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7 Pentecost 2020, Proper 11

By July 20, 2020Sermons

What do you think the drummer named his identical twin daughters? Hello! Anna 1, Anna 2

Did you hear about the fellow who failed his Calculus exam because he was seated between two identical twins. It was hard to differentiate between them.

Twins, there are famous stories about identical twins The Prince and the Pauper, The Man in the Iron Mask and others. Some of us know identical twins. I know two brothers who are identical twins—they are both now in their late 50’s but they still look the same, still sound the same, and still have the same sort of facial expressions. If one didn’t now have a mustache, it would still be difficult to tell them apart.

In the gospel lesson today we have the story of identical twins, twin plants. Like all twins underneath the surface they do have differences which Jesus describes. The first difference between the two plants is the difference in their origins—one is planted by Jesus and the other is planted by the devil—and then the second difference is what is the result of their lives. One plant is productive and useful while the other is worthless. And finally and perhaps most importantly, the third difference is in what happens to them in the end. One goes on to be gloriously rewarded and the other to be punished. Now the catch is this—once they begin growing, they look like each other.  The tare is a weed that looks just like the wheat plant up until harvest time.  So up until the end, we cannot tell them apart outwardly, they are identical twins.

So what is the point that Jesus is trying to make? Is it, don’t be a weed-be wheat?  Or is it, not everyone who says, “I am a Christian” is a Christian? That is rather sobering.  Or is it perhaps to be careful what our lives are producing because unless we are producing wheat we are weeds? Well, maybe some of each of the above.

Don’t be a weed—be a wheat! Those who believe in predestination would tell us that neither the weed nor the wheat has much choice in the kind of plant that it is. And that is certainly true in Nature. But it is interesting that in this parable and in this one parable only, Jesus says, “He who has ears let him hear” which implies that the hearer needs to make up his mind and choose. He says this after he gives the interpretation.  And it is important to note that he is only speaking to his disciples here, only to those who have professed and committed to following him.  Jesus was aware that people are very capable of making professions and then changing their minds. Throughout his ministry people began following him and then quit. Judas is of course the prime example. So he tells his disciples to persevere to hang in there; don’t change your minds. If you have made a profession to be a follower then really follow! Stay the course.

The next thing is to be aware that not everyone who says he or she is a Christian is really a Christian. That is kind of a no brainer, I suppose. Just like spending the night in your garage doesn’t make you a car, neither does church attendance make one a Christian. According to Jesus, people can look really good, but not really be reborn, not really be true followers of Jesus. From Scripture we know one of the tell-tale signs of true Christianity again is perseverance, not perfection. Peter denied Jesus, but then returned. John Mark left Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey because it was too hard, but later he also returned.

Zig Ziegler once told of a friend he invited to church. The man answered, “Well, I’d like to go, but the church is so full of hypocrites it kind of puts me off.” Ziegler replied, “That’s okay. You can still come, there’s always room for one more.” The church is full of hypocrites is a common enough complaint and frankly I suppose that is true. All of us here say we think that we should love God with all our hearts and that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, but we all, every one of us, fail to live up to this ideal. The thing is that the difference here between the genuine follower and the one who is not really a follower is that true Christians keep on working at it. The one who is not a genuine follower of Jesus does not work at becoming a better Christian. This person thinks he or she is pretty good the way they are. But this statement of the church being full of hypocrites is like saying that the gym is full of hypocrites because there are people in there who are flabby and out of shape. Should people not go to the gym because they don’t have great abs or are getting flabby, of course not!  Neither at the church nor at the gym do people arrive in perfect shape. At the gym we need to focus on what the trainer is recommending, on working out regularly, and then on how we ourselves are doing. We need to continually push ourselves to improve.  At the gym there are all kinds of people, many are more physically fit than I and there are a number who are less physically fit.  Frankly, that should not be my concern, should it?  I should be concerned about how I am getting along.  Am I improving?  In the church it is a similar situation.  Here we cannot tell how people are doing spiritually. The point is though, the church is not made up of perfect people. We don’t come to church because we are perfect. Like everyone else in the world, we wrestle with temptations. We try to overcome our temptations but sometimes we fail. Those who go to a gym go to get help, guidance and encouragement to get more fit. In the same way we come to church to get help, guidance and encouragement to continue to be more like Jesus. We don’t come to church because we are already perfect.  We are not.

And final question from this parable is what are our lives producing? This is a pretty important question for us to ask and answer. In this parable Jesus talks of the wheat and the weeds. What the wheat produces is useful and helpful. Its seeds are used to make flour and then bread in order to sustain life. Weeds, in particular tares, don’t produce anything useful. The obvious application for us is that as Christians our lives should serve a purpose.  Jesus our Lord and Example spent his life teaching, serving, and helping others. He did this as an example of how we should live. So are we being obedient to how he has instructed us to live? What are we doing with our lives?  Do we serve others? Do we help others? Or are our lives spent focusing upon our own needs and desires?  This examination of ourselves is important because how we live is one of the main ways to know whether we are weeds or wheat. It is especially important because we hear our Lord say that the weeds get thrown into the fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth but that the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

Twins, there are identical twins in the church. There are copycats mimicking the genuine. But what should make us each concerned is that the weeds really do think they are wheat. They are self-deceived.  This is why it is important for us to examine ourselves. It is important for us make sure we are really working at obeying the instructions of Jesus and trying to help others. It is important that we are trying to grow more spiritually fit to improve and grow. Jesus calls us to be wheat, to be genuine children of God.  Let us persevere in following and loving our Lord and let us lead lives of service and usefulness knowing that by doing this we will receive the reward that Christ has prepared for true followers.  Amen