Sermons That Work

Have You Had Any Trouble…, Proper 11 (A) – 1999

July 18, 1999

Have you had any trouble with darnel lately? It seems to me that this inquiry might bring a big question to our mind. What is it? What does it look like? Does it itch? Will “Head and Shoulders” get rid of it?

When we read the Gospel lesson for today, it is difficult for us. Can we put ourselves in the place of the people in Jesus’ time? The people of that time were part of an early society, by our standards; it was primarily agricultural. Their concepts of distance and communication were entirely different from our own. As an agrarian economy, the output or crops from the farms-wheat in this parable-were critically important. It was not something that you read about in the newspapers and wondered if it would affect the price of bread. The yield from the farms had a clear meaning to the people.

It was the difference between starving and living. The difference between feeding themselves and their families adequately and going hungry. Jesus uses the allegory of the darnel in the wheat. He does it with the full recognition that his audience will understand what he is talking about. He knew how important it was to them.

Darnel is not in our daily vocabulary. In fact, it was not even listed in two of the bible dictionaries that were consulted in the preparation of this sermon. The definition that was finally located was: “several grassy plants.” It sounds like something you might have in your lawn or golf course. However, what it translates into is competition for the vital elements that produce wheat, the “staff of life.” The people understood that this was a real threat to their livelihood. While we would probably suggest a trip to the chemical shop to get “Roundup” or some other selective darnel-killer, that was not an option in Jesus’ time. The reality was that he was painting a picture of a crop failure, reduced yields, and possible starvation.

It is hard for us to relate to this story in our land-of-plenty. How many times have you gone to the supermarket and found no bread on the shelf? It just does not happen in the United States-the land of “amber waves of grain.” We would dismiss any reports we heard of darnel, get in one of our cars, and go to the market to fill our grocery needs. Pretty hard to get our attention with threats of darnel!

So, it seems pretty obvious that Jesus knew his crowd and how to get their attention. Let’s join them and try to see what he is saying and how it impacts our lives today, in our time and society. There are many conclusions that we could reach in reading this parable. Some of them are:

1. There is good and evil in the world.
2. Bad things happen that are beyond our control.
3. Jesus is aware of the evil deeds in our life and world.
4. Jesus blames the bad deeds on the evil presence in the world.
5. The farm in this parable is the world.
6. Jesus is the sower.
7. The good seed represents the good people in the kingdom or those in a relationship with Christ.
8. The darnel or evil ones will not be a part of the kingdom nor will they have a relationship with Christ.

How are we impacted by these observations? Do we believe them? What do they mean in our lives? Am I darnel? Are you darnel? How do we know who is or is not? How do we do our best to be a part of the Kingdom or to be a part of Jesus’ family?

In the first place, we can not argue with Jesus or his knowledge. He says that there is good and evil. We have to agree with this old observation that is confirmed with each morning paper. Each of us has scars in our daily lives that seem to be inflicted by others. We would probably agree that many of the people in our society live beyond and without the knowledge, reality, and the acceptance of the love of Christ. We would not and should not call them darnel! But our observation may be that their lives are damned or at least without the joy of life with Christ. In a world that can be nurtured by the beauty and love that Christ shares, they seem to be weeds, darnel. Rather than sharing and producing for the good of society, they seem to be on a different path. A different world away from many.

It seems that is not our concern or within our ability to determine who is and who is not in the Kingdom of God or family of Christ. Each of us has the responsibility to be the good plant, the good producer, and to devote ourselves to the many teachings of Christ. Ours is to accept, reflect, praise, and share the love of Christ, and the good life that he shares with us.

When we are tempted to judge and separate the good and bad, we need to back off and remember that we are to love our neighbor. Without this love as the focus of our lives, it is likely that we would be considered to be darnel-the weed that Jesus intends to use for bonfires.

The challenge is for each of us to live our lives as the good grain, the wheat, the staff-of-life. Let us pray for the strength, faith, and concentration to allow us to keep our course and to inspire others to join us. To share the good news of Christ. Who knows–we may stamp out the darnel.

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Christopher Sikkema


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