Gardening with Jesus: Part II, Weeding

We continue with our series on Jesus’ tips for gardening. Last week planting. This week, weeding.

Who really likes weeding? I certainly don’t. It’s hard work, it’s never-ending. And you always run the risk of pulling the wrong thing. Especially at the beginning, when your plants are just budding—how do you know if that sprout there is a milkweed or a flower?

Jesus is telling us yet another story of sowing seeds. But this time, in the middle of the night, someone sabotaged the garden. Among the seeds of wheat, someone sowed weeds.

These aren’t just any type of weed either. They were almost indistinguishable from the good plants. It isn’t as easy as getting in and pulling them up.

The farmer knew this, when his servants asked if they should go out and weed the garden, he said no. “If you pull the weeds, you’re going to accidentally pull the wheat as well.”

Let the weeds and the wheat grow together, and come harvest time, then we can separate them out. Take the good and burn the rest.

It’s pretty simple right? I mean, I’ve never grown wheat but I can see how it would work.

So why don’t the disciples get it? “Uh, Jesus, teacher, explain to us the story you just told.” The disciples never seem to get it. They always need it spelled out for them.

Here’s the thing: I kind of wish Jesus refused. Because Jesus is telling a parable. It’s a story, almost like a riddle, that has many different meanings. Parables are not fables. They don’t contain one single moral lesson within them. Rather, they are a bit open-ended. They’re open to interpretation. Parables are meant to puzzle us a little. To make us think.

But, as we’ve seen before, the disciples need it explained to them. And Jesus offers one interpretation. Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh on the disciples. They are just being human. Parables are frustrating, we like to have things cut and dry: good and evil, light and dark, wheat and weeds.

When you think about it, though. This story is not so straightforward. Let the good intermingle with the bad, Jesus is saying. Let things run their course. Wait until the harvest.

I wonder if the planter felt a little unsettled knowing the entire season what was growing in the garden. Knowing that those weeds were in there, choking off the wheat. I’m guessing he was frustrated, wanting to get in there and dig things up. But wait until the harvest. Wait.

Things will be sorted out in their own time.

We strive to make our lives and our world like a well-tended garden. Everything planted in neat little rows, blooming and flourishing. But sometimes we wake up and look out and see weeds overtaking the plants. As if someone has done it behind our back. We throw up our hands and wonder, “Where did all this come from?”

This week I certainly felt that way. Bad news, pieces of disturbing news, piled upon each other.

A passenger plane shot down in Ukraine. Yet another ground war between Israelis and Palestinians. A refugee crisis on our own border. It can be overwhelming, and sometimes it feels as if it’s overtaking us, growing like some aggressive vine.

A lot of this unrest has come from our own very human tendency to think that we can separate things into “good” and “bad.” This is what happens when we believe that we can weed the garden on our own, that we have all the answers, that we can tell everything apart. The good—the innocent, the helpless, the vulnerable—get uprooted with the bad.

Jesus speaks with a sense of urgency. He wants us to look at the world, to look to God, knowing that the stakes are enormously high. The evil one and the forces that defy God—greed, violence, anger, prejudice—they all lurk among us and even within us. It seems that something foul, something depraved, is stalking the garden, sowing seeds of discontent and anger and hatred. It sprouts up in our own hearts, threatening to overwhelm all the good that we have worked to do.

Yet, we hear what Paul writes today: “Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” The children of God, well, they are here already. They are sitting right out there. He says: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”

At this moment, we children of God are called to tend God’s garden. We look out and see the weeds growing among the wheat. And while we await the future harvest, that doesn’t mean that we can’t take care of the garden now. That doesn’t mean that we can’t nourish it and water it and let it flourish.

The children of God, me and you, we struggle against what is bad in the world. We try to resist it. We call it out when we need to. But God sets us free from the fear of evil. Because from this parable, we receive the promise that evil is temporary; only good endures. Through the wisdom of God, the weeds will ultimately be destroyed. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, the weeds have already been destroyed.

When the harvest comes, the table is full, loaded down with good things. And creation itself will be set free. The harvest does not end in fire and flames, but in a feast, a banquet, where everyone has a place at the table. And we are joined by all those uprooted, those weeded out unjustly, those who have fallen in disaster and caught up in warfare. The tragic events of this week are not a part of God’s future. They do not belong in God’s garden.

This is the harvest. And perhaps that harvest begins today, right here. As we gather together in hopeful, defiant joy…proclaiming to all who listen that on this day, there are no more weeds, because the wheat has grown above them.