July 20, 2014 – 6 Pentecost A – Proper 11
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Children complain to parents about limits placed upon them, things they have been told they cannot do and they say, Why not? Parents universally respond, join with me if you like, Because I said so. What we mean when we say that is that we’re the adult and we know what’s best right now. There are a lot of different reasons that are really hard to explain but we’ve had a variety of life experiences and children haven’t had quite so many yet and as a parent we just know what’s best in this situation. When we say, Because I said so, part of what we mean is trust me and later on you’ll understand. Often as parents we know how things will turn out a little better than our children do. We’re a little wiser at making difficult decisions.
We’re reminded so often in scripture that God is the one who has the complete wisdom. We’re smart but we just don’t understand everything with all its complexity. Only God is all knowing. There are certain things we’re just not ready to decide. In this way we’re like children asking, Why not?, and having God reply, Because I said so. Sometimes we try to make decisions that simply are not ours to make.
The gospel lesson is the parable of the weeds. It’s a teaching on good and evil. It’s a teaching on our desire to separate people into good and evil and our inability to make that judgment. We just don’t know enough to make that call. We try to make that judgment long before it is time to do so, long before such a determination may be made.
The parable tells us that judgment is God’s job, not ours. God is better equipped to make judgment. When we judge, we’re putting ourselves in a place where we not only have no business being but in a place where we’re likely to do great harm both to those we judge and to ourselves. So we are taught today to wait with our judgment, to allow God to judge, because God is the only being properly equipped to judge.
Judgment separates us. Judgment divides us. It leads to death. And we are told not to do it. We are told to allow the wheat and the weeds to grow together and that, if and when it is appropriate, God will make the judgment.
I love to use a weedeater. Unfortunately all my lawn equipment was recently stolen and I am in weedeater withdrawal. It’s great fun to go out there and let that machine just wipe out all those weeds. It’s so much fun that I invariably mow down something I wasn’t supposed to mow down. There’s so much power there and it all happens so fast and I just get in the rhythm of trimming and all of a sudden things have gotten out of control. Mary Ward has learned she has to put bricks or stakes around plants or else I’m cutting everything I can find. Spraying Round Up is even more insidious. I fill up the gallon spray tank and off I go and I start with the weeds growing up in the pavement and then I start looking for more things to poison. I look at a plant and I so want it to be a weed so that I can soak it. I’m almost disappointed when it turns out to be a budding fern or something of value. I want it to be a weed so that I can kill it. It’s fun.
Though there is some great joy in finding a weed and wacking it or poisoning it, I make a lot of mistakes. And the same is true with weeds when it comes to people. A lot of times it is better just to wait and let things develop for a while. Some things I thought were weeds just aren’t.
Perhaps the greatest wisdom available in this parable though is this: people are not so much either wheat or weeds as we are gardens in which wheat and weeds grow together. We are not divided into good people and evil people because we are all God’s people and we have within us both good and evil, both wheat and weeds. The gospel lesson can help us in our understanding of how to get along with others; it can also lead to a better understanding of ourselves. And the older I get, the more I think this is the secret to good living: understanding who I am, who God has made me, and how I operate. I have within myself a richness of creation. I can learn so much about all that out there by looking at all this in here.
Most of us are fairly judgmental about the various parts of ourselves, maybe even more judgmental than we are with other people. We see parts of ourselves that are good, parts that are bad, and we often desperately seek to root out all that which we deem bad within us. On the surface that sounds like a good thing to do. But I think this parable of Jesus urges us to be a bit more patient in our judgment and, in fact, perhaps to wait for God to make such judgments even within our own lives. The weeds actually have some value too.
Carl Jung wrote extensively about our shadow. Each trait we have which we consider to be a strength casts a shadow within us. Shadows are to be looked at because they can lead us to discover some strengths we may never have considered. Also to be unaware of a shadow means we are likely to operate out of that in an unhealthy way. Ambition and drive, for instance, cast the shadow of impatience. As humans we often focus more on the shadows in a sense of fear. Perhaps we fear being judged by God but the gospel of Christ assures us of our forgiveness and we have no need of fear. We can look at our shadows with a sense of freedom, open to what they may teach us.
In The Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore spends a lot of time talking about similar ideas. He suggests looking carefully at the parts of us that bother us, not with the idea that those parts need to be repressed so much as they need to be understood. They are our soul calling out to be noticed, to be cared for. Jealousy, Moore notes, can teach us about what we want out of life and fear not getting. Jealousy is not an admired trait yet we get jealous at times when our soul needs some attention. Pay attention to your shadow, to your weeds, and they may help you discover your wheat.
For a moment, remember your very worst 24 hour period in your life. Perhaps it was a day full of rage or inappropriate behavior. Take that 24 hour period and imagine having your whole life judged on the basis of that one day. A man I used to visit on Death Row pointed out to me that this is what had happened to him. Remember the gospel of Christ: you are not judged on the basis of your very worst day. You are judged by a loving God in the light of the cross of Christ. And the judgment of God is not designed to throw us away. It is designed to transform us so that may fit into the kingdom of God.