This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning. The gospel text was the parable of the wheat and the weeds, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
One of the professional hazards of being a pastor is the temptation to think that you’re a superhero. Many of us slip into thinking that we can and should fix all the problems facing our churches. That it’s our job to heal every broken heart; it’s our job to get everyone to worship; it’s our job to fix every conflict that arises; it’s our job to make everybody happy. But, of course, none of us succeeds at this. It’s just not possible. And it just leads to feeling out of control. And powerless.
I don’t think it’s just pastors. I think teachers sometimes feel that it’s their job to get every kid to learn, even the ones who just can’t, or just won’t. I think farmers sometimes feel it’s their job to make every crop yield in abundance, no matter the weather or the growing conditions. I think retailers sometimes think it’s their job to make sure that every customer is happy, even the ones who make demands that nobody could fill. I think parents sometimes think it’s their job to make sure their children are completely safe, and always making good choices. I think older people sometimes think it’s their job to be as busy as they were when they were younger, even though their bodies aren’t the same as they used to be. And when someone close to us dies, how often do we say, “I should have done something differently.” As though we could have stopped death. In the face of death, and in the face of life, we so often feel responsible for so much, but we can’t do it. We feel out of control. Powerless.
A landowner sowed wheat in his field. It was going to be a beautiful field, full of life, full of grain, full of hope. And his workers, they were ready. They knew their job. They had the skills and the strength and the know-how. They were in control. But overnight, things changed. Overnight, an enemy came and planted this poisonous weed. Why? Who knows. But now the field was different. It still had life, and grain, and hope, but now it also had poison. And misery. And confusion. And the workers, they wanted to fix it right away. But the boss said no. No, don’t do that. The wheat and the weeds look the same. You’ll pull out the wheat too. And even if you could tell the difference, their roots are all intertwined. If you pull out the evil, you’ll pull out a lot of good too. The boss said no. Be patient. I know about the problem. I know what I’m doing. I will take care of this. But in my time. And in my way.
And that’s the world we live in. A world that is beautiful, that does have life, and hope, and joy. But a world that also has suffering. We live with disease and worry. Our marriages are strained. Our children break our hearts. Our churches are divided. Our nation is divided. There is war, there is hunger, there is injustice, and there is nothing good on TV. And we feel out of control and powerless.
But our faith tells us that God is like the boss in the story. God knows about the suffering and evil in the world. God knows every leaf on every tree. Every hair on your head. And God cares. And God will fix it. But in God’s time. And in God’s way.
Our faith tells us that we are out of control, but God is in control.
Our faith tells us that God has a plan, even if that plan has a timeline different from ours. Now that doesn’t mean that God’s plan includes suffering. Remember, it was the enemy who planted the weeds, not the householder. But God’s plan means that despite those weeds, justice will be done, and every sin will be brought to light, and every person who suffered unjustly will be redeemed. God will take care of judgment. And God will take care of the harvest, and when that harvest comes in, we will be invited to a heavenly banquet.
But we don’t have to just sit here and wait. God invites us today to the first course of that banquet, a course of bread and wine.
This tiny wafer, and these drops of wine, are not just a tonic pill to get you through the week. They are the first course of the banquet that awaits us at the harvest, when God’s will is made complete. The Lord’s Supper is literally a taste of heaven. It’s an hors d’oeuvre. Holy Communion is the cocktail hour of heaven. And when we share it, when we ingest heaven together, we are proclaiming together that the full banquet is coming. We don’t know when. But it’s coming. When we share communion, we are proclaiming that this is but the beginning. We are proclaiming that God is in control. And we are proclaiming that we are not, and that we don’t have to be, and were never supposed to be.
And that sets us free from being powerless. We may not be in control, but we are not powerless. We are the seed that the landowner planted. And we have a job to do. Our job is to grow. To bear fruit. To become the people God made us to be.
And that means we do the best we can, but then we trust God to actually take care of it. In the case of parenting, I do my best with my children, and that’s not always enough. But my best is all I’m ever supposed to do. I have a very important role to play in raising these children, but it’s not truly my job to take care of them. That’s God’s job. The same is true of me as your pastor. And the same is true for every aspect of our lives. We’re not in control. God is. And that is freedom.
And God calls us to share that freedom with the rest of the world. Here’s one simple way to do that. When someone tells you that we don’t have control over this world anymore, you can tell them, “You’re right. You’re absolutely right. But God does. I can’t always see that. I can’t always touch that. But I believe it. And this morning, I tasted it. I trust God. You can too.”