Rev. Dianne Everitt, M.A., M.Div.

Ecclesiastes 11: 1-6
Matthew 13: 24-30; 36-43
Psalm 63
Images of Alchemy – More Seeds!! Ohhhhhhhh…
Let me start by saying that when I checked out “images of alchemy” online, I discovered that there is a lot of
weird stuff!!
Alchemy in the purest sense is the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation
of matter, particularly the transformation of base metals into gold. The element of alchemy that I want to think about
today is the transformation that comes about when two entities intermingle causing the strength of one, the good to
overpower the opposing tendency. This arises out of the
parable of the seeds and the weeds in Matthew (yes, MORE
SEEDS!) through which we are going to see that God’s faith
in us to bring goodness where it might not currently reside, is
very real and everlasting.
There are themes which recur this week from last week and this piggy-backing helps us reinforce these themes:
seeds and the cycle that they take to yield growth, and cycles that God ordains in Nature and in us; the trust and patience
involved in planting a tiny seed and then waiting for it to grow, we know not how. That idea of the Word going out and
prospering and then returning which we heard of last week in the beautiful words of Isaiah are again heard today: “Send
out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back. ” That’s right. Bread. This is a way of saying,
“Be generous with my gifts of the earth even if it is not apparent who might need it – as strange as that might feel, like
throwing bread upon the water – you will be gratified in ways that are not always apparent.” Like planting in faith and
waiting for the harvest, do something now for a future which is not a completely known quantity, and where your own
fortunes might rise and fall. Ecclesiastes also says “whoever observes the wind will not sow; and whoever regards the
clouds will not reap.” – In other words “If we are always waiting for favourable conditions, we are like the farmer who is
always looking for perfect weather, and lets the whole season pass without any grain being planted.” Both Ecclesiastes
and Matthew draw us towards doing things in their right time, and for the good which we may need ourselves someday.
In Jesus’
parable of weeds and wheat today, as the wheat begins to grow, weeds pop up. When the farmhands
see the weeds they are puzzled and, not wanting to be accused of letting weeds in, they ask their master how there are
weeds. They are told that the evil one came in the night and put them there. They want to fix the situation. “Let’s jerk
out those weeds!” “Whoa,” says the Master, “That won’t work. If you yank the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat

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too…Here’s what we gonna do…” And then the phrase that sticks out for me as the crux of this reading: “Let them grow
together until the harvest when we’ll bind the weeds to be burned and gather the wheat for the barn.”
Now, the weeds are not going to ideally
become wheat, and the wheat is not going to become weed – so it isn’t
that one is going to be transformed
into the other; but if they are allowed to grow together, the strength of the good wheat
will
choke out the chance for the bad weeds to prosper – if the wheat is strong enough, this will deny the chance for the
weeds to flourish, to get enough light, enough nutrients, and, ultimately, the “evil one” will have nothing to throw in his
fire. Without fuel, the fires of evil,
per se, will go out. So far, the parable seems okay.
But the problem is that Jesus’ explanation of this parable is just brutal. He foregoes explaining the subtleties of
God’s mercy in favour of a stark explanation
. It’s sort of like this: imagine a small child [here’s one], about 3 years old
heading off down the beach into the water. Would the parent say: “Excuse me, but due to your physical and cognitive
age, it is not advisable for you to enter the water alone as you, due to your age, have not been able to integrate into your
mind the kind of skills necessary to stay afloat and I see you are not wearing a keyhole lifejacket which, if necessary, will
turn you right-side up should you become incapacitated.” Or how about this: that same child is reaching out to touch the
red hot element on the stove, would the parent say: “due to the fact that I am going to try to boil water for our wholewheat penne, and since this requires a very high heat to bring the water to a boil, which I am going to do on that very spot
there which you see is red, you would be very ill-advised to touch that since it is now likely at a temperature of about 300
degrees and that would cause a bad burn and we would have to spend this lovely afternoon in the hospital getting you
tended to.” No – the parent is going to say: “Don’t go near the water without me!!” and “Don’t touch the stove!!” Even
though later….Our message would be brutally clear to the child. Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the seeds and weeds
is like that, as though he is teaching children and has to distill it down to only its vital parts. It seems that Jesus, as
Matthew has written it (and this is the
only gospel in which this parable appears), chooses not to get into all the nuances
of theology, but wants to present a scenario in the clearest terms…which gives us two poles – seeds and weeds. Good and
evil. Heaven and hell-fire. Angels and light, and an unquenchable furnace of fire with crying and gnashing of teeth. He
is saying that the alternative to being “righteous” and “shining like the sun in the kingdom” is so frightening that people
will be scared into righteousness. No doubt, though, Jesus’ interpretation is a problem as it gives no indication of the
potential for transformation.

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It’s sort of like simple fictional stories where it is obvious who is the wheat and who is the weed: Dorothy and
the Wicked Witch of the West;
the three little pigs and the big bad wolf; James Bond and any number of fairly
predictable
Russian bad guys; Shrek and Lord Farquaad; Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort; Tweety Bird and Sylvester
the Cat;. Other times, as in real life, the line between good and evil is blurred:
The Great Gatsby, Crime and Punishment,
Alias Grace, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Russian writer and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Alexander
Solzhenitsyn, who was arrested, sentenced to a forced labor camp and eventually exiled from the Soviet Union
wrote
about his harrowing experiences in his work called The Gulag Archipelago. He could have written about clear
distinctions between people who were good and those who were evil, but instead, he wrote: “Gradually it was disclosed to
me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between (social) classes, nor between political
parties, but right through the human heart… Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is
retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil…”
1 Those critiquing the latest
comprehensive biography of Adolf Hitler remark that it is the normal aspects of his life and personality which make his
actions so much more frightening; Ted Bundy, as far as anyone knew, seemed quite normal, as did Russell Williams or
Bruce McArthur, and no one expected Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka to
look the way they did.
So while we have clear distinctions of good and evil in cartoons and movies, it’s a lot harder to come up with real
situations where an injection of good choked out a negative force – we know how things tend to turn out for whistleblowers – there are some good stories, but generally there is a huge emotional and financial cost to be paid by that person.
I would invite you to try to think of some. What I can offer you in the ways of examples of good squeezing out evil is the
following: [slides of goats] ; WADA transformed sport from a cesspool of drugs and enhanced performance which
infected all the records of actual human athletic achievement to a level playing field very much initiated by Canadian Dick
Pound. The #metoo movement has changed how women are treated in the film industry; Terry Fox and Rick Hansen and
organizations like the Special Olympics transformed people’s perceptions of the unrealized and untapped capabilities of
people of differing abilities; Second Kicks a partnership between Toronto Police Services and Youth in Regent Park
brings together professional athletes, and at-risk youth to play football followed by talks by former gang members who
clarify the myths and realities of gang life. The goal is to build positive bridges between kids and those who police their
area.
1 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956 (New York: Harper Classics, 2007) 3.
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Sometimes preconceived perceptions of which is wheat and which are weeds means that the intentions of a
venture fail utterly or set up more problems: certainly after WWII there was a need for the Jewish people to have a
homeland of some description, but the perception of Palestine by those organizing the creation of the State at that time as
just a bed of weeds meant that the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, though a beautiful and necessary idea, has meant
years of unrest in the Middle East; the idea that Indigenous Peoples of Canada were weeds that needed to be pulled out by
the roots by the good seed of the Church was clearly a misinterpretation of the love of Jesus and had negative results of
which we are aware; and then there were the Crusades. “
Let them grow together” was not something that was nurtured
in a God-breathed these situations.
So what do we do about Jesus’ interpretation of the poles of good and evil and his brutal explanation? We think
of it as Jesus laying down the rules, I guess. You know that I am not one to shy away from the harsher side of Jesus and
his interpretation here must have been a teaching tool which laid out clear the costs and benefits of following Him. we
can try to understand the 1
st century context of a small group listening to Matthew’s gospel who believed that Jesus was
especially sent from God with a clear message; and we listen for the love of God which does emerge in the reading: “Let
them grow together” is God’s voice saying, “I created the transformative power of love to change the world, and so I
believe in your capacity to live that.” Otherwise, why not pull out the weeds?
That’s why the master in the parable
prevents the weeds from being pulled – God has faith in God’s creation to turn towards love and replace hate; God has
faith in God’s creation to turn to fairness and compassion and replace wrong, and we have contemplated some examples
of that replacement and transformation. Bob read to us from Ecclesiastes: “In the morning, sow your seed, and at
evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be
good.” Undoubtedly, Jesus, at considerable cost, sought out the weeds; rather than condemning, he transformed; rather
than excluding, he healed – finding the lost, extending forgiveness and exorcising demons – he didn’t just let the weeds
get burned despite the interpretation recorded in Matthew. Transformation is possible in us too. There are weeds lurking
in the best of us and wheat to be discovered in the worst of us. I believe that if we allow, God works in us to strengthen us
so that weeds that may want to co-exist there don’t thrive; but I also believe that God thinks that us recognizing the wheat
in others will leave us little time to notice their weeds. We thank God for these words. Amen.