Deeply Rooted – Pulling Weeds

07.19.20

A farmer planted a field with wheat seed but, as he and his workers slept, an enemy came into his field and planted weed seeds in the same exact places there the wheat seeds had been planted. The strategy was to plant the weeds close enough so the roots would intertwine with the wheat roots. As soon the seeds began to sprout the workers noticed that many of the sprouts were not wheat – they were weeds.  The workers immediately ran and told the farmer about the weeds  – volunteering to start pulling weeds themself. 

The farmer recognized that an enemy had secretly entered the field and sowed the weeds. I’m sure that the workers first thought was not ‘Who would do such a thing?’ Or ‘Who could possibly be an enemy to our master?’ Instead, I imagine that they asked ‘Who would have seeds to grow weeds?” Who would be so vengeful, so calculated, so hateful?

The farmer assessed the situation and told the workers to allow the weeds to grow up with the wheat. He knew the roots of the wheat and the weeds were already tangled.  Pulling the weeds would result in pulling up much of the wheat.

So they waited until the harvest was ready and then pulled the weeds first, bundled and burnt them, and then, they will be free to pull the wheat.

The workers were to wait until the roots of the wheat would be untangled from the roots of the weeds.

I began to study wheat roots this week and quickly became overwhelmed. The roots are intricate and designed to seek out moisture in dry and cracked soil, but the most interesting and applicable thing about wheat root is in the seed itself.  The wheat seed is created with the ability to grow different 2 root systems during the growth process.  The first roots are set to support the system in the immediate stages of development.  This system of roots remains fairly shallow and would be easy fodder for the roots of weeds.  However, once the infant wheat seed stabilizes, the seed begins to grow the second series of roots which grow in a more vertical manner (which helps them seek out moisture), making them more capable of freeing themself from the weed roots.

This helps us understand why the newly sprouted wheat plants would be in danger if they were pulled up early.

After Jesus had told this parable, and had left the crowds, the disciples asked him to explain the meaning.  He explained that he was the sower of the good seed, the field is the entire world, the good seed are the people of God’s kingdom, the bad seeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows the bad seeds is the Devil, the harvest will take place at the end of the age at judgement, and the harvesters will be the angels.

This parable, at first glance, appears to be a call for us to gather the weeds now, and to then burn them – however, the true takeaway is actually the opposite. Pulling up and burning the weeds is not our assignment in this story, and, in fact, according to our mission of not judging or condemning, we are clearly unqualified, and we will never be qualified.

Our job is to join the farmer in the wait; waiting on roots to be untangled and free.

I am not sure there could be a more difficult and frustrating role, honestly, I am ready to pull some weeds.  Weeds that I have identified as putting our loved ones in danger, that are diluting and perverting the gospel, that are dividing us all – even within same faiths, weeds that are choking our love for God and destroying our ability to love all others as we love ourself.

The truth is that this parable is not about pulling or burning weeds, it is not about children of the evil one, it is not about us labeling humans good and evil, but, it is about the expansiveness of God’s grace, it is about the depth of God’s patience, it is about the full definition of what Jesus meant when he said  that ‘God so loves the world’  – the limitless love of God, it is about God’s complete understanding of the human experience.

It is not about pulling up, it is about untangling and being free. It is about holding off judgement until the last root that is willing to be untangled is untangled.

Let’s begin with a few elements of the parable and Jesus’ explanation.

Let’s start with the sower of the weeds…

The Enemy

The word is used four times in the gospel of Matthew.  Here in 13:35, the Enemy sows the weeds in the field.  Back in 5:43-44, the We are instructed, by Jesus to love our Enemies, and to even pray for them.  The third appearance of Enemy is in 10:36 where Jesus warns the apostles that they will have enemies in their same household, in their families. The final Enemy caution is found in 22:24 where Jesus harkens back to King David where we see these same enemy, the enemy that sowed the weeds, will ultimately be under the foot of Jesus as he is sitting at the right hand of God.

The Sower is identified as…

The Devil

Our next element of the parable comes in the Devil.  Here again, Devil is mentioned 4 times in the gospel of Matthew.  First we see Devil in chapter 4 as Jesus is tempted by the Devil who is tempts him to be allied with the devil instead of God. The 2nd is here in our focus passage where Jesus identifies the enemy Sowing the Weeds as being the Devil.  The 3rd comes in 16:33 when Jesus says to his disciple Peter ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ as Peter attempts to sway Jesus from God’s plan (something Peter does thinking it is the best way to save Jesus). The 4th mention of Devil is found in Matthew 25 as the King is addressing the unrighteous at judgement:

‘Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:41-46

Let’s, now, return to our field full of wheat and weeds.

The workers have correctly identified that the field now has weeds growing alongside the wheat.  However, the farmer is concerned, if the weeds are pulled in the early stages of the wheat root system development, their shallow roots will be intertwined with the roots of the weeds and the risk of killing the wheat is certain.

Since we are not the weed pullers in this parable, nor are we the enemy or the children of the enemy, so what is the call that comes out to us from this parable of Jesus?

The answer is that we have

Root Responsibility

This takes us back to the first parable in Matthew 13 where we found the absolute necessity of having good soil in order to have deep roots. To til our own soil, making it receptive to truth, discerning those forces that will contaminate the soil – this is our unique call.  Removing the toxins of hate and racism, the impurities that prevent our part in achieving justice and freedom in the lives of others, the poisonous particles that lead us to reject truth moving us to complacency, everything that destroy our soil and inhibit our roots.

Tilling the soil is a very individually intentional process. It starts with standing guard over those elements that are permitted into the soil, asking, are we allowing the politics of division, are we welcoming the religiosity of judgement and condemnation, are we seeking and searching for truth, do we love mercy and justice for all, and, are we rejecting lies and deceit?

Are we taking our soil seriously, or have we outsourced it over to others? Are we accepting all the seeds being thrown in our direction or are we seeking to reject the bad seeds from our soil?

And, after that, we ask, ‘do we have tangled roots?‘ and How do we untangle the roots?’

God tells us to ‘wait’…and, in telling us to wait, God has signaled what he does, as we grow deep roots and we work to untangle from the weeds…

God waits.

God’s grace, his guidance, his mercy, his compassion, his hope, and his love, waits, alongside of us and for us.

When the weeds were sown in among us, he didn’t do a risk assessment to determine how many wheat plants it would be okay to lose if the workers were to pull the weeds right away, making a wheat harvest much easier and less costly later, resulting in higher profit. No, every wheat seed was important and valuable, they all were needed in the field.

He waits.

He doesn’t give up on us, he doesn’t ridicule us, he doesn’t condescend towards us, he doesn’t reject us, he doesn’t turn his back on us, he doesn’t replace us, he doesn’t ignore us, he doesn’t dismiss us….He waits.

You see, as God does his job as the sower and the farmer, he addresses the concerns on the surface.  He guards the fields from herbivorous predators and other destructive pestilence.

He, having given us free will, and the power, he waits for us to develop and untangle our roots so we are ready for harvest.

Time to interject Important Note: Jesus told this to those who had the mission of untangling their roots, the very people he was calling to do the personal work.  He further explained it to his disciples who were also called to a work of personal root untangling. And, over two thousand years later, he calls us to the same.  If you are hearing, or reading this, you are not a ‘child of the evil one’.  In fact, one of the first weeds the enemy will try to tangle in your roots is this lie, that you are hopeless and too far tangled, you are not.

See, when we identify growth problems in others, things that we mistakenly judge and condemn as sin, it is actually a much deeper problem – a tangled roots problem.  The same is true for us, tangled root problems.

Throughout this pandemic God has brought world wide tangled root problems to our attention.  There have been two obvious, constant, reminders constantly being thrown before our eyes.  

This past Friday, as I was still struggling through this parable and particularly with God’s primary point for us – Grace Fellowship and all believers, today and in this time – God turned up the volume, literally, the volume on the television news.  The voice was a mayor of a large city in a state where Covid numbers are rapidly rising and surpassing record numbers.  The mayor, looked as though he was in the midst of a campaign rally standing before a large crowd of supporters.  What caught my eye was that he was wearing a mask, something we do not always see in our political leaders.  As the mayor spoke his tone began to change, he dramatically ripped off the mask, and declared that his city would survive without those ‘silly things’.  The audience roared with applause and laughter. 

This mayor, as well as the crowd, has a tangled root problem. They have allowed their roots to become tangled with roots that are not concerned with the health of others which, ironically is causing them to not care about their own health.  They have put their own agendas ahead of truth, they are listening to politicians and to a very agreeable exclusive, and small, group of scientists who are in line with their agenda, instead of those who are risking everything to give us truth.  They have a root problem tangled with roots that is preventing them from loving others as themselves, and, therefore of loving God.

In the northeast Oregon, a church that insisted on continuing in person worship services is tied to 236 positive tests, in West Virginia a church is linked to over 51 positive tests, in San Antonio a church is tied to 50 cases, in Tennessee a pastor said that he stopped counting after hearing of 12 members testing positive following attending in person worship, a Christian camp in Missouri shut down after 82 individuals positive cases were tied to the camp.  All of these outbreaks took place just in the month of June. All of these institutions had taken precautions. All of these had a root problem. Tangled roots caused them to harm rather than to love.

Our White House, this week, demanded that hospitals begin sending their Covid test numbers to the White House instead of the to the CDC. Tangled roots of political agendas, as they often do, have made vital truth even more difficult to find.

The other occurrence that we have seen since the beginning of the Pandemic is the protest all over our nation demanding justice for those American, and humans, of different races.  This is not a new problem, but it is a deeply dismissed and ignored problem. We have responded to the protests by pointing out the rage presented by those dealing with a full ancestry of oppression and racism. They have been killed at a disproportionate rate and have frequently been ignored by our justice system. We respond with comments like, ‘If they would just act differently, if they could be like us…’, if they wouldn’t protest and riot’ – instead of considering the damage of pain and oppression.  Interestingly, we herald the revolutionaries in our own history, who threw tea into the water, tea that would have been one million dollars loss to the owners , George Washington was against this protest. Still he love this story as pivotal in our freedom.

Politicians have recently responded by saying ‘White people have been killed to…’. Which is not only ignorant in its revelation of misunderstanding but also as unChristlike as is humanly possible.

God is waiting for us to untangle our roots,

he is prompting us to recognize our problems beneath the soil by letting us see the problems that are blatant above the soil.  He is lovingly revealing to us the work that is still needed before harvest time.

He is calling us to stop tying to pull the weeds from others based on our own judgmental and condemning perceptions and, instead, check out our own roots.

He is calling us to free our tangled roots from all the evil seeds that are keeping us from the greatest commandments from God.  Love.

God is calling us to Revival

If you grew up in an evangelical church, you have surely heard it prayed ‘God, bring us revival.’  God is bringing us revival, now. This revival does not fit the perimeters that have heard it prayed for however, it will not involve emotional church worship services where great music leads the participants to raise their hands, close their eyes, maybe even drop to their knees in tears.  It won’t involve an outpouring of confession of personal sin or even multitudes coming to know Christ.  It will, however, be very personal, very private.  This Revival involves each of us, that are followers of Christ, to begin untangling our roots. To untangle from the roots of politics, agendas, personal rights, hatred, racisim, selfishness.  It will be a revival of God pointing those out to each of us privately. This revival is already underway – it is time that you and I join in.

God rejoices in unity, the enemy delights in division; God desires peace for us, the enemy seeks to sow chaos in our lives; God passionately encourages us to have good soil and deep untangled roots, the enemy seeks to render our soil toxic and our roots shallow; God desires justice, the enemy incites prejudice, racism, and violence; God is merciful, the enemy is vindictive; God leads us in a life of hope, the enemy leads us to ruin; God is love, the enemy is hate.

God waits patiently until the day when he can say to us,

 ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:32-40

Let us pray.

Presence

 Theme – The Tie That Binds – Considering Church

Understanding what ties/binds believers (the church) together. First encounters following resurrection, apostles training, continued throughout the book of Acts, reveal to us the ties that bind us together 

Today, we continue looking at that first day after the Sabbath, after the crucifixion –  the day the followers of Christ began to understand what Jesus meant when he said that he would rise again.  That first day – that first day of good overcame evil, that hope was victorious over hopelessness, that peace triumphed over turmoil, that love proved greater than hatred.  It was a huge day.

The day had actually begun long before the women arrived at the tomb, or the men hiding in their room, long before creation, long before chaos, long before pride, long before arrogance, long before insecurity, long before self centeredness – It was a day that began before death.  

Is it possible for us to understand that the resurrection coming before the death – before any death?

It was Jesus who, before his death, said, ‘I AM the resurrection.’

 Regardless of our understanding, the truth is that the tomb was empty, Jesus had risen.  The eyewitness were now to see so they can tell. 

First Lesson – Peace

The women took the road from the tomb to go back and tell the men about the empty grave and the angel’s proclamation, then, on the road, Jesus appeared to the women. Jesus told the women, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he told them to have peace not fear, to go on in an unabashed joy.

Then, still on that same day, there were the men. The men could have been on the road to and from the tomb, or on the road to Galilee where Jesus had interacted them to go.  Instead, understandably, they were hiding in the house, but there was plenty of reasons for the men to afraid. 

They were afraid when Jesus appeared in the room, and as he had done with the women, Jesus said, ‘Peace’ – not ‘Fear’ but ‘Peace’.  Peace when their gut instinct said to be afraid, to be ashamed, to be humiliated, to be defeated, to be hopeless.  

Later, in the midst of his doubts, even Thomas was given this word, ‘Peace’.

Now, on that same day, Sunday, Jesus appears again.  And again, he appears on a road – and again he brings peace, actually this time he brought peace in the midst of despair long before the hearers even were aware they were talking to Jesus.  Sometimes, Peace itself can be very aggressive.

On this day, again on a road, we have lesson two – Presence 

A Road

Roads are an interesting thing.  They are an avenue to getting to a place or to getting away from a place.  The prodigal son took a road to reject his father and then to return and be embraced by his father.  Today’s road went from from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which was also the road to Jerusalem from Emmaus. 

On this day, on this road, two men were traveling from Jerusalem, they were heading in the direction of Emmaus.  They were heading in the opposite direction of Jerusalem.  They were walking and talking as they headed south on that road – talking about their sadness, their disillusionment, how their hope was gone, how they felt abandoned, how they thought they understood – and, now how they understood nothing.  

They were talking about the cross, they were talking about Jesus.

These men were followers of Jesus but now felt that everything was over, Jesus was dead.  It didn’t make any sense, they were so sure Jesus was the one they had been looking forward to coming to deliver the people.  They had been convinced he was the promise of blessings, the promise given to Abraham.

Had they been mistaken, or worse, had the promise been broken?

It was here, here on the road, here as the sun grew closer to the horizon, that Jesus appeared on the road. In the midst of this grief laden conversation between these two south bound travelers, Jesus joined their journey and their discussion.  

These two men needed to be on the road with Jesus at this moment, they needed to see Jesus, they needed to experience Jesus’ presence at this moment. 

Everyone that experienced Jesus on this first day needed to have that moment, they needed to be eyewitness – Jesus met them exactly where they needed and in the manner they most needed.

‘What are you talking about?’ Jesus asked.

The two men explained that they were talking about, and despondent by,  everything that had taken place in Jerusalem during the recent days.

They were shocked when Jesus asked them, ‘What has happened in Jerusalem?’

‘Are you the only person on the face of the earth who is actually unaware of what took place last week?’ the two men said in unison, both with looks of shock on their faces.

Jesus stuck with the two as they continued to walk away from Jerusalem.  On the way, Jesus – starting with Moses going through the prophets, explained what had been promised, and prophesied, about the coming Messiah, about himself,  about Jesus.

Seeing

Oddly, the men did not identify their new travel companion as Jesus.  Seeing things we truly need to see is sometimes a challenge.  As he wrote this account, Luke used the greek words that, in our English, are ‘they were kept from seeing.’  A very vague statement that means little to us today, or probably even when he wrote these words.  Were they blind to recognizing Jesus because God confused something in their retina connection to the brain, causing them to not realize they were with Jesus – that God was waiting until they were ready to see and recognize.  Or, maybe it was the men’s grief created by their unrealized hopes and dreams they had attached to Jesus as well as their understandings, and possibly agenda about Jesus’ mission.  Maybe, they were just so caught up in their emotions and anguish, along with forgetting to look for Jesus, that the metaphorical tears made their vision fuzzy.

Regardless of the why and how, the men were talking with, and listening to, Jesus without knowing it.

It must have been somewhat funny to Jesus, funny that they didn’t recognize him even though he had walked with them before.  I wonder if it was exhausting to Jesus that they needed an explanation and clarification of the prophets words.  I am sure it had to be precious to Jesus that they invited him to stay with them and asked him to join them at the table for a meal.

Jesus, whose death was the source of these men’s pain, was alive and with the men, Jesus was present in their grief.  They didn’t even see that he was present as they invited him to stay the night with them, their eyes were still kept from seeing Jesus when they invited him to the table.

Present and Presence at the Table 

If you think about it, there is something very radical about the table.

The table is where you break bread, it is where you pass and receive food, it is where you you sit, sometimes where you feel captive, you are possibly with another person who lacks table manners, it is where the real and vulnerable ‘you’ often shows up.  It is where we have all shared great conversation and awkward silence, where we have experienced exhilaration and desperation.  You never really know what you are going to experience at the table – it can be a very intimate experience.

The table is a frequent occurrence in the life of Jesus.  It was a a table of 5,000 people, and again at a table of 4,000 people that Jesus first challenged his disciples to care for those people by feeding them.  It was at the table of a despised tax collector where Jesus radically chose to invite himself to sit and a shocking transformation took place.  It was at the table of his closest friends that he was scandalously anointed with a most expensive perfume. It was a short time after this moment with the men on the road that Jesus would again appear to his disciples and ask to sit at their table by asking ‘Is there anything to eat?’  It was at a beach table where Jesus sat waiting on the disciples to haul in their abundant catch and join him to eat – after asking them to bring some of their catch to add to the meal.  It was at a table where he sat with his intimate group of followers for a passover meal just before his arrest and crucifixion.  As they ate at he told them to use this, and future, occasions at the table to remember how he lived, what he taught, and especially what he accomplished for them.

Eat and Remember, Drink and remember.

It would at that last table that Jesus said he would not eat or drink with them again until his purpose and mission was complete.

Now, he sat with these two men, heading away from Jerusalem and Galilee, at their table.  A table at which they had invited him to sit.

As the two men began to recognize the inexplicable unknown abundance at the table, an abundance which was not about food but something much larger, something huge, they began to put aside their grief, fear, and disillusionment.  Without the weight of the pain, the men began to see, soon they realized that the abundance at their table was the presence of Jesus.

Jesus had been present with them all along.

Jesus was, and is, present.  Even when the men could not see him, Jesus was still present.

This was the second lesson- presence.  Jesus taught this lesson on presence while he, himself, was present.

Now, the men took the same road they had walked on before.  Last time they took the road away from Jerusalem, but now that same road was taking them back to Jerusalem.

Ill: Churches insisting on ‘trusting God’ and meeting during virus quarantine endangering everyone that attends and anyone who comes in contacting those individuals. Confusing the Presence with Arrogance.

Closing Story – Personal thinking about presence (on zoom). Being present  to recognize the presence.

Our Call

Look for (His) presence 

Be present

Enjoy presence