Aloha Friday Message – July 21, 2017 – Lord of the Harvest

1729AFC072117 – Lord of the Harvest

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Matthew 13:24-30 24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! This message is an amalgam of some previously-shared thoughts. 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.” Let’s begin with some background on that word, tares.

I am thinking first about homonyms – words that sound alike but have different meaning and/or spellings. Specifically I am thinking of the word TEAR as in tear it up. When I was listening for Sunday’s Healing Word, the word I got was “TEAR.” I was about to write that down when I thought, “That same word could also be pronounced tear, as in tear-duct. However, if you think of the first pronunciation, that might sound the same but could be spelled TARE as in “tare weight.” Ahhh… But a TARE is also a noxious weed mentioned in one of Jesus’ parables. Today’s Key Passage is that parable. Now, I want to briefly look at each of the homonyms in this group (if you think of another one, send it to me?)

Tear: Separate into parts by physical force; rip, rend, cleave. When we tear something, it is usually a forceful situation and usually opposing forces are pulling at something in the middle. We feel torn by opposing emotions. We tear into our work with fervor. We tear along the Interstate like a bat out of Hades. We tear off strips of cloth to make bandages. We tear a screaming child from the arms of an abusive parent.

Tear: My eyes tear when I think of you. She cried silent tears of joy. There’s a tear running down your cheek. Tears wash away our sorrow. Tears are shed for joy, for laughter, for sorrow, for irritation (smoke and pollen for example). Tears are usually voluntary, but some people learn to tear (cry) on cue. Sometimes even kids can do that. We cry when we are overcome with just about any emotion – joy, anger, embarrassment, frustration, pride, pleasure, even physical or mental pain. Tears remind us of the ocean because they are salt-water. Sometimes it seems our life begins and ends in tears.

Tare: The weight of the container used to weigh something. The Tare is usually subtracted from the Gross (total) Weight to get the Net (remaining) Weight. A box of crackers may contain 28.6 ounces Net Weight, but the gross weight of the package is 32 ounces which means the tare weight is 3.4 ounces. A tare is what is deducted or rejected, not used, discarded, not sold as part of the product, it’s just the package the product comes in; tare is often “built in” for weighing devices, or subtracted by setting the balance to zero while a weighing-vessel is on the balance before the item(s) to be weighed are added. The tare is not the item, nor is it the capacity or amount of the item.

W&T-Compare_SmTare: 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 poisonous. It is named as Lolium temulentum (also often referred to as darnel, poison darnel, darnel ryegrass, or cockle), 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.

Many a sermon has been preached about Jesus’ parable, but I don’t want to detract from any of those in my little essay. I thought a bit, though, about how all of these homonyms describe how things in our lives become tears, tears, tares, and tares. Ready? Here we go!

We shed tears sometimes when events tear our life apart. In those trials we may discover that the tare in our judgment, our practices for weighing good and evil, has been misrepresented in the balance of things in much the same was as tares are misrepresentations of the intended crop of wheat. Sometimes we take things into our lives that look like they are good, nurturing, or will be healthy for us only to find that those things grow like weeds and choke the life out of us. Addictions are an example of those kinds of tares. Sometimes, though, the bad things that happen in our lives are not from things we do, but rather are things done to us. When this is done intentionally, it is usually the work of an enemy. When done unintentionally, it is often the work of ignorance or malicious behavior.

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 tare weight 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 weighing system is all out of whack. When these things happen to us as children or adults, we have to find ways to tare (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.

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 black, a smaller yield per stalk than the wheat, but deadly even in small amounts.

So, Beloved, if you are shedding tears because of the tares in your life, empty your life to the tare weight, and tear away the disguises of the enemy so that your life will be fruitful 30-, 60-, and even 100-fold. Go to the Lord of the Harvest and divest yourself of the weeds that are choking out your life. Never be afraid to ask the Lord’s helpers to assist you in finding and carefully uprooting those weeds, but also make sure they are good and faithful servants who are not working for the Enemy. The accuser sows weeds, but he doesn’t do it all by himself. He has many, many helpers. The Lord of the Harvest also has many, many helpers, and He will direct them to spare the good and gather up the bad to be cast away and burned. Everything that we do plants a seed and as we are told in Scripture, we reap what we sow.

The seeds that are planted have to go through two ground-breaking events before their potential for new life can begin. After that there are a lot of changes that happen before we finally see the outcome of that process: The fruit of those labors. Sometimes the seeds that are sown in our interior lives are seeds we ourselves plant. Sometimes there are seeds planted that come from others. Sometimes the fruits of those plantings are good; sometimes they’re not. (Recall last week’s lesson on The Parable of The Sower.)

Sowing the seeds of weeds is something most of us would not do intentionally, or would we? When we knowingly use seed that is known to produce useless or even dangerous fruit, we’re sowing weeds. The Apostle Paul had some stark warnings about being weeds in the Lord’s garden. In Ephesians 5:6-9, he warns us to stay away from people who corrupt those around them through temptations to sin. He says, Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them. For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Now this applies to those outside the Church as well and those inside.

When I think of my own sowing and reaping, I can easily remember the weeds I have cultivated over the years. The time and care I spent on ensuring their survival detracted from the nurturing I should have been giving to other plantings. What really alarms me though, is that I recall having been enthusiastically careless about sowing “the tares among the wheat” not only in my own life, but in the lives of others as well. If that has been the case in your life, and it may well be, I hope you have, or will, forgive me. The Lord has a plan for us, and I trust him way more than I trust me.

Belovéd, let us remember to go to The Lord of the Harvest when we find unproductive things in our lives. Whether it be the poison of sin, the ravages of disease, or the darkness of indifference, Jesus has the answer. There’s a good way to hear that answer shown to us in Isaiah 30:21 21 And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” The Lord will straighten our path and purify our harvest. Blessed be the name of the LORD!

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

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.

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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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