How does your garden grow?

The Texts: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 and Romans 8:12-25

 Gardening gives many people much enjoyment. Many people find enjoyment in watching their garden grow. Gardens thrive with rain. Some plants require lots of care. But if there is one type of plant that thrives without much care, it’s the weeds that we don’t plant. They come up on their own in the garden.

Weeds are a real nuisance! A conscientious gardener may want to pull them out. In some parts of the country Soursobs are the classic winter weed. We think we have got rid of them. But each plant that we pull leaves behind lots of little bulbils that grow underground. And the following year there are many more soursobs thicker than ever.

The garden experts will say, ‘don’t pull them out – be patient, wait till they flower and then spray them. That is the only way to kill all the soursob bulbils.’

Weeds frustrate the gardeners and the farmers alike.

In today’s gospel Jesus shares a story about the weeds that grow up amongst the wheat.

At the end of the story the farmer says to his workers: ‘Let both the wheat and the weeds grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds and burn them and to put the wheat in the barn.’

Later Jesus explained that the field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.”

“Just as the weeds are separated out and burned, so it will be at the end of the world. I, the Son of Man, will send my angels, and they will remove from my Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil, and they will throw them into the furnace and burn them. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the godly will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom.”

The farming strategy that Jesus shares in his story is very different to ours. We want to pull out the weeds as soon as we identify them. But he doesn’t do that. 

His reasoning is that to pull out the weeds will hurt the wheat.

OK—this might not make sense from a gardening or farming perspective. But when we consider Jesus’ parable as an analogy of life it may start to make sense. The lives of all people are filled with sin and evil. We are all part of the problem. Our selfish desires lead us to sin and we do evil.  We see this in the ways we are always busy and never stop. We see this in the ways we mistreat each other and always want more for ourselves.

And so at the harvest time – at the end of the earth, I wonder what will the angels find?

Will there be any wheat or will they only find weeds?

Our second reading has something to say to Christians about their sinful nature: Paul says: “So, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you keep on following it, you will perish.”

If we were to use the language of Jesus’ story we might say: “If you keep on following the desires of your sinful nature, you will be found in the end to be one of the weeds that will be separated out and burned.” I don’t like this prognosis.

So, how can I stop following the urges of my sinful nature?  There must be a way to change direction. There must be a way to change what it is that controls us. There must be a way to no longer follow the sinful natural desires that will lead us to perish.

In our second reading, the Apostle Paul gives us the answer:

In Verse 13 he says: But if through the power of the Holy Spirit you turn from your sinful nature and its evil deeds, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Remember, it is the Holy Spirit who leads us to believe and helps us to live as God’s children. We cannot claim to believe or live as God’s children on our own strength or ability. It is the Holy Spirit that transforms our lives. It is the Holy Spirit that enables you to turn from sin and your evil deeds.

And if we are going to experience the transforming work of the Spirit we need to be exposed to the means through which the Holy Spirit continues to work.

When Luther explained the work of the Holy Spirit in his explanation to the Apostles’ Creed he made it so clear when he said: “The Holy Spirit has called me to Jesus by the good news about him.” In other words: The Holy Spirit is at work through the good news about Jesus! And where do we find the good news about Jesus?  It is in the Bible – in the word of God.

God’s Spirit is at work wherever God’s word is read, taught or preached or enacted. Transformation does not and cannot happen in our lives without God’s Spirit at work through the Good News of Jesus.

Whenever we celebrate a baptism, we often explain this saying:  “The word of God teaches that we are born sinful and unclean, but God washes us clean in the waters of baptism, and we are born again as his children. Through baptism our heavenly Father forgives us our sins and unites us with our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we share in his death and resurrection. And the Holy Spirit renews us and gives us eternal life.”

Every time we gather here and begin our worship in the Name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit, we are remembering whose we are because of our baptism.

We have been born again as children of God. This can be our new starting point that guides us in all we do. 

Our second reading gives more advice to those who have been born again as Children of God:  “So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family—calling him “Father, dear Father. For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.

And how does the Holy Spirit speak deep into our hearts?  It is through the Good news about Jesus that the Spirit speaks deep into our hearts.  The Holy Spirit helps us to believe what the Good news speaks of. And today the Good News speaks of the great inheritance that God’s children will receive.

In the explanation Jesus gives to his story today he says that at the end of time: The godly will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. What an amazing picture of promise! In our second reading Paul says in verse 17: And since we are his children, we will share his treasures—for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too.

But Paul adds one extra thought to this: “But if we are to share Christ’s glory, we must also share Christ’s suffering.”  This final word – ‘suffering’ takes us back to the soursobs and weeds in the garden. A gardener will not successfully and permanently remove the soursobs in their garden until the right time. And after that right time, the other plants will be seen clearly in all their glory – never again to be covered in soursobs.

Likewise, there will come a time when, sin, death and the devil are removed and destroyed forever. At that time those who are led by God’s Spirit will shine in God’s kingdom and share in Christ’s glory. But in the meantime we will share in Christ’s suffering. Until the day of glory, we live in a broken world as saints and as sinners at the same time.

Time and time again, we may follow our natural desires and we may fall into sin and may even become proud of our sin and the wrong we have done. But whenever we place the mirror of God’s word before us, whenever we engage with God’s word, it reveals our sin for what it is – it reveals our sickness.  The Holy Spirit helps us to identify our sin and to confess our sin to God our Father through Christ our Lord. But maybe even more incredible, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes to Jesus and reminds us that he has already dealt with our sin and that Jesus’ Father has claimed you as his children forever!   

Empowered by his Spirit we now have a new starting point to live as his beloved children. And knowing just how much we are loved we can call out to God our father for whatever we need.

Empowered by his Spirit we can honour our heavenly Father by worshipping Jesus as our saviour and redeemer and by seeking after his will as we wait to share in Christ’s eternal Glory.

Remember also how our second reading ends: “But if we are to share Christ’s glory, we must also share Christ’s suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later…..And we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, we groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us.

As you wait for that day, may God’s Spirit continue to work in your life as you daily engage with his word. May you daily turn away from your sinful ways, remembering that you are already his beloved child.

In this way you will be able to deal with the sufferings of life with patience and confidence, knowing that God will one day share his glory with all of his children in his kingdom.

And may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus to life eternal. Amen