Wheat or Weeds? Reflections 7-16-20

Texts for Sunday July 19, 2020
The 7th Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 86:11-17
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

I recently saw a video clip of a news commentator who self-righteously condemned the actions of someone else, calling them self-righteous. My mature and self-satisfied comment at that moment was:  I am rubber, you are glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you. 


The gospel for Sunday again features a sower, this one is planting a field of wheat, presumably on prepared soil. The sower who is also the owner calls for a measured response to the discovery that someone has come along and planted weeds in a stand of wheat. Grains like wheat or oats are planted by “broadcasting” the seed, scattering it over a wide area of ground, unlike crops or vegetables which are planted in rows. Even if you could see that a certain plant in the field was a weed (which the story implies you cannot easily do) if you clomped out to get it, you flatten a bunch of wheat plants as you get there. Once you were there, one yank of the weed would pull up several plants of wheat which surrounded it since it had been broadcast instead of placed in rows. So, the owner tells the farmhands that trying to remove the weeds will in fact produce more damage to the field than leaving them there. Wait until harvest then they could be separated. 

Back to self-righteousness... For the last decade (Century? Millennial?), Christians have looked over the field – the owner’s field - and decided who are weeds using a standard that they developed. Contrary to the measured counsel of the Owner, then they have stomped out through the field to remove those “weeds”, carelessly squashing wheat plants on the way and pulling out nearby wheat as collateral damage. The sad part of this process is that most of the time, it is not even a weed that they pull. It is a wheat stalk which the Owner has carefully nurtured and still loves.

Recently, the wheat field is looking like a crop circle - or the remainder of an elephant stampede - with wheat flattened, leaving weeds to flourish. The Owner’s voice is lost in the noise of shouting, hatred and self-righteousness. May we stop and hear the one who plants, brings forth seedlings, nourishes and waters the field.

P.S. I do know that I am being self-righteous as I judge the others above. In fact, I would love to go pull them out of the field. Bounced back and stuck.
And I also know my haughty and sanctimonious assessment of others is a part of a field within me populated with wheat and weeds mingled together. Lord, have mercy.

“Luther rightly insisted that the unwillingness of the sinner to be regarded as a sinner was the final form of sin," comments Reinhold Niebuhr. "The final proof that man no longer knows God is that he does not know his own sin. The sinner who justifies himself does not know God as judge and does not need God as Savior. One might add that the sin of self-righteousness is not only the final sin in the subjective sense but also in the objective sense. It involves us in the greatest guilt. It is responsible for our most serious cruelties, injustices and defamation against our fellowman. The whole history of racial, national, religious and other social struggles is a commentary on the objective wickedness and social miseries which result from self-righteousness.” 

Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man: A Christian Interpretation (2 volumes: New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1941) I:200

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245