Weekly Meditation - 23rd July 2017

Genesis 28:10-19a

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24

Romans 8:12-25

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

In the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) an enemy sowed weeds amongst the wheat of a farmer’s crop. It is generally believed that the weeds referred to are darnel – a poisonous grass that, in the early stages, is indistinguishable from wheat. If that is so, then the parable gives us a very helpful image of the world as it is today. Christians and non-Christians are often indistinguishable from each other; those who do not truly belong to Christ can appear just as moral, honest and decent, and there are many whose lives seem much less complicated, more successful, even happier than that of the average Christian. Psalm 73 (not in the lectionary but well worth reading) says just that – 'This is what the wicked are like – always carefree, they increase in wealth.' (verse 12). In gardening terms, weeds often grow to spectacular heights, they can be showy, are always robust to look at and healthy. Weeds are often very difficult to uproot, and can outstrip or completely obliterate legitimate plants.

So we have two problems; we have to live alongside people who do not have Christian standards, and who can become a subject of envy or source of temptation; and some of those whom we accept as fellow believers may in fact be weeds in disguise who could lead us astray. Furthermore, God is not planning to do anything about it yet (Matthew 13:29-30).

We have, then, to live our Christian lives amidst the weeds of this world and if we are living cheek by jowl with weeds – 'sonsof the evil one'  – we are at risk. In other words, the Christian life is going to be a struggle at times.

The apostle Paul had something like this in mind when writing to the Romans in 8: 12-25. We are not to be 'slaves to fear' but to remember that we are 'God’s children... and co-heirs with Christ'. He urged the young church in Rome to battle on in spite of their 'present sufferings' and to keep in mind the glory that would be revealed in them. These are stirring words, and give us some insight into the level of persecution that Christians were facing at that time. It is often said, though, that it is when we are not persecuted, that our faith is more likely to slip. This is not to underestimate the suffering that many Christians have had to – and still do – face. But persecution can strengthen one’s resolve, and make the issues clearer. Those of us who are living amongst the 'weeds' can find it is easier to simply go with the flow; we might not even notice how our standards are slipping. Paul’s words are both a comfort to the persecuted, and a wake-up call to the rest of us.

The writer of Psalm 139 has something to say about this too. I wonder how many people know the words 'If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me' (verse 9-10 – King James version).  I had heard those words long before I read the Bible; in fact I remember working my way page by page through the Psalms, in order to find those lovely verses. They are redolent of extraordinary love and care by Almighty God – a God who seeks and tenderly cares for his loved ones. It is true that he will not uproot the 'weeds' until his due time – there might be opportunity for them to be saved too – but in the meantime, his hand is on us, to draw us back however far we might fall, and to hold us through all danger.

Written by Susan Thorne