What is evil? Well it is defined as profound immorality and wickedness. Heavy words to hear, words that are often received with guilt and used with prejudice. Christians, as a body of people, have been really good at using these words throughout history to demonstrate our superiority over others. Indegneous people were seen as immoral and wicked at first contact because their styles of leadership and worship were not ours. Yet we missed the opportunity to learn from their lives regarding the kinship and history their rituals communicated to them, the sacred reverence for the earth, and the honouring of all life, which were deeply embedded in their systems and culture. The suffragettes were seen as immoral and wicked for daring to ask for the vote, yet we missed the opportunity to learn from their lives as we condemned them for daring to stand up and speak for their rights. Minorities of all races, ages, classes and orientations were seen as immoral and wicked for daring to be who God made them to be, yet we missed the opportunity to learn from their lives the power of difference in making us stronger yet we missed the humanity of their lives as we condemned them for not assimilating to our styles and ways. And the list goes on, as together we have used scripture to define the kingdom of God in our own way. I give thanks that we have started to wrestle with the false magisterium that suggests these ideas are true, yet these feelings, these judgments, are far from an antiquated sense of human existence. Sadly, they still exist today and are deeply rooted in our shared cultural fabric which we see being torn up with questions about race and identity all over the world after the death of George Floyd. Our sense of history, our systems, our symbols are all coming under needed questioning as we seek to respond to the injustices that have kept us genuinely apart as human beings, a separation which is human made, a separation that is a profanity to God. So what is evil? Is it just about someone else or is it something that we need to address within ourselves as well?
Our parable this morning has some challenging content for us to move through as we try to understand how to follow this person named Jesus. The challenge I believe is in the image of different levels of discipleship that creates an us versus them dichotomy, which is often how this passage is understood. The sower, being Jesus, the field is the world, the good seed are us, and the weeds are immoral and wicked people who don't follow Jesus. It is then our job, if we follow the train of thought, to make sure that these weeds are eradicated- that the immoral and wicked people are converted and saved. But if we listen to Jesus’ explanation of this parable in verses 36-43, we hear that it's actually not our job to save or eradicate these weeds- that’s God’s job. Our job is to grow in self awareness, an awareness that shows us the weeds we see in others are actually inside you and I as well.
The challenge of our parable this morning runs deep because our default as Christians is often to see ourselves as on the right side of history, because we profess a baptismal faith that tells us to resist evil and return to God, while respecting the dignity of every human being. Heavy words to understand, and I do genuinely believe we try to live that faith in our lives because we take our baptisms seriously. Yet in baptism we also promise to study and become more self aware in order to become better disciples of Jesus which means we are promising to grow and expand, and sometimes that growth and expansion unveils uncomfortable truths about us, truths we need to face and learn from. Sometimes growth in awareness shows us again the places where we have failed in our relationships, where we have laughed nervously at an inappropriate joke, stayed silent or looked away in the face of racism, and where we have cheated or lied. Sometimes it shows us the evil within us, an evil that makes us uncomfortable and uneasy. An evil that makes it easier to focus on the other- rather than ourselves, because their evil is greater than ours. Yet, when we focus on the other and not ourselves, we miss an important opportunity to grow and deepen our relationship with God and our neighbour. You see, our parable this morning reminds us that good and evil live together, which is not about condoning the evil for the good- that's an affront to God, but rather learning from our ability to coexist with evil inside of us, in order enable the sustainable growth of the good within us. It might feel easier to just cut out the weeds, but as we know with our own gardens if you don't get the roots, the weeds just come back. God is asking us to attend to the roots of evil in our lives, because the only way we will flourish is if we upend the evil within us at the root.
But how do we do this? Evil is everywhere, it's shameful, and it's debilitating. Well I think it starts with a little as saying “help. Help me Jesus.” This is more than just throwing our hands up and asking someone else to do the work, it's actually a deeply human and deeply personal call from deep within us. A call which we are invited to utter everyday of our lives as we seek to embrace the crucifixion of Christ a little more deeply in our lives. In the Crucifixion, Christ died for us to show us the way of salvation through him. In his life we are called to die in our everydays as well, to our sense of perfection, superiority, control, and isolation, so that we can be set free to serve God's inbreaking kingdom, a kingdom of resurrection and new life.Yet it is that resurrection and new life which is the hardest for us to actually believe and hold onto because of the pain we must endure to get there. For us today, that pain is in the cost analysis of admitting the evil that is within us, compared to the ease of just going with the flow. Are we really ready to be unpopular, to not laugh at the racist joke, to let our voices amplify rather than drown out minorities, to be people of reconciliation with everyone we meet- not just with other christians, are we really ready to be unpopular for the sake of the kingdom by choosing to live our lives differently because of who we follow? Baptism tells us the answer is yes, life shows us that it's often harder to say yes because it often feels too isolating. Yet, we are not alone in this work, though.
Remember, friends, God doesn't call the perfect- he prefects the called. And we are all called to follow him in a lifelong process of development and awareness which leads us to action in the name of the Kingdom of God. We live, breathe, and have our being in, through and, with God's help, and that is the key to our baptisms and our lives. We start that work this morning by asking God’s help to come into those places of evil in us and help us heal from them, learn from them, to transform them from weapons into tools for the kingdom. It becomes these tools that give us capacity to nurture the soil of our souls to bring forth the rich produce of God's abundance planted deep within us that is yearning to sprout forth into the world. It is this produce, the gifts, abilities, and unique vocations of each and everyone of you that the world needs to see now even more than ever before because your discipleship- your investment in the growth of God in your lives- gives this world hope that there is more to life than death, fear, and enmity. When we grow closer to God, when we convert our lives into the pattern of God's love, when we commit to learning how to live a kingdom life everyday, the world becomes a stronger place because of the relationships we build in the hope we profess. May it be so.