Weed Control

Weed Control

Epiphany 6 (NL1) John B. Valentine
Matthew 13:24-13:43 February 12, 2023


I love this morning’s lesson.

I love it ... in part ... because it is something that I can totally relate to and ... in part ... because it gives me license to tell one of my all-time favorite sermon stories.

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The “relate to” part is ... I suspect ... obvious.

At least ‘obvious’ to those of you who have heard me pontificate from the pulpit for more than a couple of years.

You see ... I am a yard-worker and oftentimes my days-off are filled with up-keeping and upgrading our yard ... and a lot of that time is devoted to dealing with weeds.

• Even though I own two weed-wackers ...

• Even though I’ve put down umpteen yards of weed-cloth ...

• Even though I religiously spread that “Weed-n-Feed” on our lawn a couple of times a year ...

We STILL get weeds all over our property ...

• In the lawn ...
• In the garden ...
• Among the bushes ...
• Down by the creekbed ...
• Everywhere!

If you don’t believe me ... I’d invite you to take a peek at my forearms ... because ... yes ... this past week ... I tried to eliminate some of the most pernicious weeds on our property ...

And had a run-in with the nastiest weed of them all ...


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Nonetheless ... part of the reason I can resonate with this morning’s lesson is that it includes a story that Jesus told about “weed control” ...

About a certain farmer who planted a field of wheat ... or at least who “had a field of wheat planted on his behalf.”

The way that parable goes is that ... after the planting ... some amount of time passes ... and the wheat comes up and the field looks great.

But on closer inspection ... the farmer’s hired hands discover there’s a weed problem ... a BIG weed problem ....

LOTS of noxious weeds ... growing in the field.

So the hired hands approach the farmer:

“Boss, we’ve got a problem.”

“Problem ... what problem?”

“Something’s gone wrong ... boss! Way wrong! We’ve got a crop of weeds growing in and amongst the wheat!”

“How the heck ..... ???” the boss wonders.

“It wasn’t our fault ... Boss! We talked about it with each other and we’re positive that the seed was fine when we planted it.”

“Curious” ... the boss begins to think. “It must have been an enemy ......”

“So ... boss ... what do you want us to do? Do you want us to get in there and start pulling out all the weeds? I mean ... our crew is pretty good at weed control.”

To which the boss ... quite surprisingly ... says “No!” ... as in “No ... you can’t do that. You’ll do more harm than good. Just let them grow side by side ... and we’ll sort them after we’ve brought in the harvest.”

“But ... boss. Don’t you know what a pain that’s going to be?!?! Sorting the weeds from the wheat is going to take all winter!!”

“Well” ... says the boss ... “Then I guess that’s what you’re going to be doing ... because we’re in the ‘growing wheat’ business. And there’s no way I’m willing to sacrifice ANY of my precious wheat .... EVEN if it takes you all winter.”

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But WHY does Jesus tell a story like this?

Because sometimes the weeds in our world are easy to spot ... no???.

• A man makes money selling pornographic pictures of young children.
• A company discards thousands of gallons of industrial waste into a field.
• A suicide bomber straps explosives across her chest and kills a dozen people in a marketplace.

“There’s evil in our world” ... Jesus is saying ... “An enemy is at work” ...

And there is only so much you can do about it.

But ... rest assured ... someday God will set things right.

Indeed, God loves the world far too much to let evil have the last word.

• Kiddie porn will be thrown into the fire.
• Pollution will be stopped in its tracks.
• Suicide bombings will come to an end.

And Creation will be at peace.

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But WHY does Jesus tell a story like this?

Because sometimes the weeds aren’t so easy to spot ... or perhaps so easy to deal with.

Truth be told ... we DON’T ALWAYS KNOW the whole of the story. For instance:

You’re at the grocery store. A parent is yapping at his kids about minding him at the store. It seems a little over the top.

Is it good parenting or bad?

A neighbor has some emotional issues that make it difficult for her to work. She’s been on disability leave ... but now her benefits are being cut in an effort to force people like her to look for work.

Is it a good system or a bad one?

One nation invades another nation in an attempt to remove a horrible dictator ... but winds up with a awful mess on its hands.

Is it a good decision or a bad one?

“When the weeds aren’t so easy to spot” ... Jesus seems to be saying ... “we need patience.”

Otherwise we may do more harm than good.

Maybe if we try to uproot those weeds ... we’ll hurt the wheat in the process.

“Be careful” ... Jesus seems to be saying ... “lest your convictions turn you into experts at weed control who’ve forgotten about the wheat.”

Sometimes the difference between wheat and weeds isn’t always so clear.

• You might think you know the condition of somebody’s heart ... but you don’t.

• You might think you know what God is working on and whom God is working in ... but you don’t.

“Let the wheat and the weeds grow side by side. The harvest will come soon enough.”

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Maybe because sometimes the wheat and the weeds are growing side by side within our own hearts.

• the little white lies and the moments of truth ...
• the snarky remarks and the words of compassion ...
• the lustful, prideful, selfish stuff and the sharing, giving, caring stuff ...

The good and the bad ... the weeds and the wheat ... all growing together.

Maybe what this story of the patient farmer tells us above everything else is that the wheat is precious to God.

God doesn’t want to lose even a grain of it.

Maybe ... like that parable about the one lost coin out of ten ... and the one lost sheep out of a hundred ... maybe this is a story about the one grain of wheat out of a million that matters too much to God for it to be lost to the weeds.

Which ultimately begs the question of what we worth to God .....

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Maybe because sometimes we forget that Jesus calls us “grow grain” rather than “worry about the weeds”.

Which gets me to the other reason that this is one of my favorite Bible stories ... that of my favorite sermon illustration.

You see ... Leith Anderson was the head pastor of a mega-church in a suburb of Minneapolis.

And ... like many other suburbanites in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes ... Pastor Anderson had an expansive lawn.

Anyhow ... one day ... at the diligent urging of his wife ... Pastor Anderson was agreed to try to get his lawn into shape ...

Because ... by his own admission ... his yard had been overrun by weeds and was a source of great embarrassment within the community.

So ... figuring what he needed was someone to help ... he called the good folks at ChemLawn.

To get them to come out and give him an estimate on what it would cost him to get his lawn into shape.

And so the estimator showed up one afternoon ... looked around ... pulled out his calculator ... punched in some numbers ...

And promptly rejected Pastor Anderson as a customer ... because his lawn was so overrun with weeds!!

So ... then ... the next week ... when he jokingly shared his plight with his congregation members ...

One of them volunteered to totally remove his old lawn and seed in a new one.

An offer he was almost ready to accept until a former farmer gave him some advice: “Don’t worry so much about getting rid of the weeds. Just grow the grass ... and the grass will take care of the weeds.”

Believe it or not ...

• Pastor Anderson took the farmer’s advice ... and attacked his yard with really nothing more than grass seed ... fertilizer .... and water.

• He simply devoted himself to “trying to grow more of the good stuff.”

• And slowly ... over time ... within the course of a couple of years ... the Andersons’ lawn looked at least as lush as everyone else’s ... maybe even a bit better.

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I love that story ... at least in part ... because I can relate to it. I guess I’ve been into yard care and the mowing business since I was like ten.

But ... more importantly ... I like that story because it begs a pointed question.

Pastor Anderson ... when faced with the offer from the member of his congregation and the rejection notice from ChemLawn and the advice of that friendly farmer ... he had to make a decision.

He had to decide what exactly would be his primary focus ... GROWING GRASS OR KILLING WEEDS?

Not unlike that farmer in this morning’s lesson ... that story Jesus told about the fellow whose enemies came ‘round and planted weeds amid his wheat.

“What do you want us to do about the weeds, sir?” ... his worker bees asked? “Do you want us to go through and clear out all the weeds as best we can?”

“No” ... the fellow replied ... “we’ll worrying about them come harvest time. For now ... don’t worry so much about killing weeds as you do about growing wheat.”

Both the fellow in the parable and Mister Pastor Anderson decided that they would focus their concentration on the positive ... on growing things ... instead of pouring their time, energy and resources into killing off weeds.

You got it! It’s “focus on growing grass instead of killing weeds!”

Weed identification and weed removal isn’t so much our job as it is God’s.

We’re called to GROW GRASS ... people!

• To feed the hungry ... to visit the sick ... to clothe the naked.
• To offer hospitality to the stranger ... and a cup of cold water to the one who thirsts.
• To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God in thought, word and deed.
• To make real the consolation of Christ to those who are suffering.
• To share with others what we have found to be true about God.
• To go therefore to all the world.

“Weed Control” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine on the Sixth Sunday of Epiphany, February 12, 2023.  The text upon which it was/is based is Matthew 13:24-43.  To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20230212