Sermon preached at Our Savior on August 14, 2011 for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost. Sermon text: Matthew 13:24-30,36-43
It’s a beautiful, sunny day. You take a drive down one of the many country roads around us here in Western New York. You stop at a gorgeous field, where you can’t help but get out and take a closer look. The field is breathtaking. It’s filled with flowers, bright like the sun. There are so many of them that you can’t even think of counting them all. All you can do is just stand there and watch them in awe, wondering why God allowed you to see something so beautiful.
There’s just one problem, though. This field is filled with weeds. Dandelions may have bright flowers and you might even consider them pretty on the right day and in the right place. But they’re weeds. They are sucking the life out of the plants that are supposed to be there. They seem harmless enough, but they could lead to the death of the plants that you actually want to have.
Friends, we live in a world of weeds. That’s what Jesus tells us in our text today. He wasn’t talking about plants, really. He was talking about believers and unbelievers. We, the believers are the wheat of this field, while the unbelievers are the weeds. The point isn’t that we must avoid every unbeliever in this world. Instead, we want to keep the influence of this world away from our hearts. We want to continue in God’s Word and sacrament. We want to keep growing in our faith until Jesus returns to take us to our heavenly home.
But until that time, we live as the people God has made us. We live as the wheat that we are so we don’t get dragged away into the sinful ways that can destroy our faith. We live as the wheat that God made us as we witness to those around us so that they can experience God’s love for themselves, too. Yes, it’s true. We live in a world of weeds. They might seem innocent and maybe even desirable for us. But don’t ever forget what Jesus tells us. In a world of weeds, live like wheat.
This text from the Gospel of Matthew is a good one to have on a day when we have a confirmation. It’s good for us to remember that it’s not a confirmation class that makes us a Christian. It’s God. It’s the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts. He works faith in baptism. He works faith through the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for us. Confirmation reminds us that we keep feeding our faith. We keep feeding it with that Gospel message. We keep feeding it with Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. We need that growth of our faith because we live in a world that can kill our faith and suck our spiritual life right out of us.
Listen to Jesus’ parable. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds amog the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. (Matt. 13:24-26)
Weeds are a part of this world. There’s no getting around it. I remember being given the task when I was younger to pull weeds around some areas of plants. I didn’t like it. The weeds sprouted up everywhere. I had to kneel down and pull these horrible little plants one by one. It took forever (at least I thought it did), it was uncomfortable, and a couple of days later the weeds were back!
But the weeds Jesus was talking about in our text were a little different. An enemy had actually planted them to sabotage this other man’s field. This enemy wanted to ruin the crop, so the weeds were his chance.
It makes sense that the man with the field would have to decide what to do about all these weeds. But his solution wasn’t what you might think. [The man’s] servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull [the weeds] up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn. (Matt. 13:28-30)
Some of the man’s servants thought it made sense to get rid of the weeds right away, but the man decided against it. He didn’t want a single stalk of wheat to get accidentally pulled up at the wrong time. He decided to wait until harvest. He’d pull everything up, gather the weeds together and the wheat together. The weeds would go to the fire while the wheat went into the barn.
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus wasn’t really talking about plants. His story had a spiritual meaning for us. Thankfully, this is one of those parables where Jesus explains exactly what he meant. He lays it all out for us. The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (Matt. 13:38-39)
Got all that? Really, it’s not that complicated. There are believers and unbelievers in this world. We don’t live in a world with only believers. But when this world ends, God will separate the believers from the unbelievers. And that’s why this parable is so important for us today.
Listen to how Jesus finishes his explanation. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The son of Man will send out angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 13:40-42)
This world isn’t fun and games; it’s not he who dies with the most toys wins. This life is difficult; it’s painful. But no matter what you go through if you die without saving faith in Jesus Christ, you have eternal death waiting for you. And I’m not saying this to say how great we Christians are and how horrible all those unbelievers are. I’m saying it because we live in a dangerous world for our faith. We live in a world of weeds. And if we’re not careful, we could become a weed, too.
Sometimes it might be easy to think of confirmation day as a kind of graduation. That’s how it normally works, right? You go to school, you finish school,and you graduate. But that’s not really what confirmation is, and I know that our confirmand here knows that. Yes, he’s accomplished something by finishing confirmation class. But graduation implies that he’s done learning. It implies that he knows all that he needs to know. And that’s just not true!
It’s not true for any of us. Because, you see, there is a graduation coming. The real graduation comes when Jesus comes back to this world. We don’t know when it will be, except that it will be unexpected and surprising. And if we lose our faith before that day, if we ourselves become a weed, then we’ll be in eternal trouble.
The danger is all around us. Whether you are too young to be in confirmation class, whether you are just getting confirmed today, or whether you were confirmed years ago, the temptations are there. God’s Word might not always seem that important to you. Trying to follow God’s will and not give in to the sinful ways of this world might sometimes seem downright silly. God might seem like someone who has not given you what you’ve wanted, who has in fact hurt you one too many times. Church might seem like an empty tradition, a boring thing that boring people put themselves through because they have nothing better to do.
Watch out! The danger is there! The temptations are all around us! We live in a world of weeds! And if we continue in sin, our faith will die. If we go without the food of the gospel in Word and sacrament, our faith will die. If we reject God and everything he stands for and go it on our own, our faith will die. And if our faith dies, when this world ends we will die. Forever.
That’s the last thing we want. And that’s the last thing God wants. In fact, he didn’t want us to die so much that he did the unthinkable. He sent his only Son in our place. Jesus’ life was for us. He never sinned. He never gave into temptation in any way. He always lived like wheat in this world of weeds. And he did it for us! Now, by faith, Jesus’ perfection counts on our account!
And Jesus’ died on the cross. He didn’t do it because he deserved to die; he didn’t! He did it because we deserved to die. Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. And he did. He paid them in full. So now, by faith, our sins are gone. Jesus has paid them. They’re not coming back.
And Jesus rose! Death and the grave could not hold him, but he conquered them all for us. So when we die, we have a new home, a perfect home, a heavenly home. As Jesus put it in our text, at the end, then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matt 13:43)
So what’s left for us to do until then? How do we live in this world of sin and trouble? In this world of weeds, live like wheat! Live your faith! Yes, at times you will stand out from the world around you because of the way you live. But it’ll be worth it because you love your Savior and you want to live for him!
In this world of weeds, live like wheat! Continue reading, studying, and hearing God’s Word. Do it here in church, do it and home, do it in your mind and heart at any time! It won’t be a burden, just like eating food isn’t a burden. It’s a joy that God gives us his Word to feed our faith! So continue in it! Continue in the Lord’s supper, receive that forgiveness, receive the growth of your faith. Not because you have to, not because it’s a habit or everyone else is doing it. Do it because your Savior is offering to feed your soul. He’s given you himself. Take, and eat. Take, and drink.
That’s what it is to be a Christian, to be someone who gets all their strength and life from Christ alone. Look to him, he his our one hope to conquer sin and give us forgiveness. He is our one hope to conquer death and be given eternal life in heaven. Look to him, Jesus is the one and only; he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Follow him! Live in his Life. In a world of weeds, live like wheat!