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“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed…..his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat…” Matthew 13:24

“The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them up?'”  Matthew 13:28

“But he said, ‘No lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.”  Matthew 13:29

This parable comes amongst the most powerful of Jesus’ teachings and when He first starts to use parables in His ministry.  Jesus has cast out a demon and been accused by the Pharisees of being the prince of demons.  Jesus rebukes them for their thoughts speaking of the fall of a house divided.  Jesus teaches His first parable: The Parable of the Four Soils.  Next, He tells this parable about the tares.

I must admit, having felt such power in the parable and explanation of the four soils, in essence explaining how it is that The Word does not resonate with, does not live within each person equally, that I’ve often overlooked the message of power and mercy in this second parable concerning the tares or weeds.  It had always been for me like:  “Yeah, Yeah, wheat good, weeds bad, wheat ends up in heaven and burn the weeds; got it, moving on.

Yet thanks to Holy Spirit as I was reading the parable again, the true impact of the overwhelming mercy and power came upon me.  First, we understand that God is the sower of the good seed.  Nothing from God can be evil, thus the only thing that can come from Him are seeds that will produce good.

Next, there is evil and an enemy who does evil.  In fact nothing good comes from this enemy.  The only thing the enemy sows is tares or weeds.  Looking into various definitions of the word tares, it appears that this is not just some random dandelion or crab grass; this is a very noxious and poisonous weed which actually looks extremely similar to wheat until it is full grown and you can see the head on it.

So God plants in the world and Satan plants along side.  Wheat comes up from God and tares come up from Satan.  Over time it becomes apparent that not all is right in the field.  There is something else besides wheat growing out there, something that can be distinguished as bad, as weeds.

This where it gets real interesting.  For the way the world would handle it as demonstrated by the servants is to go out and yank out the weeds, the tares.  Remembering that the wheat is growing side by side with the tares, that their roots are probably interwoven together, that taring out the weeds would cause the loss to some wheat.  I was in the military and within each one of our operational plans was an aspect of what we would term “acceptable losses”.  We knew that in doing battle with the enemy, we would more than likely suffer some casualties and as long as the mission was accomplished without completely decimating our forces, those casualties would be acceptable.  That’s how the world would handle the few stalks of wheat, sacrificed for the defeat of the horrible enemy, the weeds.  But God is not the world and does not see acceptable losses in that way.

God is so merciful that He is not willing that one stalk of wheat be lost no matter how many stalks of weeds would be destroyed.  No, God is patient.  He will nurture the wheat and if that means that the tares will also exist for a time, so be it.  The tares will not destroy the wheat.

God is also all powerful.  Notice who is doing the harvesting, God is.  It’s not like Satan comes back to do battle to protect the tares.  No the parable states very clearly, Satan sows the bad seed and then gets the heck out of Dodge.  So God in His Power harvests all.  Remember in His Mercy, He did not allow one stalk of wheat to be uprooted before the allotted time of the harvest.  Now God’s final power is witnessed.  The wheat, the good, are bundled together and brought into the kingdom “into My barn”.  The tares, the weeds are gathered together and burned outside.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we may often find ourselves dismayed by the evil in this world.  We get asked so often, and in our weaker moments may find ourselves asking as well:  “Where is God in all the evil that is happening?  Why is He allowing it?”  This parable cautions us not to doubt or question.  God is watching out for each and every one of us.  He is not willing to sacrifice even one of us to destroy that evil that is residing amongst us. Yet He is in ultimate control.  He will deal righteously and permanently with evil.  He will spare nothing, to protect until that time as well.

In the end the most amazingly merciful part is what He is willing to sacrifice that we might count ourselves among the wheat instead of the tares.  You see He is not willing to sacrifice us, who are deserving by our sins to be counted amongst the tares.  Instead, He has healed us, transformed us into wheat because He was willing to sacrifice His Only Son that He might not lose a single one of us who call upon the Name of Jesus Christ.

Yes there is much power and mercy in this parable.  There is a call for us to be patient, a call to leave the judgement of time and harvest to God.  To understand the power of God to rightly judge between the good -wheat and the evil-tares.  Finally, there is the mercy which so great that it cost the life of His Only Son, Jesus Christ, which desires that each and every one of us who call upon His name would be counted among the wheat.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for the coming to earth, the teaching and the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ.  We are also so very thankful for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who reveals to us Your Wisdom, Your Power, Your Mercy. Forgive us we pray, when we are impatient and want to take judgement and action into our own hands.  Keep us we pray, from the evil one, allowing us, by the blood of Your Son Jesus Christ, to be counted among the good seed, the wheat, that we might be brought into Your dwelling.  We pray this in the Name of He who brought us these great teachings; Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“For there is born to you this day, in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”  Luke 2:11

You is one of those amazing words in the English language (Sie – German, Anata – Japanese, Wewe – Swahili, Usted – Spanish, and on and on, please take no offense if I did not include your language).  For at least in english, you can be singular as in: “You, Doug” (which can mean only Doug), or plural “You out there” (which means all who are out there).  Yet here is the interesting thing, If I’m talking to three people and I say “you” as I’m pointing to all three then the context is both plural and singular.  That is, it applies to all three, but not just when all three are together.  It applies to each as individual as well as the three together.  That is the Christmas Blessing for You (and me) to this very day.

We know the story.  Shepherds watching their flocks by night.  In some cases people see them cold, shivering by a fire, clouds of breath steaming from their mouths.  That kind of detail we don’t have.  But here’s what we do know; they were separated.  Their flocks would not have been let into Bethlehem at night.  Sheep can be smelly, dirty animals so, until they were needed in some respect, they would have been kept at a discrete distance.  So to protect them, the shepherds would have been isolated as well.  Whatever was happening in Bethlehem, no matter how important, would go unnoticed by them.  Nor would the town-folk be much obliged to run out and let them know what was going on if some big event happened.  No, the shepherds were on their own.

But the shepherds were not separated from God Almighty.  Something big, huge, Miracle of Miracles, was happening in Bethlehem and God wanted to make sure, everyone, even the least heard about it.  The Messiah was being born!  The Savior of the world was coming down to His people.  And the Angel of the Lord proclaims it: “born to you this day, a Savior…”  So let’s be clear about this; the Angel of Lord did not say: “You Shepherds, You, people of Israel, You people living in 1 B.C., You……”  No the Angel of the Lord, simply, powerfully and blessedly said “you”.

That “you” for us, Dear Sisters and Brothers, is the most merciful, most blessed, most joyous kind of you.  For it is both the singular: You Pat, You Reverend Lumwira, You Rodrigo, You ____________ (put your name in that blank), as well as  the entirety of You, the whole world You.  The you of the Angel of the Lord, is not only a 1 B.C. “you”, but also a 2014 “you” and a 2100 or until the end of time “you”.  We are all connected by that “you”.  We can never claim that Jesus Christ didn’t come for you or you, but only for me.

Yet sadly, although He came as a Savior for you, there are some, many in fact within that population of “you”, that never receive Him.  They reject the notion that He ever came, or even that they are in need of Him in the first place.  Why?  For some it was and is the method.  A Savior, a King of Kings, does not come as baby of peasants.  A Messiah does not grow up a carpenter’s son.  The Son of God on earth is a conqueror, a triumphant figure who destroys any and all enemies and lifts His believers along with Him into a life of luxury, painless, constant fun and enjoyment.  Alas, others feel they are so inwardly good, that they have no need of saving in the first place.

In both of those cases, we know better.  You see what if Christ had come as the worldly destroyer of enemies, conquering all the nations of the time, utterly wiping the Romans off the map and elevating the Israelites and those others who believed in Him, along with Him to world domination.  Even if that would happened, upon death, each of those people would have been lost.  For as Christ would have been perfect, His followers would have still been under the condemnation of sin.  If Christ would have lived in worldly glory and returned to heaven without death, our death, our eternal separation would have remained.  In a mystery far too deep to truly understand, in a sacrifice too great to truly grasp hold of, Jesus Christ, the One True Son of God, Jesus Christ, to become our Savior, had to die in our place.  He had to die a terrible, humiliating, becoming sin, separated from God, kind of death.  Then and only then, did He become the Savior of us all.

Please Sisters and Brothers, Our Heavenly Father meant you.  He included you.  His Son died for you.  He loves you!  Accept that love.  Be that you, that saved you, in Him.  Reach out in love to all the other yous that are included in that you proclamation. He did it for you.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we can not begin to fathom the enormity of the gift which is Your Son Jesus Christ as our Savior.  Because it is almost beyond contemplation, we find ourselves at times, taking the gift for granted, living as if the gift didn’t matter or worse, turning away from the gift altogether.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father.  Pour out Your Spirit in us that we might be humbly grateful and rejoicing like the heavenly host at the proclamation of our Savior’s birth.  Help us to live as saved people in a world filled with so many lost.  That in and through our lives we would be proclaimers of and partakers in the merciful, blessed gift of Your salvation.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“For the poor will never cease from the land, therefore I command you saying, ‘You shall open wide to your brother. your poor and your needy in your land.”  Deuteronomy 15:11

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven”  Matthew 5:2

I can hear the groans now.  “Okay, here we go, another blog or writing about money and how bad we are about it and how we should feel guilty..blah, blah, blah.”  So hang in there with me for this not about money per se and its primary aspect has nothing to do with guilt.  Is money a factor?  Sure.  But you can be rich in many different things; education, relationships, physical prowess, physical attractiveness, and yes, you can be poor in those many things as well.

So the question is; in what manner of things do I feel poor?  As well as in what manner of things do I feel rich.  It is my firm belief that the true measure of poor vs. rich is in the spirit.  While it is very rare (remember Jesus Christ said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into the kingdom), a person with great wealth, can be appropriately poor and as well a person with little earthly means can act very rich, in a way that is disastrous.

I have led a life and am today materially blessed; especially as it relates to the rest of the world.  Yet even within my life, I can remember times where I was in poverty; services cut off, skipping meals because I did not have the ability to purchase them, asking for help.  It was during those times (as well as today) many blessings came to me.  What I can remember dearly are those random acts of kindness.  Where someone I knew and sometimes total strangers, did something to get me through the day.  I also remember my reaction.  My reaction was one of sincere, total gratitude.  It was not that I deserved the help that I was given.  It was that someone, out of the goodness of their heart, had seen fit to help me.  Oh, how much I wanted to thank them and so much wanted to do something for them in return; not out of guilt or some sense of not wanting to owe them; just in gratitude.

I also have been successful.  I have put in effort, I have done significant training and I have achieved.  In those achievements I have been, in terms of this world rewarded.  And therein lies the key and for me, my potential down fall.  For, if I am not extremely careful, there is little gratitude, true sincere gratitude for “my rewards”, except perhaps self gratitude.  Why should I be grateful to others, I worked very hard, I achieved, I sweated, I sacrificed, and therefore I am entitled to my gains!  That is not blessings!  That is JUST DESERTS!!!!!    And that is the pathway to hell.

Is there truly an example of totally self made person?  A person who had no teacher, had no mentor, never had someone give them something; advice or encouragement, who willed themselves not to get sick or designed their own muscle function, how tall they were going to be, the color of their hair and so many other things?  I don’t believe so.  And listen closely, very closely to people in this world who are considered rich.  Compare the amount of time they spend speaking gratitude versus the amount of time they speak to their own achievements.

So now, we have just finished celebrating an Easter Season.  Our Most Precious Savior, Jesus Christ has died and risen, for us; FOR ME!  Do I feel rich or poor about that?  In the sense that I mean it here, do I feel that I have somehow lived a life decent enough, sinned, maybe just a little, but not as much as everyone else, loved enough, sacrificed enough that I richly deserver the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for me.  Or in comparison do I feel poor?  Poor in the respect, that I can never live good enough, pure enough, love enough, give enough, sacrifice enough, to deserve the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ?

If I answer I am poor, then result can be, honest, sincere, total gratitude.  Not a gratitude shrouded in guilt, but I gratitude overflowing in the joy of receiving, the knowledge of an all encompassing love, and a true desire to help. I can have worldly possessions and still understand that they are there not because I deserve them.  I can be a person of knowledge and stature, yet be humbly meek and grateful.  In my overwhelming gratitude, I will have the true desire to emulate the one who has given so much and want to do the same.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, Your mercies, blessings and gifts are beyond my comprehension to understand and surely beyond a reward for my actions.  Please, Dear Father, reveal to me the poor state that I am, compared the richness to be found in You.  Give me a humble spirit toward myself and a grateful spirit toward you.  That my mouth would be filled with Your praises and my life devoted to helping as I have truly been helped.  That in this and in all things Your Most Holy Name Will Be Praised For Ever.  In the name of Your Most Precious Gift to us; Jesus Christ we pray.

Amen.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 16:13

We have come to that time of year where we pause to contemplate and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed the greatest thing they possess, their very lives for others in their country.  And while this solemn occasion is to highlight the military, we also know that it happens within many other areas as well, the police, fireman and many others who knowingly step into the direst of harm’s way for others.

And often as we gaze and wince at the sheer numbers of grave markers, trying to come to sense with the sacrifice of so many over such a span of time and in so many different locations, I find myself pondering that so many different individuals with such diverse backgrounds and histories would come to the same conclusion:  I will willingly sacrifice myself for a greater and nobler cause.  And understand this, for those who might question the idea of willingly when at some times in our past there was a draft, there was still a choice.  Without being sidetracked by an argument of justified or not, there were always some who did not go when drafted.  So there was always a choice.

So as words like calling, patriotism and sacrifice are used, I believe it all comes down to love.  A uniquely human love.  For while there have been stories of animals sacrificing to save their human companions, there does not seem to be evidence that animals have the greater sense of things like future, the cognitive ability to weigh the outcomes of their actions.  But humans do.  We have thoughts and often dreams about the future.  We keenly understand that when we put ourselves into the situation where death is a great possibility, we will never see our loved ones again, never play the games we loved to play, see the wonderful places we long to see; and as humans we make the conscious decision to risk all those things, knowing that even if we live through it (at least in the United States) fame and fortune are not coming our way.

So as Jesus Christ said; it is a great, the greatest love.  And so often as we stand transfixed by the sheer number of the graves and sadly shake our heads and the dreams unfulfilled, the families shattered, the sacrifice made and debt owed, I believe we need to also be aware of a grave stone that is missing.  The stone is missing because the grave is empty.  You see Jesus Christ who is our Heavenly Savior and Leader, went ahead of us. He laid down His human life for us willingly.  Yet being God as well, He had and has the power to take His life back up again and to make the ultimate promise of Love.  That all us, especially those following His example of no greater love, will continue to live.  Not an earthly life mixed with joy and pain; but an eternal life, with Him and our Heavenly Father; a life of eternal joy and love.

Jesus Christ showed us the way.  We pay humble homage to those who have followed His example as well as those who are willing today to put themselves in the position to make that ultimate sacrifice.  May we pledge to seek to have that kind of love in our lives.

Happy Memorial Day.  Amen

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