A Sermon preached at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 19 July 2020, the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, by the Revd Harry Ching
Reading for this address: Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Wheat is one of the most important crops in the world. The three kinds of crops with the most production in the world are maize/corns with an annual output of 7.4 million tons; rice- 6.1 million tons; wheat -6.7 million tons (Prof Chueng Man-Leung: his article “Bible and Plant” 摘自張文亮教授著《聖經與植物》). Out of them, wheat has the highest nutritional content, which is the main material for making bread (and beer!). Not only humans need wheat, but many domestic animals also rely on wheat as their staple food.
In the fields (other than St. Martin’s!), seeing the wheat grow vigorously is a scene to be grateful for God’s creation, because thousands of chemical reactions, physical actions, and biological metabolism proceed quietly there. In this world, there are far more things done quietly than in the noise of Trafalgar Square!
For thousands of years, wheat and weed (tares or darnel in the other translations), have been at war with each other on earth perpetually. In fact, if one wishes to look at the the word ‘tare’ in the Oxford Dictionary, it would refers back to the very parable we have just heard.
Speaking in agricultural terms, the tares or darnel resemble wheat in appearance at the juvenile stage, and are often blown into wheat fields by water or by the wind. The environment and region where wheat grows, tares can also grow, often appear in wheat fields. The fringes of tares are sometimes infected with fungi, poisoning humans and animals by ingestion and even death! The roots of tares are shallower than wheat, and take away the nutrients in the soil nitrogen and phosphorus needed by wheat; however, wheat grows with deeper roots and can absorb nutrients in a wider range.
Re-examining wheat and weeds
Wheat and weeds coexist for centuries in the fields, in today’s parable that reflecting the world consist good and bad people.
To many seasoned Christians have heard this commentary or sermon after many RCL cycles, I hope to offer a new dimension to non Chinese speaking world with a Chinese perspective, or even to Chinese speakers whom might reflect upon how we write our words. In Chinese, every word has its meaning(s) and most words derived from nature and formulates from what we can see. For example water (水) looks like water streams flowing, while fire (火) looks like flames!
Wheat (麥 traditional or 麦 simplified https://www.zdic.net/zd/zx/jg/%E9%BA%A5) – looks like the physical wheats from the fields, with its roots reach the soil. The top part represents good harvest. Wheat transforms into words likes noodles 麵 , bread 麵包
Meanwhile, the word- Tares “稗” particles consists of items that can be seen in the fields and of things lowly or unworthy.
Having the weeds/tares or darnels grown in the fields takes away the nutrition that was supposed to go to the wheat of, and trying to imagine in today’s society, the bad dealers, drug addicts or scammer fraudsters- wolves in sheep’s skin!
In today’s Gospel parable, our Lord Jesus Christ encourages us to overcome the lens of slaves/servants for their earthly values, by not to judge others prematurely.
we should have the patience and to prepare to coexist, and overcome evil with love (in Romans 12).
We should only worry for ourselves but not others. Like the gospel parable today weeds grow as a similar size with similar look to wheat, difficult to distinguish until harvest time. Wheat will eventually outgrow the tares, and to become the bread of life for the world, as Christ is the bread for world.
We (as faithful disciples) are to continue sowing the good seeds of the Kingdom until the Kingdom begins to be seen, wherever we go we raise Christ’s banner, like wheat above weeds.
The heart of the Gospel and the parable of Jesus often challenge of thinking of our human nature. The essence of our Christian faith it is to go beyond our human nature or the lens of the world, to examine ourselves, and to treat others with compassion.
Our task as the faithful disciples are to remain open and welcome to those who are regarded as tares or parasites of society and to let God to be the judge at the end of time.
We are not the angels to uproot those weeds in the parable, it is up to God to do so at the end of times, not us! (we are not angels but Anglicans, book that came our a good few years ago.)
It is ever so easy for us to be caught up by the self righteousness,
‘we are not like these lowly unworthy people!’; ‘we are too good for the rest of the world’ and ‘let us form this little circle amongst us or build a safe haven within these four walls and keep ourselves out of stain or corruption in this world!’
Yet – those who have no sin cast the first stone!
#All in all, these tares and darnels are within us in our world, like it or not!
Hence when we come to worship, we are call to mind our own bad deeds, (if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us! 3rd Letter of John) A corporate confession in the beginning of our worship, and continue to be re-examine our own discipleship.
At the dismissal of Worship, we have been charged with: ‘ go in peace to love and to serve the Lord’! By offering hospitality to strangers and courage to the despair, and enable others to live a new life God’s Kingdom again. God gives us seeds, not solutions or a right to pronounce verdicts on others. May these seeds grow in us and also bear fruits in others. May we continue to grow in faith and enable ourselves to nurture others
St. Paul encourage us – to remain hopeful, even in a time when we might felt the world is against us, he reiterate in today’s Gospel:
‘Hope that is seen is not hope- for who hopes for what is seen.
we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.’
‘The suffering is not worth comparing to the glory about to reward to us’. For no sinner is beyond redemption by the Grace of God. Reminds us that there are those whom might be deemed to be unworthy, still remain to have the chance to return to the fold.
Let us pray:
you made us all in your image:
may we discern you in all that we see,
and serve you in all that we do;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.