“Future Glory” – Rev. Tony Romaine – July 19th , 2020
We hear for our Gospel Message today, a parable that is all about judgment, all about good and evil, all about the wheat and the weeds. We hear Jesus tell the disciples that the seeds that are planted are what bring up either the wheat or the weeds. Jesus even goes so far in explanation of the parable to the disciples to let them know that those who are sinners and evil doers will be cast into the fire and terrible things will happen to us. We hear this Gospel passage and it should be no wonder to anyone why so many grow up with a faith based in fear. We hear these words of separating the sinners and the non-sinners and it is no wonder that when people commit sins, they fear the “wrath of the Lord.”
And to be completely honest with you, this parable has always made me uncomfortable, because it is difficult for me to hear Jesus; the One who was sent to die for us all, tell the disciples that some will be given glory in heaven and others will perish in hell. Now, side note here, Biblically this parable only shows up in Matthew, so the other three Gospel writers perhaps were of the same mind as me, but Matthew thought it important to include to really hammer home our responsibility to sow good seeds!
And yet, to say that some are guaranteed life everlasting and others are not has led to many on earth prejudging other people based on what a group that is currently in power thinks is holy or just. This can lead to persecution of fellow Christians or those of other religions, based on the idea that the “us” is predestined for greatness and we have the correct Scripture and teachings; while the “them” are pagans or heretics or others who are not correct, do not worship properly, and are destined to the fires. Even Jesus himself was a victim of a sect of religious leaders who wanted to remain true to their Scripture, their traditions, their teachings, and yes, perhaps their power.
You may think this is not something that we ourselves would do, but we judge people every day. It is just a matter of degree as to how far judgment goes. This is the danger in predestination…people are not willing to let God be the judge, they want to guarantee their after-life, they want to guarantee their salvation, and they will do it at whatever cost; blindly separating the wheat and the weeds, whether they know which is which. And this very parable verifies for some people the theological ideas of predestination and God’s predetermination of who is “in” and who is “out.”
See, predestination is great when we are the predestined wheat, but not so much if one is a predestined weed. Indeed, we only like to hear about our lives being predetermined when things work out well. And yet, part of me truly believes that my life is planned and God does have a purpose for me; that my life is not just left up to the whims of the world, but that there is a path laid out for me at my birth and there is indeed a Future Glory for me.
So, the million-dollar question is: how do we know if we are wheat or weeds? Here is where we must turn to our Genesis passage about Jacob. What we did not hear today because it would have made the Scripture readings quite long is where Jacob has been or what he has been doing before he laid his head down upon the place which becomes known as Beth-el; the House of God. Jacob is fleeing when he goes to sleep and dreams. Before this moment, Jacob withheld food from his brother in order to steal his brother’s birthright. Before this moment, Jacob dressed up and tricked his father into giving Jacob his brother’s blessing. And Jacob is now on the run and between his homeland and his uncle’s place in Haran. Jacob, if left to our worldly judgment, would not be designated as a nice person or one who is truly holy. Jacob is most definitely a sinner who was jealous of his brother’s birth position, regardless of family ties. And yet, we hear within Jacob’s dream these words:
“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
How could this be, we might ask? How could God promise all of this to this sinner, who has done nothing to present himself as worthy of such a gift? How could God reward someone who is a trickster, a liar, and a manipulator? And in that moment, we see what is at the heart of what Paul tells us in Romans when he says:
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Those whom God has predestined; God does not forget. Those whom God has planted as wheat; God does not let wither into weeds. Those whom God has loved from the very beginning; God does not allow to be thrown into the fire with the weeds of the evil one. For we may not know how or what is the right thing to do all the time, we may even do the exact opposite of what God wants for us to do; but God does not abandon us, God does not forget us, and God certainly will not allow us to be lost for time immemorial. God is with us, God will keep us, and God will be with us wherever we go!
This is the hope we get to have when it comes to predestination; the belief that we are of the wheat, that we have been sowed among the good seeds, that from birth we are guaranteed life eternal with our God, with our Creator; and that no sin, no lie, no part of our fractured human lives can indeed separate us from the love God has for us. That as Paul once again reminds us:
24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
That is our Future Glory! That we are part of the good seed sown at the beginning of time, that our seed will indeed grow into wheat, and that indeed we are saved. Are there wheat and weeds, that is up to God to know and decide. But I, in my fully sinful state as a humanoid fleshly being, am given hope through the story of Jacob and the blessing God rains down upon him and reminds him of in his dream. For if Jacob, this trickster, liar, cheater, and scaredy-cat can be part of the predestined love of God, then so can my soul, which has also sinned, be forgiven and saved!
We are so similar to Jacob in many respects. I do not know about you, but if it were left up to me, I would not consider my life one of complete holiness. If salvation were left up to me to decide, I honestly sometimes would not count myself as wheat. There are moments in my life where I have done things, said things, or acted in ways which would not be considered saintly at all. Indeed, if judgement were left up to me about my soul, I might just place myself among the weeds. But thanks be to God, judgment is not up to me; thanks be to God salvation is not up to me; thanks be to God the place I was planted was in the eternal spring of life where I am sown as the wheat forever and ever, regardless of how many sins might weigh me down like weeds.
Because here is what we might miss if we read our Gospel parable too quickly, and why I am glad the disciples asked for further explanation…Jesus is the sower of the wheat. Meaning, we are planted by the One who indeed came to forgive all sins. We are planted by the One who loves beyond love. We are planted by God Incarnate to grow and mature and be ready for harvest when the day of judgment comes. And we are not forgotten when we sin, we are not left to die when we sin, we are not left to run afraid into the darkness when our lives go awry; for Jesus himself planted us and nothing can change that destiny.
Perhaps I will be all wrong, and perhaps when it comes to predestination my thoughts are incorrect, but here is what I know about future glory for certain; there is nothing I can do to guarantee what Jesus has already sown into the fabric of my being. There is nothing I can do to alter the love God has for me and for my created state. And while hearing the parable of the wheat and the weeds may scare me as I consider my life; it should only do so to remind me that I indeed am of the wheat and must begin to live my life accordingly.
That is the promise of our Gospel passage, that is the hope in Paul’s letter to the Romans, and that is why God comes to Jacob in his dream. To remind us of our future glory, to remind us we are God’s, and to remind us indeed that God is with us, God will keep us wherever we go, and God will bring us back to the land of salvation when God is done with what God has promised us. Now is the moment we get to wake up and dream God’s dream for our life. Now is the moment we get to live into our Future Glory, Amen!