An incredible priest once gave me advice about preaching. He said this, “when you preach sanctification should always be on your mind, and your sermon should bring sanctification to the minds of those who are listening.” Sanctification means to be set apart. An excellent way to describe sanctification is to grow closer to God daily, and when you fail, which we all do, to apologize, and to continue your journey towards God. The reason sanctification is so important to preaching is because hearing the word of God should cause us to desire to set ourselves apart and to move closer to God. Which brings me to the parable we heard today.

There are many interpretations of the parable of the wheat and the tares. One of those interpretations is that we are the field. The vegetation in the parable is both the good and the evil that we wrestle with daily. This explanation of the parable says that we will never be perfect, or without evil, until the second coming. That we will always be struggle with the dissidence of our good and our evil thoughts, words, and deeds. Finally, that the evil and good within us will forever grow together until the harvest. This way of understanding the parable is an excellent way to enter into a conversation about sanctification. However, it’s not the correct interpretation.

Another reading of this parable says that the field is The Church. A nice cliché stating that the church is a hospital for sinners and not a club for the righteous would be fitting here. This understanding of the parable says that the church will always inherently have evil within her midst. It also says it is not up to us to decide who is good and who is evil, but up to God.  Again, this conclusion would fit very well for a sermon about sanctification. Unfortunately, it too is not the correct interpretation of the text.

Both interpretations are very good tries. They are not rooted in any evil or malice, and to be honest, the result of each of these explanations is true, good, and holy. However, these conclusions should not be connected to this specific parable. There is an essential key to this parable that tells us what it is all about. In verse 38, as Jesus is explaining the parable to the disciples, he says this, “the field is the world.” The field cannot be each of us, and it cannot be the church, because Jesus tells us, the field is the world.

Where does this leave us in our interpretation of what Jesus is saying? This parable intends to answer the question; if the kingdom of God is here, which it is, then why is evil still allowed to exist? If there is a God, then why is there still evil? If there is a God, then why do bad things happen. How can God allow evil to exist and evil to be perpetrated on the people he made in His image?

Here is the proper interpretation of the parable; God has planted a good field in creation, yet evil made its way into that field. That evil grows, just like the good parts of the field grow. Until the harvest, evil will be present. In hearing this parable, in hearing that at the judgment, there will be a separation of good and evil; it challenges us to examine our lives regularly, daily in fact, and when we commit evil, to repent. To return to Jesus, and to forgive others, as we need God to forgive us.

The presence of evil in our world is not a sign that the kingdom is not with us. Can you all imagine what the world would be like without The Holy Spirit encouraging us to strive for justice and peace? Can you imagine a world without the church? It would be hell. Jesus’s warning is this, if The Church is not on offense, making new Christians, planting the seeds of truth, no matter how much it hurts, we will live in hell. The only thing in our world, holding back the full power of evil, is The Church. The onus of combating evil until Our Lord can obliterate it is on each of us, and on us collectively.

Here is the rub: “we cannot be tolerant of evil, but the destruction of all evil is not our task. We must stop being evil, and we must stop evil from destroying.” The question we need to ask ourselves as we strive for sanctification after hearing God’s word, is this, “how can we stop evil without becoming evil in the process?” That is the great temptation Satan has forced the church to struggle with since the church was born. We cannot wipe out all evil; we must not fall into the temptation to destroy something negative with something negative.[1] Our call is to stand up to evil and to defend the good in ourselves and in the world, from evil; but how?

Ubi Caritas:

Where true charity and love dwell God himself is there

Since the love of Christ has joined us in one body,

let us all rejoice and be glad now and always.

And as we hear and love our Lord, the living God,

so let us in sincerity love all people.

As we are all of one body when we gather

let no discord or enmity break our oneness.

May all our piety jealousies and hatred cease

that Christ the Lord may be with us through all our days.


Now we pray that with the Blessed you grant us grace

to see your exalted glory, O Christ our God,

our boundless source of joy and truth, of peace and love,

for ever and for evermore, world without end.

Where true charity and love dwell God himself is there[2]

We must strive to purge evil and when we do, we need to replace it with love and charity.

[1] Klyne Snodgrass Stories with Intent pages 191-215. This sermon would not be possible without the work of this author, theologian, and scholar. I am in his debt.

[2] 1982 Hymnal #606.

Sermon preached by the Rev. Christian M. Wood

Church of the Redeemer

Sarasota Florida

7th Sunday after Pentecost

19 July 2020