July 21, 2002

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

[Jesus] told another story. "God's kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too.
"The farmhands came to the farmer and said, 'Master ' that was clean seed you planted, wasn't it? Where did these thistles come from?'

"He answered, 'Some enemy did this.'

"The farmhands asked, 'Should we weed out the thistles?' "He said, 'No, if you weed the thistles, you'll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I'll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn."


Jesus dismissed the congregation and went into the house. His disciples came in and said, "Explain to us that story of the thistles in the field."

So he explained. "The farmer who sows the pure seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the pure seeds are subjects of the kingdom, the thistles are subjects of the Devil, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, the curtain of history. The harvest hands are angels.

"The picture of thistles pulled up and burned is a scene from the final act. The Son of Man will send his angels, weed out the thistles from his kingdom, pitch them in the trash, and be done with them. They are going to complain to high heaven, but nobody is going to listen. At the same time, ripe, holy lives will mature and adorn the kingdom of their Father.

"Are you listening to this?

"Really listening?"

<The Message>


1. The missing section lets us know that Jesus uses stories to reveal what can't be seen in news reporting or textbooks. The extravagance of stories, with all their different internal levels of meaning and interconnections with other stories helps us sense where the meaning of life can be lived. Stories, however are notoriously difficult to deal with because we settle for an early or easy understanding or discount it as fantasy or myth (only dealing with the small, unreal definitions of those grand and deep forms of teaching about a grand and deep GOD beyond any literal or rational or linear boundaries).

2. How disappointed are you that the good stuff you have to share with the world keeps getting confused by mixed motives and messages from yourself? This may be more difficult to deal with than simply blaming a nasty old world from letting your message of life come through with clarity. Paul talks about our best intentions going astray and our worst ones being enacted. We have met the enemy and - it's us.

Thank goodness we are not judged in the moment of our mixed-upness. GOD will sort it out. Keep doing your best - it will be valued and received.

3. Having identified an internal component to the thistles, it is also important to note that there are principalities and powers all around (do read your Walter Wink on this subject). Even with our best endeavors to have pure and clean institutions - from church to government - they keep sowing seeds of condemnation and marginalization among us. Here it is important to keep living one's best - including attempts at reform. Having done our best and training others to do their best, we leave the rest to be sorted out later.

Homepage | Sermon Prep