17 July 2011
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When you spend much time at the Art Institute, you see a vast array of works of art. You also see some ridiculous, if not ugly items that make you question both the artist and the donor that placed it there. Magnificent culture and works of great beauty are there before your eyes, yet they can be just steps away from something that begs you to ask: "Art? Really?!"
And there would be many art teachers, professors, and artists themselves who would plead with you to leave both the great art, and the seemingly unworthy art side by side. Let time pass and see if it has lasting beauty to be admired. The avant garde architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright looks like it fits perfectly with the designs of subdivisions fifty or even a hundred years later. Generations later, his work is seen as art.
Jesus speaks of grain and wheat sprouting up side by side. Others notice weeds among the wheat, and ask the land owner, "Really?" They want to pull up the weeds. But the land owner has extreme and perfect patience.
No, unlike the work that might be considered "art" years later, the weeds will not become wheat! And yet, the landowner isn't duped into thinking they will change. But he does have extreme and perfect patience.
You and I would fall among those who are eager to root up the weeds. "Lord, here. Let me help You! You don't want all those nasty weeds among the seedlings You just planted! I'll pull them out for You."
Do you know how well that works out? I'll tell you. The five-year-old listened to his cousin. "You should help your grandma and grandpa. The are a lot of weeds here. Pull them up!" And so he did. And in about ten minutes all of the small plants were uprooted. Then came the terrible news. His parents, visibly upset, explained their anger. Those were not weeds; he had just uprooted his grandparents' freshly planted tomato garden!
This is precisely what our Lord is preventing. Yes, the Church on earth has both true believers and hypocrites. We live side by side in this life, unable to see into the hearts of others. Jesus is telling you, "Don't you dare think you can tell the difference and kick out unbelievers who appear to be Christians. If you do, it's likely you'll remove true believers too!"
When you think you know people who don't really belong in church, or you think they may be here only for the tuition discount, and you'd like to see them leave, the Lord says to get off your high horse and stop thinking you know better than God. Don't be like your five-year-old pastor -- I mean, that five-year-old boy pulling up tomato plants. You cannot tell if someone truly believes. You are not qualified to be judge. You are not the Lord God. And it is quite possible you could damage and uproot others in the faith, if you try to purge the garden of unwanted weeds.
Dear friends in Christ, the Lord has Good News for you. You do not have to be the judge. You do not have to bear the burden of uprooting anyone. And you have the sweet assurance that He who has baptized you and nourishes you in His Word, keeps you in the one true faith as lovely, healthy grain.
Nine of our youth just got back from an awesome week with 1200 kids and chaperones from 25 states and four Canadian provinces. They worshiped, they learned, and they had fun. During those four long days, our dear Lord was giving them the tremendous Gospel that they are His precious plantings. They are not weeds. Our Savior will not hold their sin against them, and throw them into the fire with the weeds. They Wayne before God justified by grace, through faith, on account of Christ.
You too! It's not just them. Jesus isn't just for kids. You have been baptized into Christ and clothed with Christ. The Father in heaven no longer sees the worthless weed-like behavior you often have; He looks at you and beholds His dearly beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased. He sees you stand before Him in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness!
The ultimate and perfect patience of God is clearly displayed for all people in all time, as we see Jesus on His cross. There He hung for you and me, pouring forth His life-giving blood, covering us with His righteousness. There He delivered you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, hanging from that amazing cross! But that ultimate and perfect patience is not just some example for you, or a requirement to follow. It is a joy to experience, as He gives His gifts!
Rejoice, dear friends in Christ! He has taken your weed-like self and made you precious grain. Jesus covers you with Himself, and makes you pleasing to His supremely patient Father. You are a beautiful plant, given growth by your loving, heavenly Father, who rejoices as He makes you His own! Amen.
The Rev. Richard A. Heinz