The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest (Matt 13:28b-30a)
This week’s gospel lesson struck home in new ways as I encountered again Jesus’ ancient but timely instruction to slow down our haste to play God in our judging, and to put our energy into bearing fruits rather than ripping roots. While Jesus certainly does not ask us to stand idly by in the face of injustice or evil, he seems pretty clear in reminding us that it is God who has the last word, and that our role is to be the good grain that we were sown and gifted to produce. Because let’s be honest – at any given moment, our glance in the mirror might show us a weed just as likely as a stalk of wheat. That mixed-crop field isn’t just the human race; it’s the human heart. Good and evil, right and wrong are ever present within as well as around. God’s grace alone lets us “grow until the harvest.”
This teaching is true and eternal, but struck me as timely this week as we continue to hear of the confusion and conflict resulting from the increased number of unaccompanied minors seeking refuge along our southern borders, and the responses, passionate and compassionate, that this surge is provoking. The human impulse to respond to new developments with fear, to strangers with suspicion, is a strong one and an impulse that scripture is forever encouraging us to overcome. This week’s gospel is a case in point. “Let anyone with ears listen!” As good seed, as those bearing grain, as those with ears (doubly meaningful in a corn-growing state), we are to listen carefully to the call to resist judgment and put our efforts instead into good.
Immigration in this nation is a complex and emotionally-charged matter, and citizens have every right to communicate, educate and advocate about their concerns. But believers have an added duty to practice compassion wherever suffering is encountered. Attention to policy is essential. But attention to people is critical. While the policies are wrestled with, people still suffer. As a church, our priority is addressing the suffering, quite apart from judging who gets to stay and who must go. To that end, we are active in ensuring that those who await immigration determinations are housed in adequate, safe, clean and hospitable facilities, and that access is available to needed services.
The media are filled with competing voices whose clamoring provides much more heat than light. I am grateful for trusted colleagues, sisters and brothers in Christ, who are actively present to witness, listen and act. Because he serves as bishop of the ELCA synod in which so much of the current activity is taking place, because he is a perceptive observer, because he is fluent in Spanish, knowledgeable of life along the border and articulate in sharing his reflections, I am especially grateful for the communications of Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, and I commend to you his blog posts, particularly this one from a few days ago.
Weeds – events, situations, people, temptations to react hastily – are a certain feature of life until the end of time, when God will set all things right. Until then, our call is to bear the good grain for which Christ has sown us, in hopes that such a yield might of its own choke out the weeds that threaten.
“Let anyone with ears, listen.”