Living with weeds

Daily Reading for July 20 • The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew may have been clear that there are only two kinds of people in the world—the wheat and the weeds—but it is a clarity that escapes most of us, we who have encountered both kinds in ourselves, and in our neighbors, and in the world. Most of our fields are full of mixed plantings, or worse. Sometimes I think that if I examined mine closely I would not find wheat or weeds anymore. They have grown together for so long that a hybrid would be more likely, a mongrel seed that is neither one nor the other. So the business about gathering and burning the weeds tends to make me a little nervous, and the burning question is: which am I? Wheat or weed? Blessed or cursed? . . .

Sometimes it is might hard to tell the difference between a good plant and a bad one, especially when it can act both ways. I suppose we have all had the experience of uprooting the raspberries by mistake or protecting something interesting that turns out to be a thistle. I don’t know what makes us think we are any smarter about ourselves or about the other people in our lives. We are so quick to judge, as if we were sure we knew the difference between wheat and weeds, good seed and bad, but that is seldom the case. Turn us loose with our machetes and there is no telling what we will chop down and what we will spare. Meaning to be good servants, we go out to do battle with the weeds and end up standing in a pile of wheat.

Or else we do not, because we have the good sense to listen to the sower, whose orders sound foolhardy if not downright dangerous. Leave the weeds and the wheat alone; let them both grow together, he says, letting us know that he does not share our appetite for a pure crop, a neat field, an efficient operation; letting us know that growth interests him more than perfection and that he is willing to risk fat weeds for fat wheat.

From “Learning to Live with Weeds” in The Seeds of Heaven: Sermons from the Episcopal Series of the Protestant Radio Hour by Barbara Brown Taylor (Forward Movement Publications, 1990).

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