Eucharist – 6th Sunday after Trinity 19th July
The gospel reading is Matthew chapter 13: 24-30, 36-43.
Last Sunday we heard about the parable of the Sower, that well known story where, in the end, good triumphs over adversity and the good soil yields a harvest. Today’s gospel passage feels very different, even though it follows straight after last week’s story. This is the parable of weeds among the wheat, and then Jesus explaining the parable of the weeds.
I was tempted, after all this wet weather, to take a photograph of my vegetable bed, where the weeds definitely outnumber the carrots, but that wouldn’t adequately have illustrated this parable, which is about the battle between good and evil, conflict and judgement. These are words which we don’t like very much, and I suspect we are a lot more comfortable with the parable of the sower with its nice story that we are with this parable (how often have you heard the parable of the wheat and weeds taught?)
My illustration this week is by Mel Bochner, a founder of Conceptual Art. It’s some detail from his work “Ricochet” which he produced in 1981. It’s included in a book called ‘Art and the Sacred’ by Sister Wendy Beckett, first published by Rider in 1992. I have a copy of this book, and have used Ricochet often with its accompanying Christian reflection which says (p.36) “We are all, as human beings, innately a ‘tangle of contradictions’, and we often expect contact with God to untangle us. But it can only be the other way, unless we sacrifice our personal richness of complexity. We are not erased into simplicity, but our contradictions are drawn divinely into oneness”.
All Saints and Martyrs church has a very clearly marked centre aisle, so is good for visually illustrating this parable. If, for the sake of illustration, I were to say that the two sides of the aisle represent the two sides in the spiritual battle, that one side represents good, heaven, grace and God, and the other side represents evil and sin, selfishness and the turning away from God……which side would we sit on? Would we always sit on one side only, or sometimes be on the other one? Today’s gospel invites us to think about these things, because our God is a God of judgement as well as mercy, and it’s important to reflect on what that judgement might mean for us, and what it might mean for us now, not just at some time in the future.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian dissident, wrote in his book ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ “ If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
We must live in the real world where things are often not nice, and where we must make difficult choices in situations where there are no easy solutions, our equivalent of the wheat and the weeds. Each day let’s seek help from Jesus, asking him, as the Collect prays, to pour his love into our hearts, as we offer him all our choices, praying for wisdom and seeking his grace. Amen.