Horticultural Mysteries

traditional sermon
Pentecost 7

A few months ago, Erik and I bought a house. It’s been very exciting. Now we moved in during the month of March. In fact, we moved in right before the blizzard hit us and we got a bunch of snow. And fast forward 4 months later, we are still discovering what kind of things are growing in our new place. In fact, every time I go outside I seem to be waylaid by something that catches my eye. A new plant growing here or there, a bush that seems to have grown 2 feet over night, and the plants that insist on growing in my nicely laid mulch.

It’s that last one that gets me. We’ve bought a lot of mulch this season. Erik and I have spent hours and days on mulch projects. I put my elderly parents to work weeding and tilling and pulling and mulching. And still…somehow still…there are these things growing up through the mulch. At this point…I don’t know if they are weeds or intended shrubbery that was lovingly planted by previous owners. I get a bit flummoxed as to whether things are weeds or seeds.

When you think about the terms weed vs. seed you’re dealing with both a noun and a verb.

So let’s examine the noun first. What is a noun? Well, what you probably learned in School or Wheel of Fortune is that a noun is a person, place or thing. The noun form of seed is flowering plant’s unit of reproduction, it’s intentionally planted. Like wheat. It’s a good plant producing grain that offers nourishment. The noun form of weed is any undesirable or troublesome plant. It’s…a weed. No shocker there!

But telling weeds and seeds apart from each other can be quite difficult. Sometimes they’re mixed in together, like when the town dug up our neighbor’s front lawn to do some work and they replaced the soil and reseeded it.

However the soil contained weeds as well. And now their lawn grows grass AND clover and lots of weeds. Sometimes weeds are actually quite pretty. Perhaps you heard of the story of the man who lived in Florida and traveled north to Michigan and fell in love with the beautiful, bright yellow flower that grew on the land. So he dug it up and brought it down to his gated community…and planted it…and thus his property and the entire neighborhood was infested with dandelions.

But seeds can be just as confusing. I was convinced that our back deck was being infested with these big, strange invasive weeds. And then I realized…no…they’re just saplings growing from a felled tree near our deck.

So if it’s hard telling weed from seed, just think about the parable we heard today where people are described as weed or seed. I mean sure there are some people you meet and you see there weediness all over, but it’s never as clear cut as we would like to think. The parable likes us to imagine that some people are seeds and some are just weeds. This parable offers us an insight into why there is evil in the world and why there are people who perpetrate evil.

And sin and evil are nothing new. The Bible tells us that humanity is flawed—from the first marital fight as to whose bad idea it was to listen to a snake, to the first act of violence which led to fratricide, to the first arguments about inheritance which led one brother to steal another brother’s promised blessing, to the first acts of idolatry which leads an entire people astray. It goes on and on.

It seems like every day we are presented with stories around the globe of people doing horrible and terrifying things. We hear of terrifying things around the world and too often in our own backyard, as well. And when we look at these events we see the awful weeds that grow, but so often when you ask the family of the perpetrator of violence and evil—the family member stands there mystified. They truly believed that their child, their sister or brother, their parent or uncle was a seed. They can’t imagine that their loved one could do such evil things. Is that person simply a weed? Is there no redeemable seed within them? Are they just a lost cause?

Those are the big stories that we hear, but think about your everyday encounters. Picture in your mind just for a moment a very definite weed you know personally. That was easy wasn’t it?

And yet, for the most part, it’s hard to see clearly into another’s heart and determine what lies therein—seed or weed. Indeed, Luther said that we are simultaneously seed and weed, saint and sinner at the same time. So, who are we to lambaste someone for the crabgrass growing in his heart, when we’ve got some serious poison ivy wrapped around ours? Somehow it seems wrong.

And yet, we know of the dangers of the weeds in our world. We know of the dangers of the weeds in our hearts. Perhaps it’s why you’re here today. I can’t promise you that you will only find seed here, because your pastor is flawed and most certainly has weeds.

But like you, I am also a child of God—and God sees you and sees the seeds that have been planted in you. The seed of salvation—Jesus–is within you. And you have been watered by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps that’s why we all need to be here today. To recall and remember the one who plants good things in us and in the world.

So, let’s remember who tells us this parable. It’s Jesus. Jesus, the one who came to cure the sick, to forgive the sinner, to bring the sin-sick back into community. Jesus, the sower of all good things.

So what would Jesus do? Or more to the point, what would Jesus have us seeds do in a world full of weeds?

That’s when we get to the verb use of seeds and weeds. A verb—as you know from school or Wheel of Fortune—is an action word. So are you a seeder of God’s goodness? Do you seed the world with acts of charity? Do you spread the good news of God in action? Do you share God’s news of salvation, grace and second chances with others? Are you a seeder?

Or are you a weeder? Pulling out weeds left and right. Seeing something and determining it as a weed, something of no value. Something completely unredeemable and weeding it without care of what harm it may cause?

In the parable the master tells his servants to wait till harvest. Why the wait? Why can’t God just swoop down now and destroy all the weeds? Wouldn’t that be so much easier?!

Well, if God did that there wouldn’t be much left—in the weeding that would occur all of us would be damaged one way or another. No the master says to wait, in the end at the harvest all will be made right.

Perhaps that’s what we hear from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans. All creation is groaning—groaning in pain from our imperfections—looking toward that one great day when all will be made right.

Until then, I pray my fellow saplings of Christ, that you believe in the noun that you are. You are good seeds growing in the world. And pray that you act out the verb you are. You are called to be active in the world.

Grow good things. Seed the tired and weary places you encounter with the goodness of Jesus’ love. And build up God’s creation.

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Rev. Sarah Teichmann

Pastor of Christian Formation

Pastor Sarah served as Pastor of Christian Formation at St. Peter’s from 2014 – 2021. She now serves the wider church as a partner at Kirby-Smith Associates.

One comment

  1. What a great message. And if you really need help identifying what’s in your yard, I’m available for a consult!

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