Matthew 13., Paradox

Wheat and Weeds.

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

 

Many of us I believe can identify with this parable that Jesus told.

Over the last couple of weeks with the Turning Mission I have seen God do some amazing stuff, yet also have seen Church politics get a bit unpleasant and been struggling a bit with my depression/ability to cope.  In my life it feels very much like wheat and the weeds growing together.

I was recently reading the amazing book “Dirty Glory” and was struck by how Pete Greig talks about how he is in a place where God is doing amazing things and the mission that he (Greig) was instrumental in is snow-balling when his own world is collapsing as his wife is fighting for her life with a brain tumour. Wheat and Weeds growing together.

Some days it might even feel as if there is loads of weeds and the wheat isn’t always as visible, your eye is drawn to what shouldn’t be there, it feels wrong and out of place.

We as Christians have to live with this paradox, we believe in the ‘already and the not yet’ of the Kingdom of God. A fallen world -with pain and brokenness- but yet with signs of the Kingdom breaking in around us too.

I remember at college there was a big debate around “Original Sin versus Original Blessing” which basically could be condensed into one basic question “Are people basically good or bad?” -and the truth is BOTH. We are made in the image of God and something of his nature can never be squashed out of his creation, yet we are also clearly fallen people, we sin and are sinful.

In fact the fact that wheat is growing is the reason the weeds are growing too, the enemy would not waste his time in sowing weeds into a redundant field.

Pastor Yinka spoke on Sunday about “The greater the favour, the greater the warfare”, this echoes with scripture when it tells us that “anyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.

There is a song “I never promised you a rose garden” and yet people think that as Christians we should expect and easy ride and life will always be plain-sailing with a perpetual car parking space every time you visit ASDA(L!).

We all want a weed free world.

Yet this isn’t the reality of life for us as Christians.

Too often we sell the Christian faith as a pleasure cruise-liner when actually it is a battle-shop.

If there were no ‘weeds’ in our life, no challenges or struggles, would we grow? Would we become all we could be? Would we miss out on seeing God’s grace and answers to prayer?  Would we be able to bless those around us as effectively as we do know?

We cannot have the wheat without the weeds.

When Jesus and later St. Paul, talked about following Christ as being the narrow way, a struggle or a fight they weren’t joking.

The Bible says “In this world you will have trouble…”

And then it goes onto say “but take heart I have over-come the world”.

I was talking to someone at Church on Sunday who quoted Julian of Norwich who said “all will be well”, which made me think about “all things work for the good of those who love him” and think of Joseph who moved from the pit to the prison to the palace, and was able to save the nations around him -Joseph himself said “what was meant for evil God turned around for good”. God who can redeem messy situations, and use broken bricks to build a wall (cf the story of Nehemiah), is able to keep good on his promise to bring good out of bad.

Alongside this I thought of another quote I had heard which said “It’ll be alright in the end, and if it is not alright it is not the end”. This resonates with the story Jesus told because eventually there is a harvest and the weeds are taken away and the wheat harvested. It is comforting to know that even thought the weeds may look many, and may look  fearsome one day “every knee will bow before him and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”, the weeds/sin/pain/Satan/evil does not get the last word but instead Jesus does. Jesus has the last word.

There is a harvest.

And the harvester is trustworthy.

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Matthew 13.

From a Dodgy Spell Checker…

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’
 
18 ‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

Firstly an apology again to Mark who fell victim to the age old problem of not reading back what I had written.

Its not the first time my spelling has landed me in trouble: when I worked for St. Michael le Belfrey I was typing up an OHP and wrote the lines of the song when the music fades

 

 

which include the line “I’ll bring you more than a song” yet I wrote “I’ll bring you more than a snog!” -oops.
Also at Cafe Tots our parenting group has one one occasion had the ‘o’ been accidentally replaced by and ‘i’!
Yet the worst mistake was once about writing about ‘futile ground’ was meant to be ‘fertile ground’.
Yet it made me think about what all of us spend our times doing, is it fertile or futile?
Thinking about this passage, we  know there is nothing wrong with the seed, the word of God has taken root in human hearts across the world and across time and history…
So the seed is fine, the problem is where is it sown?
Throwing all your seed onto the path would be madness, chucking the lot into the bramble bushes would be bonkers, and scattering it on the rocks it a pretty pointless exercise… whilst giving the good soil a miss would be crazy!
Yet the truth is that this is exactly what too many of us, and our Churches, sometimes do with our time. 

We spend years often preaching to those in the pew who have already heard it many times before, and forget that Jesus says “the fields are white to the harvest but the workers are few” -perhaps because so many of them are preaching in Church to congregations stuff they already know whilst those who don’t already know about Jesus because we wont move from our soil to theirs.

Recently I was in a headteachers office and she had written on the wall “Don’t water the stones” -a modern take on “don’t lay your pearls before swine in other words, put your effort into what you can change not what you can’t.

 

Work where God is calling, where he is already at work. I remember speaking to someone who was talking about a situation and he made a joke of “God being at work in his world and sometimes the Church is playing catch up” -which is actually very much like to book of Acts.

Rowan Williams said “Mission, is finding out where God is working and joining in”… interestingly I believe it is often in unlikely places, or rather the places he’s at work are rarely the comfortable Churchy establishment (or the safe confines of our peer groups who look well a bit like us really!)  but rather where the hurting, broken, marginalised and disenfranchised are…
Mother Teresa  laughed at people flying half way around the world to go to an area of revival for a blessing but the same people wouldn’t cross the street to be a blessing.
A challenge to us all, ask the Lord where is the good soil that you want me to sow into, where is fertile?
Ask the Lord where is the bad soil, where I am expending maximum effort for minimal impact, where is futile?
This is not saying to give up on people and places (although sometimes we are called to knock the dust off from our feet) but rather a prayer to ask God to direct our steps, our time, our energies so that we may serve him faithfully with obedience as we seek first his Kingdom.
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Matthew 13., surrender

Lord of All?

Matthew 13 v 44-46 (NIV)

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

When I was a young man growing up I had no problem with Jesus being my Saviour and my best friend……BUT LORD?!  That I really struggled with. Someone else telling me what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing!

The problem was me and my attitude, (obviously) what I didn’t realise at that time was that my whole perception of Jesus’ lordship over my life was completely distorted. Jesus was not trying to ruin my life or stop me having fun, He was actually trying to set me free to be all that I could and should be in and with Him!

After wrestling with God for many years, just like Jacob, I let go and realised that only in Jesus, will I ever be truly free.  “So if The Son has set you free, you are free indeed.” John 8v36.

I’m still on that journey and everyday I have to make a choice, God’s way or my way.

I’m facing some challenges myself at the moment but as the parables above show us and illustrate to us, everything else we have is as the song says, “Nothing compared to the promise I have in you (Jesus)”.

So a challenge (I’m included in this):- if Jesus asked you, leave your career, sell your possessions and follow me, lay down your life for me, would you do it? Is the promise of heaven a reality to us just like the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price in our reading today?

Remember Jesus’ promise in Luke 18 v 29-30:-

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

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