A biblical reflection based on Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43
When I stroll the four-acre grounds of Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens, where I am blessed to live, my eyes savoring the rich and varied flora, often the Genesis creation story comes to mind. A marvelous depiction of differentiation. Of order, characterized by diversity, arising from the primeval chaos, evolving out of the amorphous void.
The story doesn’t explain what happened at creation. Unless I believe that once upon a time there was a mystical garden populated by a talking serpent, two nakedly naïve people hungering to know the difference between good and evil, and God, who, during a late afternoon walk, evicted them from the garden as punishment for not knowing their proper place.
Rather, the story, of its manifold aspects, in rhapsodizing Hebrew poetic narrative, describes the human condition. That we are knowledgeable of good and evil. That our hearts overflow with noble aspirations, yet our hands often are wretchedly clumsy in attaining them. That we hunger to do good, to be compassionate and just, yet have appetites for evil, feasting on judgment and condemnation.
And it seems to me that both the people and God reflect these aspects of our humanity. (Not a farfetched, much less, heretical thought, particularly as I believe that the Bible, albeit with God as the central subject and however divinely inspired, is a human creation, therefore, by definition, unavoidably self-referential.)
Adam and Eve represent our longing to know good from evil, right from wrong and God, our tendency to condemn and cast out those who believe and behave differently.
“Someone sowed good seed in his field, but an enemy came and sowed bad seeds.” Jesus tells a story about wheat and weed growing together. The latter, the farmhands want to rip out. The farmer is the voice of reason, knowing how hard it is to distinguish between the heavily entwined plants, and the voice of wisdom, telling the farmhands to wait until the harvest.
As the farmer is a symbol of the divine, then, for me, in one sense, Jesus has rehabilitated God’s image! God no longer, as in days of old, walks through the garden hastily posting eviction notices, but rather waits patiently for harvest time; a metaphor for an unknown and unknowable future moment.
Here, too, as in the Genesis story, I see in this godly image an aspect of our human ontology. We are creatures of reason and wisdom; able to examine and learn from our experience.
Nevertheless, today, it seems to me that the farmhands – all who want to rip out the “weeds” – are running amok! So, where and who are the voices of reason and wisdom?
In America’s political and religious spheres, I perceive that God, ever the Reconciler, is the dividing line between left and right, liberal and conservative, progressive and traditionalist; with each side threatening to expose the errors and excesses of the other, all righteously proclaiming, “We’re just weeding the garden!”
Where, who are the voices of reason and wisdom declaring the uncomfortable truth that we all do not and never will agree on what matters, yet, in the political arena, the vitality of our 244-year national experiment in liberty, and, in the religious sphere, the common mission of love and justice, commend and command that we wait until the harvest?
I wish I had this all worked out personally, theologically and ethically. But I don’t. There are times, too many times when I only want to see and be and talk with those who share my worldview…
Too many times when I have little patience with those with whom I disagree…
Too many times when I want to weed the garden, ridding the world and the church of all those whom I judge to be too narrow, too exclusive, too doctrinaire (which is to say, indeed, confess that I would be too narrow, too exclusive, too doctrinaire!)…
Too many times when I can’t hear or I ignore whatever voice of reason and wisdom there may be within me…
Too many times, finally, when I can’t tell the difference between wheat and weed within myself.
So, I’d better wait. Wait with the patience of continuing discernment. Wait without rushing to judgment. Wait until God’s harvest.
© 2020 PRA
Illustration: Parable of the Tares (c. 1900), Ellen Gould Harmon White (1827-1915)
2 thoughts on “Waiting ‘Til the Harvest”
LOVE this Paul!!
Waiting for the harvest!! I have a lot of patience – but I too have been sooo confused by where I am on any day – wheat and weeds. I related to everything that you wrote. It’s hard these days to be wheat with those with whom we disagree, BUT we have to continue to look and listen for their viewpoint even if we vehemently disagree with it. A few weeks ago, someone we both know disagreed with something you posted about the Coronavirus. They flat out called you WRONG about what you posted on your page. You then thanked them for reading your post, and simply said “You know I love you, BUT I disagree!”… That was an aha moment for me and one where you demonstrated that you can be wheat even in difficult situations. I’m not sure what I would have done but it probably wouldn’t have been I love you. I admired you so much for that!! I want to get rid of the weeds too, but they are EVERYWHERE …. I’ll do as you suggest and just keep waiting. Maybe I’ll eventually learn to weed my garden… My problem has always been, I love to walk in nature, but haven’t yet mastered caring for nature as well, including weeding. Something I absolutely need to work on.
Ah, Loretta, I, too, recall that moment. And what occurs to me in reading your recount of it, which leads to my recall, is that I was able (and willing) to respond as I did only and precisely because I loved the person. Foremost, even and, perhaps, especially in that moment of disagreement the one and only thing of which I was aware was my love for the person…
As I write – and think as I write – let me put this another way. At that moment, it truly didn’t matter to me to argue or push back or strive to correct, but only to acknowledge the point, thus, the disagreement in the context of loving the other.
Back to my post and particularly the point: “…the uncomfortable truth that we all do not and never will agree on what matters…” Of all the aspects of the Parable of the Tares (or of the Wheat and the Weeds), this is paramount. That wheat and weeds are together in the field (of life in this world) until the harvest (the final and full coming of the kingdom of God) says to me that in this life in this world always there will be disagreement, thus, never will there be unanimity of and among all people about all things. Thus, one salient element of my practice of my faith in God is never to assume that when we disagree (and especially if/when I believe that I’m right) that I am wheat and you are weed. For, truth to tell, you, from your perspective, well can consider yourself wheat and me, weed. Therefore, it is paramount that you and I strive, in the Spirit’s power, to love and, foremost, let God sort it all out in the end…
Is this hard to do in the concrete circumstances of daily life when, constantly, we are being reminded that others folks think and feel and do other things – even, from our perspective, painful, hard, racist things? Yes! Nevertheless, this – being in faith and being in love with all – is the call.