By Fr. Bill Wigmore
(This sermon was delivered to a group recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.)
Well again Good evening, and welcome – How’s everyone doin’ tonight?
If you were here with us last week,
you might remember we talked a bit about Jesus the Storyteller.
Jesus didn’t leave his followers with a neat little stack of Baltimore Catechisms –
or with a set of creeds that say:
“You’ve gotta believe this about me – and you’d better believe that about God.”
That wasn’t his way – that’s not the kind of Teacher he was.
Jesus never wrote any books either.
As a matter of fact, the only thing we know that Jesus did write,
he wrote in the sand – and we never got to know what it said.
The wind blew it away before the sun went down that day.
But we know what Jesus did do when he taught:
Jesus told stories.
He told beautiful stories – powerful, & evocative stories.
Stories that told his listeners about a God unlike any they’d ever known
or dared to imagine.
And in some of his stories he tried to tell what a human life would be like if it were lived in a wholly new
and in a wholly right-relationship with that God
of Jesus’ understanding.
Jesus called that new relationship with God: Living in the Kingdom.
The kingdom is a place inside us – a place where God is King –
where “the Great Reality” (as the Big book calls him)
becomes the Ruler of our hearts & minds.Jesus says:
Form a personal relationship with God in such a way
that it’s crystal clear who gets to be God and who does not.
It sounds like such a simple distinction –
but like the Program it’s deceptively simple
and it’s a distinction that seems to escape most of us
rather complicated alcoholics & addicts.
“God is God – I am not God.”
That’s the formula to start living in the kingdom –
and it’s the formula for staying sober too.
And so, some of my favorite lines in the Big Book are the ones where they try to give us some examples of what a right-relationship with God ought to look like.
The Big Book says, “All good ideas are simple –
so here are some of the simple ones that worked for us
and led us to that new freedom and new happiness:”
“God is the Principal – we are his agents” –
That means we work for him and we try to do what he asks of us.
And if that’s too hard a concept for us to grasp, then the Book says,
“Well, try thinking about your life as if it were a play” –
And, of course, being addicts, it’s play filled with lots & lots of drama! –
And being self-centered as we are, we get to be the star of our play –
But the Book says: God gets to be our Director –
He’s the One directing the play we’re in –
We’re his actors & we ought to be looking to him for our direction.
‘God, what would You have me do?’
That’s the kind of question we might think to ask a director.”
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But then, if even that’s too complicated –
the Book puts it more simply still when it suggests that:
“God is our Father – — and we are his children.
All good ideas are simple – but not always easy!”
For the next several Sundays, we’re going to hear stories of what that relationship –
the one Jesus called “living in the kingdom” – could be like.
And one thing I hope we can get clear from the start
is that Jesus isn’t talking about some world we go to when we die –
Jesus is talking about a kingdom that’s right here & now.
So tonight’s story starts off by Jesus warning us
that the kingdom of God isn’t always gonna feel happy, joyous and free.
He says: “Be prepared for some pretty bad bumps along the way.”
“This is a broken world we live in
and bad stuff is gonna happen to good people even if they live in the kingdom.’”
Bad stuff’s happened to me and it’ll happen to you too –
and tonight it happens to a farmer in Jesus’ story.
Jesus says: This farmer sends his men out to plant some seed.
And while they’re sleeping, an enemy comes and he mixes weeds
in with the new seed that his men have just planted.
At first, nobody’s aware of what’s happened.
But then, as the seeds begin to sprout & grow –
the men look close and they see thousands & thousands of weeds all mixed in
and growing right along with their master’s new crop.
They tell me the word for “weed” that Jesus uses in his story
is actually for a particular kind of weed –
(not the kind we used to smoke!)
but a weed, that when it first blooms, it looks exactly like wheat.
It’s almost impossible to tell which young shoot is which.
And this weed also has a way of wrapping its roots
all around the tender roots of the good seed,
so if you pull out the one, you’ll surely destroy the other.
Now the first thing we’ve got to remember here
is that Jesus is telling us a story about God
and what it’s like to be in that right-relationship with him.
See it’s pretty clear that it’s God himself
who plays the role of the Master-Farmer in Jesus’ story –
And the whole point of his story
is to tell us something about the God and Father Jesus knows and how he works.
Now the Book says that our biggest spiritual problem
is that we’ve stepped in and taken over the role of God in our own lives.
We may not actually think we’re God
& we probably don’t go around telling people that we are God.
If we did that, they’d give us a free ride to the state hospital!
But the truth is: we act as if we’re God –
and that’s what gets us in a world of trouble.
And so, imagine now if would, that it’s one of us addicts
who’s playing the role of the Master- Farmer in Jesus’ story –
And if we can wrap our minds & imaginations around that,
then we all know good & well how this scene would go down
if those hired-hands brought us the bad news about “weeds”
showing up our beautiful-wheat-field.
First of all, those poor farm-hands would probably be terrified even to come tell us, cause we’d explode all over them!
“Why were you idiots sleeping on the job?
What do you think I pay you for?
Why’d you go and let this happen to me? It’s all your fault!
Self-centered in the extreme – the Book says –
we often take our wrath out on those closest to us!
Before I came into AA, I’d developed a real skill for spotting the faults in others.
I thought it was a genuine gift that I’d practiced & perfected
till I’d gotten to be really good at it.
If you wanted to know what was wrong with you –
all you had to do was come and ask me!
And as fate would have it, I was always at the peak of my powers late at night –
when I was drunk!
Now, for whatever reason,
most people didn’t come and ask me to share my great insights
into their character defects –
But that never stopped me. I told them anyway!
But then when I landed in the Program –
I got handed a whole new script from the Director –
And one of the first things I got told was:
“Around here, it’s Take your own, damn inventory!”
I went stone silent for about two years!
I hardly had anything to say
‘cause I had no experience telling folks what was wrong with me.
For me, happiness was always finding someone else to blame my troubles on!
And that particular weed can still grow and tangle-up this alcoholic’s sick, little mind!
(But now to get back to our playing the role of the Master-Farmer here in this story:)
After we’ve blasted a few verbal-shot-gun-holes in our farmhands
for being so dumb,
then, we’d probably spend the next few weeks nursing a good strong resentment
and planning to get even with the SOB who planted those weeds.
Some of us still working on our “anger issues,”
would probably get so mad we’d start pulling those weeds out of that field anyway.
We’d ruin our whole crop and chalk it up to justifiable anger.
But Jesus says: This is why God gets to be God
and this is why we weren’t given that job.
Things really work out a whole lot better in our lives
if we’ll just let Him do what He’s supposed to do –
and if we’ll just stick to doing our part.
The Master-Farmer calmly says, “Some enemy has done this.”
Notice: The Master doesn’t explode – but he isn’t naïve either.
He knows there are enemies outside of us;
and he knows there are enemies inside of us too.
God knows this a broken world we live in.
So he says in the story,
“Let the good and the bad both grow up together –
Let them grow side by side – and when it comes time for the harvest –
we’ll separate ‘em out and put the wheat in the barn
and the weeds, we’ll throw into the fire.
Now I’d be willing to bet that in a lot of churches today,
some of “the so-called saints” are sittin’ in their pews –
and they’re hearing this story and thinking rather smugly to themselves:
“Lucky us, Gladys, we’re the wheat! –
And all those rotten, lousy, people out there, they’re the weeds.”
And some of ‘em likely have fire & brimstone preachers telling ‘em:
“Just hang in there you good wheat-people
cause the time of reckoning will come.
God’s justice is gonna prevail
and he’s gonna get even with those Sons of Weed-Wackers
when it comes harvest time.
Praise the Lord!”
Picture Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell in over-alls
sittin’ on a John Deere with a shotgun!
But as addicts, if we’ve learned anything from our time out-there in the fields –
we know we’re full of weeds.
And Jesus is telling us here: God knows there’s a lot that’s wrong in us –
but he knows there’s a lot that’s right in us too. God don’t make junk!
This Master says to us:
“There’s value in each one of you and I don’t want to lose you – not a one.
The God of Jesus’ understanding says:
“I am the Father – and you really are my child.
So here’s what I’m gonna do –
I’m gonna let the wheat and the weeds that are in you grow together for a time.
I’m gonna be patient with you
and I want you to learn how to be patient with yourself
& patient with one another too.
Don’t think your gonna get well & weedless overnight
cause those weeds grow deep and this recovery
thing is gonna take you and Me
a whole life- time to work itself out.
Centuries ago, St. Augustine wrote a sermon on this story
and he makes a point about the weeds & the wheat that’s maybe worth repeating.
He said that “in our fields” – “the wheat will always be wheat
& the weeds will always remain weeds” –
But that’s not how it is in God’s field.
God’s ways are not our ways –
And in His fields – and in His kingdom – somehow –
our weeds have a way of turning themselves into wheat –
What’s wrong inside each one of us – put in God’s hands –
can become one of our greatest gifts.
Our alcoholism and our drug addictions –a gift!
Our defeats in life – a gift –
and even our defects – put in God’s hands – gifts!
We’re people who know – or people who ought to know –
that we’re dependent on God for our recovery.
We’re sober- and it’s all truly by his grace.
I’ve watched a lot of weeds choke out the spiritual life of many a friend in this program.
They tried to fight their addiction and their defects all by themselves –
they all lost.
And I’ve watched some people who I thought were hopelessly full of weeds –
and in the Master-Farmer’s good time,
the Program’s turned into some of God’s most beautiful wheat.
What we have is a daily reprieve – and it’s all based upon our spiritual condition.
Are we trying to live a new sober-life in God’s kingdom?
Are we letting God direct our lives? –
Turning to him when the weeds start choking us –
Or when we miss our Rageaholics Anonymous meeting
& we want to choke one of his hired hands!
Jesus doesn’t promise that weeds won’t turn up in our fields – they will.
But if we stay the course – and if we keep on growing (weeds & all) –
God promises he’ll be faithful.
He says he’ll show us that ladder that leads up to Him
just like it did in Jacob’s dream –
And if we’ll look real careful sometimes –
maybe especially during the times of our greatest pain –
we too might see a whole other side to God’s kingdom We might get a glimpse of his angels ascending & descending –
carrying our pain & our prayers up to him and bringing his love, and his mercy,
and his grace down to us.
My own alcoholism and my own character defects – when they get painful enough –
they cause me to turn to God for help.
If I didn’t have problems – I probably wouldn’t ever turn.
Life is hard and doing life sober isn’t easy.
We’ve got enemies both outside and in –
Enemies planting weeds in our fields or in our minds.
(For me, just like in the story,
those enemies like to come visit me especially at night.)
But if we‘ll learn to live life in His kingdom –
Get ourselves into a new and a right relationship with the Master- Farmer –
Jesus says He’ll stay with us through it all
and he promises at the end of the season he’ll bring in one hell-u-va harvest.
Unlike us – he’s always been a man of his word!
And that’s why He gets to be the Master
and why we get to go to work in His fields
He gets to be the Director – and’ if we’re wise, we’ll look to Him daily for our direction.
He’s the Loving-Father-God that Jesus knew & trusted & told stories about.
He’s the God that Jesus wants us to come to know too.
His message tonight?
Trust God & grow where you’re planted.
Leave all the worrying about self –
and the judging of others to Him –
He got “the God job” – because He knows how to do it.
God’s kingdom in a nutshell:
I can’t – He can – This time: I think I’ll let him. Amen.
Copyright 2008 Bill Wigmore. Used by permission.