Father Mark, Sermons

What Do We Do With Evil?

Pentecost 7; Proper 11; Matthew 13; 7/19/20

A man who took great pride in his lawn found himself with a large group of dandelions.  He tried every method he knew to get rid of them. Still they plagued him.  Finally he wrote the Department of Agriculture.

He enumerated all the things he had tried and close his letter with the question: “What shall I do now?”  The reply came: “We suggest you learn to love them.”

The Aramaic word for tares is ziwanhe, meaning “to commit adultery.” 

Tares grow uncultivated, even when they are carefully separated from seeds of wheat before they are sown.  Some tares remain hidden in the soil from the last harvest and spring up and commingle with the young wheat shoots as they grow faster than the wheat.  Since the tendrils of the tares wind themselves around the roots of the wheat, they cannot be removed without pulling up the wheat with them.  They cannot be separated until the harvest. 

It takes years of hard labor for a farmer to eradicate tares from his wheat fields. 

This is only to be outdone when another farmer, holding a grudge might sow tares during the night in his neighbor’s field.   Generally, retaliation follows and the sowing of tares escalates.

Getting to the point of the story we can ask ourselves, “How can we get rid of evil?”    This is a much more complex question that we might think.   We can’t get rid of evil.   God can.  But if we try to do it, we end up killing what’s good while attempting to eradicate what’s bad.

Good and evil have always existed together.  It is difficult to separate them because when trying to remove the bad, the good will also suffer. 

Good and evil will continue to exist together until the end as tares and wheat exist together until they are separated at harvest.

The tares are separated from the wheat by placing both in a smooth wooden instrument where they are shaken.   Tares are then collected and burned. 

True discernment and proper judgment belongs to God.  There are both tares and wheat in the kingdom of God but only God can separate them. 

Evil, as destructive as it is, in the end destroys itself because it has no genuine foundation.   It’s like Jesus’ parable of a house being built on sand instead of a rock.

This raises another set of questions: What do we do about evil?    Are we talking about the evil in others?  Or the evil in ourselves?  

We don’t have the capability in removing evil from others.   Personal evil can only be wrestled with between God and the one who bears it.    This means that our focus is not on the darkness that might lurk in others but that we examine ourselves in the light of God’s healing love. 

The metaphor of being shaken in the ways the tares are shaken loose from the wheat, is actually what prayer is about.  Prayer is allowing God to engage us so that that the evil which destroys us and others within, is shaken loose from us. 

Prayer is much more productive than pointing fingers at others.   When people are busy pointing figures at each other they’re not looking at the log in their own eyes.  For us, instead of focusing on the love we’re not getting, we focus on the love we’re not giving.  

Only in God can the evil within us we be made whole.  When we experience the evil in others, sure it hurts.  But if we retaliate instead of seeking reconciliation, we’re no better than the farmers in the story who sneak around sowing tares in the fields of others.  And all we do when doing so is to sow more evil into the world ourselves.  Is this wisdom?

One of the beautiful privileges a priest has to be able to see the beauty of Christ in each of God’s children in the congregation served.  While witnessing your beauty, I also witness your woundedness and how it complicates and adds suffering to your lives.  

I am awed by your beauty and I pray for your wounds so that God might heal them.  Let us pray for the wounds of one another.  I also pray that each of us, including yours truly, participates in that healing process. 

I have witnessed some phenomenal healing of wounds and the separation of tares that God has wrought when persons have engaged with God for their transformation.  

The tares remain entangled in us while God waits for our invitation to sort them out.  Being shaken is part of the process.When I realize my own tares, I am more likely to understand and have compassion for others who have theirs. 

Our tares await the sorting out by the Holy Spirit.  We are both in the process of allowing the Sprit to work in us while remaining patient with our wounds and the wounds of others. 

Allowing ourselves to be loved by the Divine will be the fire that heals the pain of our wounds and transforms our tares into holy ashes.