Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Reapers are the Angels

Jesus disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
-Matthew 13:36b-43.
“The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.” For impatient beings such as ourselves, this is a tough message. Even though we see the weeds choking the life out of the wheat, we can’t pull up the weeds. We have to be patient, and wait on the timing of God. In regards to both the wheat and the weeds alike, the message is clear...hands off.

But, we are impulsive people. We see an obviously ugly and evil weed throttling the life out of a golden stalk of wheat stretching toward the sun, and with a shout, we run into the field with our axe, and hack away at the root of the wicked weed. We wrench it from the ground, holding it aloft, expecting to hear the applause of God for our good deed. All we hear is silence. We trudge away, confused, but confident that this day we have been about our Father’s business. We seem not to notice that our path is littered with broken stalks of wheat, the innocent vicitms of our zealous attack.

Somehow, we humans seem to have gotten the idea that we can surgically remove sin and evil from the world without involving the rest of creation. I think this erroneous thinking is why we finite beings are not the reapers of this harvest. We don’t see the big picture. Our tiny minds cannot fathom the intricate interelatedness of the created realm. We cannot be trusted to weed the crop, because we are blind to the fact that few things are totally good or totally bad.

There is a story about a farmer whose only possesion was one horse. One day his horse ran away. His neighbors all gathered around him, declaring what a bad thing this was.

The farmer listened quietly for awhile. Then he said, "It is a difficult thing to know what is good and what is bad."

The next day his horse returned, bringing with him a whole herd of horses. The neighbors crowded around once again, declaring what a good thing this was; he was now the wealthiest man in the valley.

The farmer replied, "It is a difficult thing to know what is good and what is bad."

The next day, his only son went out to break the new horses, was bucked off, and was paralyzed from the waist down. The neighbors rushed over once again, wailing about what a bad thing this was; your only son!

The farmer responded with the same reply; "It is a difficult thing to know what is good and what is bad."

The next day the army came through the valley, and took away all the able-bodied men. They didn't take the farmer's son.

This story could go on indefinately, but by now you get the point; it is a difficult thing to know what is good and what is bad!

Jesus preached the nearness of God’s harvest. He met resistance at every turn, but refused to take up the axe of judgement. Jesus continued to forgive, and to call for repentence, a change of heart. Jesus calls us to be patient. The time of the harvest will arrive, and there will be a speparation of the weeds and the wheat. But it must happen in God’s time, not ours. We must be patient.

If God were to step in right now and destroy all evil, do we think that any of us would remain unscathed? Who would be left if God stamped out all selfishness, greed, hate, and violence? No one. God is patient with us, therefore we can be patient with others.

This parable from Jesus does say something I think it is essential that we all hear; always beware of sinners judging other sinners. Good and evil exist side by side, not only in the world, but within each one of us as well. As Carl Jung once pointed out, “The brighter the halo, the smellier the feet.”

This patience does not mean we turn a blind eye to sin and evil in this world. Jesus counsels patience, but Jesus also sensitizes our consciences and makes us aware of evil in ourselves and others. Jesus exposed and confronted sin as we should. We might confront evil, in ourselves and others. We may even be able to make this world a safer place, for the time being. This parable reminds us not to be fooled , though. We will never eradicate all the weeds. We might catch Bin Laden and bring him to justice, but we will not eliminate global terrorism. Only God can heal the falleness of creation.

The wisdom of Jesus' counsel also reveals that some of the crusading efforts to eliminate sin in our churches may tend to tear up and destroy more than they create. This place we are called to live and witness in is not some kind of spiritual vacuum. It is a world made up of wonderfully good things, and good people, as well as atrociously bad ones, and every combination in between. This knowledge should free us from both indifference and fanatacism, and increase our capacity for toleration. We are free to resist evil without needing to take on the role of God.

The wheat never stifles growth. The wheat endures the weeds. We are called to show the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Let us lift our heads towards God, nurtured by the assurance that the harvest will come, and one day, we will all shine like the sun in the Kingdom.

J.

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