17 July 2011
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 11A (RCL)
Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
This is one of my favorite parables, but on of my least favorite interpretations. Matthew assigns each element of the parable an interpretation; in other words turns it into an allegory. Matthew’s interpretation of the parable of the weeds and wheat sees the weeds as “bad seed” people (perhaps in the Church) whom God will separate out at the end of the age. So, of course, we should try to be good seed. Perhaps, as Matthew sought to accommodate a growing church, he needed to explain how not everyone could count on being among the children of the kingdom.
But try reading the parable without the interpretation. What is most startling about the parable is that the householder is absolutely unconcerned with which enemy has sown the weeds in the field. Leviticus specifically forbids planting two kinds of seed in one field, because “it is an abomination to the Lord.” Leviticus censures planting two kinds of seed in the same field with exactly the same language it censures homosexuality, or wearing to kinds of fibers. Keeping Israel’s boundaries pure is the issue. But the householder doesn’t seem to care, either about the abomination, nor the shame worked on him by his enemy. God will take care of it all. And, at the harvest, he even tells the harvesters to bind the weeds in bundles — making them into fuel for the oven, not just get rid of them. Even the weeds will be useful.
Paul, in Romans, writes more about the flesh, the arena where we make distinctions, like between good seed and bad seed. God will take care of it in the end. I wonder if the parable of the weed and wheat might first have been used to explain a mixed Jewish/Greek congregation? Creation is waiting for the revelation of some new humanity, not defined along old lines. We, too, are hoping for it. It will be revealed in us and through us.