As a missioner, it's my work to go out among the weeds of the world and try to plant a little bit of wheat. Some priests have a church full of wheat already and it's their work to figure out what to do with the cool wheat that we have. And sometimes, priests are serving communities that are empty, or that are new, or are in need of new people, places that have declined or shrank or are in need of new blood. When we think about the work of mission, the work of building up God's church, of bringing people into the fold that are not in it, we are talking about the work of sowing, and that is what Jesus is talking about in this passage.
When we think about the work of St. George's out in this world, sowing and cultivating and harvesting new growth in the fields of God, we get to think about where to look, this passage could seem to suggest that it is a minefield out there,,, weeds and weeds and weeds among the wheat, like there is plenty of weeds for us to gather up into our midst and just a little bit of wheat for us to carefully excise. It seems one of the particular weaknesses of the Episcopal sensibility -- or perhaps the upper-middle class sense of Episcopal propriety, that it remains very important to maintain the facade that we are all Good Wheat Here, and it can come with a bit of pearl-clutching about the weedy world around us. It can sometimes be one of the great points of anxiety for Episcopalians -- not just here but at a lot of Episcopal churches, that we would have to lose our pretense if we are to grow-- the pretense that we are well-spoken, or well-educated, that we are well-dressed and polite and our bills are all paid.
It has been my work to attend to the world outside our walls, specifically the worlds of young adults, of college students, of queer people and atheists and agnostics and folks for whom our Church is not always hospitable or welcoming. And so often, the folks to whom I am tasked with ministering are deemed weeds before we even should have the privilege to know them. So often our underlying biases sort potential members into weeds and into wheat-- and our welcome of them follows accordingly.
Imagine someone coming into church for the first time-- and they're not using their inside voice, it seems like nobody taught them how to whisper, or imagine somebody showing what you deem to be a little too much cleavage or thigh or midriff, imagine somebody that asks too many questions, or curses just a little too loudly at coffee hour or who appears to us a little more disheveled than you might be comfortable with. What if you can't tell their gender, what if they find their way onto your committee and their ideas don't mesh, what if they have more neurodivergences than you know how to deal with. It is easy -- and all too common -- for our judgment of weeds vs wheat to be based on superficialities. And it makes our work of mission harder when we conflate weediness with social improprieties. Weediness isn't about saying the wrong things, wearing the wrong clothes, or heaven forbid having tattoos, nor is Wheatiness about shopping at Talbot or Orvis or having all your bills paid on time every month. Weediness and Wheatiness are fundamentally about generosity of spirit and the capacity to love and care for one another, and to give that love and care away freely.
The gospel says of this parable: "the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one." To be a child of the kingdom of God is to do the work of God, which is to love one another as we are loved by God. We cannot tell how well someone does that by their appearance, or by the long list of what we would deem cultural taboos or anathemas. As a missioner among folks whom many might deem weeds, I would encourage you to take heart -- and to find challenge -- in the encouragement to sow of St. George's broadly and openly and expectantly in our Fredericksburg community and to be happily and gratefully surprised to see what wheat -- and flowers and herbs and who knows what else -- will grow up in a places that you only expected weeds.
Where in our community might you expect it inappropriate for a good wheaty Episcopalian to find themselves? Maybe there is some sowing worth doing there. Maybe there is some wheat to be found.