Worry, weeds and the Pope

The landscape is changing

One of the surprising things about Jesus is that he was usually pretty relaxed about things. In fact, he spent a lot of time telling people not to worry. Over and over in the gospels, while teaching the crowds or talking with his disciples, Jesus basically says, “Don’t worry; God has things under control.”

Beside the obvious sayings in the Sermon on the Mount, where he compares us favourably with the birds and the grass (if God looks after them, how much more will he look after us), there’s a similar message in a number of Jesus’ parables and other teaching.

The seed sown among thorns is choked by the worries of this life. The rich fool dies in his bed with barns full of grain because he worried about body more than soul. Martha is told to stop worrying and to sit down with Mary.

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells another such parable, this time specifically about the kingdom. A man sows his field with wheat, and during the night an enemy comes and sows weeds among the wheat. They both sprout and grow, and when the servants see the weeds, they get ready to go and cut them down. But the master tells them not to worry. Let the wheat and weeds grow together, he says. Wait until harvest time, and then separate them, the wheat into the barns and the weeds into the fire.

Jesus tells the disciples this parable just after he’s explained the parable of the sower. He knows that soon the disciples will be starting churches, and when they do, there will be hard ground and good ground, wheat and weeds. So Jesus says, don’t worry. Don’t worry about trying to pick out the weeds. Instead, leave it up to Jesus to judge at harvest time. Until then, wait and look after the field.

(Jesus is not, of course, talking about false teachers, which he elsewhere calls ferocious wolves.)

One of the glories of the Church is its diversity – there’s a place for everyone, and a hundred ways of doing things. We’re blessed to live in a time when the Church is doing many different things with many different people. But this diversity can also be worrying. What if there are people in our churches who are weeds? What if some of the churches in our denomination are weeds? What if this or that way of doing things is a weed in the kingdom?

Jesus say, don’t worry. There will always be weeds. Instead, work out your own faith, care for your own church, and wait for harvest time, when the wheat will be gathered.

Last night the Pope announced that he would abdicate at the end of this month. He is 85 and he is feeling his age, and he has wisely decided to step aside for the sake of the Roman church. It’s a courageous decision, and a surprising one, but I have been dismayed to see brothers and sisters use the news as an opportunity for jokes at Catholics’ expense, or worse.

There may well be some weeds in the Roman Catholic church. There may be weeds in our own churches. There could quite possibly be churches in your city which are weeds. Some of the things we do might be wheat, and some might be weeds. Your church may be the only stalk of wheat in your whole weedy suburb. But Jesus says, don’t worry. Wait until harvest time, and he will deal with the weeds. Until then, he just asks us to tend the field.

Worry, weeds and the Pope

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