When I lived in Minnesota, I always had a garden. I guess it was “our” garden, our children and mine. Every spring we would pick out what we would plant and, after I spaded up the earth, we would plant our garden together: cilantro, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, cabbage. One year we grew a pumpkin two feet in diameter (as I remember it). We tried okra, but apparently it needs the searing heat of Texas. Rhubarb didn’t require planting, it just volunteered itself every year.
I wasn’t a very good gardener. After the ground was turned and the garden planted, we pretty well left it alone, and it grew. That is what things do in Minnesota. Long days of sunlight, pleasant summers and occasional rain. Things just grow. They can’t help it.
But, the same conditions that stimulate vegetables also cultivate weeds. By harvest we had a wonderful crop of both. Our whole family would visit the garden like children on an Easter egg hunt. Searching among the weeds we celebrated the discovery of tomatoes, squash, cabbages and a “great pumpkin,” hiding among the weeds.
Jesus used a similar image to help us understand the mystery of good and evil in the world: “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. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered ‘because while you are pulling the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them. 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 the barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-29).
The world is kind of like our garden in Minnesota. Evil flourishes in the world, like the weeds in our garden. It dominates the news and grabs the headlines. But hiding among the weeds is the wheat, those things that are good, righteous, wholesome and healthy. In every situation where it appears that evil will triumph, we find, hidden beneath the headlines, acts that are heroic and sacrificial, acts of forgiveness, kindness, goodness and faith.
Someday the harvest will come. When John introduced Jesus, he said, “One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the straps on His sandals; ... His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:16-17).