A morning ritual of mine is to be awakened each day at 5:00 AM with the top stories broadcast by National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Over the years, however, that morning ritual has included the inevitable sad reporting of one tragic terrorist attack after another. Whether it’s in the Middle East or Europe or within our own Nation, these random attacks that are often motivated by an ideology of hate, indiscriminately target the innocent. I still shudder on hearing the stories and seeing the images of the chemical attack in Syria some six months ago. One would have to be completely heartless not to be moved and righteously angered at seeing defenseless children, victimized by such evil. We shudder as we see such darkness in the human heart that can bring itself to perpetrate such evil in the lives of innocent children.
My brothers and sisters, these are indeed the inevitable weeds that can appear to choke out the full growth of the good seed in the fields of our lives, our country and our world. It would be so easy for many of us to succumb to despair as we hear another story of the innocent suffering, as we endure hearing another tragic story of the dark side of humanity.
Staring at the weeds infesting our so-called life, we inevitably wrestle with the question that none us can seem to voice: Can I trust God when this good life has so much bad in it? In his bestselling book, Who Needs God?, Rabbi Harold Kushner writes: “I meet a lot of people who, in the face of personal tragedy or a major disaster, angrily conclude that there is no God. I am often struck,” he writes, “by how angry some people get at God for not existing.”
“Didn’t you, Lord, sow good seed in your field?” My friends, we know somewhere deep in the earth of our souls God did and God does sow good seed, abundantly, generously, lovingly. How can any of us look into the face of a child and not see the tracings of God’s hand in every dimple, every eyelash, every erupting tooth in a gummy mouth? How can we witness the depth of love that blooms in this congregation when death visits one of our number? How can we watch a father cradle his infant son and not believe that God can be trusted? Times are, my brothers and sisters, we confess our faith in Christ standing deep in a river of tears, stuttering through our sorrow that God is good, God is great, God is love. But, there are those other times, in the moments of darkest doubt when, we’re not so sure. It is at those dark moments that all of us can so easily succumb to focusing all our time and energy in tracking down the weeds, doing everything in our power to root them out of what we hope will be our personal perpetual gardens of Eden.
Yes, we can spend our lives managing weeds, vainly trying to explain, fix, control. Many of us do. But history tells us from the bloody centuries of the Crusades to the meanness in every stripe of fundamentalism that weed control destroys more wheat than weeds. Jesus said, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” Why do that? Are we to believe that Christians like being slapped around? No. Simply put, more gospel, more grace, more of Christ grows on a turned cheek than a clinched fist; always has, and always will.
Times are, like St. Paul, we pray, staring at the weeds, “with groans that words cannot express.” We long for answers, we want God to give us the green light, if not to “Round-Up” the weeds, at least to mow them down for a season. Such is not always the work God places in our hands. In fact, the parable clearly teaches that, at the end of time, God will ultimately deal with the weeds, not us.
So, my friends, you may take up the cause of weed control. Some of us spend much of our lives doing so angry, bitter, and disappointed. I know. Like you, I’ve often rallied my angry soul to weed control. Our Lord, however, offers us a better way to deal with the weeds of life. His better way is a much holier calling, brimming with contagious joy. And what is that? Spend our lives nurturing the gospel. Love those whose lives seem choked by weeds; comfort the confused; sit patiently with the grieving; surprise the cynic with an unexpected gift, and maybe do it anonymously. For it is indeed better to light one candle in this world of darkness, to cultivate the field of God’s dreams for the human heart, than to spend all our time cursing the darkness.