Shazam is a smartphone app that can name almost any tune after a few notes. Fox TV has a game show where contestants try to name the tune faster than Shazam. There's a tune being played in our Gospel reading this morning. Can you name it quicker than Shazam?
I know what it is. It's Richard Wagner "Ride of the Valkyries." That's part of a series of operas the German composer finished in 1874. Wagner was a favorite of Hitler and Nazis in general. The "Valkyries" are from Norse mythology. They are female deities who soar above battlefields choosing who lives and who dies.
Can't you hear the Ride of the Valkyries" in this text? At first, it seems to be about harvesters who collect weeds from the wheat and tie them into bundles to be burned and gather the wheat into the owner's barn. But then the music mounts in that distinctive, dizzying way, and Jesus tells you He's really talking about angels, His kingdom, hell, and His Father. Angels ride out into the world and "weed outeverything that causes sins and all who do evil" leaving only the righteous shining like the sun.
The angelic Valkyries are going to root out all those who deny God, ridicule Christians, defend their sin, delight in evil, and who think there is no judgment. But the tune being played in the world is not "Ride of the Valkyries." The Valkyries will ride, but they aren't doing so now. That's why you don't see evil rooted up but flourishing everywhere. The weeds are allowed to grow among the wheat, side by side in this fallen world.
But don't think because it's not "Ride of the Valkyries" playing, you're hearing Gordon Lightfoot's lament: "Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" Don't think you're hearing evil men singing, "I did it my way." It is not a case of Almighty God not knowing or caring. No, it's a case He knows too much and cares even more. The plain reason the Valkyries aren't riding is "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them."
God cares so much for the plants planted by His Son and watered by His blood, sweat, and tears, that He will do nothing to endanger them. Aren't you attached to the things you've planted? I can tell you where every plant, bush, shrub, or tree I planted came from. And it's not that they cost me money that I care so much for them. No, they represent time passing, a family growing, droughts that didn't kills them, winds that bend them over but didn't break them, people who gave them.
Every son or daughter in God's kingdom is a brother or sister to the Father's Son. The Father sees Jesus when He sees you. He sees you standing in your Baptism and shouts from Heaven, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." He sees you in Gethsemane sweating blood and begging for another way, but there is no other way to save humanity except His beloved Son drink the cup of wrath against our sins. As He turns away from the cross at the height of Jesus' suffering, the last face God the Father sees is yours. And when He raises Jesus from the dead on Easter morning, it is your face that the rising sun shines on.
All of Jesus' history is shared by His brothers and sisters, so the Father isn't going to risk pulling you out of His garden. So, the tune in this text is not "Ride of the Valkyries." It's another song from 1874. "Bringing in the Sheaves." That's not a song confessional Lutherans sing. The problem is that song sings about sowing and reaping without mentioning what it being sown or reaped. If you're going to reap plants of God, you must sow Christ and Him Crucified, by means of the Words and Sacraments Christ left us. The sheaves are those brought to faith in Christ by those means.
Still you could be hearing this catchy tune in this text. The irony is that in the parable Christians don' t do any sowing or reaping. Who does the sowing? Jesus plainly says, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man." And who does the reaping? In the explanation, it says "The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels."
But still hear "Bringing in the sheaves" because that's what this text is all about. Even though it's not harvest time, Jesus is bringing in sheaves past the difficulty that if He only sows good seed in the world, where do all the weeds come from? Jesus is quite clear on the answer. "An enemy did this." And Jesus drops the veil completely in the explanation: "The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil."
College or high school pranksters sow rye grass to form the initials of their school on an opponent's football field. When the summer grasses die off and the winter rye comes in you see on your field your opponent's letters. No college or high school would allow an opponent to do that. Yet, the Lord lets His enemy sow weeds in His field so that they sprout right next to His seeds.
You can see how this confounds simple sheep like you and me. The sheep go right to the Good Shepherd and say in astonishment? "Where then did the weeds come from if You sowed only good seed?" This illustrates that even the things in life difficult to get your head around are to be taken to your Lord in prayer. It's not wrong to ask Him such things as, "What's going on?" And you should be comforted by their response when they find out that the enemy has done this not their Lord. They again pray, "Do you want us to pull them up?" See that's the only way they could think of dealing with weeds among the wheat. That's the only thing I can think of doing.
But our Lord says no. This is all about bringing in His sheaves. It's all about His patience, not slowness, His grace not weakness. This is the time for repentance of sins and forgiveness in Jesus' name to be preached to all nations. Today is a time of salvation. Today the call goes out for all sinners to come to Jesus and find rest for their souls. Today is the day to announce God is at peace with you for Jesus' sake no matter how many, how bad, how big your sins may be. Today is a day to be planted in the forgiving flood of Jesus' blood that flows from Calvary covering the sins of the world. Today is the day to be watered by a Baptism that gives life for death and is rich in grace not condemnation. Today is a day to grow in the knowledge that God is far more gracious to you, far more forgiving of you, far more in love with you than you ever dared believe or hope.
So, you beat Shazam if you said, "That's Bringing in the Sheaves," and did you hear the other tune as well? Yup, it's "Light My Fire" by the Doors which was released 50 years ago. You got to be able to hear that song here. The weeds are humming this tune even if they don't realize it. Why? Because weeds, no matter how resplendent are just asking for judgment. "Light my fire; light my fire," they sing and truly it will be a funeral pyre.
The angelic harvesters have no problem weeding them out. There's none of this, "Rat's the root broke off." No, at the end of the age the Lord knows them that are His and them that are not are tied into bundles to be burned. Jesus, the Lord who is love, the Lord who loves the whole world, and even snatches burning twigs from fires says, "At the end of the age the Son of Man will send our His angels and weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
You've got to repent of liberal theology that says at the end of the day Mr. Rogers, Barney, and Rodney King are right. We can all just get along. There will be no judgment. We'll all just give peace a chance. We'll imagine there is no heaven, no hell, nothing to live for or die for because at the end of the day it IS easy if you try. Reconcile this "peaceful easy feeling" with only 8 people saved by a Flood that wiped out billions. Reconcile this nonsense with 3 people being saved out of Sodom and Gomorrah. These are the Bible accounts Jesus refers to when He speaks about the final judgement, and He says, "so it will be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man."
Hear "Light my Fire" and know what you have been saved from. It is good, right, and beneficial to know what you've been saved from. But don't live there. No, one should delight in the fires of judgement. In the Parable of the Fig tree the Jesus' figure turns away from cutting it down. Jonah is fried that Nineveh repented and that God didn't smoke them, but the Lord says He feels sorry for the children and animals there. When James and John want to call fire down on the villages that rejected Jesus, He rebuked them and said they were of a different spirit.
Don't delight in the weeds being lit up. Delight in the promise that the righteous shine as the sun. And how is that? How can you and I who by breakfast have had more dark thoughts than we can count shine like the sun without being burned up? The righteousness that counts before God, the righteousness that can stand the judgment of God is only that belonging to God Himself. And God's righteousness is yours in the perfect life and guilty death of God the Son.
Did you notice in the explanation there is no gathering of the wheat into the barn? Nope, the evils weeds are rooted out, thrown into hell, and "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Weeds grow faster than desirable plants, so they shade them. That's the idea here. Once the weeds are removed the sun shines full on you and for Jesus' sake the Father isn't disappointed with what He sees.
Whether not you can beat Shazam in naming tunes, the principle that he who pays the piper calls the tune still holds. Who paid the piper in our case? Not us, but Jesus. And He calls tunes that preach Law and Gospel, but the Gospel tune is the fixed melody that plays over all your life. Because that's the tune Jesus paid for. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (20170806); Matthew 13: 24-30; 36-43