Watching for the Morning of July 23, 2017
The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 11 / Lectionary 16
We call it the parable of the wheat and the tares, but it should perhaps be called the parable of the feuding farmers. A householder sows good seed. He is raising wheat, which means he has good land, not the poorer land hospitable only to barley. It is a high quality product.
Feuding is the reality of life in ancient honor-shame societies. “Enemies” are inherited adversaries, families contending for status in their communities. The back and forth between feuding families provides the substance of village entertainment. In this man’s good field with good seed, his adversary has sown a weed whose telltale signs don’t appear until the wheat begins to put forth its berries. When it does, the farmer looks the fool, as though he were conned into purchasing poor seed – or was unable to see that the seed he had preserved from the previous year was laced with weeds.
He is a laughingstock. Honor is diminished. And the social pattern calls for revenge. But whereas any other might weed his field, this man lets the thatch grow. Though the village snickers, in the end he gathers not only a fine harvest of wheat, but fuel for his fires. The tables are turned; it is the enemy who now looks the fool.
It is with the kingdom as it is with feuding farmers. Despite the hostility of an enemy, a rich harvest comes.
Patient endurance and the certainty of God’s promised reign weaves through our readings this Sunday. Through the prophet, God assures a troubled people that they shall see renewal: “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants…Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses!” The psalmist trusts in God’s faithfulness as he cries for help against those who threaten his life. Paul speaks of the creation waiting “with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” saying, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” And then we hear of the feuding farmers and the wisdom of the one who waits knowing that the good seed shall certainly bear forth a great and abundant harvest.
The Prayer for July 23, 2017
Gracious and eternal God,
whose will it is to draw all things into your grace and life:
Grant us confidence in your promise
and joy in your Spirit
that we may be faithful to what seems right,
and suffer with patience what seems evil,
until that day when your goodness reigns over all;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Texts for July 23, 2017
First Reading: Isaiah 44:1-8 (appointed 44:6-8)
“You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one” – To a people in exile in Babylon, the legacy of the nation’s folly and a fifty-year-old war that left their homeland in rubble, the prophet speaks of God’s faithfulness and the certainty of God’s promised future.
Psalmody: Psalm 86:11-17
“O God, the insolent rise up against me” – the poet recalls God’s words of promise and seeks God’s help in trouble.
Second Reading: Romans 8:12-25
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” – Paul speaks of the Spirit bearing witness that we are children of God and inheritors of the promise.
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field” – with the parable commonly referred to as the wheat and the tares, Jesus bear witness to the wisdom of patient endurance and confidence in the dawning of God’s reign.