In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

To Weed or Not to Weed

A Reflection on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 by the Rev. Dr. Kate Hennessy

I watched it happen again yesterday. The person I was talking to suddenly bent down and yanked a weed from the lawn. I had done it myself the day before. Walking across the yard after taking out the trash, I was distracted by the weeds growing up in the cracks between the bricks under the bird feeder. So of course I had to pull them. It seems wherever we find those things we deem as weeds, they have to go. Fortunately for the state of my yard, I am not much of a gardener and mostly don’t know the difference between what is weed and what is not. I have been accused in my day of pulling up and tossing perfectly good plants, so I tend to err on the side of leaving well enough alone. If it is green and maintains some symmetry and dignity among the other growing things, it usually gets to stay put in my botanical universe. Since we are very dry in the upper Midwest, at this moment that is actually a good thing. The “real” grass is brown and crispy and anything green on my lawn is likely crabgrass and broadleaf.

This difficulty with the difference between weed and not-weed seems to be a very old issue. Jesus was able to use it in his teaching in this parable. Apparently the weeds that were sown by the enemy among the wheat in this story were hard to tell from the real thing. The Greek word that was used for those weeds “zizania” is a very particular type of weed that looks just like wheat as it is growing, and you can hardly tell the difference. It looks like wheat but it is not wheat but a weed. Or looked at from the other side, it looks like a weed, but it’s really wheat.

The need to weed seems to carry over far beyond our lawns and gardens. As humans we appear to have a need to eradicate that which we judge as not belonging, whether in others or ourselves. As in gardening, it requires a judgment call to determine if this thing we are about to pull and toss to the compost heap is a weed or not. And of course it’s one thing to make a mistake and weed out a few annuals that were meant to decorate the walkway. It’s another thing entirely to appoint ourselves Master Gardeners of the Universe, deciding what stays and what goes based on our limited wisdom.

Often we hear in ourselves harsh self-critical voices telling us something needs weeding out of our hearts and our souls, telling us we are not acceptable, not beautiful gardens in God’s sight just as we are. If we listen to them and go crashing into our hearts and souls, pulling away at whatever is growing there, we may pull up weeds and wheat alike and never get the chance to discover our full harvest of the authentic, beloved children of God we were meant to be.

Or we hear internal voices telling us to “get those nasty weeds out of our garden. Those voices, based on fear, may keep us from acting in the open-hearted compassion and generosity towards others that we need to be co-creators of God’s kingdom. During those times we may be misled in thinking we know what should be weeded and what should be left to grow in others. Or we may decide to weed out someone entirely by virtue of something deemed “unacceptable” to our garden. We may set ourselves up as judge and jury in all righteousness, pulling away at tender shoots that may have flowered into something wonderful if only given a chance, if we had not determined we knew best and decided they were weeds! We might go forth with our spiritual Weed-be-Gone, determined to eradicate anything we think is not suitable for growing, completely confused by the resemblance of weeds and wheat.

Wait on God. Perhaps we can trust God’s dream for God’s garden. This seems to be the message in this parable. In this garden it is not my job to weed, or to figure out what needs to be pulled and what needs to be left alone. God is taking care of it. Just let it be, let it grow, when the harvest time comes, all will be well. What the Son of Man has sown will grow.


revhipchick said...


this is one of my favorite parables.

this week i keep asking myself if i'm missing something. this one "seems" so "easy" to understand. doesn't that mean there is more?

i LOVE it, but am worried that there is a twist somewhere that i am missing? or perhaps the twist is that it is this easy?

mompriest said...

thanks, Kate, as usual.

Rev, you will have many other opportunities to preach on this text and each time it will speak to you in a different way...and occasionally a text seems to say nothing at all (which usually means its time for vacation)...

Katherine E. said...

Wow. This is another great sermon on this parable--a parable I chose to ignore when I preached that Sunday, going with Romans instead. I'll have to open myself to it next time it comes up in the lectionary.

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