with the weeds in our hearts.

The sins that grow up in your heart and life are weeds you can and are to pull. If you don't deal with the weeds growing in your hearts they will grow and can eventually choke off your faith. Indeed, there may be times when it seems weeds would choke off out our very faith. We may even feel like we can't pray. At times like these, we understand what Paul was talking about when he writes that the Spirit intercedes for us.

In the church we need to be aware of and deal with the weeds of error, false doctrine and unbelief. Every cult in the world tries to pass itself off as the real thing. Cults start out like weeds looking very similar to the wheat but closer inspection will show they are not the real thing. Just as a gardener knows the difference between the good plants and the weeds, we need to know the difference between God's truth and error. Unless we know the difference we will be deceived.

Bad news: wheat and weeds grow up intertwined. The evil things of this life can be and often are so intertwined with the good that to uproot one would uproot the other. You have to live with the weeds. Not only do you have to deal with the weeds in your own garden but you also need to be aware of those in your neighbor's garden because they will eventually spread into yours. The weeds are always there in your own life and in the lives of those around you.

Our Lord came to sow the seeds of faith on fertile soil. He came to bring the Gospel to hearts prepared by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is our Redeemer. He is our Savior who died on the cross for our sin. The Holy Spirit continues to help us weed our hearts and lives of sin. In matters of judging the hearts of people and determining their eternal salvation, Jesus says "don't pull the weeds!" In the daily battle with sin in our lives and the evil we see in society, our Lord tells us, "don't just sit there! Get to work and deal with those weeds!"

There is good news: Jesus doesn't sow one seed at a time. He sows the whole field at once. This is good news. Why? We don't persevere alone. We live along side others who are persevering with us. We help each other as we journey on the path of faith. If you falter, others are there to help you up. When others falter, you are there to help them. We rejoice in the great and wonderful love of God that keeps us from trying to go it alone.

We live in community with one another. Yes, we will always have to deal with the weeds but by God's grace we will persevere together. The weeds of sin will not overrun our hearts or our family of faith. With joy we will live as the people of God, watered in our baptism, nourished in the Word, strengthened in the supper, growing and blooming as the Spirit brings forth the fruits of faith in our lives. Amen.


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