Matthew 13.24-32, 36-43


Weeds.  Despised and rejected.  Pull those things up and get rid of them.  Weeds.  Weeds in the garden or in the lawn, there is nothing in their appearance that we should desire them.  Pull them up.

I’ll tell you the second half of a funny story.  See me after worship if you want to hear the first half; I’ll not take everyone’s time here to tell you the first half.  Here’s the second half:

One fine, spring morning, having said the benediction and walked down the aisle, I stationed myself at the doors of my church in Indiana and was soon shaking hands, greeting the people of the church as they went back out into the sunlit world.  Toward the end of the line filing past was one Ruel Cunningham, a thin, old man with a mischievous sense of humor.  Oh, not mean.  Not at all; there was not a mean bone in Ruel’s body.  But mischievous.  He had the gentlest sense of the absurd.

Holding his cane in his left hand, he shook my right with his right and pulled me closer as if to whisper to me some grand secret.  You got some time sometime this week, he said to me, come on up.  He lived up the street from the parsonage.  Come one up.  His eyes darted this way and that just to make sure.  Then:  Got some dandelion starters for you.  I laughed out loud, much to his satisfaction.

Dandelion starters.  I drove down Chestnut Street toward home and the greening lawns of that town were all dotted, little dots of sunshine.  The parsonage lawn was a vast field of green and yellow.  And Ruel has some dandelion starters for me.

Weeds.  There is nothing in their appearance that we should desire them.  And what are all these things growing here alongside the house? I asked myself.  We had just moved in and I was cleaning up the yard.  What are all these things?  Must be weeds.  Weeds.  Despised and rejected.  I pulled them up and pulled them up.  Got rid of them.

Most of them, anyway.  A few weeks later, the ones I missed?  They bloomed.  Well, I thought they were weeds.

Weeds.  And Jesus told a parable about weeds.  He tells us a story about weeds.

A farmer sowed good seed in his wheat field, seeded his field with wheat.  But, while he and his slaves slept, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, sowed weeds in that field.

Now the problem with the kind of weed the enemy sowed in that field—it was darnel, or tares—the problem is this kind of weed looks just like wheat.  Darnel grows just like wheat and you can’t tell, you just can’t tell them apart.  You can’t go out and start pulling things up because you don’t know if what you’re pulling is a weed or it’s wheat.

We like to think we can, can tell for sure what’s right and wrong, or who’s right and who’s wrong.  Who’s right and who’s wrong, who is a weed and who isn’t, we like to think we can tell for sure, but…

Well, I thought for sure those things growing alongside the house were weeds.  There were a lot of them.  And I pulled and I pulled.  And when those I missed, when they bloomed, well I felt kind of bad about it.  I felt silly, foolish.  And bad, I felt bad about having pulled up all those…flowers.

And this is why Jesus has told us not to judge, to set ourselves up as judges.  He told us not to go around saying who is wrong and who is right, who is a weed, a weed to be pulled up and gotten rid of, who is a weed and who is not.  Judge not.  And I thought I could tell, could judge between a weed and a flower.  When those I had missed bloomed, I felt pretty bad about all those others I had pulled, all of those flowers I had destroyed.  Judge not, says Jesus.  Judge not, lest you be judged.

No, the problem with the kind of weed that the enemy of that farmer sowed in the farmer’s field is that it looks just like wheat until close to the end, until just before the harvest.  Then you can tell the difference.

But even then, it isn’t our business.  Should we go and pull them all up now? ask the farmer’s slaves.  No, said the farmer.  You’ll only make things worse.  Just leave them.  Let the reapers take care of it, said the farmer.

Weeds.  Despised and rejected.  There is nothing in their appearance that we should desire them.  And he tells another parable.  Jesus tells us another little story about weeds.

The kingdom of heaven, says Jesus, is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field…

Why anyone would do that, I don’t know.  Mustard plants…  Well, you can make mustard, I guess.  But how much mustard do you need?  Mustard plants are weeds.  Sure.  Just as any Oklahoma wheat farmer.  He’ll tell you.  He spends hours in the sun ridding his fields of mustard plants, pulling them up and getting rid of them.  Why anyone would sow mustard in their field…

Well, anyway, the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds, says Jesus.  But when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree…

Well, a mustard shrub grows to be two to four feet high, and sometimes maybe as tall as six feet.  Not what I would call a tree.  But never mind.

It becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and make nests is its branches.

Which sounds nice—birds and nests—until you realize that these birds, these birds of the air, were a nuisance; like weeds, they were a nuisance.  It’s what scarecrows are for.  Birds of the air.

Weeds.  Despised and rejected.  Weeds.  There is nothing in their appearance that we should desire them.

And him.  I mean Jesus.  He was despised and rejected.  Says the prophet Isaiah, He was despised and rejected by others…

Get rid of him, they said.  Pull him up and get rid of him.  Crucify him, they said.

And he was.  Says the prophet Isaiah, He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering and acquainted with grief.

They crucified him.  And on his cross, he suffered.  Surely he knows; he knows your suffering and your sadness.  He is acquainted with it, says the prophet.  He knows.

And, hanging there on the cross, he wasn’t much to look at.  No form of majesty, says the prophet.  And I guess not.  Says Isaiah:  He had no form of majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

But.  But God raised him up, raised him from his death.  Like that mustard seed he talked about, the smallest of all seeds, and it grew into the greatest of shrubs and then, somehow, into a tree.  Just so has God raised Jesus Christ up from death.

And now the birds of the air…  All the birds of the air come to him; they come and make their nests, their homes, in his branches, in him, in Jesus Christ our Lord.  The birds of the air, we come to him.

Do you want to know what I like about this church?  There are several things about it that I like, but this most of all:  I never know, from one Sunday to the next, what’s going to happen.  From one Sunday to the next, I never know who is going to walk through this church’s doors, those door back there.  I’m always surprised.  Like birds of the air.

The birds of the air.  The birds of the air come here and can find a home, can find a home in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Neal Kentch, Cottage Way Christian Church, Sacramento, July 20, 2008