Fourth Sunday after Pentacost
Seed Time and Harvest: Weeds
Scripture: Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
- Sunday, June 20, 2021
- A Time for Centering: “This Is My Father’s World,” “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” Traditional English melody; African American Spiritual; Carlos Xavier, flute, and Donna Grubbs, piano
- Hymn 98: “To God Be the Glory,” by Fanny J. Crosby; Tom Dowdell, Randy Grubbs, Linda Jarvi, Becky Morgan, Melody Romeo, Alana Schmicker, Bob Schmicker, Jim Stoffer, hymn headers
- Hymn 184: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius; Tom Dowdell, Randy Grubbs, Linda Jarvi, Becky Morgan, Melody Romeo, Alana Schmicker, Bob Schmicker, Jim Stoffer, hymn headers
- Special Music: “The Wideness of God’s Mercy,” by Sheldon Curry; hymn leaders
- Scripture: Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43; Barbara Hughes
- Sermon: “Seed Time and Harvest: Weeds, ” Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 337: “Only Trust Him,” by John H. Stockton; Tom Dowdell, Randy Grubbs, Linda Jarvi, Becky Morgan, Melody Romeo, Alana Schmicker, Bob Schmicker, Jim Stoffer, hymn headers
- “Lead On, O King Eternal” Arr. by Robert Thygerson; Pauline Olsen, organ
It’s Father’s Day and, yes, we’ll talk a bit about fathers but in the midst of it, I want to explore one more element that focuses on seed time and harvest. Next week we shift gears so today let’s focus on the final piece of this series: and this is weeds. It takes me back to my farming days. As I’ve shared, I farmed just outside of the small town of Sprague, about 25 miles south of Spokane. It wasn’t a huge farm, but it was certainly hundreds of acres. My job was to prepare the fields for planting. I remember driving the old Farmall back and forth over the fields to initially get rid of the weeds. The attachment I pulled had a rotating square bar that went into the soil about three inches. The bar itself was probably no more than an inch and a half square. It rotated in such a way that it would snag the weeds and turn them over-exposing the roots. It was tricky because to go too deep would get it stuck. Too shallow and it wouldn’t do the job. It was tedious work simply because the bar had to be adjusted and readjusted constantly. But, after about a week, sometimes two, the weeds would be pulled, and the field would be ready to be tilled. Ridding the soil of weeds was essential to a quality crop.
Then came the next farm. That time it was in the huge wheat fields outside of Hartline, WA. This time it was thousands of acres, and given that the crop was wheat, you couldn’t pull the weeds up with a tractor. That was impossible. To do that would mean to damage the wheat, much like what you hear about in the scripture this morning. Farmers had to wait for the crops to grow almost to maturity. Only then were we able to identify the weeds (in this case rye) from the wheat. Growing up, the two looked almost identical. And yes, the roots would become intertwined.
But once they matured, something remarkable would happen. The head of the wheat would bend from the weight of the head. The rye, however, would continue to grow and stand straight up, and ultimately outgrow the wheat thus making it easy to identify. Then, the young and more inexperienced hands like me would walk through the fields, and very carefully, pull up the rye by hand, bagging the weeds so as not to spread seeds. Thousands of acres of wheat had to be weeded by hand. It was hard, hot, tedious work, but vital. Much of this wheat went overseas, and the inspections were a critical piece. To have rye in the wheat would drastically reduce the value. Weeds, whether in fields in Sprague, or those in Hartline, in the Palouse, or in your garden at home can and often do cause problems.
Every farmer, every gardener has to deal with weeds…every one, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a healthier crop of weeds than what I’ve seen in and around Sequim. Scotch Broom (the ultimate weed), dandelions (equally as dominant), Canadian thistle, blackberries, nettles, and so many others. Even wild daisies can be weeds. Weeds are opportunistic, can easily take over, often do, and can certainly change how any farmer or gardener deals with what they’re trying to accomplish. And what they’re trying to accomplish are good, healthy, wholesome crops, beautiful flowers, wonderful vegetables, or outstanding lavender. But weeds are a problem, and that’s why Jesus used them in this parable.
The parable falls within a bunch of others; the sower, the four soils, even the mustard seed. Given the agrarian nature of what surrounded Jesus in Galilee, it would have been easy to utilize crops, and even the enemies of crops, the weeds. Everyone would have understood. They were as serious an issue then, maybe more serious than they are today. There were no tractors that turned them over, no fertilizer that could be easily spread. There were certainly field hands who would go among the crops so the harvest could be healthy and plentiful, but the crops were not theirs. The crops belonged to the landowners. And it was the landowner who was ultimately responsible for the health of his crops. So look at the parable again.
The crops are planted, and as the crop begins to grow and mature, the servants are the ones who notice a problem. They go to the landowner and ask if he planted sub-standard crops. The truth is harder to take. There were enemies who went throughout the fields and sowed trouble, this time in the form of weeds. The laborers ask, “Do we go and pull up the weeds…?” The answer is simple. No, you don’t pull up the weeds. The roots are intertwined with the crop and to pull up one is to destroy the other. So he says, let them grow together, and like the wheat and rye, it will become obvious once the crops mature. Then, and only then do the weeds get pulled, then bound, and ultimately burned so that their seeds can’t continue to cause harm. Now, this parable has been examined over and over again. It has been interpreted in a wide variety of ways. But, today I want to focus on just one element, what happens at the point of maturity, and particularly on this Father’s Day Sunday.
It’s Father’s Day, a day set aside to appreciate our dads. But very much like Mother’s Day, this can be a day of struggle for some. Not every father was good, or great, or nice, or loving. There are fathers who cause harm or hurt. There are fathers that are heroes. Some want to emulate their fathers. Others simply want to run from them. Fathers come in all shapes and sizes. An example, tonight, in my show, every song will deal with Fathers. Some of the songs, like Cat Steven’s “Cat’s in the Cradle,” are about a father who was missing or unavailable. Reba McIntyre wrote and sang a song titled, “The Only Father I Never Knew.” Others, however, like Dan Fogelberg wrote about his dad as, “The Leader of the Band.” There are fathers, like John Lennon who wrote about their children, “Beautiful Boy” is an example of that. The challenge is that most of our fathers, and probably most of us as fathers, are or were somewhere in between the harmer and the hero. Most of us failed, sometimes miserably at being that consistent positive influence in the lives of our children. And that, friends, is where this parable comes in this morning.
Many of us men were taught that men needed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We are always to stand tall, we never cry, never let anyone know that we may be in need, never take any guff – ever, never admit to a mistake, we’re always to be tough, and my personal favorite, we’re told that, “We need to be the man our father hoped we would be.” Do these sound familiar? I think many of those can be good things (can be), but they can’t be the only part of who or what we are as fathers. If that’s it, we will often stand like the rye plant, tall and straight, hoping to be above the rest, and yet maybe not fully what we’re called to be. Our roots become entangled in something other than what will allow us to be fully what we could be, with things that aren’t healthy, can take control, and have tough or really inappropriate outcomes. With only those roots, our hopes and dreams are defined by everything I just mentioned – toughness, emotionless, sometimes without care, and often distant. Standing straight and tall with only those as our roots will often make us miss out on what I think is the most important element of what it means to be a man, and particularly a father.
Think about the difference between what happens to the rye, and what happens to the head of the wheat when both become mature. Remember what I said? The head of the wheat bends. In other words, it bows. It’s only when we bow are we really able to know what God needs from us. Only when we become humble before Christ, and even with each other, will we find the kind of maturity we see in this parable. Only when we disentangle those roots or expectations, particularly those that are unhealthy are we able to find true health and wholeness. And honestly, only then will we really be the man our Father (God) hopes we will be…the man God needs us to be. It often goes against everything we were taught. But Jesus teaches that our strength comes from the Lord, and our ability to really become alive comes most fully when we bow.
I keep trying to make the other work, to be in charge, be the boss, be tough, stand tall, and every time I do, I will admit to you that I fail. But when I wait upon the Lord, I do in fact renew my strength, gain greater focus, and only then can mount up on wings like eagles. Only then can I run and not grow weary or walk and not faint.
Let me close with this. After the initial phases of my heart attack, I’ve shared that Dorothy came to me at the bottom of that cliff. She, in no uncertain terms and in a voice that couldn’t be ignored, told me to “man up.” We all know what that means. And at that point, it was the motivation I needed to overcome the pain, the dehydration, the disorientation, and the absolute exhaustion. Step by step, one foot at a time, the words echoed throughout my whole body. I got to the top and am here today because of that. I succeeded in reaching the top of that cliff, but not because of my own efforts or abilities. It was because someone knew me and loved me enough to know exactly what I needed. It was her voice, not mine. It was her spirit, not mine. It was God’s Spirit moving through her, and God’s hand that helped lift me. It was because of the EMTs, the doctors, nurses and now the Cardiac Rehab folks that I’m here…not anything that I’ve done. And I assure you, of that, I am absolutely certain. But that’s not the end of it. Once I finally got back to the church, I remember the day I walked into my office and found this: The Man up Award…I know who gave it to me, and waited until the right Sunday to share it with you. This is that Sunday.
This isn’t my award. It goes to everyone who got me through that time…you all included. But here’s the point: To man up means to bow down. It means to accept help. It means to be vulnerable. It means to love God and love others enough to help them get up whatever cliff they may be on. To man up means to be humble. To man up certainly means to stand up for what we believe, but what we stand up for needs to be directly related to what lay at our roots. And to get there, we have to disentangle the roots that cause harm, or hurt. Those roots need to be gone. So, friends, particularly dads, have you manned up? Ask yourself, what lay at your roots? Are there weeds entangling you that are causing harm, or in your maturity of faith are you bowing, like that mature head of wheat? Tough questions on this Father’s Day, but worthwhile on any day, for all of us.