Manato Jansen’s Homily from July 23, 2023

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Hope, entangled – Manato Jansen

During this season when we have a break from the snow and so many of us are back in our gardens, growing crops and plants, a vivid visualization of this parable may come easily for us. The difficulty of cultivating, the joy of new life, and its challenges… Whenever I read this parable I picture my childhood during the humid Japan summers, pulling deep-rooted weeds out of the backyard for a rewarding allowance of about 50 cents. But the parable may also startle us. Once removed from the ground, the weeds are not simply discarded. The weeds are destroyed, with a thoroughness that may be both purifying and frightening. 

Daily we witness a world full of division and polarization and threats of annihilation all around us–divisions in our ideologies, the straining of interpersonal relationships, and in our relationships with our more-than-human creation. Perhaps today’s gospel words of end-harvest, fires, weeping and reaping, and the sorting of crops feels all too relatable amid our worries of nuclear warfare, species extinction, and climate collapse, in this smoke-filled summer. As we hold tenderly these emotions and images as a community, I invite you to hold also the questions that arise as we make sense of God’s Word given to us today.

It is hard not to move forward without considering the harsh language and consequences pointed toward the weed in this parable. When I think about communities and movements rooted in the love and life of Jesus, division, impatience, and separation of peoples feels far from what we strive for. I’ll be honest that I felt initially troubled when I took a look at which gospel reading I would be giving the homily for this Sunday. This parable, which by the way only shows up in the gospel of Matthew, ends with fire. Hence the discomfort. Though, this is a good thing, for us to feel the emotions that stop us in our tracks when hearing the words of our tradition–words that at times comfort us or confront us, enliven us or afflict us. The art of parables is that they can open up interpretations and meanings, they give us images, they enrich more of our senses, the poetry and storytelling helps us back-up and potentially see ourselves in a position that we might be uncomfortable seeing if we are otherwise challenged directly. So if a parable gives us pause, or curiosity, or resistance, perhaps we can see it as an invitation to lean in. So what strikes us here?

My initial pause when re-encountering this parable came from the ways I have heard this parable preached in the past. Ways that took this parable of possibilities and shrunk it into a solution of dichotomous categories–people of wheat and people of weeds to be burned–closing the invitation to “wonder” around the rich imagery of the story. When we hear Jesus say “the good seed are the children of the reign of heaven and the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the weeds are collected and burned up with fire,” it is simpler, reassuring, and dangerously empowering for us in communities of faith to look at the world as a world of weeds outside of the supposed wheat haven that we have cultivated in our congregations. It makes us feel safe, and saved, and healthy in the eyes of God. Some of you may share the experience of hearing sermons that taught you to simply not be like the weeds, for the time will come when only the wheat will be saved. Or, to hold your judgment from the weeds around you, for judgment and weed-burning is God’s ultimate job, and not ours.

But there is a lot that we do not know beneath the surface–or soil–of this field of wheat and weeds and more. I invite us to consider another reading. As we struggle to bear the image of Christ amid the complexities of our being, the field, too, exists in complexity. In my Baptist tradition, Pastor Brent Beasley suggests that the “weed Jesus was talking about is probably what is called the Darnel [which was] common in that part of the world. In the early stages of its growth, the darnel resembles wheat so closely that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other. It hides out among the wheat. When both have grown up, it’s easy to tell the difference, but by that time their roots are so intertwined, the weeds can’t be pulled up without tearing the wheat out with them.” While we may feel certain about our perceptions of the world around us, it is sometimes impossible to distinguish the wheat from the weed with the wisdom of our own eyes, or hands. And when we take it into our own hands to uproot what we see as weed, we do so with impatience and with so much hidden from us. We don’t know the intertwined networks of deep roots below our soil. We can’t even always tell things apart when they are above the surface. Just as we are only beginning to grasp the interconnectedness of crops, soil, pollinators, the sun, and rain, perhaps a similar humility belongs in our limited understanding of the world, God, and one another. Just as the field contains wheat and weeds and insects and creatures all intertwined above and beneath the soil, our world is a body of many parts–we remember this in the scripture of 1 Corinthians 12. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ … God has put the body together … so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other … If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” Rather than divide and dismember, within the limitations of our perceptions and power, perhaps we are called to be less concerned with separating our wheat from weeds because we can’t tell the difference between them and in the end we can’t be too sure which one we embody in our day-to-day living.

The field of our world and our individual lives contains messy weavings of beauty and heartlessness. We have moments of goodness and of ill-will. We encounter joys and blessings and burdens and grief. Many times we are eager to include, but we are also guilty of ignoring and shunning people and identities. And each of us have experienced the bitter taste of what it’s like to encounter harsh weeds. Our day-to-day lives are filled with creating and sustaining reflections of the Divine, but are also filled with apathy, selfishness, and greed in the shadows of this light. In some moments compassion comes easy to us– in other moments we are harshly impatient or dismissive. While a more common reading of this parable encourages us to see weeds and wheat as individuals, how might the complexity of our individual lives be more fully portrayed if we saw ourselves as the field just for a moment, full of patches of wheat and weeds in the nuances of our being. As Warren Carter of Phillips Theological Seminary writes, “While some readily divide the world neatly into ‘Christians’ and ‘non-Christians’, both the Gospel and our experience tell us that such categories are fluid, co-existent, and difficult to discern at best. Most of us… comprise both plant-types and are not ‘purely’ one or the other. In [this same gospel of Matthew], Jesus declared his family to comprise those who do “the will of [God] in heaven,” a descriptor that might embrace a wide and surprising variety of people”. So, what if weeds are not simply a non-believer, an evildoer, or an enemy, but the difficult realities within each of ourselves–wheat and weed, intertwined and entangled, enriched by the soil and sun and encouraged by a patient farmer who lets us keep trying to grow

Now, parables, like any metaphor or analogy, have their limitations when we bring them to Life. Our hope as followers of Jesus is that our weeds can transform into a wheat that nourishes and enriches others. We know plants can’t actually do this… But this is perhaps a lesson on hope as well. Today’s reading from Romans 8 states that “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Realistically, we can’t see the darnel weed ever becoming a stalk of wheat. But, what other realities within our lives and in the world among us do we find it difficult or even impossible to see transformation or restoration? There is so much we do not see in this field, but there is patience. And, “we hope for what we do not see.”

Rooted in what we can’t always see ahead, may we hope, may we wait in patience, and in gratitude for the Holy One who waits patiently for us, crops, roots, weeds and all. And may we express that same patience with the world we may be quick to judge, write off, or uproot out of our lives. And may we name the unspoken Sun and Rain and Soil around us that will give us strength in our patient transformations.



For the urgent needs of the people of our world – for refugees, victims of war, the unhoused, for all facing violence and despair, we name them in our hearts. and together we pray… LOVING GOD, HEAR OUR PRAYER

For the earth, and our call to care and protect our more-than-human places and beings. together we pray… LOVING GOD, HEAR OUR PRAYER

For the patient and painful work of transformation, healing, and justice. With you, O God. Together we pray… LOVING GOD, HEAR OUR PRAYER

For elected officials and leaders around the world, that they use their power for the benefit of all peoples… Together we pray… LOVING GOD, HEAR OUR PRAYER


PEOPLE AND CONCERNS WE WISH TO PRAY FOR. (this is an opportunity

for people to mention their personal prayers aloud) Allow a brief moment of

silence, then continue with-



PRAY- Response: Loving God, hear our prayer. 

Holy One, we thank you for your patient grace as we grow among all that you plant and oversee. In all we see and in the hope of what we do not see, forgive us when we fall short of your call to equality, justice, hospitality, and respect. Strengthen us to judge less, and call us to the communities here and beyond to the transformative work of weeds to wheat. 






g. Part IV. Invitation to sign of peace



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