Aloha Friday Message – July 17, 2020 – Plowed under

2029AFC071720 – Plowed under

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Wisdom 12:18-21 18 Still, though you rule absolutely, you exercise careful judgment. You govern us with amazing restraint. If you wanted to, you could do anything you wished. 19 By your actions, you taught your people that those who do what is right must always want what is best for others. Your sons and daughters saw that you give to those who have sinned a chance to change their hearts and minds. In this way you encouraged them. 20 They knew if you gave their enemies the opportunity to free themselves from evil, punishing them with such care, and even letting them go free when they clearly deserved death, 21 how much more care would you exercise in judging your children, to whose fathers you had given such rich promises by means of solemn pledges and covenants?  CEB Common English Bible (CEB)  Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible Used with permission; Copyright 2012 by Common English Bible and/or its suppliers. All rights reserved.

Matthew 13:24-30 24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” New American Standard Bible (NASB) “Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

This coming Sunday will be a continuation of the exploration of the parables in the Gospel of Matthew. We will again look to the parables to help us clarify our Mission as Disciples. One of the most interesting parables in the passage in Matthew 13 is the parable of the wheat and the weeds. You may have learned the title of that story as “The Wheat and the Tares.” This parable is given to us shortly after The Parable of the Sower (see last week’s post 2028AFC071020 – Grow Where I Send Thee) and comes immediately after the Parable of the Mustard Seed (See 1824AFC061518 – DEEP-SEE Diving) I want to share with you some background on this Parable of “The Wheat and the Tares.” Before we get into that too deeply I first have to note down some thoughts about the Key Verse entry for today from the Book of Wisdom. Non-Catholic readers will not find this passage in their Bibles because the Book of Wisdom is not included in their canon of Scripture. Nonetheless, there is indeed some wisdom in the passage quoted, and I chose it to reiterate something we share often here: God loves everyone so much that he gives anyone the opportunity to respond to his call for obedience and repentance. Everything God has told us in Scripture and Nature speaks to the fact that he will give to those who have sinned a chance to change their hearts and minds. You probably recognize the word Metanoia because last year we did a whole series (← Check it out!) on that concept of a 180º turnaround. Metanoia is the built-in reset button God gives us; it is the do-over we all desire whenever we realize we’ve moved away from God – again. It takes effort of will – I call that volition – to do that. The really cool thing is that there is no limit to how many times we can “hit reset.” We know there are many things in our lives that require going back and doing it again – washing the dishes, taking a bath, mowing the lawn, going to church, studying for a test, making up with someone we’ve offended (especially God, yeah?), and planting crops. God is always giving second chances. We just have to use them. In the day-to-day things I’ve just listed, we usually have no problem getting into the task required. Getting “right with God” by using a second chance is something we have a little more trouble with because we have to admit we were wrong, and then all the good things we have done seem to have ben jeopardized. That’s not really the case because God forgets everything he has forgiven, but we get hung up on it anyway. Farming, though, is a bit like that second-chance process with God. We have to do all the right things at the right times to get the right results for the right reasons. Otherwise, what’s the point of planting a field? If we want a harvest, we’ve got to put in the work, just like repenting before God. Now, how does the farmer prepare for the harvest?

Let’s just list a few things that have to be done in the proper order:

  • Get the seed. Usually this comes from a previous year’s harvest somewhere by someone.
  • Prepare the soil. You’ll recall that the sower is the previous parable just went out and threw out LOTS of seeds, but what the parable does not specify is that first the ground was broken – plowed. The dirt is broken up, the clods separated.
    • BUT the plowing doesn’t go on forever. Listen to what Isaiah says in Isaiah 28:23-29 23 Listen, and hear my voice; Pay attention, and hear my speech. 24 Do those who plow for sowing plow continually? Do they continually open and harrow their ground?
  • After the ground is broken, the seeds are planted – sown in their proper places (see the entire passage above for examples)
  • The field is irrigated, watched, tended, weeded, protected, and brought to full fruition
  • Then comes the harvest – some 30-fold, some 60-fold, and some 100-fold.

But something bad happened to that farmer’s field in this parable. An enemy came and sowed a dangerous weed among that farmer’s wheat. His day-laborers spotted it and realized something terrible had befallen their boss. That’s what we need to look at. What they found were TARES.

In Jesus’ day the TARE was a plant that looked very much like wheat when it started growing, but when the time came around for harvest, the tare, also called darnel, a type of rye grass, not only looked different from the wheat, but also was poisonous rather than nutritious. Back in that time, an enemy might sow tare seeds in a neighbor’s wheat field as a kind of economic sabotage. The unlucky neighbor would not know this until the plants started to mature. Darnel parasitizes wheat fields, and deprives the wheat of vital nutrients in the soil – it is a weed, and that is how it is translated in many bible translations. The Greek for this is ζιζάνια (zizania) {dziz-an’-ee-on}. It is a plant that grows in Palestine and Eurasia. It resembles wheat in many ways but is worthless. It cannot be used for food because it is toxic. It is named as Lolium temulentum (also often referred to as darnel, poison darnel, darnel ryegrass, or cockle), and is an annual plant (it must be sown every year). It strongly resembles wheat in the early growing stages but soon can be distinguished by is rougher appearance and darker grain head – often black instead of gold or brown. The fact that the enemy sowed tares would be of keen interest to Jesus’ listeners because they knew the effects of this darnel seed.

Darnel is one of those “weeds” that mimics other grains. It is a form of rye grass or rye grains. It’s closely related to wheat and barley, and grows in much the same way. And like those healthy grains, darnel cannot thrive without human assistance! But darnel is dangerous. Eating the grains produces dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, and the person seems drunk. Their vision is impaired and their speech slurred. Some folks actually used it in breads and even beer to give those foods a little “extra punch.” It is even a mild hallucinogen. In fact, darnel is more susceptible to ergot (a fungus that produces the basis for what came to be known as LSD), so – in large doses – it can produce hallucinations, convulsions, and even death. That darnel has some bad side effects. The enemy wanted the farmer to suffer the economic hardships that would come from either failing to remove the darnel, or having to endanger his crop to weed it out. In Jesus’ parable, the wise farmer told his crew to wait until the seeds fruited, and then carefully remove the darnel and leave the wheat to be harvested and stored away.

The same thing will happen with people who are being raised to be God’s gift of finest wheat. Our enemy comes amongst us in the darkness and sows poisonous seeds – evil people and ideas – to contaminate the harvest. Jesus was making the point that the enemy, the Accuser, was the one who sowed seeds of dissension, anguish, poison, and death into the potentially fruitful fields of our lives. When those things first enter our lives, they can go unnoticed until they begin to differentiate from the good things in our lives. By then, it can be hard to uproot them because so many other things get uprooted with them. We all know it’s usually best to weed the garden, or the wheat field, as soon as you spot the weeds. But there are situations where you have to wait until what’s good is strong enough to tolerate the trauma of separation from what’s bad.

Addicts can’t quit their addiction until they are strong enough to turn away from it. As with the wheat field, where it takes skill and trained workers to gently unravel the weeds from the wheat, so also with our lives. Sometimes it takes an expert counselor, or a pastor, a loved one, or a close friend to help us tell the good stuff from the bad stuff and get the bad stuff out of the way of the good stuff.

Parents are familiar with this process. The number of bad influences that assault our children is growing at an alarming rate, and parents are hard pressed to head off disaster when those influences tip the scales of our child’s judgment by upping the distractions in their lives. Kids pick up habits and ideas that, in later years, can poison their thinking and choke out the good stuff parents have been carefully planting all through childhood.

Even as adults, we sometimes hoard things that are actually not good for us and should be discarded. Then, when we need to weigh the difference between good choices and bad choices, our discernment system is all out of whack. When these things happen to us as children or adults, we have to find ways to discard them out of our lives without destroying everything else. We need to cleave the soil in which our lives are nourished and take the bad stuff out by the roots and leave the good stuff better-rooted. Often those are some really difficult decisions, and we struggle with them – often on our own – hoping that we can figure it out. This is the time –and times – in our lives when we plow under the past, repent, and prepare our hearts for a fresh seeding with the Word of God.

But if you look back at the Parable of the Tares, there is a huge clue about how to do that with optimal success. Take the problem to the Lord of the Harvest! He has the plan for defeating the enemy! Let the wheat and tares grow until the wheat is ready for harvest, ripe enough and strong enough to withstand the weeding process. At the harvest, the wheat will be brown and the heads of the stalks will be bowed over because of the weight of their fruits. The tares will stand up straight and dark, a smaller yield per stalk than the wheat, but deadly even in small amounts. We will be standing with our heads bowed in prayer like the stalks of wheat while the wickedness surrounding us stands out proud and stark, ready to be plucked up and cast into the fire. Even then, God’s mercy may yet cause them to turn. Do what is right and let wrong condemn itself, because those who do what is right must always want what is best for others. We know the field must be plowed under again to prepare it for the next sowing. Let us pray that a fruitful harvest comes before the ground is broken again.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever —

at your service, Belovéd!

 Please pray with us here at Share-a-Prayer.

BONUS SONG SELECTION: PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK TO SEE A FINE OLD HYMN ABOUT THIS PARABLE. USE THE TAB THAT SAYS FULL TEXT TO SEE ALL THE VERSES.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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