For a short period of time between “A Bored Seminarian” and “Draughting Theology,” this blog was called “Digging up my own Foundation.” It was a nod, esoteric as it may have been, to my early understanding of the priesthood as one who empowers and encourages their congregation until they find themselves essentially out of a job. When it was pointed out that the best way to shorten that too long title was “Dig up MoFo,” I decided to make a change, but truth be told, that ideal of what parish ministry looked like was a bit short-sighted anyway. No matter how much encouraging and empowering one does, as an ordained clergyperson, there are still things that I can do that members of the congregation can’t. The real difficulty of this vocation is learning what one should delegate and what one must do. Or, to put it in the context of Sunday’s Gospel lesson, what can one safely dig up and hand off and what must remain in the ground.
In reading my standard preaching resources, the consensus is that Jesus’ farming technique left a lot to be desired. The weed planted by the evil one was likely darnel, a poisonous rye grass that until it comes to seed, is impossible to differentiate from good wheat. By the time the slaves would have noticed the problem, the solution they suggest would have been easily done. That is, the wheat and darnel would have both been pretty well close to harvest anyway, and the damage done in uprooting the weed wouldn’t been fairly insignificant compared to the cost of the darnel seed falling to the ground, germinating, and having another year of bad crop to deal with. Yet, Jesus instructs the slaves to wait and let the harvesters deal with it. He is worried that to damage even one good wheat stalk would be a cost too high. Why is Jesus so careful in his weeding?
The answer comes right at the very beginning of the parable. Jesus starts by saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…” This is a kingdom parable, a story meant to teach a lesson about what it looks like under God’s reign. God’s reign turns the upside-down world right-side up. It makes the last first and the first last. It heals the blind, frees the prisoner, and reaches out to touch the lepers. God’s reign is a world in which every tear is dried up and the oil of gladness is poured out in abundance. In the kingdom of the world, darnel doesn’t become wheat and dead men don’t come back to life, but with patience and faith, under the reign of God, both are possible. When we see the world through the lens of this world, we are quick to grab weeds and toss them into the fire, but God’s view is long range, God’s goal is the restoration of all of Creation, God’s dream is a field full of wheat. And so, the slaves are told to leave it to harvesters to deal with the good and the bad. Who knows, by the time the harvest comes around, maybe the greatest miracle of all is that by the grace of God, darnel can become wheat.