Last week, we discussed the parable of the dirt. Remember how I told you about the desert fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries, how they would go into a cave and meditate on one single parable for a YEAR? And then they would come out and explain that they could not plumb the depths of its meaning. These parables are rich, with many levels of meaning about our lives with God.
Today Jesus tells us another parable. This one is also about gardening but it has to do with wheat and weeds. Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a man who sowed wheat in a field but the enemy came at night and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the reapers come, they cannot remove the weeds without hurting the wheat so both must grow together until harvest time. And then the judge will separate the two. The wheat will be stored in his barns, the weeds will be burned.
This parable is talking about three major levels of reality all at the same time. It is talking about
1. The External of our earthly lives, our relationships and decisions
2. The Internal world world of our minds and hearts
3. The Eternal world of everlasting life and what happens to us when we die
Jesus is talking about truth which simultaneously exists in all three realms of reality. The truth is very simple, and it is this: the world that you and I live in, both inside and outside of our bodies and minds, is complicated. It is a complex world made up of good and bad, light and darkness, wheat and weeds. Our instinct is always to believe that situations and people are simple, that the world is black and white, but in reality, it is very complicated.
Why did Jesus use the image of weeds? Well, for one, weeds multiply. For another, they are generally unwanted. If left unchecked, they can take over a garden and choke the wheat. They tend to be identifiable, ie, they come in certain repetitive forms and they never stop growing. They never stop coming.
I have a small garden behind our house. I am growing tomatoes, kale, mint and parsley, and some lettuce. It is an amateur garden for a busy mom. And there are constant weeds. In the five years that I have lived in Florida, I have gotten to know the weeds. There are four or five kinds. It is best if I glance at the garden and pull them daily or they can get out of hand. The more the rain, the more they grow.
Let's talk about the first level of reality that Jesus refers to, the reality of the external world in which we live. The external world has wheat and weeds, people who are good and people who are evil. This part is hard for most Episcopalians to admit, that there might be evil people in the world. But all you have to do is look at the Malaysian plane that was shot out of the sky this week, killing 300 innocent souls, and you must admit that perhaps Jesus was right. There are people who are evil. It is not our job to get rid of these people but they do exist. Jesus tells us that they do exist. M Scott Peck, a well known psychologist, calls these People of the Lie. These usually are the people who would never confess their sins or admit their faults. In their minds, they are beyond reproach. Be aware that such people do exist. And one way to identify them is by the fact that they would never admit their faults.
The second level that this parable speaks about is the reality of your mind. You have wheat and weeds in your mind. You have thoughts that come straight from God and from love itself. These good thoughts are about your worth and your beauty and the fact that God wants you just as you are. And the weeds are the opposite. The weeds are all those thoughts that tell you that you don't deserve to be here. Here are some good weeds...
The "if only" weed. If only, I had made this decision or done things that way, then I might be happier! This weed can take over your whole mind and force you to live in a world of regret, stuck in decisions of the past.
The "poor me" weed. I get this one a lot. Just feeling sorry for yourself rather than asking for help or rest.
The "I'm worthless weed" that tells you about how many mistakes you have made and how bad you are.
Alcoholics can tell you about weeds, about the thoughts that they have that will never go away, thoughts that tell them that they deserve to drink, even after thirty years of sobriety.
Let's be honest. Our minds are a mess. Even CS Lewis, one of the greatest theologians of our era, wrote that at least one third of all his thoughts were completely self-absorbed and vain. Our thoughts are a mess of weeds. But there is some wheat in there too, and that is what we need to focus on.
Many people avoid silence because it brings them into a direct encounter with the weeds that live in their minds. But you cannot identify those weeds if you can't hear them. They have less control over you when you know what they are and where they are. So silence is important. Knowing what your weeds sound like, that is important. And learning to love yourself despite your weeds, well, that is absolutely essential.
Remember what the psalmist wrote, God discerned your thoughts from afar. God knows how ugly and hateful they can be. God hears your lust and your insecurity and your fury at life. And God still finds you good. How bizarre is that? God still says to you, "I see your weeds, I hear them, but I made you and there is a lot of good in you...focus on the good."
This complexity that exists both in our internal and external worlds also is reflected in heaven, where there is a cosmic struggle going on between the good and the evil, the forces of light and the forces of darkness. It is clear from the very beginning that God has allowed evil to coexist in the creation and that it sows weeds. In your baptism, you took vows of cosmic significance. You vowed to fight evil and to stand for the good. Your life, your thoughts as well as your actions, also effect God's cosmic battle with evil. This is mystical stuff beyond our understanding but it is real. You are important to God in more ways that one.
This parable tells a deep truth and the truth is this: you cannot get rid of your weeds. God knows your weeds and God loves you anyway. God finds you good, even with your weeds. In fact, Jesus is very clear that we are not to try to remove our weeds. God wants you to grow and mature with both weeds and wheat. And it is God alone, Christ alone, who will separate the two.
And what you do inside your head matters to God, says the Psalmist to God, "you discern my thoughts from afar..." Your mind matters. What you chose to focus on matters. What you do matters, not just in your own life but in the life eternal as well. Choose the wheat. There is some kind of blessing in almost every day, some kind of goodness in almost every person. Seek out the good, the wheat. But always be aware of the weeds too. And trust that God alone can make them go away.