The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (7/19/2020)


Ps. 119:57-64 (ant. v. 89); Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:18-27; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

Patience, For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God… And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved… But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (vv. 18, 19, 23, 24a, 25).

“Patience” is the operative word in St. Paul’s exhortation. We, the Baptized, adopted into the kingdom of heaven long for the revealing of God’s glory in the new creation; like Job we hope to see God with resurrection eyes (Job 19:26, 27).

Jesus’ ministry was going through a rough patch. It wasn’t just that he encountered opposition to his proclamation of the Kingdom; the problem was that his disciples were being infected by unbelieving religious leaders and crowds ambivalent to his teaching.

In response Jesus began to teach in parables, first to confound his enemies and unbelievers; while at the same time teaching the Kingdom’s nature and strengthening his family of disciples (Mt. 12:49).

Jesus catechizes in a series of seven parables built upon the Parable of the Sower who graciously seeds both good and resistant soils.

Today’s Wheat and Weeds parable embraces two others, the Mustard Seed and the Woman Leavening Flour, that despite contrary appearances and diabolical violence toward the Kingdom inside and outside the church “sons of the kingdom” will remain steadfast in the hope of seeing Christ’s glory on the Last Day.

According to the parable, Jesus, the field owner, hears an enemy has sown weeds among his wheat; nevertheless, he is unconcerned, as though having expected the devilish planting among his good. His servants are to abide in the midst of opposition and error, faithful witnesses to his teaching.

“Sons of the kingdom” are not to be distressed at the opposition entwining their roots; again, Paul’s operative words, in this time of the church, are “eager anticipation” yet “patience”. That which is Christ’s “glory” is being revealed to the new creation in surprising and unexpected ways.

Moreover, we confess that God is Lord of heavenly and earthly armies (Isa. 44:6), commander-in-chief not only in councils of war but through Christ on the battlefield. At the cross, victory is his alone and remains so forever.

Faith’s witness in the world is more difficult than said. Under the cross, God’s glory is hidden from unbelieving “sons of the evil one”, the church outwardly appearing, much as her crucified Lord, weak and ineffectual.

Consider the Babylonian captivity. Israel had lost the Promised Land, its temple was destroyed, their Davidic king blinded and imprisoned by a more powerful monarch; Israel was without government and by any worldly assessment, Israel was aligned with a second-rate, loser “god”.

The Psalmist describes, Israel mocked and despairing, reduced to weeping by Babylon’s waters (Ps. 137:1). Into Israel’s despair God spoke to their hope, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I Am the first and I Am the last; beside me there is no god… Fear not, nor be afraid… [Y]ou are my witnesses!’” (Isa. 44:6, 8a, c).

Who at that moment, would have believed Israel’s testimony, a twice captive people? Israel’s witness would have been considered delusional, even dangerous to speak aloud; still that was their calling among adverse weeds.

So too, Jesus calls his disciples to the same witness. By the world’s lights our testimony from the Synagogue of Christ sounds as delusional, so that belief and unbelief will continue entwined to the Last Day.

Inside and out of the Christian church, many will not tolerate Jesus to be the self-same God who spoke to Israel’s tears: that he is, Lord, King, Redeemer, Lord of hosts, their Rock, the One who is I Am, the First and the Last beside whom there is no other god (Isa. 44:6, 8).

But this is precisely the church’s witness, “in season and out” (2 Tim. 4:2); that Jesus was glorified on the cross, having died for us in willing obedience to the Father and is now risen for saving faith and hope. He is the One to whom “sons of the kingdom” witness the Way, Truth, and Life through an ever-increasing understanding of his word, patiently awaiting the Last Day.

Jesus is not distressed at the notion of weeds among his wheat; while the principle point of wheat and weed is not conversion of the weeds, still the close association does not rule out repentance. Pastors are not to go about, either in the world or the church, as inquisitorial weeders; it is not their job. Separation will be handled, not through Christian zealotry but by angels on the Last Day.

Jesus is our Rock, source of “rivers of Living Water” from his heart to ours (Jn. 7:38; cf. Num. 20:7, 8). As we are faithful to our witness through attention to word, sacrament, and prayer he is faithful to increase the yield of faith and hope, 100, 60, and 30-fold (Mt. 13:23).

Paul encourages us to an eager anticipation in all patience for the revelation of glory through suffering. Many deprecate Christ on the cross, and as well our baptismal dying to self and rising to God. But understanding reveals Christian suffering part and parcel of repentant faith in forgiveness and joy.

Implicit of the church’s anticipation is the parable of the Woman Leavening Flour, picturing the church in a time of pregnancy awaiting gestation.

At conception, not much appears going-on, even to the woman. For “sons [and daughters] of the kingdom” there is only faith and hope that union with the Lord will result in new Life. But then, as with a small amount of yeast in the crushed wheat, the woman’s belly swells and rises. At first only the woman discerns the work of creation, her motherhood. The church, with Eve is first to herald new life, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (Gen. 4:1b).

If “sons of the evil one” entwine roots with “sons of the kingdom”, their intent is to mock, not only Christ’s suffering humility, but our crushing sorrow over sin and the church’s travail in the world.

That the church suffers over the crucified glory of her Lord, is only to say she suffers the same slander. As Israel wept by the waters of Babylon, mocked for their “weak and ineffectual God”, the Christian Church eagerly hopes the revelation of glory.

Not only do “sons of the evil one” deny God’s Suffering Servant; but his church’s identity in word and sacramental body and blood. When “Christians” and others declare God’s grace void on account of an inglorious of sacramental appearances, without effect, then God’s purposes and church’s witness is being rejected. Do we pull them up out from our midst; by no means, rather we persist in faith’s witness.

Christ is first fruit of God’s sending and we his fruit. Out of the world the church is gathered for unseen yields, 100, 60, and 30-fold advance of faith. We are leavened by Christ who magnifies us in his image before our Father. We are one loaf in Christ, our heavenly Bread and communion. Amen.

pem.

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