Matthew 14:31-21 Parable of the Loaves and Fish

Imagine for a moment that you’re part of the crowd in the story of the miracle of the loaves and fish. You’ve been listening intently to Jesus’ words all day. You’ve traveled a long distance. It’s been a long day, you’re tired and hungry, and you realize that you didn’t bring anything to eat. You have heard Jesus tell his disciples to find food for the people. To make matters worse, you realize that the only food available to feed the people is five small loaves of bread and two small fish. You see Jesus take the food, bless it and give it to the crowd. After the meal, you see the disciples gather up the broken, leftover pieces—enough to fill twelve baskets.

God the teacher feeds our minds. He teaches us not only through His Word, but also through the priest, the celebrant, the organist and choir, the lesson readers-in fact, He teaches through EVERYONE who does his work in the church family. His teaching materials (teachings, laws, etc.) are never used up. In fact, they are multiplied because those of us who are taught by Him can go out and teach others. By doing so, we do our part to fulfill the Lord’s Great Commission, namely “Go forth into the world and make disciples of all nations”.

God also doesn’t care what we offer to Him, as He can use anything and everything we offer to Him in faith. Most people today give in the form of money, but that wasn’t always so. Some of you might have heard stories about how in past years ministers were paid in the form of livestock, fruit or vegetables. A few years ago I read a story written by a minister in the United States about his experiences in a church in a Third World country. He wrote that on one particular Sunday the congregation arrived at the church and was greeted by three turkeys and a pig that were tied up outside the door. The previous week’s sermon had been about tithing-giving one-tenth of your income to the church. The three turkeys and one pig represented one-tenth of the income of the farmer who gave them, but he gave them in faith because he knew that God’s mission required resources to get it done.

In order for God to feed the crowd spiritually, He needed to feed them physically, for without the resource called physical food, the people could not receive the spiritual food. The same idea applies to the Holy Eucharist, for it is through the physical food of the bread and wine that we receive the spiritual food Christ offers, just like the disciples did at the last Supper.

God accepts us for who we are, and in doing so accepts whatever we offer to Him in faith and thanksgiving. Our offering can be big or small. God doesn’t care how much we offer, because He uses whatever we offer to do His work in our world and in our daily lives.

When God accepts our individual offerings, he blesses them and combines them with the offerings of fellow believers. He uses this combination to bless and multiply what He gives to his people in return. This is like the parable of the mustard seed-God takes something very small like our individual offerings, and makes it grow into something bigger and better-namely, faith in Him. The loaves and fish represent more than just physical food-they also represent the spiritual food and nourishment God offers us.

God is all-seeing, all knowing, and His love knows no limits. He shows his love by offering spiritual nourishment to His people. The spiritual nourishment is so vast that we can’t absorb it all at once. There are always leftovers, just like there were leftovers that were gathered up in baskets by the disciples. Just like we need to eat physical food several times a day to live physically, we need to keep partaking of the spiritual nourishment in order for our faith to live. Our human inability to absorb every single item we are taught forces God to keep reminding us about His love and power, just as our human ability to ignore what He has to teach us forces Him to keep reminding us.

The sharing of the loaves and fishes also represents God sharing His wisdom and love with his children. The leftover food reminds us that God’s love and wisdom overflow our mind and soul, as well as our capacity to absorb what He offers to us. Whatever overflows can still be absorbed by us, as long as we continue to seek His spiritual nourishment.

God doesn’t offer spiritual food without requiring something from us in return. When He feeds us, He also asks us to nourish, teach, rule and lead others. He asks us to feed the multitudes by offering what we can. As we distribute the spiritual food, it increases and fills the soul, much like the physical food of the loaves and fishes increased and fed the crowds who gathered to hear Jesus. There is an interesting parallel here involving the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is a physical representation of the distribution of the spiritual food God offers us. Just like the crowd received the physical food of the loaves and fishes in thanksgiving, we receive the food of bread and wine in thanksgiving for the spiritual food of our Lord’s most precious body and blood when we come to Him in faith.

God always likes to know that we have faith in Him. When we don’t show this faith openly, He asks us to prove that we have faith. That is why Jesus asked the disciples where they could find food for the crowd. He could have simply made manna rain down from heaven like He did for the Israelites after Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt, but He didn’t. He knew that even the disciples couldn’t understand everything He had taught both them and the crowd, but their understanding was caused not by ignorance, but by lack of faith. After all, they had been by His side for a long time and had heard His teachings and seen His miracles, whereas the crowd gathered to see Him that one time, much as we would gather to see a famous musician who might come to perform in a major city only once or twice in his entire career. The small amount of loaves and fish that was offered to Jesus in faith led to a bountiful harvest for the multitudes. Even a small amount of faith in Jesus leads to a bountiful harvest of spiritual food and blessings for His people. Jesus used the request for food to prove the old saying that “big things come in small packages”.

In John 6:27, Jesus tells us to “Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him the father, even God, hath sealed”. What this tells us is that spiritual food is much more important than physical food. Spiritual food is necessary for the survival of our spiritual life, just like physical food is important for the survival of physical life. Spiritual food allows us to understand what God has in store for us, what He wants us to do in our lives, and what is in store for us in our heavenly home. God wants to give us this food because He loves us. All we have to do is come before Him in humility and faith.

Spiritual food is not limited to the Holy Eucharist and God’s teachings. Weekly church services fill the void, especially at times where the Eucharist is not celebrated. We can’t to come to church only a handful of times in our lives and expect that the small amount of spiritual food we receive at those times will sustain us forever. Just like we have to eat physical food several times a day in order to live, we need to receive spiritual food on a regular basis. That is why many of us attend services every week–because we need to hear and receive the spiritual food offered by regular worship. Those who attend worship services only on special occasions such as weddings funerals, baptisms, Christmas or Easter receive a small amount of spiritual nourishment, whereas those who attend worship services regularly and worship in sincere faith receive the honour of having a seat at the Head Table of God’s Holy Feast.

Matthew 14:13-21 Five Plus Two Does Not Equal Seven

Have you ever heard of the saying, “Every dark cloud has a silver lining”? If so, then the story of the loaves and fishes is a good example. Let me explain.

This story happens just after the death of John the Baptist. When Jesus heard that his cousin was beheaded, he did what some of us do when a friend or relative dies-he went off to a quiet place to think, pray and grieve. Unfortunately, to paraphrase the words of that great Scottish poet Robbie Burns, Jesus’ best laid plans were led astray by God.

You see, Jesus wasn’t the only person who was mourning the death of John the Baptist. His followers were also in mourning. They had lost their powerful leader. If he could be killed, then no one was safe-not even Jesus. They were seeking a new leader.

People had heard of Jesus and his teaching and healing, and they wanted what he had to offer. They searched for him and found him just when he wanted to be alone. Was he angry with them? No. On the contrary, he had compassion for them and taught them and healed the sick. By night time, the people were still there, and they did not have anything to eat all day. The disciples wanted Jesus to send them away so they could get food in the nearby villages, but Jesus had other ideas, and just like the crowd interrupted Jesus’ plans, Jesus in turn interrupted the disciples’ plans. He told them to feed the crowd.

Now, the disciples had a problem. Where were they going to get enough food? All they had was five loaves of bread and two fish, and that certainly would not be enough to feed everyone-or so they thought. Jesus took the food, blessed it and had the disciples distribute it to the people. Low and behold, there was MORE than enough food-in fact; there were 12 baskets of leftovers!

The miracle of the loaves and fish is not so much what Jesus does as what happens among the crowd in Jesus’ presence. Jesus’ compassion was contagious in the way the people cared for each other and shared the food. The miracle shows us God’s character, the nature of the coming Kingdom, and the nature of the Kingdom in our hearts when it has transformed us. Our heavenly Father, as the head of the household, establishes the household, sustains and liberates us and guides us to spiritual fulfillment. The foundation of God’s household is the duty he imposes on us to care for each other.

Jesus always seems to be asking more of us than we have to give-as spouses and parents and students and workers and on and on. He calls on us to love, even when love is difficult; to forgive, even when we have been wronged; to stand fast and firm on our principles, even when it mean standing alone. And those things are not easy to do. After all, we are not Jesus, and our powers are not unlimited, as his were.

God’s abundance is right here, right now, wherever right here and whenever right now may be. We think we don’t have enough not because our supplies are too small, but because our “we” is too small. The “we” includes God and the gifts of all those among whom we are sent as Christ’s body. Indeed, far more of the gifts are “out there” than “in here”. That’s how it is that ministry in God’s kingdom grows by becoming viral and multiplying. God meets daily needs daily. He will give us what we need when it is needed. Matthew 6:32-33 reads, “Your heavenly Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Jesus bore witness to our spiritual duty to care for each other. There is enough for everyone when we live in right relation and harmony, but in reality there are millions of people who live in poverty and are starving. What can we do? Well, we can do what Jesus did. Jesus took the small amount of food that was offered and used it to do his work by using it as an example for the disciples and for us. When we work together and use what we have to do God’s work, God will multiply what we offer. For example, those of you who donate food or money to a local food bank might not think that your small contribution will make much of a difference, but all of the donations, when combined, go a long way to feeding the hungry in your community.

We are not to be a band-aid that provides a small amount of healing and protection for the hurting people around us, only to be taken off and once again made separate. The church must be fused with those who have been hurt by society, working as a unit to bring about healing. Part of our strategy is to become a vital part of life in our region, not just a place for people to visit on the weekends but truly to be a healing place for a hurting world.

For example, our ministers take the bread of communion to those in “deserted places”-the sick, dying, imprisoned and elderly. They often feel on the fringe of life, less than appreciated, less than valued. When they receive Communion, the ministers are essentially telling them that they are part of our church community, part of the people who are fed by God.

This story is the only one that appears in all four gospels, although there are some slight differences. For example, John 6:9 mentions the involvement of the small boy. Some scholars propose that the boy’s generosity inspired the crowd to share the food which they had brought-with the result that there was plenty for all. Unfortunately, there are some problems with this proposal. First, the boy is only mentioned in John’s Gospel. If his gesture was the key to understanding this story, surely it would have been included in all four Gospels. Second, this proposal seems to be motivated by discomfort of the supernatural. If we explain away the supernatural in the Bible, we are not left with much. Finally, Matthew’s version clearly emphasizes the great size of the crowd, the need for great quantities of food, and the great miracle that fills the need.

Every one of us has a hunger for something-a hunger we try to fill with food, houses, spouses, careers, cars, sex, drugs or something else. This hunger is why many of us go to church. We have a hunger that only God can satisfy, and it can only be satisfied by regular weekly church attendance. Those who only go to church on special occasions, or who refuse to go because they don’t like the minister or the service book that is used will never have their hunger completely satisfied. God gives us strength, because we get discouraged. God gives us grace because we don’t always feel accepted. God gives us generosity because we tend to be selfish. God gives us love, because we want to be loved.

This story shows a contrast between two different parties-a party hosted by Herod and a party hosted by Jesus. Herod’s party was one of lust, cowardice, rash words, hatred and murder-all because he was so enamored by the dancing of his step-daughter that he made a rash promise that led to the death of John the Baptist. In contrast, Jesus’ party as shown by the miracle of the loaves and fish is one that leads people to freedom and life.

Those who serve the Lord get to enjoy the fruit of the abundant supply that Jesus gives. God’s rewards are for anyone who commits themselves to his kingdom work. Jesus is the example we are to follow. Each and every one of us is invited to follow him, to take and eat of his life, of his love, of his forgiveness. This story is a witness to the power of God. It is a story of grace that is sparked and motivated by the love and compassion of Jesus.

Jesus is going beyond feeding the people. He is transforming this moment on this remote hillside into a holy moment-a sacred celebration. He intends to offer these people something to eat, but he also intends to offer them something more. He plans to involve them in a holy occasion-a moment when they can experience the presence of God in their midst-a moment when they can see Jesus revealed to them as the Son of God.

When we dine together at the Lord’s Table, God’s power is alive. His power produces an abundance of grace, power, love and the fulfillment of our needs-just like there were twelve baskets of leftovers after everyone in the crowd was fed. This can only happen when everyone is included. Only then will the faith community become a beacon of welcoming light to the disadvantaged and the less fortunate.

We remember the bread every time we return to the Communion table and see the blessing given, the bread broken, and the food shared. We again commune in memory of and in the presence of the one who gazed towards the crowds and us with compassion. Sharing a meal creates and maintains a sense of community. When we gather together to celebrate the Eucharist, Christ satisfies our deepest hungers, heals our brokenness, binds us together as if one body and strengthens us to do his work in our world.

God has given each of us different gifts, talents and abilities. We are different parts of the same body of Christ. Architects, engineers, volunteers, teachers, pastors and evangelists all stand together to help slow the spread of famine and accomplish the work of the kingdom. Some are called by God to make great sacrifices, but God wants all of us to respond to his call in our lives. For those who have little, they can pray for those who are willing to serve in a foreign field, and the wealthy can help out of their abundance to support those who have walked away from well-paying jobs to serve the less fortunate in society.

Jesus’ actions with the crowd are actions that even the playing field, actions that make sure everyone is taken care of. They were radical actions at that time, and they are radical actions today. They seem foreign to our culture driven by dollars and profit, and they were so foreign in Jesus’ time that he was put to death over them. But following Jesus is a radical lifestyle, and Jesus asks us if we are willing to do the same. Are we willing to give up some of what we have, that others might not go hungry? Are we willing to give out of what God has given to us?

Bibliography

  1. Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV
  2. Lectionary Homiletics, Volume XXII, No. 4 (2011: Lectionary Homiletics-Preaching Conference, Midlothian, VA, pp. 73-79)
  3. Exegesis for Matthew 14:13-21. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  4. The Rev. Charles Hoffacker, “The Parties People Put On”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  5. The Rev. David E. Lenninger, “Hungry People”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  6. The Rev. Dr. Randy L. Hyde, “Send Them Away”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  7. Bishop Stephen Bouman, ELCA, “HIC”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  8. Bishop Woodie White, UMC, “I Love a Mystery”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  9. Max Lucado, “Count to Eight”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  10. Mike Benson, “Bandage’. Retrieved from www.forthright.net/kneemail
  11. The Voice of the Lord for Nissan 6. Retrieved from www.studylight.org
  12. Marybeth Whalen, “Bring It to Me”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  13. Dr. Jack Graham, “Finding God’s Blessings through Service”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  14. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions: 18th Sunday (A)”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  15. Preaching Peace. Retrieved from www.preachingpeace.org/lectionaries/yeara_proper13/
  16. The Rev. Billy Graham, “Compassion and Stewardship”. Retrieved from www.billygraham.org
  17. The Rev, Beth Quick, “They Need Not Go Away”. Retrieved from www.bethquick.com/sermons8-4-02.htm

Matthew 14:13-21 A Little Goes a Long Way

Good morning boys and girls!

Are you having a good summer? What fun things have you been doing?

Have any of you taken any trips? Are any of you planning on taking any trips this summer?

I’m going to take you on a little trip this morning. I want you to close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you’re part of the crowd in the story. We’ve been listening eagerly to Jesus’ words all day. We’ve traveled a long distance. It’s been a long day, we’re tired and hungry, and we realize that we didn’t bring anything to eat. We have heard Jesus tell his disciples to find food for the people. To make matters worse, the only food available is five small loaves of bread and two small fish. Surely that won’t be nearly enough to feed 5,000 men plus women and children! We see Jesus take the food, bless it and give it to the crowd. After the meal, we see the disciples gather up the broken, leftover pieces—enough to fill twelve baskets.

I’m sure that your parents have been in the same situation. Company arrives unannounced and when meal time comes your parents are rushing around in a panic trying to find enough food for everyone. Now you know what the disciples were thinking when Jesus told them to feed the people. Can you imagine trying to feed all of those people with such a small amount of food? We can, if we remember that with Jesus anything is possible. He can take whatever we give to him, no matter how small it is, and do more than we can possibly imagine. Little becomes much when we place it in God’s hands.

Let’s bow our heads for a moment of prayer. Dear God, thank you for loving us. Help us to remember that when we give what we have to you, even a little bit is more than enough. Just as Jesus used a small amount of food to feed more than 5,000 people, we pray that you will use the children here today to bless everyone they meet each day. We ask this in the Name of Your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, AMEN.

Bibliography

  1. The Real Life Devotional Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008)
  2. Craig Condon, “Parable of the Loaves and Fish.” Retrieved from the author’s personal sermon library.
  3. “A Feast for All.” Retrieved from www.sermons4kids.com
  4. “Feeding the 5000.” Retrieved from www.sermons4kids.com
  5. The Standard Bible Storybook (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing; 2009)

Psalm 105:1-11,45 God is Always with Us, and He Will Provide

Emma laid in bed listening to her parents’ voices on the other side of the wall. “How are we going to pay this bill, Ben?” Mom asked with a worried tone.

Emma huddled deeper under her blankets. She knew her parents didn’t want her to worry, but her stomach hurt.

Everything was different. First, Dad lost his job, then Mom worked longer hours. Emma packed her own school lunches and helped Dad with chores and simple meals. Dad searched for a new job every day, yet Emma had overheard her parents say that they may need to move. “God, can’t you give my Dad back his job?” Emma prayed as she drifted to sleep.

Mom poked her head into Emma’s room the next morning. “Time to get ready for church, sleepyhead.”

“Why?” Emma asked. “If God can do the things we learn about in church, why doesn’t He give Dad back his job?”

“Get ready,” Mom told her. “We’ll talk some more after breakfast.”

After Emma rinsed her cereal bowl, Mom led Emma outside. “Look at the bird feeder.”

“Mom, we haven’t filled it since Dad lost his job,” Emma objected.

“Are the birds worried about the empty feeder?” Mom asked. Emma looked around. She saw sparrows nibbling in the trees. Others roosted in the gutter, and still more perched on her neighbour’s feeder.

“No,” Emma answered.

“For years, God provided for our family though Dad’s job,” Mom explained. “God is still providing, but in different ways.”

“Like how the birds that used to come to our feeder now go to other places?” Emma asked.

“Yes,” said Mom. “The Bible stories we learn in church remind us how God has helped many people through many hard times in many different ways. Church is also where we can connect with Christians and hear them thank God for what He’s done to help them. Their words remind us that God is with us and cares for us even though our situation may be different from theirs.”

“And thanking God at church for providing for us might help someone else,” said Emma as she headed for the car.

Memory is an important part of our lives. Our past forges our future. We celebrate national holidays so we can remember our moments of triumph and be bonded together by them again. We remember birthdays and anniversaries for the same reason. Psalm 105 is filled with the memory of what God has done.

The psalmist seeks to excite the people’s gratitude by recalling God’s goodness to them in former times. He urges us to always give thanks to God regardless of our circumstances. We are to give thanks for everything He has done in the past, especially in delivering His people from bondage into freedom. We are to rejoice because He is holy. Gratitude looks back on the many tings God has done in our lives and recalls how good and kind He has been to us, especially through trials, challenges and disappointment.

We are called to praise God because He has intervened on behalf of His people. He provided for the Israelites in the desert because He remembered the covenant He made with Abraham. By remembering God’s work in history, we can be encouraged to praise God.

Praise is both a spiritual and a practical experience. It forms deep within our souls and comes forth in song or proclamation and shows itself just as real in delivering a meal to a family in need. How can we make known to others what God has done? How can we tell of His wonderful acts? There are several ways. We could visit someone who lives in a nursing home, read Scripture and pray with them. We can take a meal to someone who can’t come to church and encourage them with the ministry of God’s presence. We can shovel snow from a neighbour’s driveway or mow their grass when they are away on vacation. We can drive someone to a medical appointment and stay with them. We can volunteer in a church ministry. We can use our spiritual gifts up front or behind the scenes. The possibilities are endless.

Cultivating a thankful heart is key to overcoming discouragement, grief, pain or discontentment. The greatest benefit of a grateful heart is not the blessing that it brings to us, but the witness it is to others, especially during life’s trials. When God tells us to have a grateful heart, it is for our best. God has a good plan for us, one to prosper us and keep us walking in His promises. Gratitude is part of that plan.

Joy is a by-product of love. If we concentrate on getting joy, it will elude us. If we concentrate on getting love, then joy will seek us out. We will be automatically joyful. If we get into the habit of putting the right thoughts in our minds-thoughts such as joy, faith, victory and praise-then our minds will be transformed and renewed. We will find ourselves positive, hopeful, strong and courageous. We will see God’s hand of blessing and increase, and we will live the abundant lives He has in store for us.

Psalm 105:1-3 summarizes what we should do each day:

  1. Give thanks.
  2. Pray.
  3. Communicate
  4. Sing.
  5. Testify.

How long are we to do this? Psalm 105:8 tells us to do this “for a thousand generations.” In other words, we are to do this until we die or until Christ returns-whichever comes first. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors to all nations and a blessing to all nations.

As finite human beings, we can only see the present and the past. The future is scary. We need to hold on to God’s hand and trust Him to calm our fears. At those times God shakes us by the shoulders to get our attention. God has a plan for us, and we want to be in the centre of it.

If we are unsure about God’s commitment to us, all we have to do is look at Jesus. He spent His life winning our salvation and His resurrection proves His work was successfully completed. Jesus often stopped what he was doing to answer the prayers of a cripple, a blind man, a leper, or a possessed person. He responded favorably to the needs of those who were abandoned by the world.

When life changes, do you think about how God has cared for you in the past? Do you spend time with people God has helped? Have you thanked Him for how He is caring for you now? Remember that God can care for you and your family in many different ways. No matter what your situation is, God is always with you. His love never fails.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 775-776)
  2. Heidi J. Schmidt, “A Different Way.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org.
  3. Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
  4. Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 14: Psalms 73-150 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1989; pp. 242-246)
  5. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 805-807)
  6. Charles R. Swindoll, “Hold on To God’s Hand.” Retrieved from www.insightforliving.ca
  7. “Day 13: Gratitude.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com
  8. Kenneth L. Samuel, “Somebody Say Something.” Retrieved from dailydevotional@ucc.org
  9. Selwyn Hughes, “Always a Reason to Rejoice.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  10. “Psalm 105:1-3.” Retrieve from www.100words.ca
  11. Joni Eareckson Tada, “Gratitude Strengthens Your Faith.” Retrieved from communications@joniandfriends.org
  12. Pastor Ken Klaus, “Opinions May Vary.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  13. Kim Potter, “A Heart of Gratitude.” Retrieved from bre@anewthingministries.com
  14. Joel Osteen, “Meditate on Him.” Retrieved from devotional|@e.joelosteen.com
  15. Ron Moore, “Practical Praise.” Retrieved from http://www.ronmoore.org

Matthew 13:31-33,44-52 Things Aren’t Always What They Seem to Be

Have you ever tried to describe a difficult or abstract concept to someone, especially when you know that the person you are speaking to doesn’t know anything about what you are talking about? If you have, you know what Jesus is trying to do in these five parables from Matthew’s Gospel reading. Jesus is trying to describe the abstract concept of God’s Kingdom in terms that his audience could understand.

What we have just heard is a series of pictures that show what the Kingdom of God is like. The Kingdom is not easy to understand or explain, so Jesus has to use several different analogies to get his point across to different audiences. All of these parables are about transformation-specifically, how the Kingdom of God transforms believers.

The first parable Jesus uses is the parable of the mustard seed. On a personal note, this parable has a special place in my heart because I preached my very first sermon on that parable. The growth of the mustard seed is a good description of how my preaching ministry and skills have grown since 2006.

The radical concept in this parable is the idea that God’s world is different from many aspects of the world we live in. It is an inclusive, merciful and egalitarian community based on practical, merciful, loving service to others. For example, the ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has served God and man by bringing the Good News to millions of people around the world, and that ministry started in 1934 when God planted the seed of the Holy Spirit in heart of Billy Graham.

The parable shows that big things come in small packages. The Kingdom comes to us in small ways such as through the ordinary people we meet on our Christian walk of faith. Whenever we serve the poor, the elderly or the sick, we are serving God and His Kingdom. A good example is the work of Franklin Graham and the Christian relief organization he is the president of-namely, Samaritan’s Purse. It has spread the Good News of the hope of the Kingdom through its relief work in areas that have been affected by war, sickness or disaster.

Jesus intended to use this parable to encourage the early disciples as they faced overwhelming odds, and this parable continues to encourage disciples today. Most of the church’s work gets done in ordinary circumstances. Our mission seems overwhelming, and our resources seem too few, but Jesus promises that God’s power makes everything possible.  

The Kingdom also comes in hidden and unexpected ways, as described in the parable of the yeast. Today, yeast comes in neat little packages, but Jesus was talking about leaven, which was a rotten, moldy lump of bread. The woman in the parable hid the leaven in good flour. This sounded unclean to the people of Jesus’ day because of the prevailing attitudes regarding cleanliness and women, but the point of this parable is that God’s Kingdom takes hold in hidden and unexpected ways.

The parables of the treasure and the pearl show us what our allegiances should be and where they should be. Was the treasure seeker behaving in an unethical manner? Maybe yes, maybe no, but that isn’t the point. The point is that both the treasure and the pearl can’t be kept secret. God’s Kingdom also can’t be kept secret, and it must not be kept secret. We are to spread the Good News about the Kingdom-just like the mustard seed grows and spreads out. When we do this, we have to pay a cost. We have to give up something of worldly value in order to gain something of even more value.

There is an even greater cost that we must be prepared to pay. Following Jesus can lead to rejection by society and/or our family, as many Christians in the Third World know all too well. There might be jail time, beatings or worse. There’s no way to follow Jesus without a cross, but guess what? Some people, just at Jesus’ warning, drop everything they are doing, desert their parents, let their work go down the drain and follow Him. That’s what the Kingdom of God does to those who find it, says Jesus.

The Kingdom starts out small and grows into the Good News, a treasure worth giving up everything else to get. Why is that? It is because our old way relies on a false God who likes to punish people, a false God who justifies the ways in which we punish each other. In Jesus we meet a God of forgiveness and grace and love. We meet him in our daily lives as he hosts us in the meal of forgiveness and grace, the meal of peace for this world.

The parable of the net of fish means that God’s kingdom is available to everyone. It catches good and evil, and our job as Christians is to pull that net through the water of our communities and grab whatever we can. This is God’s way. Some undesirables will grow into genuine Kingdom people, and some who seemed promising in the beginning will betray God in the end. We are not responsible for keeping out riff-raff. The evil is tossed back by tossing it into the fires of hell, and God’s Kingdom is accomplished in the end.

Jesus is encouraging us to live the kingdom in every aspect of our lives because the kingdom is here and now on earth. It also promises an eternal reward. Between the minute beginning when the seed is planted in us and the grand culmination, there is continuity. God’s Kingdom is pervasive and priceless. Within God’s Kingdom, we get more than we bargain for. The seed and the yeast represent God’s pervasiveness in our lives. It is worth selling all that we have just to enjoy it. We have to make room for the Kingdom in our lives. We must allow it to take over our lives in a big way. When we allow God to be significant in our lives, we create a path for him to be significant in the lives of other people.

The Kingdom involves four things:

  1. God’s kingship, rule or recognized sovereignty
  2. The rule of heaven is spiritual in nature
  3. It is visible today in the Lord’s church.
  4. It is in both the present and the future.

The message of this portion of Mathew’s Gospel is that God’s Kingdom has come near. The kingdom is present when God’s sovereignty, actions and presence are felt. It is where and when God’s will is being done and God’s rule accepted and acted upon.

We must look at our lives. Do we realize what we have found in God’s reign? Has it deeply affected our lives, given us a sense of priorities, filled us with gratitude for having been “netted” for God? We must be patient, and we must exercise discernment. God does not see things as we see them. What is important to us is insignificant to God, and what is unimportant to us is important to God. Things aren’t always what they seem to be.

We do not live according to the prevalent standards around us. We choose honesty, even when it means not making extra profits on the job. We treat all people in a loving way even if others don’t think these people are worth it. We are faithful in marriage and friendship, even though the world treats promises casually. We help people who need us, even if we don’t owe them anything. We have hope as we look into the future, even though there is a lot that could make us despair. We forgive those who offend us, even though our world keeps a long memory of wrongs.

We are like the Pharisees, but only to the extent that we are responsible for studying the scriptures and teaching them to others. We are to be trained for life in God’s Kingdom through worship services, Bible Study and Christian fellowship. We need to engage in spiritual disciplines such as praying and reading the Bible.

When we feel alienated, separated and estranged, maybe by others or maybe by our own selves, when it feels like everyone and everything is against us, it’s easy to forget that God is unequivocally for us. Sometimes we get dirt in our eyes and the deep realities of divine love are hidden from us. When that happens, we must remember that the subtleties of God’s kingdom require a discerning heart in order to find them.

Finding the Kingdom of God within and between us, spread out before us, requires dying-dying to that God who hides in heaven or waits in the wings until we have pulled all the weeds. Dying to such a faraway God of righteousness means coming alive to a God of compassion as well as goodness. If Jesus is right, and we know that he is right, God is waiting in the weeds of our lives to bind up our wounds and mend the disease that separates us from ourselves and one another and from all that is holy.

Bibliography

  1. Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman, “Lectionary for July 24, 2011; Sixth Sunday after Pentecost”. Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching_print.aspx?commentary_id=983
  2. Proper 12A. Retrieved from www.processandfaith.org/print/resources/lectionary-commentary/yeara/2011-07-24/proper-12a.html
  3. Dale Allison, “Lectionary for July 27, 2008”. Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching_print.aspx?commentary_id=107
  4. Paul J. Nuechterlein, “The Irresistible Seed of Peace”. Retrieved from http://girardianlectionary.net/year_a/proper12a_2002_ser.htm
  5. Craig Condon, “Parable of the Mustard Seed”. Preached at trinity Anglican Church, Liverpool, NS, June 2006
  6. The Rev. Beth Quick, “Lectionary Notes-11th Sunday after Pentecost”. Retrieved from www.bethquick.com/pentecost11anotes.htm
  7. The Rev. Beth Quick, “Keys to the Kingdom”. Retrieved from www.bethquick.com/sermon7-28-02.htm
  8. The Rev. Beth Quick, “Kingdom Come”. Retrieved from www.bethquick.com/sermon7-24-05.htm
  9. Notes from Peter Anthony’s Bible Study on the Gospel of Matthew
  10. Bishop William H. Willimon, UMC, “Go for the Gold”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  11. The Rev. Dr. William L. Dols, TEC, “Looking for the Kingdom of God Too High Up and Too Far Away”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  12. Greg Laurie “Caught Alive”. Retrieved from http://www.crosswalkmail.com
  13. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions: 17th Sunday (A)”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange,org.
  14. The Rev. Charles Hoffacker, “The Work of the Baker Woman”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  15. The Rev. John Bedingfield, “The Great Prize”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  16. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament
  17. Jamieson-Fawcett-Brown Commentary
  18. Matthew Henry Concise Commentary
  19. People’s New Testament
  20. ESV Study Bible
  21. Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV
  22. Wycliffe Bible Commentary
  23. Exegesis fort Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  24. Daniel Clendenin, PhD, “Discerning the Depths of Love of God: Nothing Can Separate Us”. Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus,net

Romans 8:26-39 Why God Allows Bad Things to Happen

Why God Allows Bad Things to Happen

(Text: Romans 8:26-39)

Have you ever wondered why God allows bad things to happen to his people? Well, God uses all of our circumstances to work for our good when we have faith. In other words, when we are Christ-like, God can take the negative circumstances of our lives and use them for our good, especially if using them for good fulfills his will for our lives. It’s like an oyster taking a grain of sand-something that irritates the oyster-and turning it into something of great value-a pearl.

Take Joseph, for example. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and ended up in jail in Egypt, but God used all of these experiences to prepare Joseph for his ultimate role of saving his family and the people of Egypt from famine. While still in prison, Joseph correctly interpreted dreams for two of Pharaoh’s servants-his cupbearer and chief baker. As the dreams had predicted, the baker was executed, and the cupbearer was restored to service.

Two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams that disturbed him, but no one could tell him what they meant. The cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about him. Pharaoh sent for Joseph, who told him that God was warning that a famine was coming and that preparations had to be made. Joseph was released from prison and put in charge of the preparations.

When the famine came, it was widespread and affected Joseph’s family. The same brothers who sold Joseph into slavery came to Egypt to find food. Joseph still loved them and forgave them. He arranged for all of the family to move to Egypt. Pharaoh promised them the best of the land.

Joseph trusted God through many years of hardship, and God worked all of those painful circumstances for the good of Joseph, his family and God’s chosen people in the generations to come. His chosen people grew from a few to millions.

Satan is often called “the accuser,” but any charges Satan makes against us will never stand up because the Jesus who sanctifies us is also the Jesus who judges us. We are protected by Christ’s death and resurrection.  Anyone who would take away our salvation would have to be stronger than God, and since no one is stronger than God, we can never lose our salvation. God speaks of love as Christ’s love for his people. Christ’s love protects us from the trials of life. No one and nothing can separate us from God.

A believer can never be condemned by God because of Christ’s death and resurrection, Christ’s exalted position and his continual intercession for us. We are part of the body of Christ, and he loves us so much that nothing can separate us from him. God’s love is not human or normal. God loves us because of who we are-his children.

Paul affirms the incredible power of the love of Christ in Romans 8:26-39. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we can’t find the words to pray. When believers are hurting so much that they can’t mention their desires, the Holy Spirit intercedes with groans that words can’t express. Paul urges us to recognize the depths of our despair, but we must remember that we are not alone. God is always with us, even when we feel alienated, separated and alone.

When we are saved, God doesn’t stop with justification. He gave up his son, so he will freely give us everything we need for sanctification and glorification. When we are redeemed, we receive a new heart and we begin the lifelong process of transformation. Then we have to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures so that God can use his word to transform our minds.

God will take our negative experiences and use then to shape us and use us for his purposes. That doesn’t mean that God is pleased with all of our negative circumstances. He gets mad when people drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He is sad when we are persecuted for our faith. God loves us enough to be with us and walk with us when we face the storms of life.

God sees our sin and hates it. We need to repent for our own sake. We need to repent because we need to acknowledge that we do not want to keep on sinning. We have a duty to pray for ourselves and anyone who has been affected by our sin.

Sometimes we can only learn great lessons of faith when we face difficulties. God’s plans are not always our plans, because his plans carry a greater purpose. Sometimes he has to let bad things happen to us so that our lives and plans are realigned with his plans for our lives. God chips away at our lives like a sculptor chips away at a block of stone. In both cases, excess waste material is removed so we can become more like Christ.

We do not always know why God allows bad things to happen to us. It is enough for us to love him and know that he is there for us. God’s values and our values are not always the same. God speaks so that we may be made more like Jesus. When we trust in Christ, we are his forever. Because he paid the penalty for our sin on the cross, we are eternally secure. Nothing can take that away from us, and nothing can take us away from him. We gain the healing Spirit of God.

We are created in the image of God. The choices we make in life will either make us more Christ-like or more like the world. The key is how we choose to respond to our circumstances. We have to look at God’s promise that if he is there for us, nothing can be against us. Christ reversed our condemnation and enabled our salvation, and nothing and no one can undo his work. If Christ is our advocate, no one can win a judgment against us.

When we face times of trial, we can turn to God’s Word and ask him for help. God knows our needs. He won’t let anything happen to us without supplying the grace we need to turn the stumbling block into a stepping stone of faith. When God puts hard times together like a baker puts the ingredients for a cake together, they can work out for our good, including our failures and our hopelessness. God is at work in our lives. He undoes Satan’s messes and leads us where he wants us to go.

When our faith in Jesus operates in our lives, we are more than capable of handling whatever approaches us. He will give us the victory because of what he did for us on the cross. We can live happy, contented, joy-filled lives when we live in his goodness and with him in proper perspective.

When Christ returns, he will use the world’s destructive tools such as disaster, disease, death and decay as tools to accomplish his good will. As believers we will also be made into something good because we will be glorified. We can face life’s trials with the knowledge that God can use our trials for good and make us into something better than we can be on our own, and that is a life that is as Christ-like as possible. We can then be an example for others who are facing hardships. They can look at us and see that if faith can help us remain strong in the face of adversity, faith in God will help them as well. Our presence can sprinkle God’s healing love onto others wherever we go.

We must remember that when bad things happen, God is in control. He loves us and wants us to be saved. He allows events for his good purpose. People who love God and are called according to his purpose are assured that God will transform a bad situation to bring a good result. Our spiritual struggle will help us to move toward the greater good of salvation. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, our present experience of suffering and what we can expect of the future are changed. There will come a time when even the worst suffering we endure now will pale in comparison to the glory that will be revealed to us in heaven.

Bibliography

  1. Anne Graham Lotz, “According to God’s Purpose.” Retrieved from www.angelministries.org
  2. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
  3. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2006)
  4. Lucado, Max: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2010)
  5. Dr. Neil Anderson, “Help from the Holy Spirit.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  6. Jim Burns, “God Knows What He is Doing!” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  7. Dr. Charles Stanley, “The Pathway of Spiritual Growth.” Retrieved from www.intouch.org
  8. Dr. Ray Pritchard, “Can We Still Believe in Romans 8:28?” Retrieve from www.keepbelieveing.org
  9. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NKJV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2008)
  10. Briscoe, D.S.  & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 29: Romans (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
  11. Ron Moore, “I Am His Forever.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  12. Rick Warren, “The Wild Card: Your Choices.” Retrieved from www.purposedriven.com
  13. Mary Southerland, “Can We Really Trust God?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  14. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2010)
  15. Dr. Charles Stanley, “Answers in Times of Great Disaster.” Retrieved from www.intouch.org
  16. Exegesis for Romans 8:26-39. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  17. Jesse Gutsgell, “Bible Study, 7 Pentecost, Proper 12 (A).” Retrieved from http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
  18. Daniel Clendenin, PhD, “Inseparable Love.” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net
  19. Paul S. Berge, “Commentary on Romans 8:26-29.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  20. Mary Hinkle Shore, “Commentary on Romans 8:26-39.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org

Romans 8:12-25 Adoption into God’s Family

Mr. Dutten, a lawyer, opened a folder and cleared his throat. “The last will and testament of Andrew Philip Blackburn,” he read. “I, Andrew Philip Blackburn, being of sound mind . . .”

What a strange thing for Grandpa to say, Andrea thought. She glanced around the lawyer’s office. She missed her grandfather so much! Everyone looked very solemn, and even the children were quiet.

“To each of my grandchildren, I leave $5,000 to be used toward their education,” read the lawyer, and Andrea’s eyes widened. Wow! All that for me? She could hardly believe it. Mr. Dutten was still reading. “To my grandson Wyatt, I leave . . .”

And so it went. Grandpa had remembered everyone–and all the children had received something special to help them remember their grandfather.

“Can we go to the farm, Dad?” Andrea asked as they got into the car after saying goodbye to the other family members. “I want to see Princess!” Grandpa had left his horse to her.

Dad nodded. “We’ll do that,” he agreed. “I want to pick up Grandpa’s Bible. I’m glad he left that for me.” So they headed for the farm, where Andrea petted her horse while Dad went to get the Bible he had inherited.

Back home, Andrea asked to see the Bible. She leafed carefully through the pages of the old book. “The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” she read aloud. “That’s something like what Mr. Dutten said this morning,” she told her mother. “I think he called Grandpa’s will a ‘testament,’ didn’t he?”

Mom nodded. “That’s right. It’s an important document telling what your grandfather left to each of his family members–what they inherited. The New Testament is an important document, too. From it, we learn that those who trust Jesus as Savior become members of God’s family. They also have a valuable inheritance–everlasting life and heaven–waiting for them.”

“And everyone can have it, right?” asked Andrea.

“Right,” said Mom. “God offers it to all. It’s too bad so many refuse to accept what Jesus has done for them and miss out on the inheritance.”

Imagine for a moment that you discovered that you had a long-lost relative who made you the heir to their estate. They left you riches beyond count, your financial worries are over, and you do not have to worry about the future. If that scenario happened, how would you feel? What would you do? Would you do anything differently? What would be different about your daily activities, practice, habits, and outlook? How would knowing that your future is absolutely secure change your present? This is what the Apostle Paul is describing in Romans 8:12-25

The Greek word for adoption means to be legally installed or placed as a son or daughter. Christians have been taken from the family of Adam and placed into the family of God. Well-known preacher Donald Grey Barnhouse explains the difference between an heir and a joint heir: “If a man dies, leaving a large farm to four heirs…each heir receives a percent of the whole. But if a man leaves a farm to four …joint-heirs, then each one owns the entire farm. Each one can say, ‘this house is mine; those barns are mine; those fields are mine’…Thus when God tells us that we are heirs of God and joint-heirs of Jesus Christ, we are being informed that everything that God the Father has given to the Lord Jesus Christ has been given to us also.” God doesn’t adopt us because of what we have. He doesn’t give us His name because of our wit, our wallet or our good attitude. Adoption is something we receive, not something we earn.

As children of God we enjoy His life and resources. If we live in defiance of or indifference to the Holy Spirit, we are spiritual imposters. If we follow the Spirit’s prompting, we will be led, liberated, loved and taught. Only then will we reach our full potential.

Believers are to share the gospel with the world and to live a righteous life. Believers are responsible to live according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. No one can destroy the flesh in this life, but they can destroy the deeds of the flesh. The indwelling Spirit gives people the ability to kill the corrupt deeds that once defined them, enabling them to taste life imperishable.

Every time people pray and call God “Father,” the Holy Spirit does the same thing-dual evidence of people’s Sonship. Sonship does not rest alone on one’s changing spirit for affirmation. The affirmation of Sonship rests on the unchanging testimony of the Holy Spirit

The rewards of Sonship are being children and heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. An heir has not yet received his inheritance but anticipates it in the future. The biblical idea of heir implies possession in part here and now, with the promise of complete possession and enjoyment in the future.

The word translated as “futility” means the inability of something to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. It can also mean emptiness or absurdity. In contrast, to hope for something is to expect that we will get it. Hope is like faith because we can’t see hope, so we must believe in what we can’t see.

Christians groan negatively because of sin’s presence in the world, its power in their bodies, and the practice of sin around them. They positively groan for the gift of the Holy Spirit to guarantee their glory and because they are looking forward to their adoption being final and the redemption of their bodies.

Everything in our spiritual lives is important. We must not take it casually. This is dangerous for those of us who are leading comfortable lives with few (if any) challenges. They see little or no need for defining their spiritual lives. They have ceased to be ambitious for the things of the Spirit.

As believers we have two clear choices. Either we aspire toward the things of the flesh or we aspire to the things of the Spirit. Unless we can understand and identify both of them, there is the possibility that the flesh will take over. That is because the secular world that we live in is dominated by selfish interest. Believers who mind the flesh exhibit nothing but dullness and deadness.

The Bible never minimizes our difficulties or sufferings. Instead, it magnifies the rewards that accompany our faith. We can learn from our suffering. We don’t need to be angry or bitter. It is an opportunity to sense Christ’s love and compassion. He is like a parent who misses a child. He wants to communicate with us. He will always be with us. He will welcome us with open arms if we come to Him.

A young pilot had just passed the point of no return when the weather changed for the worse. Visibility dropped to a matter of feet as fog descended to the earth. Putting total trust in the cockpit instruments was a new experience for him, for the ink was still wet on the certificate verifying that he was qualified for instrument flying.

The landing worried him the most. His destination was a crowded metropolitan airport he wasn’t familiar with. In a few minutes he would be in radio contact with the tower. Until then, he was alone with his thoughts. His instructor had practically forced him to memorize the rule book. He didn’t care for it at the time, but now he was thankful.

Finally, he heard the voice of the air traffic controller. “I’m going to put you on a holding pattern,” the controller radioed. Great! thought the pilot. He knew that his safe landing was in the hands of this person. He had to draw on his previous instructions and training and trust the voice of an air traffic controller he couldn’t see. Aware that this was no time for pride, he informed the controller, “This is not a seasoned pro up here. I would appreciate any help you could give me.

“You’ve got it!” he heard back.

For the next 45 minutes the controller gently guided the pilot through the blinding fog. As course and altitude corrections came periodically, the young pilot realized the controller was guiding him around obstacles and away from potential collisions. With the words of the rule book firmly placed in his mind, and with the gentle voice of the controller, he landed safely at last.

The Holy Spirit guides us through the maze of life much like that air traffic controller. The controller assumed the young pilot understood the instructions of the flight manual. His guidance was based on that. Such is the case with the Holy Spirit. He can guide us if we have a knowledge of God’s Word and His will established in our minds.

The Holy Spirit takes hold together with us against the weaknesses in our lives. But we must be against that area of weakness first, otherwise the Holy Spirit has nothing to take hold of. He can’t do it for us. When someone says they don’t have the strength to overcome a weakness, they have said one of two things:

  1. “I don’t know God well enough to know if He would help me,” OR
  2. “I am not yet willing to turn my back on that area of compromise and take hold of God’s strength.”

God will take hold with us, but we must initiate it.

Romans 8:14 says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The word “led” comes from the Greek word ago, which described “the act of leading about an animal, such as a cow or a goat, at the end of a rope.” The owner would wrap a rope around the animal’s neck and then tug and pull until the animal started to follow him. When the animal decided to cooperate and follow that gentle tug, it could then be gently led to where its owner wanted it to go.

As Christians, God urges us to follow the tugging and pulling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts like a parent has to gently lead a small child. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman and does not force us to obey Him. He prompts us, tugs at our hearts and pulls on our spirit to get our attention. Sometimes His tugs will be so gentle that we may miss them. If we develop our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, He will gently lead us exactly where He wants us to go with our lives.

The hope that keeps us going is not simply a belief about the future. It is already something of a pleasant reality. The Spirit is a component of a future hope which has already been given. What difference does it make that along with this hope we are unconditionally loved? What difference does it make that that no matter what we do, or what is done to us, and no matter where we go, God always loves us and cares for us.

So what does it mean for us to live knowing that we are children of God, adopted and chosen and named co-heirs with Christ? What difference does it make now? What difference does it make to know that we are unconditionally loved or that we have immeasurable value in God’s eyes? No matter what we do, or no matter what is done to us or no matter where we go, God always loves us and cares about us.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1555-1556)
  2. “Grandfather’s Will.” Retrieved from keys@lists.cbhministries.org
  3. Briscoe, D.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 29: Romans (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1989; pp.155-170)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Lile Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
  6. Dr. Neil Anderson, “The Holy Spirit’s Guidance.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  1. Rick Renner, “Is the Holy Spirit ‘Tugging’ at Your Heart Today?” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  2. Rev. David Lose, “Three-in-One Plus One” Retrieved from www.davidlose.net/2015/05/trinity-b-three-in-one-plus-one/
  3. William Loader, “First Thought on Year B Epistle Passages from the Lectionary.”  Retrieved from http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/BEpTrinity.htm
  4. Rev. David Lose, “Three-in-One Plus One.” Retrieved from www.davidlose.net/2015/05/trinity-b-three-in-one-plus-one/

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Separating Good From Evil

Those of you who have tended lawns and gardens know how important it is to keep weeds under control. You have to pull them out or use chemicals. It’s a lot of hard work, especially if you have to figure out what is a weed and what is a good flower or blade of grass. After all, sometimes the difference is not obvious because some weeds look like good flowers or grass and vice versa. At times like this, don’t you just want to say, “The heck with it!” and let someone else do the dirty work?

The parable of the wheat and the weeds talks about a similar situation. In Jesus’ day, it was common for a mischief-maker to sow darnel over the original crop. Darnel looks almost identical to wheat until harvest time, and it is mildly toxic. The servants wanted to uproot the darnel immediately, but the landowner insisted that it grow with the wheat until harvest time. Otherwise the wheat would be destroyed along with the darnel because the roots of both plants would be interwoven. At harvest time, the darnel would be separated from the wheat and burned as fuel.

This story is a metaphor for the harvest of the good and the bad that is coming. The bad will be burned like the darnel, and the good will be gathered into the barn or, in the case of Christians, taken to heaven. Jesus taught that on that day God will judge or reward the people. The lawless will suffer in hell, while the righteous will rejoice in heaven. The righteous are those who come to Jesus in faith to be cleansed from their sins. Jesus will clothe them in his righteousness.

The parable of the wheat and the weeds answers two questions: How can good and evil coexist in the world and what can we do about it? There are two planters, two plants, two plans and two prospects. The meaning of the parable is that as Jesus introduces the kingdom of heaven into the world, Satan and his followers will do everything they can to resist the kingdom. In the end, the kingdom will triumph. In this story, the field represents the world, not just the church.

Sometimes the enemy-Satan-makes our job as sowers of the seed called the Good News harder. We are to spread the news of Christ’s love, but sometimes we are hindered by Satan and the world. Sometimes these evil plans are disguised as good plans or good people. It’s not always easy to distinguish the good and the bad. Sometimes a person we think is good turns out to be bad and vice versa. We must not be quick to judge others. Patience must not be confused with condoning evil. Evil, especially evil that is disguised as something good, will become recognizable at harvest time.

We do not live in an ideal world. We are constantly faced with decisions to which there is no clear answer. Some decisions we’ll get right, others we’ll get wrong, and still others we won’t know if we were right or wrong for months or years, but we still have to make them. No matter how we did, God loves us anyway and promises that he will hold all of our choices and our lives together in love.

Good and evil exist side by side in our world, including in our churches. It is not our job to weed them out because we can’t see the hearts of the people. The true sower of salvation is Jesus. Only Jesus has the power to transform hearts. He is the one who saves sinners through the preaching and witnessing of believers. Our job is to see that we remain true believers and not become hypocrites. It is also not our job to weed evil out because our standards and God’s standards are not the same. Out standards are not perfect, but God’s standards are perfect. What we decide is evil might be good in God’s eyes, and what is good in our eyes might be evil in God’s eyes.

To make things worse, we have both wheat and weeds in our own lives. We have our good points and our bad points, and all of them combine to create who we are as people. If we get rid of the weeds in our own lives, we get rid of our own bad parts, but we also change parts of who we are as people. Removing the weeds might make us more Christ-like, but we also end up removing a part of ourselves. Besides, as I mentioned earlier, we might end up removing parts that are good in God’s eyes and keeping parts that are bad in his eyes simply because our standards and God’s standards are not the same.

We know better than to judge others, but we do it anyway. We judge people based on how they look, social status or where they live. For example, when I was a teenager I had a paper route for several years. One time my supervisor asked me to take on a new customer who was a member of the lower class. My parents did not want me to accept her as a customer because they were concerned that she would not pay, but my supervisor convinced them to change their mind. Their concern was based on the customer’s social class, but this customer was one of the best I had in terms of paying for her newspapers.  In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I had to go back to her house to collect her money and still have fingers left over.

We might have the desire to be perfectionists, especially when it comes to other people. If we find ourselves dwelling on their faults or wondering why they don’t act and feel and think like we do, or if we find ourselves getting frustrated or annoyed by their weaknesses, perhaps we are expecting too much of them. Also, we might be failing to respect the differences we have in terms of culture, experience, background, character, personality or temperament.

Jesus teaches that God’s kingdom doesn’t come all at once. It was started when Jesus was born, it continued after his death and resurrection, and it will end when he returns to judge everyone. God doesn’t tell us why he lets good and evil exist together. We can only conclude that somehow it glorifies God to allow evil to exist. God’s kingdom is a mixed bag of good and evil, and it’s not always clear which is which. As such, we’d do well not to try to judge people. We must not judge others because we could destroy the good with the bad. Jesus has set high ethical standards and is troubled by Christians who do not live up to them. Unlike God, we do not know the hearts of people.

This story invites us to costly discipleship. The very real evil that exists is not to be answered by attacking and destroying the people who are responsible for it. Doing so only adds to the harm. Our response is to be forgiving and to be willing to trust in God’s purposes.  We are not to tolerate anything that can’t be tolerated. Sometimes we do have to deal immediately with people who are obviously evil such as dangerous criminals, but at other times we must not rush to judgment. If we want to receive grace, we must be willing to extend grace. In the final act of salvation, the tensions that exist within us and with all of God’s creation will finally be resolved and put to rest and we shall live in peace with God and each other for eternity. Until then, they coexist even within us, so that to root out the one would be to destroy the other.

Loving the sinner and hating the sin means being tolerant of those who are different from us. Loving the sinner and hating the sin means holding people accountable for their actions, but always being willing to forgive. It means affirming the good in people instead of always looking for the bad, and of all places, this ought to be true in the church because it is seldom true in the world.

We can still see weeds in ourselves and others. Instead of being discouraged, we should be hopeful. Good seed has been planted in us and is growing. The burden of the struggle isn’t ours alone. We get help from Jesus the landowner. He knows what is happening and helps us sort things out.

We are not the final judge of the world-that is God’s job. We are to remain faithful to God’s word even during hard times, but if we do go astray, we have opportunities to mend our ways. We have the time and the grace we need to make the changes we have to make.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
  2. Greg Laurie, “What Exactly is a Tare?” Retrieved from www.harvesst.org
  3. Pastor Dick Woodward, “Why Evil?” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  4. Augsberger, M.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
  5. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2006)
  6. Dr. Philip W. McLarty, “The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  7. Pastor Steve Molin, “Mom, Where do Weeds Come From?” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  8. The Rev. Charles Hoffacker, “Let Both of Them Grow Together.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  9. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 16th Sunday (A).” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  10. Exegesis for Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  11. Donna Stanford, “Bible Study: 6 Pentecost, Proper 11(A).” Retrieved from http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
  12. David Lose, “Pentecost 6A: On Wheat, Weeds and Ambiguity.” Retrieved from www.davidlose.net
  13. The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, “Problems beyond Our Power to Fix.” Retrieved from www.day1.org

Matthew 13:24-30,36-43 God, the Heavenly Weed Killer

How many of you have ever planted a garden? If you have, then you know that one of the biggest enemies of a good garden is weeds. Weeds will rob the soil of the nutrients that help your plants to grow and many times they will choke out good plants. What can you do? Well, you could take a hoe and chop down the weeds, but if you do that, you will probably chop down some of the good plants by accident.

Another way to get rid of the weeds is to buy some weed killer. This stuff will really kill the weeds. The biggest problem with weed killer is that it doesn’t know a thistle from a tomato plant. It kills every plant that it touches. Sometimes, it is best just to leave the weeds alone until it is time to harvest the crop. Then you can separate the weeds from the good plants.

One time, Jesus told a story that compared his church to a garden that was infested with weeds. Sometimes there may be people in the church that don’t really belong. They do things that aren’t very loving and they don’t seem to believe what the Bible teaches. They sometimes say hateful things about the other members of the church and try to hurt them. They are like weeds in a garden.

The parable of the wheat and the darnel answers two questions: How can good and evil coexist in this age? What should we do about it? The key to understanding this parable is to think in pairs: there are two planters, two plants, two plans and two prospects.

The field where the seeds are sown represents the world. The man who sows good seeds is Jesus. The man who sows darnel is Satan. Christians represent good seeds. Darnel represents evil people. The harvest represents the end of the world. The reapers represent the angels.

In Jesus’ day, after a field had been sown with wheat, a mischief-maker might sneak into the field and sow darnel over the original crop. Darnel looked almost identical to wheat, but it had no market value. Only at harvest time, when the crop was fully grown, could the farmer distinguish the true wheat from the worthless darnel.

In its initial stages of growth, darnel closely resembled wheat, and that resemblance made it almost impossible to identify. As the plants matured, the roots of the weeds and the wheat intermingled, making them almost impossible to separate. Any attempt to pull the weeds also pulled the wheat. Separation was necessary because darnel was both bitter and mildly toxic. If it was not removed before milling, darnel ruined the flour. The usual solution was to separate the grains after threshing by spreading them on a flat surface and having people remove the darnel, which was a distinct colour at this stage, by hand.

This is how Satan works. He will plant his seeds among Christians, including in the church. They will talk like Christians and use words that Christians use. When they do something evil, people will say, “I can’t believe that a Christian would do such a thing!” Maybe they were darnel among the wheat. Christians are capable of sinning, but some people are imitations.

The servants and the owner had two different plans for protecting the good seed. The servants wanted to uproot the tares sown by the enemy and dispose of them immediately. But the owner wisely insisted that both be allowed to grow until the harvest. Otherwise, the wheat would be destroyed because it could not be distinguished from the tares.

We will always have darnel among the wheat. We will always have plants that undermine the Word of God. It’s not our job to weed those people out. We don’t see their hearts. Our concern should not be who the hypocrites are, but whether we are hypocrites ourselves. Our job is to take care of ourselves, to take heed and make sure that we are true believers.

Because there are two sowers, evil is in our midst. We are uncomfortable today with the devil and for the most part preachers ignore it in their preaching. The ignored devil sneaks in by back doors through the appeal of the occult, the magical, the falsely supernatural, prophecy conferences, astrology, the New Age movement or other means. The devil doesn’t cease to exist because we say he ceases to exist. On the contrary, he reappears in more grotesque or subtle forms in popular or polite culture.

God allows the righteous and the wicked to live alongside one another, and He has decided not to tell us why. We must conclude that somehow and in some way, it glorifies God to allow this to happen. We must leave these questions with our faith in the character of God.

The situation will change one day, but for now we must remember that not everyone has faith. It’s useless for us to do the sorting. Our standards are lower than God’s perfect standards. Besides, a bad seed or evil person might turn out to be a good seed or a faithful, righteous person. If we do what we think is right by sorting what we think is evil from what we think is good, we might put the good with the evil and vice versa. If we try to rid the church of the weeds in its midst, we might not recognize its true members.

For example, an expert who was evaluating a potential football coach said of him, “He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation.” He was talking about Vince Lombardi, who later became the successful football coach quoted for saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Eighteen publishers turned down a story about a seagull written by Richard Bach. His book, entitled “Johnathan Livingston Sea Gull”, was finally published in 1970 and in five years it sold more than 7 million copies in the United States alone. After legendary Fred Astaire’s screen test the director who evaluated him wrote, “Can’t act, slightly bald, can dance a little.” It just proves the old saying, “Ya’ just never know!”

We don’t know why God allows evil in the world, the church and our hearts. The parable doesn’t answer this, but it doesn’t ignore the problem of evil in our midst. It doesn’t even give an easy answer to the questions, “Will evil or good have the last word? Who’s going to win?”

Jesus rejected the idea of pulling up the darnel. He said that it is to be left alone until the harvest (or judgment). The wheat represents Christians and the darnel represents the enemies of Christianity. One day the Lord will send his angels (reapers) to separate the tares from the wheat. The tares will be burned, but the wheat will be gathered into the barn (heaven). Satan will do all he can to destroy Christians, but he will be fully exposed and dealt with at the final judgment.

The future of the darnel (the lawless) and the wheat (the righteous) are described in verses 40-43. The lawless are destined to experience the fires of hell, where they will live in eternal misery. Conversely, the righteous will live in eternal radiance and joy. Their King will also be their Father!

Satan does not sow thorns or briars or brush; he sows darnel, which is impossible to distinguish from genuine wheat until harvest time. In the world today, children of the kingdom are sown in a field where they are saturated, entwined, covered and surrounded by the children of the evil one-and sometimes it is hard to tell them apart. The true sower of the seed of salvation is God himself. Only He has the power to change hearts.

The righteous are those who come to Jesus in faith to be cleansed of their sin and guilt. Jesus will clothe them with His own righteousness. Every good seed that is planted in our hearts comes from God. He prepares the soil of our hearts. He will till it, but we must prepare the soil. We do this by the way we live our lives. We must allow the Word of God to inform, shape and guide all aspects of our being in the world. Part of this process includes sharing what we learn from the Scriptures.

This parable is a story of grace for us. As we consider our own lives and recall the mistakes we have made and the wrongs we have done, most of us are glad that we have had the time to change and work things out. Most of us are also glad that we have had the space to let the wheat grow and bear a rich harvest.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1305-1306)
  2. Augsberger, M.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982, p. 18)
  3. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. The New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1-Matthew and Mark. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  6. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 16th Sunday (A).” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  7. “Sower.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  8. T.M. Moore, “Love Sows.” Retrieved from www.ailble.org
  9. Greg Laurie, “Cheap Imitations.” Retrieved from www.harvest.org
  10. Greg Laurie, “What Exactly is a Tare?” Retrieved from www.harvest.org
  11. Richard Neill Donovan, “Exegesis for Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  12. Pastor Dick Woodward, “Why Evil?” Retrieved from crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  13. “Weeds in the Garden.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4Kids.com

Matthew 13:24-30,36-43 Separating the Wheat From the Weeds

When I worked at a local lumber mill several years ago, part of my duties included grading lumber. By that I mean separating lumber according to its qualities as determined by both the National Lumber Grading Authority rules and common sense. In other words, I was separating good lumber from bad lumber. Some of this was done before the lumber was planed, and some was done after.

The parable of the weeds and the wheat is a similar situation. The weeds and the wheat are growing up together, and the servants want to pull the weeds. This is understandable, because according to Leviticus 19:19, weeds made a field unclean, along with sowing more than one kind of seed in a field. The master tells the servants to wait until both are fully grown and ready for harvest, because until that time the weeds and the wheat are identical in appearance. Also, because the roots of the weeds and wheat are intertwined, pulling up weeds would also mean pulling up wheat. At harvest time, the weeds are to be gathered separately, bundled together and used for fuel, while the wheat is ground into flour.

The parable has some grain of truth (no pun intended!). In Palestine, a type of weed called darnel grass grows. In its growth and form it strongly resembles wheat, but it produces either an inferior kind of grain or none at all. Because of its similarity, it is extremely difficult to separate from genuine wheat. Also, its taste is very bitter and when eaten either separately or when mixed with ordinary bread, it causes dizziness.

Jesus and the disciples sowed the good seeds of the Christian faith in their time, and true Christians are to sow the same seeds today. In Jesus’ time, as is the case today, the devil and his cronies sow seeds of evil among the good seeds. In both cases, good and evil produced fruit together in the same spot.

This parable outlines the course of history from Jesus’ time to the Day of Judgment. It explains why evil persists all over the world. It emphasizes the proper way to think about the world and the course of human history. It also suggests how we as Christians should be investing our time, talents and energy until Jesus returns. We are to continue sowing the good seeds of the kingdom until the kingdom begins to be seen wherever we raise Christ’s banner

We are like the farmer who carefully sows good seed in the field of our lives. We work hard to raise a good family; make good relationships; help a loved one battling with a disease; fight for better schools, healthcare, peace and the environment. If the world was fair, the good we do would always yield good results, but in many cases the good we work for looks like it is going to have the life choked out of it by the reality of our world.

We live in a world where good and evil coexist, and there’s not much we can do about it. Sure, we can resist evil and temptation, and we must resist them, but we can’t get rid of them. In fact, it isn’t even our job to get rid of them. That will be God’s job on Judgment Day. If we try to get rid of evil on our own, we will fail, because the standards we use to separate good from evil are much lower than the standards God uses. Also, evil and good are intertwined in our society. In addition, good is often disguised as evil, and vice versa.

In the 1600s, the Puritans made a concerted effort to purge the church of all those who weren’t of pure faith, and so, didn’t belong. They also tried to remove pagan symbols from celebrations of Christmas and Easter. In both cases, they failed. After all, if there’s no place in the church for sinners needing to be accepted and loved, there’s no place for us. The church needs constant reformation and positive action, including the quest for holiness, but it must avoid unrealistic purism—what is needed is that elusive thing called balance. No one is so useless that they can’t be used as a bad example.

A man was stopped at a traffic light, waiting for the light to turn green. When the light changed, he was distracted and he didn’t budge. The woman in the car behind him honked her horn. He still didn’t move. She honked again, and by this time she was pounding on the steering wheel and blowing her horn non-stop. Finally, just as the light turned yellow, the man woke up and drove through the light. The woman in the second car was beside herself. Still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her car window. She looked up to see the face of a police officer. “Lady, you’re under arrest,” he said. “Get out of the car. Put your hands up.” He took her to the police station, had her fingerprinted, photographed, and then put her in a holding cell.

Hours passed. The officer returned and unlocked the cell door. He escorted her back to the booking desk. “Sorry for the mistake, lady,” he said. “But I pulled up behind you as you were blowing your horn and cursing out the fellow in front of you. I noticed the stickers on your bumper. One read “Follow me to Sunday School.” The other, “What would Jesus do?” So, naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car.”

Many people claim to be followers of God, and they often fool others into thinking they really are. They speak pretty words—or at least words that sound pretty to others—and they mislead many. Any follower of God with experience in the real world, however, knows that talk is cheap. Only those who produce fruit that is consistent with their claims to be followers of God can be trusted. Are we walking the walks or merely talking the talk? What about those who put themselves up as leaders? Think back to the cases of evangelists such as Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart. In both cases, these so-called men of God were brought down by the evil weeds of greed and lust.

Sometimes even so-called experts and people who should know better can’t predict how things are going to turn out. An expert evaluating a potential football coach said of him, “He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation”. He was talking about Vince Lombardi, who, though he lacked motivation, was the successful football coach quoted for saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Eighteen publishers turned down a story about a seagull written by Richard Bach, but “Jonathan Livingston Sea Gull” was finally published in 1970, and in five years it sold more than 7 million copies. After Fred Astaire’s screen test, the evaluating director wrote, “Can’t act, slightly bald, can dance a little.”

Even parents can’t always judge their own children’s abilities. Louisa May Alcott, known for the classic “Little Women,” was encouraged by her parents to find work as a servant or seamstress. Parents today are sometimes the same, even if their intentions are good. Then again, parents are human, not gods. They don’t always know if their children will turn out to be angels such as Mother Teresa or Desmond Tutu, or a mass murderer.

The Kingdom of God is a mixed bag in which weeds and wheat grow together, side by side, and we can’t always tell them apart. We will always have evil among us. It is not our job to weed evil out because we don’t see the hearts of people we judge as being evil. Our job is to take care of ourselves, to take heed and make sure we are true believers and not hypocrites. Good and evil will both grow stronger until God judges the world and all evil is destroyed. God answers to no authority, but he will deal gently with people until Judgment Day in order to set an example for his people. On the Day of Judgment, God will deal with the counterfeit Christians and those he judges to be evil and unrepentant at the same time.

As Christians we are to practice forgiveness and patience. Revenge (in this case, pulling the weeds) resolves nothing, but only increases evil. Judgment and criticism run rampant in our world. For example, many of you might remember the children’s TV show called “The Muppets”. Two of the characters were the two old men who sat up in the balcony every week and heckled and criticized the jokes and performances, but they always returned for the next show. Unfortunately, there are Christians who act the same way. They see many flaws, but they show up week after week. They point out the flaws in other Christians or church programs, but they do not volunteer themselves to help everyone see how it could be done better.

If we try to judge others and get rid of evil, we run the risk of going against Jesus’ advice to not be concerned about the speck of dirt in our neighbour’s eye when we have a plank in our own eye. To do so might give us a “holier than thou” attitude. Judging others is a sin in God’s eyes.  In our own lives, there might be more weeds than we care to admit and getting rid of them is easier said than done. For example, those of you who, like my mother, do knitting as a hobby know what it is like to unravel several rows of knitting to fix a mistake.

The more we think we know about who can safely be called an evildoer beyond redemption, the more we prove ourselves to be not only inept gardeners, but immature weeds. But those who are mature know who they are, and they know who they’re not. The mature know that they are not the judge of the nations because they know the judge personally. It’s Jesus. And we’re not Jesus, as we know when we’re following him.

The devil and his helpers will try to capture our affections, pollute our minds, corrupt our godly priorities and infest our every practice. They will infect our work with an obsession for self-advancement, and will replace interest in Kingdom endeavors with distractions and diversions. They will try to persuade us that we are better to enjoy entertainment and fun than the hard work of spreading the Good News.

The kingdom begins when Jesus sows the good seed and draws people to him, but the devil always tries to work against him. The harvest will take place when Christ comes again at the end of the age. The kingdom of God and the Gospel of that Kingdom come with spiritual violence against the world’s weapons of unbelief. In the power of the Spirit and Word of God, every opposing force will collapse under the advancing weight and thrust of the realm of grace and truth of Christ.

Sometimes weeds spring up that we didn’t have anything to do with. When that happens, we must focus on God’s goodness, and not on the problem that caused the weed to spring up in the first place. We can do this through faith in the Son of God. It is his love that binds us to him and protects us from the evil one.

Loving the sinner and hating the sin means being tolerant of those who are different from us. Loving the sinner and hating the sin means calling people into accountability for their actions, but always being willing to forgive. It means affirming the good in people, instead of always looking for the bad…and of all places; this ought to be true in the church because it is so seldom true in the world.

This is a parable about mercy. While the forces of good and evil will be sorted out some day, there is still time for change until that day comes. It is a story about grace, patience and hope. Don’t we often look back on our own mistakes and become thankful that we had time to change and make amends? Aren’t we glad that God gave us the chance and the help we needed to work things out?

Bibliography

  1. The Rev. Donald Lawton, “A Call to Move On”. Speech delivered on Friday, May 27, 2011 at the 143rd Synod of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
  2. Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV
  3. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 16th Sunday (A)”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  4. T.M. Moore, “What Kind of World?” Retrieved from www.colsoncenter.org
  5. Joel Osteen, “When Weeds Spring Up”. Retrieved from www.joelosteen.com
  6. T.M. Moore, “The Good Seed”. Retrieved from www.colsoncenter.org
  7. T.M. Moore, “Your View of History Matters”. Retrieved from www.colsoncenter.org
  8. Greg Laurie, “Wheat and tares”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  9. T.M. Moore, “The Struggle for Supremacy”. Retrieved from www.colsoncenter.org
  10. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament-Matthew 13:24-30. Part of Wordsearch Bible Software package.
  11. The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, “Is the World More Hostile to Christians?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com
  12. Greg Laurie, “Time Will Tell”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  13. Chris Haslam, “Comments, 10th Sunday after Pentecost-July 20, 2008”. Retrieved from http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/apr16m.shhtml
  14. Girardian Reflections, Year A. Retrieved from www.girardianlectionary.net/year_a/proper11a.htm
  15. Preaching Peace. Retrieved from www.preachingpeace.org/lectionaries/yeara-proper11./
  16. Sarah Dylan Breuer, “Proper 11, Year A”. Retrieved from www.sarahlaughed.net/lectionary/2005/07/proper_11_year_html
  17. Saturday Night Theologian, 20 July 2008. Retrieved from www.progressivetheology.org/SNT/SNY-2008.07.20.html
  18. The Rev. Dr. Joanna Adams, “Why Can’t We Pull Up the Weeds?” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  19. The Rev. Charles Hoffacker, “Let Both of Them Grow Together”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  20. Pastor Steve Molin, “Mom, Where DO Weeds Come From?” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  21. Dr. Philip W. McLarty, “The Parable of the Wheat and Tares”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  22. Mike Benson, “Analysts”. Retrieved from www.welovegod.org