Sunday, July 20, 2008

The church needs weeding - watch out for crappy sermons today!

OK, watch out. Listen well. You are going to hear some bad teaching on today's Gospel, which is bits 'n' pieces of Matthew 13.

In the text, Jesus explains one of his teaching stories. A question comes up about whether or not to pull weeds (evil people) out of a wheat field. Jesus says very clearly, "the field is the world."

This is critically important to how you preach on the lesson. Many, many preachers today will exploit this Gospel as a call for "patience/tolerance/dialogue/listening/ad nauseum" within the church. "If we take decisive action on our disagreements, we will be 'ripping out the weeds!'" many preachers will moan. In fact, one Anglican Bishop already seems to have tried that trick.

What you have in the Anglican Communion right now are some folks who say, "Don't impose any discipline on the gay activists, the resurrection-deniers, the "cross is just a symbol" preachers, or any other revisionists. After all, that would be ripping out the weeds too soon!"

But that is a false understanding and application of the Gospel message, which exhorts God-like patience toward those outside the church (so that they have time to be saved) but strict discipline within the church, so that its message is not corrupted.

Jesus did not ask patient understanding for the traitor Judas, but said, The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." Matthew 26:24. (Compare that with the Lord's gentle words of forgiveness over those who crucified him).

When it came to an unrepentant, sexually immoral church member in Corinth, the Apostle Paul told the congregation, I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
I Corinthians 5:9-11 (Note again the standard: gentle patience with those outside the church; strict discipline for those within).

In the little church leadership manual sent to Titus, his mentor writes, But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:9-11 (Again, there is a contrast. Titus has been instructed to bear with the most challenging traits of the people he's trying to evangelize. But when it comes to the church, strong discipline is the rule.)

Friends, the fact is this: The Episcopal Church is dying and the Anglican Communion is fragmenting, not because they pulled out weeds too soon, but because they didn't. And I agree with blogger Brad Drell, who says they won't.

May God guide us into churches that are weeded, so we can bring Christ, the bread of life, to a weed-choked world.


Jill C. said...

I appreciate the KJV usage of the word "tares." Tares are wheat posers. You don't know for sure that they aren't wheat until it comes close to harvest time. Our supply priest this morning preached a pretty right-on sermon on the Gospel passage. He also brought out the idea of judgement vs. condemnation and how we are to make judgements but not condemn.

TLF+ said...

Thanks, jill c. May your faithful preacher (and all of the faithful where you are!) be blessed and protected by the Lord.