The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“Until the Harvest”
July 23, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Two questions – How often have we heard the phrase, “In the Lord’s time?” And how often have we found ourselves wanting that time to come a little quicker, if not a lot quicker? Right now, in fact, would be good!
Again and again, though, history bears out that how we view and measure time is not how God views and measures it. His, the perfect view and measure. Ours, not so much… not at all actually… where time and time again, we grow weary and impatient oh-so easily. So often, we want to rush things. We want certain things to start and other things to end… to be over with.
Just consider for a moment the time between when the Lord God promised the coming of a savior to Adam and Eve and when that actually came to be with the birth of Jesus Christ. Why did it take thousands of years?
Just consider the time it took from the moment God’s chosen people, Israel, were freed from Egyptian captivity until they finally entered the land the Lord promised to them. Why all of that time in the wilderness?
Again… because it was God’s perfect time… His will… His ways… for a divine reason… He who always has our best interests and eternal welfare at heart even though we do not see it or understand it.
Consider, also, our Savior’s last words to us and all mankind as found in the Book of Revelation. In chapter three, St. John records our Lord saying, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11 NKJ)
And then three times in a following chapter, the very last chapter of Revelation no less, we hear our triumphant Redeemer, Lord and King say,
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7 NKJ)
And then a little later He says, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” (Revelation 22:12 NKJ)
And finally, just before the very last verse of the very last chapter of the very last Book of the Bible, our Savior again lovingly tells us, “Surely I am coming quickly.” To which St. John then, speaking on all of our behalf, cries out, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20 NKJ)
These are words we still utter and fervently pray… now… today… some two thousand years later. That the Lord would come… quickly! And this, for many reasons including our growing weary in our daily Christian struggles… our daily fighting the good fight of faith and dealing with so many people who oppose the same… who oppose us, make fun of us, make our lives more difficult in many ways and yes, even persecute us.
Our Lord in today’s parable refers to such as the “weeds” of the world… from which… from whom… we cannot escape as they are literally all around us wherever we go and whatever we do. They are in our daily lives, in our families, among our friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.
Please… look at and give long and hard consideration to the divine declaration Jesus here makes about such people, real people, that which will turn out to be the majority of people… calling them “sons of the evil one” … then He goes on to add “and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.” (Matthew 13:38, 39)
Our Lord Jesus Christ calling it as it is… calling people as they are… the truth of it all. And are we willing to accept it… acknowledge it… yes, maybe in regard to faceless, nameless people… people we do not know. But what about those who we do know… people we love… people we care about… those of our own flesh and blood who in heart and mind… in actions, thoughts and words… belong to the evil one.
Our Lord Jesus Christ calling it as it is… calling people as they are… the truth of it all… the truth regarding that which was diabolically sown and is still being sown into His garden here on earth… which… thankfully has in place the “good seed” as well … the “wheat” if you will… the “children of the kingdom” it says in our text… namely us and all believers.
The question becomes, what do we do about it while we make this oh-so brief sojourn here on earth? What do we do… about “the weeds?” And the answer that the Master… our Master… the Master of the garden and all the universe gives… is “Nothing. Do nothing. Just wait.” Something that we are all good at doing, right? But something that we nevertheless need to constantly pray for… for patience… for strength and the ability to endure until the end… until “the harvest.”
You see my friends, there are many Christians who equate “fighting the good fight of faith” with fighting (both literally and figuratively) those who are not of the faith. This, we have not been called to do. Such is not Christ’s way. Let us be reminded that it was the work of “weeds” that nailed our Lord to the cross. He who could have decisively dealt with those weeds then and there. Destroying them, then and there. But He did nothing… then and there.
And likewise, dealing with the weeds of this world is not the Christian way… our way… something that many misguided believers down through time never learned or heeded.
No. For us, fighting the good fight of faith is simply persevering in the faith. It is one of endurance and long-suffering in the face of adversity… in the face of evil actions, evil men and evil times.
Put quite succinctly, for us and all Christians, we are called to live among the weeds… to do them no harm and certainly not to, in any way, seek to eradicate, eliminate or destroy them. That is not our job. It is not our role or responsibility. And besides, it is not the right time or place, namely our time, our place.
Rather, it will all take place at harvest time. And it will be accomplished by none other than the Lord of the Harvest and His holy angels on the Last Day… on Judgement Day… which this Gospel lesson talks about even though it is rarely, if ever, mentioned in so many churches today. It is real. It is coming. The “harvest” is coming.
What is it that Christ tells us here in this text? “The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:39-43)
He who has ears to hear, let him hear because all of this is perfectly clear to us and all believers. It is perfectly clear that what we are talking about here is the Lord’s time, not ours. It is the Lord’s will and ways… not ours.
And furthermore, whether we have realized it or not, the parable before us this day is all about love. It is all about the Lord’s love for us… His love for the good seed and every seedling, plantling and stalk of wheat… all of His precious children throughout time.
You see, any action taken in time… in the course of human history… to remove the weeds may inadvertently cause harm to the wheat as well and our Lord will have none of that… not even to one precious stalk. That is why in response to the inquiry about eliminating the weeds, the Master declared, “No, lest in gathering … you root up the wheat along with them.” (Matthew 13:29)
Oh, the gathering of the weeds, will come. Perfectly performed at the perfect time by the Lord. Their destruction will come… those who live in sin and die in sin.
To them and all unbelievers will come the ultimate “surgical strike” with no harm coming whatsoever to Christ’s own:
We who have been baptized and believe.
We who have a faith that is alive and well… a faith living, active and growing… a faith that is constantly and continuously being nurtured and nourished in Word and Sacrament.
We who in this world keep our eyes on the cross… live in the shadow of the cross… even though we are surrounded, for a little while, by weeds. We nevertheless know and hold fast to the fact shared here in this Gospel lesson that we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father forever and ever.
With this Good News we continue, my friends. We persevere on… in peace… in confidence… until the harvest. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Until the Harvest”
7/23/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL