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MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
KJV Matthew 13:24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
COMFORT IN THE GOSPEL
In this parable we have two kinds of assurance: one is that the best work in the Christian Church will attract destructive people who do Satan’s work; the other is that the Word will bring forth fruit, even if weeds also grow.
Christians often live in a special zone that does not allow for the Old Adam to be at work, let alone Old Nick, as some have named Satan. I sometimes ask pastors not to act as if they just got off the bus from convent school. Wicked people are at work and they never rest. In this parable, the best seed is sown in the soil. When this is done, very few weeds will grow in good soil. However, an enemy in secretly and spread weed seeds in the freshly tilled soil.
At first weeds look like the intended crop. But when they flower and fruit, it becomes obvious that they are pretenders and not the real thing. Gardeners know that one does not simply yank out weeds growing with good crops. In some cases it can be done, but it can also tear up the good plants.
In the parable the servants noticed the weeds and suggested that they be removed. But the master pointed out that an enemy has done this. Moreover, harvesting the weeds would damage the crop. At the end the weeds would be separated from the crops. The weeds would be gathered and burned, much like the unfruitful branches in John 15:1-10.
In one case an Episcopalian minister in early America decided that he longer believed in the Trinity. He took all references to the Trinity out of the worship service. His congregation went along with him and thus the Unitarian church in America was born. The Unitarian doctrine (denial of the Son and the Holy Spirit) can be found in the ELCA standard dogmatics book, called Christian Dogmatics, by Braaten and Jenson, where they state that the Trinity is nothing more than God the Father, the man Jesus, and the spirit of the believing community.
No weed is delicate or faint of heart. They all show an amazing ability to grow and spread. Today we took a goat’s head seed out of the paw of our Sheltie. That weed seed will probably become and plant and produce 200 more seeds. In the same way, false doctrine always shows an abundant growth pattern. The more foolish it is, the faster it spreads. If it is not rooted out early, it will dominate very quickly. The goat’s head seed will turn into a spreading plant that can be 8 feet across, rooted very shallow, but heavily seeded.
I have tried to point out to pastors and some laity that we are in an era where the weed seeds are more prominent that the pure Word of God. Lutheran classics in print 20 years ago are now out of print. When people show that they prefer false doctrine and opponents of God’s Word, we should act accordingly. Some effort should be made to teach the truth, but after a time, the reaction of false teachers should tell us to move on.
One person drawn into the Mormon church said that he was tricked into membership classes, since the most evil doctrines were kept hidden from the casual prospect. Then in class, he said, and I paraphrase, “Either you walk out the door and never come back, or you snap. And nothing is too ridiculous after that.” And false teachers have a burning zeal seldom found in the orthodox.
At first we are upset, like the servants, to see weeds growing where they should not be. But this parable warns and comforts us with the knowledge that this will always be. It is a warning so that we are prepared. But it is also comforting because it is beyond our control. Someone said, “I knew when you had independent conferences you would attract the less stable.” I thought so too, but it has also united those who love the Scriptures and the Confessions. In time these things get sorted out, but we can never figure them out first in all our wisdom.
For the Sunday service, I picked two of Paul Gerhardt’s hymns from the Cross and Comfort section of The Lutheran Hymnal. As people know, Gerhardt had a very difficult life, and yet the difficulties became the fabric of his most comforting hymns. If anyone would like to read a fine essay on comfort in the midst of trial, stress, and suffering, Gerhardt’s two hymns would be the best and most concise. If you look through the entire section of hymns, Gerhardt’s hymns stand out as the longest and the best among many fine hymns.
The weeds are sown and they grow robustly, but the crops also grow. As Jesus explained,
KJV Matthew 13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Much of the explanation concerns the judgment and condemnation of those who belong to Satan, but Jesus also says:
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Two Sources of Suffering
When someone is suffering, two kinds of thoughts run through the mind. One group of thoughts dwells on the bad things done by evil people in the past. Some of these things can be very bad indeed. Money is stolen. People are attacked and assaulted, sometimes while still very young. Family members and false friends may be full of hatred and glory in saying terrible things. Although some people repent, these actions belong to the kingdom of Satan. As we see in the parable, the weeds are gathered and burned at the end of time. God will give the wicked their reward. So believers have no reason to dwell on thoughts about harm done to them in the past.
Secondly, another form of suffering by the believer is from blame and guilt. People torment themselves by going over problems and sins in the past, as if someone could worry over the past, replay it in a different way, and make the present better.
The greatest possible comfort comes from Gospel passages in the Bible, in the Confessions, and in hymns, such as #528, verse 5:
He canceled my offenses
Delivered me from death;
He is the Lord who cleanses
My soul from sin through faith.
In Him I can be cheerful,
Bold, and undaunted aye;
In Him I am not fearful
Of God’s great Judgement Day.
If we must dwell on something, then let us dwell on this thought, “He canceled my offenses, delivered me from death. He is the Lord who cleanses my soul from sin through faith.” One purpose of hymns is to have us repeat such words over and over again as we sing them to ourselves privately or together with fellow believers.
When I wrote about stress and comfort recently, a number of people responded. We do not always think about how many may be suffering at a given time. The more we realize the meaning of complete and full forgiveness through the cross, the more thankful to God we are. Then we also see that our blessings come in so many small but significant ways.
I find it hard to be cheerful when the worst characters seem to be winning for the moment. I know two or three pastors who are suffering right now. They are not suffering for doing wrong but for teaching the Word of God. They have no power and cannot make a dent against those who oppose them or make life difficult for them. This is very discouraging for anyone who cares at all. Nevertheless, we have to see God’s hand in this, even in the worst of difficulties.
Sometimes it seems as if nothing is more insignificant than a sermon. Even Paul wrote about the foolishness of preaching. I noticed in the video tape about Easter commercials that the synod leaders even used the word “preaching” in a negative sense, at least twice. Boomers and Gen Xers do not want to be preached to, he said, making preach sound like a bad word. This can eat away at a minister, to be trained for years in something that earns so little respect today, especially among church officials.
In contrast, learn a little about computers and you are like a physician everywhere. It used to be people saying to doctors, “I have a pain in my elbow when I turn my hand right.” Now, it is, “My computer refuses to…”
I am fortunate in that I get responses from all over. It is a good feeling to have someone ask for another copy of a sermon from two months ago, or to have a physician’s assistant mention a specific sermon from last year. Congregations and pastors need to remind themselves that the Word is constantly at work among them, bringing forth an infinite number of blessings and souls for the Kingdom of God.
Congregations should spend more energy showing their appreciation for the ministry of the Word and showing that they trust only in the Word. Ministers and congregations alike fall into measuring how well they are doing, a fatal error. No one can judge but God. Measuring (even in our minds) is terribly me-centered. We glorify God when we do not anticipate the final harvest and Judgment Day.