Sunday, February 27, 2011

Homily for Sexagesima


Luke 8:4-15; 2 Corinthians 11:19 – 12:9; Isaiah 55:10-13

In the Name of the Father and of + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Parable of the Sower is surely the best known and probably the most beloved of all our Lord’s parables. It appears in each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) as the first of Jesus’ parables and in each Gospel it serves to introduce His parabolic teaching in general. In fact, the Parable of the Sower is so familiar that I imagine most of you could stand up here and tell the story in your own words and capture it reasonably well. However, our familiarity, combined with this parable’s unexpected sublimity, actually serves to keep us from understanding this parable which we think that we know so well.

The Parable of the Sower, once again, is a parable about the Kingdom of God, or, the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus explained this to His disciples when they asked Him what the parable meant, He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God.” The word translated as secrets here is actually μυστήρια, mystery, for the Kingdom of God is in actuality a mystery, and even a parable necessarily falls short of capturing the fullness of the mystery of the Kingdom.

Perhaps the first mystery in the Parable of the Sower is the Sower Himself, who is He? I think that most Christians assume that the Sower is our Lord Jesus Christ. This seems to make sense to begin with, Jesus being the itinerant preacher of God’s Word, later empowering His disciples to do the same, and then even His Church. Even Christian artwork and iconography seems to imply that the Sower is none other than Jesus Himself. However, a closer hearing of the parable reveals that this cannot be the case. For, Jesus explains that the Seed that the Sower sows is the Word of God. And, we know from Genesis and from the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel, at the very least, that the Word of God is God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who became flesh and made His dwelling amongst men as the Man Jesus the Christ. And so, our Lord Jesus is not the Sower, but rather He is the Seed that is sown by His Father, the Sower.

It is God the Father who so recklessly and indiscriminately sows the Seed of His own Son in the field of this world of men. He sows it on the hardened path where it is trampled upon and becomes food for the birds of the air. He sows it on the rocky soil where it can gain no root. He sows it even amongst the sowings of the Enemy, where weeds, tares, and thorns grow up alongside and choke out the new growth. And, yes, He sows it upon good soil where it grows and yields mature fruit in abundance. And, here is another mystery: In the case of the seed sown upon the good soil alone is mature fruit said to be borne. Why then does the Sower bother to sow His Seed in the weed and thorn infested soil, in the rocky soil, and upon the hardened path at all? What kind of wasteful, inefficient Sower is this?

Remember, the Parable of the Sower is a parable about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, therefore it is a parable about grace. God the Father’s grace is such that He gives it freely, unconditionally, no matter whom you are, what you have done or haven’t done, what you believe, or what kind of soil your heart’s condition is most like. The Sower sows; His reckless love scatters abroad the goodly seed, intent alone that all may have the wholesome loaves that all men need. Further, more important than good soil is good Seed. The best soil in the whole world won’t bear a single fruit if the seed is not good. Well, the Seed that the Sower sows is the Good Seed of His Word, even His Son. The Seed is Good, always; it is always life-giving, creative, and efficacious, let there be no doubt or confusion about that. That is why, even when the Seed is sown in the worst kinds of soil, under the worst conditions, it still sprouts and grows. Even when it is trampled upon on the hardened path and eaten by the birds of the air, the Good Seed gives life to the birds who very likely deposit it somewhere else that it might create life there. God is like that. The Kingdom of God is like that. Grace is like that. Love is like that – and that is why love is the fulfilling of the Law of God. In loving others as He has loved you, you are most like Him. Love always gives and never takes. Love always thinks of the welfare of others first. Love always puts the best construction on things. Love never harms a neighbor, but helps and befriends a neighbor in every need. The Sower knows that much of what He sows will not bear mature fruit, but He sows His Good Seed anyway, everywhere, saying, “Oh, what of that, and what of that?”

In the beginning, our God, Father, and Heavenly Sower sowed the Seed of His Word into the nothingness and it brought forth light and life and all creation. And, in the new beginning, He sowed His Word-Seed into the virgin-soil of Mary’s womb, and the Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us. Lastly, He sowed His Word and Seed made flesh, His Son, Jesus the Christ, into the soil of the earth in death that He might bring forth fruit a hundredfold – Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Dear Christians, the fruit of Jesus’ incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension is not good works or some instruction on how to live the Christian life, but the fruit that He gives and causes to be borne is like Him – life and light. He is the true vine and you are His branches; by remaining in Him you will bear much fruit. That fruit cannot be anything other than what He the Vine enables you to produce, for an apple tree does not produce pears and a grape vine does not produce berries. The Christian faith and life is first about remaining in Jesus and second about bearing fruit. The point is, if you remain in Jesus, He has promised to remain in you [and note, He is going to do that anyway, even if you don’t remain in Him! You can’t undo in the Incarnation!], and He has promised that you WILL bear much fruit. How much? That doesn’t matter; that’s up to God! What kind of fruit? Again, that’s pre-determined; you’ll bear Christ-fruit: love, mercy, grace, peace, charity, kindness, humility, and the lot – you know, life and light fruit!

But, what about the different kinds of soils, the rocks and the weeds, the thorns, the hard-packed ground, and those devilish birds of the air? Well, these are realities in your life, to be sure, and they are the result of sin, but, remember what Jesus said in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, “An enemy has done this.” Sorrow, grief, and suffering, temptation, trial, and tribulation, these are a very real part of our lives as we grow and mature in fruitfulness in the field of this life and world; this is why we have in today’s Epistle Lesson the record of St. Paul’s tribulations. St. Paul prayed fervently and repeatedly that the LORD would remove the thorn in his flesh that afflicted him, even as we prayed together in the Collect a little while ago, “O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity.” God’s reply to St. Paul is His reply to you as well, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For, there is no greater example of God’s power being made perfect in weakness than in the incarnation, suffering, and death of His Word-Son-Seed Jesus the Christ. In the seeming weakness of Jesus’ death, the power of death was destroyed and the gift of life was given to all the world.

And, just as a sown seed splits open and dies and then shoots forth in new life, sucking up nutrients from the soil, nutrients that are themselves the result of death and decay, and transforms them into food, fuel, and nourishment for growth and fruitfulness, so too all the evil in the universe, whether from the devil or from us, is now and ever shall be just part of the divine ecology. The Parable of the Sower says this. The seed eaten by birds is as much seed as the seed that produced a hundredfold. The snatching of the Word by the devil – and the rejection of it by the shallow and the choking of it by the worldly – all take place within the working of the kingdom, not prior to it or outside of it. It is the Word alone, and not the interference with it, that finally counts.

To you it has been given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And the mystery of the Kingdom is this: Boundless love; reckless grace; power in weakness; glory in humility and sacrifice. Each Christian is all the different kinds of soils at different moments in their life, sometimes even in the same day! But, your life does not depend upon what kind of soil you are, how good your works are, how strong your faith is, how much or how little you sin, but, your life depends on the Seed, your Savior Jesus the Christ. He is the life and light of this world, the life and light that darkness, sin, death, and devil cannot overcome. He has overcome all these tyrants so that they all serve Him and His purposes. Receive Him, believe Him, and remain in Him in patience – He will never leave you or forsake you – and you will bear the fruit that He desires and you will have all that you need for today, for as many tomorrows as there may be, and for all eternity.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Homily for Septuagesima


Matthew 20:1-16; 1 Corinthians 9:24 – 10:5; Exodus 17:1-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard is yet another parable which our Lord says is explicitly about the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, it is, first and foremost, a parable about God’s grace, and, consequently, it is a parable about God’s judgment only upon rejection of His grace – for, there are none who will find themselves outside of the Kingdom of Heaven who were not first within it.

In this parable, the Master of the vineyard is God, our heavenly Father, and, like in so many other parables of the Kingdom of Heaven, He is out searching for His straying children: In one parable they are like sheep gone astray; in another they are like ungrateful, prodigal sons; in another they are like unto a lost coin; and, in this parable, they are like idle laborers with no work to do and with no way to provide for themselves and their families. The Master went out early in the morning to seek and to hire laborers for His vineyard. He will find them. His vineyard will be tended to. There will be a bountiful harvest. And, there will be a festive celebration for all the hired laborers whom the Master finds and hires, who do not reject the gracious terms of His employ. For, these terms are guaranteed, for the last, as well as for the first, for, this is a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, and this is a parable about God’s immeasurable and reckless grace.

The parable itself is really quite simple, and you know it well. The Master of the vineyard hired laborers to work in His vineyard at the beginning of the day. He agreed with them upon the wage of a denarius for their day’s labor, a fair and respectable wage, and they went to work in His vineyard. Then the Master went out again at the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to those idlers He said “You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.” Now, from a worldly perspective, these idlers are not worthy of hire, for they made little to no effort to be hired for work, sleeping in while the first arrived early in the morning. But, here, already, the Master’s grace begins to shine forth as He graciously gives them employ and promises to pay them what is right. So, the idlers hitched it into the vineyard and began to work alongside those first hired. Then, the story repeats itself at the sixth hour, and again at the ninth hour, and, then, lastly, even at the unthinkable eleventh hour. The Master of the Vineyard graciously extended hire to all, even to the last idlers of the day. Now, we might rightly imagine that these last had given up all hope of hire and had resorted to drunken carousing in the bars, and yet, still, the Master sent them to work in His Vineyard. Outrageous! You think? No, this is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like!

The Kingdom of Heaven is about grace – Good things given to people who don’t deserve them. If you have in mind any sense of merit or worth, forget about it, that’s not grace. Grace is a gift, absolutely free, no strings attached, given by God your heavenly Father for no other reason than that He is good and generous, gracious, and He wants to give you what He wants to give you, whether you deserve it or not. And, He wants to give, not only to you, but to the person sitting next to you, and to that person over there, and to all the people that are not here today, even to that person who says she doesn’t believe in God, and to that one who steals from others, and to that one who kills, and to that one…. There is no one that He does not shower His grace upon. There is no one that He has not graciously forgiven in His Son Jesus Christ. There is no one that He has not invited to His banquet, killed the fatted calf for, or called to labor in His vineyard. There is no one who deserves or merits this grace and favor from God the Father, not even one, and that is precisely the point! That is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like! It’s all about the giving, and the forgiving, to all people in all the world, because this is who God the Father is and this is what He and His Kingdom are like!

Thus, at the end of the day, the Master told His servant to call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first. And, as they are paid, the laborers began to realize that all have been paid the same amount, one denarius, a full day’s wage. There is no difference in pay between those who worked all day and those who worked less, and those who worked but only an hour, for God the Father is gracious and He graciously gives to all regardless of worth or merit. Again, how good you are, how hard you work, how much you think that you should merit, these have absolutely nothing to do with grace.

Oh, scandal! Oh, confounding offense! Those paid last, those who worked the longest, grumble that those hired last, who worked only one hour, are paid the same, one denarius. Outrage and anger! Oh, the injustice! They thought that they would be paid more. Now, why would they think that? There was no injustice done to them. They were paid exactly what was promised to them and what they themselves agreed to. Their only offense, then, is that the Master showed grace to those who worked less hours and paid them the same. Is that not the Master’s choice? Does anyone have the right to dictate how the Master uses His own wealth? “Or do you begrudge my generosity?” asks the Master. Or, more literally, “Is your eye evil because I am good?”

Yes. Yes, that’s it! Your eye is evil because of the goodness of the LORD. That is, how often do you begrudge the LORD’s generosity, His goodness and grace shown to others whom you deem to merit less than yourself? How often do you curse the LORD and destroy your brother with anger, like Cain destroyed his brother Abel, because God the Father, in His goodness and grace, favored the labor of His hands equal to or above that of your own?

Why are you offended by this? So what if God is crazy?! Has He not promised you a full day’s wage, a denarius, that is, all that you need to sustain your body and life now, and your life eternally in His Kingdom? You are not being shorted; it is impossible that you will be shorted in any way. So what if God is crazy in His generosity and grace and gives the same to everyone else? Such is the “weird goodness” of your heavenly Father, that when He’s happy, everybody’s happy, no matter what they did or didn’t do. At the end of the day He will pay out His generous and gracious wage, a wage that you didn’t deserve, merit, or earn – that nobody deserves, merits, or earns – eternal life and blessedness with Him in His kingdom of glory. And, then the party will begin!

In His generosity and grace, your heavenly Father has invited you and the whole world to the harvest feast in His Vineyard-Kingdom. It matters not whether you are first or last, but what matters is His gracious invitation – you are invited, all has been prepared for you, you are in! This is the LORD’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes! Only you can keep yourself out of the kingdom; only you can make yourself miss out on the party. If you insist that you have earned or merited God’s favor, then, to the back of the line with you, for the last will be first, and the first last. But such grumbling and dissatisfaction at God’s generosity and grace and at the having of the have-nots only breeds jealousy, anger, and misery. And, these are great footholds for the devil in your heart, soul, and mind that he will use to separate you from the flock and to see that you put yourself out of the kingdom – for, there are none who will find themselves outside of the Kingdom of Heaven who were not first within it.

It is so tempting to be a bookkeeper and to fill our books full of black ink representing our positive balance of merits and works before the LORD. Of course, it is also tempting for us to keep books for others around us, books filled with lots of red ink to be sure. But, God is not a bookkeeper. In fact, He has erased the marks in all of our books, He has made them white and clean in the red, holy and innocent blood of His Son and Sacrificial Lamb Jesus. Jesus is the Book of Life, and in that book, nothing stands against you. There are no debit entries that can keep you out of the clutches of the Love that will not let you go.

There is a Vineyard feast going on in eternity and you are all on the guest list. But, while it is still daytime, there is work to do in the Master’s Vineyard – work, not for merit, but for the love of God who loves you and all the world. The work of the Vineyard is to share His love in word and deed so that none of the Master’s invited guests find themselves missing out on the party. So, even now, He graciously gives you this foretaste of the feast to come, faith strengthening food and sin-purifying drink, from the Stricken Rock Jesus Christ that you might be bold in confession and boundless in grace like unto your Master, your Lord, and your God and Father, to whom be glory with + Jesus Christ and His most Holy Spirit now and forever.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Homily on The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord


Matthew 17:1-9; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Exodus 34:29-35

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and He filled them with His Light by the creative power of His Word. Indeed, the creative Word of God was the Light of the world even before there was sun, moon, or stars – the Light no darkness can overcome. And, when time was full, God spoke that same creative Word into Mary’s ear and into her virgin womb that the Light of the world would be conceived and born a human man and that He might make His dwelling amongst us. Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus revealed and manifested His Father’s glory, His own glory, in Words and deeds of mercy, forgiveness, life, and love, and His disciples believed in Him and they glorified God. And then, in a glorious mountain-top experience, Jesus’ face, His body, and His clothing glowed and shined forth with the preternatural Light of God, unveiled, before the very eyes of His closest disciples, and Moses and Elijah appeared, talking with Him. Heaven had descended upon earth and the disciples were understandably amazed. We can empathize with Peter in his zeal to enshrine the glory and the joy and to preserve it forever, but the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands. Thus, while Peter was still speaking the things of men, not of God, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord stands as a bookend at the end of the Epiphany season paired with the Baptism of Our Lord at its beginning. Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus manifested Himself as the anointed Christ of God, the Messiah, and as true God in human flesh. As the Church confesses, Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. He is the icon of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation – and He is all that you need. He is the love of God incarnate. He is the fulfillment of the Law. He is the New Moses. And, He is the one to whom all the prophets had pointed and the fulfillment of all prophecies. Moses and Elijah have been fulfilled and assumed into the glorious Light of Jesus and we are given to see, we need to see, no one but Jesus only.

Jesus is the Light of the world, the Light no darkness can overcome. He has penetrated the darkness of our sin and death, exposed it for what it is, so that it can be named, confessed, and forgiven. The Mount of Transfiguration revealed Jesus’ glory and light, not that we might bottle it up, adore it, and worship it here on earth, but that we might see and believe and know that that glory is located nowhere else than in the person of Jesus – then, now, and always. For, now that you confess Jesus as the anointed Christ; now that you confess Him to be God in human flesh; now you must go with Him, down from the Mount of Glory into Jerusalem to suffer and die with Him.

But, still, the glory of God is the Man Jesus, even though the world sees in Him only weakness and shame, God’s power is made perfect in weakness. What kind of god becomes a creature? What kind of god lives in selflessness, poverty, and meekness? What kind of god is stripped, whipped, mocked, and crucified? What kind of god is executed as a common criminal?Your God, and my God! Thanks be to God! For, He is a God of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. He is the God who lays down His life for you, His friends. He is the God who has faced death and defeated that enemy before you and for you. He is the God who works all things, even sin and every evil, even death, for your good. He is the God holds the victory over death and hell and beckons you through it into eternal life. There will be a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and God the Father will be glorified – of this, the Transfiguration was but a foretaste – but, first, your God has revealed His glory on another mountain, on Mount Calvary where, for God the Father’s only beloved Son there was no substitute ram caught by its horns, but the Lamb of God laid Himself down to be slain that His blood might cleanse and purify you, and the Angel of Death pass o’er.

Before the bewildering events of His Passion, Our Lord prepared His disciples by revealing a glimpse of His glory. The veil of His humility was lifted for a moment to confirm what Peter had already confessed: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. For, their faith and trust would be tested shortly thereafter.

You also pass through dark and difficult times when your faith and trust is tested. But, you may take comfort that you live on this side of Christ’s death and resurrection. Your enemy has been defeated and Christ’s victory is yours even now. The Transfiguration of Jesus is a foretaste of what He will soon do to you in the resurrection of your body. And, you already share in that glorious life now through your Holy Baptism into Christ. And, Peter, who witnessed the glorious Transfiguration with his own eyes, says that you have something more sure, the prophetic Word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. And on this altar mountaintop you join with Peter, James, and John, Moses and Elijah, and with all the saints and the heavenly host around the throne of the Lamb of God Jesus Christ who gives you Himself for forgiveness, life, and strength until He comes. All of a Christian’s life is a life with Christ, in His presence, radiant with the light that comes from Christ, fulfilled by Christ Himself. There is no boundary between Christ, His light and glory, and our Christians lives.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Homily for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany


Matthew 13:24-30, (36-43); Colossians 3:12-17; Genesis 18:20-33

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Three weeks from now, on Sexagesima Sunday, you will hear the beloved Parable of the Sower and His Good and Life-Giving Seed, the Word of God. Though the devices are nearly identical – both having sowers, seeds, fields, weeds, etc. – The Parable of the Sower and His Seed stands in stark contrast to the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares that your Lord presents to you today. For, in today’s parable, there is a second sower who sows his seed, secretly, in the darkness, whom Jesus calls an enemy, even the devil. And, the enemy’s seed grows and matures right along with the Lord’s seed so that the Lord’s field is full of both good wheat and evil weeds. But it is good for you to hear today’s parable first, for then on Sexagesima Sunday, you may remember where the weeds and the thorns that plague the soil of men’s hearts came from.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus begins the story with the words, The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” At the end of the parable, amidst all the curious details and surprising turns of events, this parable is designed to teach you something that is true about the Kingdom of Heaven. First and foremost, what is unquestionably true is that the Kingdom of Heaven is good: The Sower is good. The Seed is good. The field is good. That, ultimately, bad seed producing tares, weeds, was sown in the field was not the doing or the fault of the good Sower or His good seed, but this was the doing of an enemy to the Sower, the devil. The enemy sowed his seed in the field at night, in darkness, when the Sower’s servants were sleeping; he sowed his evil seed and then he went away.

This, perhaps is the first curious detail of Jesus’ story, that the servants of the Sower left the field alone and slept, and that the enemy, after sowing his evil seed also left the field and went away. I suppose, from a purely agrarian viewpoint, leaving your field or garden to grow at night is a sensible thing to do. However, we want to know what this tells us about the kingdom of heaven. Just as none of you tends his or her garden 24/7, 365 days a year, particularly through the night, but takes natural rest from your labors knowing that your garden will grow; just as no farmer in Iowa tends his field all night long but takes natural rest knowing that his crops will grow; so the Kingdom of Heaven grows of its own accord – the seed that is sown, whether good or evil, grows without the tending of its good or evil sower.

“But, when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’” The servants are surprised and alarmed at the presence of the weeds. They busy themselves asking questions about what went wrong and who’s to blame. The assumption of many, when evil rears its ugly head, is that the Master, God, must be accountable; either God put the bad seeds in there Himself (“Did you not sow good seed?”), or He doesn’t care that evil infests the world and afflicts His people, or He isn’t capable of stopping the evil from happening. These, of course, are all false and faithless answers to the question “Why does a good God permit evil in the world?” God did not create evil. He did not sow evil in His Kingdom. And, God does not cause evil, though He does permit it. The sower in the parable answers plainly, “An enemy has done this.” An enemy has sown the evil weeds in the field of the Lord. An enemy in opposition to the Lord’s goodness and will. When you hear the Parable of the Sower and His Good Seed on Sexagesima Sunday, remember that the weeds and the thorns that choke out the young shoots of faith were sown by the enemy of your Lord.

Then comes the second curious detail of Jesus’ story. Upon hearing that an enemy has sown weeds into the Master’s field, the servants ask if they should yank them out and gather them. Again, from a purely agrarian viewpoint this seems like the sensible thing to do. However, the Master surprisingly says, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’.”

Let them grow together until the harvest? The Kingdom of Heaven is to have both wheat and weeds within it until the end of time? How can this be? Oh, how we are tempted to root out evil as we perceive it, when it arises in the world, in our communities, in our church, in our family, and in our lives. We are loathe to bear with patience and tolerance those persons we perceive to be unfaithful, sinful, and evil and we are loathe to bear with patience and tolerance perceived evil in our lives whether it be trial, tribulation, disease, suffering, or death. Better to root it out and cast it away. Ah, but the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man, for the weeds sown by the enemy are of the sort that they are often indistinguishable from the young wheat as they grow together. It is not until the fruit is borne and the harvest that one can clearly distinguish between the good wheat and the bad weeds. In fact, the type of weed that Jesus and the disciples would have been most familiar with was one called darnel, which is still prevalent in the Middle East today. Darnel is a weed that looks every bit like wheat until it heads in the late Summer. If one were to attempt to pull the darnel out of a wheat field prior to its bearing fruit, one would pull out just as much young wheat, or more. So, for the sake of the wheat, Jesus teaches His disciples to bear with the tares.

This should not be surprising, for an enemy is responsible for sowing the tares, and that enemy is the devil, whose devices are lies and deception. He takes what God has created good and he plagiarizes it, making it an, often attractive, but false, perversion of God’s creation. It is often said that wherever God builds a church, there the devil builds a chapel next door. This proverb reflects the biblical truth that wheat and tares, good and evil, reside together in the world, in the church, in the family, in the individual until the last day and the return of Christ in glory. The sowing of the tares is not the Father’s doing, but leaving them to grow alongside His good wheat is His will.

Oh how we would like to pull out the tares and purify the field, but, in so doing, we would uproot much that it is good. So, the Lord instructs you to bear with the evil, to suffer the evil, even to forgive the evil in this life. That is literally what He means when He says “Let both grow together…” He uses the Greek word ἄφετε which means “to let go; to permit; to forgive”; it is the same word Jesus uses when He says “suffer the little children to come to me” and in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Bear with the evil; permit the evil; suffer the evil; forgive the evil. This is the lesson of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. For, in the harvest, on the Last Day, God will send His angels, not men, not you, to do the weed pulling – it’s not yours to do, not now, not then. Until then, you are to bear with what and who you perceive to be evil (I say perceive to be, for you may be wrong. The devil is a master of deception and he is actively trying to deceive you.) This is not to say that you should be complicit with evil and that you should not resist evil, but that it is not your job to root out all evil so as to make this church, this community, this world a new paradise, for, since good and evil in this world commonly inhabit not only the same field but even the same individual human beings, the only result of a truly dedicated campaign to get rid of evil will be the abolition of literally everybody.

What the Lord would have you do is grow in the field in which He has sown you, which is His Kingdom. You grow by remaining in His Word and Sacraments as wheat grows by sunlight, rain, and nutrients in the soil. Grow where you are planted and be fruitful with the fruits He causes you to bear, for yourself and for your family, and for the service of your neighbor to the glory of God the Father. Don’t worry about the weeds. Yes, they will grow too, right alongside of you, and they will bear their evil fruit causing pain and suffering. Now is the time of faith and trust, patience, long-suffering, and hope. When the harvest comes, “The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. […] Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” “He who has ears, let him hear.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.