What is life about?
Matthew 13: 24-30 & 36-43.
There is a huge problem with this parable.
And the problem is this...it is too easy.
Jesus told us parables to make us think.
And in this parable we don't need to think because Jesus tells us what it means.
There is a farmer...well that is Jesus.
And he sows seed in a field...well the field is the world and the seed are good people.
But an enemy...well that is the devil.
This enemy comes along and plants bad seed...well that is bad people.
What to do?
They could rip up the bad plants but that might damage the good plants.
So the farmer...who we know is really Jesus...waits till the harvest...which is the end of time...and harvests both the good and the bad plants.
The good plants go to heaven and the weeds go to...well we can already work that one out.
It’s all there in front of us.
Only it isn’t.
Because we haven’t had to think it through, work it out.
We think we know this parable, we think we understand this parable.
So we move on to the next parable because we understand this parable, we know what it means.
And because we haven’t had to think it through and work it out we haven’t done the real job, and that is to work out what it means to us.
God doesn’t just talk to us meaningless rubbish.
God talks to us because there is something that we need to hear, something that we need to do, something that we need to change...either in the world or in our lives.
That’s why this parable is so serious.
The kingdom of heaven is like...
Jesus is talking about our past, our present and our future eternity.
This is the kingdom of God, the be all and end all. This is the area where God's power is working in the universe.
It started before the universe was made; it will go on after the universe is destroyed.
This is the sphere of God’s influence in this world and beyond.
If there is ever an answer to the question...what is life about, why are we here...then the answers are in these parables.
These answers are so basic, so fundamental, that Jesus doesn’t just give one parable, he gives a series of parables, one after another after another.
The kingdom of God is like a farmer who sows good seed
...it is like a mustard seed,
...it is like yeast,
...it is hidden treasure,
...it is like a valuable pearl,
...it is like a fisherman casting his net.
So let’s forget what this parable means.
And let’s start getting to the real business, what does this parable mean to us?
Because God wants to talk to us and say something we need to hear.
So what is the most important thing in this parable?
There is one theme that comes through again and again and again...God thinks our life, your life, matters.
Let’s start at the end of this parable, because isn’t that the way stories work...there is a beginning, a middle and an end...and the important part of the story comes at the end.
So at the end of this story is a time of judgement.
At some time all that is in this world will be judged.
And it would be easy to think the most important thing about this parable is judgement...but the truth is that it is not the judging that matters, it is why there is judgement that matters.
Things are judged because they are important.
Our lives are important. What we do matters, because what we do will end up one day with judgement.
Isn’t that a message that forces us to pull up our socks a bit.
Because I think, if truth be told, most of us don't think our lives matter all that much.
And because we don't think our lives matter all that much we don't live as if what we do matters. We are sloppy with our relationships, we let hurt and pain and sorrow go unchecked...because we think we can’t do anything about it.
We let bad relationships fester, we let grudges grow, we let ourselves be surrounded by indifference...because we think what we do doesn't matter.
But that's not what this parable says.
What this parable says is that we matter, we matter so much that what we do will be judged.
Look at the way sports days in schools were becoming.
In some schools they had sports days where everyone won a prize.
It didn’t matter if you were the fastest or the slowest, according to them what mattered was taking part or not taking part, it didn't matter, and everyone got a medal.
You know how much children prepared for those school sports days?
You know how much the children cared for their plastic medal?
Nobody cared, because it wasn't important.
The world Para games have been in London over the last few weeks. Thousands upon thousands of people have been there, millions around the world have been watching, eager to see who wins the medals. For some this will be the last chance they will have of ever winning a medal, for some it may be the very first chance they will have had, how much preparation do you think they will have go through? How many years of training and sacrifice will they have gone through, for a moment of judgement when everyone decides who the best is. Why? Because it matters to them.
That’s why so many will be watching, because all their training, all their sacrifice matters, for this moment of judgement...it means something.
How much more important is our life?
That message is there at the start of the parable as well.
A man sowed good seed in his field...
He didn’t sow seed in his field and wait to see if it was good seed or bad seed.
A man sowed good seed in his field...
We know we were brought into this world to be good.
Instinctively we know that.
This is one of those things what we know but we don't realise that we know.
As we get older we may get disillusioned about it.
But deep down we believe that we are basically good, and the reason for that is that we are basically good.
My daughter is just about to have her first child, a daughter as it turns out.
Because of the high chances of potential miscarriage we have been worrying a lot about this little sprog.
But we have never worried about her character.
There has not been one night when either Roseanna or I have woken up with a cold sweat and thought, ‘What if this child is evil incarnate?’
Funnily enough when all my three children were born, and I was there for each of their births, the first thing I wanted to do was check if they had ten fingers and ten toes...I never once thought about checking if they had the number 666 as a birthmark hidden somewhere on their body.
I can’t think of any baby I have ever seen that I thought was evil.
I’ve done a few baptisms in my day, how many times have you seen a baby getting baptised and you have thought to yourself...’That baby is destined to be a megalomaniac,’?
You just don’t. The presumption is that this baby needs as much help and support that it can get. That if we do right by that child then the child will grow up with hope, with potential. The presumption is that the child is good.
A man sowed good seed in his field...
We matter to God, we matter because we were made to be good.
And at the end of time our lives will be judged because our lives matter.
But what are we meant to do?
What are we going to be judged on?
The bit in the middle.
Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest.
Think about this. If the thing that was most important to God was destroying evil then we wouldn’t matter as much. And if we didn’t matter so much then God would just destroy evil and we would be collateral damage.
I also think that part of the problem is that the field God is planting in could be our heart. And in our heart is both good and evil. And in destroying the evil in our heart God would destroy the good. And I think God wants the good to have a chance.
So he lets the evil survive so that good has a chance.
So what really matters to God, what is most important to God than anything else...is the life we live, and the good we can potentially do.
He has given us this life, and he wants us to live it.
I don’t usually quote other people in my sermons.
But I am going to give you a quote because I have been living with this one for a few weeks now. Every day I have reread it and every day it hits hard.
‘You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid...you refuse to do it because you want to live longer...you’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that someone will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take a stand. Well you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.’ (Martin Luther King Jr who was assassinated 1 years later)
The thing about this parable is that it is not about judgement.
The thing about this parable is that it is about life.
Your life, my life, every life.
This parable is about the kingdom of God.
And Jesus says that the kingdom of God is about our life, and how we live our life.
It is about our life and how it matters to God.
It is about our life and how God has created us to be good.
The world may not be the way we want it to be.
We may even believe that in our world there is much evil.
But even in this imperfect world...God has given us the chance of life...and the chance to live this life in a way that matters, because what we do does matter.
The next interaction you have with your spouse, or your neighbour or a complete stranger in the street...that can be an interaction for good.
The next time you talk to a person who looks lost waiting at the bus stop, or can’t reach a tin that is too low for them to bend down, or too high for them to reach up, or when someone asks you to knit a silly hat for a bottle like so many of our congregation did over the last few weeks...these things matter because they bring a moment of hope in this world....and that moment matters
The next time you hug someone, or comfort someone, or help someone, that matters. And when we don’t that matters too.
So what is the message of this parable to us?
Never live your life as if it doesn’t matter, for if you do then things you could do for good just won’t happen, and people that need help won’t find it, people who need comfort won't find it, people who need care won’t find it, people who need love won’t find it.
We matter to God, and what we do matters to God because how we life our life either shows, or doesn't show, to others that they matter to us,
and they should matter to us because they really matter to God.