St Andrew, Glencairn
Glencairn Methodist Church
READING Matthew 13: 24-30 and 36-43
Why doesn’t God DO something?
This must be one of the most frequently asked questions by Christians and other people of faith. Tragedies happen – tower blocks of flats go on fire, earthquakes and tsunamis hit the earth killing many people. Tyrants and bullies force their own plans on people and crush opposition and they seem to get away with it. And we ask, again and again, why is God apparently silent? Why doesn’t he step in and stop it.
The parable of the wheat and the weeds is not a direct answer to the question. Indeed it is a difficult question to answer to everyone’s satisfaction and any answers must also recognise that there is an element of mystery in God and his activity. But the parable shows that God’s sovereign rule over the world isn’t quite such a straightforward thing as people sometimes imagine.
Just think about it. Would people really like it if God were to rule the world directly and immediately? Would we like it if God instantly judged everything we said or did or even thought about saying or doing? If the price we had to pay for God to step in and stop a campaign of genocide were that he would also have to rebuke and restrain every other evil impulse, including those we all still know and cherish within ourselves, would we be prepared to pay that price? If we ask God to act on special occasions, do we really suppose that he could do that simply because we want him to and then back off again for the rest of the time?
No, I don’t think so.
This parable is about waiting and waiting is what we all find difficult, especially in this internet age, when we can purchase almost anything on line and have it delivered to our house the next day. People are always wanting instant responses to their demands and questions; we expect others to be sitting by their laptops or smart phones, ready to answer our texts and emails to them instantly.
During the recent Assembly elections there was an election poster on the lamppost outside our house with the words, “Acht na Gaeilge, Nois”. Anybody know what it means? I really did need to know so I tried Google and also consulted a friend with a working knowledge of Gaeilge. It is of course the mantra, “Irish language Act NOW”. It’s a bit like some of those chants we hear on TV news reports on political marches, etc;
“What do we want?” “Acht na Gaeilge”;
“When do we want it?” “We want it NOW”
Over and over again, ad nauseam!
No we are not patient people, not good at waiting.
The farm labourers were like this. They wanted to deal with the weeds right away. But the famer said “No, leave the weeds in case you pull up some of the wheat as well. Leave it to the harvest and then the harvesters will first bind together the weeds and burn then, and then bring the wheat into the barn”.
Now remember the first words of the reading, “The kingdom of God is like ---“. This is a Kingdom parable, and it teaches that we must wait for final fulfilment. The disciples of course didn’t want to wait. They were excited about what Jesus was doing – healing people and proclaiming that the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived - in him. If it really was present and was coming to birth in what he was doing, they wanted the whole thing at once. They weren’t interested in God’s timetable. They had one of their own and they wanted God to conform to it.
God, like the farmer, doesn’t want to rush in and get rid of the weeds since there would be collateral damage to some of the wheat. The servants thought that their idea was what God wanted. They wanted God to act and were prepared to help him by acting themselves. And God doesn’t like the sight of all those weeds scattered throughout the wheat field any more than they did. But Jesus is saying the Kingdom of God does not come about like that, because God is not like that. The parable is about patience; first the patience of the farmer and the servants and then the patience of God. Many Jews recognised this and spoke of God’s compassion, delaying his judgement so that more people could be saved at the end.
Jesus wanted his followers to live with the tension of believing that the Kingdom was indeed arriving in and through his own work, and that this kingdom would only fully arrive, not all in a bang but through a slow process like that of a mustard seed growing into a tree or a lump of yeast spreading though the dough and causing the loaf to rise.
We cannot say that God is doing nothing, that he is ignoring evil and natural disaster and just doesn’t care about the victims. Through Jesus God showed that he DID care; that he was very active and deeply compassionate; battling with sickness and evil and defeating them, but still warning that while victory was assured the final overthrow of the enemy was yet to come.
God’s plan for salvation started at the Nativity, at Christmas and was completed through Good Friday and Easter. God did act dramatically at that time. So today when we long for God to act, to put the world to rights, we need to remember that he has already done so, and that what we are now awaiting for is the full outworking of those events.
And we wait with patience, not like people in a darkened room waiting for someone to come with a lighted candle, but like people in the early morning who know that the sun has arisen and are waiting for the full brightness of midday.
Ken 16 August 2017)
This Message was inspired by Tom Wright's Matthew for Everyone.
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm