In the Midst of All, Counting Our Blessings

A Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost

Year A – July 20, 2014

David Hathaway Knight,  Priest Associate

Send your spirit, God, to open our hearts and our minds to your Word,
and strengthen us to live according to your will, in Jesus Name. Amen.

Life is such a mixture of the good and the not so good, a mixture of the good and the evil.  You and I awaken each day to things that can bring us joy and satisfaction, yet sometimes we awaken to face things that bring us despair and disappointment. Some nights we sleep soundly with little care on our minds. Other nights we lie awake with burdens on our mind. In the daily news we become acutely aware of the good and evil that is ever present in our world.  Life indeed is a mixture.  Today’s gospel passage from Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that in the midst of all things there is a way for us to navigate through the good and the bad so that we can live each day with hope.

Jesus tells the story of the farmer who sowed good seed in his field expecting a good and healthy crop to result.  But along came evil ones who sowed weeds among the wheat.  When those working in the fields saw the weeds growing among the wheat, they asked the master, “Do you want us to pull up the weeds?” The master instructed them, “No, because if you do that you will uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” Again, his advice,

“Let both of them grow together until the harvest.”

I have great memories of growing up not far from a beautiful dairy farm in Western Massachusetts.  I had a friend whose father managed the farm for the owner.  Often in the summer I would spend time riding on the wagon during the harvesting of the hay being gathered to feed the cows for the winter. Being out in the fields where crops were growing was a great place to be on a New England summer day. Farmers must know how and when to cultivate crops so that the good seed is not overtaken by bad seed.  Driving by that same farm last week while in the Berkshires on our vacation brought back great memories.  I also remember how my mother who was an expert gardener who could make anything grow.  Her flower beds on our property were a sight to behold.  She seemed to know when to leave the weeds alone and when to dig them up, when to let the good plants and the troublesome plants grow together and when to separate them.

There is a very helpful parallel between this parable in today’s gospel and life. We, like the one who planted good seeds, find ourselves dealing with troublesome weeds that crop up in our path. These weeds occupy our attention and draw us away from the good plants in our path along the way. Sometimes you and I will do best if we let the wheat and the weeds in our own lives coexist—at least for the present.   When you and I are dealing with the wheat and the weeds in our own lives we do best to recognize both for what they are, yet not lose sight of the fact that when the weeds seem to be taking over that the wheat, the good plants, are still there.  Inevitably we tend to focus on the weeds.  It’s a natural thing for us to do when we are overwhelmed, that we seem unable to see the blessings that are in our midst as well.  Those negative thoughts have a way of crowding out good thoughts.  Feelings even of hopelessness can crowd out what may well be rays of hope.  When we concentrate only on those troublesome weeds, wishing we could pull them up yet can’t, we run the risk of losing sight of the good.  When these feelings of despair take over you and I would do well to pause, take a breath, or even several, and begin to count our blessings.  You and I have all known of someone somewhere who has faced what has seemed like insurmountable obstacles yet who has not only persevered but has continued to thrive in spite of all. Somehow, this person has been able to let the wheat and the weeds in their lives coexist.  They have been able to navigate along the path in their journey in life despite all obstacles.  It is by God’s grace that this has been possible.

There are those times when you and I look for perfection.  We look for it, in ourselves, in our marriages, in our children, in relationships, and in our jobs, even in the church.  We look for the perfect vacation, yet we come to realize that in all of these settings and relationships, perfection is never fully attained.  Your spouse isn’t perfect you come to realize, your marriage has its stresses, your child is having a rough time and is causing worry, and your job has its frustrations. The church is not providing all that you are looking for.  We let the weeds take over and grow so tall and so thick that they blind our view of the blessing that are to be found in our relationships and in our midst.  But we remember the words of the master to those working in the fields,

 “Let both the wheat and the weeds grow together until the harvest.” 

Where, right now for you, might the weeds along your path be choking the wheat?  Let us remember and find hope in the fact that even in some of the most trying circumstances we must face, there are blessings to be found among the greatest difficulties and challenges that we must face until such time as we find a way to navigate through them.  By God’s grace, may you be able to savor that which brings joy and hope into your life even as you are facing difficulties.  Ultimately, the worries that you and I may have are balanced by our blessings.  All of these things are ultimately in the hands of God.  Among the hidden treasures in the Prayer Book are the Daily Devotion for Individuals and Families.  I commend these to you.  In the collect for devotions in the morning on page 137, we pray, “Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day.  Preserve us with our mighty power, that we might not fall into sin, nor (and this speaks to those nasty weeds) be overcome by any adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose…”

When the weeds seem to loom large and tall, and the wheat is less visible along our path, the words of Julian of Norwich are as timely now as they were when she said them back in the 14th century, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  Even in the most trying of times, and especially in such times as these, Julian’s words of wisdom give us hope.  Yes, the time will come when all will be sorted out.  When that day will come is beyond our control, but for now, may we have the grace and the patience to live with both the wheat and the weeds and not lose sight of our blessings.

“Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust ever childlike, no cares could destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of (each) day.”