Some Good Weed

Sermon delivered July 20, 2008 at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, SC

By: Candace Chellew-Hodge

Readings:
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Romans 8:12-25

Mother, father please explain to me
Why a world so full of mystery
A place so bitter and still so sweet
So beautiful and yet so full of sad, sad...

Mother, father please explain to me
Why forests march to desert speed
While snowcapped mountains melt away
What do we tell our babies, when do we say, oh

Mother, father please explain to me
How a man who rocks his child to sleep
Pulls the trigger on his brother's heart
He digs a hole right to the middle of this storm of hatred

Dave Matthews, with this song, "Mother, Father," reminds us of our scripture today. There are weeds among the wheat - somebody got evil in our good - an enemy is lurking, reading to harsh our mellow.

I don't know if you've noticed, but the world is a scary place. War, famine, corruption, murder, violence, indifference. A world so full of mystery - so bitter and still so sweet. A world of paradox, full of evil and grace, where people love their families, but kill their enemies.

  Hear this sermon at the Garden of Grace UCC Web site.

My guitar teacher's 25-year-old son died a couple of weeks ago in a car accident. A good man is gone while evil people continue to thrive. Babies die every day, while dictators and oppressors live full and healthy lives. We don't understand the world. Didn't our maker sow good seeds? Where did all this evil come from? How did we get so many weeds in our good garden? We can't seem to make sense of it, so we, along with Dave Matthews, turn to our Mother, Father God and ask:

Mother, father please explain to me
How it could be so this world has come to be
A precious balance in between
Such cruelty and such kindness please

Mother, father please explain to me
How this world has come to be
Unequaled in her blessings, oh, I see
Unbridled hatred so extreme, please tell me

Mother, father please explain to me
How this world has come to be so
Twisted between time and dreams
Oh, mother, father please explain to me

I told Pastor Andy I wanted to call this sermon "Some Good Weed" so he could announce, "Next week at Garden of Grace, we'll have some good weed." I figured it would up attendance. When I was in a band, back in the 80s when all you had to know were three chords, we kicked around band names and my favorite was "Free Beer." I figured it would get us an audience - but perhaps an angry audience - or a poor band when we had to pay everyone's beer tab, so we decided against that name.

We get that same sort of excitement hearing the parable - there are weeds in the wheat? I've got my gloves on, let's get to weeding! We can tell the difference between the good people and the bad people in the world! But, Jesus puts a damper on our enthusiasm. He tells us to leave the weeds among the wheat - let the good and the evil mix. We are not wise enough to know the difference between the weeds and the wheat. What we call weeds, God may call wheat - only God can finally judge anyone. If we appoint ourselves as judges, we may destroy some good weed.

Consider that good weed that cannibas, Mary Jane, pot, weed, reefer, dope - it goes by many names. It's gotten a bad rap in our society's war on drugs. Marijuana has been grown for fiber for thousands of years - hemp fabric is one of the strongest natural fibers out there. The plant - this good weed - also has many medicinal uses. The plant, and its derivatives, can be used to treat everything from glaucoma to multiple sclerosis, to cancer to migraines. It can also be turned into a biofuel and used to power our cars without even giving us a contact buzz. I'm not advocating using marijuana as a mind altering drug - but we've demonized a weed that is useful in many ways. It is indeed a "good weed."

If you've ever been to Charleston, you've seen another plant often considered a weed - seagrass. This plant may not seem beautiful to us, but it plays an important role in the ocean providing oxygen, food and a place to live for many ocean animals. But, that good weed, in the hands of skilled basket maker can be transformed into something beautiful. The tradition of making seagrass baskets dates back to the 1700s. This is an ancient use of "some good weed."

God can transform the ugly in the world to things of beauty.

Mother, father do you know
Why one man's belly overflows
Another sleeps in hunger's bed
Oh, we trade our world for a piece of bread

Oh Mother, father please explain to me
How this rare world's come to be
A place so full of color yet overflowing
Always in black and white
Drowning in the waters of our...

Mother, father please explain to me
How this world has come to be
While still blessed in all the things we see
Such a sad, sad home for you and me

I don't know about you, but I'm glad it's God who does the final judging and not me. Whenever someone flies past me on the highway, I wish them troopers they are my cop bait, and I want to see it when the cop nails them. I want to be there to witness justice being meted out. I want to drive by and laugh! In fact, if it were up to me, doing stupid things in traffic would get you the death penalty. Thank God, it's not up to me I wouldn't live through my own rules.

But, we want to see people get their comeuppance, don't we? We want to see the speeder nailed, the thief punished, the cheater caught, the murderer condemned. We want our thirst for vengeance satisfied. We're so stuck on this idea, that we make movie after movie after movie on just such a theme the bad guy getting his due usually violently.

You see, there are not just weeds in the world but weeds in our own hearts. The apostle Paul told the Romans that it's not just the whole creation that groans in pain but we do as well we groan inwardly while we wait for redemption not just for this world but for ourselves. There are weeds in our inward wheat, somebody got evil in our good, an enemy lurks, ready to harsh our mellow.

Vengeance is just one of those weeds there are others: pride, envy, gluttony, dishonesty, indifference, cheating, stealing, lying, anger. They're all there all within each of us - weeds among the wheat of our good works, our good thoughts, our love, our caring, our compassion and our hope. We have tons of self-help books ready to help us weed our inner gardens, but what if we stopped and gave thanks for our weeds instead of seeking to rip them up by the roots?

It has been my anger that has caused me the greatest pain and the greatest joy. My anger has harmed relationships, driven people I love away from me, held me hostage and caused damage to people and things. But, it has been in tending the good weed of anger that I have grown to be a stronger, healthier and happier person. I have learned the art of forgiveness. I have learned the art of compassion and self-control all because of that good weed of anger. That good weed of anger has also led me to get involved in causes that seek to do good in the world that seek to grow the good wheat stronger.

Think of your own weeds. Think of those things about yourself that you're ashamed of that you don't want anyone else in the world to know about. Think about your weaknesses, your addictions, your guilty pleasures. Now, give thanks for them. That's some good weed you've got growing there. Don't be so quick to yank those up by the roots. Those good weeds challenge you to grow stronger wheat to make your wheat outgrow all the weeds in your inner garden. Use the weeds wisely and God can redeem them and create something beautiful in your life.

Breathe deeply.

Well, I'm just an old chunk of coal
But I'm gonna be a diamond someday
I'm gonna grow and glow till I'm so blue, pure perfect
I'm gonna put a smile on everybody's face
I'm gonna kneel and pray everyday
Lest I should become vain along the way
I'm just an old chunk of coal now Lord
But, I'm gonna be a diamond someday.

Do you know how diamonds are made? This song is really instructive diamonds do come from carbon and are formed deep within the earth. Heat and pressure on that carbon over a few thousand years will eventually form a diamond a thing of beauty. Diamonds don't form with adversity without harsh conditions.

Jesus said the weeds will be thrown in to the fire and this passage has often been used to warn people to repent or be sent to hell. Those hearing Jesus' words would not understand that translation. The word translated as fire or hell in some translations is Gehenna. Anyone listening to Jesus would know about this place it's a valley outside Jerusalem where children used to be sacrificed to pagan Gods. During Jesus' time it was a garbage pit that contained an eternal flame to remind people that burning children as a sacrifice to God was wrong. Equating this valley with a place of eternal punishment is making it what it used to be a place where children God's children are sacrificed.

Instead, Jesus uses the image of Gehenna to remind us of all the garbage we carry within ourselves. We are in need of the purifying fire of God's love and grace. To become a diamond we have to endure the heat and fire of God's purifying love. To endure the weeds in our lives, we have to put our weeds through the fire of God's purifying grace.

Yes, there's a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth as we go through the fire but with our weeds burned away with our carbon transformed, the righteousness that we possess will shine like the sun in God's realm.

When we submit to God's purifying fire, there is a glory that awaits us. Not in the sweet by and by but right here, right now. The adversity of the world is our chance to shine, to grow and glow until we're so blue, pure perfect.

I'm gonna learn a new way to walk
I'm gonna search and find a better way to talk
I'm gonna spit and polish my old rough edged self
Till I get rid of every single flaw
I'm gonna be the world's best friend
I'm gonna go around shakin' everybody's hand
I'm just an old chunk of coal now Lord
But I'm gonna be a diamond someday

Hear the good news this morning:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

While we wait, the world remains a mean a beautiful place - a place full of weeds and wheat. While we wait, we reserve judgment on those around us and ourselves, understanding that only God has the wisdom to render final judgment. While we wait, we rely on God to transform some good weed into wheat - burning away the impurities in our world and our heart with her purifying fire. While we wait, we hope. While we wait, we love. While we wait - we sing:

Well, I'm just an old chunk of coal
But I'm gonna be a diamond someday
I'm gonna grow and glow till I'm so blue, pure perfect
I'm gonna put a smile on everybody's face
I'm gonna kneel and pray everyday
Lest I should become vain along the way
I'm just an old chunk of coal now Lord
But, I'm gonna be a diamond someday.
I'm just an old chunk of coal now Lord
But I'm gonna be a diamond someday

 

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians. Her first book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass is now available at http://www.bulletproofbook.com. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches. She can be reached by email at editor-at-whosoever.org or by using the suggestion box.

Copyright by the author All Rights Reserved

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