A Mixed Body
In tomorrow's Gospel reading Jesus tells his followers that
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.Jesus did not mention just any weed. He actually mentioned Tares, which refers to the "bearded darnel" or lolium temulentum which was a grass that looked like wheat until the ears appeared. In other words, the weeds and the wheat looked alike until you saw their fruit. This fits Jesus' teaching elsewhere that you know someone by the fruit they produce, with good trees producing good fruit and bad trees producing bad fruit. The real downside to the Tares is that the seeds were a poison and so if you wait until the harvest you will have poisoned your field for next year.
So as he always does in his gardening stories, Jesus turns good gardening advice on its head to show us the world as God sees it. As God sees the world, we leave the weeds and wheat together until the end of time. Let the plants grow until they have time to bear their fruit and then be judged not for the company they keep, but for their own actions. Elsewhere Jesus tells of the good fruit of the kingdom as being things like caring for widows and orphans in their distress, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and so on. These are not how one earns one's way to heaven, but they are instead the fruit of someone who sees others and their needs the way God sees them and then reaches out in love to make a difference.
The grace in this parable is that humans are not to judge. We are not to try to weed our churches until they are purified bodies with no weeds among the wheat. Instead we are to be patient and wait as God is patient and waits and we are to remain a mixed body of wheat and tares, not knowing which is which and often being wrong if we tried to guess. We trust that this mixed body is what God called us to be.
Though the parable leaves no room for a tare to become wheat, Jesus other teaching does allow for that possibility. And so we hope that the tares will come into a relationship with God which will transform them into wheat between now and the judgment. And so we keep the threshold of the church low, not looking to block certain types of people, but welcoming all into our mixed body where we all work together toward the coming kingdom. We also pray for the parts of ourselves that remain weeds will be dealt with between now and the judgement. We don't expect to find perfect people in any church where we are allowed to worship as none of us is perfect.
A sermon on this passage is in our archives here: Wheat Among the Weeds that tells how Augustine of Hippo used this passage and some similar teachings to deal with some real problems in the church of North Africa in the 300s.
The rev. Frank Logue, Pastor