Wisdom 12.13, 16-19
For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people,
to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly;
For your strength is the source of righteousness,
and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.
For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power,
and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.
Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,
and with great forbearance you govern us;
for you have power to act whenever you choose.
Through such works you have taught your people
that the righteous must be kind,
and you have filled your children with good hope,
because you give repentance for sins.
Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
By Kath B, a Reader at St. Mary's
Ever since I started writing sermons; which amazingly is twenty years ago now, I’ve given them titles; usually related to their theme and from a practical perspective it makes them easier to find on the computer. I’ve titled this one “Bringing the Harvest Home” which may sound a bit strange but it’s what kept coming back to me, much as I tried to think of a better one. Panic not though, you haven’t lost a couple of months, it isn’t September and time for our traditional harvest celebrations. The reason I’ve alighted on the theme of harvest a little earlier than usual is because the readings from Matthew for today and last Sunday are on the theme of sowing and growing and gathering and in his sermon last week Matthew spoke about this. Given that the readings go together so closely it seemed worth continuing to look at their common theme. The “Parable of the Sower” from last week focuses mainly on planting whereas today’s “Parable of the Weeds” is more concerned with the practicalities of bringing the crops to harvest, in other words “bringing the harvest home”.
Jesus uses parables a lot to convey his messages and they are very effective because he uses images that the people he is speaking to are familiar with. But sometimes they need a little extra help to fully understand and this is the case with his disciples here. The explanation Jesus gives them shows just how well he understands the realities of peoples’ lives and his approach to dealing with the inevitable problems and challenges they face is pragmatic.
To look at this in the context of our own lives, sometimes, when we’re trying to deal with something that, in spite of our best efforts, isn’t going according to plan, it can be very tempting to just throw it all away, wipe the slate clean and start afresh. This is understandable and on occasion it is the best thing to do but more often than not, in doing so we may actually be throwing away much that is of value and worth persevering with. Instead of giving in to our frustrations and desire for an instant fix, of sorts, we would probably find it more effective to be patient and work towards giving whatever is worthwhile a chance to come to fruition. I know this flies in the face of much that we see around us in terms of how problems and challenges are dealt with from individuals to big organisations (including the church) and even governments. A “new initiative” or a “re-branding” or a “root and branch shake up” can sound very appealing and enable us to feel like we’re really taking action and doing something positive, but if we haven’t carefully examined a situation and understood what is already happening before we start messing with it then we may be wiping out someone else’s slow but good work and possibly doing more harm than good. If that is the case then we would be kidding ourselves and others that it was the right thing to do. For all sorts of reasons some people want to look dynamic and go-getting, indeed it might be expected of them, but if their actions are ill considered or without regard to the impact they may have on others or if they are just plain self-serving then ultimately the results will not be good. They may even be very bad!
Our world is in a mess in so many ways, largely due to short term thinking and policies and sacrificing long term benefits for instant rewards. Climate change, poverty, economic and political strife and wars are issues that instantly spring to mind. But trying to wipe everything bad out in order to start again isn’t a realistic option; many situations are too complicated for this to be possible. Just as with the wheat field in Jesus’s parable, we would risk destroying what is worth keeping. Instead we have to work with what we have got however imperfect it may be; work patiently, diligently and persistently to make things better. We will never be perfect. God knows this and still he does not give up on us so we shouldn’t give up on ourselves or our fellow people. We can’t let the enormity of the tasks we face in our world overwhelm us. If we can be brave enough to look and really see what is wrong, then either noisily or quietly (whatever is your style), stand against it by living according to the good standards our faith has instilled in us then we can keep making a difference for the better. This may be in the face of hostility, mockery or perhaps worst of all indifference. In a world where there are so many temptations to take easier, more enjoyable or lucrative paths we shouldn’t be surprised that sometimes people choose them and we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that we are immune. We can all get it wrong! Bearing this in mind I’d like us to reflect for a moment on the message in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom. God is all powerful; he can do whatever he wants with us or to us. Given some our behaviour throughout the ages it’s a wonder that he hasn’t given up on us, wiped the slate clean and started again. But he has chosen not to do this. He’s persevered with us because he loves us and sees our potential to be what he created us to be. He’s giving us the time and opportunity to bear good fruit.
We are part of God’s harvest and for good or ill we have the ability to powerfully affect everything else he has created. Let us pray that it will for good rather than ill; that we will be the wheat rather than the weeds. He’s given us the choice and it’s up to us what we decide to do with it.
Prepared by Veronica
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, you promised through your Son, Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith. We pray for the Church worldwide, that all who profess the Christian faith may work together to preserve for future generations the wonderful world you created for your children. As we see the results of climate change, help us all to do what we can to halt and reverse its progress. We pray for all who are currently suffering its effects, excessive heat, floods and drought, and also that those fleeing climate change as well as war and oppression may find sanctuary in countries not experiencing these things. Give generosity of spirit to welcome and accept new migrants from their distress in those countries.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for our City of Sheffield, a City of Sanctuary, and also for our neighbourhood of Walkley. We give you thanks for all the many organisations and individuals who contributed to the recent Walkley Festival which does so much to bring people together in fellowship.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for all who are unwell at this time, for Alan, and Kath, James’ mother, and all family members supporting them. We give you thanks for all medical staff and nurses who do so much to help people to recover from their illness and support relatives.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We remember before you all who have died recently, especially Julie of Carr Road who for several years organised the Horticultural Show in our Hall, also my sister Margaret, and all others known to us whom we still miss. Grant them all your peace.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, Mark, John and all you saints, we commend ourselves and all people to your unfailing love.
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright (c) the Archbishops' Council 2000