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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Kingdom of Heaven Has a Lot of Weeds

2014-07-20 Matthew 13 24-30
The Kingdom of Heaven Has a Lot of Weeds

If Jesus came walking down Carr’s Creek Road, and came upon us gathered here to listen to his word, his parable might have sounded like this:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to fields of exotic lilies, sown by the hand of an anesthesiologist / slash / cake baker-decorator / slash / restaurant owner / slash / wedding chapel photographer / slash / woman who never appears to require sleep. 
One night, while she was inside, assembling bouquets for a wedding, some mischievous rednecks snuck over and sowed weeds among the lilies and then went to Gatlinburg to buy T-shirts. So when the lilies grew up and were about to bloom, the weeds appeared as well. 

The woman’s husband came to her and said, “Wellllll, shoot. An idiot has done this. Can I just get the Bobcat and dig the whole thing up? Pleeeeeze?”
But she said, “Steve!” Er, I mean, “No, beloved husband. Thou shalt not dig it. Yea, verily, leave both alone and let the weeds grow along with the lilies. At harvest time, we will be able to tell the difference.”
So sayeth the Lord.

If you plant a pretty garden patch, and you want it to stay pretty, you have to spend a lot of time on your knees, don’t you? Whether it’s lilies or roses, or begonias, or even sunflowers, if you want it to stay roses and begonias and sunflowers, you’re gonna get your hands dirty. Keeping the patch pretty, and keeping the weeds out, takes hard work. It takes bowing your head and getting low, and getting up, and making strange noises for beauty of the earth. 

Gardening is a lot like worship. When we worship, we spend a lot of time with our heads bowed. Sometimes we get down on our knees. We get low and get up. Some of us sing, and some of us just make strange noises. 

When God plants us in a church, God calls us to sweaty garden labor. God tells us we’re going to get our hands dirty. Like plants, some people are fragile. A little wind or rain that might not seem so bad to the rest of us bends them near breaking. Some people are prickly. They’ve evolved natural defenses that keep danger away, even when what looks dangerous to them is really someone wanting to help them bloom. Some people are roses amongst the thorns. It takes some careful pruning to see them clearly. But when you see them at their best, they are pure loveliness. Some people are sunflowers. A little awkward and overpowering, they point the way to the highest light, always standing tall and waving “hello!” 

And some people are weeds.

How do you know what’s a weed and what’s not?
How do you know what’s a weed in your garden?

Weeds are invasive. Weeds are space invaders. Weeds don’t know their place. You planted marigolds, but you got dandelions because dandelions are spawn of Satan and resist all efforts at purification. Someone two counties over lets kudzu grow unchecked and pretty soon it’s overrunning your borders, breaching your walls, and covering up your children. 

But sometimes - usually when we’re up to our elbows in dirt, pulling weeds, dripping sweat - sometimes we get all philosophical. Who decides what’s a weed and what’s not? Who picks which flowers are called beautiful and which ones are ugly? Who’s to say there isn’t a place where dandelions are revered for their yellow shade and clenching root? A place where roses are tossed in a heap because their thorns are so dangerous and their flowers people sneeze? 

I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure that if Steve and Janice renamed this place, “The Dandelion Barn,” they’d get less business.

When you think about it, though, the difference between weeds and flowers is kind of arbitrary. Basically, a weed is anything you didn’t plant. A weed is anything that messes up your secret garden. A relative who doesn’t know her place. A stinky stranger making rude noises. A guest who no matter how hard you pull, never leaves, and always keeps coming back. People pick weeds. People pick who’s too weedy, who’s too needy, who’s too greedy, and who’s a sweetie. If there were no people there’d be no weeds; you can’t have weeds without people, and you can’t have people without some weeds.

And we say, “Let’s pick ‘em and let ‘em burn.”
And God says, “Slow down. Hold on. Let ‘em grow. And let me be the judge of what’s a weed and what’s not. Let them both grow together until the harvest.”
When we rush to judgment on who’s a weed and who’s not, who’s invasive and who’s planted by the hand of God, when we make urgent decisions, we run the risk of bulldozing the whole garden. We’re seeded on an earth with all kinds of colors, all kinds of usefulness, all kinds of fragrance, all kinds of defenses, all kinds of attraction, all kinds of beauty. We grow together. As hard as we try to keep our rows straight and our varieties separated, we get all mixed up. To take care of each other, we’ve gotta get our hands dirty. To tend God’s garden of earth, we’re going to have some mud stains that won’t come out. If we move too quickly to pull up the undesirable, we go against the Master’s plans. 

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.”

Heaven is a place where surprising little life grows around you. Do they know they’re weeds? Do they look at you and wonder the same thing?

The kingdom of heaven is a place where the careful seeds and the careless weeds are given time to be neighborly. What the Master will do at harvest time, who knows? In the meantime, we’ve got some time to grow together, in the dirt we share.