Seeds or Weeds? Matt.13:24-30…

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Notes from my rant at Urban Seed Church on the Parable of the Weeds….


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Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
13:24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 13:25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

13:36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.

13:40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” New Revised Standard Version.

There’s not too many better images to preach on at Urban Seed than verse 24. “The economy of God is like someone who casts good seed in a field” It captures the essence of how we see our work….. small things, great potential, great hope…
But verse 25 interputs us with the enemy we dont expect, while sleeping, this ideal image is interrupted with the subversive, destructive, distrubing image of the weeds among the wheat.
Such an image struck me powerfully this week (17 July 2005)as we consider the realities of the world in which we live and worship. The unexpected enemy within. Weeds among the wheat…
1.Insurgent Suicide bomber in Iraq blows up children accepting lollies from US. forces.
2. Aftermath of the London Underground bombings reveal that the perpetrators are British born, “sound as a pound” nationals from normal backgrounds.
3. “Mr Baldy”, Victoria’s most notorious child sex offender is released after decades in jail and is discovered and hounded out of his new suburb within hours by angry media and residents.
Lets take some time to think about how these instances make us feel?
3 thoughts came to mind as these texts from our world merged with the ancient teachings of Christ.
1. The world is not getting better or worse but is in Christ’s hands
2. The Dangers of Violence
3. Seed Sowing as Active Nonviolence
1. The world is not getting better or worse but is in Christ’s hands
“You know your problem…..you need to read your bible!”
I still recall the acerbic tone of twangy, American accent “in my face”…Its not something that I’m told very often!
I was having a discussion with Tony Campolo during last years Blackstump Festival in Sydney
I’d questioned a couple of his comments that he’d made (I’d also heard him make them at the UNOH Surrender Conference last year) where he quoted global statistics about a reduction in children dying of preventable causes and an increase in literacy rates to suggest that despite all that you hear from the doomsdayers, we can make a difference, we are” winning” , the world is become a better place.
My concern was that it was just too easy to string a few stats together and say that the world is getting better. What about the
20th century being the bloodiest of Centuries, the War on Terror and its ever spiralling cycle of violence, Global Warming etc, etc.
“It feels a bit easy” I blurted in reply “A bit social gospel”……I’ve always had a ‘warning light’ for the world really is getting better myth of progress type statements.
What’s wrong with the social gospel” came back Campolo, obviously assuming (with some reason!) that I was into private faith but not politics.
I had to agree with Tony and kick myself for being so inarticulate. The gospel is inherently social, it’s never abstractly pure in some Greek dualistic sense but it always incarnates in a time, place, economy, politic with all its strengths, weaknessess and compromise. Urban Seed has been based on the profound spiritual connection between the public and the private. However the danger with equating the gospel with any particular form of social progress is that we too easily confuse the two to disatourous effect.
When I used the term “Social Gospel” I was reffering to its use in connection to the brand of liberal Christianity that was triumphant at the turn of last Century. Western technology, air, steam, electricity etc. were going to see the world become Christian. It was inevitable. Unfortunatley this ‘gospel’ ended as much about the progress of western technology, economic and political agendas than anything Jesus of Nazareth seemed to be on about.
Too often our idea of the “social gospel” walks too closely and uncritcialy to the ‘dominant’ culture. Such was the case with the liberal church in Germany did not have the spiritual resources to be able to stand against Nazi ideology and consequent “weeding out” undertaken by Hilter in the ‘final solution’ of the holocaust.
Coming out of the revolutionary struggles of the poor in South America, Liberation Theology of had a tendency to align the ‘gospel’ with militant Marxism.
Whatever agenda we have we like to use evidence in our favour to suggest that the world is working out our way.
Religious right in America, Freedom in Christ = freedom and democracy as judged by US foregin policy.
The voice from the “right” that caught my attention this week was Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt. His agenda was to prove that liberal, lefty media only report negatives and that contrary to this, the War on Iraq is progressing well and that freedom and democracy is prevailing along with many positive (unreported) social outcomes.
He was qouting the speech of an Australian General involved in the War in Iraq. In concluding the General made comments the effect of “freedom isn’t free”, but is secured by ongoing sacrifice and willingness to shed blood for what we believe.
It sounds alot like the gospel doesn’t it. Blood shed for freedom however is also ancient pagan idea…..child sacrifice would pacify the gods and bring peace and prospertiy.
I often get concerned that at ANZAC day we confuse the sacrifice of our children in war to the idol of Western liberal democracy with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross….an instrument of torture which the Romans, the keepers of “peace” and the bearers of “civilisation” in that day and age reserved for terrorists. I believe the freedom that Christ offers on the cross in fundamentally nonviolent and so dosent give us the freedom to inflict violence on others or ourselves….more on this in a moment.
We can be too positive, naively optimistic about how social progress and the gospel connect but we can also be too negative.
Campolo told a story of his college Basketball team where the coach would say…..just dont lose to badly! He quit! Who wants to play in a team that always loses.
He went on to bag the worship, preaching of depressing Christian radicals and the “poverty” advertisments of Christian Aid agencies as being like playing on a team that is always losing….at worse it can produce a ‘works driven’ masochistic inertia that is as negative and evil in its outcomes as anything its against.
Marty Costello’s reported last week about the Hillsong Conference last week and their positivity and how this compares with his experience of working and worshiping at Urban Seed.
I realised early on in the conversation that Campolo would have the last word…..
Read the parable of the weeds….The weeds and seeds grow up together…..there has never been a more evil time as now, absolutely, but every age and generation thinks this….we must not forget that this is also the best of times to be alive and the gospel is that Christ’s fruit and freedom will prevail…..we have cause to party…. more than this even, we MUST celebrate!”
2. The Dangers of Violence
I was astounded that as at the same time I sat and struggled with this passage of scripture from the churches lectionary this week British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in response to the revelations of the presence of militant Islam made the quote. “We will take this evil ideology and tear it up by the roots”
We obviously all feel very passionate and disturbed by this weeks bombings. Thats why I wanted to take time to acknowledge them because this is what a worship space is for…..but whatever we feel Lets hear these words, that capture the sense of outrage and urgency and need to respond decisively to the reality of evil
to alongside the words of Jesus.
In the story the masters first response “The enemy did this……” is instructive.
Dom Helder Camara the radical Brazilian Catholic Archbishop and champion of the poor who popularised the concept of “The Cycle of Violence.” Violence breeds violence…..
The master in the story identifies the agenda of the enemy as to create a reaction that will be counterproductive to the owners ulitmate goal.
Antibiotics kill germs but all the good bacteria as well leaving room for re-infection.
Jesus critique of the Pharisee’s who cast out one demon only to prepare the ground for re-“occupation” by seven more.
I think we must take these words serioulsy in relation to the reality of current events in Iraq, London, and what it means for us to respond both as a nation and as Christians.
3. Seed Sowing as Active Nonviolence
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Nonviolence is spelt without the colon by activists because it means more than simply the absence of violence. Nonviolence can also be understood as an active, postive, dare I say even “militant” response to the forces of evil. It is certainly not passive.
Principles of Indigenous gardening: Dont pull up the weeds, its hard work, you spread bad seeds and turn the soil so they can germinate. Counterproductive, instead plant more good native seeds that have survived in that environment for a long time and let them outgrow the weeds.
Urban Seed’s struggle to extend and maintain hospitality to previously convicted sex offenders at Credo Cafe whilst maintaining boundaries and protection of children.

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