Come home to Calvary
Host an Event at Historic Calvary
I don’t know about you, but I hear stories like this from scripture and immediately get sidetracked. Who in the world today is the enemy planting weeds in my field??? How dare they?!!! I’m sure _______________is a child of the evil one, right? I can think of people who need to gnash some teeth.
Or if the cast of the parable doesn’t sidetrack me, I get distracted by the details about how big mustard plants can get and can birds really make nests in their branches?
And if that’s you too, take good comfort. Because Jesus taught in parables as if they are the clearest thing in the whole world and his followers are there beside him, nodding and agreeing completely. “Yes, Jesus. Totally makes sense.” And then when they are away from the crowds, and behind the closed door of the house, the disciples say, “ummm, what?”
I picture one of them pulling out a white board and some markers, “explain it to us. Slowly. With pictures, please.”
And I don’t know if these parables are sound botany advice.
But they are some of the images Jesus gives us about the Kingdom of Heaven. The kingdom of Heaven is wheat in a field of weeds. Mustard taking over a yard. And yeast that lets the bread rise. This realm of God is to be contrasted with the kingdoms of Rome, or Assyria, or the United States or any other earthly structure.
This is the second story in this chapter in Matthew about seeds. Chapter 13 begins with the parable of the sower, which I invite you to look at this week. As the chapter begins, we’re told this: “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables….”
The use of these parables as a teaching tool to a large crowd suggests to me that Jesus was not seduced by the crowds that followed him, because as soon as he has mega church numbers by the sea shore, he tells them a story about how the seed is sown in lots of places, but only a few of them will yield any harvest, and some will grow up surrounded by weeds. Mega crowds will not translate into mega disciples—and Jesus knows that from the start of his ministry.
On one side, we hear these parables and we think—we want to be good seeds that grow in to wheat. We don’t want to be weeds.
Nothing in the parable, however, suggests Jesus has a 5-step plan for bad seeds to become good seeds. This is not a how-to parable. It is a description of the Kingdom of Heaven—the Kingdom of Heaven is full of wheat, weeds, mustard (which is considered by some to be a weed), and yeast.
Now I want a sandwich.
Jesus is telling his disciples, and the ridiculously large crowds, and he is telling us, that the kingdom of Heaven is mystery.
We don’t know why one person who hears an invitation to church takes you up on it and the next person doesn’t.
We don’t know why some people hear the Word and are convicted by it and transformed to begin a journey of faith. And we don’t know why others, who hear the same Word, walk away unchanged.
The kingdom of God is as if weeds and wheat all live together—and we don’t need to worry about it.
I’m not really clear on what our job is in this parable, to be honest. In the parable of the sower, before this, I think we’re called to throw the seeds of God’s love around liberally, without worrying about where it lands. I think in this story, we’re both the good seeds, called to grow into a harvest of wheat to feed the world AND we’re the servants of the planter, who ask ‘do you want us to get rid of the weeds?’ only to be told, no, put your sickles away. You don’t need to worry about the weeds.
Our task is not to remove the people we think are weeds. None of us is called to spray divine ‘round up’ all over the church, or the neighborhood, or the world. God will handle the harvest. We just need to let it grow.
The Kingdom of Heaven is mystery. Both in who responds to it and in why God chose to set it up that way in the first place.
I think much of Christianity has taken the sowing the seeds part very seriously, but has gotten confused about the mystery part. And we have totally missed the boat on who is responsible for the harvest.
We think it is our job to make sure people grow into wheat. We think the harvest is something we’ll get credit for at some point. “Look Jesus! I sowed 12 seeds and all 12 of them grew into these great Christians here.”
Instead, God wants us to be seeds, go on with our lives, and then see what grows out of the dirt and dust of our lives.
This past week was the anniversary of my baptism. February 9, 1969. In truth, I don’t remember the day because I was a baby. But when I look back at my life, at the people who nurtured me along the way, I can see how the church helped my little seed of wheat, (or maybe I’m more like mustard), grow.
It was the love of Sunday School teachers who put up with me, the little girl who always asked the questions.
It was the people from church who cared for me and my family when my dad went blind.
It was the people who offered love when I was afraid I deserved judgment.
It was the people who challenged me to be more, who saw my gifts and called them out before I had any idea.
And I bet most of them don’t have a clue that what they said to me, or how they loved and cared for me, was a seed of the very word of God that would take root in my heart, I bet they don’t know that what they did was just I needed in any of those moments of my life.
They were just people who were always just throwing God’s love around, watering my life, cultivating the soil of my soul.
And that’s what we do as church. We see the world as God’s field of wheat and do what we can to watch it grow and thrive. We throw a little bit of yeast into a measure of flour, and watch it become bread to feed the world.
At the very least, thinking about this parable has made me want to call those people who made such a difference in my life, since they were just tending the fields and not waiting around for the harvest, trusting that someone else would be there for me down the road if/when the seeds grew in my life and produced fruit.
Today is Legacy Sunday, when we give thanks to the people of Calvary who remembered Calvary in their wills in the past, and to give thanks to those of you who have made similar plans for the future. We literally would not be here, in this magnificent sanctuary, were it not for the Calvary people who came before us, being the good seeds of wheat—or mustard—growing this congregation into a place where the community could be fed and nourished.
I am grateful Calvary grew those seeds back then, so we could reap the harvest today of having such a great worship space and congregation.
What will the story of Calvary be in another 40 years, 80 years?
It isn’t ours to say what the outcome will be. But we can rest in the mystery of God’s kingdom and trust that God is not calling us to worry about the weeds but to care for the field with trust that the harvest will be just fine.
Joann preached a sermon a while back that I keep thinking of. She shared a quote by Adam Grant: Too many people spend their lives being dutiful descendants instead of good ancestors.
Our responsibility today during our time as wheat in God’s field, is not to please the previous crops of wheat. It’s to improve things for all the wheat to follow. Our Legacy Circle members are committed to being good ancestors for the generations who will follow us.
I thought of that this week when LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s NBA scoring record. I’m not much of a Lakers fan, but even I can acknowledge that LeBron can play basketball pretty well, even if he’s no Gary Payton 2.
Here’s what Kareem said about being a good ancestor:
“In the months leading up to LeBron breaking my record, so much was written about how I would feel on the day he sank that record-breaking shot that I had to laugh…It’s as if I won a billion dollars in a lottery and 39 years later someone won two billion dollars. How would I feel? Grateful that I won and happy that the next person also won. His winning in no way affects my winning.”
He went on to write:
“Whenever a sports record is broken—including mine—it’s a time for celebration. It means someone has pushed the boundaries of what we thought was possible to a whole new level. And when one person climbs higher than the last person, we all feel like we are capable of being more.”
I love Kareem.
I acknowledge there have been a lot of metaphors thrown around in this sermon. We are wheat, maybe some mustard. We are seed sowers, and crop nurturers. We are ancestors and we are descendants. We are Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Where does this story resonate the most in your life? Focus on that.
Wherever we are in the harvest cycle, the one thing that is clear in this parable is that the Kingdom of Heaven is there. God is there. In our planting. In our growing. In our weed invasions. Or when all we are is a little bitty seed we think can’t amount to much. God is there.
Friends, to you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of Heaven. Let’s go and live into it in absurdly generous ways and then see what God will do. Amen.
The Parable of the Weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”[b]
The Parable of the Weeds Explained
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Come home to Calvary
2515 Fillmore, San Francisco, CA 94115
© All rights reserved
Mon-Thurs: 10am to 4pm
Sun: 8am to 1pm