Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:24-32
In our house we love to watch the BBC series Doctor Who. We’ve become big fans over the last year as we catch up on 8 seasons of the rebooted series on Netflix, and we are eagerly awaiting season 9 coming up this fall.
For those who are unfamiliar with the show, the Doctor is a time travelling alien from a dead planet who travels about in his spaceship that looks like an old Police Box from 1960s London. Oh, and it’s much bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside. In his travels The Doctor saves planets from certain destruction from invading alien forces. He also has a very special place in his heart for our planet, and those of us who live on it.
The series just celebrated, last year, it’s 10th anniversary since it’s relaunch. In doing so, it had a special episode, which was premiered in movie theaters in select cities. For this special theater screening it had a special introduction before the show began. I’d like to share part of that introduction for you now. (from the 4 to 6 minute marks were shown in church)
That was The Doctor played by Matt Smith. He was the 11th Doctor, going back to the original series, which has just celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. Every few years they introduce a new Doctor as the previous one “regenerates” into a new body. Don’t I wish I had that ability some days when I wake up stiff and sore!
The reason I show this video is because of the joke around the Zygons and the 3D glasses. For those who may have missed it, closing one eye and looking through 3D glasses at someone else wearing 3D glasses will always result in one of the lenses appearing black. So everyone in the audience saw a Zygon sitting next to them.
Zygons are clever, they mimic very well the person they are pretending to be. And they are pretty ruthless too. In their natural form, they aren’t very pretty at all. You certainly don’t want to meet one in a dark alley, or anywhere for that matter.
The thing is, if they really did exist, and they were mimicking someone you know, you would be very hard pressed to know the difference. And, as The Doctor said, you’d be dead very shortly.
So how in the world does this fit in with our service this morning?
This week we are looking at the Genius of Jesus and the “Holding of Heaven.” That is, to see how Jesus showed us how the kingdom of God can be around us, and how we can share it with the world to make some changes.
Jesus shared two parables with us this morning. The first is about a field prepared for planting. As the farmer slept, an enemy slipped into the field and planted weeds seeking to destroy the farmer’s crop and his profit.
The farmer decides to let them grow together, because once they were full grown it would be far easier to distinguish the weeds from the crop. The crop could be harvested, while the weeds would be destroyed.
The second parable is the story of the mustard seed. A tiny little seed that grows to be a large bush. An unlikely scenario in our understanding because small things tend to stay small and big things grow to be big. But this little seed can grow to be a sanctuary for birds where they can build nests and grow a family in safety.
Like with the Zygons, we cannot always know the hearts and lives of the people we pass by each and every day. When we’re in the grocery store, can we easily tell who are Christians and who are not? It’s not like we carry signs around with us. We can’t even be sure that because the person is wearing a cross it means they are a Christian, since the cross has even become more of a piece of jewelry in our society today than something far more meaningful.
In terms of the first parable, how can we know who are the weeds and who are the crops? We can’t! We are all still growing. We still all have the potential to be crops or to be weeds. We won’t know which until the harvest. That is, when God comes to bring us home.
I don’t know if you guys love me or not somedays. Because I work for the church, you buy me a subscription to the United Church Observer. It’s a magazine that is produced monthly within our denomination.
I read it. I don’t know why most months, but I read it. I suppose it’s some sort of stress test, whereby if I can read through much of the magazine without burning it or having some sort of stroke, I guess I’m still healthy.
In a recent issue, they dealt with atheist ministers. Yes, they do exist. There are ministers in our church who do not believe in God.
In this month’s issue came the letters to the editor. I’d like to say I was shocked by how these atheist ministers were being supported, but I can’t.
A few examples of the letters if I might.
“Let us celebrate [our atheist minister] and bring on the theological reflection on the nature of God.”
That from a Reverend in the Maritimes.
“[Atheist ministers] are taking the church into the 21st century… ‘Progressive’ churches are the ones that have full sanctuaries; ‘traditional’ churches are in decline or closing. I nominate [her] for moderator.”
I’ve not seen the stats showing this, but there are huge holes in the argument for who is growing and who is not, not matter which side you are on.
“The issue hinges on whether you wish to follow the evolving and pertinent views of [atheist ministers] or the dying church… of the Flat Earth Society that represents the views of the United Church.”
That one hits home particularly hard, calling the traditional church the “church of the Flat Earth Society.
This is my favourite one though, a letter from a minister in Edmonton.
“To calm down the ruckus around [atheist ministers], I propose a litmus test. Every minister in the United Church of Canada who publicly calls for [an atheist minister] to be “defrocked” would be for that reason alone automatically be put on the Discontinued Service List. Who’s in?”
Well, I guess you can put my name on that list because atheist ministers are a huge problem in our church and should be removed. Period.
Realistically, I can walk into a gathering of United Church clergy and STILL not be sure who is Christian and who is not. This is a tragic reality in our church today.
Who are the weeds, and who are the crops? We don’t know.
But we all begin in the same place. We all begin as seeds with huge potential ahead of us. Some of us will be good crops, others may be weeds, and still some of us aren’t sure who we are until we’ve grown up and start to think about the coming harvest.
It’s the same for those around us too.
Seeds are planted all the time. Some seeds are seeds of faith. Others are seeds of hatred or greed or something else altogether. We’ve all been subjected to these seeds. We’ve all had them in us at one time or another, and some of us still struggle with the variety of seeds we find within ourselves.
It’s the seeds we choose to nurture that will bloom and grow. If we feed into the sinful seeds, then those will be the ones which grow and impact our lives the most.
But if we feed and care for the seeds of faith, then how much differently will we turn out? How different would our lives be if we tended to a different seed planted within us?
Every week we pray the Lord’s prayer in church. There’s a verse in that prayer that speaks to what I am trying to convey here this morning.
“Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven….”
The church is in a tricky place right now. Society has been making all kinds of changes, and they are happening very quickly. No longer is the church at the centre of society, the place where everyone comes to learn and grow together. Church isn’t even a priority any more, people have chosen many other things over coming to worship on a Sunday morning.
And so we, the church, are feeling desperate. We want to remain as a central piece of society. We want to be acknowledged as useful. So we make changes. We’ve changed our style of worship to include different things, some good, some not so good. We’ve changed our beliefs so that we might be more attractive to the world who’s beliefs have also changed.
And as I’ve already alluded to, we’re even starting to question whether God is needed in the church any more? That’s how far we’ve been willing to go in order to feel relevant in society.
Did Jesus tell us it was going to be easy?
In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus tells his disciples,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
What is more important, our faithfulness or our popularity?
I think we know which Jesus would prefer.
Bringing God’s kingdom here to the earth is not an easy task for us mere mortals. But it begins small, like the mustard seed. It begins by choosing which seeds in our lives, and in our communities, we wish to nurture and help grow.
It begins by exploring what it means to truly be a Christian in a world that is increasingly turning its back on traditional Christian values, core Christian values, all for the sake of being more popular and fun.
And if there are days when it feels like the weeds have grown thick around us and we’re choking to breathe, then we trust in the promise of Jesus himself when he says the harvest is coming. How he says there will be a day when the weeds are gathered and thrown into the fiery furnace. And those who are left will be gathered and put into use by the farmer, as we were grown to be used, the good crops.
When Jesus explains the parable of the weeds to his disciples a little later on in Matthew 13, he says the weeds have been planted by the devil, and the good seeds, the crops are planted by God.
When plants mature they produce more seeds. These seeds that are spread in a variety of ways, so that more plants will grow. This is true whether you are a flower or a weed.
So as we seek to grow into mature Christians, the good crops of God’s sowing, preparing for the great harvest, may we produce and spread seeds which will help bring God’s kingdom here to the earth.
May we spread little seeds which will spread and grow in other people. Seeds which will touch the hearts of others, helping to prevent the weeds from completely taking over.
How do we do this in a world who has turned it’s back on God?
One little seed at a time.
An act of kindness. The sharing of a story. A prayer. An outstretched hand to someone in need. Offering love to someone who does not know love.
One little seed at a time. Spreading God’s message of hope, love and peace. The same hope, love and peace we have received from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.