Sunday, July 17, 2011

"The farmer is the harvester" ~ Sermon for 17 July 2011

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon – 17 July 2011
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA
“The farmer is the harvester”

“The farmer is the harvester”… the good farmer, planting the good seed, and then the weeds, or tares, or thistles come up…and the workers wonder what is going on…didn’t the farmer plant only good seed?  And then the farmer says to let the weeds, tares, or thistles come up alongside the wheat.  If not, the wheat may get pulled up alongside the weeds…the implication being that the worker would not have the ability, the gift of discernment, to see what was good and what wasn’t.

This passage has particular relevance for me, for I have a pretty good green thumb, but when it comes to trying to figure out what is a weed and what is a flower, or what is a thistle and what is not, I have no real clue.  Beyond that, I have a kind of a radical nature when I see some weeds, because some weeds look to this untrained eye, more beautiful and more interesting and of more “value” than the so-called flowers.  I have very little ablilty when it comes to this department.  However, one plant I have a keen keen eye when it comes to poison ivy.  I can spot poison ivy a mile away.  Even among the huge patches of pakisandra in our yard, I can spy out the invasive and evil poison ivy amidst the “good” plants.  I must say I’m a bit arrogant about my abilities when it comes to poison ivy, and am often amazed that people allow the poison ivy to grow so near their hammocks or pools or flower gardens.

I think many of us look out at folks and feel that we are quite skilled at discerning the “good” from the “not good” the one with “high ability” from the one who has “low ability.” As a long-time teacher and coach, I must say that I fell into this kind of thing all too often.  Especially as a coach, I would see young athletes at 8, 10 or 12 years old and I might make some predictions about their trajectory.  Of course, when a young athlete is amazingly quick or strong, it is only natural to imagine them playing sports at a big-time college, or beyond. 

Think about a young Michael Phelps in the pool, or a young Serena Williams on the tennis court.  Also, if someone is hampered by slowness or lack of strength, many coaches might assume that this person would not even make a varsity team in high school.  And, it goes beyond sports to ability in school, and work, and life.  However, the reality is, that I have been wrong far more often than I’ve been correct.  One of the joys of Facebook is that I have been able to reconnect with former students who could barely sit still in 7th grade who are now pediatric surgeons at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or and awkward and tentative young soccer player who now wins ultramarathons and Ironman triathlons.

You see, I am not the sower. I am not the farmer.  I am, on a good day, one of those workers.  I am one of those workers who asks the farmer – what shall we do with these wheat and weeds.  What shall we do with these “good ones” and the “not good ones.”  And the farmer answers, let them all grow together, and at harvest time, I will separate them – and take in the good wheat into the barn, and to the fire I will send the weeds.  The farmer takes the long view.  God is the farmer who plants the good seeds, and the farmer is the harvester.  We are the workers who have a limited view.  God is the farmer and the harvester. 

God plants only good seeds, but that there are thistles, weeds, and tares which do come in.  We can’t deny that there is brokenness, darkness, and evil.  We live and move and have our being alongside thorns and weeds and thistles, but also among good wheat.  The good and the not good are intermingled.  But God plants, and cares for, the good seeds.

Another implication is that we should pray for patience, for what we might perceive (in the short term) as something that is a weed, may, in God’s time be wheat that offers bread for the journey.  Like the child who might develop far beyond the predictions of her teacher, what we may perceive as thorny and weedy, may not be.  God is the farmer, and also the harvester.

The kingdom of God is like a farmer, who plants good seed, and though the weeds come in, God will not give up on any strand of wheat, and does not want to risk losing any wheat. God will bring in the harvest, God created us, loves us, cares for us, and though we often feel intertwined with weeds, God will sort it out and brings us home.

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