16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Matthew 13:24-30 24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
It is important that we protect our spiritual lives from weeds and pests. When we first planted fruit trees on this property a few years ago we planted 5 fruit trees in front of the preschool and four of them thrived, but the grapefruit was lost to some gophers. We tried to save it. We noticed that gophers were paying a little too much attention to it and so we tried some natural remedies. We got these yellow sticks that were solar powered and that vibrate every 30 seconds and they were supposed to annoy the gophers away and that didn’t work. And then we tried surrounding the trees with peppermint essential oil and caster oil because gophers aren’t supposed to like that smell and that did seem to chase them away but by then the little rodents had already destroyed the roots and our poor grapefruit tree can’t get enough nurturance. We tried surrounded it with coffee grounds which act as a fertilizer or compost but it was too late, the roots were too damaged.
Weeds and rodents in our Spiritual lives are described in the first part of our verse in Galatians. Anger, resentment, coveting things or wealth above people, not trusting in God. And if these things aren’t taken care of and the tree isn’t protect from these things, if they aren’t squashed we aren’t able to bear fruit for Christ or the Spirit. Rodents and weeds distract us, and cause us to not absorb the water and light and nurturance we need. And if they aren’t squashed they can destroy the tree as it is starting out.
When starting out, fruit trees take a lot of work to produce fruit, a lot of investment and time. As they grow. As the roots go deeper and as they grow taller towards the light and as rodents and weeds become smaller in proportion to them, they become less work. The same is true with our spiritual lives. If we do the work towards the beginning as we grow it becomes easier and there is more and more fruit. Once we learn to spend time with the Word of God and Jesus and suppress weeds in our lives we can do amazing work for the Lord. Whenever we start something new it can be hard of awkward at first. This can be true for prayer or reading the Bible or joining a faith community. But the more do these things the easier is becomes.
From Living Among the Weeds, “We pull them, spray them, ignore them and ultimately realize that we‘re fighting a losing battle because weeds will always be with us. But as counterintuitive as this sounds, weeds can be a good thing. That’s right! Weeds can tell us a lot about unhealthy soil conditions. Clover, for example, might indicate that soil is low in nitrogen; buttercups might indicate poor drainage: flowering weeds like chickweed may actually reveal the best place to grow certain fruits and vegetables. Still, whatever the reasons for weed growth, it’s often better to let them grow a bit before pulling them.
For one thing, when the growth is just a sprout, we can’t always distinguish a weed from a cultivated plant. How often have we pulled weeds only to discover they were early shoots of plants we wanted in our garden! Furthermore, young plants might be disturbed by weed pulling: not yet mature, they don’t have a strong enough root system to withstand a nearby weed being yanked from the ground. Finally, some weeds actually help strengthen a plant or garden. Like Dandelions, they are weeds, but are needed to feed the bees until the rest of the plants start to produce flowers in the spring.
You know, at Christmas time, we love to fill our homes and churches with decorative plants. With Holy, the Christmas Trees, Mistletoe, The Poinsettia. Poinsettias with their bright red flowers and deep green streams and leaves they seem to be the perfect Christmas flower. Poinsettias haven’t always been known as a flower. In fact, until the 1920’s they were largely considered to be weeds. Poinsettias are native to Mexico. The first Ambassador to Mexico was appointed by John Quincy Adam and his name was Joel Roberts Poinsett. And he was interested in botany, so he brought back the shrub to his home in North Carolina and it became associated with him and this got the name poinsettia. But it wasn’t until the 1920’s when Paul Ecke took note of the plant which was growing around his ranch which that was culturally considered to be a weed at that time. From 1923-1960’s he grew plants on his property and sold them.
Paul Ecke is the one who began to promote the plant as a holiday flower. He even appeared on The Tonight Show and Bob Hope Christmas specials to promote it. He took the American perception of a weed and turned it into a flower- a very expensive Christmas flower. I should tell you I spent 5 years working at the Ecke YMCA in Encinitas, for eventually he became incredibly wealthy off of this weed and donated millions to charities such as the YMCA. (http://columbustelegram.com/news/local/poinsettias-popular-blooming-weed/article_30442ad5-96de-5f9e-b8d0-57d4e9fc6522.html) Isn’t it interesting how our perception of a plant’s value depends largely on our views or opinions, too often with little thought to God’s or other creature’s perspective. It shows us how quickly our perception of good and bad can be altered just by what other people tell us.
Our second verse talks about trusting God to separate the weeds from the wheat in God’s own time. Often in our Christian life we want everything to be perfect. We don’t like complicated. We don’t like living among the weeds. We don’t like the weeds in our own lives. And we don’t put our trust in letting God tell us what is good and what is bad. We become more focused on what we want, what we think is best. We rely more on our perception of reality, of what is wheat and what are weeds; instead of trusting in God.
Several years ago, a book came out entitled The Shack. And in the book, it imagines what life would look like if a man spent time face to face with God. In the book the Holy Spirit is referred to as a she. Which does Biblically make a lot of sense. In English our words are gender natural. But Biblically the majority of the words for the Holy Spirit are feminine words. This slightly adapted except is from when Mack, the man spends time gardening with the Holy Spirit.
“As he rounded the trees, he saw for the first time a magnificent garden and orchard somehow contained within a plot of land hardly larger than an acre. For whatever reason, Mack has expected a perfectly manicured and ordered English garden. This was not that!
It was chaos in color. His eyes tried unsuccessfully to find some order in this blatant disregard for certainty. Dazzling sprays of flowers were blasted through patches of randomly planted vegetation and herbs, vegetation the likes of which Mack had never seen. It was confusing, stunning, and incredibly beautiful….”Looks like a mess to me,” muttered Mack under his breath.
(The Holy Spirit) stopped and turned to Mack, her face glorious. “Mack! Thank you! What a wonderful compliment!” She looked around at the garden. “That is exactly what this is—a mess. But…(it’s still beautiful)”—she looked at Mack and beamed…He tried to follow The Holy Spirit from place to place within the garden but found himself easily distracted by the blends of colors: currant and tangerine and fuchsia, as well as innumerable shades of greens and browns. It was all wonderfully bewildering and intoxicating. The Holy Spirit seemed to be intently focused on a particular task.
When she stopped, Mack almost ran into her, distracted as he was looking around….the place where they stood was an open stop surrounded on three sides by peach and cherry trees, and in the middle was a cascade of purple and yellow flowered bushes that almost took his breath away.
…Mack leaned on his rake, and looked around the garden… “Spirit, I know you are the Creator, but did you make the poisonous plants, stinging nettles, and mosquitos too?”
“I created everything that actually exists, including what you consider the bad stuff,” The Spirit finished for him. “But when I created it, it was only good, because that is just the way I am.” She seemed to almost billow into a curtsy before resuming her task.
“But,” Mack continued, not satisfied, ‘then why has so much of the ‘good’ gone ‘bad?’
Now she paused before answering. “You humans, so little in your own eyes. You are truly blind to your own place in creation. Having chosen the ravaged path of independence….” She shook her head and the wind signed through the trees nearby…
“So, are there plants in this garden that are poisonous?” he asked.
“Oh yes!” She exclaimed. “They are some of my favorites.”
”So why create poisonous plants at all?” Mack queried.
“Your question presumes that poison is bad, that such creations have no purpose. Many of these so called bad plants like this one, contain incredible properties for healing or are necessary for some of the most magnificent wonders when combined with something else. Humans have a great capability for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing…now, you are beginning to see why eating the deadly fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was so devastating to your race….Let me start by asking you a question. When something happens to you, how do you determine whether it is good or evil? (Wheat or Weeds?)”
Mack thought for a moment before answering. “Well, I haven’t really thought about that. I guess I would say that something is good when I like it- when it makes me feel good or gives me a sense of security. Conversely, I’d call evil something that causes me pain or costs me something I want.”
“So it is pretty subjective then?”
“I guess it is.”
“And how confident are you in your ability to discern what indeed is good for you, or what is evil?”
…”All of this sounds quite self-serving and self-centered, I suppose.” Answered Mack. “And my track record isn’t very encouraging either. Some things I initially thought were good turned out to be horribly destructive, and some things I thought were evil, well turned out—
She interrupted, “Then it is you who became the judge. And to make things more confusing, that which you determine what is good and what is evil. So when your good and evil clash with your neighbors, fights and arguments ensue and even wars break out….And if there is no reality of good that is absolute, then you have lost any basis for judging…”
“So is there a way to fix it?” asked Mack.
“You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms. That is a hard pill to swallow—choosing to live only in me. To do that, you must know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness.”…At that moment (Jesus) emerged down the walkway he smiled as he approached. “Well, you two are having a good conversation, I assume?” He winked at Mack.
“The best” exclaimed the Holy Spirit. “And guess what? He called our garden a mess—isn’t that perfect?”
They both beamed broadly at Mack. “As always your timing is perfect Jesus. Everything that I needed Mackenzie to do here is finished. She turned to him. “Mackenzie, you are such a delight! Thank you for all of your hard work!”
“I didn’t do that much really,” he said apologetically. “I mean look at this mess.” His gaze moved over the garden that surrounded them. “But it really is beautiful and full of you Spirit. Even though it seems like lots of work still needs to be done, I feel strangely at home and comforted here.”
The two looked at each other and grinned. The Spirit stepped toward him until she had invaded his personal space. “And well you should Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive!
The impact of her words almost crumbled all of Mack’s reserve. He looked again at their garden-his garden- and it really was a mess, but incredible and wonderful at the same time. And beyond that God was here and loved the mess. It was almost too much to comprehend. “
We are all beautiful messes, mixes of weeds and wheat. And sometimes we are wrong, sometimes we think certain behaviors are wheat when they are weeds and vica-versa. But God and work with that. This whole world is a mix of weeds and wheat. Us and others.
The New Interpreters Commentary reminds us, “When the master in the parable forbids the servant to go and weed out the field, this is not to be interpreted as a call to passivity in the face of evil. It is not a divine command to ignore injustice in the world, violence in society, or wrong in the church. It is, rather, a realistic reminder that the servants do not finally have the ability to get rid of all the weeds and that sometimes attempts to pluck up weeds cause more harm than good.”
Too often, Christians are perceived as being judgmental and condemning. Christians are known for liking to put labels on people outside of the Church. These type of people are “bad” or weeds and Christians are “good.” And the truth is, that by labeling people as weeds or wheat and not trusting God, it doesn’t help spread the message and love of Christ.
The truth is all of us are a mix of weeds and wheat and by the grace of God the Lord works with that and through that. And we have trust in that. That God is at work in the world and in our lives even when it hurts. Even when all you seem to see is weeds. Because all of us and all of the world is a beautiful mess of the garden. And we need kindness, for ourselves and for others.
We don’t need to weed or judge people. That’s why this fruit of the spirit is so important. If we always treat people with kindness, and treat ourselves with kindness. Kindness seems so simple but the world is so short on it. I was with a Pastor friend of mine and we went through a drive through, and I hate driving, so he was driving. And we went through a drive through and she ordered for us. And she was just really patience and kind, and when we went up to pay. This young woman working the drive through said, thank you so much for being kind. Some many people talk to me like I don’t matter. And I worry, that at times I’ve been that person. Not thinking about little things like how my tone or disentrance in that person is a missed opportunity to serve and see G-d. One of my favorite Presbyterian Pastors, Mr. Rodger’s once said, “There are three ways to ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” This certainly applies to the Christian life. Thanks be to G-d.