Saturday, January 20, 2007

Wholesome grain and pure...

I've heard that there were two things Jesus did a lot: tell stories, and ask questions. One of the most famous stories Jesus told was about a farmer scattering seeds. When his disciples asked him what the story meant, he explained it and then launched into another parable, which is where today's New Testament reading begins:
Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.
Matthew 13.24-25
When the plants sprout, Jesus says, it becomes evident that weeds were sown, but all the plants are left to grow together, lest weeding damage the good grain.
Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "
Matthew 13.30
Jesus explains later on that the good seed represents the "sons of the kingdom" and the weeds are the "sons of the evil one" (Matthew 13.38).

This is what that old hymn talks about:
Wheat and tares together sown
unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be.
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
Henry Alford, 1844
Well, that's what we want, isn't it -- to be the wholesome grain rather than the weeds.

How can we tell, though? In the parable, the good and bad plants look alike until they reach a certain stage of maturity -- yet their true nature doesn't change. Reading the parable, I don't get the picture that either plant has any doubts to its true nature -- unlike you or me or the author of the hymn.

What I mean is, though I usually don't worry whether I'm a son of the kingdom or not, sometimes, when I reflect upon the way I sometimes think, or upon some of the selfish or thoughtless things I've done... well, to tell you the truth, I'm not always sure. And the last line I quoted from the hymn, Lord of harvest, grant that we / wholesome grain and pure may be, makes me think that Henry Alford wasn't 100% sure 100% of the time either.

One thing is for sure, though: for you or me to be "a son of the kingdom," we have to be adopted by the king.

By the way, two comments on that word "son":
  • Some decades ago, when Peg Cantwell was teaching at our church, she read from Ephesians. When she got to the part about being adopted as sons, she added "male and female."
  • I read somewhere that the New Testament uses the word translated "son" to emphasize the relationship with God but another word, translated "child", to talk about the fact of birth.
Anyway, male or female, "wholesome grain and pure" is what we want to be.

And how to become one? It's not something you or I can do on our own -- what we do is to ask. Rather, God is offering, and what we do is accept.

Remembering that, just now as I'm finishing up this essay, I find doubts vanishing. I asked, didn't I? He pursued me when I ran from him, and I stopped running one day and told him, "Yes, Lord" and at that moment I became an adopted son of the kingdom. A good thing to remember, and a good thing to know.

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